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In the News

SocitmPerhaps central government should also take note - The Society of IT Management (Socitm) has worked closely with the Local Government Association/ Welsh Local Government Association and central government on a new publication - Local Government Data Handling Guidelines - that shows councils the steps they need to be taking to keep safe & secure data collected from residents, businesses and other parties.

The guidelines set out fundamental steps that every council should take to lessen risks of personal information being lost or data protection systems failing and include Socitm’s top 10 tips for data handling.  Richard Thomas, Information Commissioner, said: “I welcome these guidelines as a significant step towards ensuring the consistent, proportionate and secure use of personal information by government at all levels”.

Socitm will also be working with the LGA/WLGA and IDeA to provide advice & guidance to local authorities in achieving compliance with the Data Handling Guidelines and the Government Connect Code of Connection
Press release ~ Data handling guidelines for local government ~ Socitm – Information Assurance ~ Local Government Association ~ Welsh Local Government Association ~ Data Handling Procedures in Government ~ Recent speech by ICO ~ Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) ~ ICO Briefing - Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 ~ A Surveillance Society, Home Affairs Select Committee (scroll down to 5th report) ~ Data sharing, Thomas/Walport ~ Criminality information, Sir Ian Magee ~ Guidance on data security breach management ~ ICO Privacy Impact Assessments Handbook ~ National Audit Office guidance, Managing Information Risk ~ Protecting Government Information ~ Directors’ Guides to Managing Information Risk, IAAC, ISAF, BT ~ Data Handling in Government ~ Information Assurance Advisory Council ~ BSI: ISO/IEC 27000 Information Security ~ Government Connect Code of Connection

CLGAs we prepare to celebrate the birthday of another ‘rough sleeper’ - A new drive to end rough sleeping by 2012 has been announced by the Government.  Ministers said that it is not acceptable for people still to be sleeping rough and announced a new action plan (backed by an allocation of £200m) to prevent rough sleeping and to support those already there to rebuild their lives away from the streets.
CLG:  Decentralisation or Divide & Rule by central government? - Communities Secretary Hazel Blears has outlined plans to encourage new town & parish councils to be set up so that more decision-making powers are devolved to local people, particularly in urban areas.  Recently passed legislation means that parish councils can now be established in London for the first time in 45 years.

Over £750,000 will be allocated to the National Association of Local Councils, which will work with organisations including the Local Government Association, the Society of Local Council Clerks and the Participatory Budgeting Unit, to:
* develop new good practice guidance on devolving decision-making
* develop a revitalised National Training Strategy for town & parish councillors
* help for councillors to encourage greater community involvement

New & existing councils that successfully meet approved standards will be recognised through NALC's Quality Parish and Town Council Scheme - it is hoped that the number of Quality Councils could rise from around 650 to as many as 2,500 by April 2011.
NAOThe ROI doesn’t add up - A National Audit Office report finds that meeting the 2011 progress target – that 84.5% of pupils make at least two National Curriculum levels of progress in mathematics – will be a considerable challenge.  In 2007, pupils in their final year of primary school achieved the best set of results so far recorded in the national mathematics tests, yet almost a quarter of pupils are still not reaching the expected standard. 

Attainment in mathematics increased significantly between 1998 & 2000, but improvements in results since then have been small, despite spending by primary schools increasing in real terms by more than 30%.
Press release ~ Mathematics performance in primary schools: Getting the best results ~ Executive Summary ~ Ipsos MORI survey of 11-13 year olds on their attitudes to their primary mathematics teaching & learning ~ Ofsted: Mathematics: Understanding the score ~ National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics ~ Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) ~ STEMnet ~ Review of Mathematics Teaching in Early Years Settings and Primary Schools ~ Developing assessment for learning in mathematics – classroom practice in action ~ STEM Mapping Review ~ What is important in teaching Maths ~ Centre for Innovation in Mathematics teaching ~ National Challenge documents and case studies ~ 'Making Great Progress' ~ Keeping up - pupils who fall behind in Key Stage 2 ~ Making Good Progress: How can we help every pupil to make good progress at school?

OfstedFailure, Failure Failure? - Ofsted’s Annual report for 2007/08 paints a picture of too many children & young people receiving services that are ‘patently inadequate’ – especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds – despite broad improvements across schools, children’s services and further education. 

The report covers the first full year of Ofsted’s wider remit - inspecting & regulating education, childcare, social care, children’s services, adult learning and the skills sector – and highlights that:
* 8% of social care providers are inadequate
* 20% of 11 year olds transfer to secondary school without reaching the expected level in English & maths
* more than half of all pupils leave schools without five good GCSEs - A*s to Cs, including English & maths

The report warns that poor quality services exist ‘at every stage of the education and care sectors’ for children and young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, despite positive contributions by initiatives such as children’s centres, Teach First and London Challenge.
Forthcoming EventLearn ‘How to’ in 60 minutes rather than a whole day – It’s a common problem for many managers – how to learn about the benefits of new ideas & techniques without having to spend most of a whole day out of the office.

