In the News
HO: Model migrants to get priority – In future, all migrants will have to speak English & obey the law if they want to gain citizenship and stay permanently in Britain. Those who contribute to the community will be given a speedier path to citizenship.
Full access to benefits & social housing will be reserved for citizens and permanent residents. Foreign nationals who commit serious offences will face automatic consideration for deportation - and even minor offences will delay access to citizenship by up to three years.
The new draft Immigration and Citizenship Bill replaces 10 Acts of Parliament and its key measures include:
* Strong borders
* Selective migration
* Earning the right to stay
* Playing by the rules
* Managing any local impacts
MoJ: But why should MPs have primacy if Lords elected? - The Government has set out proposals for the next stage of reforming the House of Lords in a White Paper: An Elected Second Chamber: further reform of the House of Lords. Publication of the paper follows last year's free votes in Parliament in which the Commons voted in favour of a wholly elected second chamber and for an 80% elected chamber.
Key points in the White Paper include:
* A 100% or 80% elected chamber.
* Options for direct elections: first-past-the-post, alternative vote, single transferable vote and a list system
* The primacy of the House of Commons would remain
* Proposals on eligibility & disqualification
* Members should normally serve a single non-renewable term of 12 to15 years
* The right of hereditary peers to sit & vote in the House of Lords ended
* The size of the second chamber should be significantly reduced
* Individuals appointed on their ability, willingness & commitment
* New members of a reformed second chamber elected in thirds coinciding with General Elections
* If there is an appointed element, there should continue to be seats reserved for C. of E. Bishops
MIIB: Avoiding a ‘planning creep into danger’ - The Buncefield Major Incident Investigation Board (MIIB) has released recommendations on land use planning around major hazard sites (non-nuclear), with a report that calls for the system to be updated in order to get the balance right between the need for strategic facilities (such as large scale oil storage sites) and the need for off-site social and economic development.
The MIIB is asking for a review of the system for land-use planning around major hazard sites in Britain. Critically, the MIIB is asking for the total population at risk to be considered for each new application; currently, the planning system does not consider the cumulative effect of developments on societal risk.
The MIIB endorses the fundamental principle that the local planning authority should be responsible for planning decisions, but observes that the roles of HSE, the Environment Agency and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency and the site operators in the planning system should be more aligned with the regulatory system for ensuring safety & environmental protection at major hazard sites.
The MIIB is calling for the system in Britain to be more consistent in the use of quantified risk assessment to inform planning decisions. The Board commissioned a report to describe what a risk based system incorporating societal risk might look like at a flammable storage site. The results of this work confirmed that a fully risk based land use planning system around such sites is feasible and is used elsewhere in Europe.
CRC: Limited public transport means limited access to services - The Commission for Rural Communities (CRC) has published the State of the countryside 2008 report, the tenth report in the series providing the definitive picture of rural England. The report has three central chapters:
* Living in the countryside - social issues
* Economic wellbeing - economic issues
* Land &environment - environmental issues
The report includes a number of new findings with 133 charts, maps & tables and reflects on 10 years of State of the countryside reporting. Whilst there are many advantages to living & working in rural England, there remain some significant challenges.
The quality of life may often be better in rural areas, but the report also highlights a rise in households living in poverty in rural England (around 1 in 5 rural households below the poverty line) and a growing inequality between remote rural areas and other parts of the countryside.
The decline in services in rural areas continues to concern rural communities. Each year there are fewer outlets for many services and poorer accessibility to services for people without cars. Meeting affordable housing needs in rural areas remains a dominant challenge, with demand being heightened because of people seeking to relocate to the countryside.
P&HSO: Justice at last? - Ann Abraham, the Parliamentary Ombudsman, has called on the Government to apologise to Equitable Life policyholders and to establish & fund a compensation scheme for them.
In her report - Equitable Life: a decade of regulatory failure (HC 815) - the Ombudsman makes ten determinations of maladministration on the part of the former Department of Trade and Industry, the Government Actuary's Department, and the Financial Services Authority, in relation to their regulation of Equitable in the period before 1 December 2001.
In addition to upholding several specific complaints, the Ombudsman has upheld a general complaint about the period before Equitable closed to new business on 8 December 2000, namely that: ... the public bodies responsible for the prudential regulation of insurance companies... and the Government Actuary's Department failed for considerably longer than a decade properly to exercise their regulatory functions in respect of Equitable Life.
She has suggested that the compensation scheme should be established within 6 months of any decision by Government & Parliament to do so and, once operational, should complete its work within 2 years.
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VSO: This summer’s 12-week recess will be a little different for 11 MPs taking part in VSO’s Project PolVol. Rather than digging wells or building schools they will be putting their knowledge of lobbying to good use, helping to advise community organisations on how to influence government & policy making processes.
