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In the News

CRE:  Bamboo ceiling still filters out BME applicants for management posts? - A formal investigation into the Department of Health (DH) to uncover the extent to which it is failing to meet its statutory duty to promote race equality under the Race Relations Act (RRA) 1976 has been announced by the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE).


The CRE has on several occasions urged the DH to address inequalities at all levels, but found that Race Equality Impact Assessments (REIAs) were not satisfactorily being carried out on the Department's policies.


As the regulator of the RRA, the CRE will be using its legal powers to investigate the Department's approach, attitude & commitment, by how it assesses the impact of race equality on its new policies.

Press release ~ Statutory general duty to promote race equality ~ The CRE's powers to conduct formal investigations ~ Race Equality Impact Assessments (REIAs) ~ Race equality impact assessment: a CRE step-by-step guide ~ DH Race Equality website ~ DH Race Equality Scheme 2005-2008 ~ Race Equality Audit ~ Healthcare Commission – equality, diversity and human rights ~ Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 ~ Commission for Racial Equality ~ NHS – Equality & diversity ~ DH – Equality & diversity ~ DH policy & guidance ~ CRE – Race equality guide for SHAs ~ CRE - Primary health care code of practice ~ Race for Health ~ Acas Equality & Diversity website ~ Delivering a Diverse Civil Service - A 10 Point Plan ~ Civil Service 2008 Diversity targets ~ The Diversity Champions’ Network ~ Civil Service Fast Stream diversity networks ~ National Links: Equality and Diversity in the NHS Workforce


DH:  Great Policy but can NHS Trusts afford it? - Dr Sheila Shribman, the UK's National Childrens' Tsar, claimed that the way maternity & children's services are delivered is going to have to change if we want to provide the best possible care for mothers, babies & children, when she published two reports into the future of maternity services and children: Making it Better for Mother and Baby and Making it better for children and young people


The first report details how all women should be offered a choice of services - a home birth, a midwife led birth or consultant led birth.  Any women giving birth at home should have the assurance that if something goes wrong, she can be transported to a consultant led unit safely & quickly.  The guiding principle for maternity services will be that ‘all women will need a midwife, but some need a doctor too’.


The second report claims that advances in treatments for seriously ill children have benefited from centralisation of specialist expertise.  Also, as recent medical advances have improved the life expectancy of children with complex, long term conditions, services need to adapt to ensure the transition of the young person to adult services is supported, planned & coordinated.


Services cannot be seen in isolation.  The whole patient pathway needs to be considered - in particular in conjunction with maternity and wider children's services.

Press release ~ Making it Better for Mother and Baby ~ Making it better for children and young people ~ National Service Framework for children, young people and maternity services ~ Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) ~ RCOG  ~ DH – Children’s services ~ DfES ~ Children and families ~ Care Services Improvement Partnership ~ Amicus press release


NAO:  Is there a link between making efficiency gains and fitness for purpose? - Sir John Bourn, head of the National Audit Office, has reported that, halfway into the 3-year efficiency programme, government departments have claimed £13.3bn in annual efficiency savings, 62% of the £21.5 billion target.


Progress ranges from the Home Office and the DWP reporting the achievement of more than 90% of their efficiency targets by September 2006, to the DfES reporting only 28% of its target.  There is clear evidence of positive change across the public sector, such as the £1.2 billion saved annually by the Department of Health in procuring pharmaceuticals.


However the NAO’s assessment does highlight some cautionary evaluations including that:

·         51% represent efficiency but carry some measurement issues & uncertainties, and

·         23% may represent efficiency gains but the measures used either do not yet demonstrate efficiency or the reported gains may be substantially incorrect


The report concludes that the Office of Government Commerce (OGC) is fulfilling its role in co-ordinating the Efficiency Programme well.  However, the problems in measurement identified by the NAO show that efficiency gains require greater review before they are reported.


Responding to the report, Mark Serwotka, general secretary of PCS, said: "It is completely unacceptable that departments are dashing headlong to meet abstract numerical targets on efficiencies and job cuts without a clue of how the quality of service delivery is affected.   ……  Added to which you have departments such as HMRC looking to save £105 million through staff cuts, but spending £106 million on consultants all in the name of efficiency”.

NAO press release ~ PCS press release ~ The Efficiency Programme: A second review of progress ~ Opinion Pieces on improving government Efficiency ~ Executive Summary ~ OGC – Efficiency programme


DCLG:  White, Male and probably over 50 - Communities Secretary Ruth Kelly has announced a new Commission to look at how local democracy can be revitalised and made both more representative & more responsive to local people.  It will look at ways to better support councillors and encourage more people from a wider range of backgrounds to play a leading role in their communities.  The Commission will report by November 2007.


