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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

DCSF: Keeping them safe while vulnerable - Local Authorities must gather information about young people who run away from home or care to ensure that the right services are in place to help, Minister for Young People, Kevin Brennan, said at the launch of the Government's Young Runaways Action Plan.

The government has clear expectations regarding the level of service & support that local agencies should be providing for young runaways. In particular they should identify those at risk of running away as part of their targeted youth support arrangements and have arrangements in place to help young people who have run away, keeping them safe & off the streets

The Action Plan explores some of the underlying causes of running away, as well as setting out the important role that key partners such as the police, local government, voluntary sector and children's services play in helping to deliver long term improvements for young runaways.

The Missing from Care and Home guidance is being reviewed to ensure a joined up approach with other guidance on missing from education, trafficking and sexual exploitation.
MoJ: Poor Taxpayer to get even poorer? - A White Paper - Party finance and expenditure in the United Kingdom - sets out the Government's broad support for long term reform of party finance & expenditure based on the framework put forward by Sir Hayden Phillips' independent review in 2007, which included limits on donations to political parties in return for increased state funding.

Noting the need to build public confidence and to move forward only on the basis of consensus between all political parties, Mr Straw is calling on all political parties to ‘come together to consider these issues and to debate them with the public’.

Mr Straw said: On Sir Hayden's recommendation for donation caps in return for enhanced state funding we would need not only have to have all the main parties with us, but also the public, the taxpayer. That is not the case at present.

We are ready to have that debate: indeed, to discuss donation caps at a lower level than Sir Hayden recommended, but that will require all parties to come together to have that debate, most crucially with the public."
BERR: Out of their hands - The Government has published Sir John Baker's Report on MPs' Pay and Pensions which he submitted to the Government on 30 May 2008. In January 2008 the Prime Minister asked Sir John to examine options and make recommendations for a mechanism for independently determining the pay & pensions of MPs which does not involve MPs voting on their own pay.

Sir John has made three key recommendations:
* an Independent Body to review MPs' pay, pensions and allowances once a Parliament to keep them in line with the market;
* a fair mechanism for uprating MPs' pay each year, without a vote, between reviews
* and a ‘modest’, staged increase to MPs' salaries to bring them closer in line with those of other public sector workers doing similarly important jobs

Sir John said: “The evidence shows that MPs are paid about 10% less than the average for similarly weighted public sector jobs."

Sir John also highlighted the fact that many public sector workers annual pay rise often included an annual increment and he suggested the option of an MP receiving an additional pay increase each time he or she is re-elected at a General Election.
Cabinet Office: Will punishments finally fit the crime? - A major review examining how to better engage communities in the fight against crime and raise public confidence in the Criminal Justice System has been published. 'Engaging Communities in Fighting Crime' is the result of an eight-month study headed by Louise Casey, former head of the Government's Respect Task Force and contains more than 30 ‘common-sense’ proposals to reduce crime, create safer communities and increase public confidence.

The starting point for the review is that without public action, support and confidence, the police and other criminal justice agencies cannot make communities safer. Its conclusion is that radical change is needed to get the public more engaged in tackling crime and to halt the erosion of community spirit.
Press release ~ Home Office press release ~ 'Engaging Communities in Fighting Crime' ~ Home office – Crime and Victims ~ Respect ~ Victims Advisory Panel ~ Our vision for cutting crime 2008-11 and key public service agreements ~ Cutting crime: A new partnership 2008-11 ~ Police Reform final report & related documents ~ Evaluation report on National Reassurance Policing Pilots ~ Literature review of community engagement in policing - Community Engagement in Policing ~ Reassurance Policing ~ Neighbourhood Policing Programme website ~ HMIC report - Closing The Gap (Public Copy) A Review Of The ‘Fitness For Purpose’ Of The Current Structure Of Policing In England & Wales (1.4Mb) ~ Guide to community engagement in policing ~ Neighbourhood Policing - your police, your community; our commitment ~ The Home Office policy paper Building Communities, Beating Crime: A Better Police Service for the 21st Century

SE: Are you a GIRL4GOLD? - UK Sport and the English Institute of Sport (EIS) are searching for highly competitive sportswomen with the potential to become Olympic champions in cycling and other targeted Olympic sports (bob skeleton, canoeing, modern pentathlon, rowing and sailing) in time for London 2012.