Initiated by VSO, Project PolVol not only aims to help VSO’s partner organisations in Africa and Asia by providing them with skilled volunteers, but also hopes to give the MPs first-hand experience of global issues including poverty and HIV & AIDS. VSO’s Project PolVol involves MPs from across the political parties and MPs who volunteer will be contributing to VSO’s long-term development goals, including education, HIV & AIDS, disability and governance.
HEFCE: An agreement setting out clear expectations for researchers, research managers, research institutions and funders of research has been launched. The 'Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers' describes standards, expectations and responsibilities for the proper management & development of academic researchers in universities & higher education colleges across the UK.
The agreement updates the previous Concordat of 1996, by addressing the changes in legislation over the last decade for staff on fixed-term contracts and takes into account the introduction of the European Charter for Researchers and Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers.
The launch event also saw the launch of Vitae (the new body incorporating the UK GRAD and UK HERD (Higher Education Researcher Development) support groups) which aims to support the professional development of researchers and their careers.
OFT: The OFT has obtained assurances from a Hong Kong based company that it will no longer market its 'fat burning' Accu-Slim Beads in the UK. It was claimed that by placing one bead behind the ear each day users could eat as much as they liked and still lose 'at least 30 pounds in the next 30 days' as the bead stimulated the acupressure points that trigger 'automatic weight loss'.
The OFT has launched an interactive guide designed to help people understand how misleading slimming mailings work. It contains 'pop-up' text highlighting the tricks used to convince people that the offers are genuine.
MoJ: Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II has approved the introduction of a Long Service and Good Conduct Medal for prison officers. The medal will be awarded to operational prison staff in England, Wales and Northern Ireland on completion of 20 years of continuous commendable service.
This brings operational prison staff in line with other comparable organisations such as the Police, Fire Service, Ambulance Service and the Military, as well as other prison & correctional services within the Commonwealth.
MoD: A new approach to purchasing the Armed Forces' missiles took a step forward last week with the launch of an Assessment Phase with Team Complex Weapons - an partnering of industry and MoD - announced by Baroness Taylor at the Farnborough Air Show.
Alongside a Teaming Agreement with all of the Team Complex Weapons members, two contracts have been placed with MBDA (UK) Ltd and Thales UK to develop six Complex Weapons projects within the Assessment Phase, at a value of around £74m for the first year:
* Indirect Fire Precision Attack Loitering Munition (MBDA-led with Team Loitering Munition)
* 100Kg weapon family to meet first the Future Air to Surface Guided Weapon (heavyweight) requirement for Royal Navy helicopters (MBDA)
* Light weapon family to meet first the Future Air to Surface Guided Weapon (lightweight) requirement (Thales UK)
* 50Kg weapon family to meet the Selected Precision Effects At Range (SPEAR) requirement for fast jets and helicopters (MBDA)
* The Common Anti-Air Modular Missile family to meet first the requirement for a Future Local Area Air Defence System (FLAADS) for the T23 Frigate and the Future Surface Combatant (MBDA).
* An upgrade programme for Storm Shadow currently used on the Tornado GR4 (MBDA).
MoD: The Ministry of Defence has accepted an invitation from the Society for British Aerospace Companies (SBAC) to join its 'Twenty First Century Supply Chains' or 'SC21' programme. The signing ceremony, which took place at the Farnborough International Air Show, brought the number of companies and organisations signed-up to the SC21 programme to over 370.
SC21 was launched at the Farnborough Air Show in 2006 and was designed to improve the performance of the UK aerospace and defence industry in an increasingly competitive world market. It provides a framework for improving the effectiveness of supply chains and recognises that they need to be dynamic & flexible to keep pace with evolving business and customer needs.
PCS: Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public & Commercial Services union has added his name to a call for the government to withdraw its statement that 20% of England's secondary schools should ‘improve or close'. A recent announcement by Ed Balls, implied that 638 schools in the UK are failing, yet Ofsted reports show many of them are improving. Some have been described as outstanding.
The Anti Academies Alliance is urging supporters to add their names to a statement which expresses concern at both the criteria for success and the suggested remedy of closing schools to reopen them as academies, even though 26 academies are included in the list.
HEFCE: The Higher Education Funding Council for England has announced nearly £10m of funding for a collaboration between higher education libraries led by Imperial College London and the British Library following a successful 18-month pilot. The funding will enable the creation of the UK Research Reserve (UKRR).
UKRR is an agreement between higher education and the British Library whereby the British Library will store low-use journals for the HE community and make them accessible to researchers and others using state-of-the-art ordering and delivery systems. By the end of the 5-year programme 100km of shelf space will have been released, amounting to capital savings of £29m.
