In the News
HO: Sympathy and Justice - Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, has announced the next steps in ensuring that ‘every person’ in the country has access to a Sexual Assault Referral Centre, which provide victims with immediate medical help, counselling, forensic examinations and the opportunity to give evidence anonymously on one site. An extra £1.6m will go towards building 10 new SARCs - with preference given to bids from local areas with the greatest need for additional services. The deadline for funding bids is 7 November 2008.
The Home Secretary also announced an additional £100,000 to create a team of experts to target areas without a SARC and increase victims' access to these facilities. The expert team will include representatives from the Police, Crown Prosecution Service, the Forensic Science Service and an experienced SARC manager.
DH: Unfortunately budgets are not expanding as fast as waistbands - New figures show the cost of obesity to every PCT in England. The figures set out the cost of diseases related to being overweight or obese in 2007 and how much it will cost at a local level in 2015 if we take no action. As last years Foresight report highlighted, nationally being overweight or obese cost the NHS £4.2bn in 2007, rising to £6.3bn in 2015.
The figures are set out in a new 'Healthy Weight, Healthy Lives toolkit: A Toolkit for Developing Local Strategies', which is available to all PCTs and LAs to help them tackle obesity in their areas. It also uses research from the up coming Change4Life campaign to give insight into why families & parents find it difficult to live healthy lives. Change4Life launches this autumn before a major publicity campaign starts in January.
CLG: Two for the price of one - The Government will seek Parliament's approval to move the 2009 local elections in England to the same date as the European elections. Next year's local elections are currently scheduled for 7 May 2009, with the European elections due to take place 4 weeks later on 4 June 2009.
The draft order laid in Parliament must be approved by both Houses no later than by 7 November 2008 if the change is to be made. It also seeks to address a number of technical matters, such as ensuring that, as in 2004, the European election is administered on local government boundaries.
WAG: A warmer welcome for children in the ‘valleys’ - Eradicating child poverty is a Welsh Assembly Government priority, so that under-achievement as a result of poverty does not get passed on, generation to generation. First Minister Rhodri Morgan and Minister for Children and Education, Jane Hutt have highlighted, whilst speaking at the International Forum on Child Welfare, the many strategies & initiatives which are in place to tackle poverty in Wales at different levels to break the cycle.
NAO: Can one regulate to decrease red tape? - The Administrative Burdens Reduction Programme aims to reduce by 25% (by 2010) the cost to businesses of complying with the administrative burdens imposed on them by government regulations. A report out by the National Audit Office found that the programme is providing an impetus across departments to reducing burdens & that the targets have created a stronger incentive to deliver.
In 2007 departments implemented over 150 specific measures to reduce administrative burdens and the majority predict that they will meet their reduction target by 2010. However, the total reported in-year savings of £800m should be treated with caution. They are only indicative estimates of the actual savings and have been subject to only limited independent validation. Only 1% of businesses believed that complying with regulation had become less time consuming in 2007 and 40% said it has become more time consuming.
Newswire-AC: It’s not easy to make outsourcing & new technology deliver real savings - A new Audit Commission report on the efficiency of English councils' back office activities, finds that they face an uphill struggle to contribute to a further £4.9bn of savings before 2010. The report - Back to Front - focuses on savings from back office council operations, such as finance, human resources, IT, procurement, legal services, facilities management, marketing and communications.
These areas were originally highlighted in Sir Peter Gershon's 2004 review and the government claims that they have contributed £1.2bn (over a quarter) of the £4.3bn efficiency savings made by English councils in the last 3 years. Despite this ‘successful’ efficiency drive, the AC warns councils against complacency.
The report also says there is no 'one size fits all' formula for achieving further savings, though examples include reviewing ICT, improving delivery processes and addressing compartmentalised 'silo' working. Back to Front offers councils a checklist of questions in each chapter to help identify where they are on the road towards sustainable back office efficiencies and there is a toolkit of other practical assistance. There will also be a special summary version of the report to help elected members challenge their own council's performance.
Defra: Let’s hope these ‘experts’ do better than the ‘financial experts’ - The establishment of a new team of advisers on food policy ‘from the farm to the fork’ has been announced by the government. The Council of Food Policy Advisers will include expertise from every sector of the food system. It will advise government on food affordability, security of supply & the environmental impact of food production and contribute to the drawing up of a policy for food security & supply (for publication later this year).