It comes as a new IDeA survey reveals that:

·         96% of councillors are white, compared to 2.7% Asian and 0.5% black

·         the average age of a councillor is 58 with more than 50% over 60 compared with just 8.3% under 40

·         100 years since women won the right to stand for town hall elections, fewer than 30% are women


Research has found a clear link between public satisfaction and opportunities for involvement in public services.  Those who were satisfied with their opportunities to participate in local decision making were significantly more satisfied with their council overall. 

Press release ~ Best Value User Satisfaction Surveys 2006-07 ~ Best Value User Satisfaction Surveys Consultation 2006-07 (scroll down) ~ Local Government Analysis and Research (LGAR)  ~ IDeA - The impact of the Local Government White Paper on councillors ~ Local Government Association (LGA) ~ Strong and prosperous communities - The Local Government White Paper ~ Implementation Plan - The Local Government White Paper  ~ Amendments to the Model Code of Conduct for Local Authority Members


Planning Portal:  Heathrow’s noise footprint set to get much larger - Large areas of north and west London may suffer increased aircraft noise if the third Heathrow runway goes ahead, local authorities around the airport have warned.  They have published maps showing how new flight paths could increase Heathrow's ‘noise footprint’ and bring disturbance to more communities.


Town & villages in South Buckinghamshire like Burnham, Stoke Poges and Farnham Common will also be affected, the councils have warned.


In a related development, airport operator BAA has unveiled plans for a second runway and terminal at Stansted Airport in Essex.  Subject to planning permission, the runway could be operating by 2015 and the airport could accommodate an extra 10 million passengers a year.

Press release ~ Get involved - 2M Group (scroll down for runway maps) ~ BAA – Stansted Expansion ~ Public experiences of and attitudes to air travel ~ DfT – Airports ~ Air traffic forecasts ~ Stop Stansted Expansion Campaign ~ Pledge Against Airport Expansion ~ HACAN ClearSkies ~ Airport Regions Conference ~ Heathrow Expansion Lobby Group ~ London Assembly view ~ AirportWatch


DfES:  More changes to the curriculum - The government says that teachers will ‘be given more power to help children master the basics, greater flexibility to enliven classes, while retaining core elements of the National Curriculum’ in a review of the secondary curriculum for 11-14 year olds published by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA).


The review of the curriculum in six years and is published for consultation (closes 30 April 2007) prior to final Ministerial decision in early June and implementation from September 2008.


Some of the key changes & retained elements see pupils:

·         English: continuing to study Shakespeare as well as literary classics including Charles Dickens, Jane Austen and George Eliot, but aslo contemporary authors such as Benjamin Zephaniah and Bill Bryson

·         History: continuing to learn about the importance & impact of events in the last century, such as the World Wars and the Holocaust, with the addition of the history & impact of the slave trade

·         Languages: being able to study more ‘economically useful’ languages such as Mandarin and Urdu

·         Citizenship: studying national identity & the diversity of living together in the UK, including issues such as the legacy of Empire;

·         Geography: having more focus on sustainable development & environmental change

·         Cooking: being taught how to cook simple healthy meals from basic fresh ingredients

·         Personal Finance: being taught essential financial life skills including: enterprise & financial capability, risk & reward, investment & trade, personal budgeting, mortgages, interest rates, and balancing credit cards.

·         PE: combining physical activity with learning how exercise affects fitness & health


All 11-14 year old pupils will continue to study all 12 subjects of the National Curriculum covering, in addition to English and mathematics, science, design and technology; ICT, the humanities; a foreign language; art, music, PE and Citizenship.

Press release ~ QCA secondary review website ~ Keith Ajegbo's Diversity & Citizenship review ~ QCA Curriculum ~ DfES SC Review ~ Teachernet, the 14-19 curriculum ~ The Standards Site: Secondary National Strategy


DWP:  If they don’t know about it how can they use or buy it? – The government has launched a five point guide that will help public sector organisations to improve the way that they provide information to disabled people.


The guide, written by the Office for Disability Issues (ODI), follows research which shows that a third of disabled people have difficulty accessing goods and services, all too often because the way information is being provided is not good enough.


