In the News
DWP: EU helps fund UK skills development and removal of barriers to work - The European Commission has agreed to contribute £2bn to a proposed new £4bn European Social Fund programme for England for 2007 to 2013. All regions of England will benefit from the new programme, which will fund a range of activities such as job search advice & support, confidence building, basic skills and vocational qualifications.
Target groups for the new European Social Fund programme include unemployed people, disabled people, lone parents, older workers, ethnic minorities, low skilled people and young people not in education, employment or training.
The programme will invest the £4b over seven years in two key priorities:
* extending employment opportunities by tackling barriers to work faced by people who are unemployed or disadvantaged in the labour market
* developing a skilled & adaptable workforce by training people who lack basic skills and good qualifications
The new programme will be formally launched at an event at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in London on 29 October 2007. The first application rounds will take place in the autumn and new projects will start in early 2008. In the meantime, the 2000-2006 ESF programme will continue to fund project activity until the middle of 2008.
Defra / HSE: Budget cuts put before adequate biosecurity? - Defra has published reports from the Health and Safety Executive and Professor Brian Spratt, of Imperial College London, into the recent outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease in Surrey.
HSE Chief Executive Geoffrey Podger said:
"This conclusion is supported by evidence of long term damage and leakage, including cracked pipes, tree roots breaching pipework, and unsealed manholes. We also believe that excessive rainfall in July may have increased the potential for virus release from the drain.
Our report shows that during the period of our investigation both human and vehicle movements at Pirbright were not adequately controlled. We conclude that failure to keep complete records was not in line with accepted practice and represents a breach in biosecurity at the site. In particular, vehicles associated with ongoing construction work had relatively unrestricted access to the site.
In our opinion, these construction activities - very near to the effluent drainage system - are likely to have caused disturbance and movement of soil in a way that contaminated some of the vehicles with the live virus. We established that some of the vehicles, probably contaminated, drove from the site along a road that passes the first infected farm.
We conclude therefore that this combination of events is the likely link between the release of the live virus from Pirbright and the first outbreak of FMD".
HSE and Defra have issued a co-ordinated safety alert to employers conducting work on pathogens in hazard groups 3 and 4 as a reminder of the measures needed to ensure primary and secondary containment.
HC: Still some cause for concern with Community Mental Health Services - Community mental health services show improvements, but concerns remain over social inclusion and access to counselling. Users of community mental health services say there have been some improvements in their care, according to a Healthcare Commission survey just published.
The relationships between service users and their psychiatrists continue to improve year-on-year. Meanwhile, a greater proportion of those with more complex mental health needs know who their care co-ordinator is and are being offered copies of their care plan.
Access to out-of-hours crisis care via telephone has improved markedly in the past year, but this still leaves almost half of service users without access to out of hours crisis care. Meanwhile, more than one in three service users who wanted counselling say they did not get it.
Also worrying was the lack of progress in helping service users access benefits or find work. Almost a third of those who would have liked help with benefits did not receive it. Likewise, only 49% of those who wanted help finding work were offered it.
Only 20% of people using mental health services reported that they were in paid work. The national employment rate for all people of working age, according to the Office of National Statistics, stands at 74%.
Furthermore, only one in two service users who wanted information on local support groups got it. Community mental health services must also address the needs of carers and those who provide support for people with on-going mental health conditions. It is therefore a concern that 40% of respondents said their relatives or carer had not received enough support from health and social services.
Scottish Government (ScotGov): What’s in a Name – a pathway to more independence? - Scottish Ministers have formally adopted the title Scottish Government to replace the term Scottish Executive as an expression of corporate identity. Signs at the six main Government buildings in Edinburgh and Glasgow have already been changed but other material such as stationery will only be changed gradually to be as cost effective as possible in the transition.
The Scottish Social Attitudes survey and a Citizens' Jury examining Executive communications have both indicated limited understanding of what the Executive does and some confusion with other government bodies, notably the Scottish Parliament but also the UK Government.
BIG: Third Sector taking over from Public Sector - Community empowerment has risen up the agenda as a programme to transfer public buildings to local organisations opened for applications last week.
The £30m Community Assets programme, funded by the Office of the Third Sector and delivered by the Big Lottery Fund, is a programme to enable third sector organisations to have greater control over the assets they use, such as community buildings. It will facilitate the transfer of genuine assets from local authorities to third sector organisations for their use as community resources.
The programme will offer grants of between £150,000 and £1m for refurbishment of local authority buildings, including community centres and other multi-purpose facilities, so they can benefit both local communities and the third sector organisations that take them on.
