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WGPlus provides an in-depth weekly briefing from the UK Government and Public Sector. To save your time, we research & validate the links to websites, documents and further background information. Click here for more about WGPlus

In the News

NAO: Public Services still being subsidised one year after deadline - Third Sector full cost recovery remains an important principle for financial relationships between government and the third sector, but government departments have found difficulties in translating the principle into practice, according to a review published by the National Audit Office.

The review examines the progress made by central government departments in ensuring that, by April 2006, third sector organisations were being fully paid for the services they delivered on behalf of the public funder.

The NAO found that a significant proportion of third sector organisations do not consider they are receiving full cost recovery (even though the target date has passed) and that few departments had made significant practical changes to funding practice in response to the target.

The review concludes that full cost recovery is not a concept that public funders can implement or roll out in a mechanistic way and the term has the potential to mislead participants into thinking that all costs will be recovered in all situations, risking an expectation gap persisting between funder and funded. The concept also fails to reflect some third sector organisations’ preparedness to share the costs and risks in ‘joint ventures’ with public bodies.

The NAO recommends that the Office of the Third Sector and HM Treasury develop more sophisticated statements on full cost recovery that reflect funders’ responsibilities for fair treatment and risk management.

The review also provides a framework for government departments to use in reviewing their major programmes and funding streams, and recommends they develop more explicit judgements on the application of full cost recovery to each, to arrive at agreed and mutual expectations on the issue with third sector organisations.
Press release ~ The implementation of full cost recovery ~ Office of the Third Sector ~ National Councils for Voluntary Action (NAVCA) ~ National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NVCO) ~ Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Associations (ACEVO)Full Cost Recovery ~ Mind the Gap: A funders’ guide to full cost recovery ~ HM Treasury's 2002 Cross Cutting Review ~ Change Up ~ Capacity Builders~ Charities and Public Service Delivery (CC37) ~ Regulating for the future ~ Policy statement ‘Charities and public service delivery' ~ Third sector market mapping report ~ Third Sector Commissioning Task Force: No excuses: embrace partnership now: step towards change ~ NAO: Working with the Third Sector ~ Financial relationships with third sector organisations - NAO ~ Third Sector Network ~ The role and resourcing of the Third Sector – A view from the Treasury ~ Care Services Efficiency Delivery (CSED) ~ DH – Working with Stakeholders ~ CEMVO : Council of Ethnic Minorities Voluntary Sector Organisations

HC: Are hospitals as clean as the law requires? - The Healthcare Commission intends to carry out unannounced inspections at 120 NHS trusts over the coming year in its biggest ever programme of visits relating to healthcare-associated infection. It will check compliance with the Government’s Hygiene Code, which outlines 11 compulsory duties to prevent and manage healthcare-associated infections such as MRSA and Clostridium difficile.

Assessment managers will look at the cleanliness of the hospital’s environment as well as practices & procedures that are in place to prevent and manage infection. For example, assessment managers will be looking at procedures for isolating patients, hand-washing and for the cleaning of equipment.

Where the Commission identifies breaches of the Code, it will require trusts to outline an action plan to rectify problems within a specified time. Trusts must assure the Commission that the breach has been rectified or that systems are in place to reduce the risk of it happening again.

Failure to provide this assurance will result in the Commission publicly issuing an "improvement notice", which requires trusts to make immediate improvements. If a trust does not adequately respond to an improvement notice, the Commission can ask the Secretary of State to impose special measures and oversee a programme of improvements in the trust

To reinforce the importance of the Hygiene Code, the Commission will for the first time make compliance an automatic part of all inspections carried out as part of the 2006/7 annual assessment of NHS trusts.
Press release ~ The Health Act (2006): Hygiene Code of Practice ~ Reducing health care associated infections (HCAIs): Regulatory Impact Assessment ~ Healthcare CommissionHealth Protection Agency figures ~ DH – Clean Hospitals ~ Healthcare associated infection ~ RCN: Good practice in infection prevention and control Guidance for nursing staff ~ Investigation into outbreaks of Clostridium difficile at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, Buckinghamshire Hospitals NHS Trust ~ Cleanyourhands

NAO: Could do better by following guidance of lessons learnt - A new report from the National Audit Office examines early examples of the public sector using contractual processes evaluate the ongoing services component of PFI projects.

