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WIREDGOV NEWSLETTER ARCHIVE
HM Treasury:But will they improve public transport capacity before charging for road use? - Sir Rod Eddington has published the findings of his study: Transport's role in sustaining UK's Productivity and Competitiveness: The Case for Action, which highlights the vital role that transport plays in supporting the economic success of the UK.
To quote extracts from the Summary report – the government should:
….adopt a sophisticated policy mix to meet both economic and environmental goals.Policy should get the prices right (especially congestion pricing on the roads and environmental pricing across all modes) and make best use of existing networks:
• In line with the Stern Review, prices across all modes should reflect the true cost to society, including congestion, overcrowding & environmental impacts – through appropriate fiscal, regulatory, pricing or trading instruments.
• Use road pricing as the most appropriate way to tackle congestion: introduce widespread, congestion-targeted road pricing to deliver the potential benefits cost-effectively; setting out the key decisions needed to unlock the vast potential of road pricing.
• Explore the potential for high value for money better use measures that encourage changes in travel choices or exploit the opportunities provided by new technologies.
...reflecting the high returns available from some transport investment, based on full appraisal of environmental and social costs and benefits, the Government, together with the private sector, should deliver sustained and targeted infrastructure investment in those schemes which demonstrate high returns, including smaller schemes tackling pinch points:
·After considering the potential for pricing and better use, deliver sustained infrastructure investment where it offers strong returns in the three strategic economic priority areas.
·Do not be seduced by ‘grand projects’ with speculative returns.
·Implement proposals for additional runway capacity where the case is robust, having accounted for the environmental costs of emissions.
DCLG:‘Mr Bumble the Beadle’ serves up LAs ‘gruel’ and dares them to ask for more -Local Government Minister Phil Woolas has published Government grant figures for 2007/08, which is claimed to include a ‘£3.1 billion funding boost’ for local authorities in England to ensure that ‘there is no excuse for excessive council tax increases next year’.
Local authorities in England will receive than £65+ billion in 2007/08, an average 4.9% increase on 2006/07, which includes a floor guarantee which will see some authorities receive a 2.7% increase in formula grant.
Mr. Woolas warned that ‘there was no excuse for excessive council tax increases’ and he expected the average council tax increase to be below 5% and that the Government was prepared to take ‘capping’ action if necessary, saying:"Local government should be under no illusions; if there are excessive increases, we will take capping action - as we have done over the last three years
Home Office:‘Timing is everything’ and this report is very timely considering the recent disturbances - Anne Owers, Chief Inspector of Prisons, has described a report on Harmondsworth immigration removal centre (IRC), as the poorest ever issuedon an IRC.Inspectors found serious concerns, including:
·the centre was not performing satisfactorily against any of its tests of a healthy custodial environment
·poor relationships between custody officers & detainees, worse than had been seen at any other centre
·over 60% of detainees said they had felt unsafe with the main fear being of bullying by staff
·systems to support detainees were underdeveloped
Anne Owers said: "This is not primarily the fault of staff, some of whom were trying, without adequate support, to do a good job.It is essentially a problem of management, and it is of some concern that this had not been fully identified and resolved earlier by the contractor and the Immigration and Nationality Directorate."
DfES:Has the government done enough to reassure teachers escorting field trips? - Education and Skills Secretary Alan Johnson claims that the government will put learning outside the classroom at the heart of the curriculum and young people's personal development.Launching the Learning Outside the Classroom Manifesto Mr Johnson urged schools to use the wealth of educational opportunities on their doorsteps and further afield, to inspire & motivate every pupil.
The Manifesto is a growing coalition of over 100 education providers & local authorities who support schools in providing a wide range of experiences ranging from lessons in school grounds to visits to museums, city farms, parks, field study centres, nature reserves, residential activity centres and places of worship.
