In the News
Newswire – PAC: Is this manipulation of figures worthy of the sacrifice being asked of our armed forces in the field? - The Public Accounts Committee has published its 33rd Report, Session 2007 - 08: Ministry of Defence: Major Projects Report 2007, which provides information on the time, cost & performance of 20 of the Ministry of Defence's largest military equipment projects where the main investment decision has been taken, as well as the top ten projects in the earlier Assessment Phase.
Edward Leigh MP, Chairman of the Committee of Public Accounts, said in the accompanying press release:
"The Ministry of Defence is trying to persuade Parliament that the forecast costs of major defence equipment projects are under control - by moving expenditure from those projects to other defence budgets. This is not acceptable: it diminishes Parliamentary accountability; and the transferred costs will doubtless have resulted in those budget holders who have taken them on having to cut their own defence activities.
It is a well-established principle that delaying major equipment projects leads to higher costs in the long run. The Department should identify lessons from the five and a half years it took to award the contract for the Royal Navy's two new aircraft carriers.
"In the light of a long line of critical reports by our Committee, the MoD has made numerous reforms to its procurement working practices. Lasting improvements have not resulted.
The Department must address the systemic weaknesses underlying cost increases and time delays. There is a 'conspiracy of optimism' in the Department and industry leading to the acceptance of unrealistically low estimates of the cost of bringing major equipment into service."
As in the Major Projects Report 2006, the Ministry of Defence (the Department) has primarily reduced the forecast costs for its top 20 projects by reallocating expenditure to other projects or budget lines..………. such transfers mean that the forecast costs reported to Parliament do not give the full picture of the expenditure required to bring equipment into military service as they fail to include training and logistics support costs.
CLG: Will it help them to be more faithful to the UK? - Communities Secretary Hazel Blears has set out how Government envisages working in future alongside the many faith based organisations in communities. A new Framework for Partnership outlines new support and £7.5m worth of investment over three years to encourage & enable greater local activity, bringing people from different religions and beliefs together.
The financial support is intended to help ensure that:
* there is an independent Regional Faith Forum in every English region
* community groups have access to funding under the Faiths in Action Fund
In addition the government will:
* produce a guidance leaflet for local communities which shows ways in which individuals & groups can work together with those with different faiths & beliefs and those with none
* provide supportive guidance to local authorities on the practical steps they can take such as supporting shared community spaces
* work in partnership with the Inter Faith Network for the UK to organise an Inter Faith Week - encouraging faith communities across the country at all levels to raise awareness and celebrate inter faith work
DWP: Eleven years on, Labour finally accepts it has to 'think the unthinkable'! - Incapacity benefits and Income Support are to be abolished as part of ‘new’ proposals (consultation closes on 22 October 2008), announced by Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, James Purnell, in a Green Paper: No one written off: reforming welfare to reward responsibility, which included proposals to:
* scrap incapacity benefits by 2013 and
* abolish Income Support to create a more streamlined system based on just two working-age benefits - the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), for those who have a medical condition which prevents them from working and Jobseekers' Allowance (JSA) for everyone who is able to work
People with severe disabilities will get more cash under ESA, while the rest who qualify for the benefit will be placed in a ‘work’ category. They will receive personalised back-to-work support to help them prepare for work and overcome any barriers they face. It will be made clear to this group that ESA is a temporary situation to help them get fit to return to work.
The green paper also sets out proposals to move towards a streamlined benefit system, moving lone parents with children under seven on to JSA. While lone parents with children under seven would not be required to actively seek work, the green paper proposes voluntary measures to give them more support to prepare them for work and includes a 'skills for work' premium on top of existing benefits to act as a weekly financial incentive.
People unemployed for over two years and those abusing the system could be forced to take part in full-time activity such as community work at any point in their claim. People will have to train to get their job skills and drug users would be required to seek treatment or could lose their benefits.
NE: Going green is not just a case of insulation - 20 new Growth Points around the country have been announced by the Department for Communities and Local Government and Dr Helen Phillips, Chief Executive of Natural England, has outlined five green points against which all new developments should be measured.
Natural England wants to see networks of parks, open spaces and wild areas in all areas of significant growth and regeneration. To set developers on the right path, Natural England has set out its 'Green Test' for all new developments.
* Provides greenspace within 300m of every home
* Supports an increase in priority species and habitats in and around new developments
* Provides a wide variety of parks, wild areas and open spaces to meet the needs of both nature and people
* Equips new development to cope with the effects of climate change and extreme weather events
* Is designed to ensure it fits into any surrounding countryside and into its landscape setting
CLG: Foundation for a less worrying life - Home improvements for older and disabled people will be supported & promoted by 'Foundations' after they were awarded the contract to run the national body for Home Improvement Agencies for the next three years.
Home Improvement Agencies (HIAs) help thousands of older or disabled to remain in their own home, living independently & safely by advising on home improvements & adaptations and helping them to apply for local authority grants or loans. They also help to identify reputable local contractors to do the work and oversee the work to ensure that their clients are completely satisfied.
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MoD: A Royal Marine Reservist - Lance Corporal Matthew Croucher - who dived on a live grenade to save his comrades in Afghanistan has been honoured with the nation's highest gallantry award - the George Cross. Amazingly, he survived virtually unscathed as his body armour and a rucksack on his back absorbed most of the explosion.