It found that value for money had been achieved through the value testing process in about half of the cases. In other cases including some where the private sector negotiated price increases during these processes, the information available suggested it was uncertain whether value for money was likely to have been achieved through the value testing process.

The report details lessons that have been learned in these early examples where services such as catering & cleaning were value-tested and states that there is now new detailed Treasury guidance which public officials can call on when using these processes.

The report sets out a legal opinion that, in a sample of early contracts, clauses dealing with market testing and benchmarking were often not well drafted which limited their expected effectiveness, although the parties may still be able to conduct effective value-testing procedures.
Press release ~ Benchmarking and market testing the ongoing services component of PFI projects ~ Executive Summary version ~ NAO PFI & PPP/Privatisation Recommendations website ~ Update on PFI debt refinancing and the PFI equity market (1Mb) ~ HM Treasury PFI website ~ 4Ps ~ 4Ps – Competitive dialogue publications ~ Glossary of Terms ~ Procurement Options ~ BSF guidance note - How to Conduct a Competitive Dialogue Procedure ~ OGC guidance on Competitive Dialogue

Home office: Having tried ‘tougher’, the government is now trying ‘simpler’ - Home Office Minister Liam Byrne has launched proposals to simplify complex immigration and citizenship laws, with a consultation (closes 29 August 2007) - Simplifying immigration and citizenship law – which aims to draw together views on how to radically simplify the Border and Immigration Agency's (BIA) legal framework.

The government believes that simplifying the legal framework, including primary legislation and rules & guidance, will create a user friendly & clearer decision making process and will hopefully:

  • help increase the number of removals of those who have no legal right to stay here
  • decrease the likelihood of legal challenges following refusals of asylum claims, and also
  • provide a new clear decision making system that potential asylum applicants can use to assess the strength of their case before submitting it, helping BIA to work more efficiently

Press release ~ Consultation document: Simplifying immigration and citizenship law ~ 'Fair, effective, transparent and trusted. Rebuilding confidence in our immigration system' ~ Enforcing the rules: A strategy to ensure and enforce compliance with our immigration laws - Home Office March 2007 ~ Border & Immigration Agency ~ Law & Policy ~ Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006 ~ Border and Visa Strategy ~ On-line employer guide to employing migrant workers ~ Identity and Passport Service (IPS) ~ UK Borders Bill ~ A Points-Based System: Making Migration Work for Britain ~ Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship ~ e-Borders pilot, Project Semaphore ~ Life in the UK test ~ Life in the United Kingdom: A Journey to Citizenship ~ Advisory Board on Naturalisation and Integration (ABNI)

: The future direction of online services - Reporting crime and bad drivers, having job interviews, calculating carbon emissions and truancy alerts for parents are just some of the services that Britons ‘long’ to have access to online, according to recent research.

The national study commissioned by public services supersite ‘ questioned parents, teenagers, over 50s, motorists and disabled people. When asked what one online service they want from the internet in future the top answers were:

  • 'No show' truancy alert if child doesn't arrive at school – Parents
  • Taking a virtual tour of colleges or universities -
  • Guide to local services for older people - over 50s
  • Renew car tax online – Motorists
  • Personalised journey planners mapped by accessibility - Disabled people

When asked ‘What are the most useful services that are currently offered online?’ responses differed:

  • Access to local health services & getting information about schools - UK parents
  • Communicating with friends such as social networking sites & instant messaging - 14-18 year olds
  • Staying in touch with friends & family, as well as using it to book travel or research hobbies - over 50s
  • Finding Blue Badge parking spaces before leaving the house & route planning - Disabled people

Press release ~ ~ UK online centres – Help is at hand ~ Varney Report - Service transformation ~ UK online centres: Supporting delivery of e-government services - Research summary ~ NAO: DfES - Extending access to learning through technology - Ufi and the learndirect service ~ Enabling a digitally United Kingdom ~ The Digital Divide in 2025 ~ Inclusion Through innovation: Tackling Social Exclusion Through New Technologies ~ Citizens Online ~ Alliance for Digital Inclusion ~ Digital Divide network ~ e-Government unit ~ Local e-Gov ~ e-Government strategic support unit ~ Connecting the UK: Digital Strategy

Home Office: Is it safe to drink socially? - 'Safe, Sensible, Social - next steps for the National Alcohol Strategy', unveiled recently by Home Office Minister Vernon Coaker and Public Health Minister Caroline Flint, is meant to build on the foundations laid & the lessons learnt since 2004, when the country's first Alcohol Harm Reduction Strategy was launched.