A new independent council will provide a single voice for all organisations involved in out-of-classroom to implement the manifesto and Schools will be encouraged to report on its provision through Ofsted schools' self evaluation form introduced next year, to encourage headteachers to evaluate & develop their provision.
DH:Will anyone ‘dare’ to criticise their GP?5 million patients are to get the chance to have their say on how easy it is for people to see their GP as part of a survey on NHS services. An average practice will have the chance to earn over £8,000 in incentives if they are responsive to patients' views on access.
Posters & leaflets informing NHS patients & staff about the new survey will be placed in GP surgeries over the next couple of weeks, with a postal survey being sent to around 5 million patients in January.The questionnaire will ask about patient’s experiences of flexible booking, telephone access and opening hours.
Taking part in the survey is completely voluntary for patients, who will be randomly selected.Advice/help-lines will be provided for those individuals needing additional support (e.g. translation, support for the visually impaired and other special needs groups).
Survey results will be made available by late May 2007, with a view to PCTs making payments to practices in the first quarter of the 2007/08 financial year.More information & regular updates will be placed on the 'Primary Medical Care Contracting' part of the Department of Health website.
DCLG:Build more bigger homes and build them on brownfield sites - Housing Minister Yvette Cooper has set out reforms to the planning system which are intended to help local authorities deliver more & better homes - including more affordable & family homes.Planning Policy Statement 3: Housing (PPS3) is designed to tackle obstacles in the current planning system which means that not enough suitable sites are available to deliver the homes families & local people need.
Specifically, councils will need to ensure there are enough family homes and ensure that the housing needs of children are being met, with an emphasis being placed on family-friendly developments, including access to gardens, play areas and parks.
New developments will have to take account of the need to cut carbon emissions and to move towards zero carbon development, with higher standards for housing & planning to be set out shortly in the new Planning Policy Statement on Climate Change and the revised Code for Sustainable Homes.
The new English Partnership National Brownfield Strategy, which has also just been published for consultation, will hopefully help local councils to bring forward more brownfield land for development.
PPS3 follows the recommendations of the Affordable Rural Housing Commission, stating that local authorities and regional planning bodies will have to take greater account of affordability pressures in rural areas and the need to sustain village life by providing additional housing that is sensitive to the area & the environment.
DfES:Government finally gives it backing to the Baccalaureate - The Prime Minister and Education Secretary have announced that schools and colleges will offer more choices to young people over what they study post-16, by providing greater access to the International Baccalaureate for those who want it.
Students taking the IB programme will take 6 subjects including their own language, a second language, an arts and a science subject along with the compulsory elements: an extended project; Theory of Knowledge; and community service.
At present 46 maintained schools & colleges across 32 local authorities teach the IB.There are currently 87 authorities outside London where there are no maintained schools or colleges offering the IB.The Government wants to expand provision so that the IB is a feature of all local authority areas outside London.
Alan Johnson also said that the Government was proposing a number of measures to make the A-level more stretching, the main details of which are:
·making questions more open-ended & less prescriptive, requiring greater thought & more detailed answers
·the introduction of an A* grade, to encourage the students to demonstrate the upper limits of their ability
·from 2008, all students will be required to produce an extended, dissertation-like, project requiring independent research, thought & planning
They also set out an ‘acceleration in the Government's flagship educationpolicies’ to ‘give schools greater freedoms to deliver even higher standards’. Building on the 50 schools already driving towards Trust status, they announced that a further 50 should be on-stream by the Spring.
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Defra:Defra and the Environment Agency are reminding farmers in Nitrate Vulnerable Zones (NVZs), that the whole farm organic manure loading limit, for any areas of their farm not in grass, will drop from 210 kg N/ha/yr to 170 kg N/ha/yr on the 19th December 2006.
Farmers with land ‘not in grass’ will need to calculate whether they have enough land available for spreading all their manure, to ensure they remain compliant with this lower limit. Guidance to help with this calculation can be found in the Defra booklet 'Manure Planning in NVZs - England'.
