Cabinet Office:  Cut, Cut, Cut - The government has introduced a Bill to Parliament that it hopes will provide a swift & effective mechanism for delivering the Government's regulatory reform programme to cut red tape.  The Legislative & Regulatory Reform Bill aims to make it quicker and easier to tackle unnecessary or over-complicated regulation and help bring about a risk-based approach to regulation.


John Walker, Federation of Small Businesses National Policy Chairman, said: "Regulatory burdens are amongst the main barriers to growth with which our members struggle.  If this Bill can reduce them and free up their potential economic growth, unlike previous deregulatory attempts, this will be genuinely good news for the small business sector."

Press release ~ Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill ~ Review of the Regulatory Reform Act 2001 ~ Hampton Report ~ Regulation Action Plan in May 2005 ~ Better Regulation Commission's five principles of good regulation ~ Better Regulation Action Plan - What we have done and what we are doing


Welsh Assembly Govt.:  History aids the living - The unexpected role that local authority archive services play in assisting miners' families in claiming compensation has been highlighted by news from CyMAL: Museums Archives and Libraries Wales.


 Glamorgan Record Office has handled more than 4,500 requests for evidence since 2003, as ex-miners' families have to provide evidence that the victim has worked in a specific colliery or that the cause of death was related to pneumoconiosis, in order to be able to claim compensation under the Pneumoconiosis Compensation Act.


CyMAL also highlighted a new educational website - Library Web Challenge - a fun, bilingual website (aimed at primary school age children).   The site features games, stories as well as links to other external educational websites and is intended to allow children to find out more about how they can get the most out of library services.

Press release ~ Pneumoconiosis Compensation Act ~ Glamorgan Record Office ~ HSE – Silicosis in miners ~ HSE – Chemical alert notice ~ CyMAL: Museums, Archives and Libraries Wales ~ Cynnal ~ Library Web Challenge ~ National Grid for Learning Cymru ~ Book Prescription Wales


LSDA:  Second Chance after leaving school - A recently published report - Tales of disengagement: a story retold – analyses existing data about young people in their last five years at school.   Researchers looked at the characteristics of young people who were frequent truants and performed badly in national tests, including GCSEs, at ages 11, 14 and 16, then tracked them into their late ‘teens.


The aim of the study was to investigate the characteristics associated with ‘disengagement’ – to find out which groups of young people have become disengaged from education and speculate reasons why & find out whether gaining vocational qualifications is worthwhile in terms of improved labour market outcomes.


Many boys and girls who leave school with few or no qualifications fail to obtain them subsequently, but some go on to gain vocational qualifications, such as NVQs, at college or through an apprenticeship. This group quickly catch up with their school mates with GCSEs by finding jobs and moving up the career ladder into skilled occupations.


Most significantly, these youngsters quickly reach a par in salary with their peers.

Press release ~ Disengagement from secondary education: a story retold ~ National Skills Academies Prospectus 2005/6: An innovative approach to meeting employers’ needs for training ~ LSC document: Priorities for Success - Funding for Learning and Skills ~ DfES White Paper: Skills Getting on in business, getting on at work ~ White Paper: 14-19 Education and Skills ~ National Employer Training programmes


MOD:  The forgotten disaster? – While TV and the media have recently concentrated on the anniversary of the Tsunami and the continuing dangerous situation in Iraq, the MOD has provided a timely reminder of the disastrous situation in Pakistan.


For a pleasant change, while the on-going situation is still pretty dire, the story comes under the ‘good news’ category and must be a comfort to those loved ones who were left behind in the UK over the Christmas period.


British commando engineers, who have been building winter shelters for the people of Kashmir, have helped rescue a much needed aid convoy which had been stranded by the heavy snow.  Using four BV 206 all-terrain vehicles the engineers had trail blazed through blocked mountain tracks along a ridge line to the villages of Mallot and Rangola (7,000 ft) to deliver supplies. 


