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In the News

Given the current financial climate, we will forgo the usual (inappropriate for many) New Year greetings and just say welcome back to our readers with the first newsletter of 2009.  In order to keep you informed, the newsletter covers a longer period than just the normal previous week.

Cabinet OfficeSuper hero wants others to attain their potential - PM has launched plans for ‘building fair chances for everyone to succeed in the new economy’.  The New Opportunities White Paper sets out the Government's agenda for capturing the jobs of the future and investing in families, communities & citizens throughout their lives to help them get on & ahead.

The White Paper details plans that cover the full range of government departments and is intended to offer ‘focused support for people at key stages of their lives to make the most of their potential’Key measures cover the following areas:
* Early Years – Supporting Child Development
* World Class Schools
* Transition to work
* Getting on in work
* Supporting Families
UKSA:   Still a long way to go before we believe what politicians quote - The UK Statistics Authority has published the new Code of Practice for Official Statistics following a consultation in July and September 2008.  Only those sets of statistics that the Authority judges to be produced in compliance with the Code will be allowed, in future, to carry the National Statistics designation.

Alongside the Code and the formal report on the consultation exercise, the Authority is publishing a further report which lists some 340 sets of official statistics not currently designated as National Statistics.  The report identifies some of these statistics that the Authority believes should be brought within the scope of the Code and assessed against it with a view to designation as National Statistics.

The Authority made critical comment before Christmas on a Home Office statement (issued on 11 December 2008) on knife crime statistics. It has now published an analysis of this case which draws out the respects in which the statement was inconsistent with the Code of Practice.
BERRSuper hero's sidekick throws even more money at the problem - Business Secretary, Lord Mandelson, has unveiled a package of measures ‘designed to address the cash flow, credit and investment needs of small and medium businesses’.  The support package consists of loan guarantees and a new Enterprise Fund aimed at helping companies struggling to access finance for working capital and investment.  The Government measures include:
* A £10bn Working Capital Scheme, securing up to £20bn of short term bank lending to companies with a turnover of up to £500m
* An Enterprise Finance Guarantee Scheme, securing up to £1.3bn of additional bank loans to small firms with a turnover of up to £25m
* A £75m Capital for Enterprise Fund (£50m from Government augmented by £25m from the banks) to invest in small businesses which need equity

Lord Mandelson also confirmed the Government is discussing with trade credit insurance providers a Government scheme to help companies affected by reductions in their credit insurance.  In addition, in order to help businesses identify their financial needs, the Government has launched a new ‘one stop shop’ web portal on the website, will direct companies to the most appropriate form of support and help them ascertain their eligibility for a range of government support.
ESRC Natural is better for you - Cattle and sheep grazed on natural grasslands help maintain biodiversity and produce tastier, healthier meat, according to a study funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).  The research, part of the Rural Economy and Land Use (RELU) programme which draws together the social and natural science, concluded that pasture-based farming is good for the environment, the consumer & the producer, but needs stronger support from British policy makers if it is to realise its full potential.

Detailed analysis of the nutritional qualities of the plant species present on the natural grasslands showed that they provided grazing animals with a richer more diverse diet than the improved pastures used for more intensive farming - and this richer diet translated into tastier meat.
Chemical analysis showed that the meat from animals with a more biodiverse diet was healthier too. Meat from wild-grazed lambs, particularly those grazed on heather, had higher levels of the natural antioxidant, vitamin E, than meat from animals grazed on improved grass land.
It also had higher levels of healthy fatty acids including the long chain omega 3 fatty acid, DHA, thought to play a key role in brain development and to protect against heart disease.  In addition higher levels of the anti-carcinogenic compound, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) were found in meat from lambs grazed on moorland and Longhorn cattle grazed on unimproved pastures, than in control meat.
MOAt last - a reason to be more cheerful (at least for some) - Help is at hand for those badly affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) caused by low levels of natural light.  Developing technology from the Met Office means that accurate forecasts of light levels are being used in a trial to help people with this common mental health problem during the dark winter months.

Registered patients are being invited to sign up for a pilot scheme ('Brighter Outlook') in Cornwall that will test out the new health forecasting service.  Initially, the scheme will seek to evaluate the effect for the 200 people who sign up for the programme and will run from 1 February 2009, for three months.  If successful, the project will be extended to a larger number of people in autumn 2009.