The new guide outlines five principles for producing better information for disabled people:

·         Ensure that disabled people are involved from the start

·         Provide information through a range of channels and formats

·         Ensure your information meets users' needs

·         Clearly signpost other services

·         Always make it clear who is responsible for the information provided

Press release ~ Improving Information for Disabled People ~ Five principles for producing better information for disabled people ~ Office for Disability Issues (ODI) ~ 'Adjusting for Better Business' campaign ~ LSC – Disability Equality Scheme ~ Directgov – Disability Equality Duty ~ Images of Disability ~ DRC – Services and Transport ~ RNID: The Disability Discrimination Act - a guide for service providers ~ Local online information for disabled people ~ Dial UK ~ - Disabled Information For the Disabled From the Disabled ~ Disability Information Service ~


Postwatch:   Last chance to prevent Post Office Closures - Postwatch has written to Postal Services Minister Jim Fitzpatrick setting out its concerns with the Government's proposals for the closure of 2,500 post offices, including that:

·         local community needs should be taken into account when deciding the future of individual post offices

·         the timetable for the restructuring programme be flexible enough to secure the right outcome for customers

General News

DfES:  Education and Skills Secretary Alan Johnson has announced proposals for changes to teachers pay & conditions to ‘ensure they remain competitive and attract the best candidates’.


The proposed changes, based on the recommendations from the independent School Teachers' Review Body include the following:

·         financial incentives for completion of accredited qualifications in priority subjects

·         increasing use of existing local flexibilities to reward & address local teacher shortages in priority subjects

·         detailed review of the labour market and current practice in the provision of SEN services

·         production of new statements of teachers' professional roles & responsibilities

Press release ~ STRB: Sixteenth Report – 2007 ~ Teachernet – Teachers Pay ~ School Teachers' Review Body (STRB)  ~ Excellent Teacher Scheme (ETS)


DH:  All babies in England are in future to be screened for an inherited metabolic disease called Medium Chain Acyl CoA Dehydrogenase Deficiency (MCADD), within two weeks of birth, as part of the standard "heel-prick" test for babies that screens for other diseases such as sickle cell disorders and congenital hypothyroidism.


If the disease is not identified at an early stage, around a quarter of affected children will die from the condition, with one third of survivors sustaining significant neurological damage.  Once babies are identified and given simple treatment, the risk of acute, life-threatening episodes needing emergency & intensive care and of death is substantially reduced.

Press release ~ UK National Screening Committee (NSC) ~ UK Newborn Screening Programme Centre ~ Screening Specialist Library - PowerPoint presentation ~ National Information and Advice Centre for Metabolic Diseases


Scottish Executive:  A school which makes & sells its own bags to discourage people from using plastic bags has been announced as one of the winners of the It's Our Future schools competition, thus scooping £2,000 for their school by showing how they are helping to save the planet


The bags were showcased as part of an in-school Eco day during Enterprise Week and have since been on sale at a local farmers' market - selling 800 bags in the community.


The competition, run by the Executive in partnership with ScottishPower, rewards projects which raise awareness of the environment and show pupils how they are affecting the world around them.  It has been developed in conjunction with Eco Schools Scotland, Learning and Teaching Scotland, and WWF Scotland.

Press release ~ It’s Our Future website  ~ Eco-Schools Scotland ~ ScottishPower ~ Our Dynamic Earth ~ Learning and Teaching Scotland ~ WWF Scotland ~ Determined To Succeed


CEHR:  The Chair of the Commission for Equality & Human Rights (CEHR), Trevor Phillips has welcomed the announcement that the study of Britain’s involvement in the slave trade (including the roles of reformers such as Equiano & < FONT color=#0000ff>Wilberforce) is set to become a compulsory history topic for secondary school pupils.


The proposal to make the current optional topic a compulsory one instead, as part of a QCA Secondary Curriculum review, coincides with the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade.

Press release ~ CEHR ~ QCA Secondary Curriculum review ~ Directgov: Slavery bicentenary ~ Calendar of events ~ National Archives ~ UNESCO day for the remembrance of slavery and its abolition ~ UK Human Trafficking Centre ~ Every Generation Foundation ~ Who do you think you are? – Colin Jackson


Cabinet Office:  Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O'Donnell has announced a further three departments undertaking 'Capability Reviews' - the Crown Prosecution Service, Department of Health and Department for Transport.  The findings will be published in summer 2007.


The reviews will consider capability in three key areas - leadership, strategy and delivery.  Each review aims to identify where departments need to improve and will include key actions which will address these areas.

Press release ~ Capability Reviews website ~ Crown Prosecution Service ~ Department of Health ~ Department for Transport ~ National School of Government ~ Civil Service Reform: Delivery and Values ~ Creating a culture of excellence ~ The Customer Voice in Transforming Public Services ~ Response to 'The Customer Voice in Transforming Public Services' ~ WAG: From public sector to public service


DfES:  A new subject association – the Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE) - has been launched to champion the quality of teaching & learning that can have a big impact on the health and well-being of children and young people.


Launching the association, Schools Minister Andrew Adonis said that employers are increasingly emphasising the value of young people learning "soft skills" such as the ability to relate to colleagues and customers.  With over 1,000 members, the new association's website provides a readily accessible resource available to anyone involved in PSHE.

