iea: Tackling water shortages and ensuring water costs are kept low for consumers requires changes in how water is regulated. A new report, Water: Supply, Prices, Scarcity and Regulation, by former water regulator, Sir Ian Byatt (who set up Ofwat) argues that the focus on environmental enhancement, rather than limiting prices, has driven up costs for the consumer and limited supply.
The publication suggests reforms are needed to encourage greater choice and more trading in Britain’s water market. It explains how a combination of quality standards and greater freedom for companies will help to ensure that Britain does not face significant water shortages in the future.
MAS: According to new Money Advice Service research, almost 3m people who recently moved home were ‘surprised’ by the cost of moving, and over 1m of the home-movers admitted they encountered ‘unexpected’ costs for which they hadn’t budgeted.
The survey was commissioned to launch the MAS new Smart Move campaign. To help home-movers prepare for the overall cost of moving day, they have created Smart Mover – free online tool to help home movers get to grips with the cost of moving day.
NE: A new report commissioned by Natural England, Ecosystem services from Environmental Stewardship that benefit agricultural production, highlights the role of Environmental Stewardship in protecting the environment & agricultural food production. The report found that ES schemes are delivering a range of vital goods & services, known as eco-systems services - which benefit the natural environment and in doing so help sustain & develop agricultural productivity.
PX: A new report – Ending Expensive Social Tenancies – by leading think tank Policy Exchange recommends selling off expensive social housing when it becomes vacant. This would generate £4.5bn annually which could be used to build 80,000-170,000 new social homes a year and reduce the housing waiting list by between 250,000 to 600,000 households in five years.
PC&PE: A report published by the International Development Committee highlights the importance of tax collection in developing countries, and recommends that the UK’s aid programme should increase its focus on supporting tax authorities.
FSA: The FSA in Scotland has published a report identifying key knowledge gaps & recommending areas for future research on enterohaemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC). The workshop helped to improve knowledge & develop strategies for tackling this group of pathogens at source – with the ultimate aim of reducing the health impact on humans.
PC&PE: In a recent report, the Public Administration Select Committee (PASC) says that while honours are greatly valued by recipients, reform of the system is required to create a system properly befitting the achievements and service of those being honoured.
The evidence is still that honours are more likely to be awarded to civil servants & celebrities than to people who volunteer in their local community. PASC calls for an increase in the proportion of people receiving honours for work in their local community, rather than to those who are awarded for their work as civil servants and in the wider public sector, to reflect the Government’s stated policy that the days of receiving an honour for simply ‘doing the day job’ are over.
PC&PE: Assisting China on low-carbon development should be at the heart of Government plans to tackle climate change and secure high-value business opportunities for UK firms, a report by MPs on the Energy and Climate Change Committee argues.
PC&PE: The Commons Public Accounts Committee has published its report - 'HM Revenue and Customs: Renewed alcohol strategy’. Richard Bacon MP, Member of the Committee of Public Accounts, said: "HMRC's drive to tackle alcohol duty evasion is being seriously hampered by a lack of information. Alcohol fraud is big business. The Department estimates that the gap between taxes due on alcohol and the amount actually collected might be as large as £1.2 billion.
The Department does not, however, have enough reliable information on the returns from tackling different types of alcohol duty evasion. It cannot say, therefore, whether a more effective targeting of its resources might not secure a better return on its investment”.
CBI: CBI Scotland is calling on the Scottish Government to put measures to aid economic growth at the centre of its upcoming Budget, which Ministers are due to publish next month. In a 7-page submission sent to Holyrood’s Finance Committee and also to the Finance Secretary, the business group urges Scottish Ministers to ‘pursue a bolder approach to reducing the costs of government in order to protect & enhance spending that galvanizes economic growth’.
Civitas: While the Coalition buckles under the strain of economic stagnation, a new Civitas report shows that supporting the electronics sector could re-energise job opportunities. Selling Circuits Short reveals that the Government is ignoring the size & significance of electronics manufacturing. Supportive policies could help in Osborne's trumpeted 'coordinated push for growth'.
iea: A new report from the Institute of Economic Affairs (The surprising ingredients of Swedish success – free markets and social cohesion), shows that an over-bearing welfare state, along with high taxes, damaged the economy in Sweden as well as undermining its social capital.