The George Cross ranks with the Victoria Cross as the nation's highest award for gallantry. It was instituted in 1940 to recognise actions of supreme gallantry in circumstances for which the Victoria Cross was not appropriate. Thus, it may be awarded to civilians, as well as members of the Armed Forces for acts of gallantry not in the presence of the enemy, including, for example, military explosive ordnance disposal personnel.
In addition, 135 other members of the Armed Forces were also honoured on Friday 25th July for their gallantry and service in Afghanistan, Iraq and other operations around the world.
OGC BS: OGCbuying.solutions took part in an eAuction on 24 July 2008 - reverse auctioning a requirement for 5,000 laptops and 5,000 desktop PCs. Significant savings are expected; the previous 8 eAuctions that OGC have run are claimed to have resulted in 34.5% savings, amounting to £27.65m.
ScotGov: Europe's largest onshore windfarm has been given the green light by the Scottish Government. First Minister Alex Salmond said the 152-turbine Clyde windfarm near Abington in South Lanarkshire would be capable of powering up to 320,000 homes. He also claimed that: “The Scottish Government has an ambitious target to generate 31% of Scotland's electricity demand from renewable sources by 2011 and 50% by 2020”.
SE: Sport England received praise in the House of Lords recently when the Rugby Football Union’s highly successful Go Play Rugby Scheme was debated. The scheme surpassed all expectations of trying to convert 6,000 adults back into playing the sport by convincing 9,500 players to return to the game between September 2007 and April 2008.
The campaign had two main elements – a national media campaign to raise awareness & interest in playing rugby coordinated with local club based recruitment activity. Its largest funder was the National Sports Foundation with an award of £500,000.
BERR: Business Secretary John Hutton has confirmed the Government will establish a National Nuclear Laboratory and launch a competition to appoint a commercial operator to run the organisation. It is intended to become an ‘international centre of excellence in nuclear research and development’, playing a vital role in cleaning up both the UK's nuclear waste legacy and also contributing to the programme of nuclear new build.
The NNL will bring together world-class nuclear research capability comprising the staff in Nexia Solutions and facilities owned by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), including the Sellafield Technology Centre. It will be owned by Government, but run by a commercial operator – expected to be in place by spring 2009
PCS: Harriet Harman has announced that the report stage of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill will now be debated after the summer recess 22 July - 6 October 2008. A number of restrictive anti-abortion amendments have been tabled, as well as positive amendments to improve the law for women.
The Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union is committed to defending a woman's right to choose and encourages members to take every opportunity to lobby their MP during the summer and autumn. They are asking that people write to their MP and ask them to sign up to the early day motion 2009 on abortion law.
Defra: Climate Change Minister, Joan Ruddock, has launched a new information hub website intended to be a one-stop shop offering easy access to the most comprehensive collection of resources on adapting to climate change available in the UK. It includes details of how the climate will alter, links to practical tools for adaptation, and examples of what is already being done around the country.
STFC: For the first time astronomers have found a way to obtain a ‘clean view’ of the elusive disks of matter surrounding supermassive black holes. By using a polarising filter on the Science and Technology Facility Council’s UK Infrared Telescope (UKIRT) in Hawaii, they have been able to see through the clouds of dust which surround these black holes.
In a similar way that a fisherman would wear polarised sunglasses to help get rid of the glare from the water surface and allow him to see more clearly under the water, the filter on the telescope allowed the astronomers to see beyond surrounding clouds of dust and gas to the blue colour of the disk in infrared light.
WAG: A bursary to promote research into sustainability has been announced by Minister for Environment, Sustainability & Housing, Jane Davidson. A total of £105,000 will be provided over 3 years to fund the programme from 2008-11. The aim of the bursary is to increase specialist knowledge on sustainability issued in Wales and also enable the production of high quality research on key sustainability issues.
PCS: Following last week’s 3 day strike by passport workers, the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union haswarned that the effects could continuewell into August with backlogs of passport applications building up due to the strike, which will now be followed by a work to rule. The union estimates that the strongly supported strike could result in a backlog of as many as 150,000 passport applications.
Staff are angry over restructuring plans which could see the UK’s 7 passport offices reduced to 3 and by a pay offer which leads to the longest serving passport staff receiving no pay rise at all for the fifth year in a row, at a time when nearly £50m has been spent on consultants. Starting salaries in the IPS are as low as £13,109.
Policy Statements and Initiatives
MoJ: A new claims process which will apply to road traffic accident personal injury claims is to be established. Road traffic accident cases comprise approximately 75% of personal injury claims and this new streamlined procedure will provide for early notification of claims valued between £1,000 and £10,000.
The new process is intended to promote early admissions of liability & early settlements and hopefully removes duplication of work from the process. It also introduces fixed time periods and fixed recoverable costs. The Government has also concluded that there should be no change to the small claims limits, including those for personal injury and housing disrepair claims, and that the fast track limit should be increased to £25,000.
DIUS: A new partnership to foster academic cooperation through joint research programmes & academic exchange between the UK and Israel has been announced. The ‘Britain-Israel Research and Academic Exchange Partnership’ (BIRAX) will build on the strong links that already exist between universities in the UK and Israel.