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STFC: The quest for abundant safe & clean energy is one of the most important challenges facing mankind and the HiPER (High Power laser for Energy Research), a European research project led by the UK, will hopefully harness nature’s prime energy source – Fusion – and take the ‘proof of principle’ forwards to demonstrate a credible path to laser driven fusion as a commercial energy production source and offer a broad based science research facility.
The HiPER laser will also have a major impact on a wide range of fundamental science topics – enabling researchers to study here on Earth some of the most extreme conditions in the Universe.
LLUK: Lifelong Learning UK and the Standards Council for Community Learning and Development in Scotland have announced they are to formally work together over the next three years. They have committed to this by signing a Memorandum of Understanding that sets out the agenda for collaboration between the two organisations over the next three years until 2011. The memorandum provides a framework within which the two organisations can work in partnership.
HC: In the Healthcare Commission’s sixth annual NHS Staff Survey, more than 250,000 NHS staff will be asked their views. This year new questions have been added to gain more information about things staff say matter most to them, such as whether they feel they are supported to do a good job and whether they have the opportunity to improve the way they work.
The Commission encourages staff in all sectors & roles in the NHS to take the opportunity to give their views. It will report on the findings of the survey, including national trends, early next year. It will also use the survey data to assess trusts in the annual health check, which gives ratings to every NHS trust in England.
NA: The National Archives is working with findmypast.com to scan & place online, by 2011, two important series of records:
* WO 97 (Royal Hospital Chelsea: Soldiers Service Documents 1760-1913)
* WO 96 (War Office: Militia Attestation Papers 1806-1915).
Scanning has started with the WO 97 series. Scanning of the WO 96 series is not due to start until May 2010; all WO 96 records will remain fully accessible until then.
DH: Revalidation for all doctors has moved a step closer as the Chief Medical Officer, Sir Liam Donaldson, confirmed the formation of the implementation team for England and £1m of funding to support them.
The team comprises a panel of senior doctors who will provide professionally informed leadership, support & advice to the NHS, patients and doctors representatives for the design & delivery of the process, ensuring that all doctors meet the standards expected of them.
LDcic: Local Land Charges Departments are once again asked to submit entries in the 2009 LandDataLocalLand Charges Industry Awards. Two awards categories are open for entry:
* The Marketing Innovation category
* Special Tribute Award for the Local Land Charges Officer of the Year
Nominations for Local Land Charges Officer of The Year can be made online. Voting closes on Friday 31 October 2008, with the winners being announced at the Land Data Local Land Charges Awards Ceremony at the Marriott Hotel in Bristol, on 28 January 2009.
ScotGov: Tesco is to pioneer 'reverse vending' in 9 of its Scottish stores in a bid to help the Scottish Government create a zero waste society. The rollout of the automated machines - which provide a reward to users for recycling their bottles & cans - will start in January 2009, with more planned if the scheme succeeds.
The reverse vending machines use spectrometry and photography to identify what an object is made of before assigning it to the relevant bin, which means that recycling the waste is easier. The unit saves fuel too as it reduces the number of vehicle journeys required to empty it by shredding & compacting the waste.
The announcement came on the same day that new ScotGov recycling figures show a 3.3% improvement from the previous year.
CD: With recent failures in the travel industry leaving thousands stranded and many more out of pocket, Consumer Direct is offering advice to travellers wishing to protect themselves when booking winter breaks or next year's summer holiday.
It is urging people to do their homework before booking, as the level of protection available can depend on the:
* type of holiday being bought
* method of payment being used
* terms of any travel insurance policy
Be aware that some websites where you select different elements of your holiday and make a single payment may not be considered a 'package' holiday and may not provide sufficient protection. In addition, the ATOL scheme or some form of bond or travel insurance probably won’t apply to flights that are bought directly from an airline. Also,you may have to book and pay for another trip and then claim the costs back from the insurer.
LLUK: Lifelong Learning UK (LLUK) is responsible for the most significant collection of workforce data in the FE college sector in England. Known as the Staff Individualised Record (SIR) data collection, it provides a comprehensive overview of the profile of all staff working in FE colleges since 2001/02 and contains individualised data on demographics characteristics, qualifications, location, pay and other factors.
LLUK, in collaboration with data partner, Texuna Technologies, has now developed & launched a new, user friendly and interactive online system for collecting this year's SIR data (2007/2008). The system is now open for colleges to submit their data returns and will remain open until 1 November 2008.
OGC bs: OGCbuying.solutions claims that its new Recruitment Services arrangements - EU-compliant, pre-tendered, one-stop-shop framework agreements - will save ‘buyers’ time, money and worry by providing access to a range of rigorously-evaluated and carefully-chosen suppliers, who are experts in their fields.
