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In the News

MoD: MoD gets creative with its ‘savings’ - Defence Minister Lord Drayson has welcomed a report by a committee of MPs into improvements MoD is making to the way it buys new equipment for the Armed Forces - but took issue with some comments in the committee's press notice regarding cost allocation.

Quoting extracts from the Committee of Public Accounts press statement:
'Fourteen projects have been reported as incurring no new delays in the last year. But the truth is that the Department’s track-record in managing these projects is pretty dire and it is too early to say whether its confidence is genuinely justified.

We are pleased to see efforts by the Department to control the costs of projects. But old habits die hard. More than half of the sum which the MOD has claimed to save has simply been loaded on to other budgets. We have no idea what cuts will have to be made to other activities of our Armed Forces as a result of this massaging of the figures.

£448 million of costs were either re-classified as expenditure in other procurement or support budgets or transferred to other budgets for corporate management. These re-allocations have achieved cost reductions for the individual projects but do not represent a saving to the Department as a whole. By transferring the costs elsewhere it may potentially have to forego activities which could otherwise have been provided’.

Lord Drayson, Minister for Defence Equipment and Support, was responding to a report by the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee on the National Audit Office Major Projects Report 2006. The Ministry of Defence will respond fully to Parliament on the Report's recommendations and conclusions in due course.
MoD press release ~ PAC press release ~ Public Accounts Committee: Ministry of Defence Major Projects Report 2006 ~ National Audit Office: Major Projects Report 2006

DCSF: An integral part of the education system - Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim and Sikh faith school backers have unveiled a joint declaration and shared vision of schools with a religious character in 21st century England.

In 'Faith in the System,' the Government and religious groups providing schools "confirm our commitment to continue to work together and with schools with and without a religious character to improve the life chances of children, to build bridges to greater mutual trust and understanding and to contribute to a just and cohesive society."

The document also aims to dispel some of the common myths & misunderstanding around schools with a religious character and seeks to promote greater respect of the differences between different faiths and different types of schools.

Around a third of all maintained schools have a religious character - approximately 6,850 schools from a total of nearly 21,000. Around 600 are secondary schools with the remainder being primary schools. The great majority are Church of England and Roman Catholic.
Press release ~ Faith in the System ~ Admissions Code ~ DfES - Religious education in faith schools ~ Teachernet Faith Schools ~ Impact of Specialist and Faith Schools ~ Catholic Education Service ~ National Society for promoting religious education ~ Becoming Fit for Purpose ~ National Secular Society ~ Network of Sikh Organisations ~ I-Foundation

ScotGov: As the smoke clears the health benefits become evident - A study of nine Scottish hospitals has found a 17% fall in admissions for heart attacks in the first year after the smoking ban came into force. The figure is included in one of a series of research papers which was presented recently at an international conference discussing the impact of the smoking ban on Scotland's health, air quality and society.

The research is part of a national evaluation of the impact of Scotland's smokefree legislation which shows that the smoking ban has had an overwhelmingly positive effect.

Other findings of the evaluation included:
* a 39% reduction in second hand smoke exposure in 11-year-olds and in adult non-smokers
* an 86% reduction in secondhand smoke in bars
Press release ~ Smokefree conference ~ Scotland's smokefree legislation ~ Changes in exposure of adult non-smokers to secondhand smoke after implementation of smoke-free legislation in Scotland: national cross sectional survey ~ Smoking in the home after the smoke-free legislation in Scotland: qualitative study ~ Changes in child exposure to environmental tobacco smoke (CHETS) study after implementation of smoke-free legislation in Scotland: national cross sectional survey ~ Bar Workers' Exposure to Second-Hand Smoke: The Effect of Scottish Smoke-Free Legislation on Occupational Exposure ~ Health Scotland - Smoking ~ ASH Scotland

DIUS: Automatic shopping on the Horizon - The UK's first public discussion about the future of science and technology has found that many people would not mind strangers knowing what was in their fridge, if it meant that supermarkets could help them plan meals and automatically restock it to make grocery shopping a thing of the past.

The Sciencehorizons programme was the first public engagement exercise in the UK to focus on the potential future uses for science and technology, using a set of fictitious potential scenarios set from 2025. It involved a deliberative panel of 30 members of the public which met twice over two months for extended discussions and presentations from expert speakers on range of topics including climate change and cyber-security and genetic testing.