If you are…
* Female, aged between 17 and 25 years old
* Competing in any sport at county/regional level
* Fit, powerful and strong
* Mentally tough and competitive
* Up for a once in a lifetime opportunity to become part of Britain’s sporting elite
...then they want to hear from you!

The ultimate aim of GIRLS4GOLD is to unearth exceptional female talent capable of achieving medal success in London in 2012. There are numerous British female World and Olympic medallists who have specialised in a new Olympic sport at a relatively late age, going on to achieve medal success in short timeframes.

UK Sport and EIS are looking for raw sporting talent with the capacity to develop under the guidance of elite level coaches in world class training and competition environments. No prior experience in cycling or any of the other targeted sports is required.
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General News

BERR: The Energy Minister, Malcolm Wicks, has given the go ahead to Helius Energy plc to construct a 65 MW biomass power station near Stallingborough in North East Lincolnshire. When it is built, the plant could produce enough green energy to power the equivalent of about 100,000 homes.
The power station will initially be fuelled by waste wood, specially grown crops and the leftovers from timber processing activities sourced from the UK and Europe. Planning permission has also been granted to build an additional biomass processing facility and bioethanol & biodiesel refinery.  The intention is that spent grains from the bioethanol plant and glycerol from the biodiesel plant will eventually be used as the fuel feedstock for the power station.
Defra: The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) officially declared that the UK is 'controlled risk' for BSE at its recent General Session. The OIE sets out risk-based criteria for the export of live bovines and bovine products.  It agreed a new system of categorising exporting countries on the basis of BSE risk as ‘negligible', 'controlled' or 'undetermined'.
The number of BSE cases in the UK has declined from over 37,000 in 1992 to 67 in 2007.  Most cases have been in cattle born before tough feed controls became effective on 1 August 1996.  Cattle born or reared in the UK before this date are prohibited from entering food or feed chains or from export. The UK is some years from achieving 'negligible risk' status for BSE as this requires a period of at least 11 years since the birth of a BSE case - currently 2014.
DSA: The Driving Standards Agency is writing to learner driver candidates who booked practical tests on a Saturday since November 2005, to offer a refund for overpayment of fees caused by accidental overcharging and to apologise for the error.
They are taking this action because of an error in regulations made on 1 November 2005 which had the unintended consequence of removing the differential between normal weekday hours and Saturday charges for taking a test.  The refund offered is the premium paid for a Saturday test, currently £10.50 for a car test. An amending regulation has now been laid in Parliament to reinstate in law the intended differential in fees.
FDA: The FDA - the union for senior managers and professionals in the civil service – has given a welcome to many aspects of the 2008 Senior Salaries Review Body report, which has made recommendations on pay levels for members of the Senior Civil Service, and on reform of a pay system ‘seen increasingly to lack credibility’.

