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In the News

A warm welcome to 2008 - Please note that this Newsletter includes items from

17 December – 13 January.


ScotGov:  Investing for Scotland's future - Nine infrastructure projects have been identified as potential national developments in Scotland's second National Planning Framework, just published for consultation by the Scottish Government, which outlines a vision for Scotland's development to 2030.

It is intended to help to improve competitiveness, contribute to tackling climate change, protect the quality of natural & built environments and promote improved opportunities and a better quality of life.  The consultation will run until 15 April 2008.  Thereafter, it will be considered by Parliament.

The projects proposed as National Developments are:

* facilities & infrastructure to support the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games
* grid reinforcements to support renewable energy development
* a replacement Forth crossing
* enhancements to Edinburgh Airport
* enhancements to Glasgow Airport
* enhanced access to the Grangemouth Freight Hub
* the Rosyth International Container Terminal
* the Scapa Flow Container Transhipment Facility
* the Glasgow Strategic Drainage Scheme

Press release ~ National Planning Framework for Scotland 2: Discussion Draft ~ Scottish Government Economic Strategy ~ ScotGov - Planning ~ Planning etc. (Scotland) Act 2006 ~ Statement on the criteria for identifying national developments ~ Planning frameworks


10 Downing Street:  But how much is new and will it be properly funded? - The Prime Minister has outlined a programme of ‘deeper & wider’ reform of the NHS to enhance its role in care, prevention & personalised health services.


Speaking to health professional at King's College, London , the PM said that the NHS had to face three new challenges in the 21st century:

* embracing technological change
* meeting rising expectations of healthcare and
* adapting to a shift in priorities from tackling infectious disease to managing long-term conditions & ‘lifestyle diseases’

Mr Brown listed a number of measures aimed at improving people's health prospects, including new screening processes for a range of conditions such as heart disease, colon cancer, breast cancer, strokes and kidney disease.  Such conditions affect the lives of more than six million people, cause 200,000 deaths each year and account for a fifth of all hospital admissions, he said.


As part of the reform programme, the Prime Minister said there would be a new NHS constitution setting out the level of service that patients can expect as well as their own responsibilities for their treatment, such as keeping appointments with doctors and hospitals.

Press release ~ Read the speech ~ BMA response


CLG:  Why shouldn’t MP’s be independently judged as well? – The government has published proposals for consultation (closes on 15 February 2008) on powers to be devolved to local authorities to enforce high standards of conduct for local councillors.


If implemented, under the reformed regime, standards committees will make initial assessments of all misconduct allegations against councillors.  The maximum sanctions committees could impose will also increase, from a three-month partial or total suspension from office, to six months.


Standards committees will also be able to refer more serious cases to the Adjudication Panel for , which would see the range of sanctions available to it increased, to reflect the sanctions already available to standards committees.


The Standards Board for would also see its remit change from the investigation of misconduct allegations to the provision of support & guidance to standards committees to assist them in their new initial assessment role.

Press release ~ Consultation - Orders and Regulations Relating to the Conduct of Local Authority Members in England ~  Standards Board for England ~  Adjudication Panel for England ~ Committee on Standards in Public Life - Third report


CLG:  It’s a pity it won’t apply to national issues! - The government has launched proposals (submissions by 20 March, 2008) under which councils would be legally required to respond to petitions gaining significant local support, which could be on any issue for which the local council has responsibility, from abandoned vehicles to youth services.  Currently there is no requirement for councils to respond to petitions, no matter how many people sign up.   

Under the proposed new measures if the council ignores the petition or the response is unsatisfactory, they could ask their local councillor to trigger a 'select committee' style hearing within the local authority to ensure that an issue affecting the people living or working in his or her ward is raised & debated, under the new ‘councillor call for action’, which Parliament recently passed.