DfT:The Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee (DPTAC) has issued a policy statement setting out the case for Shopmobility schemes, which loan equipment (such as manual wheelchairs, powered wheelchairs & powered scooters) out to anyone with limited mobility for use within a town centre or shopping mall.
Grahame Lawson, Chair of DPTAC Personal Mobility and Local Authority Working Group called for Shopmobility to become an integral part of Local Transport Plan strategies & LA funding to help more disabled & older people to retain their mobility and bridge an existing gap by providing a more integrated & accessible transport system.
FSA:A 6-week market wide business continuity exercise led by the Financial Services Authority on behalf of the Tripartite Authorities (Bank of England, HM Treasury and FSA) has made a significant contribution to enhancing the resilience of the UK financial sector.
This year's annual exercise assessed how prepared the Tripartite Authorities and the financial services sector would be in the event of a flu pandemic and, over the six weeks of the exercise, the scenario simulated the first five months of such a crisis.
Early indications are that despite the extensive disruption and rising levels of absenteeism that would result from a pandemic, the financial sector would be able to sustain its core financial services.The Tripartite Authorities will publish a summary of the main findings before the end of the year.
Cabinet Office:A review of the penalties for regulatory non-compliance lead by Professor Richard Macrory has published its final report - 'Regulatory Justice: Making Sanctions Effective' - which found that reliance on criminal prosecution failed to give regulators adequate means to effectively deal with many cases in a proportionate & risk based way.
It also found that the use of criminal prosecutions can be a disproportionate response in many instances of regulatory non compliance and that penalties handed down by the courts often failed to act as a sufficient deterrent or reflect the economic benefit gained.
The review proposes a broad'toolkit' of administrative penaltiesfor regulators to promote & enforce regulatory compliance and it recommends that the Government pilot schemes involving restorative justice whereby those most effected by a regulatory wrongdoing can come together to address the harm and prevent a recurrence.
Regulators will only get access to the new toolkit when they have demonstrated to the Panel on Regulatory Accountability that they are compliant with the Hampton & Macrory principles of risk based enforcement, which were set out in Philip Hampton's report Reducing administrative burdens: effective inspection and enforcement.
Defra:The Government is to carry out a review of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution (RCEP), Environment Minister Ian Pearson has announced in a Written Ministerial Statement released to Parliament.
The review will evaluate the performance of the Royal Commission since its last review in 1999, in order to make recommendation on its future development and will focus on the quality & impact of the Commission's studies, its working methods, resources & how they are managed.
Once the review has reported (expected in spring 2007), Defra will examine its recommendations and see how they should be implemented, in particular, by reviewing the agreement setting out the framework within which the relationship between the two bodies operates.
DfES:Among findings of a review into outreach activities by Higher Education institutions, which was carried out by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), were that 89% of the institutions surveyed rated their progress in Widening Participation in the past four years as strong or very strong, with universities engaged in a number of outreach activities to attract students from all backgrounds such as looked after children, white working class boys, the disabled, and first generation entrants to higher education.
Also launched was a booklet comprising a range of measures which the DfES will take to further improve participation in Higher Education (HE).
Cabinet Office:The Government has announced the appointment of Peter Rogers, Chief Executive of Westminster City Council, to lead an independent review of legislation enforced by local authorities to identify 5 key priorities.
The review will include over 60 policy areas with the aim to produce a more joined up approach to regulatory inspection & enforcement.The review will aim to report by Budget 2007 and it will work with local authorities, central government, independent regulators and businesses.
The Terms of reference are to:
·Define policy areas (& their enforcement mechanisms) that come under the remit of LA regulatory services
·Collect & collate the evidence on the relative priority of these policy areas for central government, local citizens and business, and
·Make recommendations on around five policy areas that are central government priorities for local authorities, based on their level of risk, political priority and the perceptions of citizens and business
Defra:How food is produced, sourced & impacts on our health & the environmentwill form the basis of a Year of Food and Farming in education, which start in September 2007and aimsto involve all schools in England.It will link with a whole range of other initiatives, such as the Healthy Schools Standard, Learning Outside the Classroom Manifesto and Strategy for Sustainable Food and Farming.