The British Council is also working on proposals to support academic links between Britain and Palestine, which the UK Government will offer equal funding to support. A separate announcement is expected to be made in due course.
CLG: A scheme to deliver more affordable homes for young families and first-time buyers has been set out by Housing Minister Iain Wright. Under a new amendment to the Housing and Regeneration Bill currently being debated in Parliament, new Community Land Trusts (CLT) will be able to cut the cost of getting on the housing ladder as buyers will only pay for the building, not the land, of a property.
A CLT is an independent trust which owns or controls the land and facilities, but not the property, for the benefit of the community. CLTs work by enabling occupiers to pay for the use of buildings & services at prices they can afford, while the value of land, subsidies and other equity benefits are permanently locked in, on behalf of them and future occupiers, by the Community Land Trust.
CLG: A new package of measures to improve skills & education in the Thames Gateway has been unveiled by the government. Improving the skills base of residents is at the heart of a £2.45bn programme to reinvigorate Thames Gateway.
With new jobs being created, and to meet the future skills required to fill those posts, a new Thames Gateway Skills Plan (delivered through the Learning and Skills Council) and Champion was also announced.
BERR: Tougher controls on the trading and transportation of arms have been announced by the Government. The measures include an extension of extra-territorial controls to cover light weapons, plus a tightening of controls on the transport and UK transit of highly sensitive goods. The developments were outlined as part of a further response to a public consultation on the UK Strategic Export Controls.
DH: The national vaccination programme against HPV is being extended to offer protection to an additional 300,000 girls aged 17-18, starting in September 2008. This is in addition to the routine vaccination of girls 12-13 years old which starts this September and it is claimed will save up to 400 lives for each year of girls receiving the vaccine. There will be an additional £10m for PCTs in the 2008/09 financial year to implement this extra programme.
A two year 'catch-up programme' will start in the school year 2009/10 to vaccinate girls aged between 15 - 18. This announcement means that girls, who would not otherwise have been included in this catch-up programme, will now be vaccinated this school year.
Defra: A wide-ranging audit of England's natural resources - its wildlife, habitats and ecosystems – has been launched by Environment Secretary Hilary Benn. The two year project will result in a comprehensive picture of our natural environment, the benefits it provides to society, and how it is changing. The results will be used by Government to prioritise work so that the natural environment is enhanced and damage to it, including biodiversity loss, is effectively tackled.
Mr Benn also confirmed that Natural England will, from 2010, enhance the Entry Level Stewardship Scheme to cover upland areas.
WAG: A £23.5m investment in world class research into some of the world’s major environmental challenges has been announced. The funding will support a £55m project to create a Biosciences and Environment Alliance between Aberystwyth and Bangor Universities bringing together the newly formed Institute for Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS) at Aberystwyth and the College of Natural Sciences at BangorUniversity.
The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council is investing £14m for capital developments at IBERS, as well as ongoing research funding.
Cabinet Office: Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) women from across London have taken part in the first in a series of Government events, which aim to encourage them to become councillors in local government - ultimately making councils more representative of the communities they serve and enable more informed decision making. The number of BAME women councillors increased from 0.6% in 1997 to 0.9% in 2006, meaning it could take more than 130 years for councils to reflect society.
WAG: A plan to extend the mandatory surveillance scheme for Clostridium difficile has been unveiled by the Chief Medical Officer for Wales. Currently only information on patients aged 65 & over is published, but this will now be extended to cover all confirmed cases of the infection in patients aged two and above.
The WAG will also issue a new protocol for testing for C.difficile to ensure consistency across Wales. The data will be published for the first time in September 2008 on the number of patients confirmed with C. difficile between January and the end of June 2008. Following an evaluation of the data, this will form part of the routine health associated infection publications in 2009.
DfT: Plans to tackle the numbers of motorcyclists killed or injured on Britain's roads have been published by Road Safety Minister Jim Fitzpatrick, who said: "Motorcyclists are the single most vulnerable group on Britain's roads today. They account for just 1% of all road traffic, but for 20% of all those killed on the roads”.
The new Motorcycling Strategy Action Plan - agreed with the National Motorcycle Council - sets out what the Government will do to improve safety for motorcyclists and to continue to facilitate motorcycling as a choice of travel.
BERR: A list of 10 proposed projects that could provide clean, green energy from the tide in the Severn Estuary is being considered in a feasibility study, commissioned by Secretary of State for Energy John Hutton. A short list will be published later this year highlighting which preferred proposals could be taken forward for more extensive research.
The proposals gathered will now be assessed & used to develop the draft Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) scoping report. This will be a two phase process with two public consultations: - one on the scope towards the end of 2008 and one on the evidence and conclusions at the end of the feasibility study in late 2009 or early 2010.
CLG: Housing Minister Caroline Flint has set out the Government's latest proposals for green standards applying to new housing as she unveiled a ‘progress’ report on eco-towns. This progress report is also meant to clarify how the planning process for eco-towns will work, making it clear that in each case a planning application will have to be submitted and that it will be ‘for the local authority to consider that application’.
A final decision on up to ten potential locations will be made in early 2009, after which the individual schemes will each have to submit planning applications.