The new strategy is meant to ensure that the laws & licensing powers introduced to tackle alcohol-fuelled crime & disorder, protect young people and tackle irresponsibly managed premises are being used widely & effectively. In addition the government hopes that it will sharpen the focus on the minority of drinkers who cause or experience the most harm to themselves, their communities and their families.

Key actions in the strategy include;
  • Sharpened criminal justice for drunken behaviour
  • A review of NHS alcohol spending
  • More help for people who want to drink less
  • Toughened enforcement of underage sales
  • Trusted guidance for parents & young people
  • Public Information campaigns to promote a new 'sensible drinking' culture
  • Public consultation on alcohol pricing and promotion
  • Compulsory local alcohol strategies

Press release ~ 'Safe, Sensible, Social - next steps for the National Alcohol Strategy' ~ DH: Alcohol Misuse ~ Turning Point ~ Alcohol Harm Reduction Strategy ~ Respect ~ Patient UK: Alcohol abuse help services ~ NHS – Alcohol Abuse ~ Drinkaware TrustMemorandum of Understanding between the Government and alcohol industry ~ National Organisation on Foetal Alcohol Syndrome ~ FAS Aware UK ~

CLG: Real consultation or an imposition of yet more central control? - Plans to ensure that local government re-structuring will ‘cut council tax and deliver the maximum service improvements for local communities under sound fiscal rules’ have been published by Local Government Minister Phil Woolas. The consultation on prioritisation will run until 18 July 2007.

Sixteen proposals in thirteen areas across England are currently out to consultation after initial assessment against the Government's criteria, which require that they are ‘affordable and will provide stronger leadership, improve public services, empower local communities and have a broad cross section of support’.

No decisions have been made about which of these proposals may be implemented. However, if more are assessed as meeting the criteria than are affordable under rules on the use of reserves to finance transitional costs, then the Government proposes to prioritise those proposals.

Following the stakeholder consultation on the proposals which ends of 22 June, the Government intends to make decisions on which proposals will proceed to implementation.
Press release ~ Proposals for future unitary structures: means of prioritising proposals ~ Proposals for future unitary structures: Stakeholder consultation ~ CLG – Local Government

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For information on forthcoming public sector events please click HERE to visit the WGPlus Events Calendar

General News

WYP: Over recent weeks Neighbourhood Police teams (NPTs), from West Yorkshire Police have carried out 26 test purchase operations and issued nine on the spot £80 fixed penalty notices to those off licences that were willing to sell alcohol to the underage.

During these operations they became aware of a growing number of young people using fake ID - that had been bought via internet sites - and are now taking measures to tackle the issue.  Inspector Paul Hepworth of Bradford North NPT said: “We will be issuing off licenses with packs that clearly explain which sorts of ID are legitimate and should be accepted and which types of ID are fake and should be refused”.
The packs will also contain forms for people to apply for a CitizenCard, which are available to anyone of any age for the purposes of proving age or identity.
Press release
~ West Yorkshire Police - Neighbourhood Policing ~ CitizenCard Proof of Age

HSE: The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is promoting ladder safety messages through a 'ladder exchange' which aims to remove 4,000 'dodgy' ladders from workplaces in Great Britain.  Every month nearly 100 people fall off a ladder at work and suffer serious injuries costing the economy £60 million each year..

Over the next 12 weeks, small businesses will get the chance to get their ladders checked and, where necessary, trade them in for new ones at a discounted price.  HSE is working in close association with Local Authorities, ladder manufacturers and retailers to address the safety issues around access equipment with employers and ladder users.
Press release ~ Ladder exchange ~ HSE – Falls from height ~ The Work at Height Regulations 2005 (as amended) - A brief guide ~ Safe use of ladder and stepladders - an employers guide  ~ Top tips for ladder safety

MoJ: Plans to allow the reuse of burial grounds have been given the go-ahead to provide space for burials in the coming years. The plans have been announced at the same time as survey shows that there is approximately an average of 30 years left before space runs out in burial grounds in England and Wales.

