DWP:  Is it worth the wait?  - Proposals for a pensions settlement designed to enable people to plan ahead & save more for their retirement have been published in the Government's White Paper on pensions reform.


Key elements of the White Paper include:

·         New low cost savings scheme in which employees will be automatically enrolled. 

·         A re-linking of the state pension to earnings.

·         Employer contributions to be phased in over at least 3 years.

·         The state pension age will rise from 65 to 66 over two years between 2024 & 2026, to 67 between 2034 & 2036 and then to 68 between 2044 & 2046.

·         A ‘promise’ to gradually raise the state pension age in line with life expectancy.

DWP Press release ~ PC press release ~ Pensions Bill - Security in retirement: towards a new pensions system ~ DWP pensions & retirement website ~ Pensions Commission ~ National Pensions Debate ~ Financial Assistance Scheme (FAS) Review


Oldham MB:  Will entrenched mindsets loosen the glue of cohesion? - Professor Cantle, head of the Institute of Community Cohesion says in his new review report on Oldham Metropolitan Borough - Challenging Local Communities to Change Oldham - that 'few cities, towns or districts in the country have done as much as Oldham in seeking to build community cohesion.'

Professor Cantle's report also says that
there is a need for communities themselves to help bring about change: 'The most immediate impediment is the mindset of deeply entrenched communities.  However we recognise that attitudes are changing with a marked reduction in negative views on diversity and community cohesion compared with two years ago.


The report covers all the key areas which contribute to building community cohesion including civic & community leadership, economic development, housing, education and learning and policing.

Press release ~ Full 2006 Cantle report ~ Oldham Council summary of key messages ~ Institute of Community Cohesion ~ I&DeA – Community Cohesion ~ DCLG Cohesion website ~ CRE- Community cohesion, Our Responsibility ~ LGA Action guide ~ Community Cohesion & Community Conflict Resolution ~ DCMS Community & Cohesion ~ Building Community Cohesion in Area Based Initiatives: A guide for residents and practitioners ~ To submit your views on the report please email challengetochange@oldham.gov.uk.


Cabinet Office:  Will new tools help fine tune performance of public service delivery engine? – The government and TUC have shared their vision for better public services with the launch of Drive for Change, a web-based toolkit aimed at getting employees more involved in improving the public services they deliver.


The toolkit, sponsored by the Public Services Forum is a joint initiative between Government, employers & public sector trade unions, which is intended to help managers, union representatives & employees work together to change public services in ways that can really improve people's lives.


Piloted in a number of areas, the toolkit is already helping improve services and making a difference to people's lives.   At Holloway Prison, the incidence of self harm among inmates has reduced by two thirds and Birmingham City Council plans to pilot a self-rostering system arranging care around elderly residents' needs rather than a rigid shift system, at the same time giving carers more flexible working hours.

Press release ~  Drive for Change ~ Toolkit  ~ Public Service Forum website ~ The Audit of Trade Union and Employee Involvement in Public Services Reform ~ Partnership Institute ~ Work Foundation ~ Professional skills for government


DCA:  One stop for everything – another market opportunity for Tesco?  - The draft Legal Services Bill, which has been published by the Department for Constitutional Affairs, is claimed to pave the way for improved choice, quality and availability in the £19 billion legal services market.


The shake-up of the legal profession provided for in the Bill will include enabling lawyers and non-lawyers to work together in new structures which will be able to provide legal services in new ways, including:

·         House purchase: when buying a house, consumers would be able to buy all their professional services - conveyancing, surveys and a mortgage - from a single provider.

·         Bereavement: people will be able to ease the stressful process of resolving issues following the death of a loved one by getting professional advice all in one place.


The proposals will also set up an Office for Legal Complaints (OLC) to independently investigate complaints and a Legal Services Board (LSB) to regulate legal services. 


The Legal Services Ombudsman and Legal Services Complaints Commissioner, Zahida Manzoor CBE, has welcomed the publication of the Government's draft Bill on the reform of legal services.

