In the News
ScotGov: Scotland’s first time buyers given a lift up housing ladder - A major expansion of a scheme to help more first time buyers get into the housing market has been announced in Scotland. The shared equity scheme is part of LIFT - Low-cost Initiative for First Time Buyers - a new Government package to help people who aspire to own their home.
Speaking at Building Homes For Scotland event in Edinburgh, Mr Maxwell outlined the Scottish Government's vision of a housing system that delivers good quality, energy efficient, affordable housing across all tenures.
He spoke of the Government's progress since publication of the Firm Foundations consultation paper in October 2007 and the positive work that is underway through the Housing Supply Task Force. The consultation ended last Friday and delegates were encouraged to respond to proposals which included:
* Challenging Scotland's local authorities, developers & builders to increase the rate of new housing
* Increasing the role of local authorities as landlords by offering financial incentives to councils
* Ending the Right to Buy on new social housing built by councils and housing associations
* Establishing a Scottish Sustainable Communities Initiative
CLG: So what will be the function of a local councillor? - Communities Secretary Hazel Blears has announced plans for new 'community contracts' to be piloted in twelve areas, before being rolled out across England. The concept is that it gives communities the opportunity to agree deals & written guarantees with their council on a wide range of service standards from tackling drug dealing on estates, bin collection, clearing graffiti and street cleaning.
The contracts are ‘voluntary’ agreements between local people and town halls that will allow residents to set minimum standards, bargain with councils for extra services and put in place checks on quality. She also called for a new debate raising the question of whether in the future these should be extended & linked to new forms of 'redress' where services fall short.
Redress could range from an investigation into why service standards have not been delivered, a right of written response or a commitment from a council to rectify a problem for lower level breaches, to considering financial compensation, or funding to correct the problem in the minority of cases of serious and persistent failure.
In return, local people would be asked to play their part according to the Minister. For example, in return for council pledges on improving parks, clearing graffiti and tackling drug dealers, they will also be able to negotiate commitments by local people who could agree to:
* report incidents of anti-social behaviour
* maintain grass verges or
* even takeover the running & management of some council services
She also announced new guidance to councils on how to establish local contracts or ‘charters', which are supposed to be tailored to local needs & expectations and differ in name, scope & size, from agreements across a range of services to small scale, single issue brochures.
Defra: EU lays down its climate rules - The UK has ‘welcomed’ the European Commission's proposals for tackling climate change and delivering a low carbon economy in Europe. The package contains proposals to implement the decisions agreed by EU Heads of State and Government at the 2007 Spring European Council, including:
* a 20% reduction in EU greenhouse gas emissions by 2020
* increasing to 30% when there is an international climate agreement
* 20% of total EU energy consumption to come from renewables by 2020, and
* measures to support the development of carbon capture & storage including 12 demonstration projects
For the UK, the Commission's proposals include:
* A cut of 16% in UK greenhouse gas emissions from sectors not covered by the EU ETS by 2020 from 2005 levels
* For 15% of the energy consumed in the UK to come from renewable sources by 2020
* For 10% of road transport fuels to come from both renewable & sustainable sources
DH: Weighed down by yet more advice - The latest cross-government Government ‘fitness’ strategy is intended to ‘support the creation of a healthy society - from early years, to schools and food, from sport and physical activity to planning, transport and the health service’.
This strategy is a first step and will be followed by an annual report that assesses progress, looks at the latest evidence & trends and makes recommendations for further action. A panel of experts will assist the Government, with input from a new public health obesity observatory that will hopefully develop our understanding of what changes behaviour.
The five key elements of the strategy are:
* First, the healthy growth and development of children
* Second, promoting healthier food choices
* Third, building physical activity into our lives
* Fourth, Creating incentives for better health
* Fifth, Personalised advice and support
In England alone, nearly a quarter of men and women are now obese. The trends for children are even more cause for concern, with 18% of 2 to 15 year olds currently obese and a further 14% overweight. The 2007 Foresight report on obesity, indicated that on current trends nearly 60% of the UK population will be obese by 2050.
CLG: Uncovering their talents - Communities Secretary Hazel Blears has called on communities and local authorities across the country to look at what more they can do to improve the opportunities available to Muslim women to play a bigger role in civic society, as well as in tackling violent extremism.
She is also sending all local authorities across England a copy of Muslim Women's good practice guide: ‘Empowering Muslim Women: Case Studies’. The case studies in the guide are grouped into four key categories:
* economic participation
* civic participation
* arts culture & sports
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DfT: Ruth Kelly, Secretary of State for Transport
has announced a £140m fund to help half a million children cycle safely
and a generation of adults rediscover their bikes. The money will be made
available over the next three
years and forms part of the Government's strategy to tackle
Of the £140million total
funding, only £110m is new as Government funding for
Cycling England is already £10m a year. The package
includes a contribution from the Department of Health in recognition
of cycling's role in helping build the recommended levels of activity into
people's daily lives
Cycling England will
be seeking bids for the new
City in spring
2008/9. Following a period of planning, the major
investment will begin the following year.