Futureskills Scotland: Keep up-to-date with all the latest labour market research - Research Online provides free & instant access to labour market reports and analyses from across the world. There are now almost 5,000 reports available on Research Online.
Policy Statements and Initiatives
DH: Health Secretary Alan Johnson has launched the End of Life Care Strategy, backed with £286m to provide high quality care for all adults approaching the end of their life. It should mean better quality care for patients by making it easier for individuals to bring about their own preferences around end of life care; promoting dignity and respect, properly co-ordinating services and supporting carers.
The new ten year strategy is intended to build on the progress made in developing end of life care services since 2000. Areas it will particularly focus on include:
* Improved community
* Workforce training and
* Development of specialist palliative care outreach
* Setting up a national End of Life Research
* Quality Standards
MoD: The Ministry of Defence has published the Service Personnel Command Paper, which outlines a package of measures to improve the lives of our Service Personnel, their families and our veterans. The Nation's Commitment: Cross-Government Support to our Armed Forces, their Families and Veterans is the first such cross-Government strategy issued and it sets the standard for the level & scope of support our Service personnel can expect.
Key changes include:
* The Ministry of Defence doubling Armed Forces Compensation Scheme payments for the most serious injuries from £285,000 to £570,000. All injured personnel will receive an increase of between 10 & 100%
* The Department of Health improving access to NHS dentists for Service families
* The Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills offering free A-Level equivalent or first Degree-level education for Service leavers with six years service
* The Department for Transport offering free bus travel for seriously injured Service Personnel and veterans
* The Department for Communities and Local Government helping Service leavers get on the property ladder by extending their Key Worker status for 12 months after leaving the Armed Forces
* The Department for Children, Schools and Families making it easier for Service families with frequent & short notice postings to get their children into local schools
CLG: This week, seven groups of councils and local partners have sealed their commitment to boost economic prosperity, in recognition that they can ‘each achieve more than the sum of their parts’ - in the first set of Multi-Area Agreements (MAAs).
In a contract with Government, councils working together with local agencies - from Greater Manchester to the South Coast - will get more freedoms from Whitehall in return for pledging a local, partnership approach to boost economic growth and tackle deprivation and financial inequalities.
CLG: A major national search to recruit Black male role models has got underway as Communities Secretary Hazel Blears called for motivational Black & mixed heritage men to take a lead in inspiring the next generation of Black boys to achieve & succeed. The recruitment campaign will run until 2 September 3008 and panel members will unveil their final selection in the autumn, when the role models will begin their activity.
The creation of the Black Boys' National Role Model programme is part of a package of measures intended to help raise the aspirations & attainment of some of today's young Black men. The national role modelling programme will seek to challenge stereotypes, shine a light on positive images of Black male achievement - from businessmen to doctors, lawyers, artists and community workers.
CLG: Plans for a sustainable social & economic renaissance in the North East have been set out by Communities Minister Baroness Andrews. A new vision to deliver jobs, homes and infrastructure to the region up to 2021 was unveiled in the North East of England Plan, the revised Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS).
In addition to mainstream infrastructure funding the Government is making millions more available through the Community Infrastructure Fund and Housing and Planning Delivery Grants, which will incentivise councils to increase housing supply sustainably. The Second Round of New Growth Point areas to be announced shortly will include the North of England for the first time.
HO: Getting young people off the streets late at night, intensive support for the most problematic families and tougher, more visible Community Payback sentences for young people have been announced by Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, Justice Secretary, Jack Straw and Children's Secretary, Ed Balls, as they unveiled the Government's new Youth Crime Action Plan.
The £100m Youth Crime Action Plan will support families with the most entrenched and complex problems in all areas of England and will also offer an intensive programme of action for priority areas where the problem of youth crime is greatest.
DfT: Ruth Kelly, Transport Secretary, has announced a £6bn investment package to improve & make better use of England's motorways and other key roads. She also published the Command Paper 'Roads - Delivering Choice and Reliability' setting out more detail on her plans to tackle congestion, both on strategic routes and in our towns & cities.
This will fund a mix of techniques to get the most out of the existing network, such as opening the hard shoulder to traffic, taking forward the Advanced Motorway Signalling and Traffic Management Feasibility Study which identified almost 500 lane miles of motorway with the potential for hard shoulder running.
New funding has also been announced for our biggest towns and cities, recognising that 80% of congestion is currently in urban areas. This sees eight areas - Bristol, Greater Manchester, Leicester, London, Merseyside, South Yorkshire, Tyne and Wear and the West Midlands - benefiting from the first allocation of the performance-based £60m Urban Congestion Performance Fund.
