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In the News

Home Office: Surviving Forced Marriages - The Government's Forced Marriage Unit deals with around 5,000 inquiries and helps rescue up to 300 women, children & men who are trapped in abusive, forced marriages every year. 15% of cases involve men and 30% of cases involve minors.

A new handbook offers practical help & information to help survivors take control of their lives and a survivors' network in partnership with Karma Nirvana (a forced marriage NGO) will provide long term emotional support.

The Forced Marriages Bill, which was drafted as a Private Members Bill introduced to Parliament by Lord Lester, is being supported by the government, reached the Grand Committee stage last week. The Bill will enable the courts to order a range of measures to prevent or pre-empt forced marriages from occurring.
Press release ~ Government statement ~ Forced marriage unit ~ Survivor’s Handbook ~ Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Bill ~ Two Year Strategy ~ Scottish Executive – Forced marriages ~ Islam online ~ Guidelines for police ~ Karma Nirvana Refuge (and Survivors Network) – Tel: 01332 604098 (Mon-Fri 9.30am - 5.00pm) - Out of Hours emergency number: 07952 856869

DH: Still waiting after all these years and the best we can hope for is a ‘fudge’ - The NHS must do more to keep male & female patients separate is the message from a report by England's chief nursing officer, which highlights the actions trusts should take to improve provision of single sex accommodation.

It includes practical advice for trusts who are struggling to maintain this core standard of care, for instance:

  • the layout of hospital accommodation should be reviewed & improved to enhance segregation
  • trusts should set & publish local standards on single sex accommodation, and
  • publish local targets for improvement where necessary

To ensure this is a priority for trusts, the NHS chief executive has made the commitment to reduce mixed sex accommodation a core priority for the NHS for this coming year. Primary Care Trusts are now expected to ensure that the commitment to reduce mixed sex accommodation is implemented locally.

However the government claims that as long as men & women are sensitively cared for in separate bays or rooms, and have their own toilet facilities, then it can be appropriate for all patients with certain medical needs to be on the same ward, being cared for by the same team of doctors and nurses.
Press release ~ Privacy and dignity - A Report by the Chief Nursing Officer into Mixed Sex Accommodation in Hospitals ~ The NHS in England: operating framework for 2007-08 ~ Kings Fund - Operating Framework for the NHS ~ DH - Elimination of mixed-sex hospital accommodation (2005) ~ End In Sight For Mixed Sex Accommodation In Hospitals - Dignity And Privacy Most Important - Baroness Jay (1998)

Home Office / MoJ: Doctor delivers twins - A slimmer Home Office and a new Ministry of Justice have been launched this week implementing Home Secretary, Dr Reid's, recommendation.

New Minister of Justice, Lord Falconer stated that the key themes of the Ministry of Justice would be; ‘protecting the public, reducing re-offending and sense in sentencing’ and that improvement would be measured by:

  • fewer offenders re-offending
  • public confidence the punishment fits the crime
  • connection to the communities it serves
  • victims feeling the system looks after them
  • confidence in the way justice operates, and
  • fair & accessible electoral arrangements

Meanwhile the Home Office will be working towards the following strategic objectives:

  • helping people feel safer in their homes & local communities
  • protecting the public from terrorist attack
  • cutting crime, especially violent, drug & alcohol related crime
  • supporting visible, responsive & accountable policing
  • strengthening our borders, fast-tracking asylum decisions, ensuring & enforcing compliance with our immigration laws and boosting Britain's economy
  • safeguarding people's identity & the privileges of citizenship
  • working with its partners to build an efficient, effective and proportionate criminal justice system.

Policy areas for which the Home Office is responsible are:

  • Counter Terrorism and National Security
  • Crime reduction and crime prevention (including domestic violence, youth crime, sexual crime, crimes against children and the child sex offender review)
  • Policing Policy
  • Reducing the harms caused by anti-social behaviour, illegal drugs and alcohol
  • Respect
  • Borders and Immigration
  • Identity Management

Home office press release ~ MoJ press release ~ Ministry of Justice ~ Reforming the Home Office ~ New Home Office ~ Home Office - Security

DWP / ODI: Home care is not only better for you, it costs the taxpayer less - Savings to health care and social care budgets could be made by investing in housing adaptations and investment in independent living according to research published by the Office for Disability Issues (ODI) in two new reports commissioned as part of the ODI’s Independent Living Review to identify imaginative & practical solutions to support independent living for disabled people.