Dave Penman, FDA head of operations, said: "We welcome many of the report's findings.  However, it is clear the Government is continuing, with its focus on pay bill per head rather than the whole pay bill, to adopt an inflexible approach towards rewarding senior managers in government.  The Government's response to the report is more about crude headlines than practical management of the civil service pay bill within a policy framework that would encourage greater efficiency”.
OFT:  The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has given the Ombudsman for Estate Agents Company Limited (OEA) approval for its estate agents redress scheme under the Consumer Estate Agents and Redress Act 2007 (CEARA).
With the approval of a redress scheme, the Secretary of State for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) will now be able to make an order under CEARA requiring all estate agents dealing with residential property in the UK to join an approved scheme.  BERR expects this order to become law and commence on 1 October 2008, from which time estate agents will be required to join an approved scheme.
In the meantime, the OFT is considering two other applications to operate estate agents redress schemes and will announce decisions on these as soon as possible.
STFC: Immediate & accurate tests to diagnose & monitor bleeding and blood clotting disorders could soon be available at every GP’s surgery.  Microvisk’s blood clotting measurement device is primarily aimed at patients who take anti-clotting drugs, such as Warfarin, also known as ‘anti-coagulants’.  For these patients, frequent blood testing is a necessity, which means that hundreds of thousands of tests are carried out every year in the UK alone. 
Microvisk’s technology means that a doctor will be able to perform a blood coagulation test by measuring the viscosity, or thickness, of blood in a patient with laboratory-standard accuracy from his own surgery. 
HC: The Healthcare Commission has announced that it has issued an improvement notice to the Ashford and St Peter’s Hospitals NHS Trust, requiring changes to its infection control practices. The Commission found the trust was in breach of the hygiene code, which sets out 11 mandatory duties for NHS trusts to reduce and control healthcare-associated infections.
LDA: The London Development Agency has launched an interactive ‘Legacy Now’ roadshow which began touring last weekend to give Londoners the chance to help plan what will go on the Olympic Park after the Games. The consultation will see people building their own ‘mini city’ by physically placing housing, parkland, shops and other features on a large scale map of the Olympic Park.

The LDA, which owns most of the Olympic Park site and leads a partnership overseeing its development after the Games, has a 'Legacy Now' website where people can access the latest information and give their views.
CRC: The Rural Social Justice Coalition, which had its public launch at last week's Rural Life Conference, is a diverse body of national organisations working together to improve the lives of the most disadvantaged people in rural areas. For 2008 the Coalition will focus on disadvantaged young people and the challenges for older people in rural areas.
CRC: The Commission for Rural Communities has responded to BERR and CLG's consultation 'Prosperous Places: Taking forward the Review of Sub-National Economic Development and Regeneration'. Their response focuses on the need for 'rural proofing' of the new structures, processes and arrangements.  They support the move for integration, through the new integrated regional strategy and the principles of delegation & devolution that will apply to the RDAs.

However, they are disappointed that this consultation focuses on economic growth and places a sole focus on Gross Value Added as a target for RDAs.  As an output based measurement GVA does not take into account the wider costs of such growth to the socio-environmental landscape; the well being agenda.

