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

In the News

HMIP:  Is there still time to build the prisons before meltdown? - In her 2006 – 07 annual report, the Chief Inspector of Prisons, Anne Owers, warns that the prison system, which has made significant improvements over the last few years, is at a crossroads - struggling to cope with current pressure and facing serious challenges in the future.

The report recognises progress in healthcare, offender management and the quality of education &skills training in recent years. But it also records the effects of a ‘predicted & predictable’ prison population crisis. In addition, there has been a dramatic rise in self inflicted deaths in custody, which rose by 40% during the reporting year.

Anne Owers commented: “This year, training prisons, as well as local prisons, felt the strain, with more suicides, poorer resettlement outcomes and in many cases insufficient activity…….. Nevertheless, it is a credit to those running and working in the prison system that prisons have remained as safe and decent as they have, in this period of unprecedented pressure – facing not only increased numbers, but also increased expectations. But at the same time there is evidence of slippage and of a system and a workforce that are ill-placed to take further pressure”.

The Chief Inspector points to further concerns in the future, including 3% ‘efficiency savings’ that will effectively close prisons down from Friday lunchtime to Monday morning as from April 2008, with further savings required in each of the following 2 years.

She also points to the dangers of investing in prison building, at the expense of sufficient investment in the full implementation of the Corston report on vulnerable women and innovative proposals to reduce re-offending & deal with underlying problems.

Finally, the Chief Inspector calls for a Royal Commission or major public inquiry that draws on a wide range of expertise to develop a blueprint for a coherent and sustainable penal policy for the future.
CSPLHonourable Members? - Sir Christopher Kelly, Chair of the Committee on Standards in Public Life has commented on the recent report by the Parliamentary Committee on Standards and Privileges on Derek Conway MP.

Sir Christopher said: "This case is undoubtedly a very serious breach of Parliamentary rules and further undermines public trust in our politicians.  I understand why there are calls for rules to ban MPs employing members of their families, and indeed, there are international precedents for doing this, and it could be the right thing to do.

However, it could also seem a rather harsh answer to the problem. An alternative approach would be to insist on greater transparency and proper monitoring of existing requirements which is generally better than creating new rules and prohibitions. This is certainly an area which needs review".
ScotGovScotland lead the way yet again - The Scottish government (ScotGov) has unveiled a proposal for a statutory target to reduce Scottish emissions by 80% by 2050 as one of the key components of a consultation on Scotland's first Climate Change Bill.  It signals Scotland's serious intent to lead the global effort to combat climate change. 

Further proposals include:
* Robust annual scrutiny & reporting of progress in achieving the government’s targets
* Creating a framework of carbon budgets for Scottish emissions to set out a pathway towards the 2050 target
* Publishing transparent & independent advice on when (and to what level) cuts in emissions should be made

The consultation on proposals for the Bill will run until April 23, 2008 and ScotGov hopes to be ready to introduce a draft Bill to the Scottish Parliament before the end of 2008.

At a breakfast meeting hosted by the Chartered Institute of Bankers in Scotland (CIOBS), Mr Swinney set out the challenge of climate change and invited ideas on how the banking & financial services industry can work together with the Scottish Government to respond to this.  The meeting had a particular focus on housing-related products & services such as green mortgages and loans for domestic energy efficiency works.
DIUSJust a re-announcement - The government has published its Apprenticeships Review which outlines the measures it will take to ensure apprenticeships become a mainstream option for young people, as well as plans to boost apprenticeships for older learners.

Last November the Government announced increases in funding to expand the Apprenticeship programme over the next three years for both young people & adults and this latest review sets out how:
* that expansion will be delivered
* the quality of apprenticeships will be improved
* better support will be offered to employers providing high-quality apprenticeship places

The plan sets out objectives to make apprenticeships a mainstream option for 16-18 year olds, alongside other education & training routes and to ensure that an apprenticeship place is available for all qualified young people by 2013, with significant growth in apprenticeships for older learners as well.  On this basis, it anticipates that 20% of all young people will be undertaking an apprenticeship within the next decade.

