In the News
DCSF: Helping children to speak up – Education Secretary, Ed Balls, has announced that The Michael Palin Centre for Stammering Children will receive £340,000 to provide schools across the country with information, advice and training materials on how best to support children and young people who stammer. The training materials will be developed & piloted between 2008 and 2010, with all schools hoping to receive material and information by the end of 2010.
It is estimated that around 5% of children experience some difficulty with their fluency at some time during the development of their speech & language. Stammering has a major impact on children's academic and social lives - children with a stammer are more likely to become withdrawn or anxious and can become the focus of bullying.
The Centre, a world leader in this field, will use a 2 stage programme to provide schools across the country with information, advice and training materials on how best to support children and young people who stammer:
Foundation Level - where participants would gain basic information to recognise stammering & straightforward strategies to help children and young people communicate more effectively in their educational environment
Specialist Level - where participants would gain detailed information about the nature of stammering, its social & educational impact and practical guidance on appraising its severity and the reasonable adjustments that could support a child or young person with a stammer.
DH: A vision of a healthier future - A Government funded trial to treat inherited blindness by administering gene therapy to the human retina has proved successful, researchers have announced. The trial at the Moorfields Eye Hospital/UCL Institute of Ophthalmology National Institute for Health Research Biomedical Research Centre has shown that the sight of a patient with Leber's congenital amaurosis (LCA), a type of inherited retinal degeneration, which causes progressive deterioration in vision and blindness in teenagers, has made a major improvement.
This is the first major outcome from the 12 Biomedical Research Centres which were set up by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) in April 2007. These centres work in major areas of ill-health and clinical need to speed up the translation of fundamental science into benefits for patients.
CC: Why is it that no one believes them? - The Competition Commission (CC) has published its final report in its inquiry into UK groceries retailing, including measures to improve competition in local areas and to address its concerns about relationships between retailers and their suppliers.
The measures include:
* a recommendation for the inclusion of a 'competition test' in planning decisions on larger grocery stores
* action to prevent land agreements which can restrict entry by competitors
* the creation of a new strengthened & extended Groceries Supply Code of Practice and
* a recommendation to establish an independent Ombudsman to oversee & enforce the Code
In its final report, the CC has concluded that, whilst UK grocery retailers are, in many respects, delivering a good deal for consumers, action is needed to improve competition in local markets and to address relationships between retailers and their suppliers. Competing with large retailers is difficult but their evidence does not show that independent retailers or the wholesalers that supply them are in terminal decline.
BERR: Bidding for their fair share - Buyers will be able to attract more potential bidders with the start of a free trial, which is intended to draw thousands more small businesses to www.supply2.gov.uk, the national lower-value contracts website. The trial ends on 31 July 2008 and applies to new registrations only.
The website claims to have over 75,000 registered small businesses looking for lower-value public sector contracts typically worth under £100,000. Registration for public sector buyers is free. Buyers with an existing procurement website can link their service directly to the website.
The March 2008 Enterprise Strategy featured a range of measures to boost the percentage of Britain's 4.5m small businesses competing for public procurement, including looking at the practicality of setting a goal for them to win 30% of public sector business within five years.
The Strategy also included an announcement that the rules for government procurement will be changed to allow companies, particularly small firms, to use invoice financing to compete for public contracts.
HM Treasury: Rebuilding after the Terror - Sir David Varney has published his Review of the Competitiveness of Northern Ireland, which follows on from the conclusions of his Review of Tax Policy in Northern Ireland published in December 2007.
Sir David's review identifies a number of core strengths that make Northern Ireland a good place to do business and attractive to a wide range of investors. These strengths include a young population, an excellent education system, macroeconomic stability, strong transport links with the rest of the UK, Ireland & Europe and ambitious plans for further infrastructure investment.
DH: Power to the patient - Health Minister Ivan Lewis has announced the introduction of 7 Common Core Principles to Support Self Care, designed to help health & social care staff support people to live independently, stay healthy and make the most of their lives by managing their conditions.
