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In the News

Homeless Link: ‘Housing chains’ cause problems for social housing as well - One of the biggest stumbling blocks to tackling homelessness is the lack of suitable ‘move on’ opportunities for the many residents of hostels & temporary accommodation who are more than ready for the next step in their lives.

Last year Homeless Link undertook work on behalf of Communities and Local Government to tackle this challenge. Working with homelessness officials and the voluntary sector in nine areas, they developed & tested a strategic approach to the problem. The result is the Move On Plans Protocol (MOPP).

Implementation of the protocol will provide housing authorities with a better understanding of ‘move on need’ and allow them to overcome a range of barriers through formal partnerships with the voluntary sector.

Last week the CLG and Homeless Link wrote jointly to every housing director in England to promote the MOPP toolkit, which supports the use of the protocol in local areas. Included with the letter to Housing Directors is a copy of the explanatory booklet Unlocking Solutions: Developing move on plans.
DIUS: Science the Saviour? - Drinkable vaccines to replace painful needles, car bodies which biodegrade at the end of their lives, anti-cancer agents drawn from the sea, greener biofuels and pacemakers with batteries powered by walking are just around the corner.

It sounds futuristic; but it's all research being funded by the Government's new Technology Strategy Board (TSB), which last week became an independent executive Non-Departmental Public Body (NDPB), with a key goal of ensuring the UK is a global leader in the development of new technologies to drive economic growth.

The TSB, sponsored by the new Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS), will target funding of £190 million this year to support technology & innovation on projects. Part of the funding includes £7 million for the Intelligent Transport Systems & Services Innovation Platform to develop new solutions for road congestion.
The latest projects funded include work to develop new bacteria-based vaccines which can be taken by mouth; to enable diesel engines to run efficiently on high concentrations of renewable fuels; and to develop medical scanners which use wavelengths to more effectively diagnose & treat cancer.

The Technology Strategy Board will be responsible for Innovation Platforms which bring business & Government closer together to generate innovative solutions to major societal challenges and 22 sector-specific Knowledge Transfer Networks (KTNs) - business-driven collaborations which encourage new technologies and the sharing of information.
NAO: A growing problem that is not ‘sexy’ enough to get the priority & funding it needs - Despite a steeply rising trend in cases of dementia, the condition is being given too low a priority by health & social services, according to a report by the National Audit Office. Too few people are being diagnosed, or being diagnosed early enough and early interventions known to be cost-effective are not being made widely available.

Dementia presents a significant & urgent challenge to health and social care in terms of both numbers of people affected and the costs. At least 560,000 people in England have dementia and, because of an ageing population, the number of cases is predicted to rise by over 30% over the next 15 years.

Dementia care services suffered historically from poor awareness & understanding and there is a widely held perception that little can be done and a lack of urgency attached to diagnosing & treating the condition.

Early diagnosis & intervention in cases of dementia is known to be cost-effective. Yet only a third to a half of people with dementia ever receive a formal diagnosis. Dementia costs the economy £14.3 billion a year, including direct costs to the NHS and social care of £3.3 billion a year.

Failure to diagnose or treat patients with dementia can extend hospital stay, but effective identification of dementia and more proactive, co-ordinated management of their care & discharge could produce savings of between £64 million and £102m nationally.
HC: Sexual Statistics are none to healthy – The Healthcare Commission has released the findings of a review of data on sexual health that also highlights initiatives currently in place to improve sexual health in England and outlines the Commission's approach to assessing sexual health service delivery.

