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WGPlus provides an in-depth weekly briefing from the UK Government and Public Sector. To save your time, we research & validate the links to websites, documents and further background information. Click here for more about WGPlus

In the News

This is our last newsletter of 2008, so early Festive Greetings to all WGPlus subcribers and every success for 2009! We will be back with the 1st newsletter of 2009 in Mid-January.

:  Committed to providing care for Carers - New plans to increase support for people who provide care for frail & disabled relatives has been outlined by the Welsh Assembly Government.  Deputy Minister for Social Services Gwenda Thomas has unveiled a Legislative Competence Order which will seek to give WAG powers to introduce legislation on carers, which is a One Wales commitment.

Wales already has the highest proportion of people in the UK with a limiting long-term illness – almost one in four of the population – and the highest rate in the UK of permanent sickness & disability in the economically inactive population at 9%.  Unpaid carers provide around 70% of care in the community and forecasts suggest that the pool of potential carers relative to numbers needing care is likely to decrease over the next few years.

Wales already has more than 340,000 carers, with almost 12% of the population having some form of responsibility for care of a relative – a higher proportion than anywhere else in the UK.  If the Legislative Competence Order is approved, the Assembly Government will introduce Assembly Measures to support carers and promote their well-being, with royal approval for the Order likely to be received in summer 2009.
BERR:  Ensuring speedier payments to smaller companies - Business Secretary, Lord Mandelson, has launched a new Code of Practice to help increase the speed of payments to smaller companies.  The code, developed with the Institute of Credit Management (ICM) and supported by major business organisations, aims to establish a clear & consistent policy in the payment of business to business bills.

The ICM will host the code on its website and it will include a facility for suppliers to raise concerns about late payers (The ( mini-website will go live in early New Year, but in the meantime, readers are recommended to access the 'Managing Cashflow' guides on the ICM’s website.
BMIIB:  Never again? - The Buncefield Major Incident Investigation Board has published its final report and announced the conclusion of its work.  This announcement was on the third anniversary of the incident, which occurred at the Buncefield Oil Depot in Hemel Hempstead on 11 December 2005, dramatically affecting surrounding local residents and businesses.

Lord Newton of Braintree, the Chair of the BMIIB, said: "This final report captures all of our important work over nearly three years in a single publication for the public record.  It provides an authoritative summary of the incident and of the Board's role and work, and brings together for the first time our 78 recommendations into one place. 

This includes some new elements, for example information on economic impact and the mechanism that produced such a severe explosion at Buncefield.  We trust it will prove an invaluable reference document about this major and very serious event."
P&HSOSaying 'Sorry' is a basic principle of good service - The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, Ann Abraham, has published her report - Improving public service: a matter of principle.  This is her second report on how government bodies & the NHS handle complaints and forms part of an ongoing series of complaint digests. Her first report - Remedy in the NHS - was published in June 2008.

This latest report includes real cases from a range of public bodies and illustrates good & bad practice in dealing with complaints.  Ms Abraham shares the lessons her Office has learnt from recent investigations and urges public bodies to improve public administration and complaint handling practices. 

The cases highlighted illustrate how the Ombudsman's previous publications Principles of Good Administration and Principles for Remedy can be used to improve the outcome of complaints.
LDASaving London if not the whole world - The London Development Agency is giving top priority to keeping London working - given the current economic downturn – and has announced plans for an additional £23m package of public sector support for small businesses in the capital.  This will be in addition to the £150m the LDA invests in London’s jobs, skills and business support this year.

The new programme includes a series of LDA-sponsored business recovery seminars run by KPMG & Deloitte and coincides with an LDA market awareness campaign, with pamphlets in local borough papers setting out where to get advice on jobs and training, as well as supplying contact details for support & guidance.

The LDA is reminding people of the support available through Business Link in London, JobCentre Plus and the specific LDA-funded schemes in London.  These include Relay London Jobs - a network of job brokerage services that aims to match individuals to jobs across the capital.

Another programme - Personal Best - aims to get people closer to the job market through volunteering and providing the basic skills needed to get a job.  The LDA is also working within the framework set by the London Skills Employment Board to get a co-ordinated and business focussed approach from the agencies working on skills & employment in London.
DfTWho would be a commuter? - Plans to help athletes, officials and media move efficiently during the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games, whilst minimising impact on the normal running of London, have taken a step forward with the launch of a consultation (closes 19 March 2008) on which roads could be included in the Olympic Route Network (ORN).

The ORN is intended to ensure that the 55,000 athletes, officials, media and sponsors on each of the 16 days of the Olympic Games and 16,500 on each of the 12 days of the Paralympics Games can move safely, quickly & reliably between the competition venues, their accommodation and other key locations.