Defra: Environment Secretary Hilary Benn has announced plans to explore how the environmental benefits previously provided by set-aside can be developed. Welcoming the latest report from Sir Don Curry's High Level Group on set aside and the environment, Mr Benn said that he accepted the Group's view that implementation in the 2008/09 year was not possible, but that there was a strong case for action, which needs to be implemented as soon as is practical.
He also agreed with the Group's preferred option that would require arable farmers to manage a small percentage of their land primarily for environmental purposes. Farmers would also be encouraged to make the most of this land for wildlife through proposed new 'top-up' options within the Environmental Stewardship scheme.
DH: Mandatory regulation & labelling could be on the cards for the alcohol industry following the launch of a consultation about England's drinking culture. New calculations put the cost of alcohol misuse to society at £17.7bn to £25.1bn per year, with a cost to the NHS of £2.7bn.
The Department of Health consultation (closes 14 October 2008) is published together with independent reviews showing that:
* the drinks industry is not adhering to its own voluntary standards, and
* new evidence suggests that alcohol is a far wider cause of damage to health than previously suspected
BERR: The detailed criteria & process for assessing where new nuclear power stations could safely & securely be built across England and Wales have been set out by the Government in a consultation (closes on 11 November 2008). The Strategic Siting Assessment outlines the process the Government will use for identifying suitable sites for new nuclear power stations. The government is also publishing an environmental study alongside the consultation.
The Government is proposing to invite third parties to nominate sites which it will then assess against a range of criteria. The consultation also sets out the various criteria that would be applied in making that assessment - including those that would automatically rule out sites. The Department expects to have finalised the criteria by early 2009 and will at that time open the invitation for the nomination of sites that could be suitable for new nuclear generation by 2025.
HM Treasury: The Chancellor of the Exchequer has launched a consultation (closes on 15 September 2008) on the 'special resolution regime' which is designed to reduce the impact of a failing bank. The consultation document is published jointly by HM Treasury, the Financial Services Authority and the Bank of England. It builds on previous consultation documents published in January and earlier this month outlining the Authorities' proposals for financial stability and depositor protection.
This technical consultation document sets out further detail on the specifics of the special resolution regime (SRR). It also includes draft clauses for key aspects of the regime, in particular those areas where there has been the most significant interest from stakeholders. These proposals will now be subject to a further period of consultation, prior to the introduction of legislation later in this Parliamentary session.
WAG: All sectors need young people to bring new ideas, energy & enthusiasm and farming is no exception, Rural Affairs Minister Elin Jones said as she launched a consultation (closes on 10 October 2008) on support for young farmers.
Encouraging young entrants to the industry can not only bring innovation & enthusiasm to farming, but it is also important in sustaining rural communities and the Welsh culture. The publication of the consultation meets a One Wales commitment to support young entrants to farming and includes proposals on how to use £2m of funding available from 2010 to best effect.
DH: Plans claiming to improve patient safety and support professionals in sustaining their high standards have been set out for consultation (closes 24 October 2008) by the Chief Medical Officer for England (CMO) Sir Liam Donaldson. In proposals, outlined in the report ‘Medical Revalidation - Principles and Next Steps’, doctors will, be required to renew their professional registration every five years, in order to provide assurance that they are practising to the standard that patients, the public and the profession itself expect.
Patients will be asked for views on their doctor, including:
* Effective communication, including listening, informing & explaining
* Involving patients in treatment decisions
* Care co-ordination & support for self-care and
* Showing respect for patients & treating them with dignity
The revalidation & recertification process will be introduced in stages from spring 2009 following a series of pilots scheduled to begin at the start of the year. These arrangements will be supported by the introduction of Responsible Officers (the consultation on whose introduction closes 24 October 2008), senior doctors in each healthcare organisation who will take responsibility for collating the information needed to support a recommendation on revalidation.
WAG: The Minister for Rural Affairs, Elin Jones, has launched a consultation (closes on 14 October 2008) on the revision of Woodlands for Wales, the Welsh Assembly Government’s Woodland Strategy. The draft plans will lead towards fulfilling the One Wales commitment of creating a Welsh National Forest of native trees.
The previous strategy did not include the importance of trees in towns & cities which, it is now recognised, can reduce urban air temperatures that are set to rise as a result of climate change.
FSA: The Financial Services Authority (FSA) is consulting (closes on 30 September 2008) on a proposal that financial institutions in receipt of liquidity support from a central bank will have a legitimate interest for delaying the public disclosure of such support.
BERR: The Government has welcomed and is consulting (closes 30 October 2008) on an industry agreement to address unlawful file-sharing of film & music online, which has been signed by the six major Internet Service Providers (ISPs), the music and film rights-holders and Government.
ISPs and rights holders will produce a Code of Practice together on how they will deal with alleged repeat infringers, which will be approved by Ofcom, who will also ensure that the self-regulatory mechanism is effective, proportionate and fair to consumers. Government will consult to give this Code legislative underpinning.
DfT: Drivers & hauliers resident outside the UK will not be able to escape punishment under a proposed new system (consultation closes on 17 October 2008) which will give Police and examiners from the Vehicle Operator and Services Agency (VOSA) the power to collect on-the-spot penalties from anyone without a satisfactory UK address from next year. They will also be able to issue penalty points against a non-UK driver's record for endorsable offences.