The review has found that tracking progress and recognising where improvements are needed in sexual health are difficult, because of gaps in the data currently available. As a result, services are limited in their ability to:

- target groups at high risk
- use data to plan & allocate resources where they are needed, or
- monitor effectively people's access to services and levels of sexual health

The findings of the review show data is derived from different geographic levels such as local authorities, primary care trusts and GUM (genitourinary medicine) clinics, meaning there is not a clear indication of where improvements are needed. Furthermore, data is often missing vital information for tracking progress, such as age, gender, ethnicity of patients, or the information itself is out of date.
Ofsted: Perhaps they should be teaching the parents as well - A new Ofsted report has found that the Secondary National Strategy’s pilot programme for developing social, emotional and behavioural skills (SEBS) was introduced successfully when senior school leaders understood its underlying philosophy. Where this was not the case, it remained a ‘bolt on’ to personal, social and health education (PSHE) lessons or form tutor time, and was largely ineffective.

Inspectors found the pilot programme was most effective when teachers adapted their teaching methods to take account of pupils’ needs. As a result pupils displayed more respect for each other, worked better in teams and were better able to articulate and recognise their feelings.

Also last week the Secretary of State has announced an additional £13.7m over four years to improve behaviour in schools through the Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning (SEAL) programme. This very successful programme had a major impact on discipline and well being in pilot schools and was also linked with increases in attainment.

It helps young people to; be more confident and resilient, resolve conflict peaceably and empathise with others by developing behaviour skills across the curriculum
Scottish Executive: A rare event; financial assistance for carers - Foster & kinship carers in Scotland can claim up to £1,000 towards training, it was announced last week. The cash will allow these carers to access places on approved childcare-related training courses, including SVQs, and will cover associated costs, like childcare.
The training allowances are part of a £4m package for foster & kinship carers which will also:

- Launch a one-stop information & advice service for kinship carers, run by Citizens Advice Scotland
- Develop child-friendly advice & information for foster children and the children of foster carers
- Train LAs in the use of permanence orders which give kids the right to settle with their carers permanently
- Establish national guidelines for dealing with abuse allegations & support The Fostering Network's helpline
- Fund a review of national guidelines for councils on the recruitment & training of foster and kinship carers

The National Fostering and Kinship Care Strategy, to be published this autumn, will examine a range of issues around support for foster & kinship carers, including remuneration and support for carers.
Defra: The NHS may have less, but LAs now have 200 more - Environment Secretary Hilary Benn has launched the new Defra - Local Government Joint Environmental Prospectus, which provides an overview of the local and national governments' top environmental priorities. It sets out 10 key questions which local leaders and chief executives can use to challenge their Councils to ensure that the environment is integrated throughout its concerns.

The backbone of the new framework will be around 200 indicators covering all the Government's priorities for local delivery. Local Government will be required to report their performance against these indicators from April 2008.

For each of Defra's proposed indicators a rationale is set out along with information about collection arrangements. In each case responses are sought to questions and replies are invited via the web-site.

Mr Benn has also announced the publication for comment of Defra's proposed indicators for the new Local Government Performance Framework. Several of the 13 indicators are new and reflect the Government's priorities for local government, including climate change. Defra is keen to listen to ‘on the ground experience’ to help ensure their proposals are the right ones. Only selected stakeholders are able to contribute and they will have to do so by 16 August 2007.
Industry News: Preserving the UK´s digital heritageMost people working in the IT industry know that one major perennial problem with providing long-term support to a system is keeping track of thedifferent versions of software / operating systems used by that application and then finding the relevant disks.

Imagine then the size of the problem confronting the National Archives who are faced with the task of ensuring preservation of the Nation’s digital records from the past, present and into the future.

In some instances, applications that support older file formats are no longer commercially available. For The National Archives, this information represents 580 terabytes of data, the equivalent of 580 thousand encyclopaedias.

Fortunately the National Archives and Microsoft have recently announced a Memorandum of Understanding (M.O.U) under which Microsoft will make available a system, which combines previous versions of Windows and Office, to help solve problems of managing historical records based on legacy Microsoft Office formats.
Having addressed some of the key format sustainability issues through the implementation of the Ecma Open XML format in its latest products, the announcement represents a further step in Microsoft’s commitment to digital preservation.

