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In the News

LSNBack to basics for education policy? - Employers are struggling to find young people with the right skills for work, suggests new research by the Learning and Skills Network (LSN) which reveals that, when recruiting a school or college leaver, employers look for people who can read, write, do basic maths and show enthusiasm for work, above anything else.

But, only 13% of employers who had tried to recruit a young person said that they have always been successful. When asked to rank a list of 14 skills in order of importance, employers ranked communication skills first, literacy second and numeracy third.

Employers were also asked to identify ‘deal breaker’ skills, or the skills that if not present would prevent them from selecting a young candidate for a job. 55% named literacy skills as a deal breaker and 51% said communication skills, while 47% of employers highlighted numeracy.
CIOBInstitute wraps up mandatory requirements for building waste - The Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB), in partnership with WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme), has launched an online broadcast to give guidance on implementing Site Waste Management Plans (SWMP); a mandatory requirement in England from 6 April 2008.

According to Defra the construction industry generates over 100m tonnes of waste each year of which approximately 20m tonnes ends up in landfill. SWMP’s provide the framework for construction companies to identify waste minimisation & management opportunities and to meet the Government’s targets for halving construction waste to landfill by 2012.

Throughout the broadcast, construction professionals can access a wealth of industry guidance such as the WRAP SWMP Template, good practice guidance and recycled content toolkit.
CLG:  Not just a warm place to sleep - A new ambition for all hostels to provide access to support, training & employment within the next three years to help end persistent rough sleeping, was announced by Housing Minister Iain Wright, when he published an action plan to reduce rough sleeping to as close to zero as possible, with new measures to help those who have remained entrenched on the streets.

The Minister invited stakeholders involved in rough sleeping to join in the discussion (closes on 8 July 2008) on a package of measures to underpin the strategy, including:
* A renewed drive to identify & engage with the most persistent rough sleepers
* Universal access to skills programmes in hostels to develop an individual's talents & boost their confidence
* A new London homeless taskforce
* The provision of 500 units of private rented accommodation in London to enable those who are ready to move out of hostels, but still need some level of support, to live independently
* Increased working across government to ensure the one stop shops can provide tangible, practical support across a range of homeless issues

The Government's ‘Places of Change’ programme is intended to develop hostels from simply a roof over one's head to places where people can achieve real & lasting change.
DWPEncouraging good habits or just tempting fate? - The government claims that a new way of calculating Housing Benefit will help tenants become more financially independent and put them on the road back to work.  Benefit will be paid directly to the client to encourage them to take more personal control over their financial affairs by budgeting & paying rent to their landlords. 

Local Housing Allowance (LHA) will apply to private sector tenants who make a new claim for benefit and for existing tenants who move address, on or after 7 April 2008.  It applies to tenants in the de-regulated private rented sector only and is a flat rate of Housing Benefit, which varies according to the size of household and the area in which the client lives.
LDARe-charging the environment - Moixa Energy, supported by the London Development Agency (LDA), has received Gold Status at the iF Product Design Award’s for its revolutionary USBCELL AA battery, which recharge itself when plugged into a USB port.

The USBCELL battery is more energy efficient to use & re-use compared to alkaline and other rechargeable batteries and should help reduce the 22,000 toxic tonnes of batteries the UK throws away each year.

It is already in stock across the UK high-street in stores such as Currys, Comet, Staples, John Lewis and Dyas.  Moixa Energy now plans USBCELL battery conversions for mobile phones and internet access devices that save consumers from carrying cables or adaptors.
CSPLA more independent view of what is needed - The Committee for Standards in Public Life has published a set of principles which it believes should be followed in the review of MPs' allowances currently being carried out by Parliament.  The Chairman of the Committee, Sir Christopher Kelly said: 
My Committee takes the view that the arrangements for MPs in regard to their remuneration & reimbursement of expenses should meet the highest standards of transparency, probity and accountability. We have therefore drawn up these principles as a statement of observed best practice from other sectors of the United Kingdom. It is essential that our elected representatives are seen to lead by example.