 Press release ~ Consultation document ~ Governance of Britain Green Paper (July 2007) ~  About No. 10 e-petitions


DCSF:  Government encourages dumping of ‘Gold Standard’ exam - The value of the Government's new Diplomas as a progression route enabling pupils to get into Universities & colleges has been confirmed by the QCA.  Schools Minister Jim Knight has ‘accepted’ its recommendation that the new Diplomas should be judged in the achievement & attainment tables as equivalent to:

* 5 GCSEs grade A*-G at the foundation level
* 7 GCSEs grade A*-C at the higher level, and
* 3.5 A Levels grade A*- E at the advanced level

UCAS have also confirmed that the Advanced Diploma will be awarded a maximum 420 Tariff points - the same number awarded for 3.5 A Levels.  Eventually, 17 Diplomas will be offered with the government aspiration that the Diploma becomes the 'qualification of choice' for young people in future.

He has also announced details of £28m cash funding for Diplomas in 08/09, meaning schools & colleges teaching Diplomas to 14-16 year olds will receive around an extra £1,000 per Diploma student.

Press release ~ The Diploma : A new qualification for 14 to 19 year-olds ~ National Diplomas ~ September GuaranteeActivity Agreements ~ Partnering for success: preparing to deliver the 14-19 education reforms in England ~ Support for Leaders ~ Centre for Excellence in Leadership (CEL) ~ Policy statement 


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


To view recent Industry News items click HERE

General News

BGS: A new web resource from the British Geological Survey clearly shows how we all continue to depend on mineral resources to maintain our lifestyles. Over a lifetime, each one of us will consume about 35 lorry-loads of minerals & metals, as the average person in the UK uses around 10 tonnes of minerals & metals every year.
This includes the minerals needed to build our homes and manufacture all our household possessions, as well as the minerals, metals & fuels used in our industrial, retail, transport, leisure, health and public sectors.
The Minerals & you web pages explain the importance of careful planning of mineral extraction, mine & quarry restoration and the sustainable use of resources, including recycling, reusing and conserving energy.
LR: Land Registry has announced that it has signed up to full membership of the e-business standards body PISCES (Property Information Systems Common Exchange Standard) from January 2008, as part of its commitment to the adoption of e-conveyancing.
PISCES is a not-for-profit company widely seen as a key player in driving rapid take-up of e-commerce, for the benefit of the property industry and its customers.
C-NLIS: The Council for the NationalLand Information Service (C-NLIS) has announced the shortlist of finalists for its Local Land Charges Industry Achievement Awards.  C-NLIS created the awards to acknowledge the work and achievements of Local Land Charges Officers and give recognition to those local authorities who are playing a key role in modernising and shaping the future of the industry.
The winners will be announced at an awards dinner on 29 January 2008 at the Blackpool Hilton, as part of the annual Local Land Charges Conference.
Fellows’ Associates: In its response to the Electoral Commission’s consultation on developing performance indicators for elections & referendums, Northgate Information Systems has called for the formation of new performance partnerships involving the public sector and external organisations.

Welcoming the introduction of a performance measurement framework, Northgate warns against rushing into the system and suggests that local authorities should be given a clear timetable, with at least six months for implementation prior to the European parliamentary elections in June 2009.  It also recommends a range of initiatives to improve measurement and performance.

