In the News
Cabinet Office: Just how much will be expected from the Third Sector? - The PM has set out a new agenda on social action when presenting his vision of a partnership in which ‘government empowers and enables individuals and organisations working for positive social change’.
He welcomed the publication of the final report of the Third Sector Review, which announces major new commitments to boost the sector & its partnership with government and sets out £515m funding over the next three years.
He claimed that it sets the framework for government working in partnership with the sector for the next 10 years, responds directly to the largest ever public consultation with the sector and outlines some important developments in the Government's approach under three cross-cutting themes:
* supporting a wider range of activities by the third sector, particularly community action & campaigning
* focusing more on investing in the long-term future of the third sector's work
* focusing more on improving local partnerships
It outlines a series of measures to build on the government's partnership with the third sector and feed into the 2007 Comprehensive Spending Round, under five key headings:
* Enabling voice and campaigning
* Strengthening communities
* Transforming public services
* Encouraging social enterprise
* Supporting a thriving, healthy third sector
DBERR: Absolutely necessary, but will departments truly deliver? - The next steps in tackling regulation reform and creating a dynamic business environment have been announced by John Hutton, Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform. The announcement contained a number of themes aimed at continuing progress towards turning ideas into action and setting the foundation for future success:
* Transparency & prioritisation
* Targeted Simplifications
* Improved Delivery
CLG: Fewer means less cost - Local Government Minister John Healey has announced that 9 proposals for unitary status will now go ahead towards implementation with the intention that all new authorities are fully up and running in 2009. The number of councils in these areas will be reduced from 46 to 11 and it is estimated that the 9 new unitary authorities could save over £150m per year, which can be used to directly improve front line services or to reduce council tax bills.
The proposals open the door to creating flagship councils that will lead the way on promoting prosperity, empowering citizens & communities and improving public services for the 3.5m covered by the new LAs.
The full list of successful authorities that will proceed, subject to the enactment of the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health (LGPIH) Bill, is as follows:
Councils Submitting Proposals Proposed unitary structure
Bedford Borough Council Bedford Unitary
Chester City Council 2 Unitary Cheshire
Cornwall County Council County Unitary
Durham County Council County Unitary
Exeter City Council Exeter Unitary
Ipswich Borough Council Ipswich Unitary
Northumberland County Council County Unitary
Shropshire County Council County Unitary
Wiltshire County Council County Unitary
DfT: Remembering that LAs are there to serve the public - New powers to make parking enforcement more motorist-friendly & consistent are being introduced to give independent adjudicators more power, including the right to ask local authorities to scrap fines for motorists who have mitigating circumstances. The regulations will come into force in March 2008 to give local authorities time to prepare for the new system.
Further regulations, to be laid later this year, will introduce a number of improvements including lower penalties for less serious offences. New guidance also requires local authorities use parking enforcement to improve road safety and cut congestion, not make money.
The DfT will consult on detailed Operational Guidance to local authorities in early August and the guidance will make it clear performance & rewards/penalties should never be based on the number of PCNs, clampings or removals
HC: A £1bn headache problem for the NHS - The Healthcare Commission recently published a national study into healthcare-associated infection that outlines practical advice for trusts to consider in their attempts to reduce rates of infection. The report emphasises that while boards of trusts have to balance a range of priorities, the safety of patients is paramount.
The Commission conducted a detailed analysis to identify any significant relationships between information from the survey and data on rates of infection and the report identifies how different processes to prevent & control infection affect rates of infection.
It claims that in order to prevent & manage healthcare-associated infection better, trusts must:
* Develop a culture of safety
* Have good systems of corporate and clinical governance
* Review performance
* Manage risk
* Communicate with patients and the public
The National Audit office has estimated that healthcare-associated infection could cost the NHS as much as £1bn each year.
DCSF: Will the funding be sufficient and what happens in 3 years time? - Ed Balls has promised an ‘investment’ of £1bn+ in the extended schools programme over the next 3 years, so that every child will be able to access breakfast clubs, out-of-hours tuition and after-school clubs in sport, music & drama by 2010.
The government claims that families will also be able to access services such as wraparound childcare 8am-6pm (all year round for primary schools), family learning & parental support, community use of facilities including adult & family learning and ICT, as well as having quick & easy access to specialist services for their child such as speech therapy.
