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In the News

DefraWhat makes people go green? - The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has published a framework to encourage environmentally friendly behaviour among individuals and communities.  The report pulls together evidence on public understanding, attitudes & behaviours and draws conclusions on the potential for behaviour change among members of the public.

It identifies 12 headline behaviour goals based on a range of low/high impact and easy/hard behaviours which could potentially engage large numbers of people & others which would be more appropriate for targeting particular population groups.

By defining the different motivations and barriers to pro-environmental behaviour, the model will hopefully help policy makers understand how to support different groups of people to take action.

In recognition of the important role the voluntary sector plays in influencing pro-environmental behaviour, Joan Ruddock also announced that a new grant scheme will be set up to support voluntary organisations to encourage people to adopt a greener lifestyle.
CCOf what benefit are you? - Under the Charities Act 2006, all charities must demonstrate that they are established for public benefit.  The Act gives the Charity Commission responsibility for issuing guidance, raising awareness about the public benefit requirement and the task of judging whether a charity can demonstrate that its aims are charitable for the public benefit.

It has published new guidance (Charities and Public Benefit - the Charity Commission's general guidance on public benefit), which identifies & explains two key principles of public benefit:
* Principle 1 - There must be an identifiable benefit, or benefits
* Principle 2 - Benefit must be to the public, or a section of the public

The guidance:
* explains what charities should consider within these principles and that how a charity benefits the public must be clear & related to its aims
* explains how the Commission will assess the public benefit of individual charities and how charities are required to demonstrate and report on their public benefit
* also covers who must benefit and the effects of any restrictions on who can benefit and the need to ensure that people in poverty are not excluded from the opportunity to benefit

Charities will not be required to start reporting on the public benefit requirement until 31 March 2009.  The Commission will be issuing draft supplementary guidance for consultation on the public benefit of specific types of charity in February.
DHIs it time for a change in attitude? - The Government has announced it will back the recommendations of the Organ Donation Taskforce, which could see a 50% increase in organ donation (not organ transplants) in the UK within five years - resulting in an additional 1,200 transplants a year and ‘saving thousands of lives’.

The Taskforce, set up to examine how organ donation and transplant rates can be improved, has just published its report 'Organs for Transplants', which has 14 recommendations in total, which including encouraging the NHS to make organ donation a usual rather than unusual event by developing local organ donation policies with identified clinical donor leads or donation committees.

Improving organ donation not only saves lives but also saves valuable resources. Over the next 10 years the government expect that there could be about an extra 5,400 kidney transplants, which could give NHS savings of over £500m.

Different ways of recognising the very special gift made by individual organ donors and their families will also be considered.  The issue of presumed consent is not included in the report. A separate report will follow in the summer.
LDAUse of Third Sector can bring problems - The London Development Agency (LDA) Chief Executive Manny Lewis and statutory Chief Finance Officer Andrew Travers have reported to the London Assembly that ‘its review of allegations made by the Evening Standard had found no evidence of fraud, corruption or collusion within the LDA’.

The LDA’s review was carried out by the LDA’s statutory Chief Finance Officer, who has legal responsibility for the proper administration of the agency’s financial affairs, with support from auditors from the external firm Deloitte and Touche.  This approach to the review was discussed with the District Auditor, to whom the report has now been referred.

The LDA’s review found that ‘12 of the 16 allegations made were unfounded. Where the review found that there was a need for further work, the LDA has referred the allegations concerned to the police, as it does not have the full powers necessary to formally interview and investigate external parties’.

The review also found that there was ‘no evidence of improper interference in projects by the Mayor’s adviser Lee Jasper’.  A fourth project is still being audited as matter of routine LDA procedure before any further decisions are made.  Separately another project, Green Badge Taxi School, which the LDA last funded in 2002, has already been referred to the police for investigation.

Ofsted An essential pool of knowledge for saving the planet - At a time when geographical issues such as floods, rising sea levels, conflict resolution, famines and trade disputes constantly make the headlines, there is some evidence that the provision of geography is declining, says Geography in schools – changing practice, published by the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted).

