In the News
CO: Some better news for the government - The Prime Minister's Strategy Unit has published 'Getting On, Getting Ahead,' which identifies and analyses the ‘trends & drivers of social mobility' based on independent academic research. It finds that social mobility remained broadly stable since 1970, but the evidence since 2000 suggests it may start to rise in future.
The report identifies 4 key areas where the Government can have the most significant impact on improving social mobility:
* early years provision of childcare
* post-16 education and training
* workplace skills
In June 2008, the Prime Minister announced that a flagship White Paper will be published by the end of 2008, setting out the Government's vision of ‘a Britain where everyone can make the most of their potential’.
DH: Justice for the dying - More drugs are to be made available to patients on the NHS, particularly for those facing a terminal illness, Health Secretary Alan Johnson has announced, following the publication of the National Cancer Director’s report - 'Improving access to medicines for NHS patients’ – which recommends a package of measures to substantially widen access to drugs on the NHS and reduce the need for patients to resort to private treatment.
The Health Secretary also announced that, in future, the NHS should not withdraw treatment from the few patients who may still choose to pay privately for additional drugs. But he made clear that while private care can be carried out alongside NHS care, private treatment should take place in a private facility and must not be subsidised by the NHS. The consultation on draft guidance closes on 27 January 2009.
New proposals by NICE (the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence) set out a new system for appraising expensive drugs designed to help those with severe illness (consultation closes 10 December 2008). At the same time, NICE will work with the Department of Health to speed up the appraisal process, so that patients have faster and more consistent access to new therapies.
The government says that the measures build on the principles already enshrined in the NHS Constitution, which include the right of all NHS patients to access NICE approved drugs or treatments if their doctor recommends them as clinically appropriate.
ESRC: Who can afford to live & work in London? - Against a backdrop of stories about Britain’s ‘broken society’ there are examples of community action bringing positive changes. One recent example of such community spirit is in London where ‘London Citizens’ recently fought for & won higher wages for some of the city’s lowest paid.
A new study, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), highlights the success of a grassroots coalition of faith groups, unions and community organisations in winning a ‘living wage’ for thousands of low-paid migrant office cleaners who had been struggling to support themselves and their families.
A special London Living Wage Unit, established by the Greater London Authority in 2005, has calculated a separate minimum standard for workers in the capital (currently £7.45 per hour) compared with the national minimum of £5.52 for workers aged 22 years & older. A recent project funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, has confirmed that even a single person with no dependents, living in council housing, needs at least £13,400 a year (before tax) to afford a basic, but acceptable standard of living.
BIG: Local assets managed locally - The people of Chester-le-Street are the first to take charge of a community centre under the Government’s £30m Community Assets programme. Dozens of similar projects up & down the country will see community sites taken over, refurbished and maintained by the local people who actually use them.
The Pelton Fell Community Resource Centre in Chester-le-Street will benefit from a £337,000 grant (the first to be awarded under the scheme) funded by the Office of the Third Sector in the Cabinet Office and delivered by the Big Lottery Fund.
Facilities will include toddler, youth & older people’s clubs, plus history & environmental interest groups, art in the community and offices for use by groups such as the neighbourhood regeneration partnership. The asset will be transferred via a 99-year lease for a peppercorn rent.
FSCS: Mass email brings some better news - The first emails to UK customers of Icesave have now gone out with more information about how to claim back their savings according to the Financial Services Compensation Scheme. The email is the first stage of a process that will lead to compensation for thousands of Icesave customers.
It will be followed up by FSCS sending second emails to customers, in phases, with a view to starting compensation payments in the second week of November, as planned. The second email will provide instructions on how depositors can log on to their existing Icesave accounts in the normal way to complete a short electronic process allowing them to receive their compensation. Customers are asked not to log in until their second email which will specifically invite them to do so.
Any Icesave customers who did not receive their first email from FSCS by the close of business last Friday should contact FSCS on 0845 7300 131 (Icesave enquiries only). (N.B. It could be worth checking your ‘spam file’ before phoning and also ensuring that the email is genuine (there have been warnings of phishing).
Industry News: How do you know your car's in good hands? – Improving public confidence in the motor industry by formally recognising the skills and ethical competence of motor technicians in the UK is the objective of the ATA (Automotive Technician Accreditation) scheme, which has been launched to the public this year.
Governed by the Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI), the ATA is the first voluntary accreditation scheme of its kind, recognising professional motor technicians who have:
* have proved they have the right skills to work competently
* have signed a code of honest conduct, and
* are regulated
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DfT: A shocking new THINK! campaign to highlight the deadly consequences of not always wearing a seat belt has been launched. New statistics show one life could be saved each day if all drivers and passengers belted up every time they got in a car.