Policy Statements and Initiatives

DefraThe Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is advising how consumers and businesses can establish what benefits their green electricity tariff delivers above & beyond the supplier's existing legal obligation to provide electricity from renewable sources.
Some existing green tariffs may well deliver broader environmental benefits.  Following the publication of Ofgem's guidance to suppliers later this year, Defra will consult on how any broader environmental benefits, possible long term carbon benefits and any genuinely additional carbon benefits of green tariffs could be treated in its voluntary reporting guidelines.
HM Treasury: Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury Angela Eagle, MP has announced that the Government's plans to extend the Landlord's Energy Saving Allowance (LESA) to corporate landlords have been given formal state aid approval by the European Commission.
The scheme, which provides incentives for landlords to improve the energy efficiency of their properties, is expected to save at least 150,000 tonnes of CO2 in 2010/11.  From 8 July 2008 private landlords will be able to claim up to £1,500 a year per property against the cost of purchasing & installing energy-saving items such as floor insulation and draught proofing.
DCSF: Ed Balls and Andrew Adonis have accepted the recommendations of the Williams Review of early maths teaching - a major independent review of maths in primary schools.  The Government will invest £24m over the next three years to set up & begin implementing a major training programme for 13,000 existing primary school teachers and announced plans to train more than 1,000 specialist maths teachers a year over the next 10 years. 
Mr Balls said he would raise maths standards in primary schools by paying specialist maths teachers up to £8,000 in incentive payments & rewards to train towards gaining a Masters in maths teaching. The Children's Plan set a goal that every 11-year-old should be ready for success in secondary school and by 2020 at least 90% of children should achieve the right level for their age in English and maths.
The Department for Children, Schools and Families will now develop plans for training specialist maths teachers with a pathfinder programme in autumn 2008 and implementation beginning in 2009.
DCSF: Children's Minister, Beverley Hughes, has announced that parenting services for some of the country's most vulnerable, including teenage mums & dads, disabled parents and families facing break up are to get a share of up to £8m.
Projects such as helping parents with drug/alcohol problems, sports sessions and parenting workshops will have their Parenting Fund grants continued until March 2009.
HO: Around 7,500 UKBA officers & staff up and down the UK will be reorganised into 70-80 Local Immigration Teams, alongside Local Crime Partnerships with police, as part of a major refocus of the work of the UK Border Agency (UKBA), Home Secretary Jacqui Smith has announced.
The Government's plans, set out in 'Enforcing the Deal' published last week include, automatic deportation for serious offenders, over 1,000 extra immigration staff focused on enforcement duties, action against employers who break the law and new partnerships with local authorities & enforcement agencies to shut down the privileges of the UK to those breaking the rules.
Also announced today was the UKBA's partnership with the fraud prevention body CIFAS, which is subject to Parliamentary approval this summer.  This will see names & addresses of foreign nationals of interest to the agency - those who have been removed from the UK and who have been convicted of immigration offences - shared through the CIFAS database with over 270 financial service, telecoms and utility companies, to assist them in tackling fraud.
Defra: Details of Government plans to assist individuals & businesses to better protect their property from the impacts of flooding have been outlined by the Environment Secretary, Hilary Benn. Under new plans Defra will commit £125,000 to the development of an interactive website and phone line service (will launch in Spring 2009) in conjunction with the Environment Agency providing individuals & businesses with the advice & information they need to protect their homes and premises from flooding.
Temporary resistance measures (i.e. temporary floor guards and airbrick covers) reduce the costs of damage by about 50% if they are in place prior to a flood.  Permanent measures (i.e. permanent floodproof doors, windows and airbrick covers) could prevent damage by up to 84%, but may be more costly. Pilot schemes offered each household a maximum of £5,000 to implement methods, but most complete sets of measures were found to cost between £2,000-£4,000 overall.
Proposals to provide a Government grant to help people bear some of the costs involved with implementing such measures, for example through a free home flood survey, will also form the basis of a public consultation in a few weeks time.
HO: The Dutch approach to prostitution was observed by Home Office Minister, Vernon Coaker, during a visit to the Netherlands recently, as part of the Government's review into tackling the demand for prostitution. 
The Government's six-month review began in January with a visit to Sweden to explore the impact of legislation which criminalises the purchase or attempted purchase of sex and decriminalises its sale.  The Netherlands takes a different approach and currently has a licensing scheme for brothels, meaning the organisation of prostitution by consenting adults is not a criminal offence.


