You are viewing our public content
You can sign in or register for additional services

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

OGCOGC promotes the importance of robust telecommunication networks in the Public Sector – The Office of Government Commerce (OGC) is promoting its Next Generation Networks Procurement Standards, Guidance and Model Clauses to ensure that the Next Generation Networks (NGNs) which are used to deliver telecommunication services in the public sector are reliable & robust.

NGNs are the infrastructure over which virtually all telecommunication services, including voice, data, broadband and video-conferencing, are expected to be delivered. This technology is already being deployed and is forecast to replace the existing telecommunication networks over the next few years.

With this in mind the OGC has created a set of procurement standards, guidance and model clauses for organisations to use when buying NGN-based telecommunication services.  These Standards will help public sector bodies identify & manage potential risks associated with this emerging technology.

The Next Generation Networks (NGN) Procurement Standards Project was initiated as part of the Cabinet Office's NGN Risk Mitigation Programme.  The objective of the Project was to produce 'best practice' procurement standards & guidance that will assist buyers of NGN-based telecommunication services and set standards that service providers will need to meet in order to supply to government.
DHMaking life less stressful - The Government will treble the number of employment advisers in GP surgeries and pilot a new £8m advice & support service for smaller businesses as part of a new approach to help people with stress and other mental health conditions find & keep work.

The package includes £13m of new dedicated funding over 3 years which will support the employer advisory service (£8m) and the Jobcentre Plus advisers in GP surgeries pilot expansion (£5m).  This is complemented by already agreed funding for the roll out of GP educational programmes.

Elements of the package include:
* Development of a National Strategy for Mental Health and Work
* An advice & support service for employers, especially smaller businesses
* Expansion of the pilots placing Jobcentre Plus advisers in GP surgeries, to treble the capacity
* A mental health forum will bring together all those involved in delivering Pathways to Work support
* Wherever possible, the Pathways to Work and Improving Access to Psychological Therapies programmes will be linked up as they are rolled out across the country
* Changes to the process for issuing medical certificates will reflect the emphasis on ‘capacity’ rather than ‘incapacity’

The development of the National Strategy will be launched at a high level conference early in the New Year.  Detailed proposals on the employer advisory service and advisers in GP surgeries pilots are being developed and it is anticipated they will commence during the second half of 2008.

A fundamental review of the health of Britain's working age population is currently being undertaken by Dame Carol Black, the Nation Director for Health and Work.  The review, which will include recommendations for improving the health and employment prospects of people of working age will report to Ministers early in 2008.
CLGJust how much local decision making there will be remains to be seen - A Bill that is intended to make the planning system quicker, more transparent and easier for the public to become involved in has been published by Communities Secretary Hazel Blears.  The Planning Bill will reform the planning system for major infrastructure projects which is increasingly struggling to deal with the challenges of the 21st century - climate change, protecting the environment and the need for new homes.

The changes are expected to bring the average time for decisions on major projects down to under a year ‘ending years of unnecessary delays on the infrastructure the country needs to tackle challenges of a modern world and help tackle climate change’.  On average £300m a year will be saved, nearly £5bn by 2030.

The government claims that communities too will have a far greater say - with the Bill including a package of measures that will strengthen public participation in the setting of national infrastructure policy, the development of individual projects and planning decisions themselves.

The Bill will also simplify the local town & country planning system, improve the appeal process and puts a duty on councils in preparing their local plans to take action on climate change.  Local councils will also be able to set charges on new developments in their areas to contribute to community infrastructure like roads, schools and hospitals.
NAO:  Government still needs to reduce its ‘housing’ costs further - A report published by the National Audit Office has found that government departments could reduce gross annual expenditure on offices by around £330m by bringing the cost performance of individual buildings in line with private sector benchmark buildings.

Median costs paid for in 2005-06 ranged from £123 per square metre to £636 and the amount of building space allocated per person, ranged from 13.3 square metres to 21.9 square metres.  The Office of Government Commerce (OGC) is currently consulting departments on the introduction of a space ‘standard’ of 12 square metres per person.

The report also found that departments are not yet on top of sustainability issues.  Departments were not able to supply information on the amount of energy consumed in 2005-06 for 265 out of 877 buildings reviewed; the proportion of energy from renewable sources for 300 buildings; or the presence of a recycling scheme for 544 buildings.