Graphic images of the fatal damage caused to internal organs are shown in a new TV advert highlighting the three devastating crashes you experience in a road accident, if you are not wearing a seat belt. The advert is so realistic and hard-hitting it can only be shown after 9pm. An edited version has been produced for earlier showings - describing but not showing the damage to internal organs.
DECC: Government plans to protect the taxpayer from the costs of cleaning up new nuclear power stations have moved forward with the appointment of a watchdog to oversee the decommissioning & waste disposal funding arrangements. Energy and Climate Change Minister Mike O'Brien announced the appointment of Lady Balfour of Burleigh as the Chairman of the new Nuclear Liabilities Financing Assurance Board (NLFAB).
The Office for Nuclear Development also issued the first of 3 discussion papers, which will enable people to feed in their views on the development of estimates of the costs of decommissioning and waste management.
ScotParl: Guided tours are to be provided free of charge to visitors at the Scottish Parliament from next year, it has been announced by the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body (SPCB). From September 2009 members of the public will no longer have to pay to take a guided tour of the Holyrood building.
The tours will be provided by specially trained in-house staff from the Parliament's Visitor Services team and will focus on how the Scottish Parliament works, the work of its MSPs and the history & architecture of Holyrood.
HMT: Arrangements for managing the Government's shareholding in banks subscribing to its recapitalisation fund have been announced by Chancellor of the Exchequer, Alistair Darling. The Government's investments will be managed on a commercial basis by a new arm's-length company, 'UK Financial Investments Limited' (UKFI), which is wholly owned by the Government.
Its overarching objectives will be to ‘protect & create value for the taxpayer as shareholder, with due regard to financial stability and acting in a way that promotes competition’. It will also oversee the conditions of the recapitalisation fund, including maintaining, over the next 3 years, the availability & active marketing of competitively-priced lending to home owners and small businesses at 2007 levels.
Dstl: An initiative supported by the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), called the ‘BLOODHOUND Project’, has been launched by Richard Noble to break the current WorldLand Speed Record. The 4-year programme will attempt to push the Record beyond the present 763mph (sound barrier) record by developing, building & driving a vehicle (BLOODHOUND SSC) that could travel at up to 1,000 mph.
Working in parallel with the vehicle design team, the Education initiative (a.k.a. Bloodhound Engineering Adventure) will be utilising the programme to encourage schoolchildren (4-19 yrs) to gain a greater interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. To celebrate Dstl’s involvement, a competition will be launched shortly to schools, aimed at encouraging students to consider some of the potential challenges faced by the vehicle design team.
Socitm: The Socitm Insight Website take-up service is to be enabled from January 2009 to provide a low cost, automated means of capturing the information about website transactions that local authorities will need to make as part of their NI 14 (avoidable contact) returns required from April 2009.
The Website take-up service, established in 2004, tracks usage of & satisfaction with council websites, using information gathered through an exit survey offered to every fifth visitor to participating councils’ websites. By making a small adjustment to the survey to align the services covered with the NI 14 required service list, the Website take-up service will, therefore, enable collection of all necessary information about web transactions needed for NI 14 returns.
WAG: Amgueddfa Cymru – NationalMuseumWales’ have launched details of a forthcoming tour of major artworks to the USA. 'Turner to Cezanne: Masterpieces from the Davies Collection, National Museum Wales' will travel to five venues altogether and will open at the Columbia Museum of Art on 6 March 2009.
The exhibition, organised by the American Federation of Arts and the museum, features 58 oil paintings and watercolours, some of which have never been seen in the United States of America before.
NA: The service records of 40,000 members of the World War One Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (RNVR) are now accessible online. Previously only available to those visiting The National Archives in Kew, family historians can now trace their WWI naval ancestors a new online resource - 'Ashore or afloat'.
Records are held for ratings (who joined between 1903 & 1919 and officers who signed up between 1914 & 1922. The digitised documents (found in ADM 337) provide a range of information on each individual, including name, division, date of birth, former occupation, ships and units served in, and period of service. Other details for family historians are also given, such as height, hair colour and eye colour, along with remarks about character and ability.
NA: A National Archives project to fully catalogue over a thousand journals of Royal Navy Medical Officers 1793 -1880 has been launched following funding from the Wellcome Trust. The first tranche of enhanced catalogue entries for medical officers' journals from 1793 to 1819 will be uploaded to the catalogue by February 2009.
This material will enable medical historians to define & pursue lines of enquiry, test hypotheses and explore the awareness, spread & practical application of the findings & theories of the period’s great health reformers.