Recently Ed Balls also announced a £265m extended school subsidy scheme to ensure that children from disadvantaged families can access the full range of extended services, which research shows can gain a greater benefit from extended services, bringing the amount up to £1.3 billion.
Schools can also offer use of their facilities to local communities, where they can access services provided by other organisations such as:
* after-school childcare by professionals
* links with Primary Care Trusts to offer access to child healthcare services
* parents' rooms where mothers & fathers can study together or find our how to help their child with their studies
* encourage parenting organisations to offer classes to improve parents' confidence and skills
DfT: A re-announcement of much already promised - A railway that will expand to carry at least 180 million more passengers is at the heart of the Department for Transport's rail White Paper. Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly announced that capacity will increase to cope with more than 20% growth in the next seven years, on a network which will be even safer and more reliable.
The strategy, Delivering a Sustainable Railway, also allows for potential doubling in capacity over 30 years through ‘continual & rational growth of a rail network which is flexible enough to respond to changing passenger demand’.
Precise, costed plans for the near future include approval for the £5.5bn Thameslink project, major redevelopments at Birmingham New Street and Reading stations to eliminate the system's biggest bottlenecks, and £200m to start work on a strategic freight network.
Major cities around the country will benefit from extra capacity - with the Government delivering 1,300 extra carriages in the years to 2014. More than £10bn will be invested in growing capacity in this period.
Scottish Executive: Its not just humans they annoy - Research is to be carried out into the Scottish midge population, which has been linked to the spread of the bluetongue virus, it has been announced. The results from the research will support contingency planning for any outbreak of bluetongue in Scottish livestock.
The research will be led by Advanced Pest Solutions based at the University of Edinburgh, with partners at the University of Aberdeen, the Institute for Animal Health, Pirbright and the Scottish Agricultural College.
Bluetongue is a viral disease which can affect cattle, sheep and other ruminants. The virus is transmitted between animals by some species of midges. The disease can cause mortality in infected animals as well as welfare problems. Bluetongue is a notifiable disease and anybody suspecting it should contact their local Animal Health Office. Bluetongue has no food safety or public health issues.
ESRC: Local knowledge is often vital to success - The popular impression that management consultants are key to spreading new ideas in organisations is exaggerated & misleading, according to a unique fly-on-the wall study funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).
The consultant’s image as an expert outsider bringing new knowledge or understanding to clients is firmly contradicted by findings from the three-year long project which concluded that, contrary to widespread belief, management consultants are, like their immediate clients, more ‘knowledge brokers’ than innovators. Both groups are often more concerned with managing projects and getting the job done.
The study findings suggest that consultants walk a tightrope between offering what might be seen as either a ‘helpful’ challenge or an unconstructive interference. So whilst clients were generally happy to be challenged, this was only if the consultant did so sensitively, showing a good understanding of the business. It was frustrating when they failed to appreciate a client’s particular circumstances and seemed to impose a standard solution.
As an alternative to consultants, the ESRC Business Placement Fellows Scheme aims to enhance business sustainability by giving businesses access to experienced social science researchers to work on projects crucial to the needs of the business organisation.
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FDA: The FDA, the union for statisticians, economists and senior staff in the Office for National Statistics (ONS), has welcomed the recommendation by the Treasury Select Committee that the Treasury “review the ONS relocation programme as a matter of urgency”.
The recommendation is made in the report - The efficiency programme in the Chancellor’s departments - which is the outcome of an inquiry conducted over the last few months. The FDA wants the review to be conducted by an external body, carried out in a transparent way, and to produce a full public report.
PCS: A consultation involving 280,000 members of the Public & Commercial Services Union (PCS) on the next steps of the union's campaign against civil & public service job cuts, below inflation pay and increasing privatisation is now underway.
The consultation which runs to 3 September includes workplace meetings, face-to-face contact and a mailing to all members. Nothing is being ruled in or out of the campaign, which could see further industrial action in the Autumn should there be no breakthrough in talks. Following the consultation the union intends to ballot members on any proposals for further industrial action.
Home Office: Immigration Minister Liam Byrne helped break the ground for a new removal centre at Gatwick last week. The new facilities, which will open in 2008 under the name Brook House, are a key part of the Border and Immigration Agency's (BIA) plans to increase deportations of foreign nationals who are in the UK illegally.