London, like previous Host Cities, will use a network of existing roads to link all competition and key non-competition venues to create the ORN.  This consultation will be followed next year by further consultation, led by the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA), about the specific measures to be used on each of these roads.

The ORN, and the ODA's related traffic management powers are time limited.  The ORN will cease to exist once the Games are finished and the roads will revert back to normal operation.
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General News

DSA: With the most common season for motoring accidents now here, the Driving Standards Agency is advising newly-qualified motorists to take a course aimed at producing safer drivers, helping reduce road deaths & injuries in the process.
DSA has several initiatives to help boost road safety standards, including the Pass Plus scheme, which is a continually-assessed training course of six modules, in which the candidate is expected to drive proficiently in town, during all weathers & at night and on dual carriageways, rural roads and motorways.  The course is supervised by specially accredited driving instructors.
Not only does Pass Plus help improve your driving ability, but it can also assist in reducing your insurance premiums significantly.  In some cases the cost of the course will be part-subsidised by your local council.
LLUK: The benefits of Lifelong Learning UK's Make a Difference scheme has made the front page and editorial section of the latest edition of FE Focus.  The lead article reports on a 300% rise in enquiries to Lifelong Learning UK's Information and Advice Service since the economic downturn and suggests that the losses the private sector are currently experiencing may help the further education sector in England address staff and skills shortages.
The scheme is designed to create a pool of graduate-calibre managers that further education and training employers can access.  Once employed, Make a Difference candidates then benefit from funded leadership development programmes.
LLUK: All library members in the Borders are to be re-registered as part of the National Entitlement Card Programme.  Bus passes and Young Scot cards will be adapted to allow the holder to access a range of Council services and borrow books, music CDs and DVDs from the libraries too.
The NEC programme has been in development for the past 3 years.  Pilots have been completed and it is hoped that 16 local authorities will be able to offer this service the end of 2008, with the rest following in 2009.
LDA: New businesses studios have opened in Hayes – part of the London Development Agency’s work to support & promote business in London.  The £1m Hayes Business Studios were opened by the leader of Hillingdon Council, Ray Puddifoot, at the site on Uxbridge College’s Hayes Community Campus.