Press release ~ PSHE Subject Association ~ QCA - About personal, social and health education ~ Parents Centre ~ Teachernet ~ National Curriculum in Action - PSHE ~ Web links for Personal, Social and Health Education and Citizenship


Defra:  On the 3 February Defra imposed protection, surveillance & restricted zones around the infected premises in Suffolk requiring poultry to be housed or isolated from wild birds and this requirement extended to free range egg laying flocks in the area.


Farming Minister Jeff Rooker has now signed a derogation allowing the area's free range status to be maintained for a 12 week period despite the ongoing isolation requirement.  It is important to point out that under the Compendium of UK Organic Standards housing organic birds will not lead to a loss of organic status provided all other requirements under the compendium are met.

Press release ~ Compendium of UK Organic Standards ~ Derogation Order ~ Latest situation

Policy Statements and Initiatives

DCLG:  Communities Secretary Ruth Kelly has unveiled details of an international challenge for housebuilders to design & build flagship zero-carbon and low carbon communities.


The Carbon Challenge, which will be run by English Partnerships, calls on developers to ‘raise standards of design, construction, energy & water use and waste disposal so that these techniques can be used in the future as a benchmark for mainstream development’.


The Challenge spearheads government plans to move towards zero-carbon development, including the Code for Sustainable Homes and the planning policy on climate change and builds on the Chancellor's announcement that in future most new zero carbon homes will be exempt from stamp duty.

Press release ~ English Partnerships ~ Carbon Challenge ~ The Carbon Challenge e-magazine ~ Carbon Challenge factsheet ~ Design for Manufacture (DfM) ~ Code for Sustainable Homes ~ Building a Greener Future consultation  ~ Planning Policy Statement: Planning and Climate Change on climate change consultation ~ Water Efficiency in new Buildings consultation ~ Energy Efficiency of Dwellings - Initial Analysis ~ Energy Performance Certificates ~ Sustainable development: operational strategies ~ Sustainable development action plan ~ Combined heat and power Association ~ District heating and cooling systems ~ Aquifer Thermal Energy ~ Ground Source Heat Pumps ~ Passive Heating ~ BWEA: Delivering UK wind, wave and tidal energy


DCA:  A campaign to encourage police and other public sector workers to adopt a common-sense approach to human rights has been launched by Lord Falconer.  The Department for Constitutional Affairs and Ministers will work with a range of organisations including police, probation, education and health to ensure common-sense solutions to human rights problems.


Making sense of human rights - A short introduction is designed for officials in public authorities to assist them in working with the Human Rights Act 1998 and to raise their awareness of human rights.


Human Rights: Human Lives - A Handbook for public authorities has been designed to raise staff awareness of the different rights and freedoms protected by the Human Rights Act.

Press release ~ DCA – Human Rights ~ Making sense of human rights - A short introduction ~ Human Rights: Human Lives - A Handbook for public authorities ~ Other publications (scroll down) ~ FCO – Human Rights ~ Human Rights Act 1998 ~ DCA – International Human Rights ~ Commission for Equality and Human Rights ~ Liberty Guide to Human Rights ~ United Nations Universal Declaration on Human Rights ~ Human rights - Lawlinks ~ Islamic Human Rights Commission


Planning portal:  Roger Milne of the Planning Portal highlights publication by English Heritage and the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment of a consultation draft (closes 1 May 2007) of their newly updated Guidance on Tall Buildings.


As well as calling for a development-plan led approach, the advice identifies opportunities offered by recent changes to the planning system to plan strategically for tall buildings and to control the quality of new developments.


The advisers have stressed that because of their high profile & local impact, tall buildings should set exemplary standards in design and that proposals should exceed the latest regulations for minimising energy & reducing carbon emissions over the lifetime of the development.

Press release ~ Planning Portal ~ Guidance on tall buildings: Consultation draft January 2007 ~ English Heritage ~ Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment ~ Tall Buildings : Regeneration & Design : HELM ~ Public Attitudes Towards Tall Buildings in Cities ~ The tall building phenomenon ~ The Civic Trust - Tall Buildings ~ Corporation of London – Tall Buildings and Sustainability ~ LSE: Tall Buildings: vision of the future or victims of the past


CRC:  The Local Government Bill currently going through Parliament proposes a stronger role for local councillors, but while 88% of councillors feel they are effective or very effective in their role, recent research by the Commission for Rural Communities (CRC) has revealed that 46% of rural people do not believe that they can influence decisions and only 25% of rural people would channel their views through their local councillor.


The CRC has therefore launched a national inquiry (closes Friday 18 May 2007) to explore the opportunities & challenges for rural councillors and what stands in the way of them doing more to help rural people have greater influence over local decisions.