DCSF: From 2011, every 11 to 14-year-old will be
given, hands-on cooking lessons in how to make cheap, healthy dishes from
simple, fresh ingredients. Over 85% of schools already have the
facilities in place and offer food technology classes - lessons will be
compulsory and will cover basic cooking skills for all pupils in these
schools from this September and in
every school from 2011.
The Government is asking the
public to suggest (getcooking.consultation@dc
healthy versions of classic dishes young people can
cook - including shepherd's pie, curries, tomato & bolognese sauces, baked
apples and fruit crumbles.
ScotGov: LamlashBay on the Isle
of Arran is set to become Scotland's first Community Marine Conservation
Area. This will be the first time statutory protection has been given
to a marine area in Scotland as a result of proposals being developed at
grassroots level. Under the new proposals:
* part of the bay will become
a marine reserve where fishing activity will be prohibited
* the remainder will be a
fisheries management area with a particular focus on scallops
* students at the new
Clauchhlands Outdoor Education Centre will be able to study and enjoy
a protected marine environment on their doorstep
The Community Marine
Conservation Area will consist of a ‘no take’ zone and a fisheries
DWP: The Pension Service and the
Disability and Carers Service are to be brought together into a single
Agency - the Pension, Disability and Carers Service - Peter Hain, the
(now ex-) Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, has announced. The
new Agency will come into existence on 1 April
The two existing Agencies
increasingly share many of the same customers - over half of the customers of
the Disability and Carers Service are also customers of The Pension Service and
the proportion is growing as people live longer.
YF: Yorkshire and Humber companies who like to
work at the cutting edge are being urged by Yorkshire Forward to enter
a new awards event that is recognising forward thinkers. Nominations for
the innovator/08 awards are due to close on Tuesday, 5 February, which means regional
companies don’t have long to put themselves forward for one of the eight
accolades up for grabs.
One Yorkshire company,
Cybertraining.co.uk Ltd, has already submitted its nomination after
developing artificial ‘trees’ which generate energy as they sway to
wind and vehicle movement, which can be used to power street lighting and
‘green’ property developments.
It also prevents negative
effects of global warming including anti-desertification, irrigation, topsoil
erosion, insect swarms and forest fire prevention - fulfilling three of the UN’s stated primary mission
objectives – drought/famine, airborne and waterborne
Policy Statements and Initiatives
ScotGov: A single national body is to be established bringing together the
various bodies involved in supporting, organising and delivering the
Children's Hearings system, to improve the support given to vulnerable
young people across Scotland.
While there will be
national co-ordination of the Children's Hearings system, local delivery, links
with local communities and the vital role of volunteer Panel members will all
be preserved, through Scotland's unique approach to care and justice for
children and young people.
BERR: The potential for tidal power from the
Severn Estuary to provide low carbon, renewable electricity has been
highlighted by Energy Secretary, John Hutton, with the publication of the terms
of reference for the Government's feasibility study.
Tidal barrages and lagoons
will be looked at in the feasibility study which will analyse the potential
environmental, social and economic impacts of the possible projects. It
will enable the Government to decide whether and on what terms it could support
a tidal power project.
CLG: A major review to improve the private rented
sector has been announced. A Citizens Advice Bureau report last year found
1 in 5 tenants were dissatisfied with the quality of repairs carried out by
their landlord and feared retaliatory action if they complained to authorities.
On the other hand, landlords can face problems with poor tenants not
paying rent and anti-social behaviour.
The review will examine the
impact of demographic and social change on the future demand & supply in
the sector and also look at:
* how the increasing number of
buy to let accommodation and student tenants has impacted on the private rented
* the quality of homes
* who the users of the sector
CLG: The government claims that local authorities
in England will benefit from a £2.7bn increase in funding from central
government next year. Local Government Minister, John Healey, also set out
firm proposals for further funding increases for the following two years.
Councils will be expected to
make 3% efficiency gains, like the rest of the public sector, each year for the
CLG: The government has set out how the new
Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL), will help fund massive new
investment to sustain new homes. Ministers say that it is essential that
new developments have parks, play areas and are also keen to ensure that small
developments which can have a cumulative impact on areas make a contribution to
local infrastructure and facilities.
The Levy is intended to give
councils the power to set charges to pay for infrastructure when a new
development takes place, which will hopefully provide hundreds of millions of
pounds more for local infrastructure and services.
The Government is creating
these new powers in the Planning Bill which has just begun its passage
through the committee stage. It is anticipated that local councils will
be able to take advantage of these powers from spring 2009.
