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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

Newswire – Defra: Help keep them down and out - England, Scotland & Wales have launched a co-ordinated plan to reduce the threat to Britain’s native biodiversity from invasive non-native species. Invasive non-native species such as Floating Pennywort and the North American Signal Crayfish can have a serious impact on our native wildlife and economic interests. Controlling their spread is key to conserving our native wildlife.

Key measures in the strategy include developing:
* ways to educate people on the risks from invasive non-native species & avoiding risk of their introduction
* a web-based shared central directory that will show the types of invasive species in specific areas
* expertise for early identification of potential problem species and the best ways to handle them
* a clear framework for rapid responses when invasive species are detected for the first time in Britain

The strategy is built around the 3-stage approach to tackling invasive species that was agreed in 2002 by the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, to:
* help prevent introductions in the first place by raising awareness of the risks & increasing understanding of the impacts
* better enable early detection & rapid response to introductions before they become major problems
* develop longer-term control programmes based on sound science
STFC: A step beyond video conferencing - A British amateur astronomer has discovered the fastest rotating natural object known in our Solar System. His observations, made using a telescope (which he operated remotely via the Internet from his home in Dorset) normally shared by school students and professional scientists, have proved that the newly-discovered asteroid, 2008 HJ is revolving once every 42.7 seconds, classifying it is as a ‘superfast rotator’.

His discovery will boost our sparse knowledge of near Earth asteroids and is another successful find for the Faulkes Telescope near-Earth asteroid project. The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) was involved in the initial set-up of the Faulkes Telescope Project and continues to provide support.

The early success for the Faulkes Telescope near-Earth asteroid project bodes well for the future and should prove especially encouraging to schools, colleges and other amateur astronomers looking to participate. It now appears that the chances of success are high and one challenge will be to find objects spinning even faster than 2008 HJ. Our knowledge of the near-Earth population of small asteroids is very sparse, so schools and others can contribute directly to our understanding of these nearest neighbours of ours.
NICE: It’s more important than just a failed New Year Resolution - The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has issued guidance for employers on how to encourage employees to increase their levels of physical activity. People of working age are not active enough to benefit their health; this contributes to sickness absence and decreased productivity.

Physical inactivity in England costs an estimated £8.2bn each year - this includes the direct costs of treating diseases linked to lack of activity and the indirect costs caused through sickness absence. This guidance on workplace physical activity is aimed at employers in all organisations who have a responsibility or a role in improving health in the workplace. This especially includes staff responsible for human resources or occupational health.
Press release ~ Intervention guidance on workplace health promotion with reference to physical activity ~ Promoting physical activity in the workplace: business case ~ Guidance on the promotion and creation of physical environments that support increased levels of physical activity ~ Workplace health promotion: how to help employees to stop smoking ~ Public Health Interventions Advisory Committee (PHIAC) ~ Health, Work and Wellbeing website ~ Carol Black's review ~ Health, work and well-being – Caring for our future A strategy for the health and well-being of working age people ~ Stress: Why tackle work-related stress? ~ Line Managers' Resource ~ HSE - Managing sickness absence & return to work ~ Workplace Health Connect ~ Managing sickness absence in the public sector ~ Seven steps to managing absence in the workplace ~ New approaches to cutting staff absence ~ Rehabilitation: the missing link in workplace safety and sickness absence

DH: Biggest ‘polluter’ takes action - The NHS (the biggest employer in Europe) has committed to reduce its carbon footprint. The NHS currently contributes approximately 3% of England's total carbon dioxide emissions and the Carbon Reduction Strategy, published last week for consultation (closes on 21 August 2008), commits the NHS to reduce these emissions by 60% by 2050 in all areas, including procurement, travel & building energy use and sets out ways that this can be achieved.

The NHS is responsible for over 18m tonnes of carbon dioxide per year and is the largest public sector contributor to climate change. The Strategy shows where NHS carbon dioxide emissions are coming from and then proposes actions for reducing that carbon footprint.