SGS United Kingdom Ltd. provide one solution – their FREE 60 minute webinars - the next of which runs on 10 December 2008 at 10am GMT and explores the background to the Government's new (March 2008) Customer Service Excellence standard, as well as the standard’s key requirements on the drivers of customer satisfaction, namely; delivery, timeliness, staff, professionalism & attitude and information & access. It will also give you the opportunity to ask their experts any questions you may have regarding the standard.

Future webinars will be based on topics directly related to the CSE standard, such as Segmentation & Customer Grouping, Customer Journey mapping and the Key drivers of Customer Satisfaction.

In addition SGS have developed a FREE guide to Customer Service Excellence, which covers the entire path from deciding to go for the standard - right through to the application & certification process.  It also contains a full copy of the standard, as well as guidance on the type of evidence required.  You can also learn more from organisations that have already achieved recognition to the CSE Standard and gain an insight into their experience and what this achievement means to them. 

Click HERE to:
* Register for event
* Request free guide
* See case studies
For information on other forthcoming public sector events please click HERE to visit the WGPlus Events Calendar

For Industry News please click HERE

General News

MoD: The transformation of military accommodation has hit another milestone as hundreds of soldiers returned from Germany to brand new barracks at Catterick Garrison in Yorkshire. The successful return of troops from Germany is the Army's largest relocation for more than 20 years.
 
The 6,000-strong 4th Mechanized Brigade, or the ‘Black Rats’, have been based in Osnabruck, Germany for the past 27 years.  1,800 of the returning soldiers will now have their own en-suite rooms, which have been built under a £330m programme to develop the Supergarrison. 
 
The MOD is also building a physiotherapy centre, dining facilities, a sport & leisure centre and swimming pools, as well as redeveloping Catterick town centre under a major PFI contract. Some 11km of cycle path has been created and green areas & ‘corridors’ (representing 30% of the site) have been enhanced to encourage the movement of wildlife through the Garrison.
 
CIOB: The Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) has announced a new category, the Innovation Research Paper Award, for the launch of the 2008/09 International Innovation and Research Awards.
 
The awards play an important role in bringing together practitioners with education & training providers, as well as policy makers.  This interaction helps to develop, promote & implement new ideas and methods.
 
UKTI: Abu Dhabi is turning to the UK to bring its extraordinary plan - Masdar City, the world's first zero carbon, zero waste, car-free city - to life. Eager to work with UK companies and academic institutions, the Masdar team has discussed the initiative's business opportunities with 108 companies at a Partnership Seminar, hosted by UK Trade & Investment (UKTI).
 
Masdar City is to be finished by 2016 and will eventually be home to 50,000 residents, 1,500 businesses, particularly those in the sustainable and alternative energies field.
 
MCA: Three fishermen recently died in an accident while living on board a fishing vessel alongside in port.  The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) is extremely concerned that safety systems & precautions on board (intended for use at sea) were proved to be inadequate for use when the main electrical systems were shut down (‘dead ship’).
 
Paul Coley, Assistant Director Seafarers and Ships, said: “Every owner and skipper should think very carefully about the risks when people are living on board their own vessels and take suitable precautions”.
 
HO: The Home Secretary has announced that state-of-the art filtering technology will now enable parents, schools, businesses and web users in the UK to further restrict access to websites which advocate or promote terrorism.
 
Many Internet Service Providers (ISP) offer filtering products as part of their internet access package and broadband subscriptions in the UK usually come with free filtering solutions. In order to download the software, check whether a free filtering product is available through your broadband package or from your ISP.
 
LLUKLifelong Learning UK is about to commence the first annual collection of workforce data developed specifically for work based learning & adult and community learning providers.  The need for a better understanding of the whole of the further education sector workforce was identified in The Workforce Strategy for the Further Education Sector in England.

All work based learning providers and adult and community learning providers are invited to participate in the data collection process, which opens on 1 December 2008
LLUK: Around 70 candidates, attracted to Lifelong Learning UK’s Make a Difference programme (part of the wider Catalyst programme) through a national advertising campaign, have successfully completed a detailed interview & assessment centre process and are now ready to be matched to suitable vacancies within the further education sector in England.
 
FE providers can take a look at the candidates' profiles and follow up those who match their requirements.  Any candidate recruited through Make a Difference will benefit from a fully funded 12 month leadership development programme (worth £10,000).
 
DSA: The Driving Standards Agency (DSA) have invited popular TV motorsport presenter Louise Brady and former Superbike Champion and now MotoGP commentator Steve Parrish to support an exciting new scheme aimed at significantly improving motorcycle road safety. The Enhanced Rider Scheme (ERS) will be showcased at the 2008 Motorcycle and Scooter Show, which takes place at the National Exhibition Centre, Birmingham, from 28 November – 7 December 2008.
 