For the first time VOSA examiners will also have the power to issue fixed penalty notices to hauliers for a range of offences such as breaking driving hours, weight or vehicle safety regulations. In addition to financial penalty deposits, the new measures will enable the Police and VOSA examiners to immobilise any vehicle that has been prohibited from continuing a journey as a result of a driver breaking the rules on drivers' hours or driving a vehicle with defects.
DCMS: Plans to regulate video-on-demand services and product placement on British television are set out in a consultation (closes on 31 October, 2008) document published by Culture Secretary Andy Burnham. The proposals are part of a comprehensive consultation on how the UK should implement the EU Audio Visual Media Services (AVMS) Directive, which includes both compulsory and optional elements, some of which are expected to lead to new legislation.
The consultation focuses on the Government's proposals on three specific issues in the Directive, which are:
* product placement in television and video-on-demand services
* introducing a system for regulating video-on-demand services in the UK
* controls over the content of non-EU satellite channels which are uplinked from a ground station in the UK
Defra: Defra has launched a consultation (closes on 17 October 2008) on legislation to allow local authorities in England to work more easily together on animal health. In 2006, the Eves review of the animal health and welfare delivery landscape highlighted that there was a legal obstacle to local authorities carrying out animal health work for other local authorities and recommended removing it.
The proposed Legislative Reform Order (LRO) to bring in this change, which will bring animal health in line with all other policy areas in England.
NE: Environmental organisations, farmers, landowners and the public are being invited to have their say on how the laws protecting the natural environment are enforced, as Natural England launched a consultation into its forthcoming enforcement policy.
The consultation (closes on 18 October 2008) is designed to seek views on the levels of enforcement and the processes that should apply to them. Natural England will then publish its updated enforcement policy in 2009.
Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides
WAG: Help is now at hand with practical information on how your community can make a difference with global warming in the Welsh Assembly Government’s Community Action Pack for Tackling Climate Change, which highlights projects covering energy, transport, water and food.
As well as ideas & case studies the pack details how groups can start projects and drive them through to conclusion. Produced by WAG, with assistance from Cynnal Cymru, the pack also contains a DVD of community projects.
NICE: Two new clinical guidelines have been launched, one from the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) and one from The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommending that all patients suspected of having a stroke should be admitted as quickly as possible to an acute stroke unit, either from the community or by being transferred from A&E. The unit should check if the patient is eligible for thrombolysis (clot-busting drugs) and administer them if appropriate.
The NICE guideline covers the acute stage of stroke or transient ischaemic attack, and the RCP guideline is the third edition of the National Clinical Guideline for Stroke. The RCP guideline incorporates the NICE guideline and also covers recovery & rehabilitation, secondary prevention, long term care and has new sections on commissioning & resources. The guidelines were produced in close collaboration with each other, and both reference & relate to the Department of Health’s National Stroke Strategy (2007).
NICE: The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has published a short clinical guideline on appropriate prescribing of antibiotics for respiratory tract infections (RTIs) in adults and children in primary care. Evidence shows that antibiotics have limited effectiveness in treating a large proportion of RTIs in adults and children and complications are likely to be rare if antibiotics are withheld.
NICE: The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has published its final guidance on the use of drug-eluting stents for the treatment of coronary artery disease. This is a part review of guidance on the use of coronary artery stents published in October 2003. Publication of this appraisal follows a meeting of the Appeal Panel on 31 March 2008, which heard an appeal from stent manufacturer Cordis. This appeal was not upheld by the Appeal Panel.
NICE: The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has issued new public health guidance on mass-media and point-of-sales measures to prevent the uptake of smoking by children and young people.
Children and young people who smoke are two to six times more susceptible to coughs, increased phlegm and wheezing than their non-smoking peers. Smoking can also impair the growth of their lungs and is a cause of asthma-related symptoms in childhood and adolescence.
NICE: The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has published its final guidance on the use of continuous subcutaneous insulin infusion (CSII or ‘insulin pump’) therapy. This is a review of guidance on the use this technology published in February 2003. Insulin pump therapy is not recommended for the treatment of people with type 2 diabetes.
NICE: The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) and the National Collaborating Centre for Women’s and Children’s Health have issued updated guidance to doctors & midwives on how to support & care for women being offered and undergoing induction of labour. The guidance revises areas where new information has become available since the original guidance was published in 2001.
It recommends that midwives and doctors provide women with evidence-based information about a range of key issues such as why induction is being offered, the risks & benefits of induction and different pain relief options, so they can make decisions that are right for them and their baby.
Ofgem: Energy regulator Ofgem has moved to clear away confusion surrounding social tariffs – energy deals for vulnerable customers and fuel poor customers (those spending more than a tenth of their income on energy). The move is part of the regulator’s new guidelines on the types of initiatives that energy suppliers can include towards the social spending commitments agreed with Government.
Ofgem’s new guidelines provide more clarity & certainty on what will be counted towards this increased social expenditure and they set a tighter definition for social tariffs. The regulator has specified that in future, for a supplier’s social tariff to count as such against their spend commitments it must be as good as the lowest tariff they offer to customers in that area, including online deals. So vulnerable & fuel poor customers who struggle most to pay their energy bills will be assured of being on the best deal their supplier offers in their area.