Proposals suggested within the strategy include:
* all NHS bodies to have a Carbon Management Strategy by 2009
* organisations to report annually on their sustainable development progress
*for the NHS to recycle 75% of its waste by 2020

The Strategy is the first output of the new NHS Sustainable Development Unit which is hosted by NHS East of England.
Press release ~ Saving Carbon, Improving Health: A Carbon Reduction Strategy for the NHS in England ~ NHS Sustainable Development Unit ~ Improving the efficiency of central government's office property ~ High Performing Property Implementation Plan (3.5Mb) ~ OGC - High Performing Property ~ Building for the future: Sustainable construction and refurbishment on the government estate ~ OGC Common Minimum Standards for the procurement of built environments in the public sector ~ Occupiers Property Databank ~ Better Measurement, Better Management: Effective management of the Government estate ~ EU's Energy Performance of Buildings Directive ~ The Carbon Trust: accelerating the move to a low carbon economy ~ Carbon Trust’s Energy Efficiency Accreditation Scheme ~ Carbon Trust’s Research and Technology Accelerators ~ The health impact of climate change: promoting sustainable communities - guidance document ~ Health effects of climate change in the UK 2008: an update of the Department of Health report 2001/2002 ~ Health effects of Climate Change - Green Guide Online

Forthcoming event: Government co-ordinates fight back against fraud - The National Audit Office, HM Treasury and the British Bankers’ Association are organising a conference Taking Forward the Fight Against Fraud, which will be held at 2 Savoy Place, London WC2R 0BL on 24 and 25 June.

Day one of the conference (National Initiatives to fight Fraud) will cover the significant steps taken to strengthen the fight against all types of fraud in the UK – the Attorney General’s Fraud Review and the Government’s response are putting in place an enhanced strategic approach and dedicated resources to tackle the effects of fraud both on individuals and on the UK economy.

Day two of the conference (Good Practice in Tackling External Fraud in the Public Sector) will highlight good practices in tackling external fraud and will launch an updated version of the National Audit Office/ HM Treasury guide on the subject. The sessions will also draw on recent NAO reports such as:
* Progress on Tackling Benefit Fraud
* International Benchmark of Fraud and Error in Social Security Systems
* Tackling the Hidden Economy
Conference details ~ National Audit Office ~ HM Treasury ~ British Bankers’ Association ~ Attorney General’s Fraud Review report ~ Government’s response and review website ~ Fraud Advisory Panel ~ Progress on Tackling Benefit Fraud ~ International Benchmark of Fraud and Error in Social Security Systems ~ Tackling the Hidden Economy ~ NAO and HM Treasury: Good practice in tackling external fraud (April 2004) ~ Managing the Risk of Fraud (2003) ~ Fraud report 2006-07: an analysis of reported fraud in Government departments ~ National Fraud Initiative (NFI) report 2006/07 ~ Targeting benefit Fraud website ~ NFI web pages ~ DWP Strategy paper - Reducing fraud in the benefit system) ~ NAO - Tackling Benefit Fraud (2003) ~ Review of the DWP Benefit Fraud Sanctions Regime - Social Research Report No 149

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

OS: New service features in the recently launched Nokia Maps 2.0 include; improved optional car navigation, enhanced pedestrian navigation, added multimedia city guides, and now satellite images and a redesigned user interface.

Ordnance Survey’s Code-Point data is underpinning the GPS service by providing the exact location for the 1.7 million postcodes in the UK.  This allows users to get direction information that is both highly accurate and linked to an actual place ‘on the map’.
Newswire - IOCP: At its recent conference entitled ‘Commissioning for Personalisation’, the IOCP learnt that Self Directed Care must have limits and rules.  If it didn’t, then the policy would collapse through abuse, lack of fairness and misdirected expenditure.  There is a further risk of self inflicted damage through the introduction of massive administration costs, as unless new technology is used to its fullest extent, then administration costs will rise substantially. 
The example used was for 2,500 service users making individual and personal choices, where as much as £750 pa each could be spent if paper purchase orders were used.  At 21%, it’s a considerable overhead on a personal budget of £3,500 pa.
Even if service users switch to Direct Payments (where they make their own arrangements for care), then with current practice, costs could be as much as £400 per direct payment holder.  And this is on top of any assessment, advocacy, brokerage or agency costs designed to help deliver self directed care.
PCS: In July 2008, leaders of eight of the world's wealthiest and most powerful nations - the G8 - will meet in Hokkaido, Japan for their annual meeting.  Every year on July 7, the people of Japan celebrate Tanabata by making their wishes for the coming year, and tying them to a bamboo tree.
This year, people across the globe are invited to make their wish for immediate action from the G8 on workers rights, education, health and HIV and Aids, climate change and international aid. Your wish, along with millions of others will be handed to the Japanese Prime Minister on July 6, the day before the meetings begin.
YF: From new cancer treatments to wheelchairs that can drive themselves, 26 of Yorkshire and Humber’s most innovative ideas are being given financial support to help take them out of the university laboratory and into the marketplace thanks to the latest round of Yorkshire Enterprise Fellowships.