DH: The development of important medical devices like hip & knee replacements, pacemakers and stents have received a boost with a new agreement that makes it easier to get approved trials in patients underway. Launched jointly by the Department of Health and Association of the British Healthcare Industries, the model Clinical Investigation Agreement (mCIA) has been welcomed by the medical technology industry as timely and helpful.
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has introduced new services that speed-up the assessment of Clinical Investigations for regulatory purposes and an industry-focused advice service. The National Research Ethics Service (NRES) has introduced a speedy & streamlined process using device-flagged committees which have expertise in device studies, as well as guidance on the ethical review of device studies.
In addition, the Integrated Research Application System (IRAS) provides an electronic portal for the single submission of data required for the regulatory research permissions and approvals needed to initiate a clinical research study.
TfL: The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has announced that Transport for London (TfL) will scrap the mid-year inspection for London taxis from 6 November 2008, saying: “….our figures clearly show the inspections have not achieved their aims of raising standards or improving the pass rate for annual inspections”. However, any taxi that failed a mid-year inspection prior to 6 November must pass a re-test before returning into service.
The inspection regime for the private hire trade will remain unchanged, and any vehicle older than 12 months at the date of the annual licensing inspection must continue to have a mid-year MoT test.
MoD: The White Ensign Association (WEA) held their Golden Jubilee 50th Anniversary reception onboard HMS ILLUSTRIOUS at Greenwich on 6 Nov 2008. The WEA is a Naval Charity whose mission is to inform & provide unbiased, confidential and free guidance to all Service & ex-Service personnel of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines, and their dependants, on personal administration, finance, resettlement and employment.
DH: A database (funded by Department of Health) launched last week will help identify the incidence & causes of sudden cardiac death (SCD) and save the lives of people who may currently be at risk from the inherited heart condition that can strike without warning in apparently fit & healthy people. SCD kills around 500-600 people under the age of 35 each year.
Designed by pathologists & cardiologists, the database will be a key tool in understanding the incidence and causes of inheritable conditions that can cause sudden cardiac death. With a greater knowledge of the incidence, prevalence and causes of sudden cardiac death, doctors will be able to identify better people at risk from one of these conditions and help them get access to the services they need.
Close family members of victims of sudden cardiac death will be referred to specialist inherited cardiac conditions centres, where they will be offered counselling and support.
Policy Statements and Initiatives
HO: A new national billboard campaign encouraging young people and communities to stand together against knife crime has been launched by Home Secretary Jacqui Smith. The new interactive campaign will run in phases throughout the next 3 months in urban, residential areas across England & Wales, including the ten areas involved in the Tackling Knives Action Programme.
Young people will be encouraged to show their support by adding their own anti-knife photo pledges to the Bebo website. Their images will then be included on later versions of the posters in the series which will be unveiled by the Home Secretary next month.
DECC: Britain has teamed up with two oil-rich Gulf states to secure a mix of reliable & green energy supplies for the UK and which could see hundreds of millions of pounds ‘pumped’ into the green energy revolution.
The announcements include:
* A Memorandum of Understanding signed between the UK and Masdar (the Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company), to develop renewable energy and low carbon technology such as wind, carbon capture and storage, as well as solar and marine energy
* A new £250m partnership between Qatar and the UK to help British companies develop groundbreaking clean green technology, to be run by the Carbon Trust
Defra: A new £6m fund has been announced by Environment Secretary Hilary Benn. The Greener Living Fund is intended to encourage charitable & voluntary organisations to ‘promote positive environmental changes to individuals & communities, helping them reduce their carbon footprints, make greener lifestyle choices and find new ways to rely less on our natural resources’.
The fund is targeted at national third sector organisations. It will offer funding for 2 years, starting with a bidding phase in 2008 and a main delivery phase running between April 2009 & March 2011. He also launched Defra's Third Sector Strategy, which sets out how the department will improve the way it works with third sector groups.
HO: Sixty areas across the country have signed up to become new neighbourhood crime & justice pioneer areas, Home Secretary Jacqui Smith announced when she congratulated Essex on being the first police force to deliver the new National Policing Pledge.
Delivering a key recommendation of the Casey Review, and supported by £5.6m, the new pioneer areas will each appoint a dedicated person (a Neighbourhood Crime and Justice (NCJ) Co-ordinator) to ensure that Community Payback in the local community is visible & tough, that victims of crime are supported to reduce re-offending and that the public know the rights that the new national Policing Pledge gives them.
HO: A programme of work to develop new & innovative design solutions to help prevent robbery, to crime-proof hot new gadgets and to embed public safety in the design of new public spaces & housing has been agreed by the Home Secretary and the Design and Technology Alliance.