The ERS is a new training package that forms part of the Government's Motorcycling Strategy (GMS) to help reduce the number of fatal & serious accidents on our roads each year involving motorcyclists.  ERS aims to encourage & help qualified riders become safer on the roads and reduce accidents.
 
ScotGov: Almost £20m has been saved for the NHS through Scotland's NHS's counter fraud services since they were established in 2000, Scotland's first counter fraud conference was told last week.
 
FCO: British diplomats who helped Jews and other victims of Nazi persecution are to be commemorated by a plaque in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.  The sculpture has been privately funded through donations made to the Three Faiths Forum.
 
Renowned holocaust historian Sir Martin Gilbert said: "When the Holocaust is finally beyond living memory, the desire will remain to remember and to honour those who extended a helping hand.  It is important to recognise individual bravery.  It is also important to provide a reminder that human beings can, in situations where civilized values are being undermined, find the strength of character and purpose to resist the evil impulses of the age, and to rescue the victims of barbarity."
 
DH: A new deal has been reached between the Government and the pharmaceutical industry that hopefully means that more patients will benefit from a wider range of innovative drug treatments at a fair price to the NHS.
 
The flexible pricing scheme agreed is intended to ensure that medicines fairly reflect their value to patients, branded drugs will see their price cut, and industry innovations will be encouraged & rewarded.  As a result, patients should have faster access to new medicines that are clinically & cost effective.
 
LLUK: A database of vocational experts who want to 'pass on their skills' as a further education teacher, tutor or trainer has been launched by Lifelong Learning UK to help colleges & independent learning providers fill key learning delivery roles.
 
The Pass on Your Skills vocational practitioner database allows providers to search, free of charge, for professionals with technical or vocational backgrounds who want to start a new career in teaching.  It links providers with individuals who have expertise in specific areas where corresponding skills shortages exist in the learning & skills sector.
 
ScotGov: First Minister Alex Salmond has officially opened the new Clackmannanshire Bridge over the Firth of Forth, which will help reduce traffic congestion, improve road safety and open up the wider area to economic benefits.
 
The £120m crossing, designed to alleviate traffic pressure on the Kincardine Bridge, is the second largest of its type in the world.  It includes an extensive network of new cycleways & footpaths and provides transport links between Clackmannanshire, Falkirk and Fife.
 
NE: Cornflowers, cowslips and oystercatchers have helped David Hutchinson win Natural England’s prestigious Future of Farming Award.  David, who has lived & worked all his life on his 300 hectare arable farm at Manor Farm, Strixton in Northamptonshire, has built up a successful farm business, which is a showcase for how wildlife & habitat creation can be integrated into farm production.
 
A range of environmentally-friendly land management techniques are used across Manor Farm, which has been in Environmental Stewardship for a number of years and joined Natural England’s Higher Level Stewardship scheme (HLS) in 2006.
 
Ofwat: The Water Services Regulation Authority (Ofwat) has announced targets for water companies to increase water efficiency savings by 40% from 2010 - a response to lacklustre performance by some companies on helping their customers use water more wisely. This reduction would come on top of savings from targets on leakage from pipes, and increasing water metering.
 
Average household consumption per head across England & Wales in 2007/08 was 148 litres a day, but the water usage of households varies significantly from company to company. If England & Wales followed Germany's lead and reduced household consumption by 22 litres per person per day, enough water could be saved to supply the needs of the combined population of London, Birmingham and Cardiff. A key factor in this reduction would be an increase in usage of devices such as water saving toilets and shower heads.
 
Defra: The Water Saving Group reviewed its achievements as it met for the last time on 20 November 2008.  In the last three years members of the group have worked together on a programme of measures to promote water efficiency in households.
 
OSSandwell Borough Council has scooped the award for most innovative use of geographic information. The Council’s ‘Gaming the Tibby’ project was honoured at the mapping agency's Local Government and Emergency Services conference, which highlighted the very best uses of digital mapping data.
 
‘Gaming the Tibby’ – an interactive game designed to engage the young people of the Tibbington estate – invites players to enter a 'virtual environment'.  There they can use a huge range of building tools to present their thoughts & opinions about the area’s regeneration.
 
TfL: The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has announced £168.3m of funding for London’s boroughs to deliver local transport improvements, cut road deaths, improve town centres & cycling facilities, tackle the school run and carry out essential main road maintenance during the financial year 2009/10. 
 
The funding includes allocating £390k to 12 Boroughs to install an additional 70 electric vehicle charging points across London.  The first on street vehicle charging point in London was implemented in August 2006 in Covent Garden followed by an individual 28 points in 8 Boroughs in 2007 /2008.
 
NA: With the recent commemoration of Armistice Day 90 years on, secondary school students throughout the UK (and as far afield as America) have been given an insight into life in the trenches, via The National Archives´ videoconference workshops.
 
The First World War videoconference, All Pals Together, tells the story of real-life Private Henry Fairhurst of the 14th Yorkshire and Lancashire Battalion - the Barnsley Pals - played by a costumed actor.  From the comfort of their own classrooms, students are given the opportunity to pose questions to the soldier as he talks about the perils of life in the trenches, demonstrates his kit and describes the sensation of going ´over the top´ during the Battle of the Somme.
 