DCA press release ~ LSO press release ~ Draft Legal Services Reform Bill ~ Legal Reform website ~ White Paper, The Future of Legal Services - Putting Consumers First ~ Legal Services Ombudsman ~ Legal Services Complaints Commissioner


Defra:  Chips with every virus - A single test for more than 600 deadly viruses is being developed by a group of Defra funded scientists, offering the possibility of spotting a disease outbreak in hours rather than days.


The "lab on a chip", which is being led by the Central Science Laboratory near York, with £1.5m funding from Defra, will detect viruses that affect humans, animals, plants, fish & bees including avian influenza, rabies and foot & mouth.


Animal and plant researchers will be able to use the same test to identify many viruses, saving time & resources in the event of an outbreak.  It will also help to quickly identify when a virus has jumped from one species to another and when new strains of existing disease emerge in the future.

Press release ~ LGC ~ Lab on a chip Journal  ~ CSL ~ Health Protection Agency ~ Institute of Animal Health ~ Veterinary Laboratory Agency  ~ Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aqualculture Science ~ Royal Veterinary College


DCMS:  Even the Home Office could cope with installing it - The vast majority of older people in a digital television trial thought switching over was easy and liked watching digital television, according to a new report, which found that 98% of participants felt watching digital TV was better or the same as watching analogue and 93% thought the process of switching to digital TV had been easy.


The Bolton trial, which started in July 2005, tested the process for supporting vulnerable consumers through switchover, assessing the costs and identifying & addressing any issues arising.  The results of the trial, run jointly by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and the BBC, also show that:

·         69% of participants were able to install equipment themselves or with the help of friends & family.

·         67% said they most liked the extra channels, whilst 20% most liked the improved reception.

·         92% found the specially prepared and clearly written instruction booklet helpful.

·         Older & disabled people need time to adapt to using new equipment - after 4 weeks, 74% of people were still reporting problems with their equipment, but this dropped to less than 20% after 8 weeks.

Press release ~ Report of the Bolton Digital Television Project ~ Support Scheme ~ BBC digital website ~ Digital TV Group ~ Freeview ~ DigiTV website


Home Office:  At last, some better news - The Home Secretary claimed last week that ‘good progress is being made in implementing recommendations from the Bichard inquiry into the Soham murders’, as the Home Office published its third implementation progress report, which claimed that a total of 21 of the 31 recommendations had been ‘substantially’ delivered and work is underway on those which remain outstanding.


The IMPACT programme, responsible for fundamental improvements in police information management, introduced the IMPACT Nominal Index (INI) in December to facilitate the sharing of information across forces.  It also bought into force a statutory Code of Practice & operational guidance for police information management.

Press release ~ Home Office Bichard website ~ Third progress report ~ Working Together to Safeguard Children ~ Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Bill ~ Code of Practice on the Management of Police Information ~ Parts of Impact programme



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General News

HSE:  Bill Callaghan, Chair of the Health and Safety Commission (HSC) announced Lancashire Constabulary as the winner of the HSE sponsored 'improving workings lives - putting people first' public servant of the year award, which recognises & rewards those who have achieved significant success in their role as public servants and have demonstrated commitment, endeavour & innovation in a crucial role serving their local community.


The safety and welfare at Lancashire Constabulary team created a healthy police plan, including reviews of sickness absence, which established the need for early intervention by line managers to secure effective medical support.


The results of their efforts was that by September last year sickness rates were down 17% on the year before, putting 25 more officers on the streets each day.  Sickness rates for the support staff fell by 20% and long-term sickness absence cases more than halved.

Press release ~ Public Servants of the Year Awards 2006 ~ Managing sickness absence & return to work


DfES:  The Government has outlined plans to ensure that student loans are repaid by borrowers who move abroad after completing their courses.  All students will have to enter into a contract with the Student Loans Company (SLC) on entering University, which commits them to repaying the loans on completion of their courses and also allows the SLC to enforce collection of the loans.


Under the new student finance system which comes into effect in September 2006, all UK students will be eligible for fee & maintenance loans which they will begin to repay once in employment and earning over £15,000 a year.  And from September, students who live in other European Union (EU) countries, who begin courses at UK universities in September, will also be eligible for fee loans. 