The Year is intended to help to reconnect young people with their food and it aims to achieve:
·Improved understanding of the food chain and the role played by farming
·Increased links between schools, farmers and food producers
·Development of healthier lifestyles and good nutrition
·An increased interest in careers in the food & farming industries
·A greater appreciation of the importance of the countryside and environmental issues
Cabinet Office:The Better Regulation Executive in the Cabinet Office will deliver a number of actions, which are hoped to have a significant impact on how local authorities enforce regulation (80% of inspections are carried out by LAs):
·The timetable for establishing a new Local Better Regulation Office (LBRO) has been brought forward from 2009 to 2007.
·The Government has accepted the recommendations of the Macrory review of regulatory penalties, which will allow LAs to be lenient with minor accidental infringements and more severe with persistent offenders.
·Establishing the Regulators' Compliance Code the Autumn to come into force in April 2008
·The Retail Enforcement Initiative pilot will be extended to 70 more local authorities.
HC:The Healthcare Commission has welcomed the government’s consultation document (closes 28 February 2007) on the regulation of health & adult social care and its Chairman, Sir Ian Kennedy, said: We welcome the recognition that modern regulation needs to be designed so that it can use information and intelligence – including the views of patients and those who care for them – to target limited resources to areas of greatest risk.
The proposals also allow the regulator to promote improvement by gradually raising the bar that providers must clear in meeting the standards expected of them.This is critical in a world where public expectations will never remain static.
The paper includes an overdue plan for a single regime of registration covering the NHS and the independent sector.This would involve a single legislative framework and a single set of national standards applying to all providers, instead of having two separate systems as at present.
Executive Chairman of Monitor, Bill Moyes, said: "The consultation document confirms that the Government values Monitor's work and wants us to continue as the Independent Regulator of NHS Foundation Trusts. We are also pleased that the consultation document has adopted the arrangements we published recently for managing clinical or service delivery failure in foundation trusts. The proposals for registration are novel and still to be elaborated in detail.
Defra:A strategy for improving animal welfare in England by building new relationships between Government and its key partners has recently been published for consultation (closes 13 February 2007).The Animal Welfare Delivery Strategy aims to increase society's understanding & expertise in caring for animals and to improve welfare above & beyond the baseline standards set by law.
It suggests innovative ways of doing this, such as improving the labelling of food with information about the welfare conditions of the animals from which it was produced, allowing consumers to make informed choices about what they buy.Other proposals include building agreement on global animal welfare standards, which can be embedded in future international laws and treaties.
DfT:New proposals for permit schemes which give local highway authorities in England the power to control when & where their roads are dug up and keep traffic moving has been put to public consultation (closes on 26 February 2007).
Under the scheme, anyone digging up the road would have to seek permission from a local highway authority to begin works. The authority would then issue a permit specifying the duration and in some instances the day & time that the work should take place.
The proposed maximum fee for a permit will be £240, with fees being broadly based on the scale of the works and the predicted disruption.All fees revenue will be used by an Authority to run the permit scheme.Regulations arising from the consultation are expected to come into force in the latter part of 2007.
Defra:A consultation (closes 6 March 2007) has started to review, simplify & modernise the legislation that applies to the waste duty of care, the registration of waste carriers and the registration & control of waste brokers.
The review aims to cut waste crime, such as fly tipping and remove the blight this can have on affected communities. The government also want to make the legislation easier for the enforcing authorities to use, along with the introduction of more flexible penalties for waste offences.
Further details of which proposals the Government intends to take forward for a second period of consultation will be published following an analysis of responses to the first consultation.