The studios provide subsidised accommodation & support to people starting up their own businesses.  Such support is a proven way to help new companies get on their feet & thrive.  Occupants will also be able to use all the facilities at the Hayes Community Campus, including Lifestyles fitness suite and restaurant, hair & beauty salons and take advantage of additional free and subsidised training.
FSA: The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has warned about 11,000 UK shareholders that their personal details are on a database shared by fraudsters, which can be used to target people and illegally sell them shares.
The FSA wrote to the shareholders after acquiring the fraud database (with their personal details including names, telephone numbers and addresses) from Canadian authorities. It is likely that the list – which fraudsters typically call a ‘suckers list’ - has been sold to a number of 'share fraud' gangs.
Share fraudsters (also known as boiler room fraudsters) are often based overseas and use high pressure sales techniques to target investors illegally, offering them non-tradable, overpriced or even non-existent shares.
MO: Climate scientists have confirmed links between the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) - a natural oscillation in the Pacific Ocean - and the weather over Europe in late winter. A letter in Nature Geoscience published last week outlined Met Office Hadley Centre findings.  Scientists have extended computer models into the upper atmosphere to show evidence of the atmospheric link from the Pacific to Europe.
MoD: A next-generation precision guided bomb that can hit targets 24 hours a day and in all-weathers has entered service with the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force as part of a £400m programme. The weapon, known as Paveway IV will be fitted to the Harrier GR9s, Tornado GR4s, Typhoon and ultimately the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF).  It is half the weight of the Enhanced Paveway 2 weapon currently in use.
The highly sophisticated weapon, provided by Raytheon Systems Ltd, UK, can be guided on to a target through use of Global Positioning System satellite technology or through laser guidance. Pilots can programme the weapon from the cockpit, from the ground for pre-planned missions, or while the aircraft is in flight using data provided by the aircraft's on-board sensors.  The Paveway IV can also be reprogrammed mid-flight should targets alter or to reflect changes to conditions on the ground.
LLUK: On 2 December 2008 the Queen outlined a commitment to ensuring everyone has a fair chance in life, saying; ‘.. my Government will bring forward a Bill to promote equality, fight discrimination and introduce transparency in the workplace’. 
Lifelong Learning UK takes the same view, and is already implementing measures to help training providers.  For example, the Disability Equality Commitment, facilitated by LLUK, is a framework to help organisations in lifelong learning recruit, retain and train disabled employees so that they are equally represented in the sector.
Disabled people make up one fifth of the UK's working age population, but face significant disadvantages in the world of work.  They are 25% less likely to be employed than the population as a whole.  The Disability Equality Commitment aims to positively address those inequalities in lifelong learning.
ScotGov: Since 2007, over 700 pensioners have boosted their weekly incomes after applying for a central heating system and having their details passed to the Pension Service, as part of a free benefits check. Many of the pensioners have received increased Pension Credit and Attendance Allowance and in many cases, a full Council Tax rebate.
An extra £10m will be invested in the Scottish Government's Central Heating Programme this year to install more than 14,000 central heating systems.
HLHomeless Link says DWP’s decision to withdraw VAT concessionary arrangements for supplies of temporary workers by employment businesses from April 2009 will have negative impact on small homelessness charities and their ability to support their clients, particularly in light of the economic downturn.
The Government is removing a concession that will mean that organisations (including charities) will be charged VAT on the wages of staff they employ through an employment agency, as well as on the employment agency hourly fee, from April 2009. 
All these organisations provide vital services to homeless & vulnerable people and face increasing demand during this economic downturn.  A recent survey of HL members also showed that voluntary income was being affected by the credit crunch and is likely to get worse.  
The only option, therefore, for many charities is a reduction in the number of front frontline support & development workers, lower salaries and fundamental reductions in training budgets, resulting in lower qualified staff and reduced quality outcomes for the people the sector works with.
MoDHMS Daring, the first of the Royal Navy's new class of powerful Type 45 Destroyers, has formally handed over to the MOD in a ceremony at the Scotstoun shipyard on the Clyde after completing a range of stringent trials and tests.
The 7,500 tonne ship is due to sail to her home port of Portsmouth in January 2009 to undertake several months of exhaustive trials and training before she is declared ready for operational service.
MoDHelp for Heroes Chief Executive Bryn Parry and Defence Secretary John Hutton have cut the turf for a new swimming pool & gym complex for injured troops at the Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre Headley Court.
Military charity Help for Heroes was founded last year and it has raised £8m towards the building of the swimming pool & gym complex.  In addition to this, the MoD will also provide several million pounds and future running costs.  The complex will be completed in the next few years.
Headley Court's main purpose is to provide rehabilitation for complex injuries, including amputees and brain-injured patients.  It also houses a dedicated Amputee Unit for Service personnel, which provides world-class prosthetics & adaptations, manufactured on site and individually tailored, as necessary, to the specific patient.
Socitm: The Society of Information Technology Management (Socitm) has announced its merger with The Charity IT Resource Alliance (CITRA), a non-profit membership organisation supporting IT professionals in the third sector.
 From 1 Jan 2009 CITRA’s members will automatically become Socitm members and have access to all the membership benefits available to Socitm members, including a broad range of national and regional events and an established professional development programme.  The CITRA brand will continue to be used by a new Third Sector Special Interest Group that will operate within Socitm.  
Defra: Defra has announced a new charging system for licences to deal in endangered species, to maintain spending on important wildlife projects. Under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) licences are required for the trade in listed species.  Over the next 3 years the Government will phase in new charges, with traders paying the full cost of processing and issuing licences. 
Measures to help businesses that trade in CITES species include:
* Allowing businesses to buy a licence that covers multiple CITES specimens, reducing the cost per item
* Issuing guidance that will help ensure applications can be submitted in the most effective manner
* Monitoring the size & scale of the trade in CITES goods and adjusting fees & guidance as necessary
TfL: It seems that Londoners enjoy spinning a yarn when trying to hide their poor time keeping, with nearly half admitting that they lie about why they are late, according to new research from Transport for London.  In fact, 65% of those questioned also confessed that most of the time the real reason for their lateness lies squarely with themselves.
The research, released to launch TfL’s new suite of online Travel Tools, shows a range of excuses that people fall back on, with trusty favourites including delayed transport, poor traffic and oversleeping.  Travel Tools provide regular text & email alerts & live travel news available online and on your mobile phone.
STFC: The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope’s international team of researchers has discovered carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of a planet orbiting another star.  This is an important step along the trail of finding the chemical biotracers of extraterrestrial life, as we know it.
The Jupiter-sized planet, called HD 189733b, is too hot for life.  But new Hubble observations are a proof-of-concept demonstration that the basic chemistry for life can be measured on planets orbiting other stars.  Organic compounds can also be a by-product of life processes and their detection on an Earth-like planet may someday provide the first evidence of life beyond Earth.
STFC: Moons outside our Solar System with the potential to support life have just become much easier to detect, thanks to research by an astronomer at UniversityCollegeLondon (UCL). David Kipping, whose work is funded by the UK’s Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), has found that such moons can be revealed by looking at wobbles in the velocity of the planets they orbit.
His calculations, which have appeared in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, not only allow us to confirm if a planet has a satellite, but also to calculate its mass & distance from its host planet – factors that determine the likely habitability of a moon.

