DWP:  Income from savings & small private pensions will be yours to keep without any pension credit ‘clawback’ - Details of the Coalition Government’s plans to simplify the state pension system with the creation of the ‘Single Tier’ pension, have been published in a White Paper as part of the Mid-Term Review

The reform will create a simple flat rate pension set above the means test (currently £142.70) and based on 35 years of National Insurance contributions.  It ‘will particularly benefit women, low earners and the self employed, who under existing rules find it difficult to earn a full state pension’.

Joanne Segars, Chief Executive, National Association of Pension Funds said:
"Today’s announcement for a simpler, more generous state pension is a much-needed shake-up that will ultimately help millions of pensioners and savers.  For the first time in a generation, people will know that it pays to save, and that whatever they put aside won’t be eroded by means-testing when they retire."
Press release & links ~ CBI – state pension reforms will bring 'clarity and certainty' to retirement saving ~ Government publishes draft Bill on Single Tier pension reforms ~ CBI: consultation plans crucial to protecting final salary schemes and jobs ~ National Association of Pension Funds ~ The Pensions Service ~ Gov.UK: State Pension ~ Winners & losers debate misses point, says CIPD; the simplicity & clarity of the flat-rate pension will encourage more workers to save for their retirement ~ PX:  Bit of a problem if one is expected to work longer before getting a pension (5th item) ~ Newswire – CF:  Almost as bad as ‘legalised theft’? (4th item) ~ IFS:  The better off can cut back on expensive luxuries, but for the poor that is often not an option ~ Few know what pension income they will receive & levels of engagement with annuity markets are low ~ 400,000 people out of work for more than 2 years may never work again ~ At least 200,000 people could benefit from making transfers between pension funds easier ~ New research by NIESR & TNS-BMRB outlines scale of challenge facing government pension reforms ~ IFS: Funding social care proposals may offer opportunity to rationalise tax system for older people ~ £16bn could be saved if older people shared the cuts burden ~ Government has abandoned private pension savers to predatory financial sector ~ Middle Britain to be Squeezed by 60% in Retirement ~ Research exploring the effect of uprating by CPI on occupational pension schemes
10 DS:  Adopting is stressful enough without red tape delaying things un-necessarily - Would-be adopters are now being supported by a new phone line and a map showing numbers of children in England waiting to be adopted.  The new telephone information line, contactable on 0300 222 0022, opened last week and is staffed by adopters.  

It will help potential adopters navigate the process of adopting a child by providing:
* an authoritative single source of advice & information on adoption
* signposting to local authority & Voluntary Adoption Agencies
* information about the entitlements to support that adoptive parents have
Press release & links ~ DfE: Adoption ‘hotspots' map unveiled alongside new adoption infoline ~ LGA: Government still letting bureaucracy get in the way of finding homes for children ~ Gov.UK: Child Adoption ~ Adoption Information Line ~ Adoption UK ~ Be My Parent ~ BAAF ~ Barnardo’s: Fostering & adoption ~ Ofsted:  LAs must adopt speedier placements ~ Adoption clauses don't fulfil their aims, say Lords ~ Select Committee on Adoption Legislation ~ Let foster parents send children to boarding school ~ Councils must drive out delays in adoptions ~ LGA statement – council performance on adoption ~ A state of the nation picture on adoption ~ Gove calls for more adopters to help find homes for more than 4200 children ready for adoption ~ Child protection system is failing older children, warns Education Committee ~ 'Adoption activity days' can help children find new families ~ Measures to improve adoption and fostering ~ LGA responds to DfE reforms to adoption and fostering ~ PM unveils foster-first policy for prospective adoptive parents ~ Adoption scorecards show the serious extent of delays across England ~ Court delays keep children waiting for adoption ~ To be an outstanding authority delays in adoption must be tackled 

Spending money is the easy bit, spending it for maximum benefit is much harder - The National Audit Office has highlighted 5 key risks to the value for money of projects included in the government’s national infrastructure plan.  The government expects £310bn to be spent by 2015 & beyond on new infrastructure projects in sectors such as energy, rail, roads, water, waste, flood defences & digital communications.