Defra:The Government has issued a consultation document (closes 16 February 2007) on options for implementing the Environmental Liability Directive in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The Directive came into force on 30 April, 2004 and is required to be implemented by member states by 30 April, 2007.
It is intended to give effect to the "polluter pays" principle for environmental damage which significantly adversely affects EU-protected biodiversity & water and land contamination that creates a significant risk of human health being adversely affected.Operators of certain activities regulated by EU legislation which threaten or give rise to environmental damage will be held liable for prevention or remediation of the damage at their own expense.
Because it is aimed at the most significant cases, it is estimated that fewer than 1% of the approximately 30,000 cases of environmental damage reported to enforcement authorities in the UK each year will fall within the scope of the Directive.It applies to damage occurring from 30 April 2007 only.
OFT:The OFT has issued for consultation (closes 31 January 2007) final guidance on how it will give lenient treatment to companies & individuals who confess to cartel conduct.Under the Competition Act 1998 and the EC Treaty, companies engaging in cartel conduct face financial penalties of up to 10% of their worldwide turnover. Since the introduction of the Enterprise Act 2002, in June 2003, individuals engaging in cartel activities risk up to five years imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine.
In return for confessing to cartel involvement and helping the OFT to break cartels and punish other participants, the OFT can offer companies immunity from, or a reduction of, civil fines and to individuals it can offer 'no-action' (i.e. immunity from criminal sanction).
Gambling Commission: The Gambling Commission has launched its new conditions & codes, which all operators in the gambling industry must follow if they want to run a gambling business in Britain next year. The new regulations will be summed up in licence conditions & codes for the industry and, for the first time, the betting & remote gambling sectors will come under the regulator's power.
Set up in October 2005, the Commission's remit is to regulate the gambling industry in the public interest. It has powers to prosecute operators who fail to maintain standards and can impose unlimited fines on operators that breach their licence conditions.
DCA: Legal Services Minister Bridget Prentice has launched a Step-by-step guide to choosing a legal adviser that will help consumers get the right advice for them.
The leaflet highlights the key questions that consumers should think about when shopping for legal services to enable them to handle what can be a daunting experience with confidence.It explains what to expect when seeking legal advice and how to get value for money.
DH:The government have launched new guidance on practice based commissioning (PBC), which sets out guidance for Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) to ensure that more practices are able to take forward PBC with maximum support & minimum bureaucracy.It outlines:
·reduced bureaucracy around business cases & tendering
DfES:New Sure Start guidance, published for local authorities and their partners, brings together evidence & best practice in reaching the families most in need. It provides advice about developing services which are accessible to every family especially the most disadvantaged, underlines the importance of effective partnership working in delivering integrated early years services and illustrates how children's centres can best work with the range of families that make up our diverse society.
Also published by the DfES is a new framework for planning & management of children's centres that makes clear the need to ensure they are using evidence based practice to improve outcomes for children and provide high quality support to all families.
The guidance is informed by two reports from the National Evaluation of Sure Start, which ‘look at how Sure Start Local Programmes have empowered parents &local communities and draw together evidence of what works in delivering effective outreach and home visiting services to the most socially excluded families’.
Defra:A report highlighting just how far climate change has already impacted the United Kingdom's marine environment and what might happen in the future, has been published.Rapidly following-on from the publication of the Stern Report, which documented the economic case for tackling climate change, the Marine Climate Change Impacts Partnership (MCCIP) has produced a new 'Annual Report Card' (ARC) focusing on the marine environment.
The report card strongly suggests that marine climate change will have important consequences for all elements of our marine environment, with significant impacts on the biological diversity, cleanliness & safety and commercial productivity of our seas.