The other two strands of the programme included facilitated public meetings in science centres and community spaces & self-managed group discussions run by community bodies including schools, Women's Institutes and faith groups.

The discussions used a specially designed pack showing how life in 2025 could differ from today, which was based on a series of papers called Horizon Scans, written by expert scientists mapping out potential future technological developments. Along with the pack, an interactive web site was developed to stimulate discussion & debate.
Press release ~ Science Horizons ~ Sciencewise – Funded Project ~ BA Festival of Science ~ DIUS ~ Universal Ethical Code for Scientists ~ Institute for the Future (IFTF) ~ Foresight ~ Delta Scan ~ Sigma Scan

: An honest response or just a politician’s promise? - In response to the launch of the Royal British Legion's Honour the Covenant Campaign, the Armed Forces' Minister, Bob Ainsworth, said:
"I welcome the Royal British Legion's campaign to generate debate about the covenant between the Nation and the Armed Forces. I will look in detail at the Royal British Legion's concerns and respond in full as soon as possible…………….. There are areas where we have already made significant progress, but we acknowledge that we must do more. These areas include mental healthcare for veterans, compensation, inquests and accommodation."
Press release ~ Honour the Covenant Campaign ~ Military Covenant ~ Armed Forces' Compensation Scheme ~ MoD - Managing the Defence Estate: Quality and sustainability ~ BBC video report ~ Project SLAM

DfT: Disabled get the blues over problems with parking - Transport Minister Rosie Winterton has recently announced a series of changes to update the Blue Badge disabled persons' parking scheme and hopefully make it tougher on fraud.

The changes, which come into force on 15 October 2007, include:
* extending the scheme to children under two who, because of their specific medical conditions, need to travel with bulky medical equipment or be close to a vehicle for emergency medical treatment. This will include children who suffer from hip dysplasia

* amending the design of the badge, including the addition of a hologram, to help prevent fraud and aid enforcement

* extending the scheme to include people with severe disabilities in both arms who drive non-adapted vehicles regularly, but are unable to operate parking meters, such as people with Thalidomide-related disabilities

While the biggest single change is the introduction of an anti-fraud hologram to help prevent forgeries, in addition, as a result of the feedback from the consultation, the new badge will also include a gender specific serial number to aid parking enforcement and clearer information about the use & abuse of the scheme directly on the badge.
Press release ~ DfT Blue Badge web page ~ Guidance on enforcement ~ Directgov Blue Badge web page ~ Blue Badge Network ~ Traffic Management Act 2004 ~ Disability Now ~ DfT - Measures to tackle abuse of the Blue Badge Scheme

Ofsted: Room for improvement - The most successful pupil referral units (PRUs) are offering pupils a ‘second chance’ in mainstream education by setting them high expectations, offering them an interesting & relevant curriculum and focusing on improving their academic and personal development and confidence. But schools and local authorities need to do more to help PRUs reintegrate pupils into mainstream education.

In 2005/06 over half of the PRUs inspected nationally were judged good or outstanding, however in 2005/06 one in eight units was judged to be inadequate.

Inspectors visited 28 good or outstanding PRUs for a new Ofsted report - Pupil referral units: Establishing successful practice in pupil referral units and local authorities - to identify effective practice in the most successful units.

The report found that a clear sense of purpose and a strong working relationship with the local authority were key features of successful PRUs. Partnerships with a wide range of agencies also supported pupils and enriched their experiences.

Many PRUs face common problems that can affect their ability to provide children and young people with a good education. These include inadequate accommodation, pupils of different ages with diverse needs arriving in an unplanned way, limited numbers of specialist staff and difficulties in reintegrating pupils into mainstream schools.
Inspectors found that the success of PRUs depends on their responses to these challenges and the support they receive from their local authority.

