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Matchmaking ministers

MINISTERS urging closer links between local authorities and business will try to play matchmaker between the two sectors.

The Department for Education and Employment has invited every UK local authority to a meeting next month with DFEE-

approved private consultants and service providers.

Ministers hope that the two-day conference, at a Heathrow hotel, will lead to new "partnerships", as even successful local authorities consider private-sector invlvement in their services.

The department is putting pound;1.5 million into five pilot schemes to look at "radical new" ways of providing services to schools.

Graham Lane, education chair of the Local Government Association, said: "The DFEE talks endlessly about the benefits of 'outsourcing'. But there's no evidence that it (is)... raising standards."

Ministers have called for authorities to consider external contractors to deliver services.

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