DFID: Up to a million lives in Nigeria could be saved as a result of a new £50m project to tackle malaria announced by International Development Minister, Gillian Merron. The aid will help provide up to 4m mosquito bed nets and 10m anti-malaria drug treatments alongside a wide-range of additional health measures. This will be targeted at those most at risk from malaria including pregnant mothers, babies and children.
Malaria is one of the biggest killers in Nigeria. The latest statistics show that it causes nearly a third of all childhood deaths and a tenth of all deaths during pregnancy. At least 50% of the population suffer from one or more episodes of malaria every year, making Nigeria one of the worst affected countries in the world.
Defra: Fifty senior industry and NGO executives met Defra ministers last week to discuss multi-million pound plans to make greater use of anaerobic digestion - the technology which produces energy from organic material like food waste and manure. The meeting heard that the process could produce enough electricity to power two million homes.
Anaerobic digestion breaks down organic matter to produce biogas which can be used as a renewable energy source for heat and power, and as a transport fuel. It produces a nutrient-rich digestate which can be used as fertiliser and, importantly, it keeps organic waste out of landfill, which cuts greenhouse gas emissions.
HO: New plans to cut red tape and give the police more freedom to get on with the job of reducing crime, combined with new measures to increase public confidence in the police and give the public a greater say about how their communities are policed, have been outlined by the Government tin the Policing Green Paper: 'From the neighbourhood to the national'.
The key measures announced include:
* A new Policing Pledge setting out what local people can expect from their local police team
* A stronger voice for local people including crime maps, meetings to discuss priorities and a directly elected Policing Representatives.
* Removing all but one top down target that impacts on police forces
Cabinet Office: Under a plan announced by Cabinet Office Minister, Tom Watson, the Government aims to make energy consumption of ICT carbon neutral within four years. Currently information & communication technology (ICT) is responsible for up to 20% of carbon emissions generated by Government offices - around 460,000 tonnes a year.
Departments will be asked to take 18 key steps, including:
* Automatically switching off desktop computers outside working hours
* Reusing as much computer equipment as possible
* Auditing our data centres and server use to make sure they are running at maximum efficiency
Cabinet Office: The Government has launched a new strategy - Promoting equality, valuing diversity: a strategy for the civil service – which builds upon learning derived from the existing 10-Point Plan on Delivering a Diverse Civil Service, the first Civil Service strategy aimed at improving diversity launched in 2005.
The new strategy is also a framework of commitments that will help the Civil Service prepare to fulfil its duties under the Government's new 'Framework for a Fairer Future - the Equality Bill' which for the first time includes age, sexual orientation and religion and belief. The strategy will be driven forward with the help of the Diversity Champions' Network and will focus on:
* Culture change and behaviours
* Leadership and accountability
* Talent management
* A diverse workforce at all levels
DfT: Formula One Racing star David Coulthard is waving farewell to the fast lane and backing the government's campaign & 4 month nation-wide consultation tour (closes on 8 September 2008), which is intended to collect public thoughts on how to overhaul driver testing & training and make Britain's roads safer. Remaining venues are: Brighton, Cardiff, Newcastle, Croydon, Glasgow, Inverness, Exeter.
Although the number of people killed in road accidents fell by 7% between 2006 and 2007 it still remains that 30,720 people were killed or seriously injured on our roads. One in five deaths on British roads involves newly-qualified drivers.
Defra: Defra, the Forestry Commission and the Welsh Assembly Government have launched a joint consultation (closes on 10 October 2008) on the future management of Phytophthora ramorum and Phytophthora kernoviae, which are fungus-like pathogens which can kill some types of shrubs & trees, such as the European beech, and pose a threat to garden plants, woodlands and native heathland.
The presence of Phytophthora ramorum in Great Britain was first detected in 2002, and the first discovery of Phytophthora kernoviae in Great Britain occurred in 2003. Since the first discovery of each disease, emergency action has been taken and a policy of containment & eradication has been pursued.
The consultation paper seeks asks whether controls should be reduced to a level which meets the minimum requirements set by the EU, but which may involve some continued disease spread within England & Wales; or whether a programme of increased activity aimed at reducing the presence and potential spread of the diseases should be implemented.
ScotGov: Representatives of the Scottish Government have met with veterans' organisations to discuss how to improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of men & women who have given selfless duty to their country. The meeting came three weeks into the Government's consultation (closes 29 August 2008) on the wellbeing & welfare of Scotland's veterans and armed forces.
Mr Crawford also announced a doubling of the funding available through the Scottish Veterans' Fund, from £40,000 to £80,000p.a. The Government has also proposed extending the concessionary fares scheme for elderly & disabled people to ensure that injured forces veterans will be included & able to benefit from free public transport.
NA: The Ministry of Defence (MOD) has launched a public consultation on the early transfer of some historic armed forces service personnel records to The National Archives. As these records are personnel files they need to be handled correctly, in accordance with data protection legislation.