Over the next 3 years, the UK's top designers will bring together industry, the public sector, designers and crime prevention experts with victims of crime. Backed by £1.6m, new design-led ideas will be prototyped and exhibited to showcase the UK's world-class innovation and demonstrate their market potential. The programme, led by the Design Council, will work on developing solutions to a wide range of crime-related problems, particularly those which affect young people.
LDA: Disadvantaged Londoners are being offered a stepping stone into work as a training programme linked to the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games is rolled out. 'Personal Best' will help around 7,000 people to gain their first qualification through borough based classes and individual support. They will also build self esteem through work experience and gain transferable jobs skills through a nationally recognised qualification in volunteering.
Run by the London Development Agency (LDA) and the Learning and Skills Council (LSC), Personal Best uses the appeal of the London 2012 Games to reach out to communities. Closer to the time, graduates will be guaranteed an interview as part of the application process to become a 2012 Games Time Volunteer, with up to 10% of volunteers coming from the Personal Best Programme.
DH: Twenty of the areas worst hit by alcohol misuse are to receive support as part of a new £6m programme which will help the local health service better identify & intervene with those at risk, Public Health Minister Dawn Primarolo announced at the recent National Alcohol Conference in Nottingham.
Ms Primarolo claimed a new, wide-reaching Alcohol Improvement Programme will accelerate progress on reducing alcohol-related harm. An additional £1m will fund a new Alcohol Learning Centre and support activities. The programme will draw together best practice and success from each of the 20 areas so other local health services can learn from the programme.
ScotGov: Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing, Nicola Sturgeon has urged UK Ministers to do more to protect Scottish homeowners from sale & rent back schemes operated by private landlords. Sale & rent back is a property transaction whereby the owner gives up a significant amount of equity in return for staying in their home as a tenant. A recent Office of Fair Trading (OFT) report questioned whether many consumers would be aware of the full costs and risks associated with such transactions.
The OFT has recommended that these schemes be subject to statutory regulation by the Financial Services Authority (FSA). The OFT has estimated that there are upwards of 1,000 firms, together with an unknown number of non-professional landlords, who have conducted about 50,000 transactions across the UK to date.
FCO: Foreign Office Minister, Gillian Merron, has welcomed the new Falkland Islands Constitution Order 2008, which is expected to come into operation on 1 January 2009.
The Minister said:
"I welcome the new constitution for the Falkland Islands…… It enhances local democracy, while retaining sufficient powers for the UK government to protect UK interests and to ensure the overall good governance of the territory……. What it does not do is change the UK government's overall commitment to the Islands as an OverseasTerritory. Nor does it change the right to self-determination, fundamental to our relationship with all of our OverseasTerritories."
TfL: The Mayor of London Boris Johnson outlined his plan for the future of London’s transport system, as he launched Transport for London’s multi-billion pound 10-year Business Plan. The Mayor and Transport Commissioner Peter Hendy set out the detail of an Investment Programme that will help deliver an almost 30% increase in the capital’s transport network by 2018.
The Programme will focus on the upgrade of the Tube, building Crossrail, extensions to the DLR and London Overground networks, supporting the 2012 Games & securing a legacy from them, smoothing traffic flows, leading a revolution in cycling & walking and providing greater flexibility for London’s boroughs to deliver local transport solutions.
ScotGov: Health boards across Scotland are been given extra Government cash to help bring down NHS waiting times. This year, each board will get a share of £270m (over the next three years) to put into effect an 18-week GP referral to treatment maximum waiting time guarantee for patients by 2011.
Secretary Nicola Sturgeon has also told MSPs about further proposals which are currently out for consultation (closes 16 January 2009) as part of the forthcoming Patients Rights Bill, which ScotGov is committed to introducing in 2010. These include plans for a 12-week waiting time guarantee for surgery.
WO: The Wales Office reports the innovative work of the Rhyl City Strategy is starting to make a real difference to the local community. The City Strategy was announced in the 2006 Welfare Reform Green Paper in response to the challenge of low employment in cities.
It focuses initially on areas that are furthest from the Government’s aim of 80% employment. The aim is to test whether local stakeholders can deliver more by combining & aligning their efforts and funding behind shared priorities, alongside more freedom to innovate & tailor services in response to local needs.
CLG: Local communities will have another chance to have their say on the eco-town proposals as Housing Minister Margaret Beckett launches the Government's second round of formal consultation (closes 19 February 2009) on the proposed locations and standards for eco-towns.
The draft Eco-towns Planning Policy Statement (PPS) published for consultation sets out the UK's ‘toughest ever’ green standards for new development, including achieving zero carbon status across all the buildings in the eco-town and allocating 40% of the area within the town to be green space. The PPS also pledges that individual eco-towns will need to submit planning applications just as any other major development proposal.