The report shows that in primary and secondary schools, although there are many good lessons, too much teaching & learning is mediocre and pupils’ achievement is weaker than in most other subjects.  Many children interviewed in Key Stage 3 said they found geography ‘boring & irrelevant’, and the number of children choosing to study the subject at Key Stage 4 (age 14-16) continues to fall.

Ofsted’s report describes good practice which, if adopted more widely, could help to reverse this trend.  It also highlights the way successful geography teachers are using outdoor fieldwork activities to boost understanding of the subject, raise standards, and motivate pupils.

Knowledge & understanding of the global dimension and fieldwork skills are identified in the report as important in helping to develop pupils’ understanding of local, national & world communities and their role as citizens. This ranges from issues such as local town planning, transport and the use of green space to international trade and their role as consumers.
Press release ~ Geography in schools – changing practice ~ Government&rsquo ;s Action Plan for Geography ~ Royal Geographical Society ~ Geographical Association - Action Plan for Geography ~ QCA - Innovating with geography - Key stage 3 - Leading geography ~ The Standards Site: Teaching geography at key stage 3 ~ BBC - GCSE Bitesize - Geography ~ OS Map zone ~ National Curriculum in Action - Geography ~ MAGIC

Shock, horror, government department uses plain English rather than ‘spin’ - The National School of Government has been named as a winner of the prestigious 'Inside Write’ awards for its new induction booklet 'Joining the Civil Service'.

Hosted by the Plain English Campaign, the awards recognise organisations & individuals who have made an effort to present themselves using clear and concise English.  In making the award, judges described the booklet as "extremely helpful and informative" and "a 'must have' for anyone considering a job working for government."
Joining the Civil Service' explains simply & clearly:
* what the Civil Service is
* what civil servants do, and
* how & why they do it
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
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General News

CRC: The Commission for Rural Communities (CRC) has launched the 'Quids In' campaign to create greater awareness of the financial services needs of rural people. It includes research findings which highlight a number of imaginative community-based solutions to the provision of financial services in rural areas.
The launch begins a programme of promotion of financial inclusion in rural areas, ahead of a good practice exchange event being planned for April which will be a further opportunity to explore solutions in this area.
NA: In response to growing demand, The National Archives has agreed temporary free onsite internet access to the birth, deaths and marriages indexes, through, the UK family history website.
Users at The National Archives´ Kew site, and on the first floor of the Family Records Centre in Myddleton Street, up until 15 March 2008, will have free access to the digitised indexes, for an initial one-year trial period.
OS: The Ordnance Survey Outdoors Show is back for 2008 and the national mapping agency and its partners will be on hand to showcase the latest and greatest innovations in the world of outdoor leisure.
To be held on 14–16 March 2008 at Birmingham’s NEC, the show boasts a huge selection of new gear, the chance to learn to dive, scale a wall of ice, learn survival skills and meet celebrity guests Bear Grylls and Kate Silverton among many others.
CRC: The Commission for Rural Communities is highlighting the 6th Rural Entrepreneurship Conference, which returns to Dumfries in May 2008, where it will run alongside the Rural Regional Development Conference.  The Conference is organised by the Centre for Research into Regional Development (CRRED).

They're now calling for papers - researchers and those developing or delivering policies or programmes in these fields are invited to send abstracts for papers to the CRRED.