Policy Statements and Initiatives

DCMS: More than 20m people aged 16 & under and over 60 will be able to swim for free April 2009 as Culture Secretary Andy Burnham has announced that 82% of local authorities in England have signed up to take part in a £140m Government scheme.
The local authorities that have ‘opted in’ to offer the scheme to both age groups have also received a share of a £10m capital fund to spend on modernising or improving pool provision in time for the start of the two-year scheme in 2009. Those local authorities that will offer free swimming to both age groups also stand to benefit from a further £25m capital challenge fund in both 2009/10 and 2010/11 to spend on improving pool provision.
CLG: A new package of measures to ensure consumers receive improved information in the home buying & selling process has been announced by Housing Minister Margaret Beckett. A new Property Information Questionnaire (PIQ) in the Home Information Pack will provide a summary of information about their property in one place, helping buyers make decisions about whether to view a property and, ultimately, whether to make an offer.
Under the changes, from April 6 2009,sellers will need to have the basic HIP, which is expected to take 3 to 5 days to compile, before their home is marketed.
DH: NHS Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) are to receive £164bn funding for 2009/10 and 2010/11, Health Secretary Alan Johnson has announced.  This includes an average increase of 5.5% over both years, continuing Government investment that has seen funding in the NHS treble since 1997.
PCTs will control a greater proportion of funding, with more than 80% of the total NHS budget now allocated directly, theoretically allowing them to tailor health services locally to meet local patient needs.  Following an independent review by the Advisory Committee on Resource Allocation the allocations are based on what is claimed to be a ‘more technically robust formula’.  A separate formula for health inequalities has also been developed which targets areas with the worst health outcomes.
FCO: The Foreign Secretary has commented on Global Zero, the newly launched international campaign for nuclear disarmament, by setting out six key stepswe need to achieve in order to show them we are serious about multilateral nuclear disarmament’.
WAG: New plans to improve neonatal care for sick & premature babies in Wales have been announced by Health Minister Edwina Hart.  Mrs Hart said that neonatal services will be provided through clinical networks, rather than the fragmented arrangements that exist at present in many areas, which can result in overstretched units and strain on parents.
Mrs Hart also announced that transport teams will be commissioned as an additional resource to inpatient services, so that when babies are moved to another unit the responsibility for organising the transfer does not fall on members of the clinical team. She added that longer term goals will include increasing staffing levels, including one nurse for every baby for infants requiring intensive care, and one nurse for every two babies requiring high dependency care.
ScotGov: Environment Minister Michael Russell has announced that the Scottish Government is ready to transfer land & assets worth around £250,000 to the Isle of Rum community from Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) along with responsibility for the development of these assets.
The transfer of the community hall, village shop and tearoom, campsite and surrounding land will take place after February 2009 providing there is a positive vote from the community.  The ballot will be held in early January and the transfer will allow the trust to develop visitor accommodation and designate land for crofting.
DECC: More government money has become available (until at least 30 April 2009) for industry, businesses and community organisations to help towards the cost of buying & installing biomass-fuelled heating and combined heat & power projects, including anaerobic digesters, in England.
Around £12m in funding is available in the latest round (Round 5) of the Bio-energy Capital Grants scheme.  Grants of up to £500,000 are on offer to pay for up to 40% of the difference in cost between a biomass boiler and its fossil fuel alternative.
In addition, the Department of Energy and Climate Change has proposed changes to Phase 2 of the Low Carbon Buildings Programme.  In order to ensure its continued success and to allow organisations such as schools, hospitals, charities and local authorities in the UK to carry on receiving funding for solar photovoltaic projects, a reallocation of £7m of LCBP2 funds has been proposed.
HO: Home Secretary Jacqui Smith and Communities Secretary Hazel Blears have stepped up the fight against extremism, ‘challenging the rhetoric of extremists, calling for a stronger civil response and pledging a further £13.8m to disrupt ‘radicalisers’ and support vulnerable individuals at a local level’.
The new money will fund a range of initiatives to help tackle extremism by strengthening public institutions and empowering community leaders to stop ‘radicalisers’ from taking advantage of vulnerable individuals.
A new report, 'Preventing Violent Extremism Pathfinder Fund: Mapping of Project Activities 2007/08', points to the wide range of projects currently underway that are estimated to have reached over 44,000 people.
Defra: Hilary Benn has called for global agreement to secure the future of our food. His call for action came as he announced the members of a new high level group to advise on all aspects of food policy, including UK food strategy.
Chaired by Dame Suzi Leather, the membership of the Council of Food Policy Advisors represents expertise in every aspect of our food system. The group will advise on issues ranging from production to retail, and from regulation & distribution to consumption, as well as on securing the UK's food supply, the affordability of food and the industry's environmental impact.
CLG: Housing Minister Margaret Beckett has announced a £605m allocation to 163 local authorities with long-term plans to increase house building to meet the needs of their communities. Despite the current condition of the housing market, the long-term need to build more homes remains - the population is continuing to grow, people are living longer and there are more single households.
Over the next two years this money will enable local authorities with ambitious plans for growth to invest in the essential services that need to accompany the building of new homes, from transport links & schools to the regeneration of town centres and the provision of parks & other green spaces. The 163 local authorities with Growth Point or Growth Area status have signed up to deliver 1.3m new homes by 2016, 30% more than previously planned.
CLG: Housing Minister Baroness Andrews has announced how much funding each local authority will get to help disabled & older people stay in their homes through the Disabled Facilities Grant Programme.  The Government is making £157m available to local authorities in England for 2009-10 through the programme, with over 230 local authorities receiving an increase.
This year the Government also made changes to assist ex-service personnel with applying for a Disabled Facilities Grant, following the MOD command paper published in the summer.  Amongst the commitments contained in the paper is that MOD compensation schemes for the most severely disabled personnel will be exempt from the Disabled Facilities Grant financial test.  These changes will come into force on the 31 December 2008.
HM Treasury: The Government has announced further details of the Homeowner Mortgage Support Scheme, intended to provide greater assurance to homeowners that they will be able to remain in their homes if they suffer a temporary fall in income, but are expected to recover at a later date.
The new scheme will provide a bridge, giving homeowners who are experiencing financial problems sufficient time to find new employment or recover income, without the added concern & stress of potentially losing their home in the interim. This complements the current framework of support, including the Support for Mortgage Interest (SMI) scheme, which is aimed primarily at households where no one is in work.
MoD: The MoD has announced the outcome of its equipment examination - ‘reprioritising programmes to better support current operations’. Support to operations is claimed to be a key priority and it includes an increase in helicopter capacity in Afghanistan.  Measures include a £70m investment to upgrade 12 Lynx Mark 9 helicopters with new engines, which will free up other aircraft for other tasks.
Secretary of State for Defence John Hutton also announced there would be a review to examine progress with implementing reforms through the MOD's Acquisition Change Programme and make any further recommendations to secure better value for money in the delivery of major acquisition programmes.
DWP: New measures that could make it easier to share the risk taken on by employers who run occupational pension schemes will be considered by the Government and industry in the New Year according to Lord McKenzie, following a consultation on risk sharing earlier in 2008.
Lord McKenzie said he would work with industry to take forward work on the following areas:
* what more could be done to share information on current risk sharing practices
* flexibility in the way pensions accrue for future service to reflect increasing longevity
* reviewing the burdens imposed by the arrangements for contracting out and
* whether the requirement to index pensions in payment is appropriate for cash balance schemes
The Government will also look further at how collective defined contribution schemes might work in practice but has decided not to pursue conditional indexation as the consultation did not provide sufficient evidence that it would have a significant impact on continuing defined benefits provision.
BERR: The Government and the Business & Enterprise Select Committee will work together to examine what additional services the Post Office can offer customers to help secure its long term future. The Committee is expected to report its findings to Parliament in early summer 2009.
BERR: The Government will run a new scheme to compensate trawlermen that lost their livelihoods following the `Cod Wars' of the 1970s. Announcing the scheme, Employment Relations Minister, Pat McFadden said:
"The Parliamentary Ombudsman found last year that the breaks rule in the previous scheme was unfair, and recommended that the Government review the eligibility criteria and scheme rules ……… Around 1,000 trawlermen who received less than they expected under the previous scheme should get extra payments."
The Government will consult on the details of the new scheme in the New Year.  This should enable the new scheme to be launched by the middle of 2009.  It is expected to cost less than £10m.