There will be a single bidding round for all applications, which closes on 15 November 2007.
Cabinet Office: Did the government put into practice anything it learnt from the Carlisle floods? - Sir Michael Pitt, the independent chair overseeing the government's Lessons Learned review into this summer's floods, is calling on those affected to log on to the reviews website and share their experiences.
Specific objectives for the Review include:
* understanding why the flooding was so extensive
* learning lessons on how in future we can best predict, prevent or mitigate the scale & impact of flooding
* looking at how best to co-ordinate the response to flooding in future
* establishing how the transition from response to recovery is best managed
* identifying those aspects of the response that worked well and should be promoted and reinforced
* establishing what access to support, equipment, facilities and information is needed by those involved in the response at local, regional and national levels
BERR: Can we trust the consultation process? - Last Saturday, in a series of events, Ministers canvassed the views of a demographically representative sample of 1,100 citizens simultaneously across nine UK cities to inform the decision due to be made later this year on whether it is in the public interest to give energy companies the option of building new nuclear power stations.
The Government has reached the preliminary view that new nuclear would be in the public interest because it believes it has the potential to make an important contribution to the UK's energy security and to help to reduce the amount of carbon we emit.
During the events, participants were provided with information to help them understand further the issues involved and they spent the day debating amongst themselves issues such as safety, security, waste management and the energy mix.
Participants' views were captured by facilitators who sat with them during the discussions and they were also asked a number of polling questions relating to the material presented and asked to answer these using electronic handsets.
For information on forthcoming public sector events please click HERE to visit the WGPlus Events Calendar
For Industry News please click HERE
Socitm: Socitm Consulting has helped the London Borough of Camden to transform its ICT service in an ambitious programme led by John Jackson, Assistant Director (Corporate ICT), which has centred on reorganising Camden’s ICT service (previously the most devolved in the United Kingdom) and making it more focussed on customer service.
Savings of £600k have already been realised in year one and from 2007/08 onwards over £1m p.a. is expected to be freed up. Over the next five years the ambition within the draft IT strategy is to take £8-10m out of ICT operating costs from the review and redirect these at areas of priority.
NA: The Archive Awareness Campaign has been launched, with archives across the UK planning special events to commemorate the history of human rights. The theme of the 2007 campaign is 'Freedom and Liberty', looking at the struggle for rights in history, including the Chartists, the Suffragettes and the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade.
Over a hundred archives all across the UK are currently planning showcases, open days, workshops and many other activities to celebrate their holdings of original documents and tell stories of freedom to new audiences in the most inspiring ways possible.
MoD: The Ministry of Defence has signed a £30m contract with Plymouth-based DML for 130 weapon mounted patrol vehicles which will be used by troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. The MWMIK can carry up to four soldiers with their individual weapons, and can operate on a variety of terrains, including off road. Delivery will take place throughout 2008.
The MWMIK vehicles (Mobility Weapon Mounted Installation Kit) will be built at the Devonport site and, with a top speed of 80 mph, they will offer increased mobility & protection. The vehicle can be fitted with a range of firepower, including a .50 calibre machine gun or an automatic grenade launcher and a general purpose machine gun.
DCMS: Forty-three museums and galleries in England will benefit from grants totalling £4m, provided jointly by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Wolfson Foundation. The grants will help improve the quality of museum displays and the visitor experience.
This is the sixth year of the current DCMS/Wolfson Foundation Museums & Galleries Improvement Fund, which has awarded a total of £20 million to institutions around the country since it was set up in 2002.
Defra: Chief Veterinary Officer Debby Reynolds welcomed the launch of the first World Rabies Day on 8 September, which was initiated by the Alliance for Rabies Control and the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta.
World Rabies Day aims to improve global awareness of rabies and how to prevent & control it, as well as support educational initiatives about rabies prevention, especially in areas of the world where the disease is prevalent. Rabies is a fatal condition but it is preventable by vaccination.
The UK has had a system of quarantine for rabies-susceptible mammals for many years, and has also operated the Pet Travel Scheme since 2000, which allows certain animals including dogs and cats to enter the UK from a number of countries without the need for quarantine as long as they meet strict veterinary conditions.
Policy Statements and Initiatives
DH: As our society ages and changes, more individuals and families will face caring responsibilities. Care is a growing issue that will affect us all in some way in the future. A consultation is currently under way on a new deal for the people that take on this important role of carer.