The Office of Government Commerce (OGC) is looking to improve efficiency from government’s civil property estate and achieve £1.5bn of annual efficiency savings by 2013 and the report concludes that OGC and departments have made good progress in the early stages of implementing OGC’s High Performing Property initiative to make further gains on efficiencies.

The NAO recommends that departments improve their understanding of the factors that feature in improving building efficiency.  Specifically, they need an accurate and up-to-date understanding of the number of people, the occupation level, number of work stations, accommodation costs and the environmental performance of the building.
DCSF:  More than one type of water trough - Ed Balls and John Denham have published the Education and Skills Bill and outlined their plans to boost the skills & education of young people and adults.  The Bill will raise the education & training leaving age to 18 by 2015, as well as strengthening the provision & support available to young people & adults to meet the ambition set out in the Leitch Review of achieving world class skills by 2020.

The government claims that ‘independently verified’ research estimates the economic benefits of raising the participation age to be around £2.4bn per year group over the course of their lifetime.  This is because staying on longer improves the skills & employability of young people and raises their earning potential.

The Bill includes the transfer to local authorities of the responsibility for delivering Connexions services, strengthening careers education in schools and changes to transport provision.  Local authorities will be required to promote young people's participation and to support them to find appropriate education & training opportunities.
MoDWould any Minister wait 20 years to have his office redecorated? - Defence Minister Derek Twigg has given his initial response to the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee report on the work of Defence Estates.
Edward Leigh MP, Chairman of the Committee of Public Accounts had previously said:
The state of a good deal of the living accommodation provided for our military personnel is simply unacceptable.  Half of all single accommodation provided by the MOD is below par. As are some 19,000 of the family houses provided.

The MOD is aware of this and trying to improve things, but it is planning to upgrade only 900 family homes each year.  Which means for the next twenty years some servicemen and women and their families will have to put up with living in substandard accommodation”.

Skills shortages are adversely affecting the Department’s ability to discharge some of its key estate management responsibilities.  A lack of quantity surveyors means that it cannot properly scrutinise capital works projects and may be paying too much in some cases.  The shortage of safety works professionals puts its adherence to Health and Safety legislation at risk, and could have legal implications.
NAOSpreading the cost of back office functions - A report by the National Audit Office has found that central government was initially slow to adopt shared services and that, while the momentum has picked up it is not clear that the shared services initiative is yet on a scale sufficient to deliver the level of savings that is possible.

The report looked at government’s achievements so far, and how it can get more from the shared services initiative.  The Cabinet Office estimates that departments could save £1.4bn a year on finance and human resource functions by implementing shared services.

Both the NHS Shared Business Service and the Prison Service Shared Service, reviewed in detail by the NAO for this study, are on course to deliver savings, demonstrating that both are more efficient than the arrangements they have replaced.

Better management information, faster paperless transaction processing and substantial savings in procurement were all mentioned by customers of NHS Shared Business Services that had seen improvements over the arrangements they had used before.
For information on forthcoming public sector events please click HERE to visit the WGPlus Events Calendar

For other Industry News please click HERE

General News

MoD: The Royal Navy's newest & most powerful Type 45 destroyer - Diamond – has been launched from BAE's shipyard at Govan, on the Clyde.  The Type 45s are the larger & more powerful replacement for the existing Type 42s and will carry the world-leading PAAMS system (Principal Anti-Air Missile System) which is capable of defending a Type 45 & ships in its company from multiple attacks by the most sophisticated anti-ship missiles.
As well as providing air defence over a wide area, including for the future aircraft carrier, the Type 45 will be able to conduct a wide variety of other operations.  They will be able to carry up to 60 Royal Marines Commandos & their equipment, support Special Forces operations and operate a Chinook sized helicopter from the flight deck.  The size of the ship will also allow accommodation standards to be better.
Cabinet Office
The Civil Service Fast Stream Team is pleased to announce that the Summer Diversity Internship Programme is once again open for applications until 6 January 2008. The programme is aimed at high calibre individuals interested in applying to the Fast Stream, a competitive graduate development programme that identifies people with the potential to progress to the Senior Civil Service.
In particular, the Internship Programme seeks to help groups that are currently under-represented in the Fast Stream gain a better understanding of career opportunities within the Civil Service. It is open to UK nationals either from an ethnic minority background or with a registered disability, with a minimum 2.2 (expected or awarded) degree.
PCS: The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) have announced a two day strike by members working for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in Jobcentres, the Pension service and Child Support Agency (CSA), as the department walked away from last minute talks in a dispute over the threatened imposition of a below inflation pay offer.
The 2-day strike (to be followed by an overtime ban) on Thursday 6 December and Friday 7 December adds to the pressure on the government following rows over party funding and the loss of child benefit data.  
Members are angry over the three year pay offer, which sees cost of living increases for longer serving staff members of 2% this year, 0% next year and 1% in the final year.  The pay offer averages just 1% a year over the three years and sees the lowest paid receiving increases which take their wage to only 24 pence above the minimum wage.

