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

In the News

Ofsted: Despite all the extra funding, still room for improvement - Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Education, Children's Services and Skills, Christine Gilbert, has called for renewed efforts to narrow the gap and improve the care & education of children and young people who have the odds stacked against them.

In her annual state of the nation address she said that not enough was being done to raise achievement & aspirations, particularly for children in public care - but that there was evidence that the gap can be narrowed.

Her first annual report for the new Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills (Ofsted) finds a broadly positive picture across education, child care and adult skills. It highlights that, with good provision & support, disadvantaged children can make good progress, but warns that the relationship between poverty & outcomes for young people is stark.

Christine Gilbert said: "Whilst it is encouraging to see an increasing trend in the number of good and outstanding schools, the proportion of schools - 5% of primary and 10% of secondary - in which provision is inadequate continues to be a significant concern.

In many of these schools pupils progress is hampered by poor basic skills in literacy and numeracy. It cannot be right that 20% of pupils leave primary school without a solid foundation in literacy and numeracy".
Ofsted press release ~ DCSF press release ~ TDA press release ~ The Annual Report of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools 2006/07 ~ Annual Report microsite ~ Outstanding providers 2006/07 ~ Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCI) ~ Looked -after children - Every Child Matters ~ Children leaving care - Every Child Matters ~ White Paper: Care Matters: Time for Change ~ Educational achievement of looked-after children - ECM ~ DfES: Looked-after children: the struggle for stability ~ Narrowing the gap: the inspection of children’s services ~ Frank Buttle Trust Quality Mark ~ BBC News - 'Education gap' of care children ~ Impact of inspections ~ Ofsted: Developing social, emotional and behavioural skills in secondary schools ~ Principles into Practice ~ Ofsted: Attendance in secondary schools ~ Independent Study into School Leadership (2.8Mb) ~ National College of School Leadership ~ TDA - Training and Development Agency for Schools

CLG: Banishing the ghost of Rackman - Housing Minister Yvette Cooper has announced a new social housing watchdog that will crack down on registered social landlords in England who are giving tenants a poor service, such as long waits for repairs. The new watchdog is the key recommendation accepted by the Government from the Cave Review of Social Housing in June.

The Office for Tenants and Social Landlords (which will replace the role currently played by the Housing Corporation) is being established as an independent, standalone body and it will have the powers to back up tenants of Registered Social Landlords (RSLs) when they report poor service.

Under the new system tenants' groups will be able to alert the regulator to poor service; the regulator will then have the authority to impose a range of penalties & sanctions on failing social landlords, including the power to trigger a change of management and to help ensure tenants receive a good service.

The Government has also announced that an independently chaired advisory panel will carry out further work with stakeholders in order to bring local authorities under the scope of the watchdog within two years of it coming into operation.
Press release ~ Registered Social Landlords (RSLs) ~ Housing Corporation ~ Homes and Communities Agency ~ Cave Review: Every Tenant Matters: a review of social housing regulation ~ Empowering Communities - Tenant's guides ~ CLG: Managing housing and support services

DIUS: Does this mean it’s not my fault? - The technological revolution of the 20th century has led to weight gain becoming inevitable for most people, because our bodies and biological make-up are out of step with our surroundings, says the latest report from Foresight, the Government's ‘futures’ think-tank.

The study found that obesity has many causes and is a much more passive phenomenon than is often assumed. Our basic biological instincts combined with our modern environment means that we're destined to put on weight. The research found that the problem of obesity will take at least 30 years to reverse.

Foresight's diverse evidence shows that only a comprehensive long term strategy will have an impact on the rising trends of obesity. Preventing obesity requires major change - in the environment and in behaviour; in organisations as well as in communities, families and individuals.

As part of the CSR announcement the Government signalled a new long-term ambition to tackle obesity across the population as part of the new Child health PSA to improve the health and wellbeing of children and young people.

The government claims that its initial focus will be on children: By 2020, they aim to reduce the proportion of overweight and obese children to 2000 levels.
Press release ~ Tackling Obesities: Future Choices' Foresight project ~ Online toolkit: Lightening the Load: tackling overweight and obesity ~ DH - Obesity ~ Obesity guidance for healthy schools co-ordinators and their partners ~ Measuring childhood obesity: Guidance to primary care trusts ~ Obesity Care Pathway and Your Weight, Your Health ~ Teen Life Check ~ Teenage Health Freak website ~ NICE Obesity guidelines ~ Healthy Schools Programme ~ Local Exercise Action Pilot ~ Weight Wise ~ Small change, big difference ~ Forecasting Obesity to 2010' ~ Health Survey for England: Obesity among children under 11 ~ Tackling Childhood Obesity–First Steps Full Report ~ NAO – Tackling obesity in England ~ DH – Healthy Living website ~ National Obesity Forum ~ Association for the Study of obesity ~ TOAST – The Obesity Awareness & Solutions Trust ~ Food Standards Agency ~ Measuring childhood obesity: Guidance for PCTs ~ Management of Obesity in Children and young people guide

PHSO: If only our politicians had some principles - In her new Principles for Remedy, the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, Ann Abraham, sets out the principles she believes public bodies should use when considering remedies for injustice or hardship resulting from maladministration or poor service, using the same generic headings as in her Principles of Good Administration, published earlier this year.

