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In the News

DCLG:  Devolution agenda to create London “Super” Mayor - The Mayor of London is to receive a significant increase in powers as key powers over planning, housing and training are transferred to the Greater London Authority as part of Ruth Kelly’s devolution agenda.


The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government has set out an enhanced package, covering new lead roles for the Mayor on housing, adult skills, planning, waste, culture & sport, health, climate change and appointments.


The assembly will be able to set its own budget, publish an annual report and hold hearings with candidates for key mayoral appointments


Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, said:

"The additional powers granted to the office of Mayor will enable us to tackle head-on the problems London faces - skills provision according to the capital's needs in the run-up to the Olympics and planning and housing powers which will help promote our city's global economic status and also deliver the vital affordable homes that Londoners need."


Further options for devolution across England are to be unveiled as part of the Local Government White Paper due to be published later this year.

Press release - DCLG ~ Press release - DfES ~  Government policy on London ~ Greater London Authority (GLA) ~ Local Government Association (LGA) ~ Regions White Paper: 'Your Region, Your Choice’ ~ Devolution in the UK - ESRC ~ Devolution and Constitutional Change -  ESRC ~ Devolution in England - Directgov ~ Regional Assemblies (Preparations) Bill ~ MayorWatch ~  London 2012


DWP:  Still an unobtainable dream for many - A review of Government policy on independent living for disabled people has been announced by Baroness Royall, Government Whip and Health spokesperson, speaking during the second reading of the Disabled Persons (Independent Living) Bill in Parliament.


The review will initially take 12 months and is intended to:

·         Bring together the views & experience of officials from central & local Government, disabled people and organisations of disabled people

·         Develop imaginative new solutions in the areas of health, social care, transport, employment and housing

·         Develop thinking on the relationship between independent living and individual budgets

·         Make practical proposals for activity to support independent living


The review will regularly report progress to the Independent Living Expert Panel and detailed proposals are expected to be published in Summer 2007.

Press release ~ Disabled Persons (Independent Living) Bill (and click on ‘D’) ~ Office for Disability Issues ~ National Centre for Independent Living ~ Independent Living Institute ~ Independent Living Funds ~ ADSS Disabilities Committee ~ Care Services Improvement Partnership (CSIP) ~ Coalition on Charging ~ DWP Research Report No.137 - Independent living in later life: a literature review ~ Oxford Institute for Ageing ~ Supporting People website ~ Telecare: Using Information and Communication Technology to Support Independent Living by Older, Disabled and Vulnerable People ~ Telecare Collaborative ~ Foundation for Assistive Technology (FAST)


DfES:  Yet more duties for LA’s - The Government's flagship Childcare Bill has now received Royal Assent.  The Act is intended to ensure that all children under 5 receive high quality early learning & care and better access to early childhood services.


The Act requires local authorities to reduce inequalities between those at risk of the poorest outcomes and the rest. 


It also places a duty on local authorities to secure - in partnership with the private and voluntary sector - sufficient childcare for all parents who choose to work or are in training in preparation for work and a duty to provide information & advice to parents on childcare and other services to support parents.

Press release ~ Childcare Bill ~ Childcare Act ~ Ofsted Childcare Register consultation ~ Early Years Foundation Stage ~ The Early Years Foundation Stage - consultation on a single quality framework for services to children from birth to five  ~ Surestart


DH:  Don’t blame us, it’s a local issue and not our responsibility – The government has announced a new commissioning framework which supposedly will give patients more power & say over how their local health services are organised and run.


Under the plans Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) will be required to formally respond to public petitions if more than 1% of the local community are unhappy with a particular health service.


Patricia Hewitt also announced new arrangements for organised patient involvement by establishing new Local Involvement Networks (LINks) designed to have more clout to influence services both in hospitals and in community settings.


The plans are central to new guidance - Health Reform in England: Update and Commissioning Framework - to the NHS about how services should be commissioned (or purchased) by PCTs.


In addition, PCTs will be expected to publish prospectuses that set out an assessment of the local needs and the quality of current services, patient satisfaction levels and plans for future investment.


The Government is also issuing a tender advertisement to procure specialist support services to help PCTs improve their commissioning functions.  This tender process will lead to a national 'framework' contract which PCTs will be able to use to get specialist help to support their commissioning – thus hopefully removing the need for expensive and time-consuming local tenders.