Policy Statements and Initiatives

DIUS: Under new proposals, the promotion of community cohesion would be given the highest priority in deciding on funding for English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL).  This would mean retargeting spending towards those who have made a long-term commitment to live in Britain, rather than economic migrants who may only be here for a short time.
The consultation (closes 4 April 2008) follows a report published last year by the Commission for Integration and Cohesion, 'Our Shared Vision', which identified being able to communicate in English as one of the most important issues facing integration & cohesion in Britain.
Defra: The Defra, the Scottish Government and the Welsh Assembly Government have welcomed the ‘strong support’ received for the draft strategy to tackle invasive non-native species in Great Britain. Non-native species that become invasive are considered the second greatest threat to wildlife worldwide.
Responses to the consultation also raised interesting points for consideration in finalising the strategy.  These include general support for the monitoring & surveillance of non-native species driven here by the influence of climate change and which might pose a risk.
DH: Health Secretary Alan Johnson has announced that every hospital trust in England will be able to recruit two infection control nurses, two isolation nurses and an antimicrobial pharmacist with millions of pounds of extra investment for infection control in the NHS.
New stringent requirements outlined in the Government's strategy to tackle healthcare associated infections (HCAIs) also mean that NHS Foundation Trust applications will not be supported by the Secretary of State unless trusts are consistently hitting local targets on both MRSA and C. difficile.
'Clean, safe care' sets out where there are national expectations and requirements for the NHS in tackling HCAIs - but also guides NHS organisations as to the actions and investment that will be most effective in continuing to tackle infection and improve cleanliness in their local area.
TfLTransport for London (TfL) claims that sustainable & efficient freight operations within the capital have come a step closer with the launch of the London Freight Plan, designed to improve & support London's freight industry.
The plan comprises four key projects highlighting action that needs to be under taken over the next five to ten years to help reduce emissions, congestion and collisions on the Capital's roads. The plan will also create an information portal for London's public authorities and freight operators, as well as research on the use of alternative fuels, low carbon vehicles and other innovations that may benefit operators.
Cabinet Office: Ed Miliband and Beverley Hughes have launched a new approach to local services to improve support for the most disadvantaged families and prevent problems passing down from excluded parents to their children.
The Think Family report - published by the Social Exclusion Task Force in the Cabinet Office - is intended to encourage local services to adopt the following basic principles:
* No wrong door
* Look at the whole family
* Provide support tailored to need
* Build on family strengths
BERR: The government has invited energy companies to bring forward plans to build and operate new nuclear power stations as part of the UK's strategy for a secure, diverse, low carbon energy mix.
The Government's response to its nuclear consultation, in the form of a White Paper, was published alongside the Energy Bill, which sets out a range of measures to address the twin challenges of tackling climate change and securing energy supplies.
Defra: The Managing Radioactive Waste Safely: a Framework for Implementing Geological Disposal consultation was issued in June 2007, and invited comments on the UK Government's proposals for securing the long term management of higher activity radioactive waste through geological disposal.
Defra has now published the Summary and Analysis of Responses to that consultation, which closed in November 2007.  All consultation comments will be considered in developing the details of the next stages of the implementation process.  Those next stages will be set out in a White Paper to be published later this year.