QCA: The Secretary of State has asked Sir Jim Rose to lead an independent review of the primary curriculum, which will be used to advise ministers on how the primary curriculum needs to change in order to:
* ease the transition from early years into primary schools
* sharpen the focus on mathematics and English
* give teachers more flexibility to design and deliver a localised curriculum
The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) is currently running a series of online forums & surveys to help collect evidence, which will help shape the new primary curriculum. In addition Sir Jim Rose has invited comments on his interim report (by 28 February 2009).
A final report will be published in spring 2009, followed by a statutory consultation on the draft programmes of learning.  Implementation of a revised primary curriculum will begin from September 2011.
OGC BS: Public sector organisations will have an opportunity to influence how the Internet and web facilitates the procurement process through a new phase of web research.  A new 10-minute online survey (closes on 18 December 2008) will be used to gather insight on the role that web technology plays in public sector procurement.
The survey, carried out by, will evaluate the online assistance used throughout the procurement process.  Areas for discussion include procurement roles & responsibilities; procurement behaviour; online behaviour; and classification of sector in which respondents operate.  There is also the opportunity to join a discussion panel on the wider issues of the procurement process.
ACEArts Council England has launched its biggest ever consultation on dance and is inviting everyone involved in the art form to have their say. The major assessment will be the largest undertaking of its kind, and will create a picture, or ‘map’, of dance in England (due to be completed by March 2009), which will influence the Arts Council’s future funding of dance and help create a stronger & more sustainable art form.

