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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:
Voices
The Sumatran tiger, endemic to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is an endangered species
voicesJonathon Porritt: The wild tiger population is thought to have dropped by 97 per cent since 1900
Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him
musicIndie music promoter was was a feature at Carter gigs
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Story line: Susanoo slays the Yamata no Orochi serpent in the Japanese version of a myth dating back 40,000 years
arts + entsApplying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
News
Performers dressed as Tunnocks chocolate teacakes, a renowned Scottish confectionary, perform during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
news
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food + drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Shake down: Michelle and Barack Obama bump knuckles before an election night rally in Minnesota in 2008, the 'Washington Post' called it 'the fist bump heard round the world'
newsThe pound, a.k.a. the dap, greatly improves hygiene
Arts and Entertainment
La Roux
music
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Fellows as John Shuttleworth
comedySean O'Grady joins Graham Fellows down his local Spar
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Day In a Page

Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – MS Swiss Corona - seven nights from £999pp
Lake Maggiore, Orta and the Matterhorn – seven nights from £899pp
Sicily – seven nights from £939pp
Pompeii, Capri and the Bay of Naples - seven nights from £799pp
Istanbul Ephesus & Troy – six nights from £859pp
Mary Rose – two nights from £319pp
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on