Scottish Executive:Scottish courts are making increasing use of new laws that tackle religious hatred as an aggravated offence, according to a report - Religiously Aggravated Reported Crime: An 18 Month Review.The number of offences reported by the police with a religious aggravation increased by 55% when comparing June- December 2003 and June - December 2004
Section 74 of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003 states that an offence is aggravated by religious prejudice if:
·at the time of committing the offence or immediately before or after doing so, the offender evinces towards the victim of the offence malice and ill-will based on the victim's membership (or presumed membership) of a religious group, or of a social or cultural group with a perceived religious affiliation
·or, the offence is motivated (wholly or partly) by malice and ill-will towards members of a religious group, or of a social or cultural group with a perceived religious affiliation, based on their membership of that group
The Act states that, when sentencing, the court must take the aggravation into account and must state the extent of, and the reasons for, the aggravation making a difference to the sentence which would otherwise have been imposed if the offence did not feature such an aggravation.
HSE:The Health & Safety Commission (HSC) has published a performance report detailing the wide range of work that it has overseen during the past year to reduce work-related fatalities, injuries and illness.
Measuring Up... Performance Report 2006 gives a summary of the activities, initiatives & campaigns carried out by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and Local Authorities that have contributed to Great Britain's record of having the lowest fatal injury rate in Europe.
As well as offering examples of the various initiatives, campaigns & strategies that have been implemented in recent years to improve health and safety at work, the document also features information on HSE's work on regulating major hazards. In particular, it covers the on-going work into the Buncefield incident and HSE's contribution to the energy review.
HM Treasury:The Chancellor has announced the publication of a report on long-term opportunities & challenges facing the UK, laying the analytical foundations for the 2007 Comprehensive Spending Review.
Since, the first CSR in 1998 and, with the start of the next spending round coming a decade on from the first CSR, there are new challenges that Britain needs to address, including demographic & socio-economic change, the intensification of cross-border economic competition, the rapid pace of innovation & technological diffusion, continued global uncertainty with ongoing threats of international terrorism & conflict and increasing pressures on our natural resources & global climate
Defra:The National Fallen Stock Company(NFSCo) has distributed over £11million of Government funding to farmers, with 700,000 collections of fallen stock carried out by the 140 collectors, since the beginning of the scheme in November 2004.
NFSCo was set up by Defra and the Devolved Administrations to run a voluntary scheme to assist farmers with the cost & practicalities of complying with the EU Animal By-Products Regulation, following the ban on on-farm burial or burning. The scheme also ensures confidence that fallen stock will be collected & disposed of according to strict biosecurity guidelines.
Members of the scheme get 35% of the cost of fallen stock collection & disposal paid for by government grant. New members can still join the scheme to benefit from this support that will last for the next two years.
Defra:Local authorities are at the forefront of the UK's efforts to cut carbon dioxide emissions, Climate Change Minister Ian Pearson has said, as statistics on local and regional emissions for 2004 were released.
The statistics assign emissions to end users.For example, the emissions created by a power plant are assigned to the users of the electricity rather than to the plant itself, show that:
·Nationally: 44% of emissions were attributed to 'industrial, commercial and public sector' sources, 29% to the domestic sector and 28% to road transport
·In about a third of local authorities, the emissions from the domestic sector were higher than from the industrial, commercial and public sectors with about 48% of domestic emissions due to gas use, 41% to electricity and 10% attributable to the use of other fuels
DCLG:The Government has published the Greater London Assembly Greater London Authority (GLA) Bill proposing an enhanced package of powers for the GLA - the Mayor of London and London Assembly.
The Bill proposes more strategic powers for the Mayor in key areas:
·new lead roles on housing & tackling climate change
·a strengthened role in planning & waste, and
·enhanced powers in health & culture
The Bill also sets out the new powers for the Mayor of London to amend London boroughs' local development schemes and to determine planning decisions of strategic importance for the whole of London.The detailed operational aspects of the new planning powers will be set out in secondary legislation, to be published in draft during the passage of the GLA Bill.
TfL:Mayor of London Ken Livingstone has set out a 20-year transport programme aimed at ensuring London's future economic prosperity. Transport for London's T2025 report highlights the importance of sustained investment and sets out ways that the impact of transport on the environment can be reduced.