'Better outcomes, lower costs' summarises existing evidence relating to savings to health & social care budgets as a result of investment in housing adaptations and housing improvements. Its Key findings include:

  • providing adaptations & equipment can speed hospital discharge or prevent hospital admission by preventing accident & illness. Estimated savings from the Welsh Care & Repair Agencies' Rapid Response programme are between £4 million and £40 million
  • good housing adaptations can enable seriously disabled people to move out of residential care, with estimated potential savings of £10 million a year on residential care costs in England
  • home modifications can prevent or delay residential care for disabled older people. One year's delay will save £26,000 per person, less the cost of the adaptation (average £6,000)

'The costs and benefits of independent living' summarises existing evidence about investment in independent living and its key findings are:
  • there is some evidence that enabling independent living costs less to deliver. A change in delivery model would require additional resources, but over time these would be recouped in savings
  • there is evidence of significant costs for the Exchequer in not addressing barriers faced by disabled people

Press release ~ Office for Disability Issues (ODI) ~ 'Be tter outcomes, lower costs' ~ Summary version ~ 'The costs and benefits of independent living' ~ Summary version ~ Independent Living Review ~ National Care Forum ~ Welsh Care and Repair Agency ~ Supporting People Programme

DfES: If developing talent is so critical to the UK’s economic future, why isn’t it free to everyone - Schools Minister Andrew Adonis has claimed that gifted & talented secondary children will benefit from a wide range of out of school hours learning through leading universities. Run by higher education institutions, the nine 'excellence hubs' are a partnership of universities, schools and other education providers.

From this summer, they will offer up to 3,000 places on residential & non-residential events and online courses. During the next academic year there will be more than 22,000 places available during term time, weekends and holidays.

Each hub will make 10% of places available free of charge to those from the most disadvantaged backgrounds, as well as some subsidised places. The excellence hubs will work alongside a new Academy for young gifted and talented learners opening in September 2007.
Press release ~ Excellence hubs ~ CfBT Education Trust ~ Standards Site - Gifted and Talented ~ National Academy for Gifted and Talented Youth (NAGTY) ~ National Programme for Gifted and Talented Education Learner Academy Website

Work Wise: National Work from Home Day - Be part of National Work from Home Day and work from home on Friday May 18, when organisations & employees across the UK, both public & private, are being invited to take part in the national day to demonstrate the benefits of home working.

Many people can easily do their jobs from home. Even just working from home for one day a week will have a profound impact upon traffic congestion and public transport overcrowding – just look what happens during the school holidays!

Working from home also significantly improves productivity, enabling businesses to be more competitive, and enhances work-life balance for staff, with added health & leisure benefits.
Press release ~ Work Wise UK ~ Work Wise Week and National Work from Home day ~ InterForum ~ The Telework Association ~ CIPD - Teleworking ~ FAQ: What are the benefits of Telework - Telecommuting? ~ TUC - Work-Life Balance ~ Other Useful links

DH: Reforming the ‘Cinderella’ of health services - Professor Louis Appleby, the National Clinical Director for Mental Health explains why improvements in community care must continue and sets out a new phase of reform in mental health services in a new report.

Breaking down barriers - the clinical case for change, is the latest in a series of reports from National Clinical Directors & National Advisers focusing on clinical reasons for making changes to the ways that services are delivered.

He calls for the breaking down of barriers that can prevent people from rebuilding their lives and looks at how the expansion in talking therapy services, along with the move to greater community care, will help to continue a process that requires all mental health professions to re-define their role in a modern service.
Press release ~ Breaking down barriers - the clinical case for change ~ DH – Mental HealthSainsbury Centre for Mental Health ~ 'Ten Years On: Progress on Mental Health Care Reform' ~ Anxiety guidance ~ Depression Guidance ~ NICE: Computerised cognitive behaviour therapy for depression and anxiety - Review of Technology Appraisal 51 ~ Rethink ~ Useful Links

For Industry News please clickHERE

General News

FCO: Portuguese Police have extended a web based plea for information following the disappearance of Madeleine McCann.