There are three surveys (available online until 23 January 2009); one for venues, one for local authorities and one for anyone working in dance.
ScotGov: Proposals to help meet the demand for affordable homes in Scotland, while safeguarding taxpayers’ money, have been announced.  The consultation (closes on 17 March 2009) on the future of housing investment in Scotland outlines plans for a network of lead developers, which will hopefully allow housing associations to increase efficiency and maximise the supply of new homes.
Lead developers will also be able to aid the construction industry by adopting long term plans for investment. Meanwhile the proposals recognise the important housing & planning role of local authorities, and how to ensure that investment reflects the needs of communities.
HM Treasury: A joint Treasury-FSA consultation (closes on 4 March 2009) on proposals for the legislative framework for the regulation of alternative finance investment bonds, which include sukuk, has been launched by Ian Pearson MP, Economic Secretary to the Treasury. 
Sukuk is an asset-backed, Shariah-compliant trust certificate.  The closest instrument comparable in the conventional financial system would be a bond issued in relation to a securitisation.
As well as the consultation, the Government has also published a new paper, 'The development of Islamic finance in the UK', the purpose of which is to raise awareness of the growing role of Islamic finance in the UK by providing a stock take of achievements to date, as well examining the remaining barriers to growth.
DfT: Plans to help athletes, officials and media move efficiently during the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games, whilst minimising impact on the normal running of London, have taken a step forward with the launch of a consultation (closes 19 March 2008) on which roads could be included in the Olympic Route Network (ORN) – See ‘In the News’ section for more information.

Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides

Defra:  The Government's updated Exotic Animal Disease Contingency Plan has been laid in Parliament. The revised plan is produced by Animal Health for Defra and includes changes which have been subject to formal public consultation.  It includes a framework response plan for dealing with exotic animal diseases and plans for responding to specific diseases including Foot & Mouth Disease, Avian Influenza and Newcastle Disease.
The changes to the plan reflect lessons identified from the incidents handled during 2008 and address recommendations made in Sir Iain Anderson's review of the 2007 outbreak of Foot & Mouth Disease.
SGC: The Sentencing Guidelines Council has published two definitive guidelines, which together cover:
* theft & burglary from a non-dwelling and
* breach of an anti-social behaviour order

Burglary in a dwelling house is the subject of a guideline judgment from the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division). The Court of Appeal has recently (on 1 December 2008) considered the existing guidelines on burglary in a dwelling, and its judgment is expected shortly.
OFT:  The Office of Fair Trading has published revised leniency guidance for businesses and individuals that come forward with information about their involvement in a cartel. Under the OFT leniency programme members of cartels who provide evidence of such involvement may qualify for criminal immunity and may avoid any fine or receive a reduced penalty provided they fully co-operate with an investigation.
The clarified & expanded guidance is intended to give maximum predictability & transparency for leniency applicants and their advisers.  The OFT's leniency policy & practice are consistent with the provisions of the European Competition Network (ECN) Model Leniency Programme.
CIOB:  The Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) has launched the next in its series of “Are you ready…?” online broadcasts. Entitled ‘Are you ready…to tackle corruption and fraud’, this latest edition focuses on the serious issue of corruption and fraud within the construction industry, highlighting the effects it can have on individuals and businesses.
The broadcast also discusses some of the key preventative measures that can be adopted to tackle the problem, including training, anti-corruption programmes, awareness-raising, and how and where these measures should be implemented across your business.
‘Are you ready for Site Waste Management Plans’ was the first broadcast in the series and future broadcasts in 2009 will include topics such as ‘sustainability’.
DH: Drug reference information in the British National Formulary will become a key element of the new NHS Evidence portal due to be launched in April 2009.  As a result, responsibility for provision of this information for the NHS will transfer from the Department of Health to the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), as part of the development of NHS Evidence.
Currently, basic drug reference information is provided for the NHS in England, via the Department of Health's contract for purchase of the British National Formulary (BNF) and British National Formulary for Children (BNFC).  This contract will therefore also transfer to NICE with effect from April 2009.