This will continue, but ‘the issue is of such importance’ that the Prime Minister has announced that a Standing Commission on Carers will be established, reporting to the Secretary of State for Health, that will ensure the voice of carers is central to the development of Government policy and look at how carers will be affected by long term issues.
Defra: Representatives from the fashion, clothing, and textile industry, as well as environmental & ethical groups, met for the first recently time to look at how they can work with government to improve the sustainability of clothing throughout its life cycle. Following this event, the clothing and fashion industry will be invited to be involved in developing the sustainable clothing roadmap coordinated by Defra.
The roadmap examines all stages of clothing's life cycle (from raw materials to end of life), charts the environmental and social impacts arising at each stage, and proposes ways of limiting those impacts where most effective.
DCFS: The government claims that parents will be able to help their kids make the most of exciting new technologies, while protecting them from harmful and inappropriate imagery, thanks to a new review announced as part of the Government's new 10 year Children's Plan.
The Prime Minister and Ed Balls discussed this issue with parents, teachers and children at the launch of the Children's Plan consultation event recently at Bristol Brunel Academy. Their views will be fed through into this review.
The Review will NOT cover television content, as there is already effective statutory regulation in this area. Neither online grooming nor the creation & distribution of abusive images of children are included as these are already covered in the safeguarding strategy consultation.
Games which feature gross violence and/or sexual material are subject to the Video Recordings Act and must be submitted to the British Board of Film Classification. They are considered against a set of guidelines and given a legally binding age-related classification. All other games are covered the voluntary Pan-European Games Information system which aims to provide parents with information allowing them to make choices for their children.
ScotGov: Scotland's Environment Minister, Michael Russell, has outlined his positive vision of crofting in the 21st century in his first major keynote speech on the subject, made to the annual conference of the Scottish Crofter's Foundation.
Describing crofting as having "a vital role to play in sustaining vibrant populations in Scotland's less accessible areas", Mr Russell has indicated his backing for the work being done by the Committee of Inquiry into Crofting, but he has also pledged new resources now, including an additional £100,000 per year to help improve quality of life in the crofting communities by enabling access to the new Scottish Rural Development Programme.
DCSF: The government has re-announced their £21bn cash injection over the next three years to build new schools and launched a national debate & consultation (closes 19 October 2007) about how children's services could be improved during the next ten years.
Mr Brown and Mr Balls kick-started the national discussion - Time to talk - at the official opening of the Bristol Brunel Academy, the first of 180 new or newly refurbished schools that will open during the next six months.
The debate was the first in a series of public events & consultation exercises that will take place during the next two months. In addition to the public consultation there will be three expert groups chaired by Children, Schools and Families Ministers.
DSA: The Driving Standards Agency (DSA) is carrying out a public consultation (closes on 23 November 2007) on modernising arrangements to take driving tests. The Agency also proposes to consult over the price of driving tests. It intends to increase the fee of theory tests for car drivers and motorcycle riders by a further £1.50 on 1 April 2008.
It proposes to increase the practical car test by £8. This will see the cost of the theory test set at £30 and the practical test at £56.50. It is also proposed in the consultation that the fee for the practical motorcycle test will increase by £20 to £80 on 1 October 2008 when the new & more demanding manoeuvres are introduced to the test.
In addition, the theory test fee increased from £21.50 to £28.50 for theory tests taken by car and motorcycle candidates on 3 September 2007, when the number of questions in the test rose to 50 from 35.
Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides
Cabinet Office: A new online resource to help organisations think about the effects of Scotland's changing climate has gone live. The Scottish Climate Change Impacts Partnership (SCCIP) website offers free access to the best quality data on climate trends and their impacts on Scotland.
The SCCIP was established to:
* promote awareness & understanding of climate change impacts affecting Scotland whilst supporting organisations in meeting the challenges and opportunities these impacts present
* strengthen Scotland's adaptation response as a whole by providing strategic links between localised or individual activity
* engage with and seek to strengthen individual organisations resilience to a changing climate
DfT: Almost three-quarters of bus passengers are
pleased with the service provided by their local buses, a Department for
Transport survey into passenger experiences revealed recently. Passengers
were found to be generally positive about their experiences, with the vast
majority rating the services provided as either 'very' or 'fairly'
Furthermore, most households
could claim to live within a short walk of their nearest bus stop with a
quarter of all adults using their local bus service at least once a
week. However, the survey also reveals the challenge of encouraging more
people to use the bus instead of the car for local journeys.