Press release ~ Patient forums ~ Health Reform in England: Update and Commissioning Framework ~ Practice Based Commissioning (PBC) ~ A stronger local voice: a framework for creating a stronger local voice in the development of health and social care services


DCLG:  Hard to believe as we swelter, but flooding is a growing risk - The Government has published its response to the Environmental Audit Select Committee Sustainable Housing: A Follow-up Report.


It highlights the key environmental policies of the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) and other Government departments which are aimed at ensuring that new & existing homes are more sustainable.


As part of the response, Building Regulations Minister Angela Smith has announced that the DCLG is now investigating further measures on flood resilience in partnership with the Environment Agency.  Following research to be completed by September 2006 new measures could include construction guidance or strengthened building regulations in flood risk areas.

Press release ~ Sustainable Housing: A Follow-up Report (VVLF 5.0Mb) ~ Government response ~ Flooding Direction


DCLG:  Time to redefine overcrowding - £50 million to help homeless & overcrowded families in London has been announced by Housing Minister Yvette Cooper, alongside a public consultation (closes 15 September 2006) on raising outdated statutory overcrowding standards which haven't changed for seventy years.


£30 million of investment will help councils provide settled homes for families currently in temporary accommodation, expanding similar schemes already operating in Newham and Ealing.  £20 million will be targeted at helping councils tackle overcrowding with schemes to carry out loft extensions or provide support for single people who want to move out of family homes.


The overcrowding standard hasn't changed since 1935.  This means that a family of four including a teenage girl and a teenage boy in a one bedroom flat would still not be classed as overcrowded under the current standards.  The result in some circumstances can be babies sleeping in kitchens.


The government claims that some local councils will not give overcrowded families priority for relocation until they breach statutory standards and is therefore now consulting on options for raising standards and building them into allocation policies


The Room Standard is breached if two people of opposite sexes who are not living together as husband and wife must sleep in the same room.  Living rooms and kitchens as well as bedrooms can be treated as available sleeping accommodation.  Children under 10 do not count.


Ms Cooper also announced that 12 local authorities and one housing association have been selected as Homelessness Regional Champions for 2006/07.  There is at least one Champion in each region and they will work with other local authorities to provide support and share good practice to prevent homelessness.

Press release ~ Tackling Overcrowding in England - A discussion paper ~ Homelessness Regional Champions ~ DCLG Homelessness website ~ Directgov - homelessness

General News

DfES:  Schools are being encouraged to identify & stretch the brightest children whose potentials have gone unrealised or underdeveloped, and do more to nurture their talents.


A new national register at the National Academy for Gifted and Talented (NAGTY) will track & nurture talents of the top 5% of 11-19 year-olds identified nationally as gifted & talented by their schools, and provide data to encourage schools to consider children they have not so far.


Mr Adonis also announced the revising & updating of the DfES’ guidance on identification of gifted & talented learners for release early in the new academic year.


With no single test that identifies gifted and talented learners reliably, the new guidance aims to encourage schools to draw on a wide range of evidence, for example: pupil's work; teachers' assessments and classroom observation - alongside data from the national register.

Press release ~ National Academy for Gifted and Talented Youth (NAGTY) ~ The letters sent to schools by Andrew Adonis ~ Schools White Paper: ‘Higher Standards, Better Schools for All - More Choice for Parents and Pupils’ ~ Gifted and Talented - DfES ~ G&Twise - TeacherNet ~ National Association for the Gifted Child ~ The Support Society for Children of High Intelligence (CHI)  ~ Mensa


Creative Industries / British Council: The British Council's Creative Future programme aims to discover India's Creative Future 2007 - a young individual with the best creative idea backed by a strong business proposition.


Out of a total of 1,084, 60 applicants were long-listed over the last one month.  These 60 individuals vied for the 20 places available in the Creative Future School at the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore between 13 and 26 August, 2006.


The average age of the finalists is 28 years, with the youngest candidate aged 22 and oldest aged 35.  The finalists are from a range of sectors: film, design, music, TV, publishing, fashion, photography, radio, traditional Indian art, software and one finalist has a cross-sectoral proposal.