Policy Statements and Initiatives

DfT: A further £4bn will be invested in delivering better, more integrated local transport over the next three years, Transport Minister Rosie Winterton has claimed. The funding is in addition to the £7.9bn planned to fund major transport projects across the regions between 06/07 and 2015/16.
The Local Transport Capital Settlement will allow local authorities to plan & fund important community projects, such as bus infrastructure improvements, cycle lanes, new road safety measures, better street lighting and road maintenance.
The Eddington transport study demonstrated how small local transport improvements that tackle congestion, improve integration and provide genuine alternatives to the car, often provide the best returns.
DWP: The Remploy Modernisation plan will give a ‘fair deal’ to the disabled workforce, with fewer factory closures and many more disabled people supported in mainstream employment, according to Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Peter Hain.
Giving the green light for the plan, which will see 55 factories remain open - 15 more than originally proposed - Peter Hain urged the company and the unions to continue working together to make the plan work for disabled people across the country.
ScotGov: Around 90% of Scotland’s eligible claims for Single Farm Payment are expected to be paid within the first month of the 2007 payment window. Payments in December are expected to amount to over £330m, which represents support to more than 18,000 producers.

The Single Farm Payment Scheme is the replacement for historic arable and livestock direct support schemes in Scotland and this is the second year of operation.  Farmers applied for the Scheme in May 2007.

Payments are being issued to producers who have successfully passed the Scottish Government's eligibility checks.  Because of European Commission conditions attached to payments, farmers and crofters who have outstanding inspections or other eligibility issues cannot be paid until these have been resolved.

ScotGov: The Scottish Government has submitted its final £1.6bn Rural Development Programme, which will deliver record investment to rural communities, to the European Commission for approval. 
The Programme takes account of European regulations on protecting the environment from excess nitrate pollution, included requirements for farmers on slurry storage.
Sport EnglandLiving Places, a new partnership of cultural bodies and Government departments, has launched an eight point action plan to bring the benefits of culture & sport to communities.  Culture & sport are key elements in creating communities which people are proud to call their home.  
Research shows that people taking part in cultural activities are 20% more likely to know ‘many people’ in their neighbourhood, and 60% more likely to believe ‘many of their neighbours can be trusted’.  Living Places will help realise people’s aspirations by helping house builders, planners and all those helping to shape communities build in culture and sport from the start.
Communities thrive in well-designed environments that incorporate accessible green space and a distinctive public realm.  97% of people believe that parks & green spaces help to create a nicer place for them to live and 82% believe that high quality green parks and spaces encourage people & businesses to locate in a town.
Press release ~ Living Places ~ Living Places prospectus (3.5Mb) ~ Sport England - Active Design ~ CABE ~ DCMS Taking Part survey ~ Park Life Report ~ Green Space
CLG: Councils and health authorities in England, with a massive annual £58bn of spending power, have pledged to make the way they buy goods & services and run their premises more sustainable. The authorities were responding to the independent Sustainable Procurement Task Force report - Procuring the Future - which aims to make the UK a leader in the European Union on sustainable procurement by 2009.
Local government (accounting for some £40bn of procurement per year) and the health & social care sector (£18bn) have published their own responses following consultation carried out within both sectors.
The Health and Social Care Plan undertakes to set out how, in the next 5 years, the health & social care sector in England will use sustainable procurement, not only of equipment & supplies, but also buildings, facilities and services, to achieve improved health and well-being for the people, the environment and the economy.
CLG: A new £1.5bn Working Neighbourhoods Fund will support councils & communities in developing more concentrated, concerted, community-led approaches to getting people in the most deprived areas of England back to work.  This fund replaces the existing Neighbourhood Renewal Fund.
Local areas will receive funding incentives if they are successful in driving down levels of ‘worklessnes’.  Councils working with communities will be encouraged to take a fresh look at the problems associated with this issue and find proactive solutions including innovative community schemes to break down the long term barriers to getting back to work.
CLG: The Prime Minister and Housing Minister Yvette Cooper have published the Thames Gateway Delivery Plan, setting out how cross-Government investment of more than £9bn will be spent to deliver Europe's largest regeneration project.
The Plan details how the Government will accelerate progress in the Gateway in key areas;
* a strong economy
* a better quality of life for residents, and
* the creation of an eco-region in the Gateway