The framework agreement, organised by Buying Solutions' Professional Services category, provides services in two areas:
* The first, Specialists, sources high-quality individuals for niche-area job roles such as IT, Accountancy and Project Management.
* The second, Large Volume, handles large-scale recruitment needs on behalf of customers, dealing with diverse job roles from junior to senior levels at various locations around the country.
PCS: A trade union recognition agreement between PCS and the Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA) was signed last week by PCS general secretary, Mark Serwotka and the GLA's Chief Executive Officer, Ian Livsey.
The Gangmasters Licensing Authority was established in 2005 following the Morecambe Bay cockle pickers’ drowning tragedy and it regulates gangmasters providing labour to farms, fisheries and food processing sites. The authority aims to protect casual, seasonal and migrant workers from exploitation & abuse by issuing licences to gangmasters, through the enforcement of the licence terms and by ensuring that all workers are employed by licensed gangmasters.
UK IPO: The IP competition for Company Programme Students (closes 10 April 2009), which aims to inspire young people to become the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs, has been launched. The competition is open to all (and only) Young Enterprise Company Programme Students.
The winning company will receive a cheque for £500 and a trophy to be presented at the Young Enterprise UK Celebration Dinner in London next year. There are also prizes on offer for the winners from the 12 Young Enterprise Regions.
NA: To mark the 90th anniversary of the Armistice, The National Archives has launched a season of podcasts of personal stories from those who served in the First World War. Voices of the Armistice will bring the horrors & glories of war to life as never before, as listeners are taken from mobilisation to the Treaty of Versailles, in the words of people who were there.
The series begins with the tragic story of Britain's first casualty, who died of pneumonia in England while working gruelling 20-hour days to prepare for the mobilisation of troops. Other podcasts will give terrifying first-hand accounts of gas attacks, life as a prisoner of war and the appalling conditions endured in the trenches.
OGC bs: OGCbuying.solutions and Becta have launched a new collaborative deal under which a wide range of software will be available to schools and other educational institutions. The new arrangements came into effect on 9 October 2008 and replace the previous successful Becta software licensing framework agreement.
They will provide education sector customers with a quick, EU-compliant route to procure software. Both proprietary & open source options will be available to meet customers' specific needs and they will also be able to access a range of supporting services including purchasing advice, software sourcing, technical support, training and licence management.
Press release ~ Becta ~ Framework Details ~ Supplier Details
Policy Statements and Initiatives
DWP: New benefit rules to help lone
parents into work by helping them find additional training, prepare for the
workplace and find suitable childcare, have been laid in Parliament. As a
result of these changes, from 24 November
2008 those lone parents, whose children are aged 12 & over,
will move off Income Support and onto Jobseeker's Allowance
if they are capable of work, or Employment and Support Allowance if
they cannot work because they have a disability or health
plans to further extend this support to lone parents whose
youngest child is:
* 10 from 2009 and
* 7 from 2010
A new benefit,
Employment and Support Allowance will be introduced on 27 October 2008 and also this month the
Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission will take over from the
Child Support Agency.
CLG: Communities Secretary Hazel
Blears and Children and Families Secretary Ed Balls have launched a
new Young Muslim Advisory
Group (YMAG) and unveiled the names of the 22 young people who will
act as advisors.
Ranging in age
from 16-25 this unique group is comprised of individuals from across England
& across denominations. It includes students, undergraduates as well
as a trainee lawyer, youth leaders, a speech & language
will have direct access to senior cabinet ministers and will work with
Government departments to find solutions to a range of challenges
DIUS: More than £50m in
Government funding will be made available over the
next 5 years to encourage researchers to work together, producing faster
diagnostic tests to detect & identify infections in humans and animals more
The project -
the Detection and Identification of Infectious Agents (DIIA) Innovation
Platform - will be funded through the Technology Strategy Board
(TSB) with up to an additional £5m coming from the Department of
Health. It is hoped that the research will help reduce the number of
deaths and illnesses caused by infectious diseases and reduce NHS expenditure
on treating such diseases
DWP: Increased funding for
the Access to Work programme will be used to test new ways of helping
people with mental health issues stay in work rather than move onto benefits.
Support will be made available for people with mental health conditions
either already in work and experiencing difficulty, or those about to enter
employment, as well as for their employers. From
the autumn a programme will be piloted in London to test the demand and
monitor the effects.
pilot in a speech to the Social Market Foundation (SMF), James
Purnell, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, also welcomed a report the
think tank has issued looking at how more people with mental health issues can
be helped back into work.