Press release ~ Call for evidence ~ Commission for Rural Communities ~ Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Bill ~ LGA – Local Government White Paper ~ Countryside Agency: Think Rural ~ Achieving Rural Revival ~ IDeA - The impact of the Local Government White Paper on councillors ~ Rural Development Service


Land Registry:  The Land Registry has announced the start of the first of two important consultations on e-conveyancing.  The initial consultation, which closes on 21 May 2007, invites feedback on two main areas;

·         the proposed Network Access Rules, part of the secondary legislation required for e-conveyancing, and

·         electronic Communications rules required for electronic contracts


The second consultation, due to start later in the year, will discuss the process of e-conveyancing.

Press release ~ Land Registry ~ consultation ~ e-Conveyancing ~ 2002 Land Registration Act ~ Land Registry Direct ~ Land Register Online

Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides

DH:  Mental Health Tsar Louis Appleby has highlighted guidance - Dual Diagnosis in mental health inpatient and day hospital settings - aimed at improving the care received by people with both a mental health and a drug problem.


In addition, a new resource pack focused on making patients more aware of the risks of substance misuse and helping them to get their problems under control has been produced.  It supports health professionals to discuss drug use with patients and to give patients the information they need to reduce their use of cannabis.


The National Service Framework for Mental Health - Five Years On report, published in 2004, highlighted dual diagnosis as one of the biggest challenges facing frontline mental health services.

Press release ~ Dual Diagnosis in mental health inpatient and day hospital settings ~ Pack: How cannabis can affect people with mental health problems - Information for patients and practitioners ~ National Service Framework for Mental Health - Five Years On  ~ Rethink website ~ National service framework for mental health: modern standards and service models ~ DH – Mental Health ~ DH – Substance Misuse ~ CSIP – Dual Diagnosis ~ Children, young people and volatile substance abuse (VSA) ~ Mind - Understanding dual diagnosis ~National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse (NTA) ~ Dual Diagnosis factsheet ~ Turning Point - DD Toolkit ~ Information For Patients/Clients and Carers ~ Substance misuse and mental health co-morbidity (dual diagnosis) - Standards for mental health services ~ Event: Dual Diagnosis and the Criminal Justice System


HMRC:  New guidelines have been published to promote fair treatment of work experience placements in the television industry, which is oversubscribed by new entrants to the labour market and work experience is commonplace as a way to secure first jobs.


The guidelines are intended as practical advice rather than definitive statements of law and do not constitute an authoritative legal interpretation of the provisions of the relevant Acts of Parliament or other enactments and regulations.  Organisations providing work experience placements are strongly advised to seek independent advice before establishing such a scheme.

Press release ~ Guidelines ~ DTI – Minimum Wage ~ Skillset -  Sector Skills Council for the Audio Visual Industries ~ Skillset Strategy ~ Pact


Defra:  A new process for applying to Defra for waste PFI credits has been announced.  The introduction of Award Rounds means discrete application windows will replace the previous 'first come first served' system.


The previous Waste PFI system allowed Local Authorities to apply for credits at any time of the year, which made assessment of the relative contribution of each case to the overall PFI programme more difficult.  It also hindered the development of a programme level pipeline management strategy.


The key changes are:

·         The introduction of a new process of Award Rounds for Local Authorities to use when submitting an Outline Business Case (OBC) for PFI credits.

·         The requirement for LAs to complete a new Planning Health checklist when submitting their OBC

·         Eligibility will be based in part on compliance with published PFI criteria and in part on additional criteria which will enable a managed pipeline of investments to be procured, supporting the acceleration of Infrastructure delivery whilst offering value for money

Press release ~ Defra - Waste PFI ~ Criteria for Securing Waste PFI Credits ~ Waste Infrastructure Delivery Programme  ~ Waste Implementation Programme ~ Waste PFI - Final Business Case: Guidance for Local Authority PFI projects ~ Partnership UK (PUK) ~ 4ps ~ EU Landfill Directive ~ Second Kelly Market - Waste Management Report

Annual Reports

Scottish Executive:  The statistical bulletin Scottish Vacant and Derelict Land Survey 2006, including its location, previous uses, intended & new uses and the length of time it has lain vacant or derelict, has been published.


The bulletin reports that there has been a decrease in the amount of derelict land and urban vacant land recorded in the survey, from 10,596 hectares in 2002 to 10,386 hectares in 2006.  This is partly attributable to land being brought back into productive use and partly due to land being removed due to naturalisation.