If you want to give your suggestions & comments, or simply express your support for the proposed transfer process, you can find out more about the transfer and add your thoughts HERE.
ScotGov: A new future for Scotland's seas, balancing conservation and economic growth, has been outlined in a new consultation (closes on 6 October 2008). Proposals in Sustainable Seas For All - A Consultation On Scotland's First Marine Bill include:
* Improved conservation to ensure a healthy future for Scotland's unique marine wildlife
* A new marine planning system and a streamlined licensing system
* Measures to ensure a viable future for Scotland's traditional & new marine industries
* Creation of Marine Scotland combining the efforts of existing bodies to act as a champion for Scotland's seas
DCMS: Plans to double jackpot and proceeds limits for charity lotteries have announced by Minister for Sport, Gerry Sutcliffe. The proposal, announced in a written statement to Parliament, will see the maximum jackpot for individual draws increased from £200,000 to £400,000 and the maximum amount raised for charity from each draw increased from £2m to £4m.
The move, designed to help charities raise more money, will now go to consultation (closes on 16 October 2008) and should come into force early next year.
MoJ: Proposals to increase the powers, funding and duties of the Information Commissioner will be examined in a consultation (closes on 27 August 2008) launched last week, following the publication of the Data Sharing Review Report. The Government claims it wants to ensure that the Information Commissioner has the powers & resources to continue to be able to carry out his duties under the Data Protection Act 1998 effectively in a rapidly changing environment.
The consultation proposes to:
* examine the Information Commissioner's inspection powers
* scrutinise funding the Information Commissioner's duties
CLG: A consultation (closes on 24 October 2008) on the South East's vision to tackle climate change & flooding, address housing shortages & affordability, secure & strengthen the region's economy, provide essential infrastructure and enhance the environment, has been launched by the Government.
CLG: Ministers are consulting (closes 31 October 2008) on a plan to focus on ‘real-life' measures about improving people's lives rather than bricks & mortar targets for regeneration funding. This is so communities get more than a cosmetic facelift and are helped to unlock their potential and take responsibility for their own regeneration.
Building on last week's White Paper, new 'priority maps' would map out regeneration priorities to steer funding and inform residents where money is spent, and decisions on how to regenerate would be devolved to regions, towns & villages. Maps will help focus and bring together investment from Whitehall, regions and the private sector on strengthening the local economy and improving prospects for residents, so for example, investment in housing & environmental improvements will be linked to residents' economic chances.
HM Treasury: HM Treasury has launched a consultation (closes on 9 October 2008) on extending the statutory regime on liability for fraudulent misstatement by issuers of securities. This consultation responds to last year's review by Professor Paul Davies Q.C. of the statutory regime, which recommended that the scope of the system should be extended to provide greater security for both investors and issuers.
Defra: A debate (closes on15 September 2008) on how to continue to ensure a secure & sustainable supply of food in the future has been launched by Hilary Benn. Publishing the discussion paper - Ensuring the UK's food security in a changing world - he stressed that, while ‘the UK was currently secure in its food supply, it was important to consider whether the UK food supply chain is sufficiently resilient to deal with short term shocks and sufficiently strong to face long term challenges’.
The paper - which will feed into a more detailed statement on food security policy expected later this year - poses five key questions for the public & industry to comment on. In particular the Government is keen to hear the views of the agricultural sector, consumer groups and food retailers. To this end Defra will be holding a series of meetings, workshops & events to encourage discussion.
DIUS: Promoting public engagement on increasingly complex science issues and encouraging more people to choose science as a career are the key issues to be tackled by a new consultation (closes on October 17, 2008). The consultation to develop a Science and Society Strategy was launched by the Minister for Science and Innovation, Ian Pearson, at Thinktank in the Birmingham Science Museum.
It seeks input on three keys areas - How to:
* improve communication, generate interest, increase participation and convey the relevance of science
* build trust & confidence in scientific research in the public & private sectors
* inspire young people from diverse backgrounds to become tomorrow's skilled scientists
Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides
SGC: Judges and magistrates are given a clear message that driving offences that result in death are serious offences and should receive appropriate sentences in a definitive guideline published last week. Lengthy custodial sentences are recommended by the Sentencing Guidelines Council for cases involving prolonged, persistent & deliberate bad driving or where drivers are intoxicated or under the influence of drugs.
The definitive guideline covers four offences - causing death by:
* dangerous driving
* careless driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
* careless driving
* driving : unlicensed, disqualified or uninsured
DH: As one of the key elements of Lord Darzi's NHS Next Stage Review, Modernising Allied Health Professions Careers: A Competence-Based Framework, sets out new web-based tools for AHPs that will help them plan a more flexible career path. There are 76,928 allied health professionals working in the NHS across 14 disciplines that are often the first-contact practitioner across the community and hospitals settings.