Press release ~ 6th Rural Entrepreneurship Conference ~ Centre for Research into Regional Development (CRRED)

Policy Statements and Initiatives

BERR: On taking office as Prime Minister, Gordon Brown stated his commitment ‘to ensuring policy-making benefited from a fuller and more rounded consideration of public risk’ and asked the BRC (Better Regulation Commission) to make proposals to ensure ‘this ambition is embedded in real policy action, even when facing pressures to react to events’.
The BRC has now published a report - Public Risk - The Next Frontier for Better Regulation – and its central recommendation is the establishment of the Risk and Regulation Advisory Council.  The PM has appointed the Risk and Regulation Advisory Council (RRAC) as a key part of his drive to improve the way risk to the public - from public health to pensions - is understood & managed by government. 
The RRAC has been asked to give its immediate attention to considering how best to ensure that policy responses to the frequent 'superbug' scares are timely, proportionate and effective.
ScotGov: The Scottish Government will work with Parliament and others to refocus the scrutiny of public services in Scotland, John Swinney has announced as he published plans for implementing recommendations made in the Independent Review of regulation, audit, inspection and complaints handling of public services in Scotland.

The Review, led by Professor Lorne Crerar, recommended a new approach to scrutiny where external scrutiny concentrates on high risk areas, freeing up delivery bodies to get on with providing high quality services. The Government response to the Crerar Review sets out which recommendations have been accepted in full, which have been accepted in principle and which will require further consideration.


NA: The Prime Minister announced on 25 October 2007 that he has commissioned a review of when historical records are transferred to The National Archives and largely opened to public access.  This currently happens 30 years after an event, and the Prime Minister's review will look at whether this period should be reduced.
Any changes in this area could have the effect of speeding up access to many records.  The National Archives will support the review and the review team will put forward their proposals in the spring. The review team has now launched the 30-year rule review website and you can contribute your views to the 30-year rule review until 29 February 2008, by filling in the online questionnaire.
DIUS: The introduction of 'virtual' vouchers to enable some adults to fund their own informal learning is just one proposal being considered as part of a new Government consultation.  The consultation (closes on 15 May 2008) on informal adult learning, or learning for which the gaining of qualifications is not the main purpose, argues that developments such as this could be necessary if Government support for this education is to reflect the growing demands from learners.
Many people are now making better use of the internet, other new technologies and the voluntary sector rather than traditional classroom based education.  The aim is to formulate new proposals to further expand learning and ensure that people have more control over the format and availability of courses.
MoJ: People faced with multiple low value debts could benefit from new court measures set out in a consultation paper (closes on 16 April 2008)published by the Ministry of Justice. Under the proposals people who need extra time to pay off their debts could go to court for a new Enforcement Restriction Order.  
If granted this would provide temporary relief from the debt being enforced & collected for a set period of time.  It will be particularly aimed at people with several different low value debts and who have had a sudden change in their financial circumstances.
CLG: The government has also published a consultation document which seeks views on proposals for the future direction of Local Authority charging for property search services.  It progresses one of the key recommendations by the OFT in its market study of property search services – See ‘Guidance Notes and Best Practice’ below.

Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides

HAPhase Two of the Highways Agency's Electronic Service Delivery for Abnormal Loads (ESDAL) system went live last week.  ESDAL is a free-to-use website that should improve the planning, management and notification of Abnormal Indivisible Load (AIL) movements around the road network. 
Phase Two encourages hauliers to make Special Order (SO) applications, for those loads which are very large, heavy and/or wide, online. The ESDAL service is free and requires no third party software.  The last two phases will be introduced to the website in due course.
CLG: The Government has set out new guidance to ensure delivery of faster & cheaper property searches for homebuyers.  Local authorities should now aim to provide access to their data within 1 working day to private search companies.  In return, they will be able to recoup their costs by setting a ‘fair charge’ for improving access.
The government has also published a consultation document which seeks views on proposals for the future direction of Local Authority charging for property search services.  It progresses one of the key recommendations by the OFT in its market study of property search services.
MoJ: Birmingham peer and Government Minister Lord Hunt has welcomed a new handbook and guidance produced by the Electoral Commission and the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO).  
Measures to improve security & confidence at the polls, which came into force January 2007, include:
* New offences for supplying false information and for falsely applying for a postal or proxy vote
* Provision of signatures & dates of births for postal vote applications which enable checks to be carried out
* The introduction of a marked register of postal votes received

Annual Reports

NHS: A progress report has been published by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), which summarises all the progress that has been made putting in place the infrastructure, programmes & systems to facilitate health research - since the government launched the Best Research for Best Health strategy in January 2006.
Also launched last week is a new section of the NHS Choices website, which is designed to give patients and members of the public more information about how to get involved in clinical trials.
ScotGov: The second Annual Report of Respect and Responsibility - Scotland's National Sexual Health Strategy has been launched at The Borders Clinic in Galashiels. The Borders Clinic, which provides a mix of specialist and combined sexual health drop-in clinics, was established as a direct result of additional funding NHS Boards received when the Strategy was first launched.