ScotGov: The Scottish
Government and COSLA have reached agreement on the extra funding
needed to offset the pressures on the police service and the fire & rescue
service caused by a record numbers of retirals.
Under the deal,
which has been worked through & agreed under the partnership arrangement in
place since the Concordat, the ScotGov will provide an extra £20m and the
Local Government family will also provide an extra £20m to meet the
additional pressures expected next year.
In addition to
making available additional resources, COSLA and ScotGov have agreed to address
the longer term pensions issues by reforming the management of police and fire
pensions. They plan to move to a system whereby police forces and fire
& rescue service pension costs will be a fixed proportion of salary costs
from 20010-11, with transitional arrangements
to pool the risk for 2009-10.
CRC: Dr Stuart Burgess, the
Government's Rural Advocate and Chairman of the Commission for
Rural Communities (CRC,) has launched an inquiry into the
future for England's upland communities. England's uplands
correspond to 'less favoured areas' and can be found in the north & south
west and in areas along the Welsh border.
uplands occupy 18% of the country's land area and have special significance,
not just for their contribution to rural economies, but also their key role
nationally in; landscape conservation, recreational activities,
biodiversity, heritage and water management.
DfT: Secretary of State for Transport, Mr Geoff Hoon, has issued a Written Ministerial Statement regarding
the granting of planning permission to change 2 planning conditions attached to
the Stansted airport 2003 permission.
The decision allows for an increase in the number of flights to & from the airport in a year from 241,000
to 264,000 air traffic movements and an increase in
the maximum number of
passengers using the airport
from 25 million to 35 million per annum.
ScotGov: A strategy for the
economic development of the broadcasting sector in Scotland is to be produced.
This will be published by Scottish Enterprise and will build on
the analysis & recommendations of the Scottish Broadcasting Commission
report – Platform for Success.
Alex Salmond has outlined the Scottish Government's response to the report,
which will focus on three central aspects:
* Delivering a
fair share of network production for Scotland
* Creating a
new Scottish public service network, as a focal point for the long-term
development of Scottish broadcasting
accountability & diversity in broadcasting, to ensure that Scottish
interests are fully represented
CLG: Urban parks, marshlands,
waterways and green spaces will be as integral as housing, jobs & commerce
in the Thames Gateway of the future, Housing Minister Iain Wright has
announced. The Parklands Vision of the Gateway was launched by
Sir Terry Farrell, award winning architect, urban designer and the Government's
Parklands Design Champion at the Thames Gateway Green
The Vision will
guide the development of green & open spaces in the Gateway and has
eight elements developed
by Sir Terry, in partnership with a wide range of partners (including local
authorities and community groups) and the Government.
FSA: The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has recently increased the compensation limit for bank deposits from £35,000 up to a total of £50,000 for each customer's claim. This increase applied from Tuesday 7 October 2008. Customers with joint accounts will be eligible to claim up to £100,000. The FSA is also implementing changes relating to how money recovered from a failed bank could be allocated to those with deposits of more than the new protected limit of £50,000.
The FSA is also consulting on further reforms (closes on 5 January 2009) including considering whether the compensation limit should be higher still; the speed with which the FSCS can pay compensation; and the rules surrounding whether deposits are covered on a legal entity, a 'brand' or an 'account' basis. The paper also sets out proposals to improve the overall scheme and to ensure consistency in respect of compensation limits for investment, insurance and home finance.
DH: A consultation (closes on 3 December 2008) that the government claims will help formulate the UK's negotiating position to ensure the right legislative framework is developed around the new Patient Mobility EU Directive, has been launched.
The proposed Directive seeks to codify existing European case law to make clear the rules that will apply when EU nationals want to receive treatment in a Member State which is not their 'home' country. The draft Directive is due to be discussed at the Council of EU Health Ministers in Brussels on 15 & 16 December.
CLG: New powers to help keep homes affordable for communities in rural areas have been set out as Housing Minister Iain Wright launched two consultations (both closing 31 December 2008). Under the first, proposed new powers, rural communities with severe housing shortages could be designated as protected areas, ensuring affordable housing is retained for local families.
The new proposals would also enable all affordable housing providers in these protected areas to retain a share in new shared ownership homes, or have the first option to buy back such properties, ensuring they remain available for future families in the local community. Additionally, first-time buyers in rural areas could own a home for as little as £60,000 through the second consultation to expand Community Land Trusts.
