General News

FSAAsda is recalling its own-brand Wholefoods Garland Figs (250g) with a 'best before' date of 31 July 2010, because the product is infested with moth larvae (moth larvae are caterpillars).  The Food Standards Agency has issued a Food Alert for Information. If you have bought the affected product you can return it to the store for a full refund - No till receipt is necessary
Press release ~ Asda recalls its own-brand Wholefoods Garland Figs due to infestation with moth larvae
FSAMorrisons has recalled its green Thai-style stir fry sauce, because it contains fish that is not mentioned on the label.  The Food Standards Agency has issued an Allergy Alert advising anyone who is allergic to fish not to eat this product. No other Morrisons products are known to be affected.
Press release ~ Wm Morrison Supermarkets Plc recalls its Morrisons Green Thai Style Stir Fry Sauce ~ Allergy UK ~  Anaphylaxis Campaign ~  Morrisons ~ FSA: Food allergy and intolerance
HMRCHM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) has launched its TaxBack campaign, which aims to encourage pensioners who have overpaid tax on interest from savings to claim it back & register for savings interest to be paid gross in future, if they’re non-taxpayers. HMRC will be writing to around 3.4m Pension Credit recipients, asking them to check if they have overpaid tax on their bank or building society interest.
Claiming is easy and can be done using HMRC Form R40. In addition to claiming any overpaid tax back, non-taxpayers can also get future savings interest paid gross, without deduction of tax, by filling out a simple form (Form R85) and sending it to their bank or building society.
Press release ~ TaxBack campaign
CWGC: As part of this year's Remembrance Day, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission has been asking today's young people to take a moment and think about the sacrifice of their forebears. It has produced a number of learning aids to help teachers
As an example of what Remembrance Day means to one teenager, the Commission asked 17 year old Crawford McInally-Kier from Hutchesons' Grammar School in Glasgow to explain (in a video report) how a trip to Flanders transformed the way he views honouring the fallen.  More information is available at the Commission's recently-launched Learning Zone.
Press release ~ Commonwealth War Graves Commission
ScotGov: The first trial of new selective gears is underway in the North Sea, as Scotland's 'land more, catch less' approach gathers momentum. The Fraserburgh-registered Caspian, a whitefish boat, is 1 of 5 vessels taking part.  Both whitefish & prawn gears will be used in the trials.
Recently the Caspian started using equipment which prevents unwanted cod from being discarded, whilst at the same time allowing groundfish such as monkfish and megrim to be caught. Trials scheduled for the New Year will use different equipment to release cod, whilst allowing other whitefish such as haddock & whiting to be retained. The £250,000 trial uses industry observers to monitor the trials and collect the data.
Press release ~ Scottish Fishermen's Federation ~ Scottish White Fish Producers Association ~ ScotGov: Sea fisheries
ScotGov: The Scottish Government has allocated £30,000 to supply free hand-held metal detectors for all first-time recipients of Best Bar None Awards. The metal detectors (& the training to use them effectively) will help keep customers safe & combat knife crime. The awards recognise the importance of promoting public safety and the highest standards of care at licensed premises right across Scotland.
Press release ~ ScotGov: Tackling knife  ~ Best Bar None Awards - Scotland
WAG: A major new press & radio campaign is being launched in Wales to encourage people in the priority groups to get their swine flu vaccination when invited.  Pregnant women, people with chronic conditions and those in contact with people with weakened immune systems are being vaccinated first, because they are most at risk from swine flu and its complications.
The aim of the campaign is to tell everyone the vaccination programme is now underway and that GP practices in Wales, as in the rest of the UK, will be inviting those in the priority groups to be vaccinated.
Press release ~ Swine flu
PCS: Responding to a recent story in the Observer newspaper, the PCS Union has said plans to axe £350m from the skills budget would further undermine frontline services that have already been ‘cut to the bone’. Most of the proposed reduction would fall on places for adult learners, apprenticeships, employer training, and pay & job cuts at further education colleges, according to a document drawn up for business secretary Lord Mandelson and skills minister Kevin Brennan.
The union represents workers in the Learning and Skills Council, the body responsible for distributing the funding, and its parents department – Business, Innovation and Skills. The claim that cuts and ‘so called efficiency savings' can be done while protecting frontline services ‘rings hollow’ according to PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka. 