The Minister also announced a £1m pound cash boost which will be allocated to increase access to independent sexual health information particularly in rural areas.

General Reports and Other Publications

Defra: Climate change is having a significant impact on our marine environment according to - The Marine Climate Change Impacts Partnership (MCCIP) report card 2007-08 - which highlights just how much climate change has affected the United Kingdom's marine environment and what the future impacts may be.
Key findings from the report include:
* 2006 was the second warmest year for UK coastal waters since records began in 1870; seven of the 10 warmest years have been in the last decade
* Warmer winters have been strongly linked to reduced breeding success & survival in some seabird populations
* Models predict fewer storms in future but there will be increased numbers of severe storms
* Coastal erosion and flooding is expected to increase
NAO: A report released by the National Audit Office has found that PFI deals offered sufficient flexibility. However, while value for money of individual changes varied, value for money was not generally being obtained when changes were made.
Larger changes were not always competitively tendered, partly owing to the complexity of integrating new work with the operation of existing buildings.  In addition, the cost of making smaller changes was relatively high, varied widely across projects for similar work and took longer to process than in non-PFI projects; and almost half of the changes were completed later than the agreed timeframe.
In processing change requests, most private sector PFI partners charged additional management fees, typically 5-10%, on top of those made by service providers to cover their overheads & profit, which were very often not justified in terms of the work needed to process small changes.
NAO: Since the early 1990s, the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA), Driving Standards Agency and the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency have made some of their services e-accessible and a report released by the National Audit Office has found that these developments have improved accessibility to these services and are expected to provide savings in the future.
Between them, the agencies provide services for 42 million drivers, the owners of 36 million vehicles and 100,000 commercial vehicle operators in Great Britain.  To date, 15 services are available electronically; these include applying for provisional driving licences, booking driving tests, taking driving theory tests and buying car tax.  During 2006-07, some 50 million transactions were handled electronically.
CLG: The Supporting People programme is more than paying for itself through the positive impact it is having on the lives of the most vulnerable people in society, a new independent report claims.  The study claims that an investment of £1.55bn in the programme delivers £2.77bn net financial benefits - through reduced costs in health services, tenancy failure, crime and residential care.
Funding through the programme helps over a million people live independently in their homes at any one time including 800,000 older people, 40,000 single homeless people, 36,000 people with mental health problems and 8,000 women at risk of domestic violence.

Legislation / Legal

OFT: The British Holiday & Home Parks Association and the National Caravan Council have agreed with the OFT, to offer fairer terms & conditions to consumers buying holiday caravans sited on holiday parks. Both associations, whose membership makes up a significant proportion of the holiday caravan park sector, approached the OFT to discuss model terms & conditions contained in the Purchase Agreement and Licence Agreement for a Holiday Caravan Pitch.
MoJ: The Legal Services Complaints Commissioner has published a Special Report critical of the Legal Complaints Service's (LCS) handling of Coal Health Compensation complaints. The report is the result of a second investigation the Office of the Legal Services Complaints Commissioner's audit team has undertaken within an 18-month period into the LCS's handling of Coal Health Compensation complaints.
The findings contained in this report show that different financial outcomes are being achieved for miners depending on a bewildering array of variables including whether a Member of Parliament is involved, the LCS caseworker handling the complaint and the co-operation of the solicitor's firm being complained about. Administrative failures and ineffective management controls have contributed to the problem of sick miners and their dependants losing out on financial compensation.
ScotGov: The Scottish Government has given its backing to Green MSP Patrick Harvie's proposal for a Sentencing of Offences Aggravated by Prejudice (Scotland) Bill. The legislation will be taken forward early this year as a handout Member's Bill.