General News

Home Office: 4,000 more unsolved rape & serious sex offence cases are to be reviewed as part of a £1m cold case project – Operation Advance.  The project uses advances in DNA technology to re-analyse evidence from undetected cases committed up to 24 years ago and to compare the DNA profiles obtained against the National DNA Database (NDNAD) for possible matches.
Advance III will work with the Forensic Science Service (FSS) over the next six months to review around cases which date from 1991-1996. To date, the project has reviewed over 11,000 cases leading to the scientific re-analysis of 423 cases and 116 matches against the National DNA Database. 
These have resulted in 30 convictions that together total sentences of over 150 years of imprisonment - in addition to four life sentences. A further seven cases are awaiting trial. Almost all of the offenders convicted so far have proved to be persistent & prolific violent criminals with offending histories that stretch from the present day, back over many years.
DH: NHS patients throughout England are being invited to take part in a multi-million pound medical project supported by the Department of Health, which will help find out much more about curing many life threatening and debilitating diseases.
UK Biobank is one of the biggest and most detailed public health research initiatives of our time, which will provide a valuable resource for research into a wide range of diseases including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, dementia, mental illness, Parkinson's disease, joint & dental disease and many other life threatening and debilitating conditions.
UK Biobank is recruiting 500,000 people aged 40-69. With their permission, it will track their health over the course of the next 30 years or more. Recruitment is by invitation and the opportunity to take part will be available to people of different areas of the country as assessment centres are rolled out over the next few years across England, Wales and Scotland.
MoD: The impressive new Armed Forces Memorial (AFM) will be dedicated on 12 October 2007. The names of almost 16,000 service men and women (regular & reserve) who have been killed on duty since the end of WWII are engraved on the vast Portland Stone walls.
3,000 tickets are now available for the families, friends and colleagues of those named to attend the ceremony, which will be attended by VIPs including senior members of the Royal Family. Tickets are available by downloading an application form or by ringing the ticket hotline 08457 725725.
The dedication is a ticket-only event and to enable as many of those named to be represented as possible, tickets will be allocated proportionally across the six decades with a maximum of two tickets per family.
The AFM will not be open to the public until 0900 on 29 October 2007.
ScotGov: Ministers yesterday granted consent for a windfarm at Harestanes, capable of generating power for around 120,000 homes, but at the same time they refused consent for windfarm applications at Clashindarroch near Huntly (129 MW) and Calliacher near Aberfeldy (62 MW).
Clashindarroch would have potentially harmful impacts on Deveron Valley landscape.
BGS: The British Geological Survey recorded an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.9 Mw at 11:10 GMT on the 12th of September 2007.  The earthquake was located near the coast of Southern Sumatra, Indonesia and a tsunami warning was issued for the region as an earthquake of this size has the potential to generate a tsunami that can strike coastlines throughout the area.
Reports from the area suggest that buildings were damaged and there has been a loss of power throughout the region, which is located approximately 1,000 km SE of the magnitude 9.2 Mw earthquake that occurred on 26 December 2004 and generated a tsunami, which killed in the region of 300,000 people.

Policy Statements and Initiatives

ScotGov: Plans to bring a national focus on skills by bringing organisations together into a single skills body have been announced in Scotland as part of a new skills strategy - Skills for Scotland, A Lifelong Skills Strategy.
The development of a skills strategy for Scotland was announced as part of the Scottish Government's first 100 days commitments by Ms Hyslop during an education debate in June and the merger of Careers Scotland and Learndirect Scotland is the first step towards creating a unified skills body.
DCSF: A major review into the provision of services for children and young people with speech, language and communications needs has been launched by Children, Schools and Families Secretary of State Ed Balls and Health Secretary of State Alan Johnson.
It will advise the Government on how the very best provision can be mirrored in all areas, so every young person up to 19-years-old with speech & learning difficulties gets support as early as possible.  It will also advise on how local services can work closer together so children get the support they need, when they need it.
It will report by summer 2008 and the Government will formally respond in due course.
BERR: Employment Relations Minister Pat McFadden has announced 28 projects awarded grants worth a total of £2.8m from the Union Modernisation Fund (UMF), which was set up two years ago to help trade unions adapt to a changing labour market & modern workplaces and to provide examples of best practice for other unions to follow.  Last year a first round of 35 projects worth £3m was awarded.
A range of bids have secured funding under the second stage of the funding, including projects to:
* help adapt to increasing diversity in the workplace (and address vulnerable worker issues)
* improve two-way communications within unions
* support development of union representatives to promote equality
* apply modern management methods to unions
* develop the professional competence of union officers
Leeds University Business School will provide a final independent evaluation of the fund in late 2008.
DIUS: Skills Secretary John Denham has announced a £35m fund to help 30,000 people a year in the workforce to gain new skills. The Adult Learning Grant (ALG) is intended to give eligible adults up to £30 a week to help improve their skills and progress. 
The ALG is a weekly grant designed to help adults studying full-time with the costs of learning and it is targeted at the 5.8 million people who are working and do not have a level 2 qualification.  Individuals who are in receipt of 'out of work' benefits, such as JSA, are not eligible for the programme.
The grant is income assessed and pays up to £30 per week (around £1,000 a year) for full time learners aged 19 and over who are studying for a first full Level 2 (5 GCSEs at grades A* to C or an NVQ2 or its equivalent) or a first full Level 3 (2 A levels or an NVQ3 or its equivalent) qualification.  It is paid only during term time for weeks when the learner is in attendance at college.