The Principles, which have been developed with Skills for Health and Skills for Care, aim to help health and social care services enable people to have better control over & responsibility for their own health and well-being, working in partnership with health and social care professionals. They are aimed at, but not limited to, staff supporting individuals living with a long term condition or with complex needs.
HMRC: Have you filed yet? - HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) is urging employers to file their PAYE end-of-year returns by the 19 May deadline, or they could face a penalty. Employers with fewer than 50 employees - who can file either on paper or online - are being encouraged to file their returns electronically. Not only is it quicker and easier, but they will get £100 tax-free for doing so. Employers with 50 or more employees must file their 2007-08 return online.
If you're an employer and you want to start filing online, you must first register with HMRC's online PAYE service. It can take a week to get the activation PIN after you've registered, so it's important to register as soon as possible. Alternatively, you can ask an agent or payroll bureau to file your return.
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ACE: Leaders of Britain’s major cultural institutions have launched a new manifesto - Private Giving for the Public Good - opening a nationwide campaign to encourage a culture of giving to the arts & heritage.
The campaign calls for greater support to encourage a culture of giving and wider recognition of the contribution made by cultural philanthropists. Many UK cultural institutions were founded through the contributions of private benefactors who wished to give something back to their communities. The aim is to encourage the philanthropists of the future.
OS: Figures released to celebrate the second birthday of Ordnance Survey’s OS MasterMap Address Layer 2, show growing take-up by central and local government, emergency services, utilities, insurance companies and logistics firms.
Address Layer 2 includes more than 27m postal addresses and 1.5m non-addressable properties. Giving users total flexibility, the data is also available in a form that complies with the latest BS 7666 standard, which defines how location information can be supplied for IT systems so that it can be shared more easily across and among organisations.
Later this year Ordnance Survey will be launching OS MasterMap Prebuild Address Layer, which will contain addresses of planned new buildings. Combined with Address Layer 2, the data will give customers access to the complete address lifecycle for the first time.
NE: The launch of a new rescue plan by the North Pennines Black Grouse Recovery Project, in the Yorkshire Dales should help to secure the future of one of our most spectacular but endangered birds. This new initiative, which aims to expand the range of the rare black grouse in two key areas (the Yorkshire Dales and North West Northumberland) has been made possible by a new injection of cash from Natural England and a contribution from the Yorkshire Dales National Park.
This 12-year partnership project between the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust, Natural England, RSPB, Ministry of Defence, North Pennines AONB Partnership and Northumbrian Water has managed to increase the English black grouse population from just 773 males in 1998 to 1,029 males in 2006 – an average increase of 4% per annum.
MoD: A range of futuristic vehicles that could one day help UK forces to identify & avert threats on operations have been unveiled at an MOD event in London. The systems are currently being developed by teams from universities, schools and private business from across the UK, as part of the MOD's Grand Challenge competition. The challenge will culminate in August when vehicles battle it out at Copehill Down, a village specially built by the military for urban warfare training.
Teams have been challenged to develop highly autonomous aerial and ground vehicles, which can detect & identify a range of threats encountered by UK troops on operations and which will be recreated during the August event - such as marksmen, roadside bombs and armed militia. Machines will incorporate highly sophisticated communications technologies that can relay this information back to team members, and ultimately to commanders on the ground.
MO: Results from the latest multiple model ensemble techniques in climate change forecasting, published by the Royal Society indicate that summer rainfall will decrease by between 5 and 20% by the end of the century across northern Europe (comparing the average over 2070-2100 with the average from 1961-1990), using a medium greenhouse gas emissions scenario.
The findings use Met Office Hadley Centre climate simulations in a multiple model ensemble, which helps climate scientists to provide a more systematic risk assessment of projected climate change.