The 'Apprenticeship Review' is published alongside a joint command paper, 'Ready to Work, Skilled for Work: Unlocking Britain's Talent' from DIUS and DWP.  This sets out how Government intends to work with business and employers to raise the skills of the country.
Industry NewsComet ‘walks the green walk’ for its business customers– An initiative from Comet demonstrates that it is committed to providing a ‘green’ service to their business customers, so reducing the impact both Comet and its clients have on the environment.
This starts with providing typical energy usage information for a whole range of domestic appliances; from in-use & standby information on all our TVs, DVD players, set-top boxes and computers, through to our fridges, dishwashers and washing machines.  Better yet they have ‘The Green Collection’, which is made up of their most energy efficient products.
To make recycling easier for their customers, Comet has contributed to a national fund to help local authorities improve their recycling facilities and they offer three ways to recycle your old products safely.
Internally they have set up ‘The Energy Team’, which has created an integrated approach to energy issues across Comet, leading to a significant reduction in energy consumption - Comet’s Stevenage Store alone reduced its energy bill by 36% in 2007. As a result they have received an 85% score from The Carbon Trust – one of the highest scores to date for an energy audit.
Finally they have minimised the impact of 2m deliveries a year by keeping vehicle tyres at the optimum pressure to reduce fuel wastage, capping the vehicles’ top speed and implementing a new vehicle routing systems that has saved over a million delivery miles per year.
For other Industry News please click HERE

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

General News

Defra: Female war veterans can now apply to have their efforts recognised as applications open for a new badge which will acknowledge those surviving members of the Women's Land Army and Women's Timber Corps who worked on the Home Front to provide food & timber for the nation during World War I and II.
Badges will be awarded to surviving members as of 6 December 2007, but Badges will not be able to be awarded to spouses or families of deceased members, except where death has occurred after 6 December 2007. Applicants will need to supply date of birth, approximate dates of service in the Women's Land Army or Women's Timber Corps and the location at which they were stationed.
MoD: Minister for Veterans, Derek Twigg has announced that Blackpool has been chosen to hold this year's National Veterans Day event.  He has also announced that eligibility to apply for the HM Armed Forces Veterans Badge and UK Merchant Seafarers Veterans Badge has been extended to include all those who have served in UK Armed Forces, which means that veterans of the ongoing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan are now eligible.
The third annual Veterans Day on 27 June 2008 is a chance for the nation to recognise the contribution made by veterans of all ages in conflicts both past & present. In addition, a large number of Veterans Day events, ranging in size, will be taking place across the UK during the summer.
The Ministry of Defence has pledged to fund £25K towards the cost of Blackpool's celebrations.  Funding is also available to support numerous other events taking place throughout the UK.  The deadline for applying for funding to support Veteran's Day events is 31 May 2008.
NA: Improvement to services provided by the National Archives at Kew, including critical building work will continue until late spring 2008 and, unfortunately, there will be reduced seating capacity as well as noise & disruption whilst this continues.  You may want to delay planning your visit until the work has been completed.
Due to the reduced seating capacity they will have to temporarily withdraw the facility for visitors to order original documents in advance of their visit to Kew, until late spring 2008.  Bulk ordering will remain available
DfT: Transport Secretary, Ruth Kelly, has published details of how extra capacity will be delivered on some of the rail network's busiest routes. 1,300 extra carriages were promised as part of last year's White Paper - Delivering a Sustainable Railway - which set out plans to increase capacity to carry over 180m more passengers over the next seven years - growth of more than 20%.
The publication of the Rolling Stock Plan is a step forward in meeting that commitment by providing indicative numbers of additional carriages needed by English Train Operating Companies to meet the ambitious plans for growth of our railways until 2014.
Extra capacity will be secured through additional new carriages and through re-deployment of existing carriages which will mean longer vehicles can run on busy routes and at peak times, providing around 100,000 extra seats each day on the busiest parts of the network.
OSOrdnance Survey is making its Web 2.0 platform, OS OpenSpace, available to developers everywhere following a successful closed launch in December 2007. OS OpenSpace is a free service that allows users to build mash-ups of Ordnance Survey mapping in scales ranging from the whole of Great Britain down to street level.
The service is now available to anyone wanting to develop experimental applications on the web using Ordnance Survey mapping.  Anyone who registers can access up to 30,000 "tiles" or extracts of data and up to 1,000 place‑name look-ups a day.  Users can add markers, lines and polygons on top of Ordnance Survey mapping, search for place names with a gazetteer and display other location data from elsewhere on the Web.
Cabinet Office: Local third sector funders across the country have been invited to become a local partner in delivering a £130m fund intended to give small third sector organisations access to grants for as little as £250. The Grassroots Grants programme will also help local funders to build endowment funds to provide a continuous source of small grant funding, by matching the money that the local funder raises in the community.  
The Community Development Foundation (CDF) is administering the programme nationally and the search has begun for local funders.  The closing date for applications for local funders is 30 April 2008.
MoD:  Defence Minister Bob Ainsworth has announced: “Cosford has been chosen as our preferred site to base both 1 Signal Brigade (1 Sig Bde) and 102 Logistics Brigade (102 Log Bde) when they return from Germany”.
The move of the two brigades is expected to be completed by 2014 and will see approximately 2,600 troops and their families and dependants move to Cosford.  The presence of such a significant number of troops may pave the way for a West Midlands 'Super Garrison' in the future. Under the BORONA Programme, around 3,600 British Forces will move from Germany to the UK.
Home OfficePost Office Ltd has retained the Identity and Passport Service (IPS) contract to provide the passport Check & Send service. Available at 2,500 post office branches, it offers members of the public the opportunity (for an additional handling fee) to have their passport application forms & associated documentation checked for ‘completeness’ prior to being sent on to IPS.
Some 45% of the six million passport applications received by IPS annually come via Check & Send, with the service dramatically reducing the number of errors in passport applications.  12% of applications posted by customers directly to IPS contain errors, whilst those sent using Check & Send average only 2%.