In some urban areas, the time is less.  In London the average is 12 years of useable space left. Each year approximately 500,000 people die and, while most of them are cremated, around 150,000 people are buried.

The plans open the door to local authorities reusing graves, but only where they are over 100 years old and the permission of the family has been sought.
Press release ~ 'Burial law and policy in the 21st century: the way forward' ~ Burial grounds: the results of a survey of burial grounds in England and Wales ~ MoJ Burials

TfL: Lorry, bus and coach operators are being urged to act before the London Low Emission Zone commences next year. The Zone aims to reduce traffic pollution and improve the health & quality of life of Londoners by encouraging operators of large diesel vehicles to clean up their fleets.

From 4 February 2007diesel-engined lorries over 12 tonnes will be required to meet specified emissions standards and those vehicles that fail to meet this standard face a daily charge. In force 24/7/365, the zone will cover most of Greater London

UK and European owners & operators need to check which vehicles will be affected & when. In order to ensure their vehicles meet the specific emissions standards, UK-registered owners can use the vehicle compliance checker and, if they find their vehicles to be non-compliant, take the necessary action
Press release ~ London Low Emission Zone ~ Vehicle compliance checker ~ Transport for London: Emissions Standards ~ Mayor's Transport Strategy ~ Air Quality Strategy ~ LEZ information

Scottish ExecutiveAudit Scotland has been invited by the Government to review the procedures used to forecast costs for the proposed Edinburgh tram and airport rail link projects. Audit Scotland will report by 20 June and Ministers will consider the report & set out their position to Parliament before the summer recess.
Press release ~ Audit Scotland ~ Project Brief ~ Scottish Executive - Transport ~ Transform Scotland

Sport EnglandLondon 2012 will kick off its annual summer Roadshow on 15th June in Greenwich, London.  
A special branded Roadshow bus will visit Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and each of the nine regions within England, ending its journey in Stoke Mandeville on
29 August, marking five years to go to the London 2012 Paralympic Games.

The Roadshow’s theme is ‘Join In’, encouraging sports participation, particularly amongst young people and coaching. At each of its 27 stops in a ten-week tour of the UK, the Roadshow will offer taster sessions in a range of traditional & exciting new sports for visitors to try.  Professional sports advisors will also be on hand to encourage visitors to find out more about sporting clubs and facilities in each location.

The Roadshow will also contain a National Lottery ‘Dream Statistics’ zone, to enable visitors to see how their statistics – including height, weight, and muscle power– might make them suited to different sports.

Press release ~ London 2012 ~ London 2012 Brand website  ~ London 2012: Work in Progress blog ~ 2006 Roadshow

CRC: Together with NALC, the Commission for rural Communities are once again offering Parish & Town Councils the opportunity to share the good work they are doing to support their rural communities and win up to £1,000! The closing date is 15 June 2007 for this year's awards.

The council doesn't have to be running a project itself, nor does the work have to be groundbreaking to be best practice, as long as it works in your community & the actions of the council have helped the project to succeed.
Press release ~ Commission for Rural Communities ~ National Association of Local Councils

MoD: The military has partnered with key players from across the defence, IT and communication industries of fifteen different countries to hold the largest, international virtual war game. The Coalition Warrior Interoperability Demonstration (CWID) virtually tests ground breaking future military technology.

CWID is being run between the 4th and the 22nd June 2007 at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) site at Portsdown West, Fareham.
Press release ~ CWID website ~ Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) ~ Dstl’s Battle Laboratory ~ Network Enabled Capability (NEC) ~ Combined Federated Battle Laboratory network

Policy Statements and Initiatives

DfES: Youth Minister Parmjit Dhanda has taken to the streets to find out what young people really think, in a national tour with his movements shadowed by a group of young film makers.

He is making 7 stops on his trip, visiting a wide range of projects & youth groups, canvassing their opinions on topics such as society, Government and the state of modern Britain. He intends to talk to as many young people as time allows - including those from the poorest and most challenging backgrounds.