NICE: Two pieces of draft safety solution guidance, published by NICE, in collaboration with the National Patient Safety Agency (NPSA), make important recommendations about the prevention of pneumonia in mechanically ventilated patients and on how to improve processes to ensure that any medication patients are taking prior to admission to hospital is properly documented on admission.
The draft guidance, which is out for public consultation until 10 October 2007, is the first of its kind from NICE to make recommendations on cost-effective interventions to prevent or mitigate patient harm in the NHS.  Comments received during this consultation will be reviewed at the next independent advisory committee meeting.  NICE expects to issue final guidance to the NHS in December 2007.

Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides

CLG: Social housing landlords have received new guidance to help them measure their success in tackling anti-social behaviour. The toolkit, developed by HouseMark and the Social Landlords' Crime and Nuisance Group (SLCNG) for Communities and Local Government, offers practical help & advice on collecting, interpreting and using information.
It explains in easy to understand terms, the information that landlords should collect on anti-social behaviour in order to target their staff time and resources effectively. It will also assist landlords in meeting the requirements of the Respect Standard for Housing Management and encourage even more landlords to sign up to the standard itself.

Annual Reports

Defra: The Pesticide Residues Committee (PRC) published their 2006 annual report at the BA Festival of Science held at the University of York last week.
As well as detailing the results of the monitoring programme the report provides information about the role of the independent committee and their work throughout 2006.  The committee meet in York 4 times a year.  Every year they hold an open meeting where members of the public join them to discuss pesticide residues in food.
The next PRC meeting on 31 October 2007 will be held in York and will be open to observers (although numbers are limited by the space available).  If you would like to attend then register your interest with the secretariat.

General Reports and Other Publications

TfLTransport for London has published the results of a public consultation on route options for the proposed CrossRiver Tram.  The consultation sought the views of local residents & businesses on various options for the proposed 16.5 km route.
The proposed Cross River Tram will be a high quality public transport link, running on-street between Euston and Waterloo, with branches to Camden Town & King's Cross in the north and Brixton & Peckham in the south. 
A decision on the preferred route will follow a technical review and assessment of whether funding will be available.  The review and further feasibility work will look at potential passenger numbers, improvements in journey times, a review of depot and staged implementation options, traffic & environmental impacts and the views on route options expressed by the public and stakeholders.
DWP: The Department for Work and Pensions has published Research report 454: Review of the advisory services model, which reviews the new Advisory Services Model operational in Jobcentre Plus offices.  The report presents findings from qualitative interviews with a range of Jobcentre Plus staff examining their views of the new model.
CRC: The Commission for Rural Communities has welcomed the publication of the Conservative Party’s Quality of Life report, commenting that the chapter on rural life ‘rightly recognises that rural areas often require specific policies to address issues like the dispersed nature of rural deprivation. The proposal for ‘Localhold’ homes echoes the existing concept of CommunityLand Trusts and it is exciting that these ways of meeting local needs for affordable housing are being explored.
However, we are disappointed with the lack of support for council tax on second homes and the opportunity that would be lost to fund affordable homes for local people.
MoJ: Though HMP Sudbury was basically a safe & purposeful prison, there were concerns about healthcare and some resettlement work was disappointing, said Anne Owers, Chief Inspector of Prisons, publishing the report of an unannounced inspection into the open prison.
Some weaknesses in healthcare provision required immediate action by the primary care trust.  They included unsafe clinical recording practices and insufficient mental health support.
Resettlement work had not kept pace with recent developments & best practice, particularly for short-sentenced prisoners.  Substance use work also needed further development.
CEL: Research commissioned by the Centre for Excellence in Leadership (CEL) has found that whilst further education sector leaders understand the importance of sustainable development and believe that the sector has a responsibility to help realise a more sustainable way of life, many feel that they are on a steep learning curve.
CEL's research report - Leadership for sustainability: Making sustainable development a reality for leaders - was published at a consultation seminar last week.  Two key findings were that:
* distributed leadership, self-awareness and adaptability in leadership style are three of the key qualities for effective leadership for sustainability
* sector leadership development needs to encompass systems thinking, futures thinking and management of uncertainty