CLG: The government has launched a consultation (closes 7 March 2008) into how Government can best support faith communities' engagement with one another and with their local communities.
The consultation ‘Face-to-Face and Side-by-Side’ looks at the work that is already underway and considers what support might be given to facilitate greater inter faith dialogue & inter faith activity in order that faith groups can continue to make a positive difference within the wider community.
Defra: Increasing the level of recycling & reducing some of the 700m batteries that go to landfill annually are at the heart of new government plans. The proposals, which are set out in a Government consultation (closes on 12 March 2008), look at the best way to improve the environmental performance of new batteries and ensure collection, treatment & recycling of waste batteries.
They apply to batteries of all shapes, volumes, weights, types and uses, and, will help the UK implement the EU's Batteries and Accumulators Directive. Member States are required to transpose the Directive into national law by 26 September 2008.
Defra: Defra is consulting (closes 25 March 2008) on draft legislation that will deliver, in UK law, strengthened definitions of Scotch Whisky, to help support action against counterfeiting and passing-off, as called for by the Scotch Whisky Association. These provisions will also tightly define Scotch Whisky's geographical provenance - such as Highland or Islay - and ensure that if the product uses the name of a distillery then it must also come from that distillery.
The proposed UK legislation will put enforcement provisions in place to underpin the new EC Spirit Drinks Regulations and protection of the Scotch Whisky Geographical Indication.
A parallel consultation for UK legislation covering all spirit drinks (including EC provisions relating to Scotch Whisky) to introduce obligatory enforcement arrangements for the new EC Spirit Drinks Regulations has also been launched.
Press release ~ Consult ation package on the Scotch Whisky Regulations ~ Parall el consultation package on the Spirit Drinks Regulations ~ Scotch Whisky Association ~ New whisky law welcomed ~ Geographical IndicationScotGov
ScotGov: Scottish Councils are being encouraged to identify & release more land for housing under a new planning policy released for consultation. The Scottish Government’s draft Scottish Planning Policy 3: Planning for Housing (SPP3) is intended to facilitate new land supply for housing development and ensure best use is made of existing housing land allocations.
SGC: Drivers who kill after flagrantly ignoring the rules of the road and disregard the danger they pose to others should be given jail terms of at least seven years, recommends a draft guideline published for consultation (closing date for responses is Monday 10 March 2008).
The Council’s consultation guideline covers four offences:
* causing death by dangerous driving
* causing death by careless driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
* causing death by careless driving and causing death by driving
* unlicensed, disqualified or uninsured drivers
ScotGov: A consultation (closes 1 April 2008) is underway in Scotland on plans for greater public involvement in the NHS and direct elections to health boards. The proposed Local Healthcare Bill will seek to enhance the role patients and the public play in decisions about how local health services are designed & delivered.  
The consultation is divided into two parts - the first seeks views on how existing processes could be strengthened to enhance public involvement, and the second part asks for views on introducing direct elections to health boards.
DCSF: All parents will get regular electronic reports on their children's progress in future - going far beyond the traditional annual school report, according to Schools Minister Jim Knight. All secondary schools will be expected to have 'real-time' reporting systems up & running by 2010 and primary schools two years later.
‘Real-time reporting’ means parents will be able to access frequently updated information on children's achievement, progress, attendance, behaviour and special needs wherever, whenever they want - using secure, online systems. To facilitate access, the government is consulting on universal home access technology (closes on 2 April 2008).
ScotGov: A consultation (closes 9 April 2008) on clinical standards for adult hearing rehabilitation services in Scotland has been launched by the Scottish Government. During February 2008, public meetings will be held in Glasgow and Dundee to provide an opportunity to comment on the draft guidelines.

The standards are titled: *accessing the service; *information provision & communication with individual patients; *assessment; *developing & implementing an individual management plan communication; *support & collaborative working and *professional competence.
DIUS: Public funding for English language teaching should be targeted where it will have the biggest impact on community cohesion & integration, the government has announced.  The consultation (closes 4 April 2008) follows a report published last year by the Commission for Integration and Cohesion – See ‘Policy Statements and Initiatives’ above.
CLG: The government has launched proposals (submissions by 20 March, 2008) under whichcouncils would be legally required to respond to petitions gaining significant local support, which could be on any issue for which the local council has responsibility, from abandoned vehicles to youth services. Currently there is no requirement for councils to respond to petitions, no matter how many people sign up – See ‘In the News’ above.
ScotGov: Nine infrastructure projects have been identified as potential national developments in the Scotland’s second National Planning Framework, just published for consultation (closes 15 April 2008), which outlines a vision for Scotland's development to 2030 – See ‘In the News’ above.
HMRCHM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) has published three further consultation documents (closing on 6 March 2008) as part of HMRC's work to modernise its powers, deterrents and the accompanying safeguards – See ‘Business and other Briefings’ below.

Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides

DH: The Department of Health is encouraging pregnant and breastfeeding women to boost their intake of vitamin D in the darker winter months, as more children than ever are presenting with vitamin D deficiency, which can cause seizures and rickets.
Whilst vitamin D deficiency is common among the white population, many cases of rickets in the UK are seen in Asian, Afro-Caribbean and Middle Eastern children, with some research suggesting incidence of the disease could be as high as 1 in 100 children in ethnic minority groups.