A detailed Sustainability Appraisal on each location has also been published, which identifies & evaluates the likely impact of the proposals on the local economy, community & environment and considers reasonable alternatives. Over the next month Communities and Local Government will also be running roadshow events in areas close to the proposed eco-town locations to encourage awareness & responses to the consultation.
Defra: Environment Secretary Hilary Benn has launched a consultation (closes 31 December 2008) on new codes of practices for cats, dogs and horses that will offer practical advice on pet ownership and help pet owners to better understand their duties under the Animal Welfare Act 2006.
If a person fails to comply with a code of practice they will not be liable to proceedings of any kind, but failure to comply with several provisions may be used in evidence to support a prosecution for animal cruelty.
ACE: Alan Davey, Chief Executive, Arts Council England has announced proposals for peer review & self assessment for regularly funded arts organisations and is inviting artists & arts organisations to have their say (by 23 January 2009) in how it will work. The move comes after Brian McMaster’s report on excellence urged the Arts Council to include peer review and self assessment at the heart of its decision making.
The ACE proposes using a combination of self-assessment and peer review. A number of approaches are put forward in the consultation document, including ongoing artistic assessment, sectoral reviews and occasional one-off appraisals of individual organisations. As well as considering written responses, the ACE will also hold 3 meetings aimed primarily at regularly funded organisations and other arts sector bodies.
Ofsted: The Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted) has launched a new consultation document (closes on 26 January 2009) that proposes ‘a more focused approach to inspection of the further education (FE) and skills system’.
Under the new proposals, Ofsted would focus inspections on providers & issues which would have the greatest impact on improving outcomes for learners. The frequency & type of inspection would be guided by the perceived capacity of colleges and other providers to improve. The new approach will be piloted during the autumn & spring terms with selected colleges and providers, with the final version of the proposals to be implemented in September 2009.
WAG: Plans that aim to tackle excessive environmental noise in two of the most densely populated areas of Wales and along major roads & railways have been released for public comment (by 31 December 2008).
The Noise Action Plans cover the urban areas of Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan, Swansea-Neath Port Talbot and major transport networks. They were created as part of the EU’s Environmental Noise Directive, which aims for a common approach to environmental noise issues across Europe.
Ofwat: Water Services Regulation Authority (Ofwat) has provisionally decided not to allow Sutton and East Surrey Water to raise its prices by an average of 10.2% before inflation in 2009-2010. Ofwat's draft decision means the prices the company can charge will remain unchanged for now.
Sutton & East Surrey applied to increase prices due to increased energy costs and a claimed substantial & unforeseen shortfall in revenue. They stated the shortfall came as a consequence of water restrictions due to a drought in 2006 and heavy rainfall in 2007.
There will be a consultation period until 26 November 2008 for customers and the company. Comments should be sent to: Stephen St Pier, Ofwat, CentreCityTower, 7 Hill Street, Birmingham, B5 4AU. Ofwat will announce the final decision in December 2008.
CRC: The Commission for Rural Communities has been asked by the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to provide regular reports about the impacts of the economic downturn on rural businesses, employment and households. These reports will help enable the rural voice and needs to be put to the National Economic Council set up by the Prime Minister in October.
FSA: The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has published a consultation paper (closes on 16 February 2009) proposing a new framework to regulate the way that banks treat their customers. Currently, the Banking Code Standards Board monitors & enforces the voluntary Banking Codes governing current accounts, personal loans & overdrafts, savings, card services and ATMs.
Next year the FSA will become responsible for regulating banks and building societies payment transactions under the Payment Services Directive (PSD). The review considers whether it would be more effective to extend the FSA’s regulation across all aspects of banks' relationships with their retail customers. This would exclude credit, such as unsecured loans and credit cards, which is regulated by the Office of Fair Trading.
MoJ: Those found guilty of criminal offences may have to pay towards the cost of their defence the Government announced as it published two consultation papers (both closing29 January 2009):
* One paper is a joint exercise with the Legal Services Commission consulting on the means testing of legal aid in the Crown Court, and
* The second is a Ministry of Justice consultation on the awards of costs from central funds in criminal cases
HMT: Ian Pearson MP, the Economic Secretary to the Treasury, has launched a consultation (closes 9 January 2009) on safeguards for exercise of the powers under the proposed Special Resolution Regime (SRR) that would be used to deal with banks in severe financial difficulty. The safeguards - which are set out in draft secondary legislation - aim to increase the effectiveness of, and market confidence in, the 'partial transfer powers' under the Banking Bill.