The Principles accord with HM Treasury's guidelines on remedy as set out in Managing Public Money and will be reflected in the next edition of the NHS Finance Manual.

Ms Abraham said: “We want public bodies to be fair and take responsibility, acknowledge failures and apologise for them, make amends, and use the opportunity to improve their services. We are keen to discuss with those involved in public services how these Principles can best be put into practice”.
Press release ~ Principles for Remedy ~ European Ombudsman ~ Principles of Good Administration ~ NHS Finance Manual ~ HM Treasury's guideline: Managing Public Money

Home Office: But most immigrants come from EU member countries, don't they? - The Immigration Minister, Liam Byrne, has pledged a 'new balance in migration policy' during a speech to public servants in Essex, which set out a 12-month programme of ‘sweeping changes’ to Britain's immigration systems and strategy.

Mr Byrne said: "In 12 months time our immigration system will have changed out of all recognition. From next year, a points-based system, modelled on the success of Australia, will ensure that only people Britain needs can come here to work and study. Three quarters of the World's population will need fingerprint visas ….. and we'll start to count people in and out of the country. ID cards for foreign nationals will start to make sure that migrants can prove who they are, and help us safeguard access to work and benefits.

We will attack the root cause of illegal journeys, which is illegal jobs, with big new fast-track fines for employers turning a blind eye or breaking the rules. Those who sponsor migrants to come to Britain will need a licence to do so”.

In addition the Home Office has published a cross Government report on the fiscal & economic impact of migration, which the Home Office will use to inform a cabinet decision on how long to continue restrictions on Bulgaria and Romania and in due course a points based system.
Press release ~ Migration Impacts Forum (MIF) ~ The Economic and Fiscal Impact of Immigration ~ Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) ~ A points based system ~ Borders, immigration and identity action plan

DCSF: They deserve a chance in life - Schools Minister Andrew Adonis has launched a programme to maximise the potential of children with special educational needs and support schools & early years settings in managing their needs.

The Inclusion Development Programme (IDP) is a £2m project of confidence-raising training for teachers, support staff and early years practitioners, developed in partnership with children's communication charity I CAN and Dyslexia Action. It is intended to improve the skills of teachers by advising them on how to develop teaching strategies for children with special educational needs (SEN) and providing guidance on dealing with common classroom challenges.

The training materials will initially focus on speech, language and communication needs and dyslexia. Over the next four years training on autistic spectrum disorders, behavioural issues and moderate learning difficulties will be added.

Information on the materials, including an interactive DVD & web based resources to support leadership and individual teacher/practitioner professional development, will be available from the National Strategies from December.
Press release ~ I CAN ~ Dyslexia Action ~ The Communication Trust ~ No To Failure Project (NTF) ~ British Dyslexic Association ~ Dyslexia Parents Resource ~ Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA) ~ SEN Code of Practice ~ Education and Skills Select Committee report on Special Educational Needs (SEN) ~ National Strategies ~ Bercow review ~ Aiming High for Disabled Children: Better Support for Families ~ Council for Disabled Children ~ Special Educational Consortium ~ National Parent Partnership Network ~ Special educational needs (SEN) - Parents Centre ~ National Association for Special educational needs

Forthcoming Event:
The summer is finally over (having been delayed by a couple of months) and many organisations are in the middle of the budgeting process for 2008/09, but for many Public and Third Sector Organisations (PSOs) in the Midlands and North it is a time of ‘dread’ as they face the prospect of yet more boring trips to London to visit various exhibitions, as part of the process of costing up various options.

However, this year can be different as a warm welcome awaits you at Business North West 2007 - 21/11/2007 to 22/11/2007 – at Manchester Central (formerly G-Mex).

This unique event provides public sector visitors with a central point for sourcing information, advice & inspiration and an opportunity to find new suppliers & concepts through an extensive exhibition and seminar programme.

Councils in the North West are spending the equivalent of £900 a year for every man woman & child on buying goods and services. NWCE has even launched a major drive to investigate the way councils invest £6.5bn annually on Third Party Spend.

