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ROUNDUP OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT STORIES IN TODAY'S PAPERS

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MILLIONS OF PUBLIC MONEY WASTED ON CONSULTANTS, SAYS NAO...
MILLIONS OF PUBLIC MONEY WASTED ON CONSULTANTS, SAYS NAO

Almost£1bn of public money spent on external consultants is wasted, according to a report from the National Audit Office.

The NAO found that spending on consultants by central government departments, the NHS and local government has risen from£2bn a year in 2003-04 to£3bn in 2005-06. Local authority spending more than trebled, from£101m in 2003-04 to£386m last year.

The report argues that much of the money is wasted, through inefficient management of contracts. It also says there is no data available to assess the benefits of using consultants or whether they offer value for money.

The NAO says money could be saved by making better use of in-house staff, rather than brining in external firms, and by negotiating better contracts.

Edward Leigh, chairman of the Commons Public Accounts Committee, called for an end to dependency on 'the external consultancy gravy train.'

The Times, page 14

GOVERNMENT TO CONSULT ON MAJOR AIRPORT EXPANSION

Controversial plans to expand Heathrow and Stansted airports are to go out to public consultation, transport secretary Douglas Alexander has announced.

He has issued a progress report on the 2003 aviation white paper, saying the government correctly forecast the growth in demand for air flights and now needs to go further. 'We must ensure the UK has the airport capacity it needs to enhance its economic performance,' Mr Alexander said.

There will be consultation next year on plans to build a third runway and a sixth terminal at Heathrow, and a second runway at Stansted.

But Hacan, the group campaigning against the Heathrow expansion, said there would be 'the mother of all battles' over a third runway.

Financial Times, page 4

CURBS PROPOSED ON INFORMATION REQUESTS

Measures to restrict the volume of freedom of information (FOI) requests that can be dealt with have been announced by the Department for Constitutional Affairs.

The government says the FOI system needs reform, because of the amount of time and money taken up by answering the queries. But campaigners say the changes threaten the public's right to information.

Constitutional affairs secretary Lord Falconer yesterday announced proposals to change the rules for central government departments on answering FOI requests from journalists, MPs and campaigners. The effect will be to cut the number of requests that can be answered. This will save around£11 million, the DCA says.

The Times, page 27

AGENCIES OFFER FINANCIAL SUPPORT TO IPSWICH PROSTITUTES

The multi-agency community safety group in Suffolk is giving financial support to prostitutes in Ipswich, so that they can stay off the streets until the murderer is caught.

An unnamed charity has provided the funds. Julia Stephens, of Suffolk CC, said the money would allow the women to pay bills or meet loan repayments.

Detective chief superintendant Stephen Gull, leading the inquiry, urged prostitutes to take the financial support available and stay off the streets.

The Guardian, page 4

BUOYANT CAPITA PLANS MORE OFFICES IN INDIA

Capita is carrying out more of its work from India, to improve its profits. The company has announced it won new or extended contracts worth£1.37bn so far in 2006, including the extension to London's congestion charge scheme.

Capita chief executive Paul Pindar predicted that by 2009, one tenth of its workforce - around 3,000 people - could be based in its offices in Mumbai. 'We are unlikely to close out existing business centres (in the UK) but some of their activities might move elsewhere,' he said.

Capita has been announced as preferred bidder to develop a strategic partnership with Swindon BC, in a 10 year contract worth£140m.

The Guardian, page 32

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