Brook House will be a purpose-built secure facility with 426 male & female detention bedspaces - providing safe & secure facilities for those who have entered the UK illegally. It will be situated within the boundary fence of Gatwick Airport, close to existing immigration facilities at Tinsley House.
MoD: Minister for Defence Equipment & Support, Lord Drayson, welcomed the announcement of the decision to build the two 65,000 tonne aircraft carriers, to be named HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales, and BAE Systems & VT Group's creation of a Joint Venture (JV), which will be a key part of the alliance of MOD and Industry constructing the ships.
HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales are expected to enter service in 2014 and 2016 respectively. The order will be placed with an alliance of companies (including the JV) and will cost around £3.9bn, although the alliance and MOD have agreed to work together to reduce this figure before a final price is settled in 2009.
The announcement recently was the result of the Naval Base Review. It is now intended to retain all three naval bases (Devonport, Faslane and Portsmouth), with Portsmouth being the base for the future carrier and bringing together surface ship building & support through the Joint Venture, for Clyde to be the focus of the future submarine force and Devonport to deliver deep upkeep & sea training.
HM Treasury: The Economic Secretary to the Treasury, Kitty Ussher has laid Regulations that will implement a reform package for Individual Savings Account (ISAs). Key elements of the reform package, which comes into effect from 6 April 2008, are:
* ISAs are available indefinitely;
* All Personal Equity Plans (PEPs) will automatically become stocks and shares ISAs;
* Savers can transfer money saved in cash ISAs into stocks and shares ISAs;
* A new structure and limits, removing the Mini/Maxi distinction. Every adult will have an annual ISA investment allowance of £7,200. Up to £3,600 of that allowance can be saved in cash with one provider. The remainder of the £7,200 allowance can be invested in stocks & shares with either the same or another provider.
OFT: Following the collapse of the Farepak Hamper company last year, the OFT is launching a pilot scheme in Scotland to help consumers decide how best to ensure they can afford to pay for Christmas. In Scotland, where 31,000 consumers lost money after the Farepak collapse, involves working with Scottish community groups & partners to explain what options are available when saving for Christmas.
Groups which are supporting the campaign include Citizens Advice Scotland, Scottish Centre for Financial Education and Young Scot. Following the pilot, activities will extend to other parts of the UK later in the year.
PCS: The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) has warned that job cuts in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs will further undermine the ability of the department to co-ordinate future flood responses.
Defra, which has overall responsibility for the response to the ongoing floods crisis are cutting 550 jobs by March 2008, which will be followed by a 5% year-on-year budget cut until 2011. The union expressed fears that the department lacks capacity to co-ordinate responses to extreme weather events.
On a more positive note, one of the UK’s leading benevolent funds is calling on those current & former civil servants affected by the flooding to make contact for financial assistance & advice.
Policy Statements and Initiatives
CLG: Following the Prime Minister's pledge to increase the number of new homes by 3m by 2020, Department for Transport and Communities & Local Government have been working together to identify further surplus land.
470 sites have now been identified following a review with BRB (Residuary) Ltd and the Highways Agency (HA) of their surplus landholdings. These sites could make a considerable contribution to Government's increased target of 240,000 homes a year by 2016.
CLG: Communities Minister Iain Wright has launched a network of 10 media training centres which aim to give hundreds of young homeless people the skills to take up jobs in the media and music industries.
The media centres, based in hostels for young homeless people run by the Foyer Federation, will give residents the opportunity to develop skills ranging from cinematography, radio and music production. New partnerships with media organisations will help young homeless people get into careers.
BBC Training & Development is sending staff on placements to the media centres to give training, mentoring and practical tips to young people on how to get in & ahead in the media industry.
Cabinet Office: Phil Hope, Minister for the Third Sector, has announced that a consortium including the Innovation Unit, ACEVO and Headshift has won the £1.2m contract to deliver the new Innovation Exchange pilot - a programme to support the third sector's capacity to innovate, which aims to remove barriers to greater third sector involvement in public services.
The Exchange will offer innovators online resources including information, contact with other innovators and contact with appropriate sources of investment. Beyond this, the programme will offer tailored support to the most promising innovators including training & guidance. Work is starting immediately on the web dimension of the project and the programme is expected to be officially launched in October 2007.