On the way back they discovered an eleven vehicle convoy carrying food aid from the Irish charity, GOAL, which had been abandoned since a blizzard on New Year's Eve had cut off the road. With the use of the BVs the engineers began clearing a number of the aid tractors to the side of the road to allow supplies through, and rescued some of the vehicles, which were perilously close to plummeting over the cliffs.


Mr Stewart Mead, the Logistics Manager for GOAL said:

"All the vehicles are being leased for this relief operation so it is expensive for a charity like ours to have them not in use, let alone destroyed!  We are very indebted to the British Army."

Press release ~ photos ~ 59 Independent Commando Squadron Royal Engineers ~ 42 Commando Royal Marines ~ MOD operational briefing ~ Disasters Emergency Committee


Industry News:  Let TheBrain take the strain - EMAX Consulting has implemented a knowledge management package – TheBrain - for Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council’s 24 hour Housing Services’ contact centre, Dudley Borough Direct.


Over a period of six weeks, a visual interface was built that mind mapped all the associations between the huge range of documents call agents need to access, which are stored in numerous locations and in many different formats including MSOffice, Outlook .pdf, html, and Visio. 


The outcome is that it is now no longer necessary to know the title of a document, where it is stored or how to navigate to a webpage in order to find the few words or sentences that support a query resolution.  Selected users are able to add to or update the visual interface and the associated content, thus ensuring there is 100% ownership of the knowledge and that agents always have access to the most up to date information.


With minimal training the agents have adapted to the visual mind map visual interface much faster than a traditional text screen and other benefits include search times reduced by 65%, all paper reference material removed from the desks and efficiency savings leading to an 11% reduction in staff costs, with an improvement in the consistency of answers to clients.

 Full article ~ Dudley Borough Direct ~ Dudley MBC press release ~ Emax Consulting ~ Visual User interface ~ NeLH Knowledge Management (KM) glossary ~ NeLH KM intro and toolkit ~ A Knowledge Ability White Paper ~ Imperial College Multimedia and Information Systems Team ~ HR practice in local authority contact centres Call Centre Association ~ Mind mapping (VLF 2Mb) ~ National Project KM website 


Forthcoming event:  Comprehensive Performance Assessment 2005 - The Way Forward – IDeA are inviting chief executives, directors and senior politicians to a free joint regional event to discuss the latest developments on Comprehensive Performance Assessment(CPA) 2005 on 17/02/2006 at the Holiday Inn, Doncaster


The Audit Commission has taken a fresh look at its CPA of councils, branding its revised approach as ‘The Harder Test’.  In order to differentiate the harder CPA from previous models, the new structure will provide a star rating for councils, rather than a one-word categorisation.


During this interactive event, IDeA will assess the latest position of CPA and will aim to cover the issues that are important to attendees. They want to use the outcomes of the day as a basis for developing positive direction & support for the rest of the year.


Among the new challenges facing councils, the new CPA results will undoubtedly present a communication challenge for all councils.  Any council that is awarded a disappointing star rating could find itself facing criticism from the local media and the broader community – especially if journalists and residents do not recognise that the assessment itself has changed!

Full details ~ Communicating the new CPA ~ CPA 2005 – the main changes ~ Audit Commission CPA website ~ CPA - The Harder Test: Framework for 2005 ~ LGA CPA website ~ Benefit Fraud Inspectorate ~ OPDM CPA website ~ Socitm Insight - Making a difference: An analysis of the ICT contribution to CPA ~ Improving from within: a survey of district councils' views on CPA

General News

Defra:  FIAS, the Fertiliser Industry Assurance Scheme, which came into force on 9 January 2006, is intended to provide assurance for all aspects of fertiliser production and distribution up to the point of delivery to the end user, by providing robust traceability & control of fertilisers throughout the supply chain.


The scheme will apply to importers, manufacturers, merchants, hauliers and storekeepers and is intended to build on the product stewardship principles that have been devised across Europe, with a strong emphasis on codes of practice and achievable standards for the industry.