Press release ~ Student Loans Company ~ EC regulation 44/2001 ~ Scholarship Funding


Home Office:  The Home Office has announced the names of the two overall winners of the Tackling Drugs Changing Lives Awards 2006.  The Drug Worker and Drug Team of the Year were picked from over 300 entries from across England & Wales and both winners have received £10,000 for their organisation:

·         David Gordon, harm reduction coordinator at the Swaythling Clinic in Southampton has been named as National Drug Worker of the Year 2006 for his work managing the local needle exchange and for his tireless efforts to provide support for service users.

·         Cyswllt Ceredigion Contact, the Aberystwyth Day Service providing vital help, advice & support for drug misusers and their families, has won the title of National Drug Team of the Year 2006.

Press release ~ Tackling Drugs Changing Lives Awards website ~Regional winners (scroll down) ~ DrugScope ~ Swaythling Clinic ~ Cyswllt Ceredigion Contact ~ Mentor UK


DH:  Health Minister Andy Burnham has announced the membership of an Expert Group to investigate clinical trials to the House of Commons.  The Chair of the group, Prof Gordon Duff, was appointed in April following the adverse reaction of six Parexel clinical trial participants to the drug TGN1412.


The group will produce an interim report within three months of starting work and it is proposed that the minutes of the meetings to date & interim findings should be made public at that point.  Any submissions should sent before end of June 2006 to: ExpertGroupResponses@dh.gsi.gov.uk

Press release ~ OMNI – Clinical trials ~ NELH – Clinical Trials ~ MRC Clinical Trials Unit ~ BMA ~ DH – Clinical Trials Toolkit

Policy Statements and Initiatives

DfES:  UK Education Ministers have called for reforms to make the process of applying to Higher Education (HE) fairer & more effective for students and more efficient for institutions.  They want to introduce a full 'post-qualifications application' system (PQA) by 2012, which would allow students to apply to HE institutions once they had received their exam results, rather than before they sit their exams as is currently the case.


Under the current system, many students enter Higher Education on the basis of predicted results of their final exams, but UCAS data shows that they are inaccurate in 55% of cases.

Press release ~ Professor Steven Schwartz’ s 2004 report; Fair admissions to higher education: recommendations for good ~ Review website ~ Government response to consultation: Improving the Higher Education Applications Process  ~ UCAS


DH:  A new national Patient and Public Involvement Resource Centre to develop & support NHS staff and organisations to involve people in local health services will open its doors on 1 June 2006.  The centre, which will be performance managed by the  NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement, is intended to promote the value of involving people and will work with NHS organisations, staff & patients to build on the foundations of involvement that are already in place in many parts of the country. 


Bids to run the centre were sought last autumn for a group who could demonstrate that they were experienced in patient & public involvement and already had good networks.  The successful bid came from a consortium made up of the:

·         University of Warwick

·         Centre for Public Scrutiny and

·         Long term Medical Conditions Alliance

Press release ~ Tender documentation ~ Trust me: I’m a patient game ~ University of Warwick ~ Centre for Public Scrutiny ~ Long term Medical Conditions Alliance ~ NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement ~ Commission for Patient and Public Involvement in Health (CPPIH) ~ National Patient Safety Agency ~ Client Focused Evaluation Programme (CFEP) ~ National Association for Patient Participation


DH:  Health Minister Lord Warner has announced that the NHS has signed the first Government-brokered deal allowing a private company to run traditional GP services.  Care UK, a company specialising in the delivery of community and primary care, will run a 7,000-patient GP practice and 100-patient-per-day walk-in centre under a contract with Barking and Dagenham Primary Care Trust (PCT).


Care UK will provide three GPs and seven nurse practitioners and services are expected to open in July.


The government said that similar contracts, which will ‘see independent & voluntary providers challenge the existing monopoly of independent GPs’, are close to agreement in five other areas, including Hackney, Liverpool, Lancashire, Plymouth and Yorkshire.