General Reports and Other Publications

NAO: According to the National Audit Office, the reorganisation of neonatal services in England has helped improve care for premature and low birth weight babies with fewer babies travelling long distances for suitable treatment.  However, further improvements to the service are being limited by:
* shortages in nursing staff
* a lack of cots in the right place at the right level of care and
* a lack of widespread specialist 24 hour transport
Few transport services have separate staffing arrangements from the clinical inpatient services meaning that staff have to leave the unit to accompany a baby on a transfer.  Three quarters of units experienced delays in moving babies and 44% believed that care was compromised as a result.
The report concludes that the cost of neonatal services as a whole are not fully understood and there is a mismatch between costs & charges.  Charges per day for an intensive care cot varied from £173 to £2,384.
Cabinet Office: Analysis published by the Strategy Unit (SU) in the Cabinet Office, as part of a project looking long-term at UK food policy, finds that improving our diet could save 70,000 lives a year – 10% of deaths.
With a third of cardiovascular cases and a quarter of cancer deaths already thought to be diet-related, raising the amount of fruit and vegetables people eat to at least five a day could have the biggest impact in tackling the problem. In addition, eating more whole grains and oily fish, and consuming less salt, saturated fat and sugar, would all help reduce the impact on our long-term health.
Socitm:  The NI 14 indicator, even in its revised version published towards the end of the consultation period, fails to follow advice set out in the Varney report on the role of the web in reducing ‘avoidable contact’ with citizens and businesses.

This one of three key points made in the response by Socitm (the Society of IT Management) to the CLG consultation on NI 14, one of 198 new national indicators for local authorities & local area partnerships announced as part of the Comprehensive Spending Review. 
DCMS'Supporting Excellence in the Arts - From Measurement to Judgment' by Sir Brian McMaster sets out new ways to recognise & reward high-quality work in the arts and in museums & galleries, and place risk-taking & innovation at the centre of the funding framework for every cultural organisation, large & small.
Specific recommendations in the report include that:
* the board of every cultural organisation should contain at least two artists and or practitioners,
* the ten most innovative cultural companies receive ten-year funding packages to support their ambition, and
* all publicly funded cultural organisations remove admission charges for everyone for one week each year to address the endemic 'it's not for me' syndrome
HMRC: An HMRC-led report on how revenue bodies across the world can achieve a more effective relationship with major taxpayers and their advisors has been published by the OECD. The report has been formally discussed by more than 30 heads of tax administrations at the Forum on Tax Administration meeting in Cape Town on 10 and 11 January 2008.
Countries attending have endorsed the Cape Town Communique, which sets out the report's key conclusions & recommendations, as well as broader FTA issues. The meeting will hopefully help African countries develop their capacity to raise revenues, supporting the development of capable governments and making them more accountable to their citizens.

Legislation / Legal

MoJ: The government claims to have published measures to give the public confidence when tackling criminals. The reforms are claimed to ‘clarify & reinforce the law, articulating the state's responsibility to stand by those acting in good faith when using force in self defence’.
The reforms come as amendments to the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill and they are intended to give the public confidence that the law is on their side if they act reasonably in using force, including the fact that:
* they acted instinctively
* they feared for their safety or that of others, and acted based on their perception of the threat faced and the scale of that threat
* the level of force used was not excessive or disproportionate in the circumstances as they viewed them 
The law clarifies the existing common law defences and the statutory provisions under the Criminal Law Act 1967.  The government claims that it will enhance the understanding of when force is 'reasonable' as applied in a range of different circumstances, including the householder defending their home and the passer-by intervening in a criminal incident in the street.  The amendments will be debated in Parliament at Report Stage of the Bill on 9 January 2007.
ScotGov: Following the passage of the Criminal Proceedings (Reform) (Scotland) Act 2007, ScotGov is implementing a range of measures to make the summary justice system swifter and more focused on the needs of victims, witnesses and accused.