The Committee has publicly welcomed the recognition by the Members' Estimate Committee that one of the key requirements of any new system resulting from the current review is that it should command public respect. If the outcome of the current review fails to command public confidence then the Committee is prepared to undertake its own independent review of the issues involved".
WAG:  First the Midlothian question, now the Valleys exclude English MPs - The 9 April 2008, marked a historic day, as the first Legislative Competence Order transferring law making powers to Wales received Royal approval.  The new powers will allow the Welsh Assembly Government to bring forward Welsh laws (called Assembly Measures) on Special Educational Needs (SEN) provision.
Forthcoming eventWithout digital inclusion the government will ‘fail’ those most in need - In his first official engagement as the newly appointed Minister for Digital Inclusion, Paul Murphy MP is to make a keynote speech at the third National Digital Inclusion Conference 2008 – ‘Reaching the final third’, taking place in London on Tuesday 29 April at The Brewery in London. 

Hosted by Civic Conferences in association with UK online centres and DC10plus, the conference will explore the digital state of the nation and look at what actions are needed to reach the final third – the circa 33% of the population who are still missing out on the benefits of computers and the internet. 

Managing Director of UK online centres Helen Milner commented: “Digital Inclusion has never really been considered a central or sexy policy issue, but suddenly it feels like it’s on the cusp of recognition.   It’s got a Minister, it’s caught cross-departmental and cross-sector interest, and it’s slowly building momentum”. 

UK online centres provide millions of people with access to technology and support in using it.   They offer free or low cost access to the internet and email, deliver online courses and encourage people to progress onto further learning.  UK online centres are managed by Ufi, the organisation also behind learndirect.  
For information on other forthcoming public sector events please click HERE to visit the WGPlus Events Calendar

For Industry News please click HERE

General News

DH: Health Secretary Alan Johnson has announced that the Department had agreed with NHS Employers, UNISON (but not Unite) and the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) a proposed three-year pay package for all NHS Agenda for Change (AfC) staff - including nurses, midwives and Allied Health Professionals - which will now be subject to consultation by members of all the trade unions covered by AfC.  The Government is also accepting in full the recommendations of the Doctors and Dentists Pay Review body for 2008/09.
The proposed package includes:
* acceptance in full of the 2008/09 NHS Pay Review Body's recommendations for a 2.75% pay rise for nurses and other healthcare professionals from 1 April 2008
* 2.4% headline award in 2009/10
* 2.25% headline award in 2010/11
LDA: Participants of a training programme helped steward the Torch Relay recently as one of their colleagues from Newham carried the Olympic flame over Tower Bridge. 44 Personal Best students offered information and helped direct crowds.
Personal Best is run by the London Development Agency and the Learning & Skills Council to help some of the city's most disadvantaged to improve their job prospects.  Based on the programme's success at the 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games, it uses the excitement of the 2012 Games to promote training for an accredited volunteering qualification, while also offering them support into further volunteering, training or work.