Press release ~ Scottish Vacant and Derelict Land Survey 2006

General Reports and other publications

Healthcare Commission:  A more coherent approach is overdue at a local level to help prevent accidental injuries to children, according to a new joint report published by the Audit Commission and the Healthcare Commission.


Better Safe Than Sorry: Preventing Unintentional Injury to Children, says that each year there are approximately two million attendances by children at hospital A&E departments as the result of accidents that might have been prevented.  This costs the NHS approximately £146m p.a. and the most recent figures show that accidental injuries kill three children in every 100,000 each year – a similar rate to cancer.


Injuries such as those caused by burns, falling down stairs at home, slipping on railway embankments and poisoning, are a leading cause of death & illness in children aged 1-14 and account for approximately 120,000 admissions to hospital a year.


Although the overall number of deaths has fallen, the report shows that there are persistent & widening differences between socio-economic groups.  Children of parents who have never worked, or who have been unemployed for a long time, are 13 times more likely to die from unintentional injury than children of parents in higher managerial and professional occupations.


There are many ad hoc local initiatives to help prevent children’s accidents, but they are often poorly coordinated and rely on committed individuals who frequently work in isolation and sometimes duplicate what others have done.  There is also an absence of evaluative data on the success of local prevention initiatives.

Press release ~ Better Safe Than Sorry: Preventing Unintentional Injury to Children ~ Audit Commission ~ Healthcare Commission ~ DH – Urgent care website ~ NAO: Emergency Care in England - Summary Report March 2004 ~ Emergency Care Specialist Library ~ Directgov – emergency healthcare ~ Child Accident Prevention Trust: Child Safety Week ~ The Framework details recommendations for improving emergency care for acutely ill and injured children and young people in Scotland ~ Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) ~ Emergency Medicine Research Group reports ~ Developing Excellence in Leadership within Urgent Care - Tomorrow's Nurse Leaders Today ~ Reforming emergency care - practical steps  ~ European Child Safety Alliance


Patent Office:  The Patent Office has published the outcome of its Inventive Step Consultation and highlighted the fact that there is considerable international debate concerning the level of invention required to justify the grant of a patent and a widespread view that perhaps some patents are being granted where this is little invention and that this impedes follow-through innovation.


Examination for inventive step (also called “obviousness”) has been a feature of UK patent law since the introduction of the Patents Act 1977 and the consultation sought comments on the level at which that step should be set, how we apply the law and how that application compares with other IP Offices internationally.

Press release ~ The inventive step requirement in United Kingdom patent law and practice - A review by the UK Patent Office ~ Government response ~ Gowers Review of Intellectual Property ~ Patents


NAO:  The National Audit Office has reported that the Department of Health and the Information Centre could not demonstrate to the NAO’s satisfaction that they had achieved value for money in establishing Dr Foster Intelligence, a joint venture between the Information Centre and a private sector company Dr Foster LLP.


The report concludes that, in the absence of a fair competitive tender process in this instance the Information Centre had no fair comparisons or benchmarks to demonstrate that the joint venture with Dr Foster Ltd was the best structure to meet its needs, or that it represented good value for money.


The report shows that there were companies providing similar services to Dr Foster Ltd already working in the UK and in other European countries.  It also raises concerns about the Department’s decision to pay Dr Foster Ltd for advice when it had already entered discussions about a partnership.

Press release ~ Dr Foster Intelligence: A joint venture between the Information Centre and Dr Foster LLP ~ Executive Summary ~ Dr Foster Intelligence ~ Information Centre ~ NHS Informatics Homepage ~ CHIME ~ GHIFT ~ Child Health Informatics Centre - CHiC ~ The Health Informatics Service ~ BCS Health Informatics Scotland ~ < FONT color=#0000ff size=2>Health Informatics skills and competencies - A framework to support NSF implementation ~DH – Information policy


RAEng:  A report -Systems Biology: a vision for engineering and medicine - by The Royal Academy of Engineering and the Academy of Medical Sciences highlights Systems Biology (SB) as a groundbreaking new approach to scientific research in medicine and engineering.


It will improve treatments and our understanding of severe medical conditions such as heart disease, cancer & dementia, produce stronger & lighter materials for use in transport and unlock the potential of biofuels.


SB introduces sophisticated computer modelling and systems engineering concepts into traditional, laboratory-based research, allowing medical researchers to model, for example, how cells interact with their surrounding cells & organs and with the rest of the body, instead of studying them in isolation.

Press release ~ Systems Biology: a vision for engineering and medicine ~ UK Focus for Biomedical Engineering ~ Education - Biotechnology Engineering Initiative ~ Education - Biotechnology Young Entrepreneurs Scheme (BYES) ~ Best Community - Royal Academy of Engineering ~ Academy of Medical Sciences


DfES:  Research published by the National Childminding Association (NCMA) shows that 87% of Sure Start Children's Centres are working with childminders in their area and that Sure Start Children's Centres were a good place for parents to find out more about the services that childminders provide.