LLUK: The Disability Equality Commitment, facilitated by Lifelong Learning UK, is a framework to help organisations in further education recruit, retain and train disabled employees so that they are equally represented in the sector.  LiverpoolCommunity College has become the first institution to sign up and commit to disability equality in this way.
 
BERR: Around 100,000 students & graduates will get the chance to develop world-class skills as entrepreneurs and business leaders with the launch of the first University Enterprise Networks (UEN) for STEM, Innovation, and Nuclear networks. The networks will be managed by the National Council for Graduate Entrepreneurship (NCGE).
 
Defra:  The UK became officially free from Avian Influenza (AI) on 20 November 2008, according to the rules laid down by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).  OIE rules require a 3 month interval between the final cleansing & disinfection of premises involved in the outbreak and official recognition of freedom from the disease. Trade with other EU countries resumed on 8 July 2008, under separate EU rules on AI.
 

Policy Statements and Initiatives

CLG: Councils have not used a legal power that could help their area ‘ride out’ tough economic times, the Government has claimed. Local Government Minister John Healey, in a letter to council chiefs, urged them to consider using this ‘wellbeing power’ to support their communities during the current economic climate.
 
Newly published research highlights the low take-up of this legal power.  The wellbeing power is a general power of competence, permitting councils to do anything except raise tax to promote the economic, social and environmental wellbeing of their area.  
 
It can save councils from checking through numerous different laws and enables them to focus on achieving their goals, unless it's specifically prohibited by legislation.  However, while 90% councils are aware of the power, fewer than one in twelve are using it.
 
DH: An organ donation awareness campaign that will hopefully see nearly half the population recruited on the organ donor register has been announced by Health Secretary Alan Johnson.  He welcomed the Organ Donation Taskforce Group report, which does not recommend introducing an ‘opt out’ system for organ donation in the UK at this time.
 
The report - 'The potential impact of an opt out system in the UK' -  has concluded that introducing an opt out or 'presumed consent' system in the UK at the present time, whilst having the potential to deliver benefits, may not increase organ donation rates and might cause significant complications.
 
ScotGov: Scotland's universities will play a key role in helping the country recover from the current economic downturn, the Scottish Government has claimed as the work of the joint university taskforce's drew to a close. Education and Lifelong Learning Secretary Fiona Hyslop, co-chair of the taskforce, was speaking after the endorsement of New Horizons as the Taskforce's final position.
 
She also confirmed the Scottish Cabinet has supported the taskforce's recommendation that universities should be a key economic sector in their own right, becoming the 'seventh sector' in Scotland, in recognition of the vital contribution they can make to delivering the Government's Economic Strategy.
 
New Horizons will also modernise the way in which 3 parties to the taskforce - the Scottish Funding Council, Universities Scotland and ScotGov, will work together in the future and how universities will be funded.
 
Defra: A £750,000 campaign to increase conservation volunteering is being launched by Defra to help more people who want to do their bit for the natural environment & wildlife get involved in local projects. Working with a range of voluntary organisations and other bodies, Defra will roll out the initiative in the coming months in partnership with the Department of Health's Change4Life campaign.
 
Defra is also giving more than £1m to a new fund to improve local recording of wildlife across England, providing people with better access to information collected in different parts of the country. The Defra Fund for Local Biodiversity Recording will boost the work of the National Biodiversity Network.
 
In addition, Defra has launched the most comprehensive survey of Britain's countryside and its natural resources. The Countryside Survey maps changes to the landscape and wildlife habitats, showing where some species of plants that birds & insects feed on have increased or decreased.
 
WAG: Up to 400 new sustainable homes will be built across Wales as part of a unique project announced by the Welsh Assembly Government.  The £80m scheme will see 22 schemes being constructed in both urban and rural locations.  All the properties will be built to the highest green standards, known as levels 4 and 5 of the Code for Sustainable Houses.
 
The initiative is direct response to one of the first five steps recommended by the Essex Report into affordable housing in Wales.
 
DH: 18 new projects will have access to a £5.5m pot to come up with innovative new ways of helping people from marginalised communities cope with diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease. The projects form the second wave of 'Pacesetters' - a scheme set up in 2007 to improve the health & wellbeing of people in deprived areas.  The new Pacesetters are free to come up with innovative ideas, but must focus on specific serious conditions.
 
Successful projects in wave one include:
* designing services for deaf communities through the first British Sign Language (BSL) care plans
* increasing breast screening rates for women with learning disabilities in Walsall
* improving experiences for people with learning disabilities staying in hospital
 
ScotGov: A £1m fund to help aspiring social entrepreneurs launch new ventures is ready to begin operating from March 2009. The £1m Social Entrepreneurs Fund will provide support to help get new social enterprises off the ground with individuals setting-up & running businesses with a social and/or environmental purpose eligible to apply.
 