Of course, councils are not just customers for goods & services; they are also major employers within their own right. With this in mind, incorporated within Business North West is an innovative seminar programme covering off key management issues from tackling sickness and absenteeism, to internet and email security, to improved environmental performance.

It’s not all business and for something ‘lighter’, the impressive list of speakers includes rogue trader Nick Leeson whose risk-taking caused the biggest financial scandal of the century. He will talk frankly about his extraordinary life story and the lessons learnt.

If you still need convincing, then consider how the sourcing of local suppliers can help reduce the UK’s carbon footprint and, as a local client you will probably get more support and speedier access to services.
Full details ~ Business North West ~ North West Centre of Excellence ~ North West Development Agency ~ Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce ~ Manchester City Council ~ Business Ideas competition ~ Manchester: Knowledge Capital ~ The University of Manchester Incubator Company (UMIC)

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

For the latest Industry News please click HERE

General News

DIUS: A new suite of English language qualifications has been launched by the government ESOL for Work qualifications ESOL - English for Speakers of Other Languages, which will hopefully make it easier for employers and migrant workers to get the functional English language skills they need.
The new qualifications are shorter & more work-focused than traditional ESOL qualifications, giving learners practical English skills in essential workplace matters, such as health & safety and customer service.  As well as better accuracy, efficiency & effectiveness, the new qualifications will help employers benefit from improved communication and productivity.
ESOL for Work ensures that employers and workers who need English skills quickly are able to access tailored provision and bypass the waiting lists that may exist on free ESOL courses. The cost of the new ESOL for Work courses will continue to be funded by Government, but a contribution of approximately £330 will be required from employers, who directly benefit from the provision.
LDA: New plans for the regeneration of Crystal Palace Park have been announced by the London Development Agency (LDA).  Developed by the LDA, Design for London and award winning architects Latz & Partner, the masterplan will see the park hopefully return to being one of the most spectacular green spaces in Europe.
Blueprints include; a tree top walkway, an aquarium, tropical glasshouses and a tree canopy mimicking the silhouette of the old Palace. In addition the concert bowl will be renovated, along with the reconstruction of the former cricket pitch (and a new pavilion), sunken gardens along the terraces, and the restoration of one of the famous Paxton fountains.
The amount of park land accessible to the public will increase by up to 39 acres - returning to parkland areas that previously housed buildings or the caravan park.
HM Treasury: The Economic Secretary, Kitty Ussher, has announced that the Government will allow people who, during the recent financial market disruption withdrew cash from Individual Savings Accounts (ISAs) held at Northern Rock (and in the process lost their tax advantages) to re-deposit that money into a cash ISA with Northern Rock or any other provider, restoring their tax advantages.
Savers wishing to restore their lost cash ISA tax advantage must by 5 April 2008either:
* return their funds to a Northern Rock ISA, or
* obtain from Northern Rock a certificate for the amount of cash ISA savings withdrawn between 13 - 19 September, and present this to a new cash ISA provider when depositing the money
ScotGov: Changes to Scotland’s NHS Pension Scheme will be implemented from April 2008, it has been announced. The scheme is designed to be affordable & sustainable, as well as fairer for employers, scheme members and taxpayers.  It will deliver savings of around £0.5bn over the next 50 years.
Existing staff, and those joining the NHS Pension Scheme up to 31 March 2008, will keep their normal pension age of 60.  Major changes include the introduction of a new scheme for new staff with a normal pension age of 65.  The minimum age for drawing a reduced pension will also increase from 50 to 55 for new entrants.

Policy Statements and Initiatives

PP: The Government has decided to replace its original proposals for a new land tax involving a Planning Gain Supplement (PGS) in favour of a Planning Charge according to the Planning Portal. This will build on the current s106 approach and the tariff formula pioneered in Milton Keynes, planning minister Yvette Cooper told Parliament and the necessary legislation will be included in the forthcoming Planning Reform Bill.
The Minister spelled out some of the principles of the proposed new planning charge arrangements, stressing that that local authorities will be able to apply standard planning charges for all new development in their areas to support infrastructure delivery.
DCSF: The Government is backing its pledge to have a Sure Start Children's Centre in every community by 2010, with a further investment of £351m to pay for developing, extending & modifying existing centres in less disadvantaged areas and bring the total number of Children's Centres to 3,500 by 2010 (There are currently 1,500 centres).
The government has also published its response to the July 2007 Public Accounts Committee report on Sure Start Children's Centres, providing information on all the action taken to improve services such as:
* issuing practice guidance on how to engage disadvantaged families
* providing a toolkit on how to engage with excluded groups providing business planning guidance and
* staff training to improve financial management and obtain value for money
By Autumn 2007 1,200 centre managers will have obtained or be working towards the National Professional Qualification in Integrated Centre Leadership (NPQICL), which is recognised as a national qualification for those working in multi-agency, multi-disciplinary environments.  In addition, Children's Centre planning guidance will be issued shortly.