Press release ~ Fertiliser Industry Assurance Scheme ~ Agricultural Industries Confederation ~ Product Authentication International ~ UKAS ~ Defra – Minimising water pollution from agriculture website ~ Nitrate vulnerable zones ~ Environment Agency ~ European Nitrates Directive


Defra:  The government has announced that the national subsidy for school milk will be retained.  Lord Bach said:

"Along with my colleagues from the Department for Education and Skills and the Department of Health I have considered all relevant factors including the recommendations in the recent report.

Press release ~ Evaluation of the National Top-Up to the EU School Milk Subsidy in England ~ School milk project ~ Milk for schools ~ Defra school milk website


Highways Agency:  Video footage from Highways Agency CCTV cameras will soon be brought direct to your mobile phone, in a trial agreed by the Highways Agency.   The trial starts with 100 cameras on the M25, M1, M6, M4, M5, M40 M42, M54, M60, A1M, M61 and will extend to the full Highways Agency CCTV network by the end of the year.


To get more details of the service visit www.traffictv.co.uk or phone MxData on 01625 526644.  

To get a free trial text 'traffic mxdata' to 60070. 

Press release ~ Information Commissioner’s CCTV guidance ~ Watching them watching us ~ Crime reduction ~ Home Office - Assessing the impact of CCTV ~ Liberty website


FSA:  A new on-line “debt test” has been launched to help consumers keep control of their borrowing and to take action in the event of problems.  By answering a few simple questions it allows consumers to obtain information & feedback on their levels of debt, tips on how to avoid getting into debt problems and help to manage any problems they may have.

Press release ~ The Debt Test on FSA website ~ BBC Onelife website ~ Experian ~ Building financial capability in the UK ~ Financial Healthcheck


Socitm:  Socitm President Angela Waite has sent an open letter to Ian Watmore Head of eGovernment and Government CIO following his promotion to Head of the Prime Minister's Delivery Unit.

Press release ~ Socitm ~ CIO Council ~ eGU ~ ODPM – Local eGovernment

Policy Statements and Initiatives

DfES / Home Office:  Education Secretary Ruth Kelly and Home Secretary Charles Clarke were two of a plethora of Ministers who showed their ‘respect’ for the Prime minister’s new initiative with separate press announcements last week.


The Action Plan include a ‘focus on the most problematic families coupled with a much wider extension of parenting classes to ensure parents get the help they need to fulfil their responsibilities in bringing up their children’ and will be ‘backed up’ by the creation of a new National Parenting Academy for professionals working with children and families, which will ‘equip a new generation of workers with advanced skills to address acute parenting and family problems which can be a trigger for anti-social behaviour’.


The Home Secretary announced a national network of projects including new powers such as a new house closure order temporarily (3 months) sealing properties that are the constant focus of anti-social behaviour;  The Government also plans to consult on sanctions for households evicted for anti-social behaviour who refuse help, including financial penalties or housing benefit measures.

DfES Press release ~ Home Office Press release ~ Education Maintenance Allowances (EMAs) ~ Youth Matters ~ White Paper Higher Standards, Better Schools for all ~ Secondary Schools Behaviour and Truancy Partnerships ~ Respect website ~ Community Payback scheme


Welsh Assembly Govt.: A consultation (closes 2 March 2006) on how Wales can play a bigger role in international development and provide a response to international emergencies has been published by First Minister Rhodri Morgan, as Wales will, for the first time, gain some new powers in the field of international development in April 2006.

Press release ~ Welsh International Sustainable Development Framework (scroll down) ~ UN Millennium Development Goals ~ Fair Trade Wales forum ~ Fair Trade Foundation ~ Christian Aid – Trade Justice campaign


DTI:  The Department of Trade and Industry is inviting views from consumers, religious groups, employees and businesses on the current Sunday trading laws.  It wishes to hear from anyone who wants to submit their views or any relevant evidence about all aspects of Sunday trading, which should be sent by email, by 14 April, to: Maria.Bazell@dti.gsi.gov.uk

Press release ~ DTI web page ~ Factsheet ~ Sunday Trading Act 1994 ~ Practical advice for Business ~ Usdaw surveys ~ Keep Sunday Special campaign

Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides

DWP:  Carers need to ensure that they know their rights and take the necessary steps to boost their pension before April 2006 according to Minister for Pensions Reform Stephen Timms.