The NAO has made a series of recommendations to help ensure value for money is achieved.  It calls for the Treasury to work with departments & regulators to provide greater clarity for consumers regarding the financial impact of planned infrastructure investment.  Where there are limits on affordability & availability of finance, the NAO notes that the Treasury & departments may need to refine their prioritization of infrastructure programmes & projects.
Press release ~ HM Treasury: Planning for economic infrastructure ~ December 2012 National Infrastructure Plan progress update (plus related docs) ~ CBI comments on NAO infrastructure report - urging more action to boost private investment ~ CO: Voice for construction professionals – BIM 2050 launched ~ National Infrastructure Planning ~ ITRC ~ PX: How to deliver long term investment in infrastructure ~ HMT:  Building our way to a more prosperous future (2nd item) ~ PC&PE: Investment or needless expenditure, read the differing arguments (7th item) ~ Public Accounts Committee publishes report on offshore electricity transmission ~ End broadband arms race, says think tank ~ Business community backs the case for stable and sustained investment in London's transport services ~ £100 billion motorway sell-off can kick-start the faltering economy ~ Commissioner Oettinger welcomes faster decisions on infrastructure ~ EU-EIB Project Bond Initiative launched with start of pilot phase ~ Town Hall pension changes could unlock up to £22bn for infrastructure ~ Infrastructure Bill gets Royal Assent ~ Don’t just rely on usual suspects for growth - CBI ~ Government welcomes first injection into Pensions Investment Platform ~ Osborne urged to invest in transport in the North to create much-needed jobs ~ Capital Futures: Local capital finance options in an age of recovery ~ The Drivers Jonas Deloitte Community Infrastructure Levy Survey ~ Resilience of UK Infrastructure ~ CPNI 

Checking on the ‘horseplay’ in supermarkets - As the next step in the investigation into the results of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland survey of beef products, the UK Food Standards Agency has met recently with representatives from the food industry (producers, processors and retailers) from all parts of the UK.

It was noted that there are two distinct types of case:
* In all but one of the cases, the levels of horse and pig DNA were extremely low.
* In the one exceptional case, the level of horse meat accounted for 29% of the meat content

The causes of these two problems are therefore likely to be different and the focus of the investigations into the causes will be different.  The FSA has now set out a 4-point plan for its investigation, which it will be implementing in conjunction with other Government departments, local authorities and the food industry.
Press release ~ FSA

FSAA timely request - The Food Standards Agency are carrying out a survey to find out how useful you find their website and would appreciate it if you could take a few minutes to complete the survey.  Your responses will be used to influence future developments on the website.
Press release & links

MonitorIs anyone really surprised? - The findings have been published in an interim report from a team of experts tasked by Monitor with examining whether Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust in its current form is able to provide services to local patients in the long term.  The team reported that the Trust is not clinically sustainable in its present form and cannot break even without compromising future clinical services.
Press release & links

ScotGov:  Future scientists need to be inspired - Science projects that aim to interest people of all ages & abilities can now bid for funding to reach an even greater audience.  Talking Science grants aim to make science & scientific issues more accessible to communities across Scotland that may not have otherwise have had the chance.  More than £200,000 is available in 2013-14.  The deadline for applications is 5 March 2013.
Press release & links

NICE:  Delivering Health Services more effectively in a NICE way - If you have story to share of an innovative or effective way you have put NICE guidance into practice, now is the time to submit it. There are just a few days to go until the deadline for the 2013 NICE Shared Learning Awards.  

The awards recognise services & organisations that share valuable & welcome lessons learned through developing effective ways of putting NICE guidance into practice. The deadline for entries for this year's awards is 31 January 2013, with the shortlist to be contacted in March 2013.
Press release & links ~ ESRC: Research improves social care training in Cornwall

HMRCYou have been warned! - The countdown has begun to the 31 January 2013 Self Assessment deadline, with just days left for anyone with an outstanding 2011-12 tax return to send it online to HM Revenue and Customs.  If you send your return late, you’ll receive a £100 penalty – even if you have no tax to pay or you pay your tax on time.  Further late-filing penalties kick in after 3, 6 & 12 months.
Press release & links
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