DCSF: Young people will have access to new & improved youth facilities in every community under plans unveiled recently in the Government's Ten Year Youth Strategy - Aiming High for Young People: a Ten Year Strategy for Positive Activities. Teenagers will also have more of a say over local services and be given the support they need to have their voice heard.
The strategy focuses on helping all young people (particularly those in deprived areas) to take part in enjoyable & purposeful activities in their free time, which can help them develop new skills and raise their aspirations.
Using money sourced from unclaimed assets that lie in dormant bank accounts, alongside funding from the Department for Children, Schools and Families, it is hoped that the strategy will radically change the landscape of youth provision.
DCMS: Plans to fly the Union flag on Government buildings every day of the year have been published by Culture Secretary, James Purnell, as part of wider Government constitutional reforms. At present Union flags are flown on only a few days a year and the consultation paper proposes giving Government departments the freedom to fly the flag every day.
The deadline for responses to the consultation is Friday 9 November 2007 and a summary of responses will be published within three months of the closing date.
Defra: Defra has published details of a plan to release householders from a liability most don't even realise they have. It's estimated that as many as 50% of properties connect to private sewers and that most other properties connect to a public sewer via a lateral drain. Currently these are the responsibility of the owners of the properties they serve, often without their knowledge and when they need repair the costs can be significant.
In response to the concerns of householders, Defra announced in February that private sewers and lateral drains draining to the public sewer system should be transferred into the ownership of the nine statutory water & sewerage companies in England. Defra committed to a public consultation (closes on 19 October 2007) on how this transfer should happen, and on measures to prevent the proliferation of new private sewers and the recurrence of existing problems.
CLG: Proposed changes to the law, set out in a consultation paper (closes on 4 October 2007), will require landlords to provide their tenants with an annual statement showing how service charges are spent. The measures will be backed by new rights for tenants to withhold service changes where a landlord fails to comply – See ‘Legislation /Legal’ section below for more information.
HM Treasury: The government has launched a consultation document (closes on 19 October 2007) on changes to capital allowances - part of the package of reforms to business tax announced in Budget 2007, which outlines the package of reforms and seeks feedback from business on three new elements of the capital allowances regime – See ‘Business and Other Briefings’ below.
Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides
DCSF: Guidance on how the Data Protection Act 1998 applies to the use of biometric data in schools has been published by Becta, the Government's schools ICT agency. It advises schools to fully involve parents in any decision to introduce biometric (or fingerprint) technology to run cashless lunch queues, school libraries and attendance systems.
It advises that schools should recognise some parents' or pupils' concerns over the introduction of biometric technology and offer alternative systems, like smartcards, to access the same services if they want to opt out.
The guidance also describes how biometric systems are designed simply to validate a pupil's identity - not hold any other data. It is stored as complex algorithms or number streams, from which it is currently technically impossible to recreate an actual fingerprint image.
TDA: To sit alongside the recently published professional standards for teachers, the Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA) has recently issued the revised professional standards for Higher Level Teaching Assistants and the National Occupational Standards for Supporting Teaching and Learning in Schools.
The TDA is currently (available in November 2007) developing guidance to the HLTA standards, whose primary audience will be candidates and those involved in preparing and assessing candidates.
NICE: The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) and the National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health recently issued two guidelinesaimed at offering the most effective treatment & support to encourage substance misusers over the age of 16 to adopt a drug-free lifestyle.
Existing treatments for substance misuse are partially effective, but the guidelines recommend that by including individual social & psychological techniques, as well as advice on detoxification, current treatments will work even better.
The recommendations offer advice to families & carers on how they can support someone who is trying to come off a drug habit and give substance misusers the opportunity to make their own choices on how to lead a drug-free lifestyle.
NICE: The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has issued guidance recommending varenicline (Champix) as an effective treatment for helping smokers to quit:
• Varenicline, within its licensed indications, is recommended as an option for smokers who have expressed a desire to quit smoking
• Varenicline should normally be prescribed only as part of a programme of behavioural support
These recommendations are part of a suite of guidance being produced by NICE on the most effective methods of tackling smoking and what works to help people quit.