The NCMA found that almost one third of Sure Start Children's Centres were currently working with childminder networks and over 80% were providing training opportunities for childminders.

Press release ~ National Childminding Association (NCMA) ~ Children’s centres work with childminders ~ Sure Start Children's Centres ~ Ten year childcare strategy ~ Strategy guidance for LAs


NAO:  A National Audit Office report concludes that the Identity and Passport Service has successfully completed its project to introduce electronic passports (or ePassports) on time and to the required international standards.  However, longer term risks to value for money remain because of the newness of the technology and unknown performance of border control readers in high-volume situations.


Although the Immigration and Nationality Directorate is, like the Identity and Passport Service, a part of the Home Office, the two bodies did not formally liaise over upgrading passport readers at UK border control and roll-out of ePassport readers at UK ports of entry will have been completed only by March 2007.


UK ePassport readers currently take around eight seconds to read an ePassport chip and reader performance in high volume situations is unknown.  Although the UK ePassport has been subject to a range of tests, its ability to withstand normal usage for the full ten-year passport lifespan is unproven. 


In addition, the NAO estimates that at least £3.5 million could be saved over five years by using civil servants instead of consultants in non-technical roles if proved possible to recruit them.

Press release ~ Identity and Passport Service: Introduction of ePassports ~ Executive Summary ~ Identity and Passport Service ~ Immigration and Nationality Directorate ~ FCO -_US Visa Waiver Program ~ International Civil Aviation Organization ~ Policy to successful delivery website ~ Twelve Key Questions ~ Professional Skills for Government programme ~ Delivering successful IT-enabled business change – Volume I ~ Vol II Case Studies (VLF)


Defra:  Defra claims a new report gives a better understanding of the potential impact of GM herbicide tolerant crops on farming practices and the environment.  It looks in particular at how farmers might deal with 'volunteer' weeds that are herbicide tolerant.


The study does not suggest that weeds might be created that could not be controlled, but it says that, depending on the circumstances, farmers may need to change their normal practices to ensure they don't get a weed problem.  The report considers a number of possible changes farmers might implement to manage herbicide tolerant weeds, such as using a different herbicide.

Press release  ~ 'Agronomic and environmental implications of the establishment of GM herbicide tolerant problem weeds' ~ Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment (ACRE) ~ ACRE advice on implications ~ Defra – GM website ~ Volunteer weeds ~ Central Science Laboratory (CSL) ~ National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB) ~ Government’s Farm Scale Evaluation (FSE) trials

Legislation / Legal

OFT:  The Office of Fair Trading has referred the UK payment protection insurance (PPI) market to the Competition Commission (CC) for further investigation.


In reaching this decision OFT has taken account of the work which the Financial Services Authority (FSA) is doing to remedy the problems relating to selling standards and to ensure customers are treated fairly, as well as the various industry initiatives which are underway in response to the FSA's work.

Press release ~ 'Payment protection insurance - the OFT's reasons for making a reference to the Competition Commission' ~ OFT – PPI market study ~ FSA - PPI ~ Citizens Advice (CitA)

EU legislation, initiatives, etc.

HMRC: Customs officers investigating a suspected £250m VAT missing trader fraud made 10 arrests last week in UK-wide raids.  Codenamed Operation Euripus, the action followed a five year investigation, which included one of the biggest swoops ever undertaken by Customs.


In July 2003, 350 officers raided 93 premises across the UK and Spain, made 42 arrests.  More than half a million documents have been systematically examined over the last three years, along with the hard drives of 391 computers with a combined data capacity of 28 terabytes.


Those arrested are believed to be part of a sophisticated network of companies that 'carouselled' large quantities of mobile phones, buying them VAT-free from the continent to supply to businesses in the UK and then defaulting without paying the VAT due.

Press release ~ Missing Trader Intra-Community (MTIC) VAT fraud ~ HMRC – How to spot it ~ VAT missing trader intra-Community fraud: the effect on Balance of Payments statistics and UK National Accounts ~ Article on identifying MTIC ~ Chartered Institute of Taxation paper


DCMS:  Leading industry players in the ticketing market have met with Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell to discuss progress & further action to protect fans from unscrupulous ticket touts.


Ms Jowell welcomed action by event organisers, box offices and internet auction sites to protect consumers and improve the ticketing market place, including:

·         putting in place a new ticket exchange mechanism allowing fans to swap tickets among themselves

·         ensuring information such as the cost price & seat location is present if a ticket is being sold on internet auction sites

·         finalising terms & conditions for tickets which are fair both to the consumer and the event organiser, and

·         putting in place a "shop a tout" hotline


A new European law, the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive (which will come into force on 12 December 2007), will ban unfair practices in the ticket market and will require all ticket sellers to provide the consumer with all relevant information - allowing the buyer to make an informed choice.