The government claims that government initiatives such as State Second Pension and Home Responsibilities Protection have enabled carers and parents to boost their pensions even if they are not in employment and an updated information leaflet "State Pensions for carers and parents - Your guide" is available to make sure that everyone knows their rights and if they need to take any action.

Press release ~ State Pensions for carers and parents - Your guide (PM9) ~ DWP – Caring for someone ~ State Second Pension ~ Home Responsibilities Protection ~ National Pensions Debate ~ Carers Allowance e-Service ~ Caring services ~ Carers week 2006

Annual Reports

General Reports and other publications

NAO:  According to a report published by the National Audit Office, a large proportion of schools in England provide high standards of education, with pupil attainment improving in primary and secondary schools.  However, as at July 2005, there were 1,557 poorly performing schools needing additional support.


National initiatives and local action are helping to reduce the number of these schools, however more can be done to: prevent poor performance in the first place, speed up the improvement of poorly performing schools, and support improved schools in sustaining their achievements.


Around 85% of schools recover after being put into Special Measures, but there is limited evidence about the longer term performance of recovered schools. The NAO found that 40% of schools that recovered between April 1995 and March 1997 had closed by July 2005.


The NAO has concerns about shortages of headteachers. In 2004-05, 28% of primary schools and 20% of secondary schools were without a permanent headteacher. 10% of governor places are also vacant, rising to 20% in some inner city areas.

Press release ~ NAO report - Improving poorly performing schools in England: Full Report (1.7Mb) ~ Executive Summary ~ The Academies Programme ~ Fresh Start Schools ~ DfES website ~ Ofsted website ~ Ofsted: Framework 2005: Framework for the inspection of schools in England from September 2005 ~ Teachernet – Surviving Ofsted

Legislation / Legal

DCA:  The government is apparently bowing to the reality of something that has been happening for many decades. Parents will be able to take their children into polling stations when they vote to teach them about democracy under new laws being brought forward by Elections Minister Harriet Harman.


The Electoral Administration Bill, currently being debated in Parliament, contains measures which will allow children to enter polling stations with their parents and schools' citizenship classes to attend counts on polling day.  Currently under-18s are banned by law from entering a polling station. 

Press release ~ DCA elections website ~ Registering to vote ~ Youth voting network ~ Post-16 citizenship website ~ Do Politics website ~ Electoral Administration Bill


Defra:  The biggest animal welfare reform for nearly a century has had its second reading in the House of Commons.  The Animal Welfare Bill is intended to simplify animal welfare legislation for enforcers and animal keepers.  It applies to farmed and non-farmed animals, and introduces a positive duty to ensure the welfare of companion animals, so that the level of protection they get will equal that of farmed animals.


The Bill outlines a duty to take reasonable steps to ensure that animals have a suitable environment, a suitable diet, the ability to express normal behaviour, and freedom from pain, suffering, injury and disease.

Press release ~ Defra animal welfare website ~ Farm animal welfare council ~ National Animal welfare trust ~ RSPCA


ODPM:  The government has put back the coming into force of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order, made in June 2005, which will affect all non-domestic premises in England and Wales.   A new date will be announced as soon as possible.


Recently, the Scottish Authorities announced that more time should be allowed for reform North of the Border and the new rules in Scotland are now expected to come into force in October 2006 at the earliest.


The ODPM says that it is working with stakeholders on a publicity strategy to raise awareness of the new laws amongst those affected. There will also be a series of guides published to assist those preparing fire risk assessments.

Press release ~ ODPM fire safety law website ~ Guides ~ Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 ~ Fire Legislation for the Future consultation ~ Integrated Risk Management Planning (IRMP) ~ HSE – Workplace fire safety

EU legislation, initiatives, etc.