DWP: The Social Security Advisory Committee (SSAC) has been asked by the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions to consider proposals for the Social Security (flexible new deal) regulations 2008. Before the Committee considers & reports on the proposals, it would like to hear from organisations, including existing & potential providers and individuals who have views (by Friday 7 November 2008)
WAG: The Independent Funding Commission for Wales has started its work with a 'Call for Evidence' to anyone wishing to contribute to it's deliberations on the Barnett formula, tax varying and borrowing powers.
Finance Minister Andrew Davies commented: “After almost a decade of devolution it is right to review the Assembly’s funding arrangements and to consider the scope for changes to our fiscal powers. The Commissioners have been set an important task and I look forward to their interim report next summer”.
ScotParl: Is a lack of the right type of facilities in schools compromising sports education? Examining the barriers that Scots face in the early stages of their pathways into sport will form the second phase of an inquiry by the Scottish Parliament's Health and Sport Committee.
Launching its Inquiry on Pathways into Sport with a call for written evidence (closing date Friday 21 November 2008) the committee will specifically look at children & sport, community facilities & coaching.
Ofsted: The Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) and Ofsted have launched a consultation (closes on 16 January 2009) on a proposed standard set of school level indicators, which will recognise & reward schools for their contribution to pupil’s well-being.
The indicators will be a combination of measures for which quantitative data are available, such as the school’s overall attendance rate & the take-up of school lunches and measures of the perceptions of pupils & parents on the extent to which a school promotes well-being. Subject to the consultation, the plan is for the indicators to be used by Ofsted in its school inspection arrangements from September 2009.
Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides
ScotGov: Health boards are to be given £1m by the Scottish Government to help them improve their IT security, following last week's publication of the NHS QIS investigation into the discovery of patient information at the disused StrathmartineHospital in Tayside. The investment comes from the ScotGov’s eHealth budget.
The money will be used to help NHS boards meet a new data standard which requires that mobile devices - such as laptops & memory sticks - that are used to store patient-identifiable data must be encrypted to a new common standard and used only after specific authorisation.
Although primarily intended to ensure the security of laptops and USB memory sticks, the new standard applies equally to other mobile devices such as PDAs, CDs, BlackBerries or DVDs.
DCMS: Aftercare advice offering support & information for families, friends and survivors about how to cope in the aftermath of a major disaster or critical incident have been developed & published (on Directgov) by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS’s) Humanitarian Assistance Unit (HAU).
The advice, contacts and information have been gathered with the help of a number of bereaved families and survivors of previous major incidents. The Directgov pages will:
* act as a gateway to provide practical information on a range of issues such as emotional & financial support
* link to relevant sites and provide clear information about where to seek further help
IfL: Following the success of its June seminars, the Institute for Learning (IfL) is running another series of workshops in support of teachers & trainers throughout the FE and Skills sector, who are required to undertake at least 30 hours' continuing professional development (CPD) a year, prorated for part-time staff.
Each workshop comprises two practical sessions, after which participants should be able to support peers and colleagues in their use of REfLECT (IfL's online tool & personal learning). All the October events are now fully booked, but IfL will be organising a further series of workshopsfor the first quarter of 2009. In the meantime, teachers are being advised to use the CPD guidelines on the IfL website, to identify key areas in their subject specialism, industrial expertise & teaching and approaches that might need updating.
Newswire-AC: The Audit Commission has published guidance that sets out the approach it expects its appointed auditors to take when reviewing the arrangements that local authorities put in place to make individual and direct payments for adult care packages.
It makes it clear that audit work in this area should reflect the basic principle that it is audited bodies that are accountable for the public money they grant and not the individuals who receive and go on to spend it.
P&HSO: The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, Ann Abraham, has published her Annual Report for 2007/08. The Report links lessons learned from individual complaints to the wider public for the benefit of improved services. A number of case studies are included which show how patterns of poor administration can be identified from individual complaints and how the Office has worked with service providers to change their approach.
During the year, the Ombudsman published her Principles for Remedy which set out how she thinks public bodies should put things right when they have ‘gone wrong’. Based on the same principles of legality, flexibility, transparency, fairness and accountability as the Principles of Good Administration, it clarifies the Ombudsman's expectations of fair remedies for aggrieved customers.
The Annual Report is published alongside a new Strategic Plan for 2008-11, the Corporate Business Plan for 2008/9 and the detailed Resource Accounts for 2007/8. Together these documents offer a comprehensive view of the Office's role, work and ambition.
MoJ/PGB: The Mental Capacity Act and the services it has put in place have introduced a cultural change by creating a new system of support for those who lack mental capacity in England & Wales, a report published by the Public Guardian Board (PGB) shows.