The Yorkshire Forward funded Yorkshire Enterprise Fellowship scheme (delivered by YKTO Consulting Ltd) is a region wide programme aimed at helping academic researchers take their idea to commercialisation.  The scheme provides £10,000 financial support to fellows, as well as specialist mentoring & business development advice that helps them to develop their ideas into sound commercial concepts.
TfL: Transport for London has issued a reminder to Londoners that alcohol has been banned from the Tube, bus, Docklands Light Railway and tram services and stations across the capital as from 1 June 2008. Drinking from & carrying open containers of alcohol will be banned, making travelling on London’s public transport network a safer and more pleasant experience for passengers.

The Mayor announced the ban, a key manifesto commitment, earlier this month and information posters advising passengers of the ban have been carried across the transport network. TfL intends to implement the policy through a change to the Conditions of Carriage relating to Underground and Bus services.  The ban will also come into force on London Overground later next month.

Policy Statements and Initiatives

ScotGov: First Minister Alex Salmond recently opened the White Space learning and knowledge creation centre, which will be at heart of Abertay University's computer games technology & computer arts teaching and knowledge-creation activities.

During the ceremony he announced a £56,800 sponsorship for a 'Dare to be Digital' competition during the summer, which sees teams of five students (usually a mix of artists, programmers and audio) assemble in a regional hosting centre for 10 weeks to develop a prototype video game, receiving daily support and weekly training sessions from industry specialists. Prototypes are displayed at a special talent showcasing event in Edinburgh, Dare ProtoPlay, alongside the Edinburgh Interactive Entertainment Festival in August.
MoD: A brand new centre fostering new technologies for the frontline has officially opened its doors. The Centre for Defence Enterprise (CDE) is a new initiative to help bring bright ideas that could aid current operations to fruition.  Situated in the Oxford-London-Cambridge 'Golden Triangle', the Centre is intended to bring together inventors, investors, entrepreneurs and academics who together will incubate new technologies and turn ideas to cutting edge reality.
Building on the success of the Grand Challenge and Competition of Ideas, the CDE will look for innovative proposals, the best of which will be taken forward as research contracts to produce the next generation of military equipment & technology.  It also seeks to stimulate wider entrepreneurial interest in the defence sector.
Cabinet Office: Phil Hope, Minister for the Third Sector, joined volunteers at Newark Mind last week to help prepare lunch for people attending the charities' resource centre.  Newark Mind provides a range of social and educational services to people who have, or once had, mental health problems.  Trained volunteers offer advice, support and information.
Nationally, some 73% of all adults volunteered in the last 12 months and the government claims to be committed to supporting more people in high quality volunteering opportunities. It has invested £117m in the youth volunteering charity 'v' and £12m into the 'Goldstar' and 'Volunteering for All' programmes, which encourage people who are less likely to volunteer. Volunteers week 2008 runs from 1 to 7 June 2008.
DH: Care Services Minister Ivan Lewis has announced a new National Institute for Health Research School for Social Care Research, which will be part of the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and will receive £3m funding a year, for five years in the first instance.  It comes after the successful establishment of the NIHR School for Primary Care Research in 2006.
Social care affects the lives of about 1.25m people and their families in England.  The School will reflect the profile of modern social care, which is provided by a range of different agencies in a variety of contexts.  Its work will help to improve the quality of care services for all those who use them.
MoJ: Ministerial Champion for Women in the Criminal Justice System, Maria Eagle MP, has launched a framework setting out the national strategy for delivering services to female offenders. The National Service Framework for Women Offenders lays out the Government's strategy for addressing the specific needs of female offenders and claims to represent a significant step forward in the commitments made in the Government's response to Baroness Corston's report last year.
The Framework is intended to deliver the Government's high-level vision for how services should be delivered to female offenders and will be used by all commissioners and providers who have a responsibility for delivering these services.  It will be used as the basis for specifying the exact size, cost and nature of provision in order to deliver upon these priorities.
The Framework will be supported by the publication of an updated version of the National Probation Service 'Good Practice Guide on Delivering Effective Services for Women Offenders in the Community.'  This guide, along with the recently published Prison Service Gender Specific Standards, provides more detailed operational guidance for prison and probation staff delivering services for women on the ground.
Ofgem: Energy regulator Ofgem has published a Fuel Poverty Action Programme which includes proposals from the Government, industry and Ofgem to help low income customers.  The programme emerged from the Ofgem–led Fuel Poverty Summit held in April.  The measures that were agreed are intended to improve the targeting of help to the fuel poor.
ScotGov: The first national drugs strategy since devolution was launched recently, which will see promoting recovery from drug problems forming the focus of efforts to tackle drug use. Ministers believe the strategy will help cut the estimated annual £2.6bn financial burden of problem drug use to the Scottish economy and society.