February 2008, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport
(DCMS) will be launching the first ever national survey of amateur arts
groups in England. Groups of voluntary & amateur participants from
all artistic walks of life - from music, dance and crafts, to theatre, visual
arts and literature - are being encouraged to complete a short online
questionnaire before 29th
MPA: The Metropolitan Police Authority
wants to hear directly from young Londoners about their experiences of
policing. The results of the MPA Youth Survey will help the
Authority to make recommendations that will improve the service the Met
provides to young people.
The MPA hopes, through
listening to London's young people, to:
* identify ways to reduce
young people's involvement in crime as victims, witnesses &
* improve the confidence of
young people to report crime & engage with the police as witnesses
* halt the decline in age of
young victims and perpetrators of crime
DfT: Proposals to increase the reach of the
Disabled Parking (Blue Badge) scheme to more people who need it and
make it easier to take action against those who steal, forge or fraudulently
use a Blue Badge have been put out for consultation (closes on 17 April 2008)by Transport Minister Rosie Winterton. The consultation
contains proposals to ensure that parking close to essential amenities &
services continues to be available to those that need it most.
In May 2007 an independent
consultant, Rob Smith, was commissioned to conduct a review of the Blue Badge
Scheme. He did this through a mixture of desk based research &
stakeholder interviews and the final report has now been published.
Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides
ScotGov: New guidance on hospital car parking has
been issued to the NHS. A review group set up to look at parking charges
recommended a maximum charge, but said that further analysis was needed to
determine what the maximum charge should be.
As an interim measures,
boards were advised at the end of last year that they will not be able to
charge more than £3 a
day for hospital car parking. Boards are also instructed
to publicise more widely concessionary parking and operate them more flexibly.
The guidance applies whether a car parking facility is provided by the
NHS board or a commercial concern.
NICE: The National Institute for Health
and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has published final guidance on the use
of pemetrexed disodium (Alimta) for the treatment of malignant pleural
The guidance recommends
pemetrexed disodium as a treatment option for MPM in people who have a World
Health Organization (WHO) performance status of 0 or 1, who are considered to
have advanced disease and for whom surgical resection is considered
NICE: The National Institute for Health and
Clinical Excellence (NICE) has issued guidance on promoting and creating
built or natural environments that encourage & support physical
The guidance highlights that
environmental factors need to be tackled in order to make it easier for people
to be active in their daily lives and provides evidence-based recommendations
on how to improve the physical environment to encourage physical activity to
BERR: New guidance for business on the definition
of a "package’ holiday has been published, which provides greater
certainty for the travel industry on what is a complex area. Package
holidays offer safeguards not available with other types of travel and these
benefits mean different legal obligations for the businesses selling them.
Simon Bunce, ABTA's Head of
Legal said: "This is a very good assessment of the High Court
Judgement decision on what is a package. However, we are still urging
companies to seek specific advice about their own holiday products as this
remains a complex area of law in need in reform by the European
General Reports and Other Publications
NAO: The National Audit Office (NAO) has
reported that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has made good
progress in tackling benefit fraud, which is estimated to have fallen from an
estimated £2bn in 2000-01 to £800m in 2006-07, a substantial
achievement by its staff, although definitional changes have helped.
The NAO found that the DWP has
a well defined strategy for tackling benefit fraud which includes continual
efforts to improve the accuracy of its estimates of fraud & error.
However, despite the good progress made in recent years, the NAO makes a
number of recommendations to enhance the DWP’s efforts
to tackle fraud.
MoJ: The Government has published a
review of voting systems which examines the experiences of the
different forms of elections introduced over the last ten years in the
UK. This major review assesses elections to the Scottish Parliament, Welsh
Assembly & Northern Ireland Assembly and those to the European Parliament,
London Assembly and London Mayor, as well as some international
The Review of Voting
Systems: the experience of new voting systems in the United Kingdom since
1997 looks at the way the new voting systems have affected the
proportional allocation of seats, voters' choice, voter turnout rates,
political campaigning, social representation and administration.
NE: On the fifth anniversary of Lundy -
England’s only Marine Nature Reserve and ‘No Take Zone’
– Natural England has published the views of national & international
marine experts & scientists who believe that political will and leadership
is key to safeguarding life beneath our waves through a network of sites like
National and international
marine experts met in October 2007 to discuss the way forward for a network of
Marine Protected Areas and a summary of the views and agreed priorities has now
DfT: The popularity of car sharing has been
highlighted by new research unveiled by Transport Minister Rosie
Winterton. The Department for Transport started the National
Business Travel Network (NBTN) in 2007 as part of the ACT ON CO2
campaign and the DfT has also published guidance for employers considering
implementing a workplace travel plan.