Cabinet Office: Janet Paraskeva, the First Civil Service Commissioner, has said that Civil Service Commissioners will now regulate internal promotions, as well as all external appointments within the top 200 Civil Service positions.
Publishing the Commissioners' annual report for 2006/07, Ms Paraskeva said:
"Last year the Commissioners chaired a total of 90 external competitions and 9 internal competitions and saw some excellent and improving recruitment practice across government. We also identified three key areas where we believe further work is necessary.
OFT: The OFT Annual Report reflects on the key achievements made by the OFT in the past year, as well as setting out new performance targets for the future. The OFT is committing to delivering direct financial benefits to consumers of at least five times the cost of the OFT annual budget to the taxpayer.
In the OFT's first year of managing Consumer Direct, the service received over 1.7m calls & emails from consumers and the service has begun to influence consumer behaviour, making them more confident in dealing with suppliers of goods and services.
DIUS: The Department of Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS) has launched the annual report on the Science and Innovation Investment Framework 2004-2014, whichclaims that good progress has been made over the past year in implementing the challenging 10-year vision.
Science & innovation is now part of the new Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS), whose primary role will be to ‘drive forward delivery of the Government's long-term vision to make Britain one of the best places in the world for science, research and innovation and to raise the level of education and skills at every level in our economy to give the UK a competitive edge’.
CLG: The Minister for Housing and Planning Yvette Cooper has laid before the House a copy of the Planning Inspectorate's Annual Report and Accounts for 2006/07, which reveals that the Planning Inspectorate has met nearly two thirds of its targets this year, including its target to issue 80% of decisions within 10 weeks of the close of hearings.
MoD: The Ministry of Defence's Annual Report and Accounts 2006/2007 have been published and it says that the UK's Armed Forces are ‘sustaining a high operational tempo in order to contribute to security across the globe. At home, the Armed Forces continue to play a vital role supporting civil authorities including search and rescue, fishery protection and explosive ordnance disposal’.
In order to achieve operational success, the department has had to take a level of risk against other defence objectives and their ability to take on additional operations is ‘limited’. In addition, the continuing high operational tempo has meant that the Army and the RAF did not meet individual separate service or unit harmony guidelines.
FCO: The Government's 2006 Annual Report on Strategic Export Controls has been published as a Command Paper. The Report describes UK policy and international developments in export control regimes, as well as including information on licensing decisions made during 2006.
CCRC: Applications to the Criminal Cases Review Commission continued to rise slightly with 1,051 applications in 2006-07 compared with 1,011 the previous year, according to the Commission's annual report. The Commission closed 990 cases, just 2% less than the 1,012 closed the previous year. This was achieved despite reduced funding and major internal changes.
During the year, significant changes were made to how the Commission categorises & deals with applications, with the aim of improving efficiency and ultimately cutting waiting times, whilst maintaining the quality of reviews.
ACAS: Acas has published its 2006/07 annual report which shows the number of people accessing good practice guidance on the Acas website at an all time high, with 2.7m visits last year. It also shows a decrease in the number of claims to employment tribunals with 84,039 cases compared to 109,712 in 2005/06.
Tribunals Service: Improved standards of service & planning for major structural changes have been achieved successfully in the Tribunals Service's first year, says its annual report. Almost 570,000 tribunal cases were dealt with in 2006-07, of which 254,000 were appeals against social security and child support decisions.
A further 166,000 were claims appealing asylum & immigration rulings and a further 104,000 were employment claims & appeals. In these three largest areas, waiting times for hearings were reduced in 2006-07.
Home Office: Children and vulnerable adults have been protected from over 60,000 unsuitable people as a direct result of CRB (Criminal Records Bureau) checks in the last three years, according to new research for its annual report.
In the last year the CRB introduced a number of new enhancements including an online tracking service and a new quality assurance framework with the police to improve the efficiency of enhanced checks. It has also increased the number of data sources available to be searched centrally, including information from the British Transport Police and the Police Service of Northern Ireland.
HA: The Highways Agency has published its Annual Report for 2006-07 – meeting or exceeding all but one of their Ministerial Targets (delivery of major road schemes) which it missed because of a review of significant cost increases on some projects and the associated Nichols review and National Audit Office study of cost estimation & project management.