Public transport statistics
also published recently showed use of buses in England rose by 4% in the year
since free local off-peak bus travel was introduced for older and disabled
people in April 2006. This scheme will be extended in April 2008 to allow older and disabled
people to travel for free anywhere in England, rather than just in their local
LR: Land Registry, the government department
responsible for land registration in England and Wales, has exceeded its annual
target and is well on course to achieving its aim of a comprehensive land
register, according to the Annual Report and Accounts 2006/7.
Almost 60% of land in England
and Wales is now registered on the national land database - up from just 48%
two years ago. More than 700,000 hectares - an area the size of Cumbria -
have been registered in the past year.
General Reports and Other Publications
DH: The number of children achieving their 5
A DAY target has increased according to a report out by the Department of
Health. The Further Evaluation of The School Fruit and Vegetable
Scheme shows that the scheme is working and could contribute to a
reduction of heart disease, stroke and cancer later in life.
Figures show that the number
of children achieving 5 A DAY has increased from 27% in March 2004 to 44% in
November 2006 and the number of portions consumed has also increased to a point
where on average 50% of children in the scheme are close to achieving their 5 A
ScotGov: Maps which identify areas of urban
Scotland and near major transport arteries which could have high levels of
ambient noise have been published by the Scottish Government. The
strategic maps of Glasgow, Edinburgh and Scotland's main transport network and
airports have been drawn up in accordance with the European Union's
Environmental Noise Directive (END) which requires all Member States to do
so by the end of this year for its major urban areas and transport
Member states are then
required to use the maps to develop Action
Plans by July
2008. This process is to be repeated five yearly.
DWP: A survey of 1,500 GPs has found that 64% are
unaware of the evidence that work is beneficial for physical and mental
health. However, nearly 90% said that if they knew of this evidence, it
would affect the advice they give to their patients.
Evidence published last year
found that being in work can help people with a health condition to get better;
and returning to work from unemployment improves health. Work can be
intrinsic to health & wellbeing, boosting self-esteem and quality of
As part of its Health,
Work and Well-being Strategy, the government has developed a series of
initiatives to support & educate healthcare professionals on the health
risks of unemployment, the consequences of signing people off long-term sick,
and how they can help patients stay in or return to work.
Other initiatives include an
online training tool for GPs to assist in difficult consultations with patients
on remaining in or returning to work.
PCS: The publication of the House of Commons
Committee of Public Accounts into - The Delays in Administering the 2005
Single Payment Scheme in England - has led to the PCS union echoing
the committee's finding that civil service job cuts were a major factor in the
delays surrounding the scheme.
The union which represents
staff working at the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) supports the
committee's finding that the agency axed too many experienced staff at the same
time as trying to introduce the single payment scheme. During 2005-06 the
agency cut 1,000 jobs as it sought to meet its Gershon target of 1,800 job
losses, this led to the RPA spending £14.3 million on temporary agency
staff to fill the gaps.
The union also called on the
government to learn the lessons of the RPA and to reassess its job cuts
programme which has also led to backlogs and delays in Jobcentres and Her
Majesty's Revenue and Customs.
TfL: Transport for London (TfL)
has published its Rail Freight Strategy which proposes measures to
remove between 110 and 176 million lorry miles from UK roads each year -
significantly reducing harmful gas emissions and road accidents.
The document sets out
TfL’s proposals for the next ten years in support of the Mayor’s
priorities on greenhouse gases, congestion and road accidents. It also
contains toolkits to help
Borough officers with planning procedures for potential rail freight sites.
CEL: The Centre for Excellence in Leadership
(CEL) has commissioned a second independent evaluation of its work across
the further education system. The latest research assessed whether
there had been improvements, especially around leadership and management, since
the provider’s last ALI or Ofsted inspection.
It also sought to identify
evidence of any correlation between CEL engagement and subsequent improvement
in leadership being recognised in the inspection process. The evaluation
found a very high level of correlation between CEL engagement and improved
performance, predominantly in leadership and management.
Legislation / Legal
ScotGov: The Abolition of Bridge Tolls (Scotland) Bill has been introduced to the Scottish Parliament. The legislation is intended to enable the Scottish Government to abolish tolls on the Forth and Tay road bridge.
ScotGov: A two-pronged initiative to ensure private rented homes are kept in a decent state of repair by landlords has been announced. A new Repairing Standard, which extends existing legal requirements, will set the benchmark for what tenants can expect.
For example, it will mean that, for the first time, all private rented properties will have to be fitted with smoke alarms. And tenants who cannot agree with their landlord about whether or not the standard is being met will be able to take their case to the Private Rented Housing Panel (PRHP). This new organisation will in most instances try to resolve issues by mutual agreement or mediation, but it will have the power to back this up with enforcement if necessary.
EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.
Defra: Three estuaries - the Dee, Humber and Severn - have been earmarked by the government as Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) to protect vulnerable wildlife and habitats. Defra has written to the European Commission to seek SAC status for the three candidate sites, to add to the UK's 611 SACs covering just over two and a half million hectares.
The Habitats Directive (Council Directive 92/43/EEC of 21 May 1992) requires each Member State to submit a list of Candidate SACs (cSACs) to the Commission to make up a network of high-quality conservation sites known as Natura 2000.
This network consists of SACs and Special Protection Areas (SPAs) established to protect wild birds under the Birds Directive (Council Directive 79/409/EEC of 2 April 1979). The Natura 2000 network is internationally recognised as forming part of the global effort to conserve biodiversity.
DWP: The European Commission has agreed to contribute £2bn to a proposed new £4bn European Social Fund programme for England for 2007 to 2013 – See ‘In the News’ section above for more details.
Charity and Voluntary Sector
Cabinet Office: A charitable society where people
are more than likely to volunteer or give money to charity is revealed in an
extensive survey published by the Cabinet Office. Helping Out: A
national survey of volunteering and charitable giving found that:
* 58% had both volunteered
& donated to charity in the last 12 months
* 81% had given to a charity
within the last four weeks
The most common reasons for
* 'to improve things or help
* 'because the cause was
* 'because they had spare
Business and Other Briefings
IPO: A new 12 month pilot scheme will hopefully speed up
processing patent applications in the UK and the United States of America.
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 United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)
to request accelerated examination of a corresponding patent application filed
in the other country.
The aim of the pilot is to
test applicant demand for this additional option for speeding up examination of
patent applications and to quantify the quality and efficiency gains to be
expected. The pilot scheme with the USPTO follows an earlier PPH agreement
with the Japan Patent Office established earlier this year.
FSA: The Financial Services Authority's
(FSA) new framework for recognising Industry Guidance came into
effect last week - an important step in the move towards Principles-Based
Regulation. Trade associations, professional bodies and firms will be
able to seek formal confirmation for the guidance they generate to help their
members understand and meet The FSA's regulatory requirements.
A new Policy Statement describes the role of Industry
Guidance and the standards that will be applied by the FSA in recognising this.
It sets out the process for bodies to follow in seeking FSA confirmation
for particular sets of Industry Guidance and describes the confirmation
criteria the FSA has set up to ensure that confirmation requests are dealt with
consistently, efficiently and effectively.
The paper also clarifies that
the FSA will not take action against a firm which has complied with recognised
guidance covering the issue concerned.
HMRC: An ‘honest assessment’ of HMRC
online services and responses to agents' questions can be heard in the latest
HMRC podcasts, launched last week.
HMRC Chairman, Paul Gray, says
in an interview that while HMRC has "come a very long way", there are
more improvements it can make to its online services, and admits that there are
"some features of our systems that don't give the service people are
In another podcast, Dave
Hartnett, HMRC's Director General (Business), answers tax agents' questions on
a whole host of subjects, including VAT registration delays, the restructuring
of HMRC, and the difference between acceptable and unacceptable tax
Revenue & Customs (HMRC) has launched 'Agent Update', a regular
electronic round-up for the agent community. The new, bi-monthly
publication includes a summary of recent HMRC announcements, publications and
guidance of interest to tax agents and advisers, together with links to further
information on the HMRC website.
The first edition includes
links to: the latest information on HMRC help for customers affected by the
recent floods and foot and mouth; new Money Laundering Regulations; and the
latest HMRC podcasts.
It also includes entries on
three key changes coming into effect in October - changes to VAT invoicing, new
Construction Industry Scheme penalties, and mandatory online filing for
registered pension schemes.
DfT: The Department for Transport have
announced the details of a scheme to extend tax incentives to encourage
hauliers and bus operators to buy vehicles that meet the latest European
standard for air pollutant emissions, known as 'Euro V', before it becomes
The Reduced Pollution
Certificate (RPC) scheme will be extended so that hauliers and bus operators
first registering a Euro V compliant vehicle before 1 October
2009 can claim a discount of up to £500 a year on Vehicle
Excise Duty (VED).
This Brief gives details of an
article: VAT: Claims in respect of fund management services.
This Brief gives details of an
article: VAT: Claims in respect of fund management services.
This Brief gives details of an
article: VAT – place of supply of trading allowances in greenhouse gas
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