The National Archives, with access to previous versions of Microsoft’s Windows operating systems and Office applications powered by Microsoft Virtual PC 2007, will be able to run multiple operating systems at the same time on the same computer.
This allows them to configure any combination of Windows and Office from one PC, thereby allowing access to practically any document based on legacy Microsoft file formats. It will also be able to improve the accessibility of these documents by converting this information to new, open file formats.
For other Industry News please click HERE

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

General News

CWU: The Communication Workers Union has announced a further day of strike action commencing the evening of Thursday 12th July and continuing through Friday 13th July.  Royal Mail Group workers will begin 24 hours of strike action with shifts commencing after 1900 hours.

In announcing the strike, the union says that it is again providing a further opportunity for Royal Mail to return to negotiations or face more strikes.  The Union has written to Allan Leighton, Royal Mail chair, to personally take part in fresh negotiations.
NE: The ‘boom’ of the male bittern’s mating call has been heard at Natural England’s Stodmarsh National Nature Reserve (NNR) in Kent.  The bittern is one of England’s rarest breeding birds and every male has a distinctive ‘boom’ which acts as a fingerprint for recognising individuals.
Visitors to Stodmarsh NNR - an internationally important site for these birds - have been able hear the distinctive ‘boom’ in the early morning and late evening throughout May and June. In the past week, another bittern has been sighted, possibly a female, raising the possibility that they may have made a breeding attempt on the reserve.
NE: Natural England has launched its 'Future of Farming Awards' scheme which will celebrate environmental excellence & innovation in farming and recognise those farmers who have made the greatest contribution to both conserving England's special wildlife & landscapes, whilst helping people have greater access to our natural environment.
A winner and runner up will be chosen in August from each of England's nine regions by a regional judging panel made up of regional Natural England specialists and representatives from the farming industry.  A national panel will select the overall winner and runner up, to be announced at a special event this autumn.
BSA: The Basic Skills Agency (BSA) began work as part of the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (NIACE) on 2nd July 2007 - and the expanded NIACE will work in alliance with Tribal in the field of literacy, language & numeracy to form the country's leading concentration of expertise across all age ranges.
The BSA's work in Wales will be assimilated into the Welsh Assembly Government in line with the Welsh Assembly policy with NIACE, working with Tribal, contracted to support that work.
DfCSF: The Government's commitment to children's safety is being backed with a grant of £30m to the NSPCC to make sure every child has someone to call on for help & advice, the newly formed Department for Children, Schools and Families has announced.
The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) will get the money over the next four years to strengthen its ChildLine Service - the free helpline for children and young people in the UK.  As part of the partnership with the Government the NSPCC will also be putting more money into its helplines.
The money will also help expand the NSPCC's other helpline services, including those provided online, and the NSPCC Child Protection Helpline which allows adults to report concerns.  In future children will also be able to access services via text message.
Defra: Defra has announced a ban on all international pigeon racing from continental mainland Europe (including the Channel Islands) to the UK. 
The ban is being introduced with immediate effect, as a precautionary measure, following the recent finding of H5N1 in wild birds in France.  It will not affect domestic pigeon racing activity within the UK which is permitted to continue.