Defra: Defra has published its annual report to Parliament on the UK Climate Change Programme and Environment Minister Phil Woolas told Parliament that Climate Change Agreements are continuing to cut carbon dioxide emissions in a wide range of energy-intensive sectors.
Climate Change Agreements are voluntary agreements with 51 energy-intensive sectors covering around 10,000 facilities. The operators of these facilities pay a reduced rate (20%) of the Climate Change Levy in return for meeting challenging energy efficiency targets.
General Reports and Other Publications
HSE: The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has supported recommendations & guidance produced by a joint industry and regulator working group, designed to improve standards at petrol storage sites. HSE believes strongly that implementation of the recommendations outlined in this report will lead to significant improvements in safety standards and the prevention of major accidents.
HSE, as part of the COMAH Competent Authority (CA), will be monitoring closely progress of operators in adopting these standards. Although predominantly aimed at operators of sites storing petrol, parts of the guidance should also be adopted by those operating other major hazard sites.
NAO: The National Audit office has found that departments are committed to identifying possible reductions and are taking a pragmatic approach to identifying measures to reduce burdens by tackling aspects of regulation that businesses find particularly irritating & burdensome.
The Government has measured the administrative burdens on business, which are estimated to cost nearly £20bn and will seek to reduce these burdens by at least 25% by 2010. However, a NAO survey has revealed that, while the majority of businesses understand the purpose of regulation, 60% believe the level of regulation in the UK is an obstacle to the success of their business and 85% are not confident that Government will succeed in reducing regulatory burdens.
DWP: Minister for Pensions Reform Mike O'Brien has welcomed an independent Deregulatory Review report examining how workplace pension provision could be encouraged by easing the burden of regulation on employers - balancing member protection and encouraging employer provision of pensions.
The key recommendations for changes to the current legislation are:
* Changes which might make it easier for employers to get back surplus funds in their own pension schemes
* A move towards less detailed & prescriptive legislation, starting with simpler rules on what schemes must tell members
* Changes to the circumstances in which an employer leaving a multi-employer scheme has to make a payment to the scheme
* Making it easier for schemes to change their own rules to take advantage of changes to legislation
* Concentrating the requirement for trustee expertise at board level rather than on individual trustees
Cabinet Office: The Intelligence and Security Committee has published its report on rendition and The Rt. Hon. Paul Murphy MP, Chairman of the Committee, commented: "Our inquiry has not been helped by the fact that Government departments have had such difficulty in establishing the facts from their own records in relation to requests to conduct renditions through UK airspace. This is a matter of fundamental liberty, and we recommend that the Government ensure that proper searchable records are kept in the future.
"The Committee concludes that:
- There is no evidence of any UK Agency being directly involved in the U.S. rendition programme, including any Extraordinary Renditions
- there was however one case where a UK Agency was indirectly, and inadvertently, involved in a ‘Rendition to Detention’. This case is that of Bisher al-Rawi and Jamil el-Banna”.
MoD: The MoD has published the Royal Air Force Board of Inquiry (BOI) into the loss of an RAF Hercules in Afghanistan on 24 May 2006, which concluded that the aircraft was destroyed by fire after detonating an anti-tank mine on the Tactical Landing Zone.
The Board of Inquiry concluded that, even if the aircraft had been fitted with Explosion Suppressant Foam (ESF), it would not have prevented its loss. This is because ESF does not prevent leaks when the fuel tanks are punctured. The Board of Inquiry commended the crew on how they managed the situation, and for ensuring that all on board were evacuated quickly.
The Board's recommendations included a review of Force Protection procedures at Tactical Landing Zones and Air Command and Permanent Joint Headquarters have developed revised Force Protection procedures and tactics to be employed at Tactical Landing Zones in operational theatres.
NAO: 80% of students starting a full-time course in England are expected to complete their course, the NAO has reported, which compares favourably with most other OECD countries, during a period of expansion in higher education.
The report identifies scope for further improvements, for example in the minority of higher education institutions where retention has declined in recent years and to support part-time students who face particular challenges and have lower rates of retention.
Student retention rates vary between institutions, reflecting a range of factors including how well students did in their previous studies and whether they are studying full or part time. There is a balance to be struck between widening participation (opening higher education up to people who might not traditionally have considered university) while improving retention, because students from different backgrounds need different support to complete their courses successfully.