In a surprise announcement, panel chairperson Lee Corner said that Praveen Chrispugg from Chennai has been selected by the Creative Industries Development Agency to be mentored in the UK for his proposal on a cutting edge technology business model.  Praveen's proposal was advanced enough to be developed into a working business model in a very short period with interest in it from some major companies in UK already.

Press release ~ Creative Industries Development Agency ~ 20 Finalists ~ Commonwealth Business Council


Patent Office:  In a keynote speech to the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), Minister for Science and Innovation Lord Sainsbury said that to meet the challenge of Intellectual Property (IP) theft by organised crime groups, the Patent Office has developed the National IP Crime Strategy, which brings together enforcement agencies and industry to tackle IP theft nationally.


This in turn has led to the development of TellPat, a national database for recording counterfeiting and piracy activities, which will provide strategic information for spot raids at markets and other venues across the country throughout the year.


In a paper for IPPR, Lord Sainsbury describes the strength & importance of the UK’s Intellectual property system in the global economy.  The paper also emphasises the importance of a robust IP system which is able to balance the needs of creators and consumers and which creates the right conditions to support genuine innovation.

Press release ~ Innovating for Success: The intellectual property review and economic competitiveness ~ National IP Crime Strategy


ESRC:  Dr Diana Burman is the winner of the first ever Michael Young Prize, sponsored by The Young Foundation and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).  The prize was conceived in honour of the founder of the ESRC the late Lord Michael Young, and aims to reward and encourage new researchers whose work offers genuine new insights and is likely to have an impact beyond academia.


Dr Burman, a former teacher of the deaf, took the first prize for ground-breaking research that helped her to develop a highly successful method for improving profoundly deaf children's English literacy.


The deaf children taught using Dr Burman's method showed a 38% improvement in their writing skills compared with only a 12% improvement amongst the children who were taught not using the method.  Similarly there was a 30% improvement in the spelling assessment of children who were taught to use morphemes compared to a 3% improvement among the children who were not taught using Burman's method.

Press release ~ The Young Foundation ~ Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) ~

Policy Statements and Initiatives

HMRC:  A series of new approaches exploring simpler & less time-consuming ways of helping taxpayers comply with their responsibilities have been announced by HM Revenue & Customs.  The new approaches, which aim to cut down on bureaucracy for taxpayers, their agents and the Government, will help inform an ongoing consultation process into modernising the powers of HMRC.


The six new approaches, which will take place at selected locations around the UK, will explore lighter touch approaches to tax enquiries, particularly for those likely to make mistakes in relation to their tax, rather than those who are deliberately trying to pay less tax than is due.


While no decision has been made on the likely roll out of any of the new approaches, the evidence gathered will add to the responses from the recent consultation on HMRC's powers, deterrents & safeguards and will help to inform future policy.

Press release ~ Consultation document: Modernising Powers, Deterrents and Safeguards (contains details of the interventions being trailed) ~ Understanding your tax code - HMRC ~ TaxAid ~ Money, tax and benefits - Directgov ~ Taxation Web: independent tax website ~ Advice Guide


DCLG:  Ruth Kelly has set out her agenda for devolution which she claims will go further than the mere devolution of power to local authorities and will see communities in control of their services & local quality of life.


Ms Kelly explained that devolution could not be a simple one-size fits all solution to neighbourhood empowerment and that the nature of any neighbourhood arrangements should be appropriate to local circumstances and reflect local communities' needs and their desired level of involvement.


The Government claim that neighbourhood empowerment - giving local people a real opportunity to improve their services and facilities - will be one of the key themes of this autumn's White Paper.

Press release ~ Letter to PM ~ Local Government Association (LGA) ~ Regions White Paper: 'Your Region, Your Choice’  ~ Devolution in the UK - ESRC ~ Devolution and Constitutional Change -  ESRC ~ Devolution in England - Directgov ~ Regional Assemblies (Preparations) Bill


DWP:  The Government has launched a new set of initiatives which it claims will help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) provide a safer working environment and reduce work related ill health in an attempt to counter the estimated £12bn to the economy, a third of that being in the private sector.


Vocational rehabilitation programmes which promote health in the workplace, are a key part of the Government's Health Work and Well-being Strategy which underpins the health related components of the Welfare Reform Bill introduced last week.