Press release ~ Care UK ~ Innovation in Primary Care Contracting programme ~ Keep Our NHS Public website ~ BBC news item


Defra:  The Government has published its response to the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution's 25th Report (RCEP): ‘Turning the Tide - Addressing the impact of Fisheries on the Marine Environment’, which recommended a new framework for marine management to respond to increasing demands on the marine environment.


The Government response accepts the need for such a framework and Defra is currently consulting on how the proposed Marine Bill (closes Friday 23 June 2006) could implement the type of framework which the Royal Commission recommends.


The Royal Commission's report was wide-ranging and made more than 70 recommendations, covering issues linked to the objectives of marine management; the impact of fishing on marine ecosystems; education & public participation; and aquaculture.

Press release ~ Government’s response ~ Turning the Tide report (Warning VLF 8Mb) ~ Marine Bill consultation ~ Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution


DfT:  Shipping Minister Stephen Ladyman has launched the Government's Ports Policy Review (closes 1 September 2006) and invited responses on a range of broad strategic issues.


He also announced the outcome of a review of the management of ports in local authority ownership in England and Wales.  


There are 65 municipal ports in England and Wales (1) that are operated as departments of the owning authorities and are subject to local government rules & financing requirements.  The sector is not large in traffic terms (only 14% of total traffic) but small ports, if properly managed, have the opportunity to be significant economic drivers in regional and local economies.

Press release ~ Ports Policy Review documents ~ Opportunities for ports in local authority ownership ~ British ports Association ~ Associated British ports ~ Portcities ~ Food Standards Agency


Defra:  The government has started a public consultation (closes on 30 September 2006) on the best ways to encourage young people, people with disabilities, those from inner cities and black & ethnic minority communities, to visit and enjoy local green spaces and the English countryside.


The consultation is being run by the Countryside Agency on behalf of Defra and it seeks people's views on a draft action plan that aims, over a 10 year period, to increase the number of people from these groups who choose to make use of the outdoor recreational opportunities that exist in both rural and urban areas.


The draft action plan is based on the findings of research undertaken as part of the Diversity Review, which showed that when people from such groups experienced the outdoors, they were keen to return.

Press release ~ Action Plan consultation ~ Diversity Review ~ Defra recreation website ~ State of the Countryside Report 2005 ~ Active Woods ~ Wild About Britain: Get Active ~ Ramblers – walking for health ~ Countryside Access ~ Black Environment Network

Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides

Highways Agency:  Updated guidelines to make traffic management for roadworks safer & more effective will be published for highways maintenance engineers and contractors in June.  The New Chapter 8 will be presented at a series of conferences organised by the Institution of Highways and Transportation.


Key changes to Chapter 8 include:

·         Guidance has been split into two distinct sections: 'design' and 'operations'.

·         Contents are given by road type, rather than works type.

·         Works sites are now split into five distinct zones with the principles for each clearly established, so non-standard designs can be produced more easily.

·         Taper lengths and cone spacings have been rationalised.

·         Advice on new and innovative techniques and materials.

Press release ~ DfT - Traffic Signs Manual ~ Highways Agency: Guidance for Safer Temporary Traffic Management - Issued 2002 ~ Institution of Highways & Transportation ~ Event dates & venues

Annual Reports

Home Office:  ~ The Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) has outlined its five-year strategy for ‘providing a first class service to protect children and vulnerable adults’.  The CRB claims that checks prevented 25,000 unsuitable people from gaining access to children & vulnerable adults in 2005. 


Also published is the agency's fourth annual customer research which show 82% satisfaction with the service being delivered by the CRB (an increase of 32% over the last three years).  This still leaves nearly one in five unsatisfied.


The CRB will be working with the ACPO to implement a solution to exchange criminal information between EU member states, as well as establishing vetting & data exchange protocols with non-EU countries.