Policy Statements and Initiatives

DH: Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Health Secretary Alan Johnson have announced a yet another review of the NHS that will ‘advise on how to meet the challenges of delivering health care over the next decade’.
The review will be led by Professor Ara Darzi, the new Health Minister who will report to the Prime Minister, the Chancellor and the Secretary of State for Health before the 60th anniversary of the NHS in July 2008. There will be an interim assessment in autumn 2007 to inform the Comprehensive Spending Review.
At the end of the Review the Government will consider the case for a new NHS Constitution.
DH: Secretary of State for Health Alan Johnson has announced £50m extra funding to tackle healthcare associated infections (HCAIs) such as MRSA and C.difficile. Bug-busting infection Improvement Teams will double in size so that any Trust that is not on course to meet the 2008 MRSA target or has a significant number of patients with C.difficile, will have access to a team of experts to help them reduce infection.
Strategic Health Authority Directors of Nursing will each receive £5m.  Working with PCTs, they will make sure that front-line clinicians make the changes which help them in the fight against HCAIs.
Scottish Executive: A joint consultation analysis report has been published by the Registrars General for England and Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland, which provides analysis of responses to questions on proposals for a data release scheme aimed at stopping fraudsters from using the identities of dead people.
CIFAS estimates that there were 70,000 instances of IOD fraud in 2004 and that the current rate of growth will see this reach 100,000 by 2007.
Timely disclosure of death registration information will help the police, other law enforcement bodies and public and private sector organisations to deal with offences and identify cases of attempted fraud by criminals using the personal details of the deceased.
This will not only help to combat Impersonation of the Deceased fraud, but will also reduce the impact on relatives of the deceased who have to deal with the consequences of the identity of their loved ones being stolen.


BERR: Consumers are set to benefit from powerful redress schemes, which guarantee them complaint resolution and can award compensation.  Proposals on the schemes are being consulted on by the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) (closes on 27 September 2007).
Currently, consumer bodies in these sectors can only seek to resolve the thousands of complaints they receive through persuasion, as they have no powers to enforce resolution and cannot specify redress or compensation. The Government intends to place a duty on Ofgem (the gas and electricity regulator) and Postcomm (the postal services regulator) to prescribe new complaint handling standards for their sectors.
These proposals are within the Consumers, Estate Agents and Redress Bill, which received it final reading in the House of Commons last week.  The Bill contains a range of important provisions that will give greater protection to UK consumers, including that Estate agents will have to belong to an ombudsman scheme.
The position of consumer representation and redress in the water sector will be the subject of a separate consultation in 2008. It is envisaged that the redress schemes in the energy and postal services sectors will be in place by summer 2008.
TfLDocklands Light Railway (DLR), part of Transport for London (TfL), has launched its second phase of consultation (closes 24 August 2007) for its proposed extension to Dagenham Dock with the distribution of over 60,000 leaflets to local residents, organisations and groups to seek opinion on route options.
The proposed connection, which could open in 2016, would extend east from the existing DLR network at Gallions Reach with possible new stations at Beckton Riverside, Creekmouth, Barking Riverside, Dagenham Vale and Dagenham Dock.

Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides

NAO: Public bodies will be able to achieve greater value for money from their use of consultants, as the National Audit Office has recently launched an online assessment tool. Based on a report by the National Audit Office, the Public Accounts Committee said earlier this month that over £500 million in efficiency gains are possible across the public sector.
The NAO’s toolkit is based on the approach it used in its December 2006 report and assessors answer a series of questions about the use of consultants in an online form and the interactive toolkit then:
- responds with an analysis of areas of weakness
- provides guidance on how to improve value for money and
- illustrates what good practice can look like through case studies
Scottish Executive: A guide for the emergency evacuation of disabled people from buildings has been launched by the Scottish Executive with the support of the Disability Rights Commission. It provides practical advice on pre-planning for the evacuation of disabled persons in the event of fire and highlights the types of issues that employers and others with fire safety responsibilities should consider in their plans
A series of sector specific guides for those with responsibilities under Part 3 of the Fire (Scotland) Act 2005 and the Fire Safety (Scotland) Regulations 2006 are being published on a rolling basis.  A fourth guide on educational and child day care premises has now joined those relating to care homes, offices and shops, and factories and storage premises.

Annual Reports

CAC:  The Central Arbitration Committee has published its Annual Report 2006-07 and this year has seen the number of recognition applications received by the CAC rise slightly compared to the previous year.  The cases have been more complex in detail and applications have been received under Part III and Part IV of the Schedule which deal with changes in the bargaining arrangements and derecognition.
The CAC's main role is dealing with requests for trade union recognition and de-recognition under the statutory procedures of Schedule A1 to the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992.  Each recognition case is handled by a tripartite panel, with members drawn from employer and union backgrounds and a panel chairman (usually a lawyer or senior academic).