Press release ~ Welfare Reform ~ Vocational rehabilitation – the missing link? ~ The Framework for Vocational Rehabilitation - DWP ~ Association of British Insurers (ABI) Health Conference 2005 ~ Association for Counselling at Work ~ NHS Plus - Health at Work ~ TUC Health and Safety ~ Small Business Service ~ Health at work - ~ European Agency for Health and Safety at Work


DWP:  A new advisory body has been set up in an attempt to bring the UK’s ethnic minority employment in line with other G8 countries.  The new Ethnic Minority Advisory Group (EMAG), which is made up of 22 representatives from across the ethnic community, has been set up as part of the Government's welfare reform agenda to boost employment opportunities for ethnic minorities.


In addition to offering guidance on existing policies, the EMAG will also provide advice on a series of measures being introduced as part of the welfare reform bill, including the new City Strategy.  The aim is to give local representatives of disadvantaged communities greater flexibility over funding designed to address ‘worklessness’.

Press release ~ Ethnic Minority Advisory Group (EMAG) ~ Government's Ethnic Minority Employment Task Force (EMETF) ~ Cities Strategy DWP press release ~ Ethnic Jobsite ~ Welfare Reform Bill ~ DWP Bill explanatory website ~ Report: 'Ethnic Minorities in the Labour Market' ~ ~ Women & Equality Unit ~ The incomes of ethnic minorities - JRF


HSE:  The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has launched a new Programme aimed at protecting the estimated two million workers who suffer excessive noise or hand arm vibration, which can lead to serious and long-term effects.


The Programme is designed to eliminate new cases of occupational induced hearing damage and control new cases of Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) sufficiently to enable workers to remain at work without disability.


The Programme will include a range of activities including stakeholder engagement and inspection activity to promote the use of good practice controls measures to control exposure of workers.  Initially the focus will be on Hand-Arm Vibration exposure in foundries, heavy fabrication and construction.

Press release ~ Noise and Hand-arm Vibration Programme ~ Vibration at Work - HSE ~ Vibration at Work - TUC ~ Noise at Work – HSE  ~ Noise at Work – TUC ~ The Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005 ~ The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 ~ Health and Safety for Beginners


DCMS:  The Government has launched a consultation on whether the current statutory and other legal restrictions which prevent national museums from de-accessioning works of art in their collections should be lifted to allow restitution of items which were lost during the Nazi era – closing 10 November 2006.


The consultation invites views on how far a power to make restitution of objects lost during the Nazi era should extend, who should be responsible for taking decisions on restitution, and what continuing role the Spoliation Advisory Panel should have.


The powers discussed in the paper relate only to the return of items lost as a result of the actions of the Nazis or their allies.  It does not propose to remove the restrictions on museums' powers to dispose of objects in their collection in any other case.

Press release ~ Spoliation Advisory Panel ~ Commission for Looted Art in Europe ~ The Art Loss Register ~ British Museum ~ The Central Registry of Information on Looted Cultural Property ~ National Museum Directors' Conference: Links and Contacts ~ Spoliation of Jewish Cultural Property – ICOM ~ History behind the Nazi art confiscation – Crime Library


DTI:  The Government has published a draft map of assisted areas where companies will be eligible for regional aid in future.  The new map follows a full first stage consultation and will be subject to further consultation over the next four weeks – closing 07 August 2006.


The current map has been in force for seven years and under EU rules expires on January 1st 2007. 


Under EU rules regional state aid can only be paid by governments to enterprises located within the areas designated.  In the UK the percentage of population covered will be reduced from 30.9% to 23.9%.


Four measures were used to decide how to prioritise Britain's coverage:

·         The employment rate.

·         The level of skills.

·         The number of people claiming incapacity benefit.

·         Manufacturing as a share of employment.

Press release ~ Consultation ~ Proposed assisted areas in Great Britain 2007-2013 map  ~ EU press release on regional aid guidelines (easy to read) ~ EU regional aid guidelines ~ Assisted Areas Review - DTI ~ Local Government International Bureau


DCA:  A consultation has been launched in an effort to make the family court system more accountable to the public by opening the family court system to the media so that they can report on their work to the public – closing 30 October 2006.


This move is expected to affect a range of cases including those where a local authority acts to take a child into care, or where parents dispute child contact or residence.  The proposals also include new safeguards to ensure the anonymity and privacy of individuals.