The union continues to call for job cuts and office closures in HM Revenue and Customs to be reversed to allow the department to collect the estimated £100bn a year lost through tax avoidance & evasion.
Press release ~ Learning and Skills Council
SESport England’s Parliamentary Fellowship scheme was set up in 2005 with cross party support.  It aims to build a better understanding of sport within Parliament and a stronger partnership between the worlds of sport & politics. 
Parliamentarians are matched to a sport and are invited to spend 7 days with the governing body to gain an insider’s view on the work they do.  In return, employees from the governing body spend 3 days shadowing the parliamentarian to gain a better understanding of how Parliament works and identify opportunities to work with MPs & peers.
Press release ~ Parliamentary Fellowship Scheme newsletter ~ Sport England
SE: 16 young athletes have been tipped to make their mark at the 2016 Olympic & Paralympic Games by SportsAid and Sport England. The ‘16 for 2016’ are all supported by SportsAid, a charity which gives financial assistance to talented youngsters aged 12 to 18, to help them meet the costs of pursuing their sporting dreams.
In the last 12 months, SportsAid has distributed awards worth more than £1.3m to some 1,979 young sports stars who are starting their journey in performance sport, but who are not yet eligible for the Lottery funding awarded to elite athletes. Awards are made to youngsters aged 12 - 18 from across 50 able-bodied & 25 disability sports.  These athletes compete in national squads and the awards, generally worth £500, help with costs, such as travel, training, accommodation, competition fees and equipment.
Press release ~ SportsAid: 16 for 2016 ~ Sport England
EH: On the expert advice of English Heritage, 17 war memorials were listed by Ben Bradshaw MP, Secretary of State for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to coincide with Armistice Day (Wednesday, 11 November, 2009).  
English Heritage is also publishing guidance on how to protect War Memorials from theft and is recruiting a heritage crime officer to advise on counteracting architectural theft generally. The guide – War memorial Theft: Prevention and Solutions - will be available on English Heritage’s website later this month.
Press release ~ War Memorials Trust - Protecting war memorials ~ English Heritage ~ UK National Inventory of War Memorials
HEFCE: The HEFCS have issued a statement to update higher education institutions & further education colleges on our progress in assessing proposals & allocating the 2,000 additional student numbers (ASNs) for 2010-11 that they have available through competition.

They have received 112 proposals from institutions bidding for around 7,500 ASNs.  As they only have 2,000 ASNs to allocate, most of these bids will be unsuccessful.  They are now assessing proposals through the established processes of the Strategic Development Fund and will make decisions by the end of 2009 and notify institutions as soon as possible thereafter.
Press release ~ HEFCE

SESport England has announced a £10m National Lottery funding round to encourage ‘Active Women’ – in a drive to get more women from disadvantaged communities, and women caring for children, playing sport. The announcement is being supported by Sports Minister Gerry Sutcliffe, the Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation (WSFF) and Olympic gold medallist Denise Lewis.
At present, 1 in 8 women regularly play sport in England.  Whilst this has increased significantly since 2005/2006, women's participation still trails behind that of their male counterparts, with 1 in 5 men active and the gender gap increasing.  Sport England figures also show that women from disadvantaged communities play even less sport, with just 1 in 10 taking part regularly.
Details of the Active Women fund, including the prospectus, how to apply & frequently asked questions, are available on Sport England’s funding website.  The closing date for applications is 3 February 2010.
Press release ~ Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation (WSFF) ~ ‘Disadvantaged communities’ ~ Barriers to sports participation for women and girls
NE: A new phase of the international rescue mission for the short-haired bumblebee (Bombus subterraneus) gets underway this week, as project officer Nikki Gammans departs for New Zealand to retrieve queen bees for re-introduction to England next year.
To mark the occasion, a newly revised version of the popular Field Guide to Bumblebees by Martin Jenner & Mike Edwards, sponsored by Natural England, has been launched.  The guide features new pages on the short-haired bumblebee in anticipation of its arrival home to the South East of England.
The decision to revise & reprint the guide responds to public demand.  The last remaining copies of the previous edition were selling for around £100 online, ten times that of the normal retail amount. Dr Gammans will be selling the Field Guide to Bumblebees at speaking events around the country next year, all proceeds of which will go back into the re-introduction of the Short-haired bumblebee project.