General Reports and Other Publications

CRC: The Commission for Rural Communities’ new report 'The Features and Characteristics of Successful County Associations of Local Councils' explores & promotes reforms for the parish council sector.
The CRC appointed the Centre for Local Policy Studies, University of Gloucestershire and the Institute for Local Government Studies, University of Birmingham to undertake research into what makes a successful County Association of Local Councils (CALC).
The CRC believes that creating a renewed structure of empowered & influential town and parish councils, with well-organised and effective representation at county level, will help to support strong & sustainable rural communities.
Ofsted: The achievement of 14 to 16 year olds on vocational courses provided in collaboration with Centres of Vocational Excellence (CoVEs) is good and many pupils progress to further study or training, according to a new report published recently by the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted).
The purpose of CoVEs is to develop high quality vocational provision and training to meet the current and future needs of the local area.  Many are based at colleges and offer vocational courses to 14-16 year olds from local schools.  The report found that they were able to provide a wider range of good quality courses and more specialist equipment to students than would be possible in their schools.
However, the report also found that there are barriers to the further development of this effective support for school-based students that included; uncertainty over future funding and the reluctance of some schools to develop links with other providers. In addition, much more training and awareness-raising is needed to prepare for the new 14 to 19 diplomas in 2008.  
DCMS: Some very small scale live music events have had to be cancelled or had unnecessary restrictions placed on them following the introduction of the new licensing laws, according to the independent Live Music Forum's report, which makes 28 recommendations.
The Forum states that the lack of clarity in the legislation coupled with some over zealous local authorities is to blame and recommends that small music venues & those putting on acoustic gigs should therefore not have to acquire a licence to stage live music.
MoJ: The Prisons Inspectorate has published the first separate reports of the experiences of immigration detainees under escort, while being taken to Dungavel House in Scotland and Colnbrook Immigration Removal Centre near London.
These reports, based on interviews with escorted detainees, did not find evidence of poor treatment of detainees while on the escort vans and most detainees said that staff treated them well. There were however some concerns, such as lengthy journeys and excessive movements for detainees at Dungavel.
PCS:  The Public and Commercial Services Union warned that the creation of the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission (CMEC) could be undermined, as it responded to the publication of the Committee of Public Accounts report into the implementation of child support reforms.
The union echoed the committee's concerns that there was a lack of clarity how the new commission would regain the confidence of the public and warned that the formation of CMEC and ongoing work to clear backlogs would be undermined if there were insufficient resources and continuing IT problems.
IPCC: The Independent Police Complaints Commission has published the report of its investigation into Operation Venison. The inquiry resulted from criticisms made when Mr Justice Crane halted the Customs and Excise Prosecutions Office prosecution into an alleged missing trader intra community (MTIC) fraud.
Last year the IPCC sent a file to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) who decided the five HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) officers and one lawyer, criticised by Mr Justice Crane, had not committed any criminal offences.  Now the IPCC investigation has cleared the officers of misconduct. The IPCC has no remit to consider possible misconduct on the part of the lawyer as he is not employed by HMRC.
The IPCC has made two recommendations and one formal comment as a result of the investigation.  There is no doubt that HMRC have come a long way since the Operation Venison judgment and have addressed every area that this investigation identified as a problem.
NAO: Income tax is processed accurately in the majority of cases by HM Revenue & Customs, but errors in processing lead to the wrong amount of tax being paid by around 1 million taxpayers, according to the National Audit Office.
HMRC accurately calculates the right amount of tax in 95% of income tax cases and subsequently corrects errors it finds or which are brought to its attention by the taxpayer, but that still left an estimated £125m of tax underpayments and £157m in overpayments in 2006 - 07.
The report also found that HMRC’s projects to automate clerical processes have been successful in reducing levels of error, and it is managing its performance more effectively.
Recommendations in the report include:
- HMRC developing an early warning system for emerging processing problems
- separating out more complex cases for processing
- developing staff training, and
- strengthening the help available for taxpayers affected by errors
ESRC: The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) has found that American companies are more likely to draw attention to official published histories on their websites, more likely to invest in historically orientated visitor attractions or museums, such as The World of Coca Cola in Atlanta, and more likely to publish official histories.
By taking a more low key approach to their corporate past, UK companies may be failing to capitalise on a range of potential business benefits.  An accurate portrayal of a company’s history is, Professor Rowlinson believes, vitally important to ensuring a robust corporate identity.
Defra: Defra has published an updated response to the Dimmock report into quarantine procedures for captive birds. The report was published on 15 December 2005 and made 32 recommendations for changes to the quarantine regime. This updated response indicates that all of the recommendations have now been met as far as possible, given the current restrictions on bird imports.
Considerable action has been taken by Defra in response to the Dimmock report, including a comprehensive review of wildlife disease surveillance and new research into the origin & development of avian influenza in chickens, ducks and turkeys.
The publication of the updated response comes as a new EU regulation came into force on Sunday 1 July, which sets out the conditions for the import of birds other than poultry. It includes a ban on commercial imports of wild-caught birds and a requirement for captive-bred birds to come only from approved establishments in a list of countries with high avian health status and reliable veterinary services.
CRC: To help inform our response to the Government’s consultation on the future of the post office network, the Commission for Rural Communities organised a series of four focus groups in different parts of England earlier this year.
The report highlights the importance of the post office in the local community and how it acts as a social hub. Reactions to the Government’s proposals for restructuring the post office network are reported including the access criteria and possible outreach services.
CRC: Launched at this year's Royal Show, the Commission for Rural Communities new report 'The social contribution of land based industries to rural communities' shows that the nature & scale of interactions between land-based industries and rural communities vary greatly from place to place.
HC: A Healthcare Commission review has found that more heart failure services are in place, but reveals concerns regarding variations in patient access to diagnostic tests, drugs and specialist care. It has expressed concern that a significant number of patients with heart failure may not be being identified.