Press release ~ Leadership for sustainability: Making sustainable development a reality for leaders ~ Leadership for sustainability: The sustainable development challenge for leaders in further education ~ Centre for Excellence in Leadership (CEL) ~ Forum for the Future ~ Education for Sustainability Programme at London South Bank University (LSBU)

Legislation / Legal

ScotGov: The Scottish Government has announced that it will work with Conservative MSP Jamie McGrigor to help him introduce a Members bill for a National Register of Tartan. The MSP and the Government will aim to have a Register set up by the spring 2008.
In the Parliamentary session 2006/07 Jamie McGrigor MSP tabled a Members' Bill for a publicly funded national register to recognise, classify and authenticate tartans.  This attracted a good level of cross party support and Mr McGrigor agreed to withdraw his Bill on the basis that the previous administration was supportive of his proposal.  In the summer, Minister for Enterprise Jim Mather confirmed the Scottish Government supported the idea.
ScotGov: The Scottish Government has published the report of an independent review of the law & practice of disclosure in criminal proceedings in ScotlandThe review was carried out by Lord Coulsfield, the retired High Court judge, on a personal basis and the report contains his own analysis & conclusions.
The remit was ‘to review the law and practice of disclosure of evidence and other relevant material in criminal proceedings in Scotland, with a view to making recommendations that will secure a system that is both practical and effective, recognising the rights of the accused, the interests of victims and witnesses and the wider interests of justice’.
Lord Coulsfield proposes that there should be legislation, to clarify the legal requirements of disclosure and to establish a mechanism for resolving the conflicts of interest which arise when disclosure of important material might put witnesses or security interests at risk.

EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.

ScotGov: Minister for Public Health Shona Robison has endorsed a 10-point plan for the future of tobacco control in Europe. Closing an international smoke-free conference in Edinburgh, Ms Robison gave her backing to a statement produced by public health experts & researchers on how Europe can continue to reduce smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke in years to come.
The 'Edinburgh Statement' will now be presented to the European Parliament for consideration for future no-smoking policies across the EU. Some of the main points in the statement are:
* That all 196 countries who have signed up to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control are urged to implement comprehensive smoke free legislation within five years
* The European Commission is invited to produce a proposal on how legislative safeguards against second hand smoke can be promoted in EU countries that have not introduced smokefree laws
* Governments are urged to act on their responsibility to protect & discourage children and young people from starting to smoke
This is the first international treaty relating to health.  To date, 196 countries have signed up to it.
ScotGov: Ullapool last weekend hosted the seventh European Geopark Network Conference on 'Landscapes and People: Earth Heritage, Culture and Economy'. The conference focused on the role of Geoparks in Scotland and across Europe and aims to encourage businesses, communities and young people to get involved in geopark activities and developments.
Scotland has two geoparks in Lochaber and North West Highlands:
* The North West Highland Geopark was the first to be designated in Scotland in November 2004 and the scenery includes mountains in Assynt such as Ben More, Suilven and Stac Pollaidh.
* Lochaber, an area of Scotland with an ancient and unique rock record, celebrated the accolade of being chosen as Europe's newest Geopark in June 2007.  

Business and Other Briefings

HM Treasury: The Thoresen Review, an independent review set up by HM Treasury to look at how Generic Financial Advice (GFA) can be provided, has announced that Consumer Direct, in partnership with Citizens Advice Bureau, Cumbria County Council and Agilisys, and A4e will operate GFA consumer pilots in the North West, London, Staffordshire and South Yorkshire.
The pilots will test out a range of options and evidence the review has gathered from a wide variety of sources (including the responses to the review's call for evidence and consumer focus groups) to see how GFA can best be provided.
The pilots will go live on 17 September, operated by Consumer Direct and Citizens Advice Bureau and remain live until 17 December 2007The results from the independent evaluation of the pilots will be published in the final Thoresen Review report in early 2008.
This Brief gives details of an article : VAT: Tribunal concerning RBS Deutschland Holdings GmbH.

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