Press release ~ 4th annual customer satisfaction report ~ CRB Five-Year Strategy & Business Plan (1.4Mb) ~ Vetting and Barring Scheme ~ Scottish V&B scheme ~ Home Office Bichard implementation website


Defra:  Defra’s annual report highlights seven key achievements:

·         more powers given to local authorities to tackle fly-tipping, litter & abandoned vehicles

·         the establishment of Natural England and The Commission for Rural Communities to enhance rural life

·         the second phase of the Warm Front Scheme to help households suffering fuel poverty

·         a lifting of the ban on exports of beef and cattle to the EU, reopening markets for British farmers

·         opening up public access to mountain, moor, heath and down

·         the launch of the Marine Fisheries agency to improve services to fishermen and their industry

·         agreement of new EU chemicals regulations & reform of the sugar regime under the UK's presidency of the EU

Press release ~ 2006 departmental report ~ Local Env. Quality ~ The Commission for Rural Communities ~ Warm Front scheme ~ Access to open countryside ~ BSE ~ Marine Fisheries agency ~ Chemical Regulations ~ EU Sugar Regime


Defra:  That an average a person living in the UK spends £34.31 per week on food & drink is one of the key findings published in Family Food Expenditure 2004-5, the latest in a series of annual Defra reports recording estimates of food & drink purchases in the UK.

Press release ~ Family Food - Report on the Expenditure & Food Survey


DWP:  Estimates of the levels of fraud & error occurring in claims for Income Support (IS), Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) and Pension Credit over the period April 2004 to March 2005 have been published by National Statistics


The key findings about the overall levels of fraud and error during 2004/05 are:

·         Around 5.4%, or £680m, of IS and JSA expenditure is estimated to have been overpaid

·         Around 4.6%, or £280m, of Pension Credit expenditure is estimated to have been overpaid

Press release ~ Fraud and Error in Claims for Income Support, Jobseeker's Allowance and Pension Credit

General Reports and other publications

NHS Confederation:  The number of hospital beds has fallen by one third in the last 20 years, but the NHS is doing more than ever because advances in technology and new ways of treating patients mean the NHS needs fewer beds.


This is the message of a new report by the NHS Confederation which represents more than 90% of NHS organisations.  The NHS Confederation is launching the ‘Why we need fewer hospital beds’ report at a briefing for MPs and peers today at the House of Commons. 


This briefing is the first of five briefings on the most contentious issues facing the NHS.  The series aims to explode some of the most controversial myths that pervade the current debate on the NHS

Press release ~ NHS Confederation ~ Why we need fewer hospital beds


DfT:  A Government report claims that the West Coast Main Line modernisation will benefit passengers more than previously anticipated.  It is hoped that, from 2009, passengers will benefit from faster journey times and more services to key cities on the route such as Birmingham and Manchester.


The West Coast Main Line is 1,660 miles long and runs from Euston to Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, North Wales and Scotland.  It is responsible for over 2,000 train movements each day and caters for over 75m passenger journeys every year.


The report also claims to have found that:

·         track improvements are being delivered on schedule

·         costs have been brought under control

·         reliability has been transformed and is exceeding target levels, and

·         passenger numbers are up 30%

Press release ~ West Coast Main Line Progress Report ~ Railways Act 2005 ~ Strategic Rail Authority ~ The Railway Forum ~ Commission for Integrated Transport ~ Factsheets - No.15: High-speed Rail ~ DfT Transport strategy website ~ DfT Railways website ~ Scotland - Future for railway put on the line ~ FoE: Paying for rail - Funding the railway of the future ~ House of Commons Transport Committee:  The Future of the Railway Seventh Report of Session 2003–04 ~ Passenger Focus


DWP:  New research published by the Department for Work and Pensions examines the evidence on the nature of part-time work in the UK and how part-time workers are treated in the social security and tax credit systems.


The research explores the extent to which part-time work may play a role in increasing employment rates, particularly among those groups that have traditionally been defined as outside the labour market.

Press release ~ Research Report 351 - 'Part-time work and Social Security: Increasing the Options' ~ Summary version


NAO:  The National Audit Office has produced a report on the government’s efforts to (and complexity of) support small business.  The NAO has looked in detail at SBS work in four important areas: regulation; access to finance; joining-up Government; and advisory services.