OFT: The Office of Fair Trading has published its Annual Report 2007-08, alongside its Positive Impact Report which shows that the OFT is saving consumers around £326m per year. The OFT has a target of delivering financial benefits to consumers of at least five times its cost to the taxpayer and the report reveals that the OFT has exceeded this and is currently delivering benefits of six times its annual budget to consumers.
MoD: The Ministry of Defence's Annual Report and Accounts 2007/2008 have been published and they state that the ‘Armed Forces are achieving their policy & military objectives and met the Public Service Agreement target for Operations’.
In order to achieve operational success, the department has had to take a level of risk against other defence objectives, including:
* The Armed Forces consistently and reliably deployed & sustained forces at immediate readiness for current operations. However, this meant it was impossible for them to be ready at the same time for the full range of potential contingent operations in planning assumptions.
* The continuing high operational tempo has meant that the Army and the RAF did not meet individual separate service or unit harmony guidelines. The Service Personnel Plan continues to make improvement in this area.
Monitor: Monitor, the independent regulator of NHS foundation trusts, comments on the impact of foundation trust status in its Annual Report and Accounts 2007-08, saying that Foundation Trust status has begun to change the attitudes, focus and priorities of NHS boards.
The report outlines Monitor’s progress in its 3 core areas of activity:
* the operation of a proportionate, risk based regulatory regime for NHS foundation trusts
* assessing applicants for NHS foundation trust status
* developing the capabilities of NHS foundation trusts (through programmes such as the introduction and promotion of service line management)
YF: Figures released by Government in conjunction with the Yorkshire Forward Annual Report and Accounts, show that Yorkshire Forward has again exceeded its annual targets for growing Yorkshire & Humber’s economy. Culminating in the launch of the new Business Link Yorkshire in April 2008, the past year saw Yorkshire Forward help to create 1,231 new businesses in the region and support 29,065 businesses in improving their performance, smashing the target set of 23,575.
National Archives: The Office of Public Sector Information has published the United Kingdom Report on the Re-Use of Public Sector Information 2008. This annual report marks the third anniversary of the UK's implementation of the European Directive on the re-use of public sector information. The report also coincides with the European Commission's review of the implementation of the Directive and will feed into the review process.
The European Commission has praised the UK for its commitment to public sector information, much of which has been achieved through OPSI´s central policy role. The UK is seen as an exemplar and leader in public sector information across Europe.
FSCS: The Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) improved its service to consumers while cutting its costs during 2007/08, according to its latest annual report. At the same time, the Scheme passed the billion pound mark in compensation paid to consumers.
The Scheme ended the year achieving its core target of completing 90% of new claims within 6 months of receiving an application for compensation. It bettered this considerably in some areas, such as credit union claims, where it completed more than 96% of claims within two weeks, according to the report.
General Reports and Other Publications
Ofsted: The Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills’s (Ofsted) latest report finds programme-led apprenticeships produce learners that are better prepared for the workforce and achieve their full apprenticeship in a shorter time. However despite this, participation has declined (falling by 58% from 2005 to 2007), raising concern that more needs to be done to promote & understand the benefits of the programme.
The report, 'The impact of programme-led apprenticeships', evaluated programme-led apprenticeships in terms of improving participation and achievement by learners. These apprenticeships are found to be an important alternative to traditional employer-led apprenticeships, providing a path for young people who may find it difficult to gain employment, or for those who require an initial phase of upfront training before progressing onto an employer-led apprenticeship.
CRC: The Commission for Rural Communities new report ‘Rural Financial Poverty: Priorities for action’ shows that the proportion of rural households in relative poverty rose from 16% to 19% between 2004 and 2007 - the equivalent of 1.6m people. The increasing proportion of children living in poor working households and the dramatic rise in the proportion of pensioners living in poverty are particularly striking.
A companion paper ‘Rural Financial Poverty: Good practice’ describes how an increasing number of people living in rural communities are working with local and regional partners to develop innovative solutions to address poverty in rural England.
ESRC: For the first time, children as young as 5 have been shown to understand issues regarding integration and separation. The research, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), confirms that the ethnic composition of primary schools has a direct impact on children’s attitudes towards those in other ethnic groups and on their ability to get on with their peers.
Professor Brown concludes: “Our findings add to a growing body of evidence suggesting that the more contact children have with other ethnic groups, the more cross-group friendships they will have and the less prejudiced they will be”. This argues against policies leading to reductions in school diversity such as the promotion of single faith schools”.
SE: Employers can play a key role in getting the nation playing more sport, a new study has revealed. Findings from the Well@Work pilot programme, the first of its kind in the UK, showed that workplace health programmes can have a big impact on levels of sports participation, fruit & vegetable intake and staff morale.
The project involved a wide range of both public and private workplaces including a factory, a hospital, small and medium-sized companies, voluntary organisations and a call centre. The research found that:
* Over 80% of the projects led to some increase in sport and recreation participation
* Popular activities included team-based events, competitions and ‘come and try’ sessions
CLG: The Government has welcomed Matthew Taylor MP's report into rural economies and affordable housing, which finds that long term under supply of housing in rural areas is holding our rural communities back. It recommends a new drive to boost rural jobs and community led affordable housing through enterprise hubs, greater home working, neighbourhood extensions to market towns, rural exception sites for local people in villages and an experimental restriction of second homes in national parks.