WAG: A growing demand for quality local produce is a golden opportunity for the farming & food industry which must be seized Rural Affair Minister Elin Jones said when launching a consultation (closes on 8 September 2008) on the long-term future of the farming & food industry in Wales.
Achieving a more profitable future for farming and the food industry, dealing with the effects of climate change; and encouraging innovation are among the aims of the consultation, Farming, Food and Countryside – Building a Secure Future.
OFT: The OFT has launched a market study into property management services for common & shared residential property in Scotland. Residents in tenements and other collective residential properties in Scotland use property managers, known as factors, to manage common and shared property - for example roofs, staircases, entrances and gardens.
The study (which will report back by the end of the year) will consider issues such as how much choice & information is available to homeowners, how property managers are selected, the quality & costs of the services provided, how homeowners can effectively manage services and whether homeowners have access to redress when things go wrong. Comments to be submitted by 5 September 2008.
MoD: The increasing sophistication of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) used by UK Armed Forces means that the current airspace above Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire is now insufficient to accommodate the full training requirement.  The Ministry of Defence (MoD) is therefore undertaking public consultation (closes 29 September 2008) on proposals to extend the existing segregated airspace to include an additional area to the south of the Salisbury Plain Training Area.
Following initial discussion with various organisations, the public consultation period will last until late September, and will include drop-in sessions at Salisbury Guildhall on 22 July and 30 August from 2pm to 6pm.  Its aim is to seek comment & feedback on the proposals from interested parties.
QCA: All schools and colleges in England are being invited to participate in the annual QCA/UCAS survey on 14-19 curriculum development and reform (closes on Friday 11 July).  This year's survey is designed to:
* seek comments from centres about how the reform programme may affect them and their students
* establish a ‘baseline' for evaluating forthcoming & future developments
* assess the level of collaborative provision in 14-19 education
* gain feedback on the Diploma
Different versions of the survey are available for different types of centre to reduce the chance of centres being asked to complete sections that are not relevant to them.  If you have any queries about the survey, please contact Tamsin Lord in the Policy Unit at UCAS on 01242 544 813 email:
DIUS: John Denham, Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills has published a consultation (closes on 10 September 2008) into how a new proposed right to request training would work, saying that he expected around 300,000 people a year to receive skills training who otherwise would not. 
It is planned that the new entitlement will apply to all employees who have worked for their employer for 26 weeks.  The legislation could be in place by 2010, subject to its passage through Parliament. 
MoJ: Views on fairer ways to pay barristers through the Family Graduated Fee Scheme (FGFS) bringing it more in line with payment to solicitors for similar work are being sought in a consultation (closes 10 September 2008). There are three options for consideration:
* Reduce all fees paid under the scheme
* Abolish or reduce some of the uplifts which multiply the fees claimed by barristers to reflect different issues in a case or
* Abolish or reduce some of the additional payments claimed by barristers for certain types of preparation
The proposed changes are an interim measure in advance of a consultation later this year on a single family advocacy scheme for both solicitors and barristers to be introduced in 2010.
DfT: Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly has invited passengers, businesses and environment groups to provide evidence (by 25 July 2008) to the Department for Transport to consider as part of its review into the economic regulation of airports.
ScotGov: The Scottish Government is consulting (closes 9 September 2008)on its new approach to tackling alcohol misuse with the aim of changing Scotland's relationship with drink. Key proposals in the consultation document include:
* Raising the minimum age for off-sales alcohol purchases to 21
* Setting a minimum price at which a unit of alcohol can be sold
* Ending 'three for the price of two' type promotions, which encourage impulse buying of extra alcohol
* A 'social responsibility fee' for some alcohol retailers to help pay for the consequences of alcohol misuse

 Following the consultation, the Scottish Government envisages legislating in time for many of the measures to coincide with the new Licensing Act coming into force on 1 September 2009.
MonitorMonitor, the Independent Regulator of NHS Foundation Trusts, is seeking views (by Tuesday 9 September 2008) on the rules that NHS foundation trusts should follow in relation to the legal ‘cap’ on the income they may earn from charges for services to patients. 
The legislation establishing NHS foundation trusts makes specific provision to limit the proportion of income an NHS foundation trust can earn from charges for services to patients – the Private Patient Income Cap. The approach that Monitor has taken to the application of the private patient income cap to date has been set out in the NHS Foundation Trust Financial Reporting Manual (FReM).
DH: Health Minister Ivan Lewis outlined proposals to improve the quality of dementia care and provide more help for people with dementia, as he launched a consultation (closes on 11 September 2008)on a National Dementia Strategy. The full Strategy, to be launched in the October 2008, will have three main aims:
* to increase awareness of dementia & remove the stigma associated with it
* ensure early diagnosis & intervention
* improve the quality of care that people with dementia receive
Ofwat: Water companies would face targets to help customers save more than 23m litres of water a day (Ml/d), under proposals (consultation closes 12 September 2008) published by Ofwat, to run initially for five years from 2010-2015.  Companies will be expected to deliver real savings by providing household and business customers with information on how to use water sensibly, and promoting the use of water saving devices.
The targets would help companies to play their part in achieving the Government's goal of reducing individual water usage to 130 litres per person per day from its current level of around 150 litres.  If the proposed targets remain in place until 2030 Ofwat expect them to contribute at least half of the required savings.
HMRC:  HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) has launched a consultation on its proposals for a new taxpayers' charter, alongside two further consultation documents on modernising tax administration (closing date 11 September 2008):
The charter consultation sets out ideas for the scope & shape of a taxpayers' charter, which will articulate, in plain language, the rights & obligations of customers when dealing with HMRC.  Responses received will help form the basis of a draft charter, which will be the subject of further consultation later this year.
The second consultation explores why taxpayers fail to file their tax returns, or pay the tax they owe, on time, and how HMRC can help them to meet their obligations.  It also discusses an aligned approach to penalties across the different taxes - to encourage timely filing & payment - alongside the appropriate taxpayer safeguards.
The third consultation considers the case for harmonising & simplifying the rules on interest charged by HMRC both on tax paid late and on\interest paid by HMRC on overpayments.  It considers the principles that might underpin a modern interest regime that is clear, simple & easy for taxpayers and their advisors to understand.