The report’s data shows that the number of people reported as having confirmed heart failure is around 140,000 less than expected.  This could be due to problems with recording patient data on GPs’ systems – a lack of clear auditing was one of the enduring issues for the entire review.  On the other hand, it could mean that some patients are not getting access to diagnosis and, in turn, treatment.

Legislation / Legal

DH: Health Minster Ivan Lewis and mental health tsar Professor Louis Appleby both welcomed the final stages of the parliamentary passage of the Mental Health Bill as a vital step towards modern community services. The Bill, which completed its passage through Parliament on 4 July, will allow psychiatrists to require patients to take treatment following discharge from hospital if they are a risk to themselves or others.
It is also meant to strengthen patients' rights by providing advocacy support for anyone who is detained, and create new roles for experienced non-medical professionals.

EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.

DfT: Aviation Minister Jim Fitzpatrick has outlined measures coming in later this month to give disabled people new rights when travelling by air in Europe. From 26 July 2007 it will be illegal for an airline, travel agent or tour operator to refuse a booking on the grounds of disability or to refuse to embark a disabled person who has a valid ticket and reservation.
The law also covers persons with reduced mobility, including people who would not normally be classed as disabled, such as those with a temporary mobility problem. Anyone who has been refused boarding on the grounds of disability or reduced mobility will be able to complain to the Disability Rights Commission (DRC).
From 26 July 2008, airport managing bodies will also be required to organise the provision of the services necessary to enable disabled/reduced mobility passengers to board, disembark and transit between flights, with costs recovered through a charge on airlines proportionate to the total number of passengers they carry to and from the airport.
Defra: The UK has withdrawn its application to the European Commission for an extension to the derogation from double tagging of sheep. The derogation expired on Saturday 30 June and the Commission had advised that an extension was extremely unlikely.
Defra is advising farmers that the current arrangements for tagging will continue to apply after 30 June until further notice, and that they should continue with current requirements as normal.