OFT: The consultation draft of the OFT's Annual Plan 2008-09 has been published and the OFT is seeking comments from interested parties (by 18 February 2008) on the objectives and priorities set out in the plan.
BERR: The Chancellor has launched a major review of business health & safety laws which will look at how the H&S system can be revamped, focussing on small and low risk businesses. Many small employers have limited resources, find it difficult to work out what broad health & safety duties mean for their workplace and are unsure of when to take advice and from whom.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has recently published its 2007 simplification plan and has already claimed to have reduced the number of forms by 50%.
Anyone who wishes their views to be heard has until 31 January 2008to send a response.  A series of events will be held around the country to allow people the opportunity to give their views in person (contact or call +44 (0)207 215 0278).
DCMS: Managers of licensed premises may get a reprieve from having to apply & pay for an amended licence if they are only making a slight change to the way their business is run, as long as there is no impact on the licensing objectives, if the public supports proposals set out in a new consultation (closes 20 February 2008), which offers up three options.
Currently any small change to the way a licensed premise is run, such as small scale refurbishment, choosing to serve food in a pub or hosting an acoustic night for local musicians, can only be achieved through the full 'variation' process - at an average cost of £385 per variation.
MoJ: Reforms to modernise the tribunals system in England & Wales have been set out in a consultation by the Ministry of Justice (closes 22 February 2008). The reform of the system began in April 2006 with the creation of the Tribunals Service, which brought together the administration of central government tribunals in a single system.
Transforming Tribunals: Implementing Part 1 of the Tribunals Courts and Enforcement Act 2007 brings the tribunal reform story up to date, explains how the tribunals system is to be organised & supported in future and seeks views on the way ahead. It also considers some of the other areas where further reforms are planned, such as in tax, and land, property & housing appeals.
HA:  The Highways Agency has started a public consultation (closes on 21 February 2008) over proposals to allow Traffic Officers (TOs) to remove broken down or abandoned vehicles from the strategic road network, which includes England's motorways and major A roads. The powers that would be given to TOs would be similar to those already exercised by the police.
The proposal for the new legislation aims to:
* provide TOs with powers to request or remove vehicles causing an obstruction or danger to other road users
* provide the Sec. of State with powers to store & dispose of abandoned vehicles removed by TOs
* allow the Sec. of State to recover charges in respect of vehicles removed, stored or disposed of
NICE: The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has launched a consultation (closes 7 March 2008) on the social values that underpin its guidance.  The issues discussed in the draft range from the often controversial: ‘should social background or lifestyle choices ever influence the decisions that NICE makes?’ to matters such as: ‘what sort of recommendations should NICE make when the evidence is weak?’.
These are some of the social value judgements that NICE might need to consider when making decisions about the effectiveness and cost effectiveness of interventions.
MPS: The Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA) and Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) are undertaking a major improvement programme for the Metropolitan Police estate. Plans to modernise police facilities are to be published for each of the capital's 32 boroughs and will offer local communities the unique opportunity to make their voices heard in the drive to make the police service more responsive to their needs.
An Asset Management Plan (AMP) for each borough will outline the local strategy to improve facilities, including the provision of front counters, patrol bases, custody centres, Safer Neighbourhoods team bases and office accommodation, as well as ensuring the buildings are fully accessible in line with legislation.
Borough Asset Management Plans will be made available as they are completed for publication on the MPA website. They will also available under each individual borough's webpage on the MPS website.