Ofwat: Ofwat has launched a consultation (closes 17 July 2008) into the regulatory issues arising from the change of ownership of Yorkshire Water. In February 2008, Saltaire Water Limited completed the acquisition of Kelda Group Plc, the parent company of Yorkshire Water Services Limited. 
Ofwat invites views on the issues discussed in its consultation paper, including:
* the capacity of Saltaire Water and its investors to own a regulated water company
* which entities should provide the necessary regulatory undertakings to Yorkshire Water, and
* the need for modifications to Yorkshire Water's Appointment conditions to ensure that it has sufficient financial & managerial resources to carry out its functions as a water & sewerage company and that it is properly ring-fenced from the rest of the group
LDLand Data (formerly C-NLIS), has announced the commencement of a period of consultation (closes on 30 September 2008) regarding the future of the NLIS Channel Licences. The three current NLIS Licenced Channels, which provide access to property search information from all Local Authorities in England and Wales, HM Land Registry and the Coal Authority, are Searchflow, TM Property and Jordans Limited.
The existing NLIS Channel Agreements expire in 2009 and Land Data is keen to elicit feedback on the current model, and also to receive suggestions for possible future improvements, prior to reaching a decision in relation to the future of the NLIS Channels later this year.

Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides

OFT: The Office of Fair Trading has launched its first ever education sector resource, with a new consumer education toolkit for teachers.  The toolkit, 'Skilled to go', is a free online resource that uses everyday consumer situations, such as choosing a mobile phone package or shopping online, as the basis to develop consumer skills, knowledge and confidence.

'Skilled to go' currently has three modules: Buying and selling, Technology and Utilities, and is available in variations for England & Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to reflect the legal differences in each of the countries as well as relevant geographic examples and websites. During June and July the OFT and LLU+ will be running free workshops in London, Manchester, Cardiff, and Glasgow to introduce teachers to the toolkit.
HO: The government claims that doorstep crime, anti-social behaviour and engaging young people were the key areas of focus for last week’s second national Neighbourhood Watch Week (NWW - 16-20 June). During the week Vernon Coaker launched a new Neighbourhood Watch website and a volunteers' toolkit, designed to provide support, training & guidance for around 4m UK households that are members of a Neighbourhood Watch scheme.
Cabinet Office: The Cabinet Office's Social Exclusion Task Force has published Think Research, a web-based document which gives commissioners & providers of services for vulnerable people guidance on using research evidence during the commissioning process.
Think Research demystifies the research process & results and gives commissioners the tools to use the evidence effectively during their decision-making process. By using research evidence collected on the service's past performance commissioners can make informed decisions when commissioning projects.
In addition, on the other side, providers that deliver services underpinned by research evidence, will be able to prove that their services work and feel more confident about being commissioned and the future of their organisation.

Annual Reports

HC: The Healthcare Commission) said it would carry out a thorough check of NHS trusts’ public declarations on whether they meet the government’s standards for healthcare. The boards of all 391 NHS trusts have declared whether their organisation met the necessary level of performance during the year to March 31 2008. 

Patients and the public can see & comment on what local trusts say about whether they measure up against 24 core standards (with 44 parts) in areas like safety, clinical effectiveness and patient focus. The Commission claims that it will take a view on whether the declarations are accurate, but only after carrying out a rigorous cross-checking exercise.  It holds some 1,700 items of data, including information from over 30 different bodies. The NHS annual performance ratings for 2007/2008 will be published on 16 October 2008.