Defra: A free pocket-sized booklet published by Defra provides an overview of the country's progress in tackling key economic, social and environmental issues. The 68 indicators it contains - covering a wide range of topics of everyday concern such as health, housing, jobs, crime, education, and our environment - all affect whether we can live more sustainably in the future.
Individually these 'sustainable development' indicators highlight those issues for which recent & longer-term change has been for the better or for the worse. Collectively they can provide an overview of progress, overall and for four priority areas:
* Sustainable consumption and production
* Climate change and energy
* Natural resource protection and environmental enhancement
* Creating sustainable communities
AC England: A picture of how popular taking part in circus activities is with young people in England has emerged in a new report commissioned by Arts Council England. The report - Airborne: mapping of youth circus activity in the UK - shows that more than 5,000 young people currently attend regular circus groups and over 50,000 engage in circus activity through outreach programmes.
Circus skills help children develop their mental & physical coordination within a creative environment and Arts Council England will continue its commitment to the development of youth circus, as part of the Young People’s Participatory Theatre project, which aims to increase young people’s participation in all areas of theatre.
NAO: A National Audit Office survey of those who have left the Services in the last two years revealed that three quarters found the return to civilian life was as expected or easier; and two thirds said the support offered by the Armed Forces helped them to find work. 94% of leavers who were seeking employment through the Career Transition Partnership programme found employment within six months. However, there are a minority of people who have a more difficult time finding employment, housing or making the social transition.
In 2006-07, some 25,000 personnel left the Armed Forces and all leavers have access to some assistance to help them when returning to civilian life. The level of resettlement support is determined by the length of military service and is not dependent on the rank of the leaver. Personnel discharged for medical reasons are entitled to the highest level of support regardless of how long they have served.
The MoD has improved the provision of resettlement support for Early Service Leavers because this group includes individuals more vulnerable to unemployment and homelessness. However inconsistencies in the quality of support offered at unit level undermines the overall provisions made.
PCS: The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) has echoed last week’s Constitutional Affairs Committee's criticism of the government's inadequate consultation on the creation of the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and also echoed the 'indecent haste' in which the new ministry had been created and highlighted the lack of proper planning & resourcing, going on to warn that the department were storing up problems for the future.
PCS urged the Treasury to reverse a freeze in the budgets of the component departments of the new ministry, including a planned 15% cut in the budget of the core Ministry of Justice courts budget between 2008 and 2011, as well as cuts in the Prison Service budget at a time when the prison population stands at a record high.
Legislation / Legal
CLG: Proposed changes to the law, set out in a consultation paper (closes on 4 October 2007), will require landlords to provide their tenants with an annual statement showing how service charges are spent. The measures will be backed by new rights for tenants to withhold service changes where a landlord fails to comply.
The new rules mean at least 1m people living in leasehold flats in England will receive an itemised statement showing a breakdown of how much service charge money their landlord has spent in the last year on repairs, maintenance, improvements, professional fees and staff costs.
The proposals suggest that any single item of expenditure accounting for 10% of total spend, such as lift maintenance, utility bills, cleaning & refuse collection costs, will need to be shown separately. Landlords will also need to show balances of service charge monies held at the beginning and end of each year.
DIUS: Any college recruiting students from abroad will need to be registered from 2009 on the new Home Office Sponsors' Register and to qualify for the register they will have to show they have been accredited by an approved body, which will demonstrate that they are a genuine education provider and prevent any acting as a front for the entry of bogus students or illegal immigrants to the country.
Many private education providers already have existing accreditation with one of these bodies which, if valid at the date of application and continues to be valid at the time the new student route is introduced, may be used to obtain registration.
The new rules are part of Britain's new Points Based System (PBS) for managing migration and the following accreditation bodies have been approved to accredit private educational institutions, before they can apply to register on the Home Office's PBS Sponsor Register:
* Accreditation UK
* The British Accreditation Council (BAC)
* The Accreditation Service for International Colleges (ASIC)
The sponsor register is expected to open for registrations at the beginning of 2008. It will cover both employers bringing migrant workers to the UK (Tier 2) and educational establishments bringing international students to this country (Tier 4).