Other key measures include:
*A recognition tackling problem drug use will only be done through effective policies on the economy, tackling poverty and supporting families & children
* A fresh approach to drugs education, including the provision of factual information on drugs to every household with parents or grandparents in Scotland
* The tracking of investment in drug services and the outcomes they deliver
* A commitment to strengthen existing powers to seize assets from drug dealers
* A new approach to achieve better quality of drug treatment across all prisons


CLG: The Government is taking action to protect all 17 English World Heritage Sites, which include the Tower of London, Hadrian's Wall, the Ironbridge Gorge, Maritime Greenwich and Durham Castle. The government wants to put all English World Heritage Sites on the same national footing as its conservation areas, national parks and areas of outstanding beauty by including them in national planning protection rules.
Currently over half of our World Heritage Sites are not in previously protected conservation areas.  The changes which are being consulted on (closes 22 August 2008) are intended to prevent minor development occurring without specific planning permission.  In addition English Heritage is publishing guidance that gives detailed advice on how to give proper consideration and protections to World Heritage Sites.
Defra: A consultation (closes 20 August 2008) to obtain feedback on proposed amendments to the Groundwater Regulations 1998 has been published by Defra. Feedback is sought from anyone who discharges substances which can cause groundwater pollution, or who currently follows the existing groundwater regulations – See ‘EU legislation, initiatives’ section for more details.
DH: The new Department of Health consultation document 'The Future of Tobacco Control' (closes on 8 September 2008), which coincided with World No Tobacco Day (for which the theme is 'Tobacco-Free Youth') aims to start a debate around further measures (including plain cigarette packets with no branding or logos, minimum pack sizes of 20 and a ban on the advertising of cigarette papers) that would stop people smoking and prevent young people starting to smoke.
The take up of smoking in young people is lower than a decade ago, but over 200,000 of all under 16's start smoking each year. However, they are 3 times more likely to die of cancer due to smokingthan someone who starts in their mid-20s.
CLG: The government claims that park home residents and site owners in England & Wales will have more say on how disputes between them are resolved under a new consultation (closes on 22 August 2008). The majority of disputes will now be heard by Residential Property Tribunals rather than county courts giving greater opportunity for both sides to put their case forward and reducing time & legal costs.
Under the Housing Act 2004 the Residential Property Tribunal Service already deals with cases similar to pitch fee reviews, recognition of residents associations and the sale of park homes which are proposed to be transferred to it. It is hoped that the low cost and the quicker access to justice of the tribunal service will encourage many more residents and site owners to come forward to resolve any differences amicably.
Press release ~ Residential Property Tribunals ~ A new approach for resolving disputes and to proceedings relating to Park Homes under the Mobile Homes Act 1983 (as amended): A consultation paper

Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides

DCSF: Fresh guidance from the DCSF is intended to help local authorities organise personal tutors, homework support and educational trips to the theatre for children in care, backed with £56m of funding. Children in care at risk of falling behind at school are getting an extra £500 a year to pay for the sort of activities that good parents provide for their children to help with their learning - ranging from personal tutors to educational trips to the theatre.
This is in recognition of the poor educational outcomes for children in care, only 13% of whom attain five good GCSEs compared with 62% of all children.  However, a recent Ofsted report has shown that schools can make significant progress to improve educational outcomes for children in care by:
* having high expectations and good teaching for all pupils
* keeping looked after children engaged in & taking responsibility for their learning
* recognising that looked after children may be gifted & talented
* close monitoring of academic, social and personal progress
* keeping looked after children involved in learning outside the classroom & after school activities
* swift & early intervention if a problem began to emerge, for example with behaviour or attendance
The government has also issued guidance to local authorities on how to provide £100 top up payments for children in care's Child Trust Fund (CTF) for every year they spend in care.  This will allow children in care to build up a nest egg to help them when they leave care.
Press release ~ Personal Education Allowances for Looked After Children: Statutory Guidance for Local Authorities ~ Child Trust Fund Account Top-Up Payments for Looked After Children: Statutory Guidance on Local Authority Practice in England ~ Care Matters implementation plan ~ Child Trust Fund ~ Ofsted: Children on Care Standards ~ Ofsted: Looked after children: good practice in schools ~ Care Matters: Time for Change (White Paper) ~ Care Matters - Transforming the Lives of Children and Young People in Care ~ Children and Young People Bill ~ Educational achievement of looked-after children - ECM ~ Prince's Trust - Care ~ Looked After Children and Young People: We Can and Must Do Better  ~ Outcome Indicators for Looked after Children ~ Education Protects - Collecting & Using Data to Improve Education Outcomes for Children in Public Care
DIUS: Engaging with the public about the potential impacts of new & emerging science and technologies will be made easier from now on, the government claims, with the launch of the new Sciencewise Expert Resource Centre for Public Dialogue in Science and Innovation (ERC).
The new centre - a virtual information hub together with a range of offline support services is intended to be an ‘invaluable tool in helping Ministers and officials understand public views and concerns on complex and potentially controversial scientific issues’.
The services available through the Sciencewise-ERC will be targeted primarily at all those who have a responsibility for national policy making in science and technology across government - including Government departments and agencies and Non-Departmental Public Bodies.
NICE: The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has published guidance on the use of epoetin (alpha and beta) and darbepoetin for the treatment of cancer-treatment induced anaemia. Erythropoietin analogues with iron injections are recommended as a possible treatment for anaemia caused by cancer treatment only in:
* women receiving platinum-based chemotherapy for cancer of the ovaries who have a blood haemoglobin level of 8 g/100 ml or lower
* people who have very severe anaemia and cannot receive blood transfusions

Healthcare professionals should not stop prescribing erythropoietin analogues for people who were already taking them when the guidance was issued.  These people should be able to carry on taking erythropoietin analogues until they and their healthcare professionals decide that it is the right time to stop treatment.
NICE: The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has issued guidance on the use of adalimumab, etanercept and infliximab in the treatment of severe active ankylosing spondylitis in adults. The recommendations include:
* Adalimumab or etanercept are recommended as treatment options for adults with severe active ankylosing spondylitis only if all of the specified clinical criteria are fulfilled
* Infliximab is not recommended for the treatment of ankylosing spondylitis
* People currently receiving infliximab for treating ankylosing spondylitis should have the option to continue therapy until they and their clinicians consider it appropriate to stop
NICE: The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) and the National Collaborating Centre for Primary Care (NCC PC) have issued new guidance to the NHS in England and Wales on the identification of people at risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and on the use of lipid lowering drugs to reduce that risk.

CVD – which includes heart disease and stroke - remains a leading cause of ill health and death in the UK In 2005, CVD accounted for 124,000 deaths - or one in three of all deaths.  Apart from age & sex, three modifiable risk factors – smoking, raised blood pressure and raised cholesterol – make a major contribution to CVD risk, particularly when they are combined.  The risk of CVD can be calculated from these risk factors and people at highest risk can be identified.
Blood cholesterol is a key modifiable risk factor and can be reduced by dietary change, physical activity and drugs.  The NICE guideline addresses the identification of those at high risk (primary prevention) and the modification of lipids in these people and in people with established CVD (secondary prevention).
NICE: The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) and the National Collaborating Centre for Chronic Conditions (NCC-CC) have issued updated guidance on the management of type 2 diabetes.  The new guideline replaces existing NICE recommendations for the condition, revising areas where new information has become available, and will act as a single reference point for healthcare professionals on all aspects of the care & support that should be offered to people with type 2 diabetes.
ScotGov: New national indicators to monitor & improve public sector spending on goods & services have been introduced. Analysis of the data will provide a vital tool in reforming public sector procurement, worth around £8bn a year in Scotland.