General Reports and Other Publications

WAG: A series of maps showing environmental noise on the major roads & railways in Wales, as well as noise from transport & industry in two large urban areas has been published by the Welsh Assembly Government recently.
The maps will be used to draw up action plans to address the noise climate for major roads & railways as well as in urban areas.  The action plans will include descriptions of the measures that will be taken to reduce environmental noise and to help protect quiet areas from an increase in noise.
Defra: Defra has published an epidemiology report into the Avian Influenza outbreak confirmed in Oxfordshire on 4 June 2008. The report concludes that, at the time of writing (11 June), the outbreak is confined to a single premises and there is no evidence of infection in the Protection Zone or of spread to any other premises.
The report suggests that it is possible that the Highly Pathogenic H7N7 Avian influenza derived from a Low Pathogenic strain already present on the farm, analysis & investigations are ongoing and a number of source hypotheses are being considered.
Investigations continue and an indicative timeline to lifting Avian Influenza restrictions in Oxfordshire has been published to help poultry & egg producers and others whose business is affected by disease control restrictions.
CRC: The Commission for Rural Communities (CRC) has responded to the Government’s review of expenditure devoted to the bus industry with regards to possible reforms to the Bus Service Operators Grant (BSOG).  The CRC says that it welcomes an examination of BSOG, particularly the suggestion that it should be more closely allied to climate change targets in relation to fuel efficiency & vehicle emissions.
Nevertheless, they have warned about possible threats to rural bus services should the BSOG paid to operators be reduced.  Any overall reduction in the BSOG received by an operator could mean services cease to become financially viable and would need a subsidy to continue.
ScotParl: Clarity on the funding of non-NHS cancer treatment drugs has been called for by the Public Petitions Committee.  The report into the availability on the NHS of cancer treatment drugs follows the committee's inquiry inspired by the petition brought to it by Tina McGeever and her late husband Michael Gray.
The committee has raised serious concerns about procedures within NHS boards to assess whether a cancer patient can be ‘exceptionally prescribed' a non-NHS drug.  A lack of clarity & transparency, with information not being made available to patients at the crucial time of diagnosis, was also revealed in evidence sessions.  The procedure was perceived as not working in the best interests of the patient. The Committee has invited a response from the Scottish Government with a timetable for action by 1 September 2008.
BERR: The Renewables Advisory Board has reported that the UK could generate 14% of its total energy from renewables by 2020 if a set of identified radical policy changes are put into effect quickly.  Recommendations include accelerating grid studies, streamlined consenting processes, early introduction of revised support mechanisms and, most importantly, strong political leadership.
The Board has also advised the Government how the additional measures could go on to achieve the full 15% share required by the EU's renewable energy target.
Ofsted: Many teachers, particularly in primary schools, lack the confidence to teach science well because they don't know enough about the subject and have had too little professional training, according to a new report by Ofsted, the Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills.
The report, Success in Science, shows that teaching & learning were at least satisfactory in almost all of the schools visited and around three quarters of the lessons were good.  Yet standards in science have remained substantially unchanged in recent years and inspections highlight recurring weaknesses, particularly in planning and assessment.
The report looks at why standards in science have not improved significantly in the last three years at Key stages 1 and 2 (pupils aged between 5 and 11).  It highlights the strengths & weaknesses of science teaching in primary & secondary schools and gives examples of schools where young scientists excel.
MoD: The Ministry of Defence has welcomed the publication of research into homelessness amongst the ex-Service community by York University. The study called ‘The Experiences of Homeless Ex Service Personnel in London found that the percentage of Veterans in London's homeless population has reduced from 22 % in 1997 to 6 % in 2007.
Key findings of the report included:
* Homeless veterans have better access to emergency accommodation & resettlement resources than other single homeless people
* Less than one in six of those surveyed cited problems adjusting to civilian life as the cause of their difficulties
* Only a small minority of homeless veterans reported vulnerabilities unique to Service life, such as combat related post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
The report has made a number of recommendations to further improve support available to homeless veterans and the MoD will now engage with other Government departments and its external partners to take forward these recommendations.
DH: Research revealing what really matters to NHS staff has been published by the Department of Health. Thousands of NHS staff contributed to the research through focus groups, interviews and a widely distributed survey.
The research identified four themes that summarise what matters to staff:
* The support I need to do a good job
* A worthwhile job with the chance to develop
* The opportunity to improve the way we work
* The resources to deliver quality care for patients
CIOB: Results from a new piece of research by the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) has revealed that a high proportion of complex construction projects are likely to be finished more than six months late, due to poor time control. The research examined the construction industry’s methods to manage time on projects, in particular the techniques used and the competence of those engaged in the process.
The results also show that more complex projects have a poor chance of being completed on time without advanced methods of project control being employed and those responding to the survey felt that:
* The design team is rarely consulted by the contractor about a time-management strategy
* The contractor is usually held to be predominantly at fault for delayed completion
* Records of resources used & work performed are usually inadequate for effective time control
* Very few projects are currently managed by reference to modern methods of time control
* Delayed progress is not often notified promptly or widely