Managers and teams can use the framework to describe the full range of competences required to meet patient needs. By identifying roles by competences rather than professional groups, service planners & managers can consider new styles of provision and role developments for AHPs.
Wales Office: New guidelines aimed at assisting the procedures for the transfer of powers to the National Assembly for Wales have been welcomed by Secretary of State for Wales Paul Murphy. The Ministry of Justice has published new guidance for UK Government officials who deal with Orders in Council to help make the process more effective.
The new guidance, Devolution Guidance Note 16 (DGN16), outlines seven guiding principles which should be considered when requests for legislation come from the National Assembly for Wales. It also sets out the procedure for dealing with Orders in Council, emphasising the need for a rigorous project management approach.
DH: The Chief Medical Officer, Sir Liam Donaldson, has published his 2007 Annual Report, in which he called for a new focus on teenage health. The report, which reviews key health problems and developments over the last year, highlighted the unique health needs of teenagers. He also called for the legal blood alcohol level limit for drivers aged between 17 and 20 years to be reduced to zero.
The teenage years are a risk taking period of life, closely tied to the rite of passage into adulthood. Although the majority of teenagers cope well, large numbers of teens take part in high risk behaviours such as binge drinking, drug taking and unsafe sex. There are also teenagers living with chronic illnesses. Sir Liam's report urged health services to take better account of the specific health needs of young people and sets out Top Ten Tips for teenagers.
NAO: Tim Burr, head of the National Audit Office, has issued his audit certificate on HM Revenue & Customs 2007-08 Trust Statement of revenue from tax and duties. He has issued an unqualified audit opinion on the truth & fairness of the Trust Statement. However, in common with the previous 5 years, he has issued a qualified opinion on the regularity of tax credits owing to high levels of error and fraud.
The Dept's latest estimates show that adjustments to awards led to £1bn being overpaid to claimants in 2006-07, compared with £1.7bn in 2005-06. At 31 March 2008, £4.3bn remained to be recovered from claimants, of which £1.8bn was in doubt. As part of its Tax Credits Transformation Programme the Department is evaluating service improvement pilots that are designed to assist claimants who need extra support in making a claim and reporting changes in circumstances. It anticipates that most of these will be implemented by April 2009.
Cabinet Office: Publishing the Civil Service Commissioners' online annual report for 2007/08 (which details the Commissioners' work throughout the year in regulating appointments to the Civil Service and hearing appeals under the Civil Service Code), Janet Paraskeva said: "This year has seen a significant increase in the number of women appointed to jobs at the very top of the Civil Service, but overall there was a further decline in the percentage of all senior appointments that went to women……………………. We are concerned to note that there is some evidence to suggest that successful female civil servants are disproportionately more likely to be paid under the advertised rate than their male colleagues”.
Commenting on the draft Constitutional Renewal Bill, Ms Paraskeva said: "We have waited a very long time for civil service legislation, now the possibility is at last here we must get it right”.
CCRC: The Annual Report & Accounts of the Criminal Cases Review Commission for 2007/08 has been published. The Commission is the independent public body investigates possible miscarriages of justice in England, Wales & Northern Ireland and decides if cases should be referred to the appeal courts.
A total of 1,087 cases were closed (compared with 990 the previous year), which has significantly reduced waiting times for applicants, despite a real-terms reduction in the Commission's budget, which has necessitated a corresponding reduction in the number of case reviewers.
Defra: The Annual Report to Parliament setting out progress of the UK's Climate Change Programme has been published by Defra. It brings together material, most of which has been released previously, to provide a full summary of statistical data & Government activity in the field of climate change in the last 12 months.
Alongside it, the Department of Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform has published its fifth annual report on progress on the 2003 Energy White Paper.
HA: The Highways Agency has published its Annual Report for 2007-08. During 2007-08 the number of deaths and serious injuries on England's motorways and major A roads was further reduced; eight major road improvement schemes were completed; Active Traffic Management (ATM) was successfully trialled on the M42 and will be extended to more of the motorways around Birmingham; and they opened the M606/M62 high occupancy vehicle lane, near Bradford in West Yorkshire - the first of its kind on a UK motorway.
The Agency has also taken forward the M25 DBFO (Design, Build, Finance, Operate) contract, which includes adding capacity to 63 miles of the M25 motorway and expects to the award of the contract in late 2008.
HMCS: Courts running more efficiently with fewer delays, a greater use of community justice schemes, and victims of domestic violence having their cases heard in the safety & comfort of specialist courts, are just a few of the success stories reported on in the HMCS 2007/08 Annual Report.