The latest appeal has been issued by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre and the Virtual Global Taskforce (VGT) at the request of the Portuguese authorities. It appears in English, Portuguese & Spanish and urges people to come forward with any information that could help police find the missing youngster.
Press release ~ Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre ~ Virtual Global Taskforce (VGT)

MoD: The Armed Forces Minister, Adam Ingram, has announced details of an innovative new life insurance scheme exclusively for the Armed Forces.  The Scheme - Service Life Insurance (SLI) - complements the existing death-in-service arrangements already available to the Armed Forces.

In the run-up to Operation TELIC in 2003, many life insurance companies closed their schemes to new applicants, increased premiums or excluded benefits for chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear weapons. So service personnel can still find it difficult to obtain affordable and guaranteed life insurance that covers war and terrorism risks.  Some of the key features are:

  • War & terrorism cover, including Chemical, Biological, Radiological or Nuclear warfare when on duty
  • Guaranteed acceptance, even when on operations or under orders to deploy, with no medical
  • No extra premiums to 'high risk' military trades, including Special Forces and bomb disposal
  • Cover is guaranteed for up to 25 years and premium rates stay the same for the life of the policy
  • Cover is included whilst participating in hazardous sports recognised by the Armed Forces including parachuting, diving and skiing

Press release ~ Service Life Insurance (SLI) ~ Services Insurance and Investment Advisory Panel ~ AFF – Money Matters

PCS: Members of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union working for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) have overwhelmingly voted for ‘industrial action short of a strike’ in a dispute over low pay, which offers the most experienced staff a pay increase of less than 1%. The PCS claims thatthe basic coastguard grade pays barely above the minimum wage at £5.37 an hour for a 42 hour week.

Just over 81% of members taking part in the ballot voted for the action, which will see members withdrawing from non-essential 999 emergency duties,  including; issuing of fishing vessel certificates, the MCA information line, production of incident reports and processing of seafarer documents.
Press release ~ Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) ~ Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA)

Policy Statements and Initiatives

Defra: Speaking at the recent Cathedrals and Climate Change Conference at Lambeth Palace, organised by the Association of English Cathedrals, Environment Minister, Mr Pearson welcomed the commitment of churches & cathedrals to join the national effort to cut carbon emissions and start adapting to the inevitable impacts climate change will have on our historic environment.

Cathedral Deans, architects and administrators heard expert testimony to the way global warming will affect these priceless historic buildings, from the effect of heat on large expanses of lead roof and medieval stained glass to greatly increased rainfall, storms and lighting.

UNESCO recently published a report on world heritage sites & climate change, with Westminster Abbey being used as a case study in the report. It recognised that flood inundation from the Thames may be a problem.
Press release ~ Shrinking the Footprint - Church of England National Environmental Campaign ~ 'How many light bulbs does it take to change a Christian?' ~ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) ~ UNESCO report on world heritage sites & climate change (be patient - very large file) ~ UNESCO and Climate ChangeSt Paul's Cathedral's Costing the Earth series ~ Churchcare ~ We're In This Together Campaign ~ ~ Defra - Climate Change

DTI: Grants to help climate-conscious householders to install microgeneration technologies will be up for grabs again later this month, Alistair Darling has announced. The Low Carbon Buildings Programme (LCBP) has already allocated £6.8m in grants to householders and, following the addition an extra £6m in the Budget, applications for the remaining £11.9m will be open from 29 May 2007.

Since it launched in April 2006 the LCBP has directly funded 2,175 installations on homes.  This includes 242 mini-turbines, 313 Solar PV projects and 1,467 solar thermal heating systems. 

