No,10: Coalition Part 2: Marital Strife? - The Government's priorities for the coming parliamentary year were set out in the Queen's Speech 2012 last week at the official State Opening of Parliament. Economic growth and reducing the deficit were some of the key priorities highlighted in the Speech.
MoD: Why didn’t Labour order much cheaper, smaller & more versatile STOVL carriers rather than ones 3 times the size of those they replace? - Defence Secretary Philip Hammond has announced that plans to deliver Carrier Strike capability will now be executed using a different type of Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) jet than was planned. The MOD will move away from the Carrier Variant (CV) JSF and our Armed Forces will instead operate the short take-off & vertical landing (STOVL) variant.
DWP: Benefits paying for essential need rather than ‘wants’ - Letters were sent last week to households who may be affected by the benefit cap. The letters will set out the intensive help that will be provided to get people into work as well as exemptions to the cap, online help and an information helpline.
The benefit cap comes into effect in April 2013 and will limit the amount of benefit couples and lone parent households can receive to around £500 a week or £26,000 a year – the equivalent of the average household income after tax or a gross household salary of £35,000. Benefit claims for single people will be limited to around £350. There are several exemptions to the cap (see press release).
From October 2013, tax credits & benefits including Jobseeker’s Allowance, Employment & Support Allowance, Income Support, Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, Housing Benefit and Income Support will start to be merged into a single Universal Credit payment.
DWP: Benefits of cheating have higher cost for claimants - Ministers are now able to fine benefit cheats up to £2,000 (with a minimum penalty of £350) without having to take them to court. This measure, part of the Welfare Reform Act, is expected to save the taxpayer an estimated £42m over the next 3 years.
Low level fraudsters will now face these additional financial penalties alongside paying back any money they have stolen. Cautions will no longer be an option, meaning no fraudster escapes without punishment. Other penalties coming into effect in the future to cut down on fraud & error include:
* Extended loss of benefit for offences, which result in a conviction, of 13 weeks for a first offence, then 26 weeks for a second offence and 3 years for a third offence
* An immediate 3 year loss of benefit for serious or organised benefit fraud or identity fraud
* A new £50 civil penalty in cases where claimants negligently give incorrect information on their claim or fail to report a change in circumstances which results in an overpayment
PC&PE: SN(a)P decision on referendum called into question - In an interim report from its inquiry into a referendum on Separation for Scotland, the UK Parliament’s Scottish Affairs Committee says that, based on the evidence it has received, it has "no choice but to conclude that the question currently proposed by the Scottish Government is biased".
The Committee received evidence which showed that the outcome of a referendum can be changed by changes to the wording of the question. None of the witnesses to the inquiry thought that the SNP's plan to set the question, the timing and the rules of the referendum was either acceptable or fair.
Ian Davidson MP, Chair of the Committee, said: “We cannot have a contest in which Separatists are both player and referee. That goes against every notion of fairness and transparency”.
All the witnesses agreed that the Electoral Commission, which is experienced & neutral, is the appropriate body to ensure that this referendum is as fair as possible. The Committee recommends that the Electoral Commission should have that responsibility, and that all sides should take its advice.
VSO: Send people who bring skills rather than money that on partially reaches those in need - Thousands of vulnerable mothers & babies across Malawi are to receive better health care thanks to the new Health Partnership scheme managed by Tropical Health & Education Trust (THET) and funded by the Department for International Development (DFID) to send volunteer midwives & nurses through VSO UK.
Over the next 3 years, experienced nurses & midwives from the UK will volunteer in Malawi and pass on their skills to health workers in the country, helping to save the lives of thousands of people. Malawi needs improved nurse training & management of health services to tackle its high maternal mortality rate of 510 deaths per 100,000 births. Each year mothers & children are dying of preventable conditions because they are not getting the right care in under-staffed and ill-equipped hospitals.
EU News: At last, some good financial news from the EU - The cost of using mobile phones, smartphones and tablets when travelling abroad within the EU will fall sharply from 1 July 2012, under an agreement with the Council endorsed by Parliament on last Thursday.
The new rules will also enable clients to buy roaming services from suppliers other than their home service suppliers and open up the market to new entrants, so as to boost competition and thus reduce prices.
VOA: If only new ICT worked properly from the word go - The recent telephony problems have required the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) to implement a revised & temporary process for our customers calling the VOA's English switchboard number 03000 501501. They are answering calls within an average of 1 minute and if customers need to speak to someone in one of their valuation teams, they are ensuring that they receive a call back within 24 hours.
You can still get hold of them quickly & easily by simply sending an email directly to your local office (see contact page).
Press release & links
Forthcoming Event: Gartner Customer Strategies & Technologies Summit | 11 - 12 June 2012 | London - Everything about CRM is changing. Social media and the use of mass market mobile devices have gone into overdrive.
The concept of "big data" is beginning to forever alter the relationship of technology to information consumption. Amidst all of this change, there is one certainty: it will be mandatory, not optional, for organizations to address and embrace these trends.
The Gartner Customer Strategies & Technologies Summit will give you the insight, ideas and inspiration to cut through the confusion and realize your organization’s CRM potential. This Summit shows you how to:
- Get smarter by collecting, analyzing and acting upon the vast array of unstructured customer data now available
- Think socially, about how customers want to engage with each other and with your organization, enabling more open and mutually beneficial relationships
- Be mobile-orientated, so core sales, marketing and service processes can be executed on customers’ new preferred channel
Click here to view the full agenda and to register.
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