DH: Health Secretary Alan Johnson has announced that, in future, the NHS should not withdraw treatment from the few patients who may still choose to pay privately for additional drugs. But he made clear that while private care can be carried out alongside NHS care, private treatment should take place in a private facility and must not be subsidised by the NHS. The consultation on draft guidance closes on 27 January 2009 – See ‘In the News’ section for more information
Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides
BERR: Business groups, unions and the government joined forces last week for the first meeting of the Fair Employment Enforcement Board. The Board is intended to lead the fight to protect vulnerable workers from the minority of unscrupulous employers who exploit their staff and undercut their competitors.
In addition, the Employment Agencies Standards Inspectorate (EAS) has begun a campaign to inform agency workers of their rights. An information booklet is being distributed to vulnerable workers and advice bodies.
HO: The Home Office has published detailed guidance to help businesses prepare for the ‘go-live’ (on 27 November) of Tiers 2 and 5 of the points system by publishing on the two tiers. Under these tiers - which cover skilled and temporary workers - employers will be held accountable for the workers they bring into the country, with a new sponsorship scheme holding businesses responsible for those they employ – See ‘Legislation / Legal’ section for more information.
Monitor: Monitor, the independent regulator of NHS foundation trusts, recently published the annual review & consolidated accounts for the Foundation Trust sector. It claims that this review of foundation trusts’ performance for the year 2007-08 supports the case that the foundation model and its regulatory regime is working, delivering robust organisations able to meet the requirements of their commissioners.
Variation does exist within the sector; Monitor has intervened at 5 trusts during the year to remedy unacceptably poor MRSA rates and has intervened formally at one trust in response to concerns about financial governance. However, the Annual Health Check ratings produced this month by the Healthcare Commission show a very positive picture – of the 42 trusts rated ‘excellent’ for both quality of services and use of resources, 38 were foundation trusts.
Defra: 90% of local authorities are meeting or even exceeding their household recycling targets, new figures published by Environment Minister Jane Kennedy show. This shows a continued improvement on last year based on the audited Best Value Performance Indicators for 2007/08.
ScotGov: Overcrowding; the imprisonment of children under 16 years of age, and the continuing lack of work are key frustrations in Scottish prisons according to the latest Annual Report of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons, which covers the period 1 April 2007 - 31 March 2008.
MoD: The latest Armed Forces recruit trainee survey, which has been published since 2005, has been published as part of the Department's commitment to open reporting of the views of service personnel. The latest statistics show:
* 89% of Armed Forces recruits would recommend joining up to their friends & families
* 88% of recruits felt they personally benefited from the course
* 87% said their training gave them a sense of achievement
*There was a small rise in recruits who felt they had been badly or unfairly treated, up from 9% to 12%
General Reports and Other Publications
HA: Every day 4,000 road workers across the country put their trust in the hands of around 18m other road users.
With their safety in mind a new information DVD, which includes a hard-hitting short film called ‘Respect’, as well as radio clips aimed at regular commuters (primarily those driving on business) has been developed by the Highways Agency, on behalf of the Road Workers' Safety Forum (RoWSaF), with its partners from Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, the maintenance, construction and road safety industry, and THINK!
CAA: The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has published the Competition Commission's (CC's) report & recommendations on charges at Stansted Airport, which will govern how much the airport's owner, BAA, can charge airlines during the 5-year period beginning April 2009.
In addition to its conclusions on airport charges, the CC also found that Stansted Airport had acted against the public interest in the period since the last reference to the CC by failing to:
* consult adequately with airlines on the development of the airport and its capital expenditure plans
* manage as effectively as possible the security queuing process
* offer appropriate landing charges for larger cargo aircraft
The CAA will now consider the CC's recommendations, before carrying out a further round of consultation and announcing its final decision in March 2009.
TDA: Graham Holley, Chief Executive of the Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA), has commented on the Ofsted report - The deployment, training and development of the wider school workforce – claiming that; "These findings are further evidence of the success of workforce reform……… Since Ofsted conducted its survey, we have launched a range of online resources for headteachers.
NAO: The National Audit Office has reported that the programme to maintain the UK’s nuclear deterrent beyond the life of the current system, with the introduction into service of the first of a new class of submarines in 2024, is at an early stage, but the Ministry of Defence has made good progress establishing programme management arrangements and engaging stakeholders. The timetable is challenging, however, with very little room for delay and the MoD needs to manage key risks if continuous nuclear deterrence is to be maintained.
The programme is currently in a two year initial concept phase for the new class of submarines. This requires a series of important & difficult decisions to be taken by September 2009 to keep the programme on track. The MoD has appointed a Senior Responsible Owner to co-ordinate these decisions and other work to inform future decisions and to allocate funding to the various elements of the programme.