London's economy is expected to grow by 900,000 jobs and its population by 800,000 people, in the next two decades, which translates into 4 million extra journeys a day.
London's transport infrastructure will need to adapt to this challenge, alongside the parallel imperative of reducing carbon emissions to deal with climate change.The T2025 package includes a climate change action plan and sets out the need for substantial ongoing investment in public transport, together with measures to increase cycling & walking
NAO:The National Audit Office has reported that Jobcentre Plus personal advisers provide an effective & highly valued service in helping people looking for work. There are over 9,000 personal advisers who conducted 10.8 million interviews last year with people looking for work and the feedback from those they help is positive and suggests they are an effective method of support in helping people find employment and preparing them for work.
However, the National Audit Office also found the effectiveness of personal advisers is reduced by the burden of paperwork, by interruptions and by people failing to keep appointments.As a result advisers spent only around 52% of their time interviewing people, a proportion that could be improved by changes to paperwork, improved administrative support and ensuring customers turn up to their appointments on time.
The NAO has also reported that Jobcentre Plus needs better data management as it currently operates with incomplete information on various aspects of its work, from how many personal advisers it employs to the exact cost of paperwork or late appointments.
MCA:The Maritime and Coastguard Agency has published the report of research on Seafarers' Fatigue conducted on behalf of the Agency and the Health and Safety Executive by Professor Andy Smith, Centre for Occupational and Health Psychology, CardiffUniversity.
The research findings add to the view that fatigue at sea is a significant safety issue and that many seafarers are working hours in excess of the working time limits and under-recording hours of work. The report also recognizes that it is the combined effect of several factors that are associated with fatigue.
HC:New findings in a Healthcare Commission report highlight that people who are older, from an ethnic minority group or disabled, report different experiences of the NHS than the rest of the population.The study covers responses of over 280,000 people and the services of 535 NHS organisations in England.
Patients who said they had a long-standing disability that affected their day-to-day activities were more likely to report less negative experiences than those without a disability. Those declaring ‘poor health’ status at the time of completing the survey also responded more negatively than those self-reporting ‘good health’ status.
Patients & mental health service users from BME groups were more likely than white service users to report negative experiences for some questions. Asian patients generally responded more negatively than white patients, but there were exceptions – for example they responded more positively in the mental health survey when asked about how they were treated by the psychiatrist.
NAO:The results of a survey of UK nationals who were affected by the Indian Ocean tsunami have been released by the National Audit Office. The work provides the most complete account yet about what people experienced and how they felt about the response of UK agencies in providing support.
The assistance provided was seen as good in parts, but there were clearly also lessons to be learned and the government has committed itself to preparing an action plan in response to the findings to improve efforts at assistance in any future crisis.
Responding to the NAO's report for the FCO, Lord Triesman said:"The sheer scale of the 2004 tsunami meant that no organisation was able to respond as it wanted. As a result, some UK families and individuals did not get the support they could have expected to receive. We have said sorry to them.
Much of the work recommended in the report is already underway, including establishing support networks in the UK, greatly improving call-handling capacity, setting up regional Rapid Deployment Teams and ensuring volunteers receive the best training."
DCA:The DCA and the Legal Services Commission (LSC) has jointly published ‘Legal Aid Reform: The Way Ahead’, which sets out how reforms will be made to legal aid.
It follows from consultation on Lord Carter's report over the summer, which provided a blueprint for moving legal aid to a market-based system involving best value tendering after a transitional phase where hourly rates are replaced by fixed and graduated fees.
Defra:From Friday 1 December 2006 a new law came into force.Anybody who uses an unlicensed labour provider operating in farming & food processing sectors will be committing a criminal offence and face penalties of up to 6 months imprisonment, a £5,000 fine, or both.
The Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA) sees this as a key weapon in the fight to end worker exploitation and Mike Wilson Chief Executive of the GLA said: "It takes two to exploit labour - the provider and the user….