Personal Best graduates will be guaranteed an interview to become a volunteer at Games time.  The London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games has a target of taking 10% of Games-time volunteers from the national programme.  Recruitment for the Games time volunteer programme will begin in 2010.
Press release ~ London Employment and Skills Taskforce for 2012 (LEST) - Personal Best Programme ~ London Development Agency ~ Learning and Skills Council
STFC: The Research Councils UK (RCUK) are inviting outline proposals from Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) either individually or in consortia with others and business for Science Bridges Awards.  Closing date for outline proposals is 4:00pm on Thursday 15 May 2008.
The Sainsbury Review of the UK Government’s S&I Policies (The Race to the Top) concluded that the first US Science Bridges had ‘helped to develop entrepreneurial skills amongst researchers and supported the commercial development of technology and expertise in spin-outs’.
Ofwat: The Water Services Regulation Authority (Ofwat) has published its proposals to fine Severn Trent Water 3% of its turnover - a total of £35.8m - for deliberately providing false information to the regulator and providing a poor service to its customers.
MoD:  The MoD has extended additional legal protection to ten shipwrecks, which are the final resting places of more than 750 people to ensure the sites are safe from disturbance from divers. Designation as a protected place allows the site to be visited by divers on a 'look but don't touch or enter' basis.  
Any physical disturbance of the wreck would require prior licensing by the MoD.  The ten new designations will come into effect on 1 May 2008, adding to the existing 48 shipwrecks which are already designated.
DH: Businesses in six areas across the country are to benefit from NHS advice & support to improve the physical, mental and social well-being of their staff. The six new demonstration projects located in Merseyside, East London, West Yorkshire, the North East, Devon and Worcestershire will share £11m of capital funding to provide better quality occupational health services (OH) for local businesses.
The announcement follows Dame Carol Black's report 'Working for a Healthier Tomorrow', which showed that work can be good for health, reversing the harmful effects of long-term unemployment and prolonged sickness absence. The funding will be managed by NHS Plus, a network of NHS OH departments across England, supplying quality services to non-NHS employers.
QCAOfqual has ‘opened its doors for business’. The new regulator will act as the independent guardian of standards & quality across the exams system.  It is designed to ensure that children, young people and adult learners get the results their work deserves and that their qualifications count now and in the future.
Ofqual is an operationally independent part of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA).  On 2 April 2008 Ed Balls, Secretary of State for Children Schools and Families, announced that the government intended to legislate to make Ofqual a separate statutory authority reporting directly to Parliament.
DH: Twelve new Biomedical Research Units for the new NIHR (National Institute for Health Research) will focus on ‘translational research’ that will take advances in basic medical research out of the laboratory and into the hospital clinic – hopefully meaning that patients will benefit more quickly from new scientific breakthroughs.
The Units will work in major areas of ill-health and clinical need that have traditionally received relatively limited amounts of research funding: heart disease; deafness & hearing problems; gastrointestinal & liver disease; musculoskeletal disease (including arthritis); nutrition (including obesity) and respiratory disease (including asthma).
DWP: The online Blue Badge map service, which makes it much easier for disabled people to find places to park, has now been improved.  The map on the Directgov website originally covering 64 cities & large towns.  A further 37 have now been added and by the end of April the total will reach 119.
Users can search by postcode or town/area name for designated Blue Badge parking bays, parking bays that fall on red routes in London, as well as accessible stations, toilets and petrol stations.  Blue Badge holders can also find out more about rules for street parking, including time restrictions and any special notices.
C-NLIS:   The Council for the NationalLand and Property Information Service (C-NLIS) hasannounced it is renaming the company.  The new name - Land Data - was created as a name & brand which is easily recognisable to the company’s stakeholders.

Alex Fraser CEO, Land Data, said: “Market research showed us there was confusion between the brand names C-NLIS and NLIS, the NationalLand Information Service which delivers electronic property search services, which we manage”.
FCO: A new national helpline for victims of forced marriage and honour-based violence, part-funded by the Forced Marriage Unit, has been launched by Home Office Minister Vernon Coaker. The 'Honour Network', run by the charity Karma Nirvana is a dedicated forced marriage and honour-based violence helpline, staffed by survivors offering emotional and practical support.
The Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act will be implemented in the autumn.  Courts will be able to make orders to prevent forced marriages and protect victims.  Guidelines produced by the Forced Marriage Unit in co-operation with other Government departments, for groups working with forced marriage victims, including the police, social services, health and education professionals will be placed on a statutory footing.