Sweden’s success is not a result of its extensive welfare state, as many argue, but of its positive cultural norms and its recent free market reforms. It suggests that it is only through focusing on increasing economic freedom and introducing more choice in public services that it has rebuilt its economy. Specifically, by reducing taxes & benefits it has increased work incentives and by introducing more choice, for example through voucher schemes, they increased productivity in areas like education, pensions, healthcare and elderly care.
NO: The London Borough of Haringey delayed unreasonably in issuing a statement of special educational needs for a boy with learning difficulties, finds Local Government Ombudsman, Dr Jane Martin.
LGA: Councillor Peter Fleming, Chairman of the LGA Improvement Board, has responded to the report by the TaxPayers' Alliance on councillor allowances.
WAO: The educational attainment of looked after children and young people is improving slowly but there is too much variation in attainment, inconsistent support and a lack of clearly defined outcomes against which progress can be assessed. These are the findings of a report published by the Auditor General for Wales recently.
However, overall educational attainment remains low. The attainment of looked after children varies across Wales and is lower on some measures than elsewhere in the UK.
PC&PE: The Commons Public Accounts Committee publishes its 11th Report of Session 2012-13, 'Improving the efficiency of central government office property,' as HC 288 last week. The Rt Hon Margaret Hodge MP, Chair of the CPA, said:
"Central government offices cost the taxpayer around £1.8 billion a year to run. Progress has been made in recent years to drive costs down, but a more ambitious approach could deliver much bigger savings: more than £800 million a year by 2020. Much will depend on the management of the estate being much more tightly controlled from the centre rather than leaving individual departments to their own devices”.
AS: Audit Scotland has found significant weaknesses in the management of 3 public sector information & communication technology (ICT) programmes costing a combined £133m so far. Managing ICT contracts: An audit of three public sector programmes, reports on the management of important ICT programmes that were delayed, cancelled or overran on costs.
The programmes were the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (£10m budget), Disclosure Scotland (£31m budget), and Registers of Scotland (project originally valued at £66m, but £112m has been spent so far).
The report says many of the problems stemmed from a lack of specialised information technology skills & experience. But there were also weaknesses in basic project management & control, and the ‘Gateway’ system that the Scottish Government uses to provide assurance on the management of projects was not always effective.
PC&PE: The Commons Public Accounts Committee has published its 8th Report of Session 2012-13, 'Managing early departures in central government'. Richard Bacon MP, Member of the CPA, said:
"Although departments have moved quickly to reduce staff numbers, few appear to be giving thought to how they are going to operate permanently with a lower number of staff. It is imperative that they do so.
Without a fundamental redesign in departments' working practices, staff numbers will probably rise as soon as restrictions on recruitment and spending have been lifted. The savings that have been achieved in staff costs will not be sustainable unless departments now complete long-term operating models for their businesses’.
What is not known is whether the reductions in staff are having an effect on departmental performance and service standards. Given the speed with which staff cuts were carried out and the scale of the cuts, there are significant risks to service delivery”.
Ippr: New statistics, released by the Office for National Statistics, show that immigration to the UK was 566,000 in 2011 and emigration of 350,000, meaning that net migration (the difference between immigration & emigration) was 216,000.
Reacting to the new figures, Sarah Mulley, Associate Director at IPPR, said:
“Migration statistics published today demonstrate again, as they do every quarter, the folly of the Government's target to reduce net migration to less than 100,000 a year. ……. The combination of recession and immigration policy changes may be starting to have an impact but more than a third of the fall is due to a rise in emigration”.
IfG: A new Institute for Government report, based on the views of those working to deliver on the Coalition’s pledge to open up public services to greater competition, says civil servants are excited about some of the opportunities that reforms bring, but they are ‘struggling to adapt’ to their new roles in delivering the programme and may need more time to develop their commissioning skills.
Commissioning for Success: how to avoid the pitfalls of open public services found ‘commercial skills in Whitehall were particularly scarce’. The findings are the result of workshops with those involved in public service reform across more than a dozen service areas – including civil servants, regulators, private & voluntary sector providers, and academic experts.
PC&PE: In a report - Access to cash machines for basic bank account holders - the Treasury Committee has urged RBS and Lloyds TSB to remove their restrictions on customers with basic bank accounts using cash machines run by other banks or independent third parties.