MoD: The Ministry of Defence has
released details of the report by Brigadier Robert Aitken that sets out the
Army's response to cases of abuse & unlawful killing of civilians in Iraq
in 2003 and the early part of 2004.
The report focuses solely on
instances where members of the British Army are alleged or proven to have
mistreated Iraqi civilians. It found no evidence of systematic abuse by
members of the British Army, but it identified areas for development to ensure
that those events will never be repeated.
NAO: The Department of Health is on
track to meet most of the key targets identified in a review of its arm’s
length bodies, according to a report out by the National Audit Office.
By the end of 2007-08, expenditure will have reduced by £555m,
against the target of £500m and the number of posts in the sector will
have decreased by 27%, compared to the target of 25%.
Over the same period, the
Department will have spent £61m on implementing the review, including
redundancy costs of £47m. While year-on-year savings are being
released from the arm’s length body sector, the Department expects that
full savings, net of final implementation costs, will be realised from 2010 onwards.
HC: The Healthcare Commission has ranked
only one in four NHS maternity services as 'best performing' in a national
review and it also found significant
variations in the quality of care across England, with trusts
in the north performing relatively well, while trusts in London performed most poorly.
The Commission ranked:
* 26% of maternity services
trusts as 'best performing' (38 trusts)
* 32% as 'better performing'
* 22% as 'fair performing' (32
* 21% as 'least well
performing' (31 trusts)
Nationally, the review
highlighted a significant weakness in the
quality and availability of data, as in all, 103 trusts were
unable to provide full data and this had an impact on their score.
Legislation / Legal
Home Office: New measures to protect the public
from terrorism have been introduced as the Home Office published the
Counter Terrorism Bill 2008, which includes proposals
* Provide a power to increase
the time terror suspects can be held before being charged
* Enable post-charge
questioning of terrorist suspects
* Enhance sentences for
terrorism-motivated general offences
* Strengthen the monitoring
arrangements for convicted terrorists, and
* Ensure full use can be made
of DNA in terrorism investigations
Defra: A decision to retain & modernise the
bird registration scheme in England has bee announced and controls on the
keeping of birds will be directed at those native bird species whose
conservation status would be most at risk from being taken from the wild for
The revised scheme will
introduce proportionate regulation and those bird species considered not at
risk will be removed from the scheme and unnecessary burdens placed on
responsible bird keepers lifted. Birds that need to be registered with
Defra are listed on schedule 4 to the Wildlife and Countryside Act
EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.
Defra: The UK has welcomed the European
Commission's proposals for tackling climate change and delivering a low carbon
economy in Europe – See ‘In the News’ section.
Charity and Voluntary Sector
BIG: Four towns across the country are the first
to benefit from the Big Lottery Fund’s three-year Community Buildings
programme, a £50m bricks & mortar investment in village halls
and community centres across England.
Aylesbury in the South East,
Tewksbury in the South West, Hambleton in Yorkshire and Humber and Amber Valley
in the East Midlands have all secured a slice of these first awards totalling
£1.2m, giving invaluable community hubs a new lease of life.
Community Buildings is
dedicated to investing in buildings that give communities a chance to improve
their quality of life and meet local needs, by offering a range of activities
& services open to a broad range of people. £50m will be
distributed across England (over three years) with grants of £50,000 to
Business and Other Briefings
FSA: The Financial Services Authority's
(FSA) enhanced strategy for small firms will kick off in Northern Ireland
in March 2008 with the first of a rolling programme
of assessments that will cover 11,300 retail intermediaries in the next three
The new measures will test the
progress being made by financial advisers, mortgage intermediaries and general
insurance brokers, towards Treating Customers Fairly (TCF). A
progress report last year found that only 41% of small firms were meeting the
In addition to the new
measures for small firms, the Small Firms Division and FSA Contact Centres,
which includes the Firm Contact Centre, are joining together on 1 February 2008, to give a more consistent
and streamlined service to small firms.
BERR: A Department for Business,
Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) survey found 40%
of businesses questioned as part of planning for its new employment law
guidance campaign, said they were likely to seek outside advice for employment
issues in the next year.
BERR is set to contact around
400,000 small businesses as part of a campaign to make sure they know how to access free help from the
Business Link (Employing People) website, which provides simple,
practical advice & guidance on the full range of employment
issues. The siteincludestools, calculators and interactive guides
to help businesses understand their legal obligations.
BERR: New guidance for business on the definition
of a "package" holiday has been published, which provides greater
certainty for the travel industry on what is a complex area. Package
holidays offer safeguards not available with other types of travel and these
benefits mean different legal obligations for the businesses selling them
– See ‘Consultations’ section
HMRC: Revenue & Customs
This Brief gives details of an article: Capital Gains
Tax and Corporation Tax on chargeable gains; contribution of assets to a
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