HMRC:  Responding to the European Court of Justice ruling in the linked cases of Optigen, Fulcrum and Bond House, Paymaster General Dawn Primarolo said:  "The UK notes the Court's decision and will of course follow the guidance it has given. HMRC will now consider the detail of the ruling in order to determine the extent to which it applies to their previous decisions.

Press release ~ HM Treasury  ~ VAT missing trader intra-Community fraud: the effect on Balance of Payments statistics and UK National Accounts ~ BBC - European Court of Justice ~ Recent cases

Charity and Voluntary Sector

Business and other briefings

DWP:  The government has announced that new regulations, which will be phased in over 3 years from April 6, 2006, will mean employers will not be able to make major changes to their pension scheme without first consulting the scheme's members.


The regulations, introduced under the Pensions Act 2004, require employers to consult with current and prospective members, or their representatives, on significant changes to their occupational or personal pension scheme for a period of at least 60 days before the changes can be introduced.   Guidelines to the regulations have also just been published.

Press release ~ Closed consultation on Occupational and Personal Pension Schemes (Consultation by Employers and Miscellaneous Amendment) Regulations 2006 ~ Government response ~ Guidance to the regulations ~ Pensions Act 2004


DWP:  The government claims that it will be easier for workers changing jobs to build up pension rights thanks to new government regulations that will come into force on April 6, 2006. 


The changes in the Occupational Pension Scheme regulations will mean that, where a member leaves an occupational pension scheme with at least three months qualifying service, but with no right to a pension from the scheme, they will be entitled to receive either a cash sum to be transferred to another pension scheme, or to a refund of their contributions.  The key point being that the transfer amount will include previously made employer contributions.

Press release ~ Occupational Pension Schemes (Early Leavers: Cash Transfer Sums and Contribution Refunds) Regulations 2006 ~ Closed Consultation ~ Government response to consultation

Industry News

MTP:  The Market Transformation Programme (MTP) has published its report, 'Sustainable Products 2005: Policy Analysis and Projections', which provides a snapshot of the MTPs Evidence Base as at March 2005 and represents all the information held by the MTP on the:

·         current & future use of products and

·         policies that aim to improve their environmental performance


For each product, the report:

·         Sets out the projected future energy consumption.

·         Identifies the opportunities to save energy.

·         Describes the market characteristics.

·         Highlights important recent product policy actions.

·         Lists policy actions that could help to reduce energy consumption.

·         Identifies the issues that affect a product’s energy consumption.

Full article ~ Sustainable Products 2005: Policy Analysis and Projections ~ Framework for Sustainable Consumption and Production ~ Securing the Future ~ Defra - Sustainable Development ~ Consultation on an Organisation for Sustainable Products ~ Policy Briefs ~ Briefing notes ~ Case Studies

Forthcoming Event

Date: 21/03/2006

Venue: Local Government House, Conference Centre, Smith Square, LondonSW1

Organiser: Local Government Association - Rethinking Service Delivery - What Lies Ahead for Local e-Government


With over £4 billion already invested by local authorities in e-government infrastructure, access to council services through a range of e-channels is improving.  A major cross-Government strategy is now aiming to transform the way public services are delivered, so that they keep pace with people’s experience of using technology, whether at home or on the move.


Building on the success of the local e-government programme, this national conference will look at what lies ahead for local e-government and how to rethink service delivery from a citizen’s point of view and drive improvement.


Key themes covered by the conference:

• take up of e-services and raising public awareness

• authentication, joining up back-offices and secure communications

• case studies of 3 different approaches to transformation

• new developments in grass roots community engagement

• where do we go from here?

 Further details ~ LGA e-government ~ Local e-Democracy National Project ~ National Projects website ~ National Take-up campaign ~ Leeds – Digital pens project ~ Transformational government – enabled by technology ~ Government Connect ~ Customer focus and community engagement ~ Community Engagement and Local Leadership ~ ODPM – Local:vision ~ ODPM - eGovernment

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