The report 'Scrutiny, review, engagement - the first annual report of the Public Guardian Board' says that the new services, including the Office of the Public Guardian, which came into effect on 1 October 2007, were long overdue and have put in place strong foundations for the future care of some of the most vulnerable people.
However rising demand for Lasting Powers of Attorney, which allow people to plan for their future, resulted in delays during what was a tough first year.
MoJ/AJTC: The Administrative Justice and Tribunals Council (AJTC) has published its first Annual Report 2007/08, which bridges the last 7 months of the operation of its predecessor body (the former Council on Tribunals) and the first 5 months of the new AJTC, as well as headlining some of the issues emerging from the AJTC's 2008/09 work programme.
In his preface the AJTC's Chairman, Lord Newton of Braintree explains the importance of the AJTC's new, wider remit to keep under review the whole administrative justice system.
Defra: The 2007 Zoonoses Report was launched at the ‘Orphan Zoonoses Conference’ in Glasgow. Zoonoses are diseases & infections which are transmitted naturally between animals and humans. The report brings together data & information published from various sources throughout 2007 and draws on information from humans, food, feed and animals, providing comparable data from previous years.
It covers the major food and water-borne zoonoses (Campylobacter, Salmonella, Vero cytotoxin producing E. coli O157 (VTEC O157) and Cryptosporidium), and the main notifiable zoonotic diseases of animals including bovine tuberculosis, brucellosis, anthrax, rabies, West Nile Virus, BSE and Avian Influenza.
General Reports and Other Publications
DIUS: A Government Office for Science review commends the Department of Health on good practice in the way it commissions, manages and uses science. The report highlighted examples of good practice including the 'Best Research for Best Health' strategy in setting direction for NHS research & development, the role of the Policy Liaison Officers in the Policy Research Programme to support evidence based policy and the role of the Scientific Advisory Committees in providing advice.
However, the GO-Science Review also found that, given the importance of science to the Department of Health policies, there could be more consistency in the effective management of science, joint working (both across disciplines and with stakeholder groups), developing mechanisms to share & manage knowledge effectively and the use of external scientific advice & expertise.
Ofsted: According to a report - ESOL in the post-compulsory learning and skills sector: an evaluation - published recently by the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted), inadequate ESOL in colleges is now rare. The report examines the quality of English training for speakers of other languages, including migrant workers, refugees and asylum seekers who reside in England.
Ofsted found that despite marked improvements with the quality of ESOL training and overall success rates, only around half the ESOL provided by colleges and a fifth by adult and community learning providers is found to be‘good or outstanding’.
ESRC: A new study, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), looks at why there is currently little use of biological pesticide alternatives in the UK. Biopesticides can play a significant role in a more sustainable food chain as chemical pesticides are withdrawn due to resistance problems, or because they are no longer commercially viable, according to the research. Chemicals also endanger workers’ health and can contaminate groundwater.
The research suggests that consumer concerns about toxic residues could undermine the recommended ‘five a day’ target for the consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables. Biological control agents such as naturally occurring fungi, bacteria or viruses are applied in much the same way as chemical pesticides to fight insect pests, but have obvious benefits as they:
* have little impact on other organisms
* are compatible with other natural enemies
* do not leave toxic residues
* are relatively cheap to develop
ScotGov: Responses to the Scottish Government's consultation on tackling Scotland's alcohol misuse problem have been published. Key proposals in the strategy for tackling alcohol misuse include setting a minimum price for a unit of alcohol, raising the off-sales purchase age to 21, an end to irresponsible promotions and a social responsibility fee for some retailers.
October 5-11 was Alcohol Awareness Week, which is supported by ScotGov in partnership with a wide range of alcohol industry organisations. It was an opportunity for everyone in Scotland to think about how much they're drinking and whether excessive alcohol consumption could be harming them and people around them.
ESRC: Britain’s post-war baby boomers, associated throughout their lives with social change, are failing to break new ground in their approach to growing old. Academic research supported by the Economic and Social Research Council and Arts and Humanities Research Council shows that most members of the baby boom generation – often regarded as the first teenagers of a more affluent consumer society - have modest ideas for their retirement.
The first wave baby boom generation, born between 1945 and 1954, represents 17% of the UK population. Born at a time of austerity, this group later experienced relative prosperity and the emergence of a mass consumer society.
DCMS: Public buildings could be opened up for free or at subsidised prices for use by adult learning groups, Skills Secretary, John Denham, announced as he pledged to work with Culture Secretary Andy Burnham to secure better access to libraries, museums and colleges.