In addition, a DCMS-commissioned consumer survey has found that people who go to sporting & music events do not want the resale of tickets to be banned.  They feel that this is not an issue that requires legislation.

Press release ~ Secondary Market for Tickets: Qualitative Research Summary ~ Unfair Commercial Practices Directive ~ Principles for Primary & Secondary ticket selling in the UK ~ Join The Campaign Now To Stop Ticket Touts! ~ Ticket touts are good for spectators - Samuel Brittan: Financial Times ~ Glastonbury take on ticket touts with photo-IDs - from ITN ~ Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers ~ OFT - Ticket Agents in the UK ~ Summary version

Charity and Voluntary Sector

Charity Commission: The UK's three charity watchdogs have joined forces to stop British households being taken for a ride when responding to doorstep collections for 'charity'.  While legitimate charities can collect cash or goods door-to-door, not all such collections are undertaken by charities.


OSCR, the Charity Commission and the Department for Social Development in Northern Ireland have published 'Doorstep Collection - Making an Informed Choice', which gives householders key pointers to help them sort charity collections from commercial ones.

Press release ~ 'Doorstep Collection - Making an Informed Choice' ~ OSCR ~ Charity Commission ~ Department for Social Development in Northern Ireland

Business and other briefings

HMRC:  Practitioners who submit stamp duty land tax (SDLT) returns electronically are benefiting from an enhancement to HM Revenue & Customs' (HMRC) online service.  They now get their SDLT certificates (SDLT5) electronically by return, without having to wait for paper copies to be sent by post.


Since Stamp Taxes Online was introduced in August 2005, over 370,500 SDLT returns have been submitted electronically across the UK.  The system offers many benefits, cutting down on administrative & turnaround times and encouraging greater levels of accuracy, by validating data as it is entered on the form.

Press release ~ HMRC Stamp Taxes Online ~ HMRC - Electronic SDLT5 certificate ~ HMRC - Software and online forms


HMRC:  A new trade & national advertising campaign was launched last week advising landlords who let a room in their home or run a business, of the need to declare their earnings and pay tax on any profit.


Landlords who let multiple properties could be considered to be running a rental business and they should go to the HM Revenue & Customs website to check if they are liable for tax.  If they are, they should contact HMRC for a self assessment and a land & property form, or register as self-employed by calling the Self-Employed helpline on: 0845 915 4515.

Press release ~ Conditions for Landlord status ~ Make cash letting a room - This is Money ~ Letting rooms in your home - Directgov ~ Factsheet


HMRC:  A new internet-based guide, accessible via the HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) website for people who trade online has been launched, which outlines the rules for people who trade online for a profit, as opposed to others who are just clearing low value items ‘from the attic’.


E-traders who are starting a new business need to let HMRC know within three months of starting trading and HMRC has made it easy to register over the phone via the Self-Employed helpline: 0845 915 4515.


If people are selling the odd item (such as unwanted presents or possessions) and are not buying goods to trade for profit, they are considered to be a non-e-trader and do not have to pay Income Tax or NI.

Press release ~ Conditions for e-trader status ~ NAO report VAT on eCommerce ~ Additional Background information ~ OFT Internet auctions ~ BBC - h2g2 - Safe Trading on eBay UK ~ BBC News - Making It Big on eBay


HMRC:  A special scheme to help cashflow in small firms will be extended.  The Cash Accounting Scheme (CAS) allows eligible businesses to defer paying their VAT until they have received payment from their customers - as opposed to accounting for & paying VAT when they issue and receive invoices.


From 1 April 2007 the threshold for CAS is to be more than doubled from £660,000 to £1.35 million.  Changes to the VAT scheme will help small-to-medium-sized companies cope with cash flow difficulties.

Press release ~ Cash Accounting Scheme (CAS) (second link) ~ Business Link


HMRC: Revenue & Customs Brief 12/07

This Brief gives details of an article concerning: VAT: changes to the cash accounting scheme


HMRC: Revenue & Customs Brief 11/07

This Brief gives details of an article concerning: VAT schemes for luxury yachts


HMRC: Revenue & Customs Brief 10/07

This Brief gives details of an article concerning: VAT: liability of private tuition


HMRC: Revenue & Customs Brief 08/07

This article explains the VAT treatment of ‘cash backs’ and what businesses should do if they pay or receive ‘cash backs’, or have paid or received them in the past.

Industry News

Forthcoming Event

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