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Group ‘good at bidding but not  at delivery’ says PAC chairman Margaret Hodge

Letter: Going single in the shires

Sir: Over recent months, there has been considerable publicity about the local government review, particularly from those who are opposed to change. We, 164 district council chief executives, think it is important at this time to make it clear that a very high proportion of chief executives in shire England strongly support the need for the local government review.

Child Support Agency - The First Year: Company director forced to leave job and house: Rosie Waterhouse assesses its performance and meets two of the men affected

IAN GIBBONS, a former company finance director, is selling his house and has given up his pounds 32,000-a-year job because of the Child Support Agency.

Property: Land prices rise as upturn sparks a buying frenzy

With only the slightest upturn in house prices for encouragement, house builders are buying land in a frenzy that has sent prices spiralling upwards. Since the beginning of the year, land prices have risen by as much as 40 per cent in parts of the South-east, and by an average of 7.4 per cent across the country as builders rush to acquire sites at rock-bottom prices.

Property: Confessions of a tower block fan: Ronan Point has gone from high-rise to low-rise. David Lawson looks at what it taught us - and him

I HAD just finished extolling the future of high-rise living when news of the disaster came through exactly 25 years ago. A tower block had collapsed in London. My boss handed back my report with a grimace: 'Bit premature, I think, old boy.' He never did show it to local councillors.

Public Services Management: Giving due credit: How should we be compensated for poor services? Paul Gosling reports

Dissatisfied customers of Marks and Spencer's can get their money back. But what about the unhappy user of a public service? Now that councils, health authorities and the Government have recognised the public as customer, should we be entitled to cash refunds if they fail to deliver the services we believe we have paid for?

ART / About town: Last rounds of the regeneration game: Dalya Alberge goes art-spotting with the judges of this year's 'Working for Cities' competition

MOST of the entry forms to this year's Arts Council public art competition were accompanied by blurred photographs without captions and descriptions in illegible scrawls. How did the artists and architects who submitted them expect anyone to visualize the works, let alone to take them seriously?

No song like an old song - thank goodness

I GREW up in the Thirties and Forties and my one regret is that we had such awful songs while a later generation had such wonderful ones ('Last refrain of a tuneless age', 21 February). We had to put up with chirpy 'novelty' numbers like 'Elmer's Tune' or dreadful songs with moonlight in the title - 'Moonlight Becomes You', 'Moonlight Serenade'. Artie Shaw playing 'Moonlight Cocktail' must count as some sort of nadir.

Gardening / Cuttings: Seeds of hope with parsnips

A MR CUNLIFFE of Sutton Coldfield writes with comforting words on the non-germination of parsnip seeds (Independent, 16 January). I was not the only one who suffered last year.

A revolutionary stalks Whitehall: William Waldegrave is part of a worldwide conspiracy that could transform citizens' lives. But first he must rout the bureaucrats

A quiet revolution is taking place in British government. It is part of a worldwide conspiracy led by little-known agitators, whose abstract, jargon-filled language hides their true purpose. But if the revolutionaries are successful then the lives of ordinary citizens will be changed for the better.

Food & Drink: Scone legends: Recipe

THE response to our breakfast recipe competition has been overwhelming, so much so that I have not been able to acknowledge all your contributions. Moreover, last week I managed to credit Kate Pettem of west London with the hot apple sauce muffins. They were, in fact, submitted by Jenni Viner of Ware, Hertfordshire. Both, along with our winner named below, will receive an English breakfast for two in the River Room of the Savoy.

PROPERTY / Living Histories: Homes for a new age: 5 The Thirties House: The glazed look of modernism: Period Crafts: Crittall of Essex, makers of 1930s metal windows

CRITTALL is the name most closely associated with 1930s metal windows - whether the simple casement with lattice or rectangular panes common in the suburban home, or the Art Deco-inspired ribbon form with its wonderfully curving ends. Today the Essex firm, established as ironmongers in the mid19th century, reproduces many of its original 1930s designs using techniques broadly similar to those of 60 years ago.

Opinions: If in danger, what would you do?

We asked women round the country to imagine this scenario:
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Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

The dark side of Mexico

A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border