DWP: Women & carers received a boost recently thanks to the reforms to the state pension system in the Pensions Act 2007, which has now received Royal Assent. For many low income women, this could mean an extra £50 a week by the 2050s from the state pension, but the Act will gradually increase State Pension Age to 68 by 2046 for men & women.
As well as providing a boost for women and carers, the Act re-links the Basic State Pension with earnings from 2012 (or by the end of the next Parliament) and reduces the number of years' contributions required to achieve a full Basic State Pension to 30 for women & men from April 6, 2010, down from 39 years for women and 44 for men.
MoJ: Companies whose gross negligence leads to the death of individuals will now face prosecution for manslaughter under new legislation. The Corporate Manslaughter Act is a landmark in law and the culmination of ten years of campaigning by unions and other groups.
Under the new law companies, organisations and, for the first time, Government bodies face an unlimited fine if they are found to have caused death due to their gross corporate health & safety failures. The Act will come into force on 6 April 2008 and the Ministry of Justice will issue further guidance for organisations affected by the Act in the Autumn.
MoJ: Legislation aimed at protecting the victims of forced marriages and preventing them from taking place has received Royal Assent, the Ministry of Justice has announced. Under the Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act, where a forced marriage has or is about to take place, courts will be able to make orders to protect the victim or the potential victim and help remove them from that situation.
The courts will have a wide discretion in the type of injunctions they will be able to make to enable them to respond effectively to the individual circumstances of the case and prevent or pre-empt forced marriages from occurring.
EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.
HMRC: Since 1993, by way of a concession, the UK has not charged excise duty on tobacco & alcohol products sent by post as occasional gifts from an individual in another European Union country. However, following a recent European Court of Justice ruling, they are now obliged to withdraw the concession and, from 19 July 2007, UK excise duty is due on these items.
It will still be possible to send excise goods from abroad to the UK by post, but UK duty will now be due. The new arrangements also apply to goods sent by post from non-EU countries.
Business and Other Briefings
NAO: HMRC has made progress in changing the way it deals with Corporation Tax for the largest businesses in the UK, the NAO says, but there are ways in which it can improve, particularly in focusing on higher amounts of tax at risk.
That was the main finding in a report to Parliament which recognises that large businesses are an important part of the economy and that the largest 700 businesses paid £23.8bn in Corporation Tax in 2006-07.
Dealing with Corporation Tax for large businesses is complex because most are multinational companies, the tax legislation is complex and businesses are entitled to plan their tax affairs to minimise their tax liabilities within the rules. The Department has adopted a new approach to improve the way it works with large businesses and to create incentives for businesses to reduce their levels of tax at risk.
HM Treasury: The Economic Secretary, Kitty Ussher, has published new Money Laundering Regulations targeted to fight Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing, which will come into effect on the 15 December 2007.
In addition, the government claims that the measures will also reduce regulatory burdens in low risk areas. The Government's Financial Crime Strategy estimated that organised crime costs the UK £20bn in social & economic harm each year.
HMRC: HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) will introduce a series of measures for individuals & businesses affected by the recent severe flooding. The Government will bring forward legislation in next year's Finance Bill, which will allow the Commissioners of HM Revenue and Customs to waive interest & surcharges on tax paid late due to the floods. The Government propose to make this legislation retrospective from 26th July 2007.
HMRC will not charge penalties where they are satisfied that customers have missed deadlines as a result of the flooding and they ask that both businesses & individuals contact the department if the flooding has made it difficult for them to deal with their tax affairs.
HMRC has set up a new Helpline (open seven days a week from 8.00am to 8.00pm) for anyone affected by the recent floods, which will enable anyone affected by the flooding to get fast, practical help & advice on a wide range of tax problems they may be facing.
HM Treasury: The government has launched a consultation document (closes on 19 October 2007) on changes to capital allowances - part of the package of reforms to business tax announced in Budget 2007, which outlines the package of reforms and seeks feedback from business on three new elements of the capital allowances regime:
* the annual investment allowance
* the definition of 'integral fixtures' to be assigned to the 10% cent pool, and
* payable enhanced capital allowances for environmentally beneficial investment
This Brief gives details of an article concerning: Information on forthcoming changes to VAT invoicing regulations, including invoice number requirements, margin scheme invoices, intra EC invoices and invoicing of exempt supplies to businesses in other EU member states.
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