Policy Statements and Initiatives
ScotGov: Cabinet Secretary for Health & Wellbeing, Nicola Sturgeon has welcomed Lord Sutherland's independent review of Free Personal and Nursing Care, which was commissioned by the Scottish Government to look at the total levels & distribution of funding for the policy and how to secure its long-term sustainability.
Lord Sutherland also stated in his review that the UK Government was wrong to remove Attendance Allowance resources from the Scottish budget following the introduction of Free Personal and Nursing Care.
Defra: Britain must remain at the forefront of the green industrial revolution, creating jobs and economic growth, ministers said last week as they published plans to work with business to build a low carbon economy in Britain. Building a Low Carbon Economy: Unlocking Environmental Innovation and Skills is published in response to the 2007 Commission on Environmental Markets and Economic Performance’s (CEMEP) report.
The Government has identified four main prerequisites for building a low carbon economy:
* A clear, consistent long-term policy framework to provide business with the confidence to invest and to enable the timely development of innovative products & services
* Policies that positively support innovation, to create the conditions that allow innovation to flourish
* Developing the right skills by drawing on the talent & creativity of the British people
* Fostering true partnerships between Government, business, trade unions, higher education bodies and others
ScotGov: Statistics on the levels of affordable housing planned across Scotland have been published. The report - Affordable Housing Securing Planning Consent - details all affordable housing that has secured planning consent by planning authority area during 2005-07.
The statistics estimated that in 2005-07 12,173 affordable housing units were granted planning consent – 78% of these are to be entirely publicly funded (including where a Registered Social Landlord intends to supply funds raised commercially), while 22% will involve some contributions from private developers.
Communities Minister Stewart Maxwell said: "The Scottish Government has made clear its commitment to housing and our intention to increase housing supply, across all tenures, to at least 35,000 annually by the middle of the next decade”.
Defra: By 2020 half of all milk packaging will be made from recycled materials. That was just one of the targets launched last week by Defra and the UK dairy industry in a Milk Roadmap that aims to reduce the environmental impacts of producing & consuming liquid milk.
The draft document contains a set of short, medium & long-term actions to improve the environmental performance of the dairy sector. For example, dairy producers have committed to reducing the greenhouse gas balance (including carbon dioxide, methane & nitrous oxide) from dairy farms by 20-30% between 1990 & 2020.
The production sector has also undertaken to boost the number of dairy farmers taking part in environmental stewardship schemes to 65%, nutrient planning to 90% and animal health plans to 95%, enhancing their ecosystems, improving animal welfare and cutting emissions from soil & fertiliser.
WAG: A Welsh language Sabbaticals Scheme has been developed by the Assembly Government to boost the number of bilingual practitioners across Wales. It has been running successfully since January 2006 with a 100% completion rate. As a result of this, and an external evaluation, the initial pilot scheme has been extended for a further two-year period, with courses now running until July 2009.
The scheme is aimed at teachers, lecturers and work-based training providers who speak Welsh fairly fluently, but who lack the confidence or specialised terminology to use these skills in a professional context. Full-time or part-time practitioners in primary & secondary schools, further education institutions and private training providers across Wales are eligible. Supply staff may also be considered, subject to certain conditions.
ScotGov: Proposals to safeguard rural schools and for better consultation before all proposed closures were announced last week by Education Secretary Fiona Hyslop as she launched a consultation (closes 19 September 2008) on a ‘Safeguarding Rural Schools’ Bill seeking the views of parents, young people, teachers and other interested groups.
There are around 1,000 schools in rural areas (as defined by the Scottish Government's Urban/Rural Classification). This means 41% of primary schools and 23% of secondary schools are rural schools, using this classification.
Acas: Acas has issued a revised code of practice on discipline and grievance for public consultation (closes on 25 July 2008). The revised code is considerably shorter than the existing code and provides basic practical guidance to employers, employees & their representatives and sets out principles for handling disciplinary & grievance situations in the workplace.
