Thursday 12 December 2002

By Amy Taylor, Shona Main and Alex

Hit Squads to take over the worst

The Government has announced plans to send in
hit squads to take over the country’s worst councils to raise
standards of local services.

The move will broaden the debate over whether
Westminster should be running local councils.

The announcement came as John Prescott
published the first league tables for 150 top-tier councils,
showing the best and worst performers in England.

Source:- The Times, Thursday 12
December, page 1

Local government’s strengths and
weaknesses exposed

The top 22 councils in England will be freed
from Whitehall and allowed to spend their money as they like
following the publication of the first local authority league

The Audit Commission has graded 22 councils as
excellent, 54 as good, 39 fair, 22 weak and 13 poor after assessing
150 authorities over 12 months.

Source:- The Times, Thursday 12
December, page 4

Fewer live in poverty

The number of children living in poverty fell
by 200,000 last year, raising questions over Labour’s ability to
meet its targets on ending child poverty.

There were 3.9 million children living below
the breadline, a fall of 500,000 since Labour won power in 1997,
last year according to a report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation
and the New Policy Institute.

Experts have warned that, at the current rate,
the overall reduction is unlikely to exceed 750,000 by 2004,
leaving the Government short of its target of 1.2 million

Source:- The Times, Thursday 12
December, page 10

Support schemes urged to soother
refugee tensions

Local communities should run voluntary work
schemes and sports competitions for newly arrived asylum seekers to
help ease racial tension, official guidance published yesterday

New measures are also needed to counter the
problems of segregated housing, schooling and leisure activities
that have led to communities leading ‘parallel lives’ within the
same town.

The guidance on community cohesion policy has
been drawn up by the Home Office, the Commission for Racial
Equality and local government offices in an attempt to prevent a
repeat of   last summer’s
riots in Oldham, Burnley and Bradford.

Source:- The Guardian, Thursday 12
December, page 14

Parents reveal torment of special
needs pupils

Children with learning diffifulties placed in
mainstream schools are threatening to kill themselves rather than
go to school in the morning, parents claim.

Today marks the launch of the Special School
Protection League to co-ordinate the many campaigns across the
country against the closure of special schools by local authorities
who insist they are simply carrying out Government wishes.

Source:- The Telegraph, Thursday,
December 12, page 10

Scottish Papers

Mental health review unveiled 

A “comprehensive assessment” of Scotland’s mental health was
announced yesterday.

Malcolm Chisholm, the health minister revealed plans to establish
the level of service available to ensure the Mental Health
(Scotland) Bill would work.

Source:- The Scotsman, Thursday
12 December,
page 11

Welsh Papers

£1.4m care bill to keep just
seven youngsters

Seven more young people who require specialist
support are being cared for outside Cardiff at a cost of

The figures come just one week after the
newspaper revealed that taxpayers were spending £4,502 to look
after a single child.

Liberal democrat opposition spokeswoman Jacqui
Gasson said that she would be calling for a review to see if it
would be more cost effective to build a specialist unit in

Source:- South Wales Echo, Wednesday
11 December, page 7

‘Pay elderly during cold snap’

Calls were made yesterday for cold weather
payments to be paid to all pensioners as Wales was again gripped by
freezing temperatures.

North Wales Plaid Cymru Welsh assembly member
Janet Ryder said that there should be a mechanism that relates
payments to temperatures.

Cold weather payments are worth around
£8.50 a week while the annual one–off winter fuel
payment gives pensioners £200.

Source:- Western Mail, Thursday 12
December, page 1

Runaway Bride, 14

 A 14-year-old girl is believed to have run
away from her home in Wrexham in north Wales to marry a Turkish man
she met on holiday.

Rachel Lloyd is believed to be in Istanbul
with Mehmet Ocack, 24, who is already married.

Police, social services and the Foreign Office
are now searching for Rachel.

Wrexham’s chief social services officer,
Andrew Figiel, said the department was in discussion with the
girl’s parents and the police on the best arrangements for
the child’s care and protection.

Source:- Welsh Mirror, Thursday 12
December, pages 1, 4 and 5

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