Policy Statements and Initiatives

MoJ: Justice Secretary Jack Straw has announced a new structure for the Ministry of Justice, following the creation of the Ministry of Justice in May 2007, bringing together the responsibilities of the Department for Constitutional Affairs with the National Offender Management Service from the Home Office and the trilateral Office for Criminal Justice Reform.
This latest review has taken full account of the Carter review of Prisons and the key changes are in the National Offender Management Service (NOMS), where HM Prison Service and the Probation Service will be brought together in NOMS from 1 April 2008.
ScotGov: Public bodies in Scotland will only be relocated in future where there are wider benefits for the taxpayer and no compulsory redundancies required, the Scottish Government has announced. ScotGov’s relocation policy is closely aligned to recommendations of a review of the public sector's assets, which will put in place strengthened estate management procedures. 
Its relocation policy criteria include:
* consideration of relocation will be triggered by organisations when there is substantial restructuring or two years in advance of a property break
* relocation will only take place if it brings benefits for the Government - and there would be no compulsory redundancies
* the relocation of any organisation will be decided by Ministers only after a transparent appraisal of options and a proper analysis of business need
* the Small Units Initiative will continue, as it has brought high quality jobs to remote & rural areas, where even a small number of posts brings demonstrable benefits to the community
CLG: The deadline for the Government's initiative for transferring local assets into community management & ownership, including disused schools, swimming pools, office blocks and community centres, closes on 15 February 2008.
Councils can hand over transfer any asset, to be owned or run by local people, if it is in the interest of the local community and successful projects can also apply for lottery funding under a £30m Cabinet Office fund to support social enterprise schemes.
MoJ: A new package of measures aimed at tackling re-offending by getting prisoners off drugs & into work has been announced by Justice Secretary Jack Straw.
As well as stamping out the supply of drugs, the Government claims that it is helping offenders ‘kick the habit’ in prison.  By 29 April 2008 prisons will have introduced the Integrated Drug Treatment System (IDTS) and, with the Dept. of Health, the government will be extending this scheme to a further 20 prisons over the next 12 months.