The code has been revised to take into account the changes being made to workplace dispute resolution by the Employment Bill, particularly the removal of the statutory dismissal & discipline procedures.
ScotGov: Views on how to spend almost £45m on the Scottish fishing industry are being sought by the Scottish Government (consultation closes 27June 2008). The new European Fisheries Fund is designed to:
* modernise fishing boats to make fishing practices more sustainable
* promote sustainable economic development in coastal communities
* improve the international competitiveness of the fishing industry
Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides
Acas: Acas, the employment relations expert, has re-launched its website with new features for HR professionals, employers and employees. There are also regional pages to provide businesses with details of training and services on offer in their area.
As well as continuing to offer up-to-date information and independent advice on workplace relations to help employers & employees solve problems and improve overall performance, visitors can also sign up to receive a free quarterly newsletter containing information about changes to employment legislation and good practice advice on employment relations.
LLUK: Lifelong Learning UK (LLUK) has launched new guidance for work based learning providers in England to explain the reforms to the training & qualifications of teachers, tutors, trainers and instructors.
The guidance has been created as a result of demand from the sector, as work based learning providers, confused as to how they were affected by the reforms and what it means for their staff, requested further information specific to their needs and context.
The reforms are statutory for FE colleges and sixth form colleges. However, those who deliver work based learning, while not required by statute to comply with the regulations, do have a contractual obligation to comply with the requirements if they receive funding from the LSC.
Defra: The Air quality indicator for sustainable development: 2007 final results have been published. The indicator is one of the 68 indicators of the Government's Sustainable Development Strategy. It measures annual levels of pollution from particulates (PM10) and ozone (O3), the two pollutants thought to have the greatest health impacts, as well as the number of days on which levels of any one of a basket of five pollutants were 'moderate or higher'.
General Reports and Other Publications
ScotGov: A new report has again highlighted the high level of illegal animal poisonings which have been taking place in Scotland. The report, published by the Scottish Agricultural Science Agency (SASA), shows that last year it dealt with 190 suspected pesticide poisoning incidents, more than 50 of which related to birds of prey.
SASA is now a division of the Scottish Government, having formerly operated at arms length as the Scottish Agricultural Science Agency.
ScotGov: Sports Minister Stewart Maxwell has responded to Audit Scotland's report into sport, pointing at steps already being taken by the Government to boost participation, deliver state of the art facilities and improve elite performance.
Audit Scotland: A Performance Overview of Sport in Scotland, examined:
* the organisation of sport in Scotland
* sport funding
* preparations for the Commonwealth Games and
* performance against national targets
Mr Maxwell reiterated the importance of the 2014 Commonwealth Games to the wider sports development agenda across Scotland and said that the Scottish Government would continue to fight for a fair deal for Scotland from the lottery.
STFC: The Science and Technology Facilities Council STFC has responded to the House of Commons’ Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Committee report (30 April 2008) on Science Budget Allocations.
ScotGov: A new report recommends a number of actions to improve the monitoring of the productivity of police officers and to encourage forces to make greater connections between performance & service delivery at the strategic level and frontline policing.
The Productivity of Police Officers report was published by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary for Scotland (HMICS) and it builds on their 2005 report, Managing Improvement, which showed a healthy and growing performance culture within Scottish forces.
Legislation / Legal
WAG: An independent review of the Welsh Assembly Government’s handling of a sexual harassment case found that the original investigation was conducted with a commitment to thoroughness & fairness and that the conclusions reached were reasonable under the circumstances.
Following the original six month investigation, the WAG found that there was insufficient evidence to uphold the complaint, but the complainant pursued a civil claim in the Cardiff County Court, which subsequently upheld her complaint.
One of the key aims of the independent review was to understand why the outcome was different and whether lessons could be learned for the future. The review makes a number of recommendations on how policies and procedures for dealing with inappropriate behaviour in the workplace and the investigation of personal grievances could be improved.
