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Signoff: David Taylor

HEY, TAKE a look at this: 'A video-maker and a musician meet to present the multi-ethnic nature of the contemporary city through the audiovisual transposition of their characteristic foods.The sounds and images of the city of Rome will be re-presented live, evoking physical suggestions with the intention of leading the spectator through the complex interweaving that defines the metropolitan experience.'

How does that grab you? Bet you've never been to a business meeting like that before.

Those Italians certainly know how to transform a boring old conference on town planning into something provocative and challenging.They simply inject some pretentious pseudo-intellectual nonsense.Only the French do it better.

'The City - Taste and Smell' is just one of the events planned for delegates to the 49th Annual Congress of the International Federation for Housing and Planning, in Rome this October.

Other juicy titbits include an interactive audio installation entitled 'The City and Sound'.'Sound is a testimonial to our existence, our memory of place and our perception of space and movement, ' explains the organiser, helpfully.'Through sound, it is possible to create an imaginary map of the metropolis, where we can lose ourselves at any moment, only to re-find our way magically' Sounds like a hoot.There are bound to be some bemused Brits in attendance.There really ought to be a delegation from the ODPM. But I'm not sure this sort of thing is John Prescott's cup of tea.Our John's a no-nonsense politician (until he opens his mouth).

Can you imagine him sitting through an audio-visual celebration of the urban environment as expressed through ethnic cuisine? I'm sure he'd much rather sit in a nearby trattoria with a big plate of buttered gnocchi and a bottle of Barolo, experiencing the multi-ethnic nature of the contemporary city via his face.

On the other hand, Mr Prescott might get on quite well with Roberto Morassut, who's in charge of urban planning for the municipal government of Rome.Mr Morassut has a lot to say about Rome's urban regeneration and its contribution to Italian GNP: 'This number [6.4 per cent] is destined to increase, producing a parallel occupation increment and, during the next 10 years, a hypothesis for growth of between 2 to 2.3 per cent annually.The environment, history and development represent, therefore, the terms around which the future of Rome is focused.'

As you see, Mr Morassut is almost - but not quite - as fluent in the Prescott dialect as the great man himself.

FOR YEARS now, all right-minded people have been calling on the Government to scrap VAT for refurbishment projects.Why doesn't Whitehall listen?

OK, it's probably because it wants the money. But how shortsighted can you be? The average householder thinks nothing of paying for his new extension with a fat wad of used tenners, but in so doing he's cheating the taxman and making a crook of an otherwise law-abiding tradesman.

The answer is simple: lift VAT on refurbishment, maintenance and improvement work.This would bring more companies out of the 'shadow economy' and drive employment growth. I know this because I'm a small businessman and, besides, I read it on CNplus. co. uk.

But the Government is adamant. It has just refused to join an experiment to reduce VAT on labour-intensive industries, despite signs of success in other European countries that have joined the pilot scheme.

I feel passionate about this. I've offered to do some campaigning in the construction sector for the National Small Business Forum and I'm delighted to say they have accepted my offer. Better still, they're paying cash.