Annual Reports

BERR: The government claims that the latest progress report from the its programme to cut red tape shows that business is saving an estimated £1.9bn a year in time & money. 
The report sets out 240 measures that Government is taking to make regulation simpler for businesses, charities and the public sector.  It also shows that government is on track to meet the target of cutting the administrative cost of regulation by 25% by 2010 - delivering an estimated £3.4bn a year in savings.
DH: Nearly one million school children were weighed & measured during 2007/08 as part of the National Child Measurement Programme. This exceeds the national goal of 85% participation with 88% of children in Reception and Year Six being weighed.
The 2007/08 report published by the NHS Information Centre, shows that in Reception (4-5 year olds), almost one in four of the children measured were either overweight or obese.  In Year 6 (10-11 year olds), this rate was nearly one in three.
Defra: The twelfth edition of The environment in your pocket has been published by Defra.  This is an annual publication containing material on various environmental themes including climate change, air quality, waste and recycling, land, coastal & marine waters, radioactivity, wildlife and inland water.
The main theme of this year's publication is climate change and a larger section has been devoted to topics relating to climate change.
DH: The Healthcare Commission's annual State of Healthcare report highlights the progress made in cutting premature death rates for the big three killers over the past decade.  Early deaths from heart disease have halved, while the death rates for stroke and cancer have fallen by 44% and 18% respectively.

General Reports and Other Publications

LSN: The Learning and Skills Network (LSN) has highlighted a study widening participation in higher education that claims ‘We are a nation of ‘two halves’, divided at the age of 16 into those who achieve five or more ‘good’ GCSEs and those who do not’.
Amid concern that those from disadvantaged backgrounds are still under-represented in higher education, author Geoff Stanton argues that attempting to address this by concentrating on university admissions processes is too narrow.  He says we should look at the social class composition of the institutions they progress from.  Geoff Stanton is one of seven contributors to a new collection of essays – ‘Unfinished business in widening participation: the end of the beginning’ - published by the LSN.
In another paper, authors Geoff Hall and Hugh David highlight the importance of further education colleges in widening participation into higher education.  Research shows that higher education provided in colleges attracts students from a much broader range of social backgrounds than HE provided in universities.
DWP:  Recent research shows that nearly 70% of employees who would be eligible for automatic enrolment saw themselves as saving through the workplace pension reforms when they are introduced in 2012. The survey, conducted for the Department for Work and Pensions, revealed that workers were very much aware of the importance of making provision for later life and that 64% believed that automatic enrolment into a workplace pension with an employer contribution was an attractive option.
NAO: The National Audit Office has reported that the Royal Household has improved value for money by tightening up the way it plans & manages its maintenance of the Occupied Royal Palaces.  Without an agreed way of measuring the condition of the estate, however, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport cannot show how far the Palaces are being maintained in line with its objectives.
In 2007-08, the Property Section of the Royal Household received £15m from public funds to run & maintain the Occupied Royal Palaces, broadly the same level of funding as in 2000-01, which is a reduction of 19% in real terms.
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport is ultimately responsible for the upkeep of the Estate, but does not currently have a clear basis for assessing the extent to which its aim of maintaining the Palaces to a standard consistent with their royal, architectural and historic status is being achieved.  The Property Section has identified a backlog of maintenance work, but there is not yet an agreement between the parties about how the backlog should be measured or how to manage it.
Cabinet Office: Four more Government departments are on track to meet the challenges of the 21st century, according to the latest round of capability re-reviews. The reviews, published by the Cabinet Office, outline the progress made by the Department for Business, Enterprise & Regulatory Reform, Communities and Local Government and the Cabinet Office itself since their performance was first assessed two years ago.  The Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills underwent a baseline assessment as it was only created last year.
BERR, CLG and the Cabinet Office all showed overall improvement, with a particularly strong showing in evidence-based decision making.  DIUS performed well in its baseline review, with good scores in the majority of areas.
CRC: For its latest ‘State of the countryside’ update on specific rural issues, the Commission for Rural Communities (CRC) has been looking at how rural places across England are faring when judged against official markers of deprivation, such as housing, income, health, access to jobs, training & services, crime rates and environmental safety.

EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.

Defra: Fisheries Minister Huw Irranca-Davies has unveiled an action plan designed as a first step to tackle problems facing England's inshore fishing fleet and help fishermen stay in business. Inshore fishermen will be able to bid for a share of £5m to scrap their boats and quit the industry in a bid to protect others' livelihoods and the future of the fleet.
England's 2,500 small-scale inshore fishermen have been under pressure because of tight quota restrictions (monthly catch limits for certain types of fish) and an imbalance between the size of the fleet and the quota available to it.