NAO: The Prison Service has made significant progress in the way it manages its buying of goods & services such as food, clothing and utilities, the National Audit Office has reported. In 2003 the NAO found that the Prison Service’s procurement function was ‘fragmented and costly to deliver’. Since this report, the Prison Service has implemented a new procurement strategy, led by a new centralised professional procurement team backed up by regional purchasing units, which negotiate central contracts for a range of goods & services.
At the same time the Prison Service has introduced a shared service centre to provide administrative functions, including purchasing, for prisons. The implementation of these two reforms has enabled the Prison Service to make significant savings in both purchasing & administrative costs.
NAO: Jobcentre Plus, The Pension Service and the Disability and Carers Service provided services to 22m customers in 2007-08, over 80% of whom were satisfied with the services they received according to a report by the National Audit Office. Nevertheless, there were 70,000 complaints recorded in 2007-08 and over 40% of complainants remain dissatisfied.
There is a risk that difficulties in recording complaints may mean that Agencies could miss early warnings of poor service, systematic errors, or problems with their processes. The report also found significant dissatisfaction with how complaints were handled, so improving the quality of responses could prevent complaints being unnecessarily escalated.
HC: The Healthcare Commission said the quality of the services varied widely across the country as it published the most comprehensive assessment of NHS acute inpatient mental health services ever undertaken. Overall, 8 trusts were rated as "excellent" (accounting for 843 beds – 9%), 20 as "good" (2,808 beds – 28%), 30 as "fair" (3,985 beds – 40%) and 11 as "weak" (2,249 beds – 23%).
The review showed that while some trusts struggle to meet standards, there are a number of high-performing trusts proving that it is possible to provide personalised, safe and good quality acute mental health care. However, no trust was scored as "excellent" across all four of the key criteria, showing that every NHS mental health provider trust has room to improve services to patients.
The higher performing trusts were those that actively involved inpatients in their care, provided meaningful activities in a therapeutic environment and that planned care around the needs of the service users. Organisations, service users and carers can access the results of the review and a range of other information relating to mental health trusts, on the Commission’s new mental health website.
MPA: The MPA's Stockwell scrutiny report was discussed by members at the full Authority meeting on Thursday 24 July 2008. Len Duvall, chair of the MPA, said: "The Scrutiny report makes 34 recommendations. The MPA has requested that the Commissioner responds in writing outlining how the MPS intends to implement the recommendations and the Authority will ensure regular updates are received.
We have also asked the Commissioner to submit a report no later than two months after the end of the coroner's inquest outlining any proposals for change as a result of the inquest's findings…………….. Many of the issues that faced the MPS in July 2005 are likely to present themselves again during the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, potentially on a larger scale. Actions taken by the MPS to respond to Stockwell need to be tested continually as to capability and resilience in the context of future policing."
Ofgem: Energy regulators in north west Europe have called on gas network operators in the region to step up efforts to publish more data on gas flows and availability of network capacity. The network companies agreed to increase transparency of information on gas flows across Europe and capacity available to transport gas, which will help the drive to make European energy markets more competitive.
The voluntary information sharing project is being co-ordinated by Britain’s energy regulator, Ofgem and it is part of a wider regional initiative for north west Europe, led by the Dutch Office of Energy Regulation.
Legislation / Legal
DH: The Health and Social Care Act 2008, which will hopefully enhance the safety & quality of care and improve public health, has received Royal Assent. It is expected that the changes will start coming into operation from September 2008.
The new Care Quality Commission intended to bring together the expertise of the Healthcare Commission, Commission for Social Care Inspection and Mental Health Act Commission to providea more consistent approach to regulation at a time when services are increasingly crossing traditional health and social care boundaries.
PB: The Parole Board has welcomed the conclusions & recommendations of the Justice Committee report with regard to imprisonment for public protection sentences & recalls and the pressure on the Parole Board.
Parole Board Chief Executive, Christine Glenn, gave evidence to the Committee in July 2007 with regard to the pressures placed on the Parole Board and how to alleviate them. In response to the findings of the Committee, she said: “I am delighted that they have so fully taken on board the pressures heaped on the Parole Board by the introduction of short-tariff IPP sentences without adequate advance planning…… I do welcome the changes made to IPP sentences in the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act….. Like the Committee I welcome the changes to the recall system in the 2008 Act and I wait with interest to see if they have the intended effect."
DfT: Crossrail, the largest addition to the transport network in London and the South East for more than 50 years has completed its Parliamentary process, with the Crossrail Bill receiving Royal Assent. The Crossrail Act grants powers to acquire land and for Crossrail to be built & maintained. Enabling works will take place next year, with main construction works set to begin in 2010.
The line will run from Maidenhead and Heathrow in the west through tunnels under central London - with new stations at Paddington, Bond Street, Tottenham Court Road, Farringdon, Liverpool Street, Whitechapel, Isle of Dogs (Canary Wharf) - then out to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east.
HO: The age at which someone can apply for a marriage visa will increase from 18 to 21 as part of a crackdown on forced marriage, the Home Office has announced. Statistics show that 30% of the cases dealt with by the Government's Forced Marriage Unit involved victims aged between 18 and 21.