OFT: The OFT's 'Save Xmas' campaign has had a major impact on people's behaviour towards saving, new independent research shows. Following the collapse of the Farepak hamper company, the OFT partnered with Citizens Advice in 2007 to launch & administer the 'Save Xmas' campaign. It received initial funding of £1m from HM Treasury as part of the Government's response to the Farepak collapse.
The campaign uses face-to-face training sessions to explain the pros & cons of different Christmas saving options, as well as wider issues around personal saving. The OFT produced a toolkit including a leaflet, a short film and presentations to use as the basis for these sessions and the campaign also involved additional publicity including a national launch and regional events.
MCA: The Maritime and Coastguard Agency has delivered its in-depth report to the Chairman of Devon's local Inquiry into the circumstances leading to the beaching of the MSC Napoli off the East Devon coastline.
The report summarises the Agency's activities from the moment the incident broke on the 18th January 2007. The MSC Napoli was on passage in the English Channel, loaded with 2,318 containers and bound for South Africa, when she suffered a catastrophic hull failure and got into severe difficulties.
LSN: The full cost to individuals of participating in further education in England & Wales is explored in new research. The nature & level of cost that individuals incur when they participate and the impact student financial support has on an individual's learning experience, is examined in the report.
Undertaken jointly by the Learning and Skills Network and the National Union of Students, it aims to investigate the extent to which financial hardship still presents a barrier to further education for many students.
Ofsted: A new report by the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted) concludes that the Train to Gain programme is successful in giving employees the opportunity to gain nationally recognised qualifications and improving their motivation in the workplace. However, inspections reveal that employers have been slow to take advantage of funding, while some employees aren’t always getting the skills development they need.
Inspectors found that participants made gains in their knowledge & self-confidence at work and many employers reported improvements in work practice & staff retention. Despite this, and the fact that most employers were very pleased with the training & assessment their staff received through the programme, it has not resulted in an increased employer demand for training.
NAO: HM Revenue & Customs clears most imported goods quickly and processes for submitting customs declarations & payments for non-EU imports are straightforward, says a report out from the National Audit Office. The rate of physical checks at the UK border is below the EU average, however and the number of audits of traders has dropped substantially since 2005-06.
Among the findings, 99% of declarations are processed electronically and 90% of goods are cleared immediately. The Department checks documents for about 6% of imports each year and aims to clear 95% of these within two hours. However, a recent quality review by the Department found an 18% error rate in these checks.
UKTI: UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) has identified key markets for the UK's £25bn a year environmental industries. The total world environmental goods & services sector is expected to grow by more than 30% to US$688bn by 2010 offering significant opportunities for UK companies.
The report - 'Market opportunities in environmental goods and services, renewable energy, carbon finance and Carbon Abatement Technologies' (CATS) - confirmed Australia, Brazil, China, India, South Africa, Turkey and the USA as markets that could benefit from UK expertise. For each country, current & future opportunities are highlighted together with regulatory constraints and indications of where the UK is best placed to offer its expertise.
Legislation / Legal
MoJ: New Cremation Regulations designed to help prevent another Harold Shipman-type murder have been published. The Regulations, which follow a full public consultation, allow bereaved families to inspect the medical forms of a deceased family member before a cremation takes place and are expected to come into force in January 2009.
Dame Janet Smith's 'Third Shipman Inquiry Report' made clear that many of the forms completed by Shipman were wholly inaccurate. Under the new Regulation, families will be able to draw the medical referee's attention to any concerns about unexpected symptoms or discrepancies in the case.
The Coroners and Death Certification Bill combines proposals to modernise the coroner system with Department of Health proposals to establish an independent body of medical examiners to scrutinise the causes of death given by doctors on death certificates in those cases which are not referred to the coroner.
MoJ: The Government has launched two new tribunals, consisting of a First-tier and an Upper Tribunal. This is part of an overhaul of the tribunals' structure designed to strengthen the system and achieve improved & consistent standards for tribunal users.
Most tribunal jurisdictions, currently administered by the Tribunals Service, will transfer into the First-tier and Upper Tribunal in phases from 3 November, implementing a key part of the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007.
The important change for users comes with the establishment of the Upper Tribunal and the First-tier's onward appeal rights to it. For some jurisdictions this will create new statutory appeal rights and for others bring the appeal rights within the tribunals rather than the courts.
LR: The Land Registration (Amendment) Rules 2008 came into force on Monday 10 November. The amendments will see most notable changes in the areas of identification checks, new forms and standard restrictions.