Press release ~ Supporting Small Business ~ Summary version ~ Small Business Service


ESRC:  The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) has set out the findings of a review it has commissioned that evaluates both the needs of non-academic employers for highly skilled social scientists and the extent to which social science PhD-holders in such employment are using the skills & knowledge developed during their doctorate.


Commissioned as the companion study to the Demographic Review of UK Social Sciences this report, entitled The employment of social science PhDs in academic and non-academic jobs: research skills and postgraduate training, provides clear evidence of demand across a range of employers for the skills and attributes acquired during a social science PhD.  It illustrates that PhD holders are highly employable in a number of sectors.

Press release ~ The employment of social science PhDs in academic and non-academic jobs: research skills and postgraduate training (VLF 1.8Mb) ~ Demographic Review of UK Social Sciences

Legislation / Legal

DCLG:  The Crown will no longer be immune from English planning law, under new legislation that comes into force on 7 June 2006.  Currently, Crown bodies operate under a parallel version of the planning system which regulates development on their land, set out in DoE Circular 18/84. 


The changes to the planning system will mean the Crown will now have to apply for planning permission from their local planning authority, just like any other developer.  The Crown will also be subject to the same rights to appeal.


The secondary legislation, which was laid on the 17th May, follows the earlier provisions included in the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 and includes the following changes:

·         a revision to application procedures

·         a new use class for secure residential accommodation (prisons etc) and

·         a change to the General Permitted Development Order, which gives the Crown a new set of permitted development rights similar to those enjoyed by local authorities and relevant statutory undertakers

Press release ~ Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 ~ Circular 18/84 ~ EU Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Directive

EU legislation, initiatives, etc.

Defra:  A report published by Environment Secretary David Miliband concludes that climate change poses an immediate challenge to the European Union target of halting biodiversity loss by 2010.  The study found that there is already strong scientific evidence of the impact of climate change on wild plants and animals in Europe.  


During the 21st Century rapidly shifting climate zones and rising sea levels will put increasing pressure on species already under threat for other reasons.  The report also highlights a concern that biodiversity may suffer a double whammy because of other responses to climate change, such as increased demand for water, leading to drying out of rivers and wetlands.

Press release ~ Climate change and biodiversity in Europe ~ Defra Biodiversity website ~ Updated biodiversity indicators ~ UK Environmental Change Network (ECN) ~ Environmental Change Institute at Oxford ~ UK Climate Impact Programme ~ Centre for Ecology and Hydrology ~ Monarch study

Charity and Voluntary Sector

CC:  Just over two thirds of charities don't have complaints procedures in place, new Charity Commission research has revealed.  This gap leaves many charities with no formal way to discover whether users are unhappy with their services and, what is also worrying is that 80% of charities without procedures said they didn't need one.


The Commission warns those without complaints procedures that they are failing to fully account to their service users.  They also miss valuable opportunities to learn from complaints to improve their services.

Press release ~ 'Cause for complaint?  How charities manage complaints about their services' ~ National Consumer Council

Business and other briefings

NAO:  The National Audit Office has backed HM Revenue and Customs’ assessment that the overall risk to VAT revenue from on-line shopping, or e-commerce, is currently low.  


The Department collected over £1 billion in VAT in 2005-06 on e-commerce goods & services.  The proportion of VAT collected by the Department from e-commerce transactions is likely to grow substantially with sales expected to hit nearly £60 billion a year by April 2010.


Some UK businesses have relocated to Luxembourg or Madeira, where VAT is charged at 15% compared to the 17.5% they were paying previously.  Currently, EU businesses selling e-services to EU customers are required to pay VAT in the Member State where they are located, regardless of where the customer lives.


In July 2005 the European Commission issued a proposal which would mean that all businesses would charge VAT on e-services at the rate in the country where the customer lives.

Press release ~ NAO report VAT on eCommerce ~ Summary version ~ Additional Background information ~ EU – VAT on electronic services

Industry News

Forthcoming Event

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