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Views of the week: 11 March 2010

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LGC rounds up the best comment, analysis and opinion from the past week.

Julian Glover in the Guardian on national infrastructure

North Norfolk DC councillors have been congratulated for refusing Tesco permission to build a supermarket in Sheringham, but what if local sentiment had led them to refuse a wind farm? They would have been condemned as selfish ‘nimbys’, even though both decisions would be consistent with localism.

House-building targets are now treated as national, or at least regional, by Labour but as local by the Tories, yet the Tories have accepted that a high-speed rail line from London to Birmingham would have to run through the Chilterns, where there is fierce opposition.

The limits of localism suggest that some projects should be declared local and others national. Someone, somewhere, is going to have to grit their teeth and designate the dividing line.

The Times leader says Conservatives’ schools policy is inconsistent

Shadow education secretary Michael Gove has called for detailed changes to the national curriculum. Yet Mr Gove also wants to allow more schools - such as academies and those judged outstanding - to be allowed to drop out of the very curriculum he wishes to reform.

The original national curriculum “was a classic example of the Thatcherite contradiction of preaching decentralisation while doing the opposite in practice”. If Mr Gove does become secretary of state for schools, it seems an easy life is not on the agenda.

The Economist’s technology column ponders cloud computing

The hype surrounding cloud computing has become deafening, but its supporters are becoming nervous about the way corporate customers have not rushed to embrace it. There have been few takers because of fears about security, particularly when the hazards are not merely viruses but attempts to steal confidential data.

A Herald leader on Glasgow City Council labour group’s direction

There is no doubt former Labour leader Steven Purcell’s private life was deeply flawed, but he put in solid work as a modernising, progressive politician who could be politically partisan. But his default position appeared to be one of open-minded co-operation, notably in his work with the Scottish National Party government to bring the 2014 Commonwealth Games to the city.

Pick of the Blogs

Are business accounting techniques applicable to governments?

Ian Lienert - Public Financial Management Blog

Can governments be run like businesses? If so, their accounting practices should follow those of the private sector.

In the 1980s, Australia pioneered the application of business-style accounting practices to government activities. These are now advocated for all governments, via the International Financial Reporting Standards or the International Public Sector Accounting Standards.

In an under-reported paper, Alan Robb and Susan Newberry argue that the purpose of government accounting is different from that of the private sector. Government financial activity is not geared to making profits or examining equity positions.

Business-style accounting is not suitable for providing constitutional safeguards or fulfilling governments’ public accountability obligations. The authors urge government accountants to consider the constitutional implications of adopting these techniques.

Full blog available on www.blog-pfm.imf.org/pfmblog/

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