The proposals form part of Skills Secretary John Denham's promise to bring to life a new vision to help adults learn for pleasure & personal or community development and were endorsed by respondents to the recent consultation, Informal Adult Learning - Shaping the Way Ahead.
Culture Secretary Andy Burnham has launched a review of public libraries, asking how they can modernise, embrace the digital age and better involve their local communities.
DH: Health Secretary, Alan Johnson, has welcomed publication of a landmark international report, which highlights that mental health services in England are leading the way in Europe. The report, from the World Health Organisation, was published on 10 October to mark World Mental Health Day.
Comp C: The Competition Commission (CC) has published its provisional findings report on retail Payment Protection Insurance (PPI). The report concludes that, as with other types of PPI policy, retail PPI is highly profitable for distributors and there is little competition between providers on price & other factors, limited ability for customers to search for alternatives or switch products and a considerable point-of-sale advantage for the providers.
The CC has also published a Notice of Possible Remedies for retail PPI, inviting views (no later than 31 October 2008) on how best to remedy the problems identified. The notice includes most of the remedies consulted on for other types of PPI policies, as well as a possible requirement to sell retail PPI separately from merchandise cover.
ScotParl: The Scottish Commission for Public Audit has published its report on a review of Audit Scotland's corporate governance arrangements. The review was prompted in part by a request from Audit Scotland's board to consider the implications of a similar review of the governance of the National Audit Office in England.
FA/NIS: Northgate Information Solutions, a leading provider of innovative services to the public sector and utilities markets, has called on the government to better engage citizens and overhaul the procurement process, so as to radically improve service delivery and restore public confidence in the police.
In a wide-ranging response to the Policing Green Paper, Northgate urges a fundamental shift towards the shared ‘purchase of solutions’ to support change management, at a time when IT procurement remains disaggregated and costs are too high.
Northgate argues that a ‘full service revolution’ can be achieved by developing ‘problem-solving partnerships’, which would engage with the public and empower them to interact in the fight against crime and improve the quality of life in their localities.
ScotGov: A new Energy Assistance Package which includes advice on energy tariffs, a benefits and tax credit check and energy efficiency improvements for those struggling most to heat their homes & pay their energy bills is the key recommendation of the Scottish Fuel Poverty Forum in its report 'Towards 2016 - The Future of Fuel Poverty Policy in Scotland', following a thorough review of current policy & programmes which have an impact on fuel poverty.
There is a statutory commitment on ScotGov to eradicate fuel poverty by 2016 and in May 2008, the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing, Nicola Sturgeon tasked the forum of stakeholders and its independent chair, Rev Graham Blount, with producing a strategy that made the most effective use of existing resources.
However, the Forum warns that this package alone will not achieve the 2016 target. In addition, it believes a step change in investment is required, as soon as possible.
Legislation / Legal
ScotGov: New proposals to better safeguard vulnerable groups and put an end to 'needless bureaucracy', which can deter volunteers from helping Scotland's children, have been announced following a detailed consultation on the Protection of Vulnerable Groups (PVG) Act earlier this year.
The plans are intended to further ensure that people who come into regular contact with vulnerable groups through their work don't have a history of abusive behaviour, while also creating a proportionate approach to vetting, ending the need for multiple disclosure checks.
The new PVG scheme, to be phased in over four years so that those working with vulnerable groups have time to comply, will create a list of people barred from working with children, replacing the existing Disqualified from Working with Children List. The proposals willbe introduced through secondary legislation in the Scottish Parliament next year.
FSA: The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has fined Alliance & Leicester Plc (A&L) £7m for serious failings in its telephone sales of payment protection insurance (PPI). For 3 years from January 2005 to December 2007 A&L sold approximately 210,000 PPI policies to customers seeking a personal loan at an average price of £1,265, but there was a general failure by advisers to give customers details of the cost of PPI. In addition A&L sought to find reasons to sell PPI without properly considering what customers needed.
A&L did not make it sufficiently clear that PPI was optional and it trained its staff to put pressure on customers where they queried the inclusion of PPI in their quotation or challenged advisers’ recommendations. These failings resulted in unacceptable levels of non-compliant sales and a high risk of unsuitable sales over the three year period.