The Government is consulting (closes 27 June 2007) on removing the need for planning permission for the majority of microgeneration installations, but it must be in place for LCBP grant applicants in the meantime.
Press release ~ Low Carbon Buildings Programme (LCBP) ~ ~ Consultation Paper: Permitted Development Rights for Householder Microgeneration ~ Domestic Installation of Microgeneration Equipment: Final report from a Review of the Permitted Development Regulations ~ DCLG's environment programme ~ Code for Sustainable Homes ~ Micropower Council ~ Green Alliance ~ Energy Savings Trust ~ Planning Policy Statement 1: Delivering Sustainable Development ~ Sustainable Development Commission ~ Centre for Sustainable Energy ~ DTI Energy Review website ~ Distributed Energy: A call for Evidence ~ Gre enpeace report: Power: An Energy Revolution For The 21st Century (4.6Mb) ~ The World Alliance for Decentralized Energy (WADE)


Insolvency Service: The Insolvency Service is consulting (closes 3 August 2007) on proposals to simplify Individual Voluntary Arrangements (IVAs) for those with undisputed debts of less than £75,000 including; approval of an IVA by a simple majority vote, creditors not being able to change the debtors proposals and creditors having to file their claims within 90 days.

There are also proposals to reduce the administrative burden on Insolvency Practitioners (IPs) who supervise IVAs, ultimately reducing the administrative cost to the debtors.

IVAs were introduced just over 20 years ago under the 1986 Insolvency Act to provide a flexible debt resolution alternative to bankruptcy for professionals and company directors, supervised by Insolvency Practitioners (IP). They provided debtors with the certainty of making reasonable payments over a set period of time, while providing maximum returns to creditors.
Press release ~ Consultation document ~ Response form ~ Insolvency Practitioners ~  What is an IVA? ~ The Insolvency Service

CC: The Home Office/HM Treasury Review & Consultation on Safeguards to Protect the Charitable Sector from Terrorist Abuse was published on 10 May. Responses to the review are requested by 2 August 2007 – See ‘Charity and Voluntary Sector’ below.

Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides

CLG: A simpler, clearer and more proportionate code of conduct for local councillors in England is now in force, according to the government. The new code is intended to remove rules which have stood in the way of councillors acting as advocates for, and leaders of, their local communities, as proposed in last year's Local Government White Paper.
Press release ~ Local Authorities (Model Code of Conduct) Order 2007 ~ Explanatory Memorandum ~ Amendments to the Model Code of Conduct for Local Authority Members - CLGUnison Briefing ~ BBC News item

Annual Reports

FCO: The Foreign Office's annual Departmental Report for 2006/2007 has been published.  Its key message is that because of globalisation, the need for the FCO's distinctive contribution to the Government's objectives has never been greater.

Part one of the report provides details of the FCO's role in delivering the UK's ten Strategic International Priorities on behalf of the whole of Government.  Part two looks at how the organisation is radically transforming itself in order to meet changing priorities and provides a detailed assessment of performance against Public Service Agreement targets.
Press release ~ FCO Departmental Report 2006/07 ~ Support for British Nationals Abroad: a Guide ~ Summary version ~ Going to live abroad ~ Other Related publications (scroll down) ~ Know before you go

DfT: The Department for Transport has published national statistics on the condition of roads & footways in England and Wales in 2006. The 2006 National Road Maintenance Condition Survey (NRMCS) report presents information on the condition of roads derived from surveys of surface condition and skidding resistance.

This is the final year that the NRMCS will report in its present form.  From 2007, DfT will no longer be collecting CHART visual condition data on classified local roads and will instead be using SCANNER machine-collected data to report on the condition of these roads in England.

It has not been possible to include structural maintenance data in the 2006 report due to data processing problems. A separate paper on structural data will be released on 28 June 2007.
Press release ~ 2006 National Road Maintenance Condition Survey (NRMCS) ~ Key Results

HC: The results of the 2006 National Sentinel Audit for Stroke show that patients are spending more of their time on stroke units, but there are still unacceptable waits for brain scans and starting treatment.  Results from Wales are still falling behind those from England and are a major cause for concern.