The purpose of the fund (which will be delivered by Firstport) is to help build capacity, capability and financial sustainability in the Third Sector, ensuring it reaches its full potential and contributes to creating a more successful Scotland.
 
NA: The National Archives has highlighted the publication by the Civil Service of a new strategy to ‘help government seize the opportunities and meet the challenges of managing knowledge & information in a digital era’. The development of the strategy - Information Matters: building government´s capability in managing knowledge and information - has been led by the cross-government Knowledge Council.
 
Information Matters is intended to help develop the framework, tools and capabilities for knowledge & information management, which will enable all civil servants to meet the challenge of delivering effective and efficient public services while simultaneously protecting individuals´ privacy.
 
BERR: The Government has launched the Aspire Fund - a £25m investment fund for women-led businesses - to be jointly funded by the Government and private sector. The fund is intended to act as a beacon to encourage women with businesses to seek appropriate equity finance and will also demonstrate to the business community what investment opportunities already exist from businesses being run by women.
 
The Fund will be accessed via Business Link and managed by Capital for Enterprise Limited.
 
ScotGov: Scotland's town & city centres are the 'heartbeat of our economy', the Vital and Vibrant Town Centres conference in Stirling was told last week, when Finance Secretary, John Swinney, announced an increase in funding for Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) - a scheme that sees businesses work together to promote and improve their local area.
 
Mr Swinney also launched the new Scotland’s Towns website, which is supported by the Scottish Government as a portal to useful information & good practice on town centres and high streets in Scotland.

Consultations

NA: Are you satisfied with The National Archives' online service?  They are asking for your feedback to help with their ongoing website development (no closure date given).
 
HEFCE: The next Higher Education - Business and Community Interaction (HE-BCI) survey is now open & available to all UK higher education institutions (HEIs). The survey period is academic year (August to end July) 2007-08, and the deadline for responses is Monday 26 January 2009.
 
This is the last year that HEFCE is running the survey on behalf of the UK higher education funding bodies and DIUS.  HESA will take over collection for 2008-09 onwards and have already written to HEIs to announce this process. 
 
DH: Local NHS organisations are being encouraged to engage with staff to help develop a framework for a new generation of indicators that will measure quality at local, organisational, regional and national levels. Some of the regional indicators will also be used to measure the implementation of the local visions for improved healthcare produced by every Strategic Health Authority (SHA) as part of Lord Darzi's NHS Next Stage Review - 'High Quality Care for All'.
 
The Department of Health has identified a list of existing indicators used by various parts of the NHS to measure performance.  Staff are being invited to comment on the usefulness of each indicator which applies to their specialism and to suggest other measures they may already use but which are not on the list.  The indictors are listed on the NHS Information Centre website, which staff can use to feedback online (by 12 December 2008).
 
ScotGov: A discussion paper that raises the prospect of extending the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act to more organisations has been published. It seeks views (by 12 January 2009) on extending the Act to cover:
* Contractors who provide services that are a function of a public authority
* Registered social landlords
* Local authority trusts or bodies set up by local authorities
 
Minister for Parliamentary Business Bruce Crawford, has also announced that the Government would be pro-actively publishing Ministerial car travel and diary information. In addition, the Minister also announced the publication of the latest ScotGov Annual Report on request handling.
 
Defra: A consultation (closes 10 February 2009) on the implementation of changes to the EU School Milk Scheme in England has been launched by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). Under the scheme, Primary and Secondary pupils in England are currently eligible for a serving of subsidised plain or flavoured milk and plain yoghurt.
 
When the scheme was extended to secondary schools from the start of the 2008 Autumn term, Defra committed to carrying out a consultation about the range of products offered and what to do with the ‘national top-up’ to the EU subsidy. Any changes to the Scheme to be made following the consultation will be implemented in the Summer Term 2009 at the earliest.
 
DWP: Minister for Pensions and Ageing Society Rosie Winterton has welcomed the publication of a review of how the Government currently engages with older people, undertaken by John Elbourne, former Chief Executive for Prudential Assurance. Comments on the review should be submitted to DWP by 9 January 2009and the Government will respond by 30 January 2009.
 
BERR: The Government has launched a consultation (closes 16 February 2009) on proposals to make tips fairer for hard-working service staff across the UK. Under the plans, employers will be banned from using any tips or service charges towards payment of the national minimum wage.
 
As well as inviting comments on proposals to change the rules, so that tips are paid on top of the national minimum wage, the consultation will also look at ways of improving information for consumers. 
 
WAG: A 'Green Jobs Strategy for Wales' has been drafted by the Welsh Assembly Government to make existing jobs more sustainable & carbon efficient - and to help generate a range of new jobs based on emerging green technologies and products.
 
The draft Strategy - published for consultation (closes on 20 February 2009) - will seek to ensure that businesses in Wales will have access to expert advice & technology to make their operations more efficient in an increasingly carbon constrained economy.
 