Since 10 December 2007, sheriffs have been allowed to hear more serious cases, (those which may result in prison sentences of up to one year) under summary procedure - easing the demand on the number of people having to attend court as jurors. At the same time local Justices of the Peace have undergone additional training to equip them for dealing with a slightly more serious range of cases which previously had to be dealt with in a sheriff court.

Alongside these changes, more low level offences will be dealt with outside the court system through an enhanced range of direct measures, including increased fiscal fine levels for prosecutors, which come into force on 10 March 2008That date will also see fines enforcement officers taking on responsibility for the collection & enforcement of fines, with the aim of freeing up court and police time and improving payment rates.

As part of the reform process, the management of lay justice will transfer from local authorities to a unified system under the Scottish Court Service.  The SCS will take over the running of JP courts in Lothian & Borders in March 2008, with a similar set-up being introduced in Grampian, Highlands & Islands in June 2008.

EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.

Defra: Britain's fishermen will be able to earn extra days at sea under new conservation measures after the European Union (EU) backed UK proposals designed to protect cod stocks and reduce the amount of fish thrown back dead into the sea (discards).
A joint UK-Ireland initiative in the Irish Sea aimed at improving understanding of the state of stocks and avoiding discards was also backed, allowing participating boats to earn extra days at sea.
The deal reached in Brussels this recently by EU fisheries ministers on catch limits and the number of days trawlers can go to sea next year will see some increases in annual quotas as well as further conservation measures designed to protect vulnerable stocks.
Defra: The 'Green List' regulation - which covers the export of non-hazardous recyclable materials from the EU - has been updated to formally record the wishes of countries outside the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) that have expressed an opinion about the recyclable materials they would like to receive.  Where a country has not expressed an opinion, agreement must be given on a case-by-case basis.
The aim is to protect these countries from receiving materials they do not want, and the change will also help prevent the export of recyclables to countries which believe they could not process them in an environmentally sound way.
Complementary changes to the Transfrontier Shipment of Waste Regulations will come into effect on 5 February 2008 and will make it an offence for anyone to export material against the specified wishes of non-OECD countries.

Charity and Voluntary Sector

CC: The Charity Commission, has launched a new procedure for dealing with customer dissatisfaction about service delivery issues. Following public consultation last year, the new procedure will now give Commission customers the option of having a 'light-touch' review of the outcome of their case, if it doesn't qualify for a formal review under the Commission's Decision Review procedure.
Another key feature of the new process is greater focus on resolving matters early through local resolution within the Commission's business teams.  If customers remain dissatisfied they will still get an arms-length review by the Commission's Customer Service Team.

Business and Other Briefings

HMRCHM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) has published responses to last year's consultation on taxpayers' safeguards and, in response, has announced that it will begin the process of working with interested parties on the development of a Taxpayers' Charter, which will set out both taxpayer rights & responsibilities in a single accessible document.
In addition, three further consultation documents have been published (closing on 6 March 2008) as part of HMRC's work to modernise its powers, deterrents and the accompanying safeguards:
* the first document on payment, repayment and debt proposes changes to the statutory framework that allows HMRC to collect tax debts and ensure that taxpayers pay what they owe
* the second document contains proposals on compliance checks and puts forward proposals for a new framework for HMRC to check that taxpayers are paying the right amount of tax and claiming the right amount of repayments
* the civil penalties document puts forward proposals for extending the new statutory framework in Finance Act 2007 for charging civil penalties to all other taxes, levies and duties that HMRC is responsible for, except for Tax Credits
This Brief gives details of an article: Memorandum of Agreement on the use of Agricultural Vehicles on the Road.
This Brief gives details of an article : VAT:Partial Exemption - Cheshire Racing Tribunal.
This Brief gives details of an article: VAT: the Intrastat thresholds will remain unchanged in 2008 from those set on 1 January 2007

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