'Get your scooters off our lawn,' Whitehall

6th November 1998 at 00:00
Civil servants have been accused of 'dictating' to local authorities. Frances Rafferty reports

CIVIL SERVANTS are treating local authorities as no more than outposts of the Department for Education and Employment, according to a leading figure from local government.

Graham Lane, Labour education chair of the Local Government Association, said government officials were trying to dictate what councils put in their plans for raising educational standards.

Speaking at this week's LGA conference in Torquay, he said: "I have a message for the civil servants in Sanctuary Buildings: 'Get your scooters off our lawn.' "Civil servants are treating local authority staff as if they employ them and the restrictions they are placing on education development plans is making the whole process detailed and bureaucratic."

Mr Lane, normally a Government loyalist, said his attack was prompted by constant rumours about the demise of local authorities. He said: "The Conservatives are proposing schools being run by teacher co-operatives, the Liberal Democrats are talking about them being run by parish councils and there are constant rumours circulating that the Government is preparing papers to remove education from local government."

Mr Lane said councils were not trying to do the jobs of teachers and governors, but they did intend to make sure schools were run effectively and that standards were raised.

Charles Clarke, the schools minister, told the conference that authorities would determine their own future. He said: "If they do not seize the initiative and create a new role for themselves, then the debate about their effectiveness will continue.

Don Foster, Liberal Democrat education spokesman, will today tell the LGAthat education funding is becoming a lottery thanks to Labour's competitive bidding system.

* SMALL may be beautiful - but it is expensive, writes Clare Dean.

An in-depth study of the make-up of councils has shown that the number of education support staff in small authorities can be 60 per cent-plus more than in their larger counterparts.

The disclosure poses a serious challenge to the Government's attempt to cut back on bureaucracy. Over the past 20 years there has been a trend towards creating more and more local education authorities in England and Wales.

The study, conducted for the Local Government Association, shows that small authorities are spending at least Pounds 150,000 per every 10,000 pupils more on education finance and personnel staff.

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