Any A&L customers with questions concerning their PPI policy can contact A&L as follows:
* Call into any branch
* Telephone 0844 5619790 (24 hours a day, 7 days a week)
* Write to Let’s Work it Out, Alliance & Leicester plc, Carlton Park, Narborough, Leicestershire, LE19 0AL
FCO: Victims of child sex abuse on Pitcairn Island will be able to apply for compensation according to the Foreign & Commonwealth Office. If the applications meet the eligibility criteria, the UK Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority will offer advice on the levels of compensation to award in accordance with their guidelines. The closing date for applications is31 March 2009.
The abuse was revealed in 1999 and led to an extensive police investigation and trials resulting in the conviction of eight men. The FCO, DfID and Pitcairn Government have put several safeguarding measures in place to provide protection for the children on the island, including:
* a full-time Family and Community Adviser
* child protection training for professionals such as the teacher and doctor
* education programmes led by the Family and Community Advisor and teacher
*appointment of a full-time Community Police Officer on secondment from New Zealand Police
EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.
Ofgem: Figures showing the total amount of Renewables Obligation Certificates (ROCs) presented to Ofgem and the size of the buy-out fund for the 2007-08 obligation period were published recently. For this sixth year of the scheme, the total Renewables Obligation (RO) for electricity supplied to customers across the UK was 25,551,357 megawatt hours (MWh).
There was a shortfall of £6,907,611.76 in the three buy-out funds, as not all suppliers fully complied with their obligations. Supplier have the opportunity to make a late payment by 31 October 2008 to fully discharge their renewables obligation under Article 30(2) of the Order. Late payments for the Renewables Obligation (including interest) are expected to be redistributed in early November 2008.
Charity and Voluntary Sector
BIG: Children with special needs will be given the confidence to join in & enjoy mainstream play through some of the £3m in BIG Lottery Fund. A total of 16 projects, benefiting children of all abilities, are sharing funding from the Fund’s Playful Ideas programme, which is also bringing together children, artists and playworkers in exploring & developing creative play.
HMRC: Charities and community organisations across the United Kingdom have until 12 November 2008 to bid for a share of a £2.33m funding pot to help vulnerable people reduce debt and get the right benefits & tax. Voluntary and community organisations, charities, social enterprises, mutuals and co-operatives can apply. Organisations will be told if their bids have been successful by 19 January 2009.
Business and Other Briefings
Comp C: The Competition Commission (CC), together with the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) and the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR), has commissioned a study of some of past CC and OFT merger decisions.
John Davies, Chief Economist of the CC, said: “When the CC or OFT decides whether to intervene in a merger case, the judgement is based on analysis of the likely future evolution of the market. We can all learn a lot by looking back at past decisions a few years later, to allow us to improve that analysis”.
The lessons of past cases may also inform the CC's and OFT's thinking as they prepare to issue new joint substantive merger guidelines in 2009, following public consultation.
DIUS: Home improvement retailer B&Q has become the 100,000th company to sign up to Train to Gain, as the flagship service marks its second year of helping to boost the nation's skills. Since its launch in 2006, Train to Gain has helped over 570,000 employees in England get training and over 291,000 learners have achieved a qualification.
An evaluation published this year revealed that some 43% of people who had completed their training reported having received a pay rise, and 30% reported having had promotion. Funding for Train to Gain will increase from £520m in 2007-08 to over £1bn by 2010-11.
Energy Products Directive - Expiry of the derogations allowing a reduced rate or exempt fuel for private pleasure-flying.
Energy Products Directive- Expiry of the derogations allowing reduced rate duty on fuel in private pleasure craft.
YF: Yorkshire Forward is investing £170,000 of funding from the Rural Development Programme for England in a pilot programme that will enable essential retail businesses in rural locations to diversify and add to the services that they offer.
Successful businesses applying for support from the Rural Retail Support Programme will benefit from help up to a total value of £10,000 support per business. This can cover both specialist advice to the business and small scale capital investments in developing the business for the future.
The programme will be managed & delivered on behalf of Yorkshire Forward by Business Link Yorkshire. Qualifying businesses need to be the only essential retail service in that community and already be considering significant changes to the services they offer.
They also need to be prepared to invest in the changes along with the grant support. Businesses benefiting could include village shops, or independently owned petrol filling stations and public houses that already offer a wider range of products for sale to their rural community.
LSN: During October the Learning and Skills Network (LSN) are hosting a series of events entitled Vocational Qualifications are changing, are you?, which are updated versions of last term’s events - back through popular demand.
They events are targeted at those new to the reforms to vocational qualifications and seek to raise awareness of the reforms and support providers to consider the implications for their organisations:
* London – 14th Oct
* Newcastle – 16th Oct
* Manchester – 22nd Oct
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