HEFCE: Higher education institutions (HEIs) in England will benefit from a new fund to provide repayable grants for projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  This fund will be a partnership between Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and Salix Finance Ltd (Salix) and is expected to reach a combined total of around £30-40m to distribute over the three years from 2008.
The proposals for the fund have two strands:
* An institutional small projects fund will provide HEIs with money to set up their own ring-fenced fund for proven energy efficiency projects.
* A transformational fund will be available for HEIs to tackle larger, innovative projects which will transform their approach to managing energy consumption and reducing emissions.  These projects may cost several million pounds per HEI and are expected to act as beacons of good practice to demonstrate what can be achieved in this area
HM Treasury: Following the publication of Sir David Varney's Review of tax policy in Northern Ireland on 17 December 2007, Sir David has been asked by the Chancellor to conduct a further review of the Northern Ireland economy, building on his recent work and focusing on identifying measures to promote private sector investment and enhance competitiveness in Northern Ireland.
As part of the review, Sir David will be seeking views (closes on 25 February 2008) from as many stakeholders as possible, in Northern Ireland, Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland.  The review team is looking for evidence on the particular challenges & opportunities for the Northern Ireland economy.
PADA: The personal accounts delivery authority has launched its consultation (closes 22 April 2008) Building personal accounts: choosing a charging structure, in which it is seeking views from a wide range of stakeholders and the general public, to inform its recommendation on the charging structure.
This is the first of several consultations that are planned and covers the charging structure of the scheme, not the level of charges.  Charge levels will depend on the final design, costs & revenues which will not be known for some time.
HM Treasury: A consultation (closes 23 April 2008) on proposals for strengthening the current framework for financial stability and protecting depositors has been launched by the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
Following the recent period of turbulence & instability in global financial markets, the consultation document sets out the Authorities' proposed action, both in the UK and internationally, to achieve five key objectives:
* strengthening the stability of the financial system, both in the UK & globally
* reducing the likelihood of banks facing difficulties
* reducing the impact if, nevertheless, a bank gets into difficulties
* providing effective compensation arrangements in which consumers have confidence and
* strengthening the Bank of England and ensuring effective co-ordinated actions by authorities, both in the UK and internationally
The Government intends to follow up this consultation by introducing legislation into the Parliament later in this session.
Monitor: Monitor has published a consultation (closes on 20 March 2008) on changes to the Compliance Framework for NHS foundation trusts.  These changes are in part intended to reflect the national requirements for the NHS described in the Operating Framework for 2008-09 (issued in December 2007) which featured:
* a focus on reducing the number of cases of MRSA and C.difficile
* delivering the 18-week waiting time target and
* compliance with the Hygiene Code
HM Treasury: A consultation (closes on 24 April 2008) on aviation duty has been launched by the Treasury, which follows an announcement in the 2007 Pre-Budget Report that Air Passenger Duty is to be replaced by a duty paid on a per plane basis in November 2009.  The reform is intended to send better environmental signals, encourage the more efficient use of aircraft and ensure aviation makes a greater contribution to both environmental costs and the public finances.
Home Office: Immigration Minister Liam Byrne has announced new measures that he claims will ensure that children in the immigration system are dealt with humanely & compassionately. To guarantee fair treatment, the Border and Immigration Agency (BIA) is consulting (closes on 24 April 2008) on:
* a new Code of Practice for its staff, and
* lifting the UK reservation on the UN convention on the Rights of the Child
Alongside this Code, in Planning Better Outcomes and Support for Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children, the Government has vowed to handle asylum claims by unaccompanied children swiftly & compassionately.
ScotGov: The Scottish government (ScotGov) has unveiled a proposal for a statutory target to reduce Scottish emissions by 80% by 2050 as one of the key components of a consultation (closes April 23, 2008) on Scotland's first Climate Change Bill – See ‘In the News’ for more information.

Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides

DfT: New guidance will sit alongside new stringent pre-registration checks coming into force on 1 June 2008 to make sure stretched limousines with more than 8 passenger seats meet GB safety & environmental standards.
The new pre-registration safety inspection will ensure that new larger limousines comply with GB construction standards.  Only vehicles that meet strict requirements on weights, dimensions, turning circle, seating, brakes, tyres, doors, lamps and reflectors and glazing will be able to pass the inspection.
The publication of the guidance comes as the Government tightens the law around Private Hire Vehicle (PHV) licensing.  From now on, owners of vehicles with up to 8 passenger seats - including limousines - which were previously considered exempt from PHV licensing under the ‘contract exemption’ must be licensed as a PHV.
SGC: A useful tool for all those interested in sentencing has been published by the Sentencing Guidelines Secretariat.  The 8th edition of the Sentencing Guidelines newsletter provides practitioners with detailed information about sentences for all ranges of offences down to local court or youth offending team level.

DH: New guidance to encourage the NHS to work jointly with the pharmaceutical industry to improve patient care has been welcomed by health minister Dawn Primarolo. The Department of Health guidance will give advice on how, for example, Primary Care Trusts (PCTs), pharmaceutical companies and clinicians can work together to identify particular medical needs in a community.
The guidance is intended to:
* encourage NHS organisations & staff to work together to deliver high-quality healthcare
* inform & advise NHS staff of their main responsibilities when working together with the industry

Annual Reports

CLG: Results from the Audit Commission showing that all fire services have improved their performance in preventing fires and saving lives have been welcomed by Fire Minister Parmjit Dhanda.
The independent report recognises that fire deaths are at their lowest level since the 1950s and praises the Fire and Rescue Service's commitment to delivering community safety initiatives, which are helping to reduce arson and, in conjunction with the police, to improve road safety.
Defra: Defra has announced the first results from monitoring the impact of the ‘0% set aside rate’, which show that the amount of farm land left un-cropped is likely to fall by more than 50% in 2008. The results from Defra's Farm Business Survey (FBS) are in line with its earlier analysis of the likely impact of the decision by the EU to set the set aside rate to 0% for the 2008 harvest year.
Previously Environment Secretary Hilary Benn had announced that a programme of environmental monitoring of farmland would be set up under Defra's Agricultural Change and Environment Observatory (ACEO) in the wake of the EU Agriculture Council's decision.

General Reports and Other Publications

ScotGov: The true picture behind the recent decline & future potential of Scotland's television industry has been revealed with the Scottish Broadcasting Commission publishing the interim report on its first phase of evidence-taking.