Legislation / Legal

Defra: Details of how the proposed Floods and Water Bill would ensure the country is better prepared to deal with surface water flooding were outlined by Environment Minister Phil Woolas, when he announced a new strategic overview role for the Environment Agency for all forms of flood risk management.  Local authorities will take responsibility for surface water flooding in their own communities, supported by the Agency. 
Mr Woolas also announced how the Bill will replace existing outdated legislation and tighten up reservoir safety.  Under new rules, more of the country's reservoirs will be subject to stringent inspections. Defra is aiming to consult on the draft Bill in Spring 2009.
MoJ: The needs of bereaved people will be placed firmly at the centre of the reformed coroner system Justice Minister, Bridget Prentice, claimed when she published a new draft Charter that details the level of service that the bereaved should expect from the coroner service. This draft reflects responses received from a wide range of interested parties since the Charter was first published in 2006 and also explains appeal rights against particular decisions taken by coroners in individual cases.
The Government intends the Charter to be implemented following the Parliamentary passage of the Coroners and Death Certification Bill, which is included in the draft legislative programme for the 2008-09 parliamentary session.

EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.

ScotGov: The Scottish Government is taking new steps to promote the interests of Scotland's justice system in the European Union. A Scottish Government official recently participated in the inaugural meeting of the EU's Justice Forum, which brings together legal practitioners, stakeholders and representatives of all Member States to provide a platform for the development of EU justice policies and practice in both civil & criminal law.

In addition, a Scottish Government lawyer will be based in the Government's Brussels office from September to enhance Scottish engagement on EU matters, especially in the Justice field.
MoJ: A tool to help EU citizens and businesses resolve cross-border legal disputes has been agreed with the European Parliament and the Council having both approved a Directive on mediation covering civil, commercial and family matters.  Member States will have until June 2011 to comply with its provisions
In addition to encouraging the use of mediation in cross-border disputes the Directive provides, for the first time, a framework around which parties can proceed with mediation safe in the knowledge that, should the mediation fail, matters that were raised will be kept confidential by mediators and that they will not lose the opportunity to take their dispute to court by the expiration of limitation periods.

Business and Other Briefings

YF: A £6.9m finance scheme has been approved by Yorkshire Forward to help regional companies up their export activity in the face of challenging economic conditions.  The funding for the latest Targeted Export Support Scheme (TESS), which will be delivered by UK Trade and Investment, will focus on supporting companies operating in key industry sectors in the region to start, or expand, their international trade activities.

The new TESS scheme will offer grant support to help companies with everything from identifying & visiting potential markets to modifying their websites for international customers.  It will also fund a targeted marketing campaign aimed at making companies across the region more aware of the opportunities for business growth that exporting offers.
This Revenue and Customs Brief article announces the launch of a consultation on ideas to simplify the VAT partial exemption rules to reduce compliance costs for businesses.
This Brief gives details of an article: Learn how your clients can avoid penalties.

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