Patients managed on stroke units have much better results than patients looked after in other settings – they are much more likely to have had their ability to swallow checked, to have started aspirin within 48 hours, been assessed by therapists within the recommended times, had rehabilitation goals documented and have a home visit performed before discharge

76% of patients with minor stroke in hospital for less than 2 days are not being managed on specialist units.  These patients have a high risk of having another stroke and should receive expert care and investigation.

Press release ~ National Sentinel Stroke Audi report ~ Royal College of Physicians ~ Inte rcollegiate Stroke Group ~ The Stroke Association ~ Caring for people after they have had a stroke ~ DH Stoke website ~ Economic burden of stroke in England ~ Quality of care for stroke and TIA in General Practice ~ NAO: Reducing Brain Damage: Faster access to better stroke care: Full Report (1.4Mb) ~ Execut ive Summary ~ Different strokes website

General Reports and Other Publications

Ofwat:  The Water Services Regulation Authority (Ofwat) has responded to the Public Accounts Committee report - 'Ofwat: Meeting the demand for water' - saying that without Ofwat's work, the average water bill would be £90 per annum higher today than it is, in the last decade leakage has gone down by a third and where companies have not delivered, Ofwat have taken action to protect consumers.
Press release ~ PAC press Notice ~ 'Ofwat: Meeting the demand for water' ~ NAO: Ofwat – Meeting the demand for water (January 2007) ~ International Comparison of Water and Sewerage Service 2007 ~ VEWA - 'Comparison of European Water and Wastewater Prices' ~ Defra - Water conservation ~ Water Strategy: Directing the Flow - priorities for future water policy ~ Consumer Council for Water ~ Water UK

DH:  An independent report looking at how current radiotherapy resources could be put to better use and how the DH should plan for a radiotherapy service that will meet the future needs of the population, has been issued by the National Radiotherapy Advisory Group.

The report acknowledges that radiotherapy services have already seen improvements, but it also found that:

  • the need for radiotherapy services was significantly underestimated by planners 15-20 years ago
  • as a result there is a significant gap in radiotherapy capacity (both in terms of equipment & staff), and
  • cancer incidence will increase further due to a more elderly population over the next 10 years

Press release ~ Radiotherapy: developing a world class service for England ~ DH - CancerNational Radiotherapy Advisory Group ~ Progress on the cancer reform strategy ~ 'Cancer Ten Years On: Improvements across the whole care pathway' ~ Kin g's Fund - Future Trends and Challenges for Cancer Services in England: A review of literature and policy ~

HC:  The Healthcare Commission has completed an independent review process of the 2006 performance ratings for NHS trusts in .  Of the 570 NHS trusts assessed by the Commission last year, 17 trusts requested a review of their rating – less than 3% of trusts and two requests were upheld:

  • University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust
  • Bassetlaw Primary Care Trust

In both of the requests upheld, the Commission agreed that although there were lapses, the trusts had met the standard overall.
Press release ~ Healthcare Commission – Requests for Review


Legislation / Legal

DH:  With less than 50 days to go until England becomes smokefree, the Government is launching a campaign to remind the public what the legislation will mean when it comes in to force on Sunday 1 July.

A TV ad, which runs on national TV for the first time on the evening of 14 May, shows an 'everyday' man walking through a variety of locations, including a cafe, pub, garage and office, which will all be required to be smokefree.  He explains that from 1 July smoking will no longer be allowed in enclosed & substantially enclosed public places and workplaces. 

A survey of 1,700 adults shows that 36% of people cite a smoke-filled atmosphere as the main turn-off for going to a bar or pub, that over 67% of people would rather spend the evening in a smokefree venue than one where smoking is allowed and 91% (including 83% of smokers) now consider lighting-up in a non-smoking place unacceptable.
Press release ~ Smokefree compliance guidance and no-smoking signs ~ Your business, your rubbish and the law ~ ~ Reducing Exposure to secondhand smoke ~ NICE Workplace Smoking Guidance

OFT:  On 9 February the OFT issued a warning to all holiday & travel suppliers to include all fixed non-optional costs in the basic advertised prices of their holidays.  The deadline for compliance expired last week and the OFT is now reviewing relevant advertising & websites to ensure that compliance is complete.  A minority of airlines have failed to comply and the OFT intends to bring enforcement proceedings against these airlines.