The Best Practice Indicators for Public Procurement in Scotland suggest nine indicators to measure, including year on year savings, customer and supplier satisfaction and collaboration in contracts.
NICE: The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has issued guidance for employers on how to encourage employees to increase their levels of physical activity. People of working age are not active enough to benefit their health; this contributes to sickness absence and decreased productivity – See ‘In the News’ for more information

Annual Reports

ScotGov: Scotland's Chief Statistician has published the Annual Economic Report on Scottish Agriculture, which contains data relating to 2007 and presents detailed information on market prices, commodity yields, agricultural finances and industry structure.
ScotGov: The Scottish Financial Services Strategy annual report shows financial services have recorded continued growth and attracted new business from across the world.  The report also shows good progress in:
* Developing skills, for instance mentoring projects with secondary pupils & undergraduates
* Raising the international profile through SDI and UKTI tours & seminars
* The Scottish Centre for Financial Education delivering innovative education resources to every primary school in Scotland

General Reports and Other Publications

DWP: The government claims that new findings show that taking part in a Pathways to Work programme significantly increases the chances of long-term sick and disabled people finding work.  The government claims that It is estimated for every million spent on the programme £1.5m is returned through a reduced benefits burden and increased tax contributions.
Also published are findings on a pilot, begun in 2006, where Jobcentre Plus personal advisers were placed in GP surgeries to give employment advice to people on Statutory Sick Pay and long-term Incapacity Benefit.  Findings from the pilot showed that 91% of patients who had access to an adviser said that it motivated them to think about work and that they felt they had been listened to.
MPA: The MPA's youth scrutiny report was presented to the full Authority at its May meeting last week.  Listening to London's young people was an integral part of this scrutiny from the outset.  It focused on the causes, effects and impacts of young peoples' involvement in crime as victims, witnesses & perpetrators and how this influences their interactions with the Met.  
Findings from the scrutiny include:
* current public perception overestimates the number of young people involved in offending behaviour
* fear of crime and personal safety is of equal concern to young people as it is to adults
* young people are often unwilling to report crimes to police and do not consider current criminal justice outcomes as effective deterrents
* fear of victimisation encourages some young people to carry weapons for self-defence, not recognising the severe ramifications
* stop & search remains a key concern
* individual encounters between young people and officers play a crucial role in how the police service is perceived overall
Ofsted: The services provided by the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) in the south east were found to have failings, according to a new Ofsted report. Ofsted has found that, although Cafcass offers a good to adequate service for children involved in public law proceedings, its services in private law proceedings in the region are inadequate.
The priority given to public law cases has led to serious delays in providing services to children and families involved in private law proceedings.  The private law service is inadequate and unacceptable. The inspection report includes 10 recommendations aimed at improving Cafcass’ south east delivery of services.
CLG: Restoring landfill sites by turning them into greenspace, such as woodland, parkland or farmland is now possible according to new research. A common solution is for councils to close them over with a compacted clay cap to seal up the waste and the results of a 10 year research project into the establishment of woodland on landfill show that it is possible to restore these areas safely by planting certain trees as long as strict safeguards are adhered to.
Woodland planting can now be recommended as long as specific site safeguards including that the underlying mineral cap is constructed to standards required by government guidance.  Poplar, alder, cherry, whitebeam, oak, ash and Corsican pine have been identified as well suited to the landfill environment.
CRC: The Commission for Rural Communities has prepared a dossier responding to the NHS Next Stage Review, to help ensure rural needs and circumstances are fully considered in the review process.
CRC: The Commission for Rural Communities has produced a short film about the role of the Rural Advocate.  The film includes footage from some of his recent visits to rural communities.

