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Dragged through the snow

A NATIONAL conference in the north may be good for business in the small towns often called on to host it, but getting there is another matter.

Three trains, two buses and a taxi, or even a trudge through the snow, is a familiar story for those who have made a habit of packing their bags in early January each year to head for the conference.

Neil Fletcher, from the Local Government Association, said: "It is always frosty and cold and frequently uncongenial. You leave your family at the fireside, drag yourself cross-country and find yourself in some hotel without facilities.

"You drag yourself out at 5pm for the opening, some big celebrity with a local connection says something inspirational, you then fall into a cold-plated salad in a windy, draughty town hall and hope you can find a decent pub.

"At that point you realise you are through Christmas. Having said that, I really rather enjoy them. They are an experience - but not in the modern experience of conferences. There is a wonderfully dated feel about them."

In recent years, though, the conference has become something of a burden for local authorities. Gone are the days when an army of town- hall staff could devote a year to setting it up. Now, councils are often obliged to call in a commercial events' organiser.

Because of the pressures on local authorities, Bill Wright, who organised the Leeds conference of 1972, was asked to produce a consultation document on where the conference should head.

An executive committee - made up of council representatives from last year's, this year's and next year's host city or town - is still considering his report.

Platform, 13

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