Newswire – PAC: Is this manipulation of figures worthy of the sacrifice being asked of our armed forces in the field? - The Public Accounts Committee has published its 33rd Report, Session 2007 - 08: Ministry of Defence: Major Projects Report 2007, which provides information on the time, cost & performance of 20 of the Ministry of Defence's largest military equipment projects where the main investment decision has been taken, as well as the top ten projects in the earlier Assessment Phase.
Edward Leigh MP, Chairman of the Committee of Public Accounts, said in the accompanying press release:
"The Ministry of Defence is trying to persuade Parliament that the forecast costs of major defence equipment projects are under control - by moving expenditure from those projects to other defence budgets. This is not acceptable: it diminishes Parliamentary accountability; and the transferred costs will doubtless have resulted in those budget holders who have taken them on having to cut their own defence activities.
It is a well-established principle that delaying major equipment projects leads to higher costs in the long run. The Department should identify lessons from the five and a half years it took to award the contract for the Royal Navy's two new aircraft carriers.
"In the light of a long line of critical reports by our Committee, the MoD has made numerous reforms to its procurement working practices. Lasting improvements have not resulted.
The Department must address the systemic weaknesses underlying cost increases and time delays. There is a 'conspiracy of optimism' in the Department and industry leading to the acceptance of unrealistically low estimates of the cost of bringing major equipment into service."
As in the Major Projects Report 2006, the Ministry of Defence (the Department) has primarily reduced the forecast costs for its top 20 projects by reallocating expenditure to other projects or budget lines..………. such transfers mean that the forecast costs reported to Parliament do not give the full picture of the expenditure required to bring equipment into military service as they fail to include training and logistics support costs.
CLG: Will it help them to be more faithful to the UK? - Communities Secretary Hazel Blears has set out how Government envisages working in future alongside the many faith based organisations in communities. A new Framework for Partnership outlines new support and £7.5m worth of investment over three years to encourage & enable greater local activity, bringing people from different religions and beliefs together.
The financial support is intended to help ensure that:
* there is an independent Regional Faith Forum in every English region
* community groups have access to funding under the Faiths in Action Fund
In addition the government will:
* produce a guidance leaflet for local communities which shows ways in which individuals & groups can work together with those with different faiths & beliefs and those with none
* provide supportive guidance to local authorities on the practical steps they can take such as supporting shared community spaces
* work in partnership with the Inter Faith Network for the UK to organise an Inter Faith Week - encouraging faith communities across the country at all levels to raise awareness and celebrate inter faith work
DWP: Eleven years on, Labour finally accepts it has to 'think the unthinkable'! - Incapacity benefits and Income Support are to be abolished as part of ‘new’ proposals (consultation closes on 22 October 2008), announced by Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, James Purnell, in a Green Paper: No one written off: reforming welfare to reward responsibility, which included proposals to:
* scrap incapacity benefits by 2013 and
* abolish Income Support to create a more streamlined system based on just two working-age benefits - the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), for those who have a medical condition which prevents them from working and Jobseekers' Allowance (JSA) for everyone who is able to work
People with severe disabilities will get more cash under ESA, while the rest who qualify for the benefit will be placed in a ‘work’ category. They will receive personalised back-to-work support to help them prepare for work and overcome any barriers they face. It will be made clear to this group that ESA is a temporary situation to help them get fit to return to work.
The green paper also sets out proposals to move towards a streamlined benefit system, moving lone parents with children under seven on to JSA. While lone parents with children under seven would not be required to actively seek work, the green paper proposes voluntary measures to give them more support to prepare them for work and includes a 'skills for work' premium on top of existing benefits to act as a weekly financial incentive.
People unemployed for over two years and those abusing the system could be forced to take part in full-time activity such as community work at any point in their claim. People will have to train to get their job skills and drug users would be required to seek treatment or could lose their benefits.
NE: Going green is not just a case of insulation - 20 new Growth Points around the country have been announced by the Department for Communities and Local Government and Dr Helen Phillips, Chief Executive of Natural England, has outlined five green points against which all new developments should be measured.
Natural England wants to see networks of parks, open spaces and wild areas in all areas of significant growth and regeneration. To set developers on the right path, Natural England has set out its 'Green Test' for all new developments.
* Provides greenspace within 300m of every home
* Supports an increase in priority species and habitats in and around new developments
* Provides a wide variety of parks, wild areas and open spaces to meet the needs of both nature and people
* Equips new development to cope with the effects of climate change and extreme weather events
* Is designed to ensure it fits into any surrounding countryside and into its landscape setting
CLG: Foundation for a less worrying life - Home improvements for older and disabled people will be supported & promoted by 'Foundations' after they were awarded the contract to run the national body for Home Improvement Agencies for the next three years.
Home Improvement Agencies (HIAs) help thousands of older or disabled to remain in their own home, living independently & safely by advising on home improvements & adaptations and helping them to apply for local authority grants or loans. They also help to identify reputable local contractors to do the work and oversee the work to ensure that their clients are completely satisfied.
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