His findings are to be reported back to key policy formers and opinion makers in a key note speech at The Youth Summit on 25 June. They will also be used to inform future thinking around youth policy in the Department for Education and Skills, building on the Youth Matters strategy of 2005.
Press release ~ The Youth Summit ~ Youth Matters – Next Steps ~ The National Youth Agency  ~ First Light Movies ~ Need2Know website ~ Channel 4 Education ~ MV project ~ Xtrax ~ Knowle West Media Centre  ~ Patchway Youth Centre - South Gloucestershire Council ~ Bolton Lads and Girls Club ~ Youth Opportunity Fund and Youth Capital Fund

DfES: Secretary of State for Education and Skills, Alan Johnson, has announced that 484 schools across England have been chosen to run a major two-year pilot, from September 2007, which will trial ‘new ways to assess, report and stimulate progress in schools, so that no child falls behind or gets stuck at any stage’.

As part of the pilots, thousands of children who are making slow progress will receive a short burst of 10 hours of extra one-to-one tuition - in English and/or Maths - on top of their normal school hours, to help them get back on track.  21,500 pupils will receive tuition in English and 21,500 in maths (some will receive both). Pilot schools will have specific targets to help more children to move up two National Curriculum levels.  

The Department also published a report, 'Making Great Progress', which is based on the experiences of twenty schools where children make ‘excellent progress’ between the ages of seven and eleven years old.

The report claims that regular tracking of children's progress is one of the most effective things that successful primary schools do to help their pupils achieve the best they can.  It shows that strong, enthusiastic leaders create a culture where learning is valued and 'boffins' are not bullied.
Press release ~ 'Making Great Progress' ~ Keeping up - pupils who fall behind in Key Stage 2 ~ M aking Good Progress: How can we help every pupil to make good progress at school? ~ Disengagement from secondary education: a story retold


DfT: Hauliers who flout the ‘rules of the road’ face being fined and having their vehicles immobilised under new road safety measures unveiled for consultation (closes 30 August 2007) by Roads Minister Dr Stephen Ladyman.


The measures will give the Police and inspectors from the Vehicle Operator and Services Agency (VOSA) the power to collect on-the-spot penalties from anyone without a valid British address.  VOSA inspectors will also get the power to issue fixed penalty notices, providing a powerful new tool with which to tackle offenders.

The on-the-spot fines would be taken in the form of "deposits", equivalent to the value of the fine likely to be imposed.  Offenders will then be given the chance to contest the charge in Court.
Press release ~ Consultatio n on the detail of the Graduated Fixed Penalty and Deposit Schemes ~ Vehicle Operator and Services Agency (VOSA)

Home officeHome Office Minister Liam Byrne has launched proposals to simplify complex immigration & citizenship laws, with a consultation (closes 29 August 2007) - Simplifying immigration and citizenship law – which aims to draw together views on how to radically simplify the Border and Immigration Agency's (BIA) legal framework – See ‘In the News’ above

CLG: Plans to ensure that local government re-structuring will cut council tax and deliver the maximum service improvements for local communities under sound fiscal rules have been published by Local Government Minister Phil Woolas.  The consultation on prioritisation will run until 18 July.  – See ‘In the News’ above

Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides

Home Office: Guidelines to assist health professionals who suspect cases of forced marriage have been launched by the Government. Aimed at frontline practitioners such as GPs, school nurses, midwives and A&E staff, the guidelines provide practical advice on how to recognise the warning signs and what to do if a patient discloses that they have been, or are about to be, ‘forced to marry’.

Evidence suggests many victims assume that health professionals cannot help them and they may not feel confident in expressing their concerns. Feedback from health professionals is they would like to do more but aren't always sure how. 
Consultations with health professionals may be one of the few occasions when the victim is unsupervised by a family member and by being aware of the warning signs and making routine enquiries, they may encourage victims to speak out.

The guidelines, 'Dealing with cases of forced marriage', are part of a series that the Forced Marriage Unit has produced for teachers, police officers and social workers.
Press release ~ Forced Marriage Unit ~ Dealing with cases of forced marriage - PracticeGuidance for HealthProfessionals ~ Other guidance for professionals (scroll down) ~ Forced Marriage consultation: A Wrong, not a Right ~ Information for victims ~ NHS: Forced Marriage Awareness ~ Further help contact suggestions ~ Islam online ~ Other material on Forced Marriage ~ Scottish Executive – Forced marriages~ Survivor’s Handbook ~ Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Bill ~ Government statement ~ Two Year Strategy ~ Karma Nirvana Refuge (and Survivors Network) – Tel: 01332 604098 (Mon-Fri 9.30am - 5.00pm) - Out of Hours emergency number: 07952 856869

Annual Reports

CLG: Council houses are among the most energy efficient homes in the country, according to a major Government report into house conditions, which claims that social sector housing is much more energy efficient and is being improved at a faster rate than privately-owned housing.