Separately, the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) has issued a reminder to its members that its Code of Conduct requires them to include all fixed non-optional costs, such as taxes, in the basic advertised prices of their holidays.  ABTA has said it will rigorously enforce this Code against travel companies who do not comply.
Press release ~ Warning Notice  ~ Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA)

CLG:  Local Government Minister Phil Woolas has published new legislation aimed at encouraging empty shops, offices, factory and warehouse buildings back into commercial use as part of a package to create thriving urban centres, renovate empty buildings and promote greater use of brownfield land - See ‘ Business and other Briefings’ below.

EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.

DfT:  The Government is seeking a review of the European safety performance regulations for quadricycles, following their growth in popularity as a more environmentally friendly alternative to cars.

Current safety standards, set at European level, were established at a time when it was never envisaged that this type of product would be used as a mainstream road vehicle and, when one model was subjected to the same impact test expected of normal cars, serious safety concerns were highlighted.
Press release ~ VOSA Requirements ~ News – Banning of G-Wiz

Defra:  Chickens reared for meat production across Europe (4bn per annum) will be covered by strict new regulations governing the conditions in which they are kept (from 2010), including:

  • The introduction of limits on stocking density
  • Cross-European Union (EU) training for the industry
  • A possible new welfare labelling regime
  • Cross-EU data collection and scientific monitoring of impacts on welfare (e.g. genetics)
  • Action against anyone breaking the rules
Press release ~ Defra - Welfare of meat chickens ~ Current code of recommendations for the welfare of livestock - meat chickens and breeding chickens ~ RSPCA chicken welfare campaign

Charity and Voluntary Sector

CC:  Making charities safe from terrorist involvement & exploitation is vital and requires close co-operation between the regulator, the sector and the rest of government, says the Charity Commission in its initial response to the Government's review of terrorist financing in the charitable sector.

The charity regulator has welcomed the review and will publish a full response to the consultation and set out plans to increase its capacity in this area, after further discussions with the charity sector.

The Home Office/HM Treasury Review & Consultation on Safeguards to Protect the Charitable Sector from Terrorist Abuse was published on 10 May.  Responses to the review are requested by 2 August 2007.

The CC’s strategy for identifying & minimising the risk of terrorist exploitation of charities will include four strands of work:

  • Oversight - proactively identifying issues of concern
  • Intervention - acting when necessary to safeguard charity property and beneficiaries
  • Awareness - strengthening & supporting the sector's own capacity to identify and minimise risk, supporting good governance and spreading good practice
  • Co-operation - working collaboratively with law enforcement agencies and other regulators with a role to play in countering terrorism

Press release ~ Char ity Commission – Charities & Terrorism ~ Charities Working Internationally ~ Safeguards to Protect the Charitable Sector from Terrorist Abuse  ~ Consult ation documents ~ The financial challenge to crime and terrorism

Business and Other Briefings

HMRC: Employers who haven't yet filed their 2006-07 Annual Return need to do so by 19 May and the best way to beat the deadline is online. Open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, online filing provides employers with the quickest and easiest way to file their return. 

For employers with fewer than 50 employees who file a valid return online, there is a £150 tax-free payment available. Employers with 50 or more employees must file their returns online.
Press release ~ HMRC: PAYE Online services (Internet) ~ HMRC Employers PAYE podcast

Insolvency Service: The Insolvency Service is consulting (closes 3 August 2007) on proposals to simplify Individual Voluntary Arrangements (IVAs) for those with undisputed debts of less than £75,000 – See ‘Consultations’ section above.

HM Treasury: The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, and the City Minister, Ed Balls, have met with members of the High-Level Group on Financial Services to discuss progress from their first meeting, as well as announcing new measures to enhance the global competitiveness of the City & the UK-based financial sector.