Policy Statements and Initiatives

DIUS: The latest project from Foresight, the Government's futures think tank, will examine land use in the UK, providing a fresh chance to explore the ways we view & value land as a resource in the future. Demographic changes in the UK, the evolution of the global economy and the impact of climate change, are among the challenges that will affect the demands we make on land.  
Foresight's new 'Land Use Futures' project will explore how our use of land may need to evolve to meet future challenges and how it can deliver economic, social and environmental benefits sustainably, looking at both urban and rural land use. The findings will be launched towards the end of 2009.
DfT: Goods vehicles crossing Britain's borders face tougher safety checks as an extra £24m will resource a clampdown on unsafe HGVs on international journeys, by funding a 50% increase in the number of HGV checks carried out, as well as allowing the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) to open two new enforcement sites.  Enforcement figures show that HGVs from overseas are more like to be un-roadworthy, overloaded or being driven in excess of drivers' hours rules than their UK counterparts.
VOSA is also increasingly using a smarter, intelligence-led approach to tackling un-roadworthy foreign vehicles, utilising modern technology - such as weigh-in-motion sensors - to spot overweight vehicles, and also automatic number plate recognition technology to spot those who have a poor track record of compliance.
DfT: Ruth Kelly, Transport Secretary, announced the creation of an official national bus passenger champion to actively represent the millions of people who use buses in the towns, villages and cities across England. Passenger Focus will widen its remit to take on the new role of bus passenger champion, while continuing to represent rail passengers throughout Great Britain. London transport users however are represented by the statutory London Travelwatch committee.
Defra: A £4m fund to support the installation of biomass-fuelled heating and combined heat & power projects, including anaerobic digesters, has been opened to applications from industrial, commercial and community sectors.
This encompasses public and private limited companies, from smaller businesses like pubs, clubs, shops or farms, to offices, golf courses, recycling centres, supermarkets and stately homes, right up to larger businesses like breweries, food processing companies and airports.  Applicants from the community sector can include schools, colleges, universities, hospitals, local authorities, housing associations and charities.
CLG: A new review aimed at improving the management and conditions of people living in Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) has been launched by Housing and Planning Minister Caroline Flint. Concerns have been raised about the so called 'studentification' of university towns with over concentrations of HMOs.  Their dramatic growth in recent years (now almost 2.5m) has seen housing problems increase in some towns.
The review is intended to identify what more the planning system can do to create more effective management of HMOs for all tenants.  It will feed into the Private Rented Sector review announced in January which is already looking into standards of accommodation and the rights & responsibilities of landlords & tenants.
WAG: The Welsh Assembly Government has launched its One Wales delivery plan, which identifies all the 228 specific delivery commitments in the One Wales document and shows what the Assembly Government will do to deliver each of them.


DefraDefra and the Welsh Assembly Government have launched a joint consultation (closes on 29 August 2008) on a strategy to improve & protect honey bee health. Significant current widespread risks include American Foulbrood and European Foulbrood which are both subject to statutory controls, and varroa mites and associated viruses.
The strategy seeks to address the challenges facing beekeepers given their important role as custodians of honey bees.  It sets out a plan for the future direction of work aimed at sustaining the health of honey bees and beekeeping in England and Wales for the next decade.
MoJ: A consultation (closes 2 July 2008) on a new drive to reduce re-offending has been launched to establish how Probation Boards and Trusts will provide the most cost-effective route to help rehabilitate and punish offenders.
During the passage of the Offender Management Act 2007, the Government signalled a move away from a regime in which probation areas sub-contract a specified proportion of their work.  Instead, they will be adopting a system of Best Value similar to that used by local government.  Under this model, Probation Boards and Trusts will need to ensure that services are continuously improved by the provider delivering the best value for money from the public, private or voluntary sector.
ScotGov: Draft guidance to help local authorities exercise new powers and carry out duties to take action on poor quality private housing has been published for consultation (closes 1 July 2008). The measures, which are part of the Housing (Scotland) Act 2006, herald a change in the approach to dealing with poor living conditions in Scotland's privately owned housing stock. 
The consultation asks for views on all the guidance created for LAs and, in particular, new proposals on:
* a National Lending Unit & Lending Advisory Service to help people find affordable loans with which to finance repairs
* a national Trusted Trader framework to ensure individuals have access to reputable and affordable traders
DCSF: Every local authority could have the opportunity to join Building Schools for the Future (BSF) earlier, under proposals to accelerate entry into the programme published for consultation (closes 4 July 2008).
Under existing plans, wave seven will be launched in early 2009, with funding coming on stream in 2011, but a handful of remaining local authorities would not see any BSF building project start until wave 15. All 76 local authorities, that have not yet joined the programme, will be invited to revise their existing expressions of interests between August and October - which will decide how projects will be grouped in the future. The next authorities to enter programme will be announced next spring and the exact roll-out will continue to be dependent on future public spending decisions.
WAG: Rhodri Glyn Thomas, the Welsh Assembly Government Heritage Minister has welcomed the launch of the Ofcom review of Public Service Broadcasting, as an opportunity to shape the future of public service broadcasting in Wales.
WAG is currently working with the Institute of Welsh Affairs to develop an evidence base that will help in informing its response to the Ofcom consultation (closes 16 June 2008) of public service broadcasting.  The audit will examine Welsh & English language broadcast, print and the potential threats & opportunities to Wales presented by the imminent digital switchover, increased internet use and media convergence.
CLG: A new ambition for all hostels to provide access to support, training & employment within the next three years to help end persistent rough sleeping, was announced by Housing Minister Iain Wright, when he published an action plan for consultation (closes on 8 July 2008) to reduce rough sleeping to as close to zero as possible, with new measures to help those who have remained entrenched on the streets – See ‘In the News’ section for more information.

Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides

DH: Health workers and local authorities throughout the country are being encouraged to play their part in tackling the health effects of climate change, with the publication of 'Climate Change guidance documents' intended to provide guidance on tackling climate change and promoting sustainable communities, in order to further improve health and reduce health inequalities.

Local health professionals are asked to consider the health impacts of climate change and are informed of how societies can adapt to the most impacts (ex. heatwaves & flooding) with adequate planning. It is also about minimising the future effects of climate change by reducing emissions, both in the workplace and at home.
BERR: A new code of practice - the Regulators' Compliance Code - requires regulators to take a risk-based approach to inspection & enforcement, which should mean fewer inspections and less regulatory burden for the majority of compliant businesses, but more rigorous inspection when there is high risk of a business not complying with regulation.
Businesses can expect a cut in unnecessary inspections, form filling and information requests, as well as better advice on how to comply with the law.  They can also expect more transparent, flexible and consistent enforcement. Businesses can challenge regulators through Judicial Review if they do not follow the Code.
LSN: The Workforce Strategy for the Further Education Sector in England, 2007-2012 is a new guide from LLUK that seeks to support individual employers' strategic workforce planning. The new Implementation Plan from LLUK captures the actions & milestones committed by key stakeholders and partners during 2008-09 to contribute towards the achievement of outcomes anticipated by 2011.
Their intention is to guide the recruitment & retention of a responsive workforce that can meet the challenges and requirements of learners and employers focusing on upgrading skills, improving employability and ensuring equality and diversity is at the heart of it all.
CIOB: The Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB), in partnership with WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme), has launched an online broadcast to give guidance on implementing Site Waste Management Plans (SWMP); a mandatory requirement in England from 6 April 2008 – See ’In the News’ section for more information.

Annual Reports

HC: The Healthcare Commission is urging NHS trusts to learn from patients’ complaints and improve complaints handling, with key proposals including apologising more often when they do make mistakes. A recent report shows that complaints about a lack of basic nursing care, poor communications, overly brisk GP consultations and a lack of help for mental health service users are among the key issues patients raise.

The Spotlight on Complaints report covers more than 10,000 complaints that were independently reviewed by the Commission between August 2006 and July 2007.  Each year the NHS delivers 380 million treatments and receives around 140,000 complaints.  The report, the second of its kind, looks at how complaints are handled and the common themes to enable trusts to learn lessons from them.
The Commission has recently published guidance to help NHS trusts improve complaints handling.  Called The Complaints Toolkit – Handling Complaints in NHS, the guidance provides advice to NHS bodies and primary care providers on best practice in handling complaints at a local level.
HC: The Healthcare Commission has published results from the annual survey of NHS staff, one of the largest staff surveys in the world. Between October and December last year a proportionate sample of staff were asked for their views & experiences of working for the NHS in England.  Surveys were returned by 155,922 employees from all 391 NHS trusts – a response rate of 54%.

Anna Walker, the Commission’s Chief Executive, said:
“As one of the largest employers in the world, the NHS needs to be aware of and responsive to how staff are coping…………… Each trust is a unique working environment and local results highlight the challenges particular to each of them.  At a national level, the survey results must be used to drive continual improvement in the working lives of thousands of NHS workers”.