The present system is complicated by different access rules for different courts, even though they may be hearing the same types of cases. 

Press release ~ Consultation paper: 'Confidence and Confidentiality: Improving Transparency and Privacy in Family Courts' ~ DCA on-line discussion forum aimed at adults ~ Speech: 'What shall we tell the children? - Greater London Family Justices meeting ~ Speech: The Family Court System ~ Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) ~ Family Matters - DCA ~ HM Courts Service ~ Government advice on family courts


DCA:  Radical reform of the legal aid system has being set up as the Lord Chancellor opened consultations on implementing sweeping changes to the way Government buys legal advice on behalf of the public – closes 12 October 2006.


The consultation comes in response to the publication of the final report of the independent Review of Legal Aid Procurement.  The independent review was commissioned in July 2005 and has involved detailed negotiations with the legal profession to reach a sustainable way forward for legal aid.


Amongst the proposals are:

·         Lawyers will, as far as possible, be paid on completion of cases rather than by the hour

·         A market based system for legal aid procurement with best value tendering for contracts based on quality, capacity and price

·         Changes to make the legal professions responsible for proper quality control over their members

Press release ~ Consultation ~ Final Report of the Independent Review into Legal Aid Procurement by Lord Carter of Coles ~ 'A Fairer Deal for Legal Aid' ~ Legal Services Commission of the United Kingdom ~ Legal Aid - DCA


DfT:  The Government has opened a consultation on the new draft guidelines, which are an attempt to overhaul the country's system of civil parking enforcement and reverse the trend of using parking fines as a fund raiser – closing 25 September 2006.


The highlights of the Government's draft advice include:

·         Wheel clamping only for the most persistent parking penalty evaders

·         A more motorist-friendly appeals process with a penalty charge discount reoffered after an informal challenge

·         More powers being given to the independent adjudicators to intervene where procedures have not been followed properly

·         Regular review of parking policies by local authorities in consultation with stakeholders

·         Persistent parking offenders targeted through a nationwide database

Press release ~ Consultation on Part 6 of the Traffic Management Act (TMA) 2004 ~ Traffic and parking management - DfT ~ British Parking Association ~ Road Traffic Act 1991: decriminalised parking enforcement ~ Confessions of a parking attendant – ~ NCP ~ Appeal


DH:  Professor Sir Liam Donaldson, the Chief Medical Officer (CMO), has published his review into the regulation of the medical profession.  Good Doctors, safer patients was undertaken following the publication of the Shipman Inquiry: fifth report, which was highly critical of the General Medical Council (GMC) and the broader arrangements for medical regulation.


The CMOs recommendations were received by the Secretary of State and will now go out to consultation (Closes 10 November 2006).


A Department of Health review into the regulation of non-medical professionals - undertaken concurrently with the CMO's review - has also been published and a similar consultation will also be undertaken.


The main recommendations in Good Doctors, safer patients include:

·         The creation of unambiguous, operationalised standards for generic and specialist practice to give a clear, universal definition of a 'good doctor' and to allow patients, employers and doctors themselves to have a shared understanding of what is expected of doctors.

·         The creation of an independent tribunal in order to adjudicate on fitness to practise matters - the GMC would focus on the assessment and investigation of cases.

·         A renewed focus on the assessment, rehabilitation and supervision of doctors with performance problems where these problems are not borne of malice.

Press release ~ Good Doctors, safer patients (scroll down for Consultation and Review into non-medical regulation) ~ The Shipman Inquiry: fifth report

Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides

DCA:  All secondary schools in England and Wales will receive free copies of a new, plain English guide to the UK constitution.


Inside Britain: A Guide to the UK Constitution tries to explain, in an engaging and accessible way, the rules and procedures by which the UK is governed, and to indicate the extent and the limits of the Government's powers on everyday life.


The guide will be distributed to secondary schools, sixth forms and further education colleges and will be a valuable resource for citizenship classes.

Press release ~ Purchase: Inside Britain: A Guide to the UK Constitution ~ Citizenship Foundation ~ UK Constitution ~ Magistrates' Court Mock Trial Competition 2006/07 ~ The Democracy Series ~ Constitution Unit, University College, London ~ Hansard Society


Gambling Commission:  The Gambling Commission has published new guidance surrounding the strict restrictions on gaming for money in licensed premises, in an attempt to clampdown on illegal poker games.


