DCMS:  British people are being asked for their views on plans announced by the European Commission for a new £1.5bn Creative Europe programme.  The programme, which was unveiled last month, would run from 2014 to 2020 to follow on from the current Culture, MEDIA and MEDIA Mundus programmes.

The UK Government is now seeking views about the proposals to inform its approach to negotiations in the EU Council and European Parliament during 2012.  The consultation will run until Friday 16 March 2012.

Press release & links

DfT:  Rail passengers in the Thames Valley , the South West & South Wales are being asked for their views on how their rail services should be run, Rail Minister Theresa Villiers has announced.  A consultation will give passengers, local councils and other interested groups the chance to say what improvements & changes they want to see delivered by the new Great Western rail franchise, which is set to be renewed in 2013.  The consultation closes on 31 March 2012.

Press release ~ Great Western Franchise Replacement consultation

LC:  In a new consultation (closes on 20 March 2012), the Law Commission of England & Wales and the Scottish Law Commission are proposing reforms to allow a wider range of people to insure the lives of those on whom they are dependent.  The existing law is based on the Life Assurance Act 1774, which prohibits people from insuring the lives of others without an ‘insurable interest’. 

This means that you can insure your own life or the life of your husband, wife or civil partner – but you have no automatic right to insure the life of someone else, such as a live-in partner, parent or child.  You can only insure another person where you are tied by a legal obligation. The courts have interpreted this narrowly, refusing to allow insurance based on a moral obligation for a son to look after his father, or to bury his mother.
Press release ~ LCE&W:  Insurance Contract Law: Post Contract Duties and other Issues ~ SLC:  Insurance contract law reform

WAG:  An ‘ambitious’ vision of what cancer care should look like to help achieve rates comparable with the lowest in Europe have been set out in a new cancer plan published for consultation (closes on 5 March 2012) by the Welsh Government.  

This plan sets out the Welsh Government’s expectations of the NHS, working together with local government, the third sector and the public, with regard to what improvements should be delivered by 2016.  The plan also identifies themes for action and will include a short document for the public what it can expect over the coming few years.  

Press release & links

HMT:  The Economic Secretary to the Treasury Chloe Smith has announced a consultation on extending the use of rebated fuel or ‘red diesel’ to allow tractors to grit roads in rural communities.  The consultation will be carried out in the New Year by HM Revenue & Customs, following an informal review into wider use of red diesel for a range of community-based activities. 

For the last two winters, HMRC has temporarily relaxed its enforcement procedures to allow tractors to provide this important support for communities which are often too remote to benefit from municipal gritting during extreme weather.  This winter HMRC is continuing to monitor the weather situation and will once again relax the rules should there be a deterioration in conditions.

Press release & links

FSA:  The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has announced plans to prevent a return of the risky mortgage lending seen in boom times, by ensuring that common sense standards continue to apply in future. 

The Mortgage Market Review aims to prevent a recurrence of the irresponsible lending which resulted in some borrowers taking on mortgages which only seemed affordable on the assumption that house prices would always rise.  The consultation closes on 30 March 2012.

Press release & links

DWP:  New plans have been published that ‘will ensure that money saved into a pension stays in a pension’.  The Minister for Pensions, Steve Webb, has promised to protect the pension pots of people who move jobs often by abolishing Short Service Refunds for DC occupational schemes.  These refunds allow individuals to get their pension contributions back – leaving them without a pension. 

A highly mobile jobs market and the introduction of automatic enrolment will lead to around 4.7m additional small pension pots in our pensions system by 2050.  Options for consultation (closes 23 March 2012) range from small changes to encourage transfers to an automatic transfer system where pension pots could either be consolidated in one or more ‘aggregator’ schemes or move with people from job to job.

The DWP have also published a consultation on the 2012/2013 review & revision of earning thresholds for automatic enrolment (closes 26 March 2012).

Press release & links ~ Meeting future workplace pension challenges: improving transfers and dealing with small pension pots ~ Automatic enrolment thresholds: review and revision 2012 / 2013 

SGC:  New proposals about how the owners of dangerous dogs should be sentenced by the courts have been announced, with the launch of a public consultation (closes on 8 March 2012) on the first sentencing guideline that covers dangerous dog offences.

The draft guideline also aims to ensure that sentencers make best use of their powers so that irresponsible owners who put the public at risk can be banned from keeping dogs, genuinely dangerous dogs can be put down and compensation can be paid to victims.

Press release & links ~ Consultation exercise

HO:  Young people under 18 could be included in the cross-government definition of domestic violence for the first time, under a consultation launched by the Home Secretary Theresa May.  The consultation will run until 30 March 2012.

Press release & links

MoJ:  Plans to lower the £84m cost to the taxpayer, and relieve pressure on businesses, through the introduction of fees for employment tribunals have been announced by Justice Minister, Jonathan Djanogly. 

The consultation puts forward 2 sets of proposals that ‘will ensure that those who use the system make a financial contribution but which will also protect access to justice for those on low incomes or limited means’. 

The Government is planning to relieve pressure on the taxpayer by ensuring that those who use the service pay towards it.  In both options the tribunal would be given the power to order the unsuccessful party to reimburse fees paid by the successful party.  

It will also help businesses by discouraging unmerited & unnecessary claims and encouraging early settlement of claims.  The consultation will close in 6 March 2012, with a view to introduce the fees not before 2013-14.

Press release & links

DWP:  The current system of paying bereavement benefits is inconsistent & complex, with no encouragement to return to work the Minister for Welfare Reform, Lord Freud said when he published a consultation (closes on 5 March 2012) to ensure that widows & widowers are supported better in the future.

Payments made under the War Pensions Scheme or Armed Forces Compensation Scheme will not be affected by this review.  The review will not impact those already in receipt of bereavement benefits at the point at which a new scheme is introduced.

Press release & Links

IPO:  Richard Hooper has issued a call for evidence (by Friday 10 February 2012) as part of the independent feasibility study on developing a Digital Copyright Exchange (DCE) in the .  The independent study is being carried out in two parts:

* Phase one is looking at all of the issues highlighted in the Hargreaves Review surrounding copyright licensing in and for the digital age in further detail

* The second phase will examine & recommend solutions to the issues raised

Press release & links

CLG:  The sense of injustice associated with the system for social housing is finally coming to an end, Housing Minister Grant Shapps claimed last week.  Mr Shapps said the new allocations guidance he published for consultation (closes on 30 March 2012) will ‘release councils and housing associations from the shackles of the current tick-box approach for allocating social homes’.  

The new powers will support councils who are already making plans to ensure social housing is used to reward people who are working or actively seeking work.

Press release ~ Consultation

TPT:  School leaders have a unique understanding of the best ways to support the ’s hardest-to-reach young people in school.  The Schools Network and The Prince’s Trust want to help school leaders (SLs) get their voices heard.

The SN and TPT want to hear about the challenges SLs face in supporting young people who may be underachieving or at risk of exclusion – and what support you feel you need from local authorities, the voluntary sector and the Government to meet these challenges.  To get involved, fill in a quick survey which will take no more than 10 minutes.

Press release & links

ScotGov:  A consultation (closes on Friday 30 March 2012) on the development of a safety system for adventure activities in has been launched by the Minister for Commonwealth Games and Sport, Shona Robison.  The Scottish Government is considering the best way forward for in light of the UK Government's plan to replace the statutory Adventure Activities Licensing Authority (AALA) with a new voluntary code of practice.

Press release & links

On-demand webinar: How AI is helping Telford and Wrekin council answer 95% of queries