DfT: A major new road safety consultation (closes on 27 February 2009) sets out plans to help the police better enforce against drug & drink driving, as well as exploring whether there is a need to change the law on drug driving or on the drink drive limit.
 
It also examines the need to toughen penalties and make it easier for police to tackle other forms of reckless driving to cut the toll of nearly 3,000 road deaths a year.
 
CompC: The Competition Commission (CC) has published for consultation (closes 12 December 2008) its proposed remedies designed to increase competition in the retail payment protection insurance (PPI) market. Following discussions with providers and other interested parties, the CC is proposing a package of measures which it considers will be practical & effective in increasing competition in the market to the benefit of customers.
 
HO: The Government has begun a consultation (closes 13 February 2009) on the finer detail of the next phase of the National Identity Scheme. The Identity and Passport Service (IPS) has invited comment on secondary legislation needed to ensure the first cards for British citizens become a reality and are issued to airside workers and a number of volunteers at the end of 2009.
 
While the Identity Cards Act set out the framework for a National Identity Register (NIR) and biometric identity cards, this secondary legislation will establish procedures for issuing cards that mirror those in place for issuing passports.
 
LLUKLifelong Learning UK (LLUK) are currently developing National Occupational Standards (NOS) for learning delivery. A first tranche of consultation has taken place, with focus groups in each of the nations.  The draft NOS have been developed following that feedback and you are invited to take part in the electronic consultation by 16 January 2009.
 
BIG: The Big Lottery Fund is urging organisations & individuals across the UK to engage in the debate on how BIG’s funding should be allocated through its grant programmes between 2009 and 2015

Big thinking, the Fund’s public consultation (closes on 27 February 2009), is giving everyone the chance to have their say through a series of national, regional and local face-to-face events and online channels including questionnaires, blogs and videos – See ‘Charities / Voluntary Organisations / Third Sector’ for more information.

Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides

Socitm: The Society of IT Management (Socitm) has worked closely with the Local Government Association/ Welsh Local Government Association and central government on new Local Government Data Handling Guidelines that shows councils the steps they need to be taking to keep safe and secure data collected from residents, businesses and other parties.
 
The guidelines set out fundamental steps that every council should take to lessen risks of personal information being lost or data protection systems failing, and include Socitm’s top 10 tips for data handling – See ‘In the News’ for more information.
 
CLG: An easy to use booklet to help small accommodation providers comply with fire safety rules has been launched by Fire Minister Sadiq Khan. 'Do you have paying guests?' will give the hospitality industry practical advice; including a five-step action plan for reducing fire risks in small establishments.
 
Fire safety regulations introduced in 2006 required those responsible for small hospitality businesses to carry out a fire risk assessment for the first time. The booklet addresses the specific difficulties that B&Bs, guest houses and self catering properties have faced understanding the new rules and encourages compliance.
 
DH: Marking Social Enterprise Day, Care Service Ministers Phil Hope has announced that six projects will share £450,000 to establish new social enterprises which will help the elderly, the disabled & the homeless, and nurses will get more help to set up services that will help their patients. The 6 projects form part of the Government's 'Innovation for Life' Challenge Fund- a fund set up to promote commissioning of innovative health & social care services from social enterprises.
 
A how-to guide, called 'Social Enterprise - Making a Difference' which will help community health & social care staff set up social enterprises to deliver new and improved services, has also been launched. A series of regional staff conferences and workshops on social enterprise and the 'Right to Request' are planned for early 2009.
 
ScotGov: New advice for planning authorities on wind farms has been published by the Scottish Government. The Planning Advice Note (PAN) will help councils and national park authorities prepare their own guidance for considering wind farm applications to aid the development of clean, green energy across Scotland.
 
Scottish Planning Policy 6 - Renewable Energy - requires local authorities to prepare maps & policies (known as 'spatial frameworks') to guide wind farm developments in their areas. A key principle of SPP6 is that wind farms should be accommodated where they can operate efficiently and environmental & cumulative impacts can be satisfactorily addressed. The new advice will help councils apply this national policy.

Annual Reports

DWP: The Social Security Advisory Committee (SSAC) has published its report for the period from August 2007 to July 2008.  The report was presented to the Committee's third 'Stakeholder Seminar', held in London on 13 November 2006.
 
Introducing the report, the Committee Chairman, Sir Richard Tilt, expressed the Committee's concern about the impact of the adverse conditions upon both the Department's customers and the agencies delivering benefits & services and suggested that it might now be appropriate to rein back the pace of the welfare reform programme.
 
Ofsted: Too many children and young people are receiving services that are ‘patently inadequate’ – especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds – despite broad improvements across schools, children’s services and further education. That is the picture painted by Ofsted’s Annual report for 2007/08 – See ‘In the News’ for more information.

General Reports and Other Publications

MoJ: Justice Minister David Hanson MP has praised London Probation's work in helping to steer offenders who misuse alcohol away from a life of crime.  The National Offender Management Service is working to reduce re-offending associated with substance misuse and figures already show a reduction in re-offending of almost 7% for offenders placed on accredited substance misuse programmes.
 