The English House Condition Survey (EHCS) 2005 Annual report finds that social sector housing, for so long associated with draughty post-war tower blocks and cold council flats, is more likely to have effective insulation than privately-owned housing:

  • 77% of social sector housing has cavity walls, compared to 67% of private homes
  • 27% of private homes have adequate loft insulation, while 44% of social sector houses boast 150mm of insulation or more

Press release ~ English House Condition Survey (EHCS) 2005 ~ CLG: Making Homes Decent ~
Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) ~ CLG: Energy Efficiency and Fuel Poverty ~ Energy saving grants and offers - Energy Saving Trust ~ Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) ~ Review of the Sustainability of Existing Buildings: the Energy Efficiency of Dwellings - Initial Analysis ~ Warm Front 

Monitor: The expanding NHS foundation trust sector performed above expectations last year and is in excellent financial health according to figures published by Monitor, the Independent Regulator of NHS Foundation Trusts.

The improved financial performance was driven by greater efficiency.  The sector continued the trend of improving its operating margin (on an EBITDA basis) , achieving  a margin of 6.7% in 2006-07 , significantly higher than the margin of 5.6%  recorded in 2005-06, and the 2004-05 margin of 5.3%.

During the year NHS foundation trusts achieved efficiency improvements of 3% of operating costs, equivalent to in excess of £270million.  This compares with 2.5% efficiencies assumed within the 2006/07 tariff.
Press release ~ 2006-07 year-end financial data

CLG: Communities and Local Government has published the Fire and Rescue Service (FRS) Operational Statistics bulletin, which covers operational statistics for the period 1 April 2005 to 31 March 2006. The key points of which cover; Equality and Diversity, Health & Safety and Operational Activities.
Press release ~ Fire and Rescue Service Operational Statistics for England, 2005/06 bulletin ~ CLG - Fire and resilience ~ Fire Gateway ~ Fire service UK ~ FireControl project

General Reports and Other Publications

Defra: Nitrofuran metabolites have been found in three samples of imported warm water prawns, a report published by the Veterinary Residues Committee (VRC) has revealed. The contaminated samples originated from India and Thailand.

Advice from the VRC is that the risk from infrequent exposure to very low levels of nitrofurans in food is likely to be low and the exposure indicated by the survey findings is not considered of concern for consumer safety. All remaining stock from the contaminated consignments was removed from the food chain as a precautionary measure.

This survey is the third brand naming study commissioned by the VRC and carried out by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD).  The report details the commodity sampled, where the samples were collected and the results of the analyses.
Press release ~ Veterinary Residues Committee (VRC) ~ Nitrofurans and 2 previous Brand Naming reports ~ UK Border Inspection Posts (BIPs) ~ Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) ~ Food Standards Agency

DWP: Minister for Pension Reform James Purnell has welcomed the findings of an independent report examining the organisations involved in the regulation & protection of workplace pensions, which makes 3 key recommendations:

  • A package of measures to underpin the close co-operation that already exists between the Pension Protection Fund and The Pensions Regulator
  • Implementing proposals to bolster co-operation and co-ordination between Financial Services Authority and The Pensions Regulator, particularly for defined contribution schemes
  • Combining the Pensions Ombudsman and Financial Ombudsman Service to create a pensions jurisdiction within the Financial Ombudsman Service

Press release ~ Report plus related documents and Links ~ White Paper 'Security in retirement: towards a new pensions system' ~ Pension Protection Fund ~ The Pensions Regulator ~ Financial Services Authority ~ Pensions Ombudsman ~ Financial Ombudsman Service

ESRC: Annual reports fail to capture the full value of companies’ innovative activities particularly in the services sector, according to research funded by the Economic and Social Research Council shows. For the most innovative companies this may means that analysts do not have enough information to work out their true market value.