Taking this initial evidence forward, the Commission is looking to hone in on certain areas it believes have an impact on the economic viability & importance broadcasting can have in Scotland.  In particular the Commission is looking to:
* Verify further & quantify any new commitments to Scotland made by the BBC & Channel 4 in particular
* Stimulate further debate concerning quotas as a policy option
* Examine the potential new technologies & platforms offer the broadcasting industry in Scotland
Defra: Defra has published an epidemiology report into the H5N1 avian influenza case in wild birds in Dorset, which found that while it has not been possible to conclusively identify the source of the infection, the most likely hypothesis is that it was introduced by an infected migratory wild bird.
There is currently no evidence to suggest widespread disease in the wild bird population, but poultry keepers in the area are reminded to remain vigilant and report any signs of disease immediately.  There remains no evidence of disease in domestic birds.
HEFCE: A review of sustainable development in the higher education (HE) sector carried out for the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) suggests that, although a great deal has been done, the momentum for change needs to continue & increase if HE institutions are to maximise their role in improving the environment, preserving natural resources and making an economic & social impact.

The review covers four main areas: teaching, research, corporate and estates management.  It aims to ascertain a baseline of sustainable development in the sector, against which to measure progress and highlight what the sector is already doing.  
NAO: The National Audit Office (NAO) has reported that the effective delivery of community order sentences could be improved to secure the full benefits of the scheme by the National Probation Service.  It found that there is incomplete data on the cost of orders, the number of offenders who have not completed all aspects of their orders and that there are long waiting lists for some group rehabilitation programmes.
The NAO also found that community orders offer benefits such as enabling offenders to stay with their families & in work while avoiding additional pressure on the prison estate by reducing re-offending.  However, some community order requirements are not available or rarely used in some of the 42 Probation Areas.
For example, alcohol treatment varies greatly in availability, despite strong links between alcohol and offending behaviour.  This means orders may not be addressing the underlying causes of offending behaviour as fully as they could.

Press release ~ National Probation Service ~ National Offender Management Service ~ Comm unity Orders ~ The National Probation Service: the supervision of community orders in England and Wales ~ Execut ive SummaryCostin g of Community Order Requirements (by Accenture) ~ A synthesis of literature on the effectiveness community orders (by RAND Europe) ~ Annual report 2006-2007 by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons

Legislation / Legal

ScotGov:  Some of the money recovered from serious organised criminals is to be used to increase the size of the Civil Recovery Unit and the National Casework Division to help seize even more of the proceeds of crime. Around £400k is to be used in 2008/09 to recruit additional forensic accountants, investigators & lawyers.

In an additional move to ‘hurt criminals in the pocket’, the Scottish Government also intends to add a significant number of new offences indicating a criminal lifestyle to the Proceeds of Crime Act, including bribery & corruption, distribution of child & extreme pornography and breaches of the Private Security Act.
BERR: The publication of the 2005 analysis and the preliminary results for 2006 ‘shows that the UK has the most competitive markets for gas and electricity in the EU and G7’.  Business Secretary John Hutton hailed the report as evidence that the UK market was delivering for consumers and called for more open & transparent markets to be replicated throughout the rest of Europe.
The report, from the Oxford Economic Research Associates (OXERA), monitors the competitiveness of the energy market by assessing a range of factors.  These include the market shares in generation & supply, the separation of transmission from generation & supply and the availability of regulated third party access to gas & electricity transmission and distribution networks.

EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.

Defra: Lord Rooker, Minister for Sustainable Food and Farming, has welcomed the decision to replace the 10-month rule governing the period for which farmers have to have land at their disposal under the Single Payment Scheme (SPS).
Following agreement at this week's EU Agriculture Council, farmers will be required from the 2008 scheme year to have the land used to support their SPS claims at their disposal on just one day.  In the UK, that day will be 15 May each scheme year

Business and Other Briefings

IS: A voluntary code of conduct has been agreed with the organisations & bodies involved in managing and agreeing individual voluntary arrangements (IVAs) following a series of discussions & negotiations facilitated by The Insolvency Service.
The voluntary code is intended to ensure the processes involved which lead to an IVA will be more transparent and includes standard terms & conditions, greater certainty on dealing with a debtor's home and greater reassurance for creditors & debtors that the best option has been presented.
FSA: The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has published its Financial Risk Outlook (FRO) warning firms & consumers of the risks inherent in a significantly less benign economic environment.  It focuses on the risks arising from the events of the second half of 2007 and the less benign economic outlook expected over the next 18 months.  Its central scenario identifies the five priority risks.
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