It is the case that 63% of sentenced males and 39% of sentenced females report a hazardous drinking pattern before coming into prison and around 8% are physically dependent on alcohol.  Around 41% of offenders assessed while in the community have a current problem with alcohol misuse usually linked to their offending.
 
DIUS: The first progress report from the Office for Strategic Co-ordination of Health Research (OSCHR) has been submitted to the Government. OSCHR was established 22 months ago following Sir David Cooksey's recommendations (A review of UK health research funding) for better co-ordination of health research activities across the UK, and a stronger focus on translating basic science into improved care for NHS patients.
 
The purpose of the OSCHR progress report is to highlight the main elements of the combined approach that has been put in place by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and the Medical Research Council (MRC) since the Cooksey review.
 
Defra: The interim report by Professor Martin Cave into competition & innovation in water markets has been published.  The report sets out Professor Cave's recommended measures for increasing retail competition in the water industry which could benefit customers and the economy by up to £600m over the next 30 years and deliver considerable environmental and service improvements. The final report andfurther recommendations will be delivered in spring 2009.
 
CRC: The Commission for Rural Communities has highlighted its campaign to keep Post Offices and Village Shops, as they provide important services for local communities, particularly for vulnerable groups who are more reliant on them for their needs.
 
Research has shown that where a post office is closed, an attached village shop struggles to survive and is often forced to close as well.  The post office acts as a draw for customers, generates footfall and sustains the village shop business. The CRC has provided details where some Councils have developed initiatives to help support village shops & post offices and to retain services.
 
HO: Policing Minister Vernon Coaker published his Assessment of Minority Ethnic Recruitment, Retention and Progression in the Police Service.  The report ‘confirms’ police forces are already doing good work to aid minority ethnic recruitment, retention & progression in the police, with minority ethnic officer representation in the police service doubling over the last ten years, but recognises that there is still more to do.
 
He will drive forward initiatives to overcome barriers in minority ethnic recruitment, retention and progression in the police through his new Ministerial Steering Group, which will deliver the recommendations in this Assessment.  
 
NAOHMRC has improved how it manages debts owed to it by taxpayers, according to a report by the National Audit Office.  The amount of money owed has reduced from 4.3% of tax collected in 2005-06 to 3.8% in 2007-08.  The age of the direct tax debt has also reduced.  Over the past year the level & age of debt has increased on some taxes, however, and the total number of debts has risen by 22%.
 
HMRC has yet to introduce some of the measures recommended by the Committee of Public Accounts in its previous report on debt, which have also helped other organisations to improve their debt management.
 
NAO: Increased spending has been accompanied by an improvement in the condition of England’s Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs),according to a report released by the National Audit Office.  The assessment of the condition of SSSIs, however, has fallen behind and there is a risk that Natural England is not detecting all sites that are in decline or those where recovery is complete.
 
WAG: Rhodri Morgan, First Minister for Wales has commended the launch of a major new State of the Nation report on the well-being of children & young people in Wales, released by the Welsh Assembly Government, saying: “This is the first time we have ever produced a proper Children and Young People’s Well-being Monitor, bringing together research and statistical data covering virtually all aspects of the well-being of young people aged 0-18 in Wales.

The Monitor focuses on our seven core aims for children and young people, which are underpinned by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child”.
 
The report establishes a baseline against which progress will be measured when future reports are published in 2010, 2013 and so on every three years.
 
LSN: The Learning and Skills Network has highlighted that over a decade has gone by since the report of the Widening Participation Committee - Learning works - was presented to the Further Education Funding Council.
 
A new report called Unfinished business in widening participation: the end of the beginning asks how far have we come in the decade since Learning works?  What progress have we made?  What barriers have we yet to overcome?
 
LLUK: The Scottish Funding Council has published its 2007 report (spread over 4 publications) for On Track: Class of 2004, a longitudinal study which has followed learners who gained a qualification from a Scottish college or university in 2004. The study follows graduates with qualifications from across SCQF spectrum up to and including level 12 PHDs.

Legislation / Legal

HO: New measures to protect vulnerable women and tackle the demand for prostitution by clamping down on sex buyers and kerb crawlers have been outlined, following the Government's Tackling Demand Review, by Home Secretary Jacqui Smith.
 
A new offence will mean that sex buyers will be liable for prosecution even if they didn't know that the prostitute was being controlled by a pimp or had been trafficked.  Sex buyers who commit the new offence will get a criminal record and up to a £1,000 fine. The Government is also giving police new powers to close premises associated with prostitution and is cracking down on kerb-crawlers by making sure that police can act on their first offence.
 
In response to the review, the Government has committed to running national marketing campaigns to raise the public's awareness of the kerb crawling offence and the realities of trafficking.  This will be complimented by new enforcement guidance for the police to help bring people to justice.
 