Press release ~ MPA – Estate Matters ~ Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) ~ 'Building Towards The Safest City' (3.8Mb)

Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides

NICE: The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has recently published final guidance on the use of inhaled corticosteroids for the treatment of chronic asthma in children under the age of 12.  This is part of the Institute’s multiple technology appraisal (STA) work programme.
DH: Care Services Minister Ivan Lewis has welcomed the publication of Work Matters: Vocational Navigation for Occupational Therapy Staff, which is designed to:
* help occupational therapy staff recognise the importance of work as an integral part of an individual's recovery
* provide information on how to assist patients to take charge of their own return to work and
* help establish effective partnerships with other service providers
Copies are being sent to all 29,000 members of the British Association of Occupational Therapists and it is intended that an electronic web based version will also be made available for any health professional wanting to improve their ability to provide vocational advice to patients.

OGC: The Office of Government Commerce (OGC) is promoting its Next Generation Networks Procurement Standards, Guidance and Model Clauses to ensure that the Next Generation Networks (NGNs) which are used to deliver telecommunication services in the public sector are reliable & robust – See ‘In the News’ above.
: The is promoting its to ensure that the which are used to deliver telecommunication services in the public sector are reliable & robust – See ‘In the News’ above.

Annual Reports

ScotGov: The 2006-07 annual report of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Fire Services Jeff Ord shows the number of fatalities from fires was 45 - down from 61 the year before. 

Scotland's Fire & Rescue Services introduced a risk-based approach to all aspects of service delivery in 2005.  Each authority produced Integrated Risk Management Plans to ensure prevention is given greater priority and resources are used to best effect.  This is the second year of reporting the effectiveness of IRMPs.
Press release ~ Scotland's Fire & Rescue Services Annual report ~ HM Fire Service Inspectorate for Scotland ~ Scottish Fire Services College
SOCA: The first Annual Report on the Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) regime highlights substantial progress since Sir Stephen Lander's review of the regime of March 2006. The regime is a central plank in the UK's efforts against money laundering & terrorist financing and the publication of an annual report to Ministers on its operation was a recommendation of Sir Stephen's review.
The key planned mechanism for delivering future improvements in the regime will be the SARs Transformation Project.  This will bring significant change to the technology underlying SARs and the surrounding business processes in the medium term, through IT enabled business change.
DH: The Fifteenth Annual Report of the National Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease Surveillance Unit has been published and it outlines the Unit's work in the clinical surveillance of variant (vCJD), sporadic and iatrogenic CJD.

General Reports and Other Publications

ScotGov: Two research reports focusing on public attitudes to public services and government in Scotland have been published. The fieldwork for the reports was carried out in 2006 - before the election of the current Scottish Parliament and new Scottish Government.  It also pre-dates the name change from Scottish Executive to Scottish Government.

The independent reports form part of the Scottish Social Attitudes (SSA) survey and show that the top priorities for the people of Scotland in 2006 were improving health and cutting crime.
CRC: Government policy is still not adequately considering the needs of rural communities, according to a new report by the Commission for Rural Communities.  The report, 'Monitoring rural proofing 2007' shows that although there are some good examples of rural proofing, it is still not part of the day-to-day work of government departments.
Rural proofing was formally introduced by government in the Rural White Paper 2000 and it was reinforced in the Rural Strategy 2004, which established a statutory role to monitor & report on how policy is developed and the extent to which those policies meet the needs of rural communities.  This year's report draws on independent evidence gathered from those who make & deliver policy nationally and regionally.  Policies considered ranged from schools' funding to the digital switchover.
Defra: The Government has welcomed publication of an independent review of the greyhound racing industry, chaired by Lord Donoughue, who was asked to provide & consider evidence relating to the greyhound racing industry and to consider ways in which the industry's standards could be improved.
Defra: Defra has published the initial epidemiology report into the H5N1 avian influenza outbreak in Suffolk, which concludes that, at the time of writing, the outbreak is confined to the index case which is also the first case and a secondary case as a result of transmission by vehicles, people or other things on the sites.
It has not been possible, at this stage, to categorically identify the source of the outbreak.  This initial report states that no evidence has so far been found to indicate introduction via infected poultry or poultry products or vehicles/people transporting them, from countries which have undisclosed infection in their domestic turkey, geese and duck population. Wild birds cannot be ruled out as a source of infection.
CIOB: In response to a recent government consultation ‘Strategy for Sustainable Construction’, the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) has called for a greater emphasis on the ‘big picture’.