Under the 1968 Gaming Act there are strict restrictions on gaming for money in licensed premises.  A local authority permit is required to run games, the games must not be used as an inducement for people to visit a pub and any stakes and prizes should be low.


The new guidance on these rules, which apply to all pubs and members clubs in Britain, gives out two simple messages:

·         Under the existing law many of these games are illegal or are likely to lead to illegal games being played.

·         Illegal poker games can lead to people being cheated into losing very substantial sums of money, and there is concern that people will be exploited if games are not properly supervised.


The Commission’s advice aims to ensure that players, organisers and “hosts”, especially pub landlords and licensees, recognise their responsibilities & discourage the establishment or organisation of games outside licensed casinos or card rooms.

Press release ~ Poker guidance ~ Gambling Commission ~ Gambling and Racing - Dcms ~ Gaming Board for Great Britain ~ GamCare ~ Society for the Study of Gambling ~ International Gaming Research Unit ~ Gamblers Anonymous UK


HSE:  The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has urged businesses to spend less time dotting 'i's and crossing 't's and more time on putting practical actions into effect and has issued a revamped risk assessment guide featuring examples that it hopes will spell out, in plain English, what is - and what is not - expected.


The guidance Five Steps to Risk Assessment, hopes to make it even easier for normal business people, not just health and safety experts, to use.  It also places greater emphasis on making sure that decisions are actually put into practice.


The 11-page booklet provides advice and tips on five key elements to an effective risk assessment:

·         Identifying the hazards

·         Deciding who might be harmed and how

·         Evaluating the risks and deciding on precautions

·         Recording findings and implementing them

·         Ensuring they are reviewed at regular intervals.

Press release ~ Five Steps to Risk Assessment online booklet ~ HSE Risk Assessment ~ HSE Statistics ~ Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) ~ Health and safety at work - Directgov ~ Health and Safety - TUC ~ Health and Safety Laboratory ~ workSmart


TDA:  A guide to help headteachers understand the role of bursars, and how they can free the headteacher up to lead the school, has been published by the Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA).


It follows a significant increase in the number of bursars appointed by state schools in England - up from 4,000 in 1997 to the present figure of 6,800.


Close to 4,000 bursars have qualified or are currently undergoing training for the National College for School Leadership's Certificate and Diploma of School Business Management.


The bursar role, also known as 'school business manager' or 'senior administrator' is increasingly important in supporting headteachers and to make sure schools, whatever their size, make the most of all their resources for the benefit of children.

Press release ~ Guidance: ‘Looking for a bursar’ ~ Further information on becoming a bursar ~ Statistics: School Workforce in England ~ National College for School Leadership (NCSL) ~ Diploma of School Business Management (DSBM)  ~ Bursar Development Programme

Annual Reports

Patent Office:  The Patent Office has launched a supplement to its formal Annual Report - The Patent Office Annual Review, Our Story: Highlights of 2005.


The new format of the Annual Review gives The Patent Office the opportunity to cover some of its activities in greater detail than is possible in the Annual Report, as well as providing an accessible picture of what the Patent Office has done in relation to intellectual property and innovation.

Press release ~ The Patent Office Annual Review, Our Story: Highlights of 2005 ~ Patent Office Annual Reports and Corporate Plans ~ IP Crime Group


CC:  The Competition Commission has publishes its Annual Report and Accounts for 2005/06.


Announcing the annual report, CC Chairman, Peter Freeman commented on how 2005/06 proved to be an important year for the Commission, with the first Market Investigation under the Enterprise Act regime and the first time one of its merger decisions (Somerfield) was tested before the Competition Appeal Tribunal and the decision on store disposals upheld.

Press release ~ Annual Report and Accounts for 2005/06 ~ The Competition Commission ~ Office of Fair Trading


CCWater:  The number of complaints about water companies received by the Consumer Council for Water (CCWater) totalled 6,274 across England and Wales in the first six months of its existence, according to the organisation's Annual Review, with complaints about billing topping the gripes list.


Whilst there were wide regional variations in complaint trends over the period, the main perpetrators who caused the rise in complaints are identified as United Utilities (with a rise of 42% - serves the North West of England) and Severn Trent Water (with a rise of 54% - serves the Midlands region)


Complaints were up across a wide range of complaint types, notably complaints about:

·         Metered billing - up by 40%.