The Group welcomed progress over the last 7 months and discussed a number of substantive new proposals.
Press release ~ The City UK website ~ UK Trade & Investment ~ Corporation of London ~ Think London ~ International Financial Services London ~ Islamic Finance Qualification (IFQ) ~ Glossary of Islamic financial terms~Islamic Banking in the UK  ~ National Skills Academy for the Financial Services sector

CLG: Local Government Minister Phil Woolas has published new legislation aimed at encouraging empty shops, offices, factory and warehouse buildings back into commercial use as part of a package to create thriving urban centres, renovate empty buildings and promote greater use of brownfield land.

At present, most empty commercial property receives a 100% relief from taxation for the first three months and 50% thereafter; and empty warehouses and factories receive a permanent exemption from rates. From next April 2008, the relief will be modernised and empty commercial property will be liable for the full business rate after an initial rate-free period of three months, or six months for factories and warehouses.

In addition to the reforms to the tax incentives that affect the built environment directly, the Government has also announced that it will consult on the tax treatment of payments made by leaseholders when they pay a penalty clause to landlords for prematurely ending a lease contract.
Press release ~ The Rating (Empty Properties) Bill ~ K ate Barker's review of Land Use Planning ~ Sir Michael Lyons' report into Local Government ~ Business Premises Renovation Allowance (BPRA) ~ Land remediation relief ~ Commercial and Industrial Property Estimated Vacancy Statistics: England, 2004/05

FSA: The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has reported an increase in commitment by senior management to the principle of Treating Customers Fairly (TCF), but warned firms who have failed to engage that they face tough action.  The current level of progress on TCF was set out in a report published last week.

To ensure rapid engagement, the FSA has also announced a new deadline for all firms to have completed their work on TCF and be able to demonstrate that they are consistently treating their customers fairly by end of December 2008.

To help small firms, the FSA will expand the range of TCF online tools and begin the rollout of regional workshops.  The FSA is currently developing a framework to use when testing firms which will identify potential TCF risk areas.  Supervisors will also include in their regular work a greater amount of detailed testing at the front line.  More details will be published in July.
Press release ~ FSA - Treating Customers Fairly (TCF) ~ &lsq uo;Treating Customers Fairly Initiative: Progress Report' ~ Treating Customers Fairly – towards a fair outcome for consumers’  ~ TCF self assessment tool

FSA: The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has concluded its investigation into the sales of policies used to contract out of the State Second Pension (S2P), previously known as the State Earnings Related Pension Scheme (SERPS), and found no evidence of widespread mis-selling. 

A report about the investigation of sales of Appropriate Personal Pensions will be published at the end of May and an update will also be published to the August 2005 report by Oxford Actuaries and Consultants (OAC):  'Contracting out of SERPS/S2P to an Appropriate Personal Pension: a quantification of relative impact'.

To assist those who may have been above the pivotal age at the time they contracted out, the FSA will be publishing a step-by-step guide later this month (on the FSA Money Made Clear website) explaining where grounds for complaint may exist and, if so, what steps consumers should take next. 

The FSA is also updating its existing information which helps consumers decide whether or not to contract out of S2P, going forward, and explains what consumers should do if they believe that they were wrongly advised. 
Press release ~ Money made clear ~ 'Contracting out of SERPS/S2P to an Appropriate Personal Pension: a quantification of relative impact' (2005) ~ FSA ~ What the state providesCurrent consumer factsheet

HMRCChanges to the Cash Accounting Scheme (CAS) mean an extra 56,500 businesses can now benefit from the scheme, bringing the total number of businesses UK-wide to more than 810,000.  This means 44% of VAT-registered firms can now enjoy simpler VAT.

Businesses are eligible for the scheme depending on the size of their turnover.  Changes which come into effect this month mean the turnover threshold for eligibility for CAS has increased from £660,000 to £1.35m.

The Scheme allows businesses with turnover of less than £1.35m to defer paying their quarterly VAT until they have received payment from their customers.  Normally, firms must pay their quarterly return based on invoices issued & received - as opposed to money received and paid out.

Press release ~ Choose the right VAT scheme for your business (click on Cash Accounting Scheme)

HMRCRevenue & Customs Brief 39/07

This Brief gives details of an article: Weald Leasing Limited.

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