General Reports and Other Publications

DWP: New research by Ipsos MORI shows a mixed bag of emotions for those waking up on day one of retirement with under a third saying they felt relaxed and under a quarter feeling free, while a surprising one in ten felt anxious, sad or lost.
Over 1,000 people over 55 were interviewed to find out their views on retirement and work.  People approaching retirement admitted there's lots they'll miss about their jobs when they stop.  Topping their ‘miss list’ are work friends, being challenged, office banter and a reason to get out of the house, but three quarters of Brits are looking forward to binning the Christmas party.
This month marks the start of a two year countdown to state pension age changes for women, which sees the state pension age for women start to gradually rise from 60 to 65 from 6th April 2010.
DWP: A qualitative research report on the In-Work Support (IWS) component of the 'Pathways to Work' incapacity benefit reform pilots which provides in-depth accounts of customer and staff experiences has been published by the Department for Work and Pensions.
The research forms part of a comprehensive independent evaluation of 'Pathways to Work' which aims to consider the overall impact of the programme, in addition to understanding the different elements and how they affect the employment outcomes of incapacity benefit customers who take part.
HEFCE: Research published by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) analyses league tables that provide rankings of universities for newspapers and on the web.  It also looks at how universities and colleges in England respond to such rankings.
While there is clearly a demand for league tables among prospective students and others, many feel dissatisfied with the way they are compiled. The research analysed five university league tables and investigated how higher education institutions (HEIs) respond to them, including their effect on university managers, governors and their decision-making.  It is based on a survey and case studies.
DIUS:  Career & educational development, accommodation and value for money were some of the key issues raised by university under & postgraduates during five student juries, the results of which have been published.
Students studying across the country were asked to give their verdict on university life to help inform the work of the new National Student Forum, set up by the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills in January to give students a voice in Government.
Defra: The huge potential of reusing waste wood as fuel is being wasted.  The significant carbon & energy benefits of recovering energy from waste wood are detailed in a new information report on the sector that surveys the activities of producers, aggregators and users of waste wood.
Recycling and energy markets for clean, virgin wood have been growing in recent years; however waste wood has been a largely overlooked resource.  Currently up to 10m tonnes of waste wood is being produced in the UK each year, most of which goes to landfill.
The publication of the Waste Wood Information Report fits well with the intended convergence of energy and waste policy by creating greater awareness of this substantial, indigenous and largely untapped biomass resource available in municipal, construction & demolition and commercial & industrial waste streams.
ScotGov: Scottish police forces need to work together to develop a clear strategy for custody management to inform future design & development of the physical facilities for custody, according to a report published by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary for Scotland (HMICS), which contains a number of recommendations for improvement and identifies best practice from which forces can learn.
ScotGov: The first ever report on the state of Scotland's seas was published last week, to help lay the groundwork for the new Scottish Marine BillScotland's Seas: Towards Understanding their State outlines the cleanliness, health and productivity of Scotland's waters.

The report is an initial assessment and paves the way towards the publication in 2010 of a comprehensive 'State of Scotland's Seas'.  This will be necessary as we prepare for the initial assessment of our seas required under the recently completed Marine Strategy Framework Directive.  There will be a public consultation on the Scottish Marine Bill later in the year.

Legislation / Legal

BERR: Government has worked to ensure that important laws come into force on only two dates per year, allowing companies to plan ahead and save time & money. Business has estimated that up to 10% of time - or £628m per year - can be saved through changes to the law being announced on two 'common commencement dates', one in April and one in October.
The key government Departments which introduce business regulations on the 6 April and 1 October are BERR, DEFRA, Communities and Local Government, Home Office, HSE and Food Standards Agency.

Press release ~ April 2008 regulation changes ~ Better Regulation Executive

EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.