Press release ~ Natural England – Help Save the Bumblebee ~ Bumblebee Conservation Trust (BBCT) ~ Dungeness ~ RSPB
PCS: The PCS union has accused Justice Secretary, Jack Straw MP, of a startling lack of foresight in reaction to proposals to slash 318 legal staff in courts by HM Courts Service, just days after he announced a review of the police's use of cautions & fixed penalty notices to dispose of tens of thousands criminal offences, including rapes & violent assaults
The review comes at the same time as the union were informed by Her Majesty’s Courts Service (HMCS) of plans to reduce front-line staff, including legal advisers who provide in-court advice to lay justices, by as much as 27% next year.
The reduction in staffing arises from a drop off in court workload, much of which is directly attributable to the increase in the use of conditional cautions & fixed penalties for offences which used to be brought to court. The union fears that the cuts could either restrict or undermine any recommendations made by the Office for Criminal Reform.
Press release ~ Office for Criminal Reform ~ PCS
FDA: Criticisms of 'bonus' payments made to Ministry of Defence civilian staff are very unfair & misleading, the FDA said last week.  FDA general secretary Jonathan Baume said: "…. Many of these payments are made to people serving alongside the military - in Iraq and Afghanistan.  They include a very wide range of technical and professional staff.
The payments themselves are not bonuses in the way that most people would understand them.  They are non-pensionable, are not carried forward to the next year and are taken out of the overall pay pot set by Ministers.  This means that, over recent years, pay levels for civil servants in the Ministry of Defence have been depressed”.
Press release ~ FDA
NENatural England has celebrated the Secretary of State's confirmation of National Park status for the South Downs.  The iconic landscape of the South Downs will be Britain's fourth largest National Park by area, at just over 1,600sq km.
The South Downs, home to an estimated 120,000 people - the largest population of any National Park - joins a formidable family of 9 English National Parks, alongside remarkable landscapes like the Lake District and the Peak District.  It will stretch from Beachy Head to the edge of Winchester and will also include the Western Weald.  A new South Downs National Park Authority is expected to be established by April 2010 and will become fully operational a year later.
Press release ~ Natural England ~ South Downs Online ~ Defra: South Downs National Park ~ South Downs National Park Inquiry ~ South Downs Campaign
DFID: One Platform2 volunteer’s time on his 10-week trip to South Africa has given him the chance to start his own business. Platform2 is a fully funded global volunteering experience for 18-25 year olds who would not normally be able to afford this kind of opportunity.  The scheme is funded by UKaid from the Department for International Development and run by Christian Aid and BUNAC.
250 places have now been opened for departures leaving in March 2010.  Volunteers who are accepted on the programme work for 10 weeks on projects in Ghana, India, Nepal, Kenya, South Africa & Peru in community projects, building schools, toilets, community centres or teaching English.  On their return they raise awareness of global issues in their local community.  Over 700 people have been on the programme so far.
You can apply online or download the application from or call to chat (0800 988 6828).  Completed applications for March 2010 trips need to be received by 30 November 2009.
Press release ~ Platform2 ~ UKaid ~ Christian Aid ~ BUNAC
HO: A national 6-month campaign aimed at helping older people & students protect themselves from distraction burglars has been launched. These groups can be vulnerable to distraction burglary, where criminals trick their way into a victim's home often by posing as utility company workers.  Approximately 9,000 distraction burglaries take place each year. Free 'Secure Your Home' packs are also available and face-to-face advice will be provided through road shows in England & Wales.
Press release ~ Safer Homes fund ~  Securing Homes initiative ~ HO – Secure your home ~ HO - Burglary ~ Victim Support ~ Neighbourhood and Home Watch Network (England and Wales) ~ Tackling Burglary mini-site
MoD: The Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, the Red Arrows, has unveiled its historic 2010 line-up at Royal Air Force Scampton, its home base near Lincoln.  The 2010 team includes the first-ever female pilot, Flight Lieutenant Kirsty Moore (Red 3), as well as new Officer Commanding & Team Leader, Squadron Leader Ben Murphy (Red 1) and fellow newcomer Flight Lieutenant Ben Plank (Red 2).
Press release ~ Red Arrows
Our recent Community Testing success for Local Authorities