Stephen Wielebski a CIOB Ambassador said: “There is a prodigious, and urgent, opportunity for us to develop a Strategy for Sustainable Construction that has real direction and some teeth.  But sadly the strategy in its current form does not adequately consider the UK construction industry’s role in delivering sustainability objectives within a national or international context.
The lingering debate over the definition of ‘waste’ coupled with the present impasse concerning soil guideline values (SGV’s), are just two of many frustrating issues that prevent us from making meaningful progress.
NAO: The National Audit Office’s annual report on 20 of the top defence equipment projects shows that, while there has been progress on the majority of projects in the last year, there continue to be time delays and cost increases on some of the major projects.
Of the fifteen projects not in service as at April 2007, eight have progressed to schedule and on two projects, the MoD has recovered time against the schedule.  Five projects were delayed by a total of an extra 38 months this year, compared to 33 months on five projects in 2005-06.
The current total forecast cost for the 20 largest projects is £28bn, which is £2.5bn over the ‘most likely’ budget when the main investment decision was taken.

Legislation / Legal

OFT: The OFT has published recommendations to Government to improve the effectiveness of redress for consumers and businesses that have suffered loss as a result of breaches of competition law. The recommendations follow an informal consultation on an OFT discussion paper published in April.
Recent experience shows that harm to consumers may run into tens of millions of pounds in any given case.
However, responses to the consultation have confirmed that consumers and businesses wishing to bring legal proceedings continue to face significant barriers.
The OFT recommends that Government consult on a number of proposed measures to make private actions in competition law as effective as the Government's 2001 White Paper, A World Class Competition Regime, intended them to be.
MoJ: A law that protects victims and potential victims of forced marriage will come into effect next autumn, Justice Minister Bridget Prentice has said. 
The new law will enable courts to make orders to prevent forced marriages and to order the behaviour or conduct of those responsible for forcing another into marriage to change or stop or to impose requirements on them.  It also provides recourse for those already forced into marriage.  Failure to comply could lead to imprisonment.
SGC: Offenders who deliberately fail to turn up for court cases should face prison sentences says a new guideline for judges and magistrates. Someone who jumps bail for the first time and causes significant delay or interference with the progress of the case could face a sentence of up to 40 weeks in the Crown Court or 10 weeks in a magistrates' court.
Repeat offenders are likely to get tougher sentences than first offenders.  Those who deliberately fail to surrender will face a starting point of 14 days custody and the sentence will increase as delay or interference becomes more substantial.
DCSF: The government has published the Education and Skills Bill and outlined plans to boost the skills & education of young people and adults. The Bill will raise the education & training leaving age to 18 by 2015, as well as strengthening the provision and support available to young people & adults to meet the ambition set out in the Leitch Review of achieving world class skills by 2020 – See ‘In the News’ section above.

EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.

LDA: The London Development Agency has published the prospectus for applications to a £20m fund of combined European Social Fund (ESF) and LDA money, which is aimed at groups who face the biggest barriers to work in London and will fund a range of activities, such as job search advice & support, basic skills and vocational qualifications.

Applications for funding will need to be completed by 14 January 2008.  Projects funding will start from April 2008. A further tranche of £20m funding will become available from the LDA in the summer of 2008.

BERR: The UK government has welcomed an EU-wide ban on the production, marketing, import & export of cat and dog fur. The ban has been approved and introduced into EU law by the European Council of Ministers and will apply from 31 December 2008.
The final EU proposals allow for two very limited exceptions (for taxidermy and specific educational purposes) but all other commercial trade will be illegal.  There has been considerable concern about the trade in cat & dog fur across the EU although, to date, there has been little evidence of imports into the UK.
ScotGov: The Scottish Government has secured 40% (£38.83m) of the UK budget for a new European grants scheme for Scotland's fishing and aquaculture industries, which will be split between the Scottish Highlands and Islands Convergence area (£12.41m) and the Lowland Scotland Non-Convergence area (£26.42m).