FCO: The Government's 11th (2007) Annual Report on Strategic Export Controls has been published. The Report describes UK policy and international developments in export control regimes, as well as including information on licensing decisions made during 2006.
RCPO: The Revenue and Customs Prosecutions Office (RCPO) has published its Annual Report 2007/08 and its Director, David Green, commented: "As a specialist prosecutor, our caseload has remained complex, challenging and varied. The mix has included Missing Trader Intra-Community (MTIC) fraud, large-scale drug importation cases conducted for the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA), complex tax fraud, the illegal arms trade and breaches of export controls, money laundering and the first prosecutions in support of the National Minimum Wage (NMW) legislation".
General Reports and Other Publications
HC: Two independent watchdogs have called for a renewed drive to improve public health services after analysing the success of policies over the past decade. A new report by the Healthcare Commission and Audit Commission assesses the impact government policy has had on:
* narrowing health inequalities
* improving sexual and mental health
* reducing smoking, alcohol misuse and obesity
While there have been some major improvements (ex. premature deaths in under-75s from circulatory diseases (fall of 45%), cancer (dropped 15%) and advances in tackling smoking & improving sexual health) these rates of improvement have not been matched in the areas of alcohol misuse and obesity.
NAO: According to a new National Audit Office report, the further education capital programme is enabling colleges in England to make good progress in renewing & rationalising their estate, replacing poor quality buildings with high quality, more suitable facilities.
Most new buildings are of a high standard, meeting the needs of colleges and learners, and they have been completed on or close to their budget. The earlier projects did not perform well when judged against environmental sustainability criteria, but since 2007 the Learning and Skills Council has required higher environmental standards in new college buildings.
PADA: The Personal Accounts Delivery Authority has published a summary of the responses to its consultation on possible charging structures for personal accounts. The document also sets out how the responses received will help the delivery authority shape its recommendations.
The delivery authority intends to provide advice to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions on a potential approach for the charging structure for personal accounts before the start of the procurement process. There was no clear consensus view on the most appropriate charging structure for personal accounts, but the majority of respondents were in favour of either:
* An annual management charge (AMC)-only structure, or
* A contribution charge with an AMC
OFT: The market in personal current accounts is not working well for consumers, the Office of Fair Trading has said in its report 'Personal current accounts in the UK' which looks at the £8bn industry. The report found that much of banks' revenue from current accounts is derived opaquely, with 81% of income coming from two sources:
* insufficient funds charges (£2.6bn) and
* net credit interest income (£4.1bn)
Overall, the report finds that the personal current account market may be stuck in an equilibrium that does not work well for consumers. Limited understanding of key account elements, combined with low confidence in switching, means that banks have less incentive to provide better offers on charges and interest. But without better offers from banks, consumers have little incentive to switch.
NAO: The O2, a central part of plans to regenerate the Greenwich Peninsula, opened on time in June 2007 and has become a highly successful entertainment venue which has boosted local employment. According to the National Audit Office, however, housing development on the rest of the Peninsula is taking longer than originally expected and financial returns to the taxpayer are likely to be lower as a result.
The report found that the number of houses built, making up most of the project, is two years behind original forecasts. English Partnerships’ oversight of the regeneration can influence the quality of the project, but it cannot easily speed up delivery by house-builders. The delay increases the risk that English Partnerships might not meet its forecast of 4,250 housing units by 2016.
Delays to the housing programme have, however, freed up capacity and brought forward the development of schools & commercial space. This development will benefit the growing community on the Peninsula, as it will allow them to live, work and use recreational facilities on the Peninsula from the day they move in.
HEFCE: The Higher Education - Business and Community Interaction (HE-BCI) survey, published last week, revealed that higher education's contribution to the economy continued to grow in 2006-07, reaching record levels. UK higher education institutions (HEIs) received £2.64bn from business and community interaction in 2006-07. This is a 17% rise from the last survey (for 2005-06).
Through interacting with business and the community Universities & colleges help turn knowledge into new companies, products and services. They also deliver professional training to improve skills, provide consultancy to solve problems and undertake projects to tackle social challenges.
Cabinet Office: Three major departments of state are making good progress in building their capability to meet the demands of public service delivery in the 21st century, the Government claimed when the Cabinet Office when it published the first three new Capability Review reports, which outline the progress made by each department in question - the Home Office, Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) - since their performance was first assessed two years ago.
It is claimed that the Progress and Next Steps reports show that all three departments have improved on their previous scores and are delivering key improvements in their business areas. The publication of these reports marks the start of the second round of Capability Reviews for all government departments which will be undertaken during 2008/9.
CLG: The best parks and green spaces across the country have been announced by Baroness Andrews. A record 743 green spaces across the country, all freely accessible to the public, have received a Green Flag Award - the national standard for quality parks and green spaces. Winners are judged to be welcoming and well maintained with the support and involvement of the local community.