DCSF: Parents, health and education professionals are being asked for their views on specialist provision for the 89,000 school-aged children and young people with speech, language and communications needs. The formal "call for evidence" is a key part of the independent review into speech & language provision, led by John Bercow MP.
The review will make recommendations on how the very best provision can be mirrored in all areas, so every young person up to 19-years-old with speech & language 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.
The review's website has also been launched - with a formal list of questions for the call for evidence being published on it shortly.  The final report will be published in summer 2008 and the Government will respond afterwards.
Ofwat: The Water Services Regulation Authority (Ofwat) has published its first major consultation on how it will set price limits for customers' water and sewerage bills for the five years from 2010 to 2015.  The consultation paper describes the approach that the regulator will take to make sure that the prices companies charge their customers are designed to deliver the best results for those customers.
One new development is the requirement for all companies to publish a 25-year strategic direction statement.  This will show how each company proposes to tackle long term issues such as climate change, the development of competition and, where relevant, increased housing development.
Following consultation on the methodology paper (closes 24 January 2008)Ofwat will publish its final guidance paper in March 2008 to enable water companies to deliver their draft business plans in August 2008.
CRC: The Commission for Rural Communities has responded to the CLG's consultation (closed 19 October 2007) on Shared Ownership and Leasehold Enfranchisement saying that ‘the Government has recognised the difficulties of providing affordable areas in some areas where development is constrained by consulting on changes that would limit the amount of a shared ownership house that could be owned by a resident’.
The CRC are calling for the ability to limit the amount an individual can own to 80% in all settlements of less than 3,000 population and in all settlements within the boundaries of areas subject to national and international environmental designations.
Defra: More than four in five responses to government consultation supported plans for a Marine Bill which would introduce new laws to improve the conservation & management of the UK's marine environment. There were 8,519 responses to the Marine Bill White Paper, A Sea Change, with 82% support for the Bill. The responses will help to shape final government proposals.

Annual Reports

HC: The Healthcare Commission has published performance ratings for all NHS trusts in England, showing overall improvement in quality of services and use of resources.  All 394 trusts get an overall rating - on a four-point scale ranging from “excellent” to “weak” – on both quality of services and use of resources (financial management).

The results show clear improvement overall, with more trusts scoring “excellent”, as well as fewer scoring “fair” and “weak”.  In all, one in three trusts improved on quality of services and a similar number did so on use of resources.  In particular, the Commission noted that 19 NHS trusts scored “excellent” on both parts of the rating, up from just two last year.

Overall performance improved with 55% of trusts judged “fully met” on existing national targets, an increase of 18 percentage points compared to last year.  This is largely because of the significant improvements in the range of waiting time targets.

But 70 % of PCTs failed the target relating to “convenience and choice”, which says that patients should be able to choose from at least four providers paid for by the NHS.
Ofwat: Customers can be assured that their water supplies are secure, according to Ofwat's 'Security of Supply 2006-07' report, which looks at how well companies have managed to balance their supply of water against the demand by their customers in a way that ensures they meet their customers' needs for a safe, secure and continuous water supply now and in the future.
Across the whole industry, leakage fell for the third consecutive year and the amount of water lost through leakage is now one-third lower than its 1994 peak.
Only Severn Trent failed to meet its leakage target and the company has given Ofwat a legally binding undertaking to fix this and meet future targets.  Following similar action against Thames Water last year, the company complied with its commitments in 2006-07 and beat its leakage target by 20 Ml/d.