By using unlicensed labour providers, labour users become complicit in this exploitation.
Defra has published guidance that sets out the steps that a labour user can take to ensure a labour provider is licensed. By taking these steps a labour user can establish a defence in court to show they took all reasonable steps to check that the labour provider was licensed.
The GLA has launched a public consultation on the GLA licence fee & additional charges for the financial year 2007/2008 (closing date of 8 January 2007).
DWP:The Pensions Bill has been published and it is intended to:
·make the state pension more generous by linking the Basic State Pension to earnings
·make the system fairer for women and carers and
·provide a solid foundation for saving
·raise the State Pension Age gradually to 68 by 2046
·Reducing the number of years needed for a full Basic State Pension
·introduce weekly credits to recognise & reward caring in the same way as working
The Bill also allows for the creation of a Delivery Authority to bring on board the expertise needed to design a successful personal accounts system which would provide people with a low-cost simple way to save.Detailed proposals for personal accounts will be published in a White Paper in December.
DH:With the implementation of the smokefree elements of the Health Act 2006, from 6am on the 1st July 2007, virtually all enclosed public places and workplaces will become smokefree environments.
This will include offices, factories, shops, pubs, bars, restaurants, membership clubs, public transport and work vehicles that are used by more than one person. The law will also mean that indoor smoking rooms, still common in workplaces, will no longer be allowed, so anyone wishing to smoke will have to go outside instead.
The Health Secretary also launched a new Smokefree England campaign which is intended to help the country's 3.7 million businesses (including nearly 200,000 pubs, bars, restaurants and other leisure outlets) prepare for the implementation of the legislation.All smokefree premises and vehicles will be required to display no-smoking signs.
Cabinet Office:Lord Davidson QC has published his final report on the implementation of European legislation in the UK.It proposes action to cut the burden of regulation particularly in the areas of consumer sales, financial services, transport and waste - creating an estimated £670 million saving to business & consumers.
The review, commissioned by the Government as part of its better regulation agenda, concluded that over-implementation may not be as widespread in the UK as is sometimes claimed.However, there are areas in the stock of existing legislation where regulatory burdens due to gold-plating, double-banking and regulatory creep in the past have led to unnecessary regulatory burdens.
CC:The Charity Commission Direct has extended its opening hours, so that trustees, charity advisers and members of the public who aren't able to contact them during normal working hours can now call them when it suits them best.
Experienced Commission staff will be taking calls from to during the week and on Saturdays, compared to the previous Monday to Friday service. Callers can get quick and effective advice & guidance at a time convenient to them.
HMRC:HM Revenue & Customs has launched plans to help small businesses settle their tax affairs more quickly & simply with a new - 'Delivering a new relationship with business' – which details a package of reforms designed to transform its relationship with business, including measures to:
·allow businesses to settle their tax affairs sooner
·reduce the burden of forms & inspections, and
·develop a single customer record
The report also details a series of initiatives HMRC has implemented over the past 18 month, including:
·a shortened four-page tax return for the smallest businesses
·removing from 300,000 employers the responsibility for paying tax credits to their employees
Competition Commission:The Competition Commission (CC) is to introduce measures to increase competition in the home credit market and lower prices for customers.The measures are detailed in the CC's final report into the home credit market and include a requirement for home credit companies to share data on their existing customers' payment records to open up the market to greater competition from other lenders and make it easier for these customers to access other forms of credit.
Other measures will require companies to provide clearer information on the cost of loans, making it easier for customers to shop around and compare offers and to change the early settlement rebate so that customers who settle loans early receive a better deal.
It is expected that these remedies will be in operation by the end of next year, with the exception of the statement remedy which will come into force in April 2008 in line with the expected legislative timetable for the Consumer Credit Act.
The report states that over the last five years home credit providers have been making profits of over £75 million a year in excess of that which could be expected in a more competitive market.
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