Charity and Voluntary Sector

Cabinet Office: The Government aims to develop a new licensing scheme for public charitable collections that will facilitate responsible fundraising and at the same time deter bogus collections and prevent any nuisance to the public. The Office of the Third Sector will work closely with the Charity Commission to develop the right licensing system based on the evidence provided by independent research.
The Charities Act 2006 provides for a new, modern licensing and regulatory regime.  However, much of the detail of how the scheme will operate will need to be set out in Secondary Legislation and guidance.  The research that will assist this process will be conducted during 2009.
DIUS: Third Sector organisations will get extra help to keep them training, ensuring they get the best performance from staff during challenging economic times. Skills Minister Lord Young has announced that they will be eligible for an extended leadership & management programme through Train to Gain, the government's flagship skills service.
From January 2009, funding rules will be relaxed so that third sector employees will also be able to access more flexible training support, delivered when and where they need it, including:
* Stand-alone accredited training modules and part-qualifications in essential areas like business systems, communications, sales & marketing, information technology, customer service, new product design, finance & credit, cash flow & profit management and risk management
* Fully funded Level 2 qualifications and subsidised level 3 qualifications, regardless of whether the employee already has a qualification at this level.
ScotGov: A £12m fund to encourage Third Sector organisations to become more enterprising is to open for applications in the New Year. The Scottish Government's Third Sector Enterprise Fund will offer between £25,000 and £100,000 to organisations wishing to build their capacity, capability and financial sustainability.
The fund will be targeted at Third Sector organisations which:
* Are located or operating in Scotland, with social or environmental aims, and which reinvest any surpluses for a social purpose
* Have the potential to increase their turnover and/or become more financially sustainable
* Have appropriate management & governance arrangements in place to support the Government's investment
Cabinet Office: The Minister for the Third Sector has challenged the third sector to show the way in transforming public services.  A series of published documents details the Government's commitment to working in partnership with charities, voluntary groups and social enterprises at the vanguard of 21st century public services.

Business and Other Briefings

OFT:  The Office of Fair Trading has announced that intends to launch a market study into home buying & selling, looking at traditional estate agency models and alternative ways of buying & selling homes. The study may also cover the relationships between estate agents and mortgage brokers, surveyors, solicitors & other professional advisors.
Ahead of this, the OFT is writing to stakeholders (who will be contacted directly by the OFT) to ask for their views and engage with them to discuss the scope & scale of the study, which will commence in early 2009. Other interested parties can submit written views, by 16 January 2009.
FSA: The Financial Services Authority (FSA) is taking action to improve the quality of advice given to customers to switch into a personal pension or self-invested personal pension (SIPP), following a review which found variable standards across a sample of 30 firms.  The main causes of unsuitable advice were:
* switches involving extra costs without good reason
* recommendations that did not match the customer's attitude to risk and personal circumstances
* failure to explain the need for, or put in place, ongoing reviews when these were necessary
* loss of benefits from existing pension schemes without good reason
The FSA is determined to ensure all firms meet its required standards of advice.  It will be writing to over 4,500 firms that advise on pension transfers, setting out its findings, the standards it expects of firms and the action firms should take to ensure customers receive suitable advice.  The FSA will undertake further assessments in the third quarter of 2009.  Firms that fail to take steps where necessary will face further action.
FSCS: Consumers may be able to claim compensation if they have lost money as a result of their dealings with a financial firm declared in default.  The Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) can pay compensation for 39 firms recently declared in default by the FSCS and for one firm declared in default by the Financial Services Authority (FSA).  FSCS is the UK’s statutory compensation scheme for customers of regulated financial services firms.  It provides a free service to consumers.

Consumers can claim up to £48,000 for the 29 investment firms declared in default by the FSCS and the firm declared in default by the FSA for ICD claims.  This is made up of 100% of the first £30,000 and 90% of the next £20,000.  The remaining 10 firms are general insurance intermediaries, for which FSCS can pay compensation of up to 100% of the first £2,000, plus 90% of the balance of a claim.  Compulsory insurance, such as motor insurance, is protected in full.
BERR: Business Secretary Lord Mandelson has launched a new Code of Practice to help increase the speed of payments to smaller companies. The code, developed with the Institute of Credit Management (ICM) and supported by major business organisations, aims to establish a clear & consistent policy in the payment of business to business bills – See ‘In the News’ section for more information.
OFT:  The OFT has published revised leniency guidance for businesses and individuals that come forward with information about their involvement in a cartel – See ‘Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides’ section for more information.
Excess charges in non-local authority car parks.

Forthcoming Event

LDAKeeping London Working: Business seminar 2 - The London Development Agency (LDA) is holding a series of seminars to provide businesses with the latest strategies to succeed in the current economic conditions.
London's business community is invited to attend a briefing designed to provide powerful insight from leading experts into critical issues facing today's entrepreneurial businesses including:
* Maximising your working capital
* Generating cash using tax concessions
* Making the most of the Pre-Budget Report
Next seminar: 21 January 2009, 08:30am Deloitte's head office, 2 New Street, London

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