Business and Other Briefings

UK IPO: A 12 month pilot scheme will speed up processing patent applications in the UK and Japan. The Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH) will allow patent applicants who have received an examination report by either the UK Intellectual Property Office (UK-IPO) or the Japan Patent Office (JPO) to request accelerated examination of a corresponding patent application filed in the other country.
The development of work sharing arrangements between the UK-IPO and other national patent offices is a key recommendation of the Gowers Review of Intellectual Property.  The UK-IPO is already discussing the possibility of a similar PPH pilot with the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to be launched later this year.
CCW: A survey by the Consumer Council for Water and Ofwat detailing business customers' views of competition in the water industry has revealed that the water competition regime is not providing businesses with a workable framework in which they can change their water supplier.
Despite interest from business customers, more than 18 months after the launch of competition, none has actually switched their water supplier - and the results of the survey indicate this is likely to remain the case, at least in the short term.
FSA: The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has published the results of its review of controls over inside information in relation to public takeovers and sets out its next steps.  The results are contained in the newsletter MarketWatch 21.
The review helped identify the factors that could contribute to the different types of leaks that may occur around public takeovers:
- accidental leaks, where staff may have inadvertently allowed information to escape into the public domain
- intentional leaks to the media for strategic positioning, and
- intentional leaks for market misconduct purposes
FSA: The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has published a discussion paper (closes 7 September) that considers the potential issues raised for the FSA's oversight of markets for multilateral trading facility (MTF) shares.  This is as a result of the proposed modernisation by Her Majesty's Treasury (HMT) of stamp duty relief on the trading of shares.
From November 1 2007 the Government will extend the regime for intermediary relief for shares admitted to a regulated market to all intermediaries regardless of exchange membership and to all trades, including over-the-counter (OTC) trades.  HMT is also considering similarly amending the relief for shares which are admitted to trading on multilateral trading facilities, such as AIM and Plus Markets.
FSA: The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has published its latest review of the behaviour of intermediaries & lenders within the sub-prime mortgage market, which services consumers with impaired credit histories.  It has found weaknesses in responsible lending practices and in firms’ assessments of a consumer’s ability to afford a mortgage.  As a result the regulator has started enforcement action against five firms.
While the research found no significant evidence of sub-prime mortgages being sold incorrectly to prime customers, several other issues were identified for both intermediaries and lenders when selling to sub-prime customers.
The FSA will continue to monitor firms operating in the sub-prime market and will continue its focus on debt and affordability for the latter half of 2007.  This will include specific work on self-certification.
The FSA has also published on its website further mortgage thematic findings on Mortgages into retirement and Interest-only mortgages.
FSA: The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has published a Discussion Paper (DP) reviewing the prudential requirements for Personal Investment Firms (PIFs).  The paper discusses options for changing these rules in order to help reduce the impact of any mis-selling by firms in the sector.
The DP is closely linked to the wider issues covered in the Retail Distribution Review (RDR) and like the RDR will have a six month consultation period.  The FSA intends to share relevant research findings publicly in early 2008.  Detailed proposals for consultation will be published later in 2008 along with proposals from the RDR.
HMRC: Agents are being encouraged to email their questions for Dave Hartnett, Director-General (Business) about HMRC's recent initiatives to engage with tax advisers.  Your questions will be put to him in an interview to be featured in the Department's next set of podcasts in early August.
In April HMRC launched podcasts to explore new ways to communicate with key audiences.  Dave Hartnett's podcast will answer some of the profession's most frequently-asked questions about Fresh Start.
Agents can email their questions to: The most frequently asked questions will be answered by Dave Hartnett in an interview which will be available at in early August.

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