Reforming this area should be a key part of any proposal to reinstate a requirement for an operating & financial review (OFR) section in company reports, reform of which was unexpectedly dropped by the Government two years ago.

The research also highlights investors’ attitudes towards company strategy and risk.  Interviews with 27 key figures including analysts & fund managers found that investors look for a clear innovation strategy, which has a short- and long-term view of where returns can be generated.
Press release ~ 'Facilitating Innovation through the Measurement and Management of Intangibles' ~ ESRC Society Today ~ Evolution of Business Knowledge

Cabinet Office: The independent House of Lords Appointments Commission, which recommends non-party political peers and vets political nominees to the House of Lords for propriety, has published its annual report for 2006-2007. 


The Commission made 13 recommendations for non-party-political peers during the year, making a total of 42 since it was set up in 2000.

In an unprecedented move the Commission has taken the decision to highlight the failure of one political nominee, Irvine Laidlaw, to honour a commitment given to the Appointments Commission to become UK tax resident from April 2004. In 2005 the Commission changed its vetting policy and now declines to vet any nominee who is not already UK tax resident.
Press release ~ House of Lords Appointments Commission ~ Ann ual Report 2006/07BBC News: Q&A: Cash-for-honours ~ BBC News:  Who's who: Cash for honours row ~

Natural England: In response to the Government's consultation on the Marine Bill, Natural England (the Government's wildlife & landscape advisor) has called for the creation of new Marine Protected Areas and wants the Government to give it the power to identify, designate & manage these sites and have the ability to prosecute those who damage them.
Press release ~ Natural England's Board paper responding to Defra's Marine Bill consultation ~ Defra – Marine Bill consultation and related documents  ~ Marine Nature Reserves (MNR) ~ Virtua l tour of Lundy Marine Nature Reserve (MNR)

NAO: Staff sickness absence in the Department for Transport and its agencies averaged 10.4 days in 2005, costing the taxpayer around £24 million a year, according to a new NAO report.  Performance varies across the Department, but the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) and Driving Standards Agency (DSA) had rates of 13.1 and 13.7 days respectively in 2006.  

These high rates are likely to be partly due to the large proportion of administrative staff at DVLA and high numbers of work-related injuries at DSA, but sickness absence is still higher than in other similar organisations (estimated at 10 days by the NAO).  Despite this, DVLA and DSA are performing well: the DVLA achieved almost all of its overall performance targets in 2005-06.

The report sets out further steps necessary for the Department to meet its target of 7.5 days sick leave per employee by 2010, which could save up to £38 million over five years.

The PCS union responded to the report commenting that; ‘Job cuts resulting in increasing workloads combined with an unacceptable rise in attacks on driving examiners is the real story here. If the DfT and its agencies are serious about tackling sickness absence then there needs to be a concerted attempt at recognising the causes and dealing with them in a proactive and positive manner’.
NAO press release ~ PCS press release ~ The Management of Staff Sickness Absence in Department of Transport and its agencies ~ Execut ive Summary

Legislation / Legal

Scottish ExecutiveThe legal age at which cigarettes can be bought is to be increased from 16 to 18 in October this year. Public Health Minister Shona Robison made the announcement while visiting a project at Claypotts Castle Primary School in Dundee which is adopting an innovative approach to smoking prevention. The age of purchase will also be raised in England and Wales on 1 October 2007.

The Smoking, Health and Social Care (Scotland) Act 2005 gives Scottish Ministers power to raise the age of purchase for tobacco products. The decision to raise the age follows a consultation on the recommendations of the report ‘Towards a Future Without Tobacco’ from the Smoking Prevention Working Group.
Press release ~ Scottish Executive: Health - Tobacco ~ Smoking Prevention Working GroupSmoking , Health and Social Care (Scotland) Act 2005 ~ NHS Health Scotland ~ Tow ards a Future Without Tobacco’

DWP: The government claims that the publication of the Child Maintenance and Other Payments Bill marks the next stage of the Government's fundamental reform of the system of child maintenance, which is meant to: 

  • replace the Child Support Agency with the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission (C-MEC)
  • help lift children out of poverty by allowing parents on low incomes to keep more of the maintenance owed to them
  • empower more parents to make & maintain their own private maintenance arrangements
  • Using gross weekly income, rather than net, as a basis for calculating a maintenance liability

The Bill also contains new powers to share with credit reference agencies information on parents who do not pay their maintenance or debt - potentially affecting future loan or mortgage applications.