BMPI: The Baha Mousa Inquiry has published its provisional Issues List, which is intended as a guide to the issues on which the Inquiry's investigations will focus.  The list is a provisional one and the Inquiry's investigations may uncover the need to address further issues, which are within its terms of reference but not contained in this list.  Accordingly, the issues in this list may be subject to revision during the course of the Inquiry.
 
The Chairman has also announced that the Inquiry will hold its first Directions Hearing on Wednesday 3 December 2008.  The hearing will be a procedural one, at which the Chairman will give directions to lawyers representing the Inquiry's core participants about the provision of evidence. The Chairman has also indicated that a second Directions Hearing will be held on Wednesday 21 January 2009, continuing on Thursday 22 January if necessary.
 
MoJ: Welcoming the Law Commission's recommendations for change to existing laws on bribery, government anti-corruption champion and Justice Secretary Jack Straw said: "Bribery is a cancer which destroys the integrity, accountability and honesty that underpins ethical standards both in public life and in the business community……..
 
Our current law is old, complex and fragmented, as the OECD also recently pointed out, and the Government is committed to improving it…………… The Government will carefully consider the Commission's recommendations and build on them to bring forward a draft bill for pre-legislative scrutiny in the next session”.

EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.

ScotGov: The future of Scotland's West Coast fishing communities must not be put in peril by the European Commission, Maritime Commissioners Joe Burg was told in Brussels, before the start of the recent Fisheries Council meeting recently.
 
Mr Lochhead called for a major re-think when, along with the UK Government, he met Commissioner Borg to stress that 'knee jerk' proposals to close the west of Scotland fisheries especially in the current economic climate are 'simply unacceptable'. The Cabinet Secretary has also warned that the proposals amount to 'outrageous negotiating tactics' from the EC and harm relations between fishermen and EU policy makers.
 
The EC published proposals would see the West of Scotland whitefish fishery closed up to a distance of 200 miles from the shore.  The aim of the proposals is to give the West Coast whitefish stocks 'some breathing space' in light of recent ‘very challenging’ scientific advice.
 
Defra: The Government has held Europe's first carbon allowance auction in Phase II (2008 - 2012) of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS).  Four million allowances were sold at a total value of £54m excluding VAT, or £13.60 per allowance, Euro/Sterling exchange rate 0.8428.
 
The EU ETS puts a cap on emissions from around 12,000 installations throughout the EU, including the energy and heavy industrial sectors.  These sectors are collectively responsible for close to half of the EU's emissions of carbon dioxide. During 2009 the Government plans to auction 25 million allowances.  Dates for future auctions will be announced in due course.
 
Defra: Lord Hunt, Minister for Sustainable Development and Energy Innovation, has welcomed the launch of the EU Code of Conduct for Data Centres. Data centres are rooms or buildings within which computer servers operate to provide a wide range of data services, from websites and financial transactions, to emails and online computer games.  Data centres are responsible for almost 3% of electricity use in the UK and this is expected to double by 2020.
 
The EU Code of Conduct was developed in close collaboration with the industry, including the British Computer Society (BCS).  Signatories to the Code will be expected to implement the Code of Conduct's energy efficiency best practice, meet minimum procurement standards and annually report energy consumption.  Over the next six years a successful implementation of the Code could allow UK businesses to save almost £700m in electricity costs.
 
Defra: The agreement reached on the CAP Health Check in Brussels is ‘a step in the right direction of further reform, but it was also a missed opportunity to speed up the process of change’, Environment Secretary Hilary Benn has claimed, saying: "This is a mixed result.  On the big items of reform this is a step forward, but I regret what has been conceded in order to secure a deal which will lead to some new distortions in the short term”.
 
Defra: A consultation (closes 10 February 2009) on the implementation of changes to the EU School Milk Scheme in England has been launched by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) - See ‘Consultations’ for more information.

Charity and Voluntary Sector

BIG: The Big Lottery Fund is urging organisations &individuals across the UK to engage in the debate on how BIG’s funding should be allocated through its grant programmes between 2009 and 2015.  BIG is expecting to distribute over £2bn over the coming years.

Big thinking, the Fund’s public consultation (closes on 27 February 2009) is open to all individuals & organisations across the UK.  It is giving everyone the chance to have their say through a series of national, regional and local face-to-face events and online channels including questionnaires, blogs and videos.
 
Central to the public consultation will be ten ‘BIG Questions’ plus specific questions to reflect the individual priorities of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
 
BIG: Time has run out for 142 local communities across the UK who are competing this week in their ITV regions for the public vote to win a share of Big Lottery Fund good cause cash worth £5m. The groups will all be competing head-to-head in November for awards of up to £50,000 in The People’s Millions TV contest to be showcased next week on ITV regional evening news.
 
Each night two good cause groups will battle it out on regional news programmes across each of the 18 ITV regions and at the end of the week 89 projects will take a share of £5m of lottery funding.  The best runner-up in each region that chalks up the next best number of phone votes will be the fifth winner announced on Friday, 28 November.

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