·         Liability for unmetered bills - up 66%

·         Delays in connections to the mains - up by 36%

Press release – CC Water ~ Press release – CCWater Thames ~ Press release – CCWater Midlands ~ CCWater Wales ~ CC Water Annual Review ~ CC Water ~ CC Water consumer blog on the current water restrictions ~ Five fast fixes for households on water saving - CCWater ~ Ofwat ~ Leakage from public water supply – Environment Agency ~ Beat the Drought


HSO:  Ann Abraham, the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, has criticised a number of government departments for taking a negative & defensive approach to her investigations.


In her 2005-06 annual report, Making a Difference, Ms Abraham praises some other departments for engaging constructively with her, and says that her investigations into maladministration can be used by government as a "powerful lever for reform".


Ms Abraham reported on the 3,606 investigations carried out by her office in the year ending 30 March 2006.  The investigations ranged across 107 government departments and agencies, and 475 different NHS organisations.

Press release ~ Annual Report 2005-2006 ~ Memorandum to the Public Administration Select Committee ~ Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman


ODI:  The Government's Office for Disability Issues (ODI) has published its first Annual Report to the Prime Minister, detailing the progress that is being made towards realising the Government's vision for real equality for disabled people by 2025.


The ODI is also in the process of setting up a new advisory body - Equality 2025: the United Kingdom Advisory Network on Disability Equality - which will be launched later this year.  The body aims to give disabled people a voice right at the heart of Government, allowing them to influence the strategies, policies and services that affect their lives.

Press release ~ ODI annual report 2006 ~ Office for Disability Issues (ODI) ~ Improving the Life Chances of Disabled People - Prime Minister Strategy Unit ~ Disability - Directgov ~ Disability Rights Commission ~ Disability UK ~ Disability Now ~ You're Able ~ RADAR ~ Disability Awareness in Action ~ Employers' Forum on Disability


FSA:  The Financial Services Practitioner Panel (the Panel) has published its Annual Report for the period 2005/6.  The report includes commentary on the Treating Customers Fairly initiative; the recently-published Costs of Regulation study; the Panel's ongoing Survey of Regulated Firms; the FSA's work and influence in the international arena, the FSA's use of its enforcement powers; the application of caveat emptor; and MIFID/CRD implementation.

Press release ~ Annual Report ~ Financial Services Practitioner Panel ~ Financial Services Authority (FSA) ~ Financial Ombudsman


DCLG:  The Planning Inspectorate's Annual Report and Accounts for 2005/06 has been published revealing that whilst the Inspectorate has met many of its targets, it failed to meet timeliness targets for determining planning appeals by inquiry or hearing, or enforcement appeals by written representations or inquiry in England.


The report also contains the Inspectorate's targets for its main areas of casework in 2006/07.

Press release  ~ Annual report 2005/06 (LF1.4 Mb) ~ The Planning Inspectorate ~ DCLG Planning website ~ Environment, Planning & Countryside – Welsh Assembly ~ Planning Portal ~ UKPlanning ~ Royal Town Planning Institute


FO:  The Foreign Office has published its annual report 2005/06 on Science and Innovation.


In the wake of high-profile global agendum on climate change, extreme poverty and disease, the Government is placing a heavy emphasis on the need for the building of partnerships between British scientists and scientific communities under the billing ‘The world we will live in tomorrow depends so much on the science and scientists of today’.

Press release ~ Annual report 2005/06 ~ Jack Straw's speech: 'Britain's leading role in global science' ~ FCO Science and Innovation ~ Global Watch Online ~ UKWatch Online ~ International Technology Promoters ~ Research Councils UK ~ GOST


DTI:  The Department of Trade and Industry's (DTI's) Global Watch Service (GWS), which helps UK businesses benefit from the technical expertise of leading countries around the world, has published its 2005-2006 Annual Report.


This year's Annual Report concludes that the GWS has had its most successful year to date in delivering on commitments made in the 2003 Innovation Report and on its impact on UK businesses and the economy.  It also highlights how the GWS has helped UK firms of all sizes to interact with global technology partners and to develop the capabilities that will improve their productivity and international competitiveness.