Defra: Farming Minister, Jeff Rooker, has announced the publication of the UK's response to the European Commission's consultation on the next round of Common Agricultural Policy reform, the CAP ‘Health Check’, which is being negotiated this year. Five years on from the major CAP reform of 2003, it represents the next significant round of reform.
The European Commission published a consultative ‘Communication’ on 20 November and the response represents the views of the UK Government and the Governments of the Devolved Administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland on what the Health Check reform should deliver.
The Commission intends to publish its legislative proposals for the reforms on 20 May.  The French, who will hold the Presidency of the EU in the second half of 2008, aim to negotiate agreement by the end of the year.
ScotGov: Enterprise Minister Jim Mather has welcomed the decision to award £158m to 153 projects in Lowlands and Uplands Scotland through the 2007-13 European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and European Social Fund (ESF).

The next opportunity for projects to bid for funding in Lowlands & Upper Scotland will be later this year.  An announcement on successful projects from the 1st round in the Highlands & Islands will be made shortly.

Charity and Voluntary Sector

BIG: Eco-campaigner and TV adventurer Ben Folge has given a helping hand to a multi-million pound grants roll out that aims to improve people’s mental health through eco-based projects.  The ECOMINDS scheme is part of the BIG Lottery Fund’s Changing Spaces grant programme, which is channelling £143m into projects across England to help communities enjoy and improve their local environments.

The BIG Lottery Fund announced mental health charity Mind as an Award Partner and granted £8.8m of lottery funding to run their Ecominds scheme.  It will support environmental projects that improve the mental health and well-being of people with direct experience of mental distress.

Mind is the fifth & final organisation chosen as an award partner by BIG and they are all – now opening their grant schemes for applications:
* Building Research Establishment (BRE) will run the Community Sustainable Energy Programme
* Groundwork UK will use £50m of lottery money to run its Community Spaces programme
* Natural England will use £25m to help people to Access Nature
* Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts (RSWT) will use £50m to help run its Local Food scheme
VSO: Ever thought about sharing your management skills with colleagues in developing countries?  That there might be a few things you could learn from them? To find out more, why not go along to a free seminar, drinks & networking evening for managers from any sector, organised by VSO.
Renowned management author, Jo Owen will discuss what we can learn from traditional societies based on his extensive experience of working with tribal communities, as well as some of the best and biggest companies in the world.  You'll also hear from a returned VSO management volunteer, who will talk about adapting his management style to a new cultural context (14 May 2008, 6-8pm, London).

Business and Other Briefings

BERR: A new code of practice - the Regulators' Compliance Code - requires regulators to take a risk-based approach to inspection & enforcement, which should mean fewer inspections and less regulatory burden for the majority of compliant businesses, but more rigorous inspection when there is high risk of a business not complying with regulation – See ‘Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides’ for more information
BERR: Business Minister Shriti Vadera has launched a new investigation into the UK's automotive industry to identify measures to tackle the twin challenges of low cost competition and the move to lower-carbon transport.
The investigation will also look at a new Departmental survey on the business environment for Japanese automotive supply companies in the UK, aimed at improving the UK's supply chain capabilities, including in areas such as management skills and the pace of new product delivery.
BERR: Government has worked to ensure that important laws come into force on only two dates per year, allowing companies to plan ahead and save time and money. Business has estimated that up to 10% of time - or £628m per year - can be saved through changes to the law being announced on two 'common commencement dates', one in April and one in October – See ‘Legislation / Legal’ section for more information.
HMRC: Millions of new look tax returns will be dropping onto doormats from this week, following a revamp of the main self assessment (SA) tax return.  It has fewer questions, simpler language and an improved layout.  It's designed to be easier to understand and complete for all SA customers but, in particular, for those who are self-employed or who don't use an accountant to complete their return.
A redesigned version of the online SA return is also now available. From this year, there are also changes to the SA deadlines - paper returns must now be filed by 31 October 2008, while the deadline for online returns remains at 31 January 2009.
HMRC: HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) has launched the latest in its series of award-winning podcasts for tax agents and intermediaries.  In the latest edition, Stephen Banyard, Director of HMRC's Business Customer Unit, discusses the changes to self assessment filing deadlines, what this means for agents and clients, how to avoid penalties and the support available for online filers.
This Brief gives details of an article: Inheritance tax and valuation of gifts involving a Discounted Gift Scheme
This Brief gives details of an article: Obligation of local authorities to deduct tax from interest
This Brief gives details of an article: Eurobonds and deduction of tax

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