The Bill includes measures to provide faster compensation to all people diagnosed with mesothelioma, as announced at the mesothelioma summit in London on 13 March 2007.
Press release ~ Bill, White Paper and related documents ~ Mesothelioma summit in London  ~ Child Support Agency

RCPO: Three men and two women have been sentenced to a total of 16 years imprisonment after being convicted of cheating the Revenue of approximately £250,000 and stealing thousands of pounds in cash from ‘Catch’, a charity set up to help children with brain injuries.


In all fraud cases reams of paper are generated and in this case alone there were over 20,000 pages of supporting evidence.  The Revenue and Customs Prosecutions Office reviewed, prepared & presented all the evidence in this case electronically, which saved time & reduced the cost of the overall Prosecution.


Lawyers presented the case by showing documents on screens as they delivered their arguments.  This allowed details to be explained to the jury using a media format with which they are familiar and meant that evidence could be shown & discussed without the need to reproduce hundreds of paper files.

Press release ~ Revenue & Customs Prosecutions Office (RCPO) ~ Catch (Care and Action Trust for Children with Handicaps)

EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.

DTI: The European Commission has announced plans to crack down on bogus "Holiday Club" scams which have hit tens of thousands of British holidaymakers, following pressure from the Department of Trade and Industry to help stamp out rogue "holiday clubs", by updating the 13 year old EU Timeshare Directive.  The Commission's plans incorporate proposals put forward by the DTI, on behalf of the UK Government.

Victims often part with thousands of pounds to buy membership of a club promising cheap holidays for years ahead, which often turn out to be worthless. Holiday clubs get around timeshare laws because holiday club membership is not linked to any rights in any particular property, so consumers are not protected.


The proposals include:

  • A ban on Holiday Clubs taking money up front
  • A 14 day cooling-off period
  • Up front information setting out precisely what club membership entitles a consumer to and exactly who their contract is with.  This must all be included in their contract

Press release ~ OFT: Bogus holiday clubs ~ R evision of Timeshare Directive ~ Cons umer Direct - Bogus holiday clubs

Charity and Voluntary Sector

CC: The Mariam Appeal received significant donations connected with improper transactions made under the oil-for-food programme, a Charity Commission inquiry has reported.  In accepting these funds, the Commission found the trustees were not sufficiently vigilant and did not properly discharge their legal duties regarding these donations.

The inquiry, opened in December 2005, sought to ascertain:

  • whether funds resulting from contracts made under the UN oil-for-food programme were donated to the Appeal
  • if so, to establish what was the legal status of those funds, and
  • to examine the extent to which the trustees of the Appeal properly discharged their duties and responsibilities in receiving those funds

The Mariam Appeal was founded in 1998 to provide medicines, medical equipment and medical assistance to the people of Iraq and to arrange for the medical treatment of Iraqi children outside Iraq. 


The Appeal is not on the central register of charities, has not operated since early 2003, has no active trustees and holds no assets requiring the protection of the Commission.  Overall, the Commission is satisfied that the funds received by the charity were spent on the charity's humanitarian purpose.  In these circumstances, the regulatory action the Commission has taken is the publication of its findings.
Press release ~ Charity Commission - Mariam Appeal ~ Q&A: George Galloway and the Mariam Appeal - The Guardian ~ George Galloway’s reaction to Charity Commission report into Mariam Appeal - Socialist Worker

Business and Other Briefings

FSCS: The Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) is stepping in to protect members of two credit unions in Skelmersdale and Lanark, who may have lost money after the credit unions became insolvent.

FSCS has declared Skelmersdale Credit Union Limited and Clydesdale Credit Union Limited in default.  This means that FSCS can consider compensation claims from members of these credit unions who have lost money.

For deposit claims, such as claims against credit unions, FSCS can pay compensation of 100% of the first £2,000 of a loss and 90% of the remainder, up to a maximum of £31,700 per person.  Members of these credit unions who have not received an application form from FSCS should contact the Scheme on 020 7892 7300.

Press release ~ Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) ~ Association of British Credit Unions~National Association of Credit Union Workers~ FSA Credit Unions

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