Press release ~ 2005/2006 Annual Report (VLF 2.2Mb) ~ 2003 Innovation Report ~ Global Watch Service

General Reports and other publications

DWP:  The Department for Work and Pensions has published research which presents the findings of a telephone survey of 1,174 companies who benefited from ESF supported training in the period April 2003 - March 2005.  The report was commissioned to examine the current operation and efficacy of ESF funded training used by companies in England.


With research claims that ESF-supported training activity is having a positive effect on the companies who benefit from , with over 80% of beneficiary companies felt that the training had fulfilled the objective of increasing staff aptitudes in their particular job role.

Press release ~ Report: No. 361 A quantitative survey of companies supported by European Social Fund ~ European Social Fund - UK website ~ European Social Fund - EU website ~ Job Centre Plus ~ European Social Fund - DfES


DWP:  A report has been published showing the latest estimates of Housing Benefit (HB) fraud and error for the period April 2002 to September 2005.


Key findings include:

·         Around £580m (5.0%) of HB expenditure within the scope of the HBR sample2 is estimated to have been overpaid due to fraud and error;

·         By using a rough extrapolation, around a further £160m is estimated to have been overpaid in the HB expenditure outside the scope of the HB sample.

·         This gives an estimate of around £740m (5.4%) for total overpaid expenditure.   However, alternative reasonable assumptions about the nature of the HB caseload outside the scope of the sample could have resulted in an estimate that was £50m different.

Press release ~ Report: ‘Fraud and Error in Housing Benefit’ ~ Targeting Benefit Fraud ~ Reporting Benefit Fraud - Directgov ~ Good practice in tackling external fraud – NAO, HM Treasury ~ Benefit Fraud Inspectorate (BFI) ~ Department for Work and Pensions: Tackling Benefit Fraud 2003

Legislation / Legal

DCA:  New legislation which the government hopes will make the voting system more accessible, secure & efficient and to maximise participation in elections has been given Royal Assent.  The Electoral Administration Act 2006 aims to tackle three key areas at the core of a healthy democracy by:

·         Improving access and engagement

·         Improving confidence; and

·         Maintaining professional delivery of elections

Press release ~ Electoral Administration Act ~ Registering to vote ~ Youth voting network ~ Do Politics website ~ Absent voting in Great Britain: report and recommendations ~ Delivering Democracy? The future of postal voting - Summary ~ Review of Electoral Commission - Issues and Questions paper ~ Code of conduct for handling of Postal Ballots ~ e-democracy ~ aboutmyvote website

EU legislation, initiatives, etc.

Charity and Voluntary Sector

CC:  The Charity Commission has released details of interim manager cases concluded in 2005/06.  The Commission can appoint an interim manager to take over the running of a charity where there are substantial concerns about the way that charity is being managed, or in order to protect its property in exceptional cases.


The role of the interim manager will vary, but could be to administer all or part of a charity's affairs, or to take on responsibility for a particular function for the charity.  In the financial year from 1 April 2005 to 31 March 2006, no interim manager appointments were made. As at 31 March 2006, six interim managers remain in place.

Press release ~ Interim Managers 2005 / 06

Business and other briefings

FSCS:  Consumers can claim compensation of up to £48,000 if they have lost money as a result of their dealings with any one of 87 firms that the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) has recently declared in default.


As the UK’s statutory fund of last resort for customers of regulated financial services firms, the FSCS provides a free service to consumers covering investments, deposits, insurance, mortgage advice and arranging, and provides advice about general insurance and the arranging of policies.

Press release ~ 87 firms declared in default (scroll down) ~ Search FSCS default database ~ Financial Services Authority ~ Financial Ombudsman Service


Pensions Regulator:  The Pensions Regulator's code of practice 'Member-nominated trustees and directors - putting arrangements in place' has been laid before Parliament.  The code provides pension scheme trustees with practical advice & principles on how to comply with legislation on member-nominated trustees and member-nominated directors.


Trustees are required to ensure that arrangements are in place, & implemented, for at least one third of trustees to be member-nominated; or at least one third of directors of the trustee company to be member-nominated.  The arrangements must include a nomination process, a selection process and other statutory requirements.


The code will not come into force until it has been laid before Parliament for 40 sitting days (excluding recesses).

Press release ~ Member-nominated trustees and directors - putting arrangements in place (scroll down)

Industry News

Forthcoming Event

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