General Reports and Other Publications

CEL: The Centre for Excellence in Leadership (CEL) has published its report of a policy seminar held on 5 September 2007 to explore the potential benefits of close working between the further education system and local government for the achievement of public service outcomes.
The significance of place and the complexities of decision-making at the local community level had previously been highlighted in a series of seminars that looked at the implications of the Leitch review of skills for the FE system and for its leadership.
CEL's current policy seminar series, ‘Leading the FE system in a new era of ambition’, began on 9 October 2007 with the first of six seminars, chaired by Fiona Millar. The next one is about ‘Sector-owned improvement – learning from local government’ on 29 November 2007.
DWP: Two DWP research reports - Health, disability, caring and employment and Disability and Caring among Families with Children have been published. They are based on analysis of the Department's Families and Children Study (and other surveys) and add to their knowledge about how disability in the family interacts with income, employment and caring behaviour.
The Families and Children Study is a refreshed panel study of approximately 7000 families in Britain, investigating the circumstances of all families with dependent children.  It covers a range of topics including: health; disability and caring; education; income; childcare; child maintenance; housing; transport; and labour market activity.
ESRC: A project funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) on a South London housing estate has developed ways of teaching people the skills they need to make the most of today’s information technology.
NIACE, the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education, will use the findings of the Penceil (How People Encounter E-Illiteracy and how they can take action to overcome it) project in its ongoing work within the government’s Skills for Life initiative.
Defra: Increasing the UK's capacity for Combined Heat and Power generation (CHP) should yield considerable environmental and economic benefits, two Government reports have claimed. The reports, published as part of the requirements of the EC Co-generation Directive, predict that over 10% of the UK's electricity will come from CHP generation by the end of 2010.
It goes on to state that the economic potential exists to provide 17% of our total energy requirement from CHP.
The report on the UK's national potential for CHP examines how the opportunity to capitalise on this energy source can be harnessed and it outlines the taxation, market mechanisms and policy framework in place to support the growth of Good Quality CHP capacity.

Legislation / Legal

ScotGov: Kerb-crawlers now face a criminal record, a fine of up to £1,000 and the shame of exposure to family, friends and colleagues under new laws to tackle the demand for prostitution on Scotland's streets.
To date the law in Scotland has criminalised those selling sex on the streets while largely leaving untouched the individuals who demand their services, but the Prostitution (Public Places) (Scotland) Act 2007, passed by MSPs on February 28 2007, criminalises soliciting for the purpose of obtaining the services of someone engaged in prostitution, and loitering for the same purpose.
The Scottish Government is also working with Westminster to ensure that in future the courts will have the power to disqualify offenders from driving.

EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.

UK IPO: The London Agreement, which has recently been approved by the French President, could save British business over £10m a year, Intellectual Property and Quality Minister Lord Triesman said, by halving the translation costs of a typical patent granted by the European Patent Office (EPO).
The simple step of cutting patent translations - translations which were rarely read - will save businesses more than £2,000 for a typical European patent application.  The Agreement, which has now been approved by 12 European states, will not enter into force until the first day of the fourth month following French ratification.  It is expected to enter into force in early 2008.

Charity and Voluntary Sector

BIG: Much needed respite for unpaid carers is on the way with a grant today from the Big Lottery Fund to a London-based charity that helps people who are looking after disabled or sick relatives across England.
The Kiloran Trust based in West Kensington receives the grant of £109,328 (from BIG’s Reaching Communities programme) to organise residential breaks for unpaid carers of sick, disabled and older relatives, friends or other dependents.  Carers from across England can come and stay at The Kiloran Trust’s premises for a five-day break, where they can rest, recuperate and pursue new interests away from their day-to-day caring responsibilities.
As well as providing carers with accommodation & food, The Kiloran Trust also has trained staff on hand to offer support and a listening ear for any problems and difficulties they may be experiencing.  For those who have not stayed in London before, the project staff will also join carers on day trips out in the capital and advise them on where to go and what to see, helping them get the most out of their stay.   

Business and Other Briefings

HMRC: An international security system to scan US bound maritime container freight for nuclear and radioactive materials is being trialled at Southampton Container Terminals (SCT) as part of a six month feasibility study.
All container lorries entering SCT will drive through scanners designed to detect radioactivity, while those bound for the US will also be x-rayed.  If any suspect material is present then an alarm will sound to alert HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) officers to a potential threat.
The Southampton trial is one of three such tests that the US has initiated around the globe to test the operation - the others are in Honduras and Pakistan.  The US authorities are providing all the equipment & funding the trial.
HMRC, after consulting with the European Commission, has agreed to this independent trial taking place on UK territory.  HMRC have also agreed to facilitate the trial and will ensure it abides by all UK and EU health & safety standards and data protection requirements.
HMRC: Registered pension schemes must submit certain information electronically to HMRC from 16 October 2007. Previously, this information could also be submitted on paper.
To submit information online, scheme administrators (or practitioners acting on their behalf) must register with HMRC's Pension Schemes Online service.  It can take up to seven working days to activate a new account - as some information has to be sent by post - so pension scheme administrators and practitioners who haven't done so, should register as soon as possible.
Early registration will ensure that administrators are ready to use Pension Schemes Online in advance of any filing deadlines.
This Brief gives details of an article: VAT: Changes in the VAT treatment of serviced building plots.
This Brief gives details of an article: Registered Dealers in Controlled Oil scheme (RDCO) - option to submit annual returns.

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