Leader counts the chairs on the way up

Graham Lane, chair of education for the London borough of Newham, has been elected to chair the education committee of the new Local Government Association.

Mr Lane, previously chair of the Council of Local Education Authorities, was elected unopposed. The new pressure group replaces the Association of County Councils, the Association of Metropolitan Authorities and the Association of District Councils.

Dave Wilcox from Derbyshire was elected, also unopposed, as vice-chair.

Edward Lister, leader of the London borough of Wandsworth, the Tories' flagship council, is to be one of the deputy chairs, with the others going to Labour and the Liberal Democrats.

The Conservatives hold 18 of the 76 seats on the committee. Labour has 38, the Liberal Democrats 17 and there are three Independents.

Local government pundits predict that the Liberal Democrats will lose seats in the local elections in May and that the Conservatives could re-take Essex, Surrey and Suffolk.

This would increase their representation on the new education committe. Labour could also boost its grip on local government.

The LGA will represent about 500 authorities in England and Wales. Although it comes into being on April 1, its first education committee meeting will not be held until June.

Mr Lane has worked hard to raise his profile in the education world. He also chairs the National Employees Organisation representing teachers and is a director of the National Youth Agency.

He will play a key role in formulating the LGA's education policy and said: "For far too long education policy has been driven by central government diktat.

"I will make it my duty to build new partnerships between education authorities and government. Finding new and innovative ways of promoting higher standards will be a key part of our work."

So too will be confrontation with the present government. "We will lobby for the end of the nursery vouchers scheme. It is doing nothing to extend the benefits to children of a solid early years' education."

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