The Scottish Government proposes to extend statutory aggravations where a crime is motivated by hostility or ill will towards a victim based on their actual or presumed sexual orientation, transgender identity or disability.
ScotGov: Modifications to the Emergency Workers Act have approved by the Scottish Parliament's Justice Committee. The Scottish Government made a commitment to extend the Act to enhance the protection provided to NHS staff and extend it to GPs, other doctors, nurses and midwives working in the community.

This extension to the Act is intended to provide additional protection for GPs, nurses and midwives working in the community and to send out a strong message that violence against any healthcare worker is unacceptable and will not go unpunished".
ScotGov:  Scottish Ministers have asked officials to begin work on hosting a firearms summit (at the earliest practicable date) to identify how best to reform the law on firearms, including air weapons - ensuring that the view of all of those with an interest will be represented and a clear plan for progress developed.
Mr MacAskill has written to Home Secretary Jacqui Smith inviting the UK Government to jointly host the event - involving gun control campaigners, rural & shooting groups, law enforcement and other interests.

EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.

Home Office: Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, has announced her intention to ratify the Council of Europe Convention against Trafficking by the end of 2008.  Previous actions include the agreement of a provisional implementation plan by the Inter-departmental Ministerial Group on Trafficking in July, the development of models of victim support and the piloting of a victim identification process under the police-led, multi-agency anti-trafficking operation, Pentameter 2.  
The Home Office also hosted, with the Council of Europe, a conference in London designed to share experience of implementing the Convention.

Charity and Voluntary Sector

BIG: A multi-million pound scheme to help communities become more energy efficient and ease the financial impact of rising energy costs has been announced by the Big Lottery Fund. BIG’s award of £10.1m to renewable energy specialists Building Research Establishment (BRE), will enable communities across England to reduce their carbon footprint.
BRE will manage the Community Sustainable Energy grant scheme to help local organisations tackle pivotal environmental issues by becoming more energy efficient.  The award comes from BIG’s Changing Spaces programme, which aims to improve rural & urban environments and enable communities across England to lead healthier and more environmentally sustainable lifestyles.
BIG: The Big Lottery Fund is priming stronger support networks for carers & people with disabilities with the award last week of £41.5m to 84 projects across England.  These new grants complete BIG’s BASIS programme roll out of close to £100m from the first phase of the programme.
A second round of BASIS will open for applications in Spring 2008.

Business and Other Briefings

FSA: The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has fined HFC Bank Ltd (HFC) £1m+ with regards to its sale of Payment Protection Insurance (PPI.   HFC was in breach of the FSA's Principles for Businesses 9 and 3:
* Principle 9: A firm must take reasonable care to ensure the suitability of its advice and discretionary decisions for any customer who is entitled to rely upon its judgement
* Principle 3: A firm must take reasonable care to organise and control its affairs responsibly and effectively, with adequate risk management systems
HMRC: The percentage of solicitors and conveyancers submitting Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) forms online has more than doubled in a year.  In December 2006, 35,753 registered online, 22% of all legal practitioners, but by December last year that number had increased to 65,346, up to 46%.
HMRC Head of Stamp Taxes for Online Services, Sally Mills, said: "If you submit a return online, you'll automatically be sent a Land Transaction Certificate (Form SDLT 5) electronically, saving both time and resources.  You then print off the electronic certificate and send it to the relevant land registry, which registers change of ownership."
LDA: A business ‘dating agency’ has been launched to help companies across London compete for thousands of business opportunities linked to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.  
Developed by the London Development Agency (LDA) working closely with London Business Network and London 2012, CompeteFor is intended to help businesses of all sizes bid for London 2012 opportunities by matching companies in London with opportunities in the 2012 supply chain.

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