Legislation / Legal

MoJ: Justice Minister Maria Eagle has announced new proposals that all images of child sexual abuse, including drawings and computer-generated images of child abuse will be illegal and offenders holding such images will face criminal charges and up to three years.
The proposals were announced as part of the Government's response to a public consultation on the possession of non-photographic visual depictions of under-aged children engaged in sexual activity.
ScotParl: The recommendations on new pension and grants rules for MSPs & office-holders have been published by the Scottish Parliamentary Pension Scheme Committee. The committee has made a number of detailed recommendations and set out proposed new rules updating the Pensions Order and the Grants Order.
Parliamentary debate of the report and the proposal for a committee bill is expected before Parliament rises at the end of June. If the report is approved by Parliament a committee bill can be introduced to give effect to the recommendations. Once the Parliament has considered the committee's report and concluded consideration of any committee bill that follows, the SPPS will be disbanded. Changes require an Act of the Scottish Parliament to implement and it must be made by April 2011.
DCSF: The Government has published its formal response to the recent consultation on the Independent Safeguarding Authority scheme for vetting & barring those who wish to work, either paid or unpaid, with children or vulnerable adults.
The response document, which has been produced jointly by the Department for Children, Schools and Families, Home Office and Department of Health, sets out the Government's evaluation of stakeholders' responses to the consultation and next steps.

EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.

Defra: A consultation (closes 20 August 2008) to obtain feedback on proposed amendments to the Groundwater Regulations 1998 has been published by Defra. Feedback is sought from anyone who discharges substances which can cause groundwater pollution, or who currently follows the existing groundwater regulations. Environment Minister Phil Woolas claimed the practical consequences of the proposed changes for those involved with groundwater will be minor.

Charity and Voluntary Sector

NENatural England has announced that its £25m Lottery funded grant programme ‘Access to Nature’ is now open for business.  Access to Nature aims to provide lasting change to disadvantaged communities by focusing on helping people who currently have little or no contact with the natural environment. Natural England has been appointed by the Big Lottery Fund as an award partner, responsible for distributing £25m through the Access to Nature scheme as part of BIG’s Changing Spaces programme.
The grant scheme is open to organisations and networks who want to help broaden access to the natural world for young people, older people, Black and Minority Ethnic groups, and people with disabilities. Applications for funding opened on 28th April 2008 and will run until June 2010.  Projects need to be completed by September 2013.

Business and Other Briefings

FSA: The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has published a discussion paper which explores the creation of a framework for determining what further information the regulator might publish about firms & industry sectors. It recognises the importance of transparency and believes that increasing the amount of firm-specific and broader industry information it discloses could lead to better regulatory outcomes for firms, markets and consumers.
However, the FSA recognises that stakeholders hold strong and often polarised views on transparency, which is why the regulator wants to initiate a full & open debate (closes on 29 August 2008) that involves all those who may be impacted by its proposals. The discussion paper includes a code of practice which would provide a transparent mechanism for guiding FSA decisions about what additional information it might disclose.
The FSA has also published a consultation paper (closes on 29 August 2008) – CP08/10 – on proposed changes to its Decision Procedure and Penalties (DEPP) manual and Enforcement Guide (EG). It includes proposals that are relevant to the issues discussed in DP08/3.
FSA: The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has published feedback to its Discussion Paper (DP) on liquidity requirements for banks and building societies.  The DP looked at ways that liquidity policy should develop and focussed on lessons learned following recent market conditions.  Respondents broadly agreed with the policy objectives set out in the DP and with the FSA’s current high level standards and principles-based approach.
The FSA will consult further on all aspects of the new regime later this year including setting out proposals on sound practices for managing liquidity risk with a strong focus on stress-testing.  These enhanced qualitative requirements will reflect the work currently underway in the Basel Committee and will be the centre-piece of the new liquidity policy.
FSA: The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has published a Policy Statement setting out the final rules for regulating travel insurance sold alongside a holiday – known as Connected Travel Insurance (CTI).  This is mainly sold by travel firms and holiday providers. The new regime will come into force on 1 January 2009and the FSA will start to accept authorisation applications for the new CTI activities from 30 June 2008.
Travel firms will need to decide whether to be authorised by the FSA, be an appointed representative of another FSA-authorised firm, be an unregulated introducer (and only provide leaflets/information) or no longer offer CTI products.
This brief gives details of an article: VAT: Land & buildings - announcing a new revised Notice 742A - Opting to tax land and buildings.

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