The following statutory provisions also come into force on Monday 10 November 2008:
* The Commonhold (Land Registration) (Amendment) Rules 2008
* The Land Registration (Proper Office) (Amendment) Order 2008
HO: The age at which someone can apply for a marriage visa is increasing. From 27 November 2008 both parties in a marriage will have to be 21 before a marriage visa can be issued. Raising the age is just one part of the Government's work to crackdown on forced marriage and on those who attempt to abuse the marriage visa route.
The Home Office has also published detailed guidance to help businesses prepare for the ‘go-live’ (on 27 November) of Tiers 2 and 5 of the points system by publishing on the two tiers. Under these tiers - which cover skilled and temporary workers - employers will be held accountable for the workers they bring into the country, with a new sponsorship scheme holding businesses responsible for those they employ.
EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.
DWP: £27 million of new European Social Fund (ESF) money will be invested in innovative projects to help people improve skills & stay in work, or develop new skills and find a new job. Interested organisations are being called on to submit proposals to run regional projects, which will develop, test & deliver new ways of extending employment opportunities and improving skills.
This new money will be targeted at projects helping people find jobs by:
* Helping people who may find it harder to get back into work, for example disabled people or lone parents
* Working with employers to ensure people have the right skills for the jobs available
* Targeting help at older workers
* Training for ‘green jobs’
* Training and support to set up & manage not-for-profit enterprises
Deadline for applications is Wednesday 17 December 2008. Projects are expected to start in spring 2009 and will usually run for up to three years. Applicants will need to provide at least 50% match funding (or 25% in the case of applicants in Cornwall). Each project will work with at least one partner from another EU Member State.
Defra: Restrictions which have been in place since the identification of viral haemorrhagic septicaemia (VHS) in May 2006 have been lifted. The UK originally suspended its approved status for VHS for the whole of Great Britain following the identification of the VHS virus at a single trout farm in North Yorkshire. The disease was eradicated from the affected fish farm, which was subsequently disinfected & fallowed.
Following a two year surveillance programme, which required regular inspection & testing of susceptible species in the affected zone, no further evidence for the presence of VHS has been found. After application to the European Commission, Great Britain has regained full VHS freedom status.
Charity and Voluntary Sector
BIG: The people of Chester-le-Street are the first to take charge of a community centre under the Government’s £30m Community Assets programme – See ‘In the News’ section for more information.
Business and Other Briefings
UKT&I: Some of the UK's top financial services companies will descend on Bahrain from 23 to 25 November to showcase the UK's expertise in Islamic finance at the 15th World Islamic Banking Conference. The exhibitors will be hosted by UK Trade & Investment at the UK Pavilion.
A November 2007 report on 'Top 500 Islamic Financial Institutions', published by The Banker, rated the UK as the number one western destination for Islamic finance and 9th overall in the world.
DWP: Following discussions with stakeholders, employers will now be able to 'self certify' that their pension scheme meets the quality standard based on the expected value of pension contributions to be made over the course of each coming year.
The Bill states the quality standard for a money purchase scheme is that members receive contributions of 8% of qualifying earnings, of which 3% are made from the employer. The new minimum level of pension saving is due to come in to force from 2012. Rates for the General Levy and the PPF Administration Levy for 2009/10 will be frozen at this year's level to avoid putting additional cost pressures on pension schemes at the current time.
LSN: Young people from all over London are looking forward to quizzing Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), on the European Union (EU) issues that are important to them. A one-day interactive event (Friday 28 November 2008) will help the young people (aged 16-25) to understand & learn more about how the EU works.
The aim is to raise awareness of how Europe is governed and to consider some of the main issues affecting the EU today. It is designed to encourage them to think about the kind of Europe they want to be part of and the actions needed to achieve those aims.
The day follows a similar format following on from last year’s successful EurOpinions events, which were organised by the Learning and Skills Network for the European Parliament UK Office. A further three EurOpinions events are planned for 2008/2009 in the cities of Birmingham, Manchester and Newcastle.
Participation in the events is free of charge.
LLUK: Lifelong Learning UK is facilitating the development of the Workforce Strategy for the Further Education (FE) Sector in England. Its aim is to shape an FE workforce in England that is ready for the opportunities & challenges of this fast-changing sector.
Working on behalf of the sector, Lifelong Learning UK will, in 2008/09, update the Strategy and renew the Implementation Plan in close consultation with providers & partners.
Lifelong Learning UK is holding a series of briefings in December 2008 and January and February 2009 aimed at leaders, senior management and those responsible for the development of staff to show how the Workforce Strategy and Implementation Plan can support these individuals & organisations in delivering their goals. The events are FREE and will be held at various locations throughout England. Each briefing will be held at 8.30am until 10.30am. Venues will be confirmed.
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