The new European Fisheries Fund is designed to help modernise and secure the sustainability and international competitiveness of the fishing industry. It replaces the Financial Instrument for Fisheries Guidance (FIFG) grant programme which ran between 2000 and 2006.
CLG: Fire safer cigarettes (also known as Reduced or Lower Ignition Propensity cigarettes) look set to be introduced as the Government supports a new agreement across the EU to a set of standards that will enable the manufacture of these cigarettes which, if dropped or left unattended, will soon go out.
Cigarettes burn at hundreds of degrees Celsius and as currently manufactured they will usually continue burning down to the filter - whether they are being smoked or not.  A dropped or poorly extinguished cigarette can start a devastating fire, and smoking materials (predominantly cigarettes) are the single biggest cause of both fires and fire deaths.
Fire safer cigarettes are produced differently - bands of thicker paper placed down the length of the cigarette act as 'speed bumps' will extinguish it if it's not being smoked and therefore provide greater - but not total - protection against accidental fires.  
Although the European standard setting process is likely to take several years, the government will shortly be consulting on the introduction of an early standard for the UK based on the USA model.

Charity and Voluntary Sector

CC: The Charity Commission has opened the Register of Mergers, ready for the first entries from charities which have merged with each other.
The main advantage of the new Register is that gifts to a charity - particularly legacies and wills - will now transfer automatically to the successor charity which exists after the merger, as long as the merger has been registered with the Charity Commission.

Press release ~ Register of Mergers ~ Mergers and Collaborative Working ~ Charities Act 2006

Business and Other Briefings

FSA: A Financial Services Authority (FSA) review of advertising on financial firms' websites has found that three-quarters met the standards required.  However, the findings also show that a significant minority of the websites sampled failed to present information in a fair, clear and not misleading way, making it difficult for consumers to navigate and failing to sign-post key information.
The firms should take immediate steps to improve their websites as the FSA will be carrying out a further review in March 2008 and will take action if it finds further failings.
FSA: The Financial Services Authority (FSA) recently published a paper setting out its role in the development of the UK as the major European financial centre for Islamic financial products & services. Worldwide, Islamic finance has grown in recent years at a conservative estimate of 10-15% p.a. and is worth about £250bn globally.
The paper outlines the social & economic reasons and sets out how regulation has been an important factor, for the growth of Islamic financial products and services in the UK.  The paper also identifies some of the challenges & opportunities specific to Islamic finance.  The FSA does not regulate the Sharia compliance or otherwise of Islamic financial products.
HMRCHM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) has launched the latest in its series of podcasts for agents and businesses. The first has been created for people who are setting up their own business or becoming self-employed for the first time.  The podcast gives a step-by-step guide to the listener, helping them to get things right from the beginning.
In the second podcast, Dave Hartnett, HMRC's Acting Chairman, answers a series of questions raised by tax agents at one of HMRC's on-line service workshops.
SOCA: The first Annual Report on the Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) regime highlights substantial progress since Sir Stephen Lander's review of the regime of March 2006. – See ‘Annual Reports’ above.
This Brief gives details of an article : Inheritance Tax and the valuation of property owned jointly by spouses or civil partners.
This Brief gives details of an article: Research & Development (R&D) Tax Relief - Claims time limit change.

Editorial Content Statement

WGPlus would like to make it clear that the commentary & links provided, in respect of any particular item, are published in its capacity as an independent non-government funded organisation and reflect the editorial team’s need to both précis & re‑format the content of news releases. 
Any views expressed are therefore entirely those of the WGPlus editorial team and independent of any sponsor, government organisation or political party.
For the official view of a source organisation, readers should click on the ‘press release’ that is the first link attached to each item.
Speed of download - Readers are reminded that some documents linked to can be large (VL) or even very, very large (VVL) and may take some time to download, even with a broadband link. Readers are encouraged to be patient.
While every care is taken to ensure that all links ’work’ in the newsletter (including checking just before publication), WGPlus cannot guarantee that websites will not make changes that will nullify individual links, especially over a period of time.
WGPlus is not responsible for the content of external websites
Business IT Support by: Trusted IT