The other 4 key proposals announced are to:
* ask foreign spouses to enter into an agreement to learn English before they come to the UK
* introduce a power to revoke leave to remain where there is evidence that the marriage route has been abused
* require all sponsors to register their intention to marry overseas before they leave the UK
* ensure through a code of practice that specialist teams can identify vulnerable people at risk of forced marriage
BERR: The Regulatory Enforcement and Sanctions Bill, aimed at delivering better regulation to businesses across the country, has received Royal Assent. The Act creates a new body, the Local Better Regulation Office that is intended to provide expert advice for central government on the way that local authorities regulate and help ensure more consistent, risk-based, application of regulation for businesses.
In addition, regulators will also have access to a range of new powers that will provide a more appropriate and efficient alternative to criminal prosecution. The Act will create a provision to ensure regulators do not impose or maintain unnecessary burdens on those they regulate.
EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.
Defra: Defra has published its response to the consultation on measures to implement the Nitrates Directive and its key points include:
* England will continue to designate Nitrate Vulnerable Zones (NVZs) on a selective basis, based on scientific evidence, rather than adopt the whole territory approach of some Member States
* The proposal for cover crops to reduce run-off from bare ground has been dropped
* The Government will pursue a derogation from the European Commission on the 170 kg/ha whole farm nitrogen loading limit
* A package of advice will be provided, including workshops and a helpline, to support farmers in making changes. Slurry storage facilities will be eligible for tax allowances on capital costs up to £50,000p.a.
* Maps of NVZs and guidance on the Action programme measures will be published alongside the Regulations in September;
* Defra is now developing plans for appeals against designation.
OFT: In a landmark cross border case a Dutch Court has granted the OFT an injunction stopping Best Sales B.V. (a mail order company) from sending misleading prize draw mailings to UK consumers offering household goods and health remedies.
The injunction prevents Best Sales B.V. from continuing to send misleading mailings to UK consumers. Failure to comply with the injunction will result in a 1,000,000 Euro fine for each offending mailing sent. Best Sales B.V. are also required to place an agreed statement in two national UK newspapers apologising for having misled UK consumers. This is the first court order that the OFT has gained in the Netherlands and only the second ever cross border injunction sought by the OFT.
DfT: From the 26 July 2008, Regulation (EC) No 1107/2006 imposes new legal obligations on airport operators, air carriers, their agents or tour operators, which will mean airports will have to provide FREEservices that enable disabled passengers to board, disembark and transit between flights. The rights will also apply to people with temporary reduced mobility, such as someone with a broken leg and will give a right to assistance once on the plane.
This is the second stage of measures designed to protect disabled passengers when travelling by air and creating a consistent standard across Europe. From 26 July 2007 it became illegal for airlines, travel agents or tour operators to refuse a booking on the grounds of disability, or to refuse to board a disabled person who has a valid ticket and reservation, except for safety reasons.
To reflect the new European Regulation, the Department for Transport has revised its guidance to the UK aviation industry on how to improve access to air travel for disabled people. This guidance, known as the Access to Air Travel Code of Practice, has been published to coincide with the Regulation coming into force,
DCMS: Plans to regulate video-on-demand services and product placement on British television are set out in a consultation (closes on 31 October, 2008) document published by Culture Secretary Andy Burnham. The proposals are part of a comprehensive consultation on how the UK should implement the EU Audio Visual Media Services (AVMS) Directive, which includes both compulsory and optional elements, some of which are expected to lead to new legislation – See ‘Consultations’ section for more information
Business and Other Briefings
FSA: The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has confirmed it will further simplify how investment advisers can ensure they provide consumers with clear & simple information about costs and services. In response to supportive feedback, the FSA will build on conduct of business regime (COBS) by introducing the new Services and Costs Disclosure Document on 6 August 2008.
It will combine in one document key information about a firm’s services and costs, and provide firms with greater flexibility to explain the cost of their services in their own words. The FSA will be putting transitional arrangements in place to enable firms to continue using the Menu and IDD until 31 August 2009. This will allow firms to exhaust their existing stock of documents and give them time to consider the disclosure option that best suits their business model.
HMRC: Employers should have received details last week from HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) of what they can do to get ready for the tax code changes which will be required for many individuals following the Chancellor's announcement in May.
The Chancellor announced that the basic Personal Allowance is increasing by £600 from £5,435 to £6,035 and the basic rate limit is reducing from £36,000 to £34,800. The new tax codes and rate bands must be used from the first payday on or after 7 September.
HM Treasury: The Chancellor of the Exchequer has launched a consultation (closes on 15 September 2008) on the 'special resolution regime' which is designed to reduce the impact of a failing bank. It builds on previous consultation documents published in January and earlier this month outlining the Authorities' proposals for financial stability and depositor protection – See ‘Consultations’ section for more information.
HMRC: Revenue & Customs Brief 35/08
This Brief draws attention to the fact that some businesses may have overpaid or overstated VAT on fund management services.
HMRC: Revenue & Customs Brief 34/08
This Revenue & Customs brief article sets out HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) policy on retrospective claims by Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) that operated a Partial Exemption (PE) method agreed under the Committee of Vice Chancellors & Principals (CVCP) guidelines.
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