ScotGov: The Scottish Government will legislate to strengthen procedures for disclosing evidence in criminal cases. Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill made the commitment following a public consultation into the report of Lord Coulsfield's independent review of the law and practice of disclosure in criminal proceedings in Scotland, published in September 2007.
The Scottish Government response - 'A Statutory Basis for Disclosure in Criminal Proceedings in Scotland' - confirms that Ministers will introduce legislation to:
* Set in statute a clear definition of the legal requirements for disclosure
* Provide a statutory code of practice detailing the appropriate disclosure procedures & responsibilities
* Introduce a system of Public Interest Immunity hearings to achieve a balance between protecting sensitive or confidential information and the requirement to disclose
* Codify a system for notifying defence agents, in solemn (the most serious) cases, about the existence of non-sensitive material that has not been disclosed
ScotParl: Concerns about aspects of the Judiciary and Courts (Scotland) Bill have been raised by the Scottish Parliament's Justice Committee. Within the report that does recommend Parliament agree to the general principles of the bill, the committee expressed reservations about the administrative & organisational responsibilities being placed on the Lord President.
The report also queries the proposal regarding direct authority for the Scottish Court Service being taken away from Scottish Ministers.
EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.
Defra: Environment Secretary Hilary Benn has announced that the first batch of Bluetongue vaccine, ordered from Intervet last year, is being released to wholesalers and is ready for distribution to the Protection Zones in England.
The first batch of 1m doses of the vaccine is now available in 20-dose bottles. A larger batch of up to 2m doses, produced in 50-dose bottles, is expected to follow within a few days. The vaccine will require one dose in sheep and two doses, given three weeks apart, in cattle.
Under EU law, vaccination is only allowed in a Protection Zone - a designated area with restrictions in place to prevent an outbreak spreading. The Bluetongue vaccination plan sets out how vaccination will be rolled out and the Protection Zone expanded county by county across England, taking into account the availability of vaccine and the level of disease risk.
Business and Other Briefings
HM Treasury: The Chancellor of the Exchequer has announced that British businesses and the Government will form a new working group to look at the long-term challenges facing the UK tax system and ensure competitiveness remains at the heart of any future reforms.
In his speech to a Chatham House conference on ‘New Financial Frontiers’ he set out plans for a new working group, to be chaired by Financial Secretary Jane Kennedy with business representatives. The group will discuss ways in which the tax system can provide the long-term certainty that multinational companies need in the face of increased competitiveness and other global challenges facing both business and government.
FSA: The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has published Market Watch 26, which is a general review of the FSA’s strategy to tackle market abuse, in particular insider dealing through credible deterrence, and also contains the market cleanliness statistics for 2006 & 2007.
In light of market rumours that circulated in March 2008, the Market Watch mentions that the FSA will undertake a thematic review of firms’ policies in relation to the dissemination of rumours.
FSA: The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has published an interim report setting out the current thinking on the Retail Distribution Review (RDR) following a six-month consultation with the market. Feedback to the discussion paper, published in June 2007, called for a simpler marketplace, particularly a clear separation between advice and sales.
The interim report, which is not a final policy document, sets out how this might be achieved as well as acknowledging the significant challenges this separation poses. This report is being published now to maintain momentum and will be followed by a full feedback statement in October which will set out in more detail the regulatory implications and timetable for change, once further work has been done.
BERR: Buyers will be able to attract more potential bidders with the start of a free trial, which is intended to draw thousands more small businesses to www.supply2.gov.uk, the national lower-value contracts website. The trial will run between May and July 2008 and applies to new registrations only – See ‘In the News’ section for more information.
HMRC: HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) is urging employers to file their PAYE end-of-year returns by the 19 May deadline, or they could face a penalty. Employers with 50 or more employees must file their 2007-08 return online only – See ‘In the News’ section for more information.
This Brief gives details of an article: Extension of non - statutory clearance for HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) business customers
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