The Green Flags scheme is currently expanding nationally and internationally - three parks in Northern Ireland, 1 park in the Republic of Ireland, 5 parks in Scotland and 2 parks in Holland have this year also received a Green Flag Award due to ambitious pilot projects.
DWP: New research launched by Anne McGuire, Minister for Disabled People, provides a unique snapshot of the lives of 1,860 disabled people in Great Britain. Published in the run-up to the release of a Green Paper on Welfare Reform, the report showed that nine out of ten working disabled people believe their job has a positive impact on their life, keeping them active and giving them financial independence.
Experiences and Expectations of Disabled People reports their views on a range of the issues, including employment, education, transport, health and discrimination. Commissioned by the Office for Disability Issues, the study actively involved disabled people throughout the research process.
ESRC: Standards in stem cell research help both scientists & regulators to manage uncertainty and the unknown, according to new research funded by the Economic and Social Research Council. Efforts to standardise practices across different labs is, however, a balancing act where the autonomy of scientists and fragility of living material need to be weighed against the need for comparable data.
The ambition in many quarters to scale up the production of human embryonic stem cells and move towards clinical trials requires that different laboratories are able to produce to a standard quality of cells. Developing common standards in stem cell production is not straightforward as so much is still unknown in this science.
Legislation / Legal
MoJ: New laws came into force last week that Justice Secretary, Jack Straw, claims will give homeowners & 'have-a-go-heroes' defending themselves greater confidence. The self defence provisions of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 are intended to make clear to the public, prosecutors and the police that those who use reasonable force to protect themselves or others should not be prosecuted.
If they use no more force than absolutely necessary, people should have confidence that the law will support them, so long as:
* they acted instinctively
* they acted to effect a lawful arrest or to prevent the escape of a person lawfully detained, and
* the level of force used was not excessive or disproportionate in the circumstances as they viewed them
* they feared for their safety (or that of others) and acted based on their perception of the threat faced and the scale of that threat
DIUS: New measures to ensure all apprenticeships are of a uniform high quality and have the confidence of both apprentices & employers have been announced by David Lammy and Jim Knight as the Government published its draft Apprenticeships Bill.
The Bill, which will establish a statutory basis for the entire apprenticeships programme, will set out clearly the relationship between different parts of the apprenticeship system and redefine the 'blueprint' outlining what apprenticeships should contain. It will also help to ensure schools provide advice about apprenticeships where appropriate so that young people are properly informed about apprenticeships as a career choice.
MoJ: Justice Secretary, Jack Straw, has published the Political Parties and Elections Bill which he claims‘will tighten controls on spending by candidates, improve the transparency of donations to political parties and substantially strengthen the powers of the Electoral Commission’.
EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.
UK-IPO: The UK-Intellectual Property Office has responded to the European Commission's proposal to extend the term of copyright protection for sound recordings from 50 to 95 years. Additional measures in the Directive include a proposal that record producers set aside 20% of all revenues for a fund for session artists. A 'use it or lose' it clause should enable performers to regain the rights in recordings over 50 years old which are no longer available commercially.
Evidence suggested that extending the term of protection would negatively impact on consumers and industry. Comments on the proposal should be sent, by the end of August, to: Termextension@ipo.gov.uk.
Charity and Voluntary Sector
DH: Care Services Minister, Ivan Lewis, has announced new funding arrangements for Third Sector organisations in health & social care that he claims will make funding more transparent & effective. The new system, known as the Third Sector Investment Programme, replaces the 'Section 64 General Scheme of Grants'.
There will be two new funding schemes for 2009/10, which are now open for applications (closing date for stage one applications is 8 September 2008):
* The Strategic Partner Programme
* The Innovation, Excellence and Service Development fund
BIG: Four popular parks in England are set for a major transformation after sharing in grants totalling £8m from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and Big Lottery Fund’s (BIG) ‘Parks for People’ initiative. Brockwell Park in London, Whitstable Castle Park in Kent, Castle Park, Frodsham, and Hale Park, both in Cheshire, will spend the Lottery millions on regenerating & revitalising these much-loved green spaces.
Wesley Kerr, horticultural broadcaster and Chair of HLF's Committee for London:
"The UK has perhaps the finest legacy of public parks and landscapes of any country in the world. This 'green and pleasant' inheritance needs constant maintenance, preservation and enhancement. HLF's £400m investment in our historic environment of parks and landscapes over the past 14 years has been the biggest since Victorian times”.
Launched by HLF and BIG to celebrate what we all love most about the UK’s public parks, the ‘Postcards from the Park’ photography competition runs until 1 August 2008, with £1,000 in Jessops vouchers up for grabs for the overall winner.
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