Participants who sign up for the scheme receive an assessment from a psychological therapist, portable light box and cognitive behavioural therapy self-help information.  An email, SMS text message or an automated phone message will alert members to periods of reduced light levels, advising them to begin or continue light treatment, while making use of the self-help material. Anyone wishing to participate in this pilot can call Pauline Russell on 01208 871414.
DWP/PCSTiming is everything and this could be the wrong time - The Government's new Welfare Reform Bill has been introduced.  It is intended to build on the White Paper published in December 2008 and contains a new ‘right to control’ for disabled people, which recognises that they are the experts in their own lives.  It also includes changes to provide more ‘help’ for workless parents, drug users and the long term unemployed.

The first reading of the Welfare Reform Bill in Parliament follows the publication in December of the Welfare Reform White Paper - Raising expectations and increasing support: reforming for the future - and the Welfare Reform Green Paper; No-one written off: reforming welfare to reward responsibility in July 2008.

The PCS union expressed bitter disappointment over the publication of the government's Bill, warning that the bill is the wrong legislation at the wrong time.  As the recession deepens the union argued that ‘jobs not punitive sanctions’ were needed, warning that the bill would drive people into poverty and stigmatise those who needed the most help.
PCS went on to warn that the private sector had neither the skills, nor the capacity to help people back to work, maintaining that through privatisation the emphasis of the welfare state would shift to put profits before people.
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General News

Dstl: It may seem like a strange solution, but introducing holes to vehicle armour can actually provide a protective advantage.  The trick is to think of them as circular ‘edges’ rather than holes.  When a bullet hits an edge, it gets deflected and turns from a sharp projectile into a blunt fragment which makes it much easier to stop.  The introduction of holes also reduces weight.  As a result perforated Super Bainite steel armour is ballistically very efficient.
Invented, designed & manufactured in the UK, Super Bainite is experimental high performance armour steel developed to save the lives of UK Armed Forces.  Unlike conventional steels, the composition of Super Bainite was derived from first principles using thermodynamic modelling techniques.  This allowed its processing, properties and cost to be optimised in months rather than years.
OGC BS: An enhanced flooring procurement arrangement will provide public sector buyers with a flexible, easy-to-use service for all flooring requirements. The comprehensive Supply & Delivery and Supply & Installation of Floor Coverings framework agreement from offers a simple and effective solution to satisfy all flooring needs.  
The framework agreement has been awarded in two lots:
* Supply & Delivery of Textile Floor Coverings - the supplier for this lot is InterfaceFLOR
* Supply & Installation of Flooring - the supplier for this lot is Crown Flooring Ltd
TfLTransport for London (TfL) is strengthening its measures to combat fare evasion, which costs Londoners £70m a year. From Sunday 11 January 2009 TfL’s penalty fare for non-payment on its Bus, Tube, DLR and London Overground services increased to £50 from the current level of £20.
The increase in penalty fare aims to deter more people from failing to pay for their journey.  After a public consultation, the Penalty Fare on Tramlink will also rise to £50, from the current level of £30.  An early payment incentive will also be introduced that reduces the £50 penalty fare to £25 if it is paid within 21 days.  If issued with a penalty fare on a bus, the facility to pay by debit or credit card on the spot will also now be available as well as online, phone, cheque and postal order payments.
CCWater: For those resolving to make savings on their utility bills in 2009, the Consumer Council for Water has some top tips to help reduce energy bills and save water. Around a quarter of a household's energy bill comes from heating water, for example, in baths or showers, or for washing clothes or dishes.
By cutting water wastage through the following easy steps, families should see a reduction in their energy bill, and those who are charged for their water by meter, should also see a reduction in their water bill as well.
Defra: Farming Minister, Jane Kennedy, has announced a new national research centre for food and the environment. The Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera) will bring together Defra's Central Science Laboratory, Plant Health Division, Plant Health and Seeds Inspectorate and the Plant Variety Rights Office and Seeds Division as one agency.
This will hopefully strengthen Defra's work in plant & crop protection, food chain safety, environmental risk assessment & crises response and promote better integration between policy development, scientific evidence and inspection services.
Fera comes into being officially on 1 April 2009, but has been operating in shadow form since April 2008. The Agency's main science laboratories will be located at Sand Hutton near York (currently CSL), with seed offices in Cambridge, a wildlife study centre in Gloucestershire and around 40 other small shared office facilities for its plant health inspectorate around the UK.
HA: In the first installation of its kind in the UK drivers and rail users in the North West are to benefit from a new barrier system that will prevent bridge strikes along the M6 motorway. As part of the £3.2m overhaul of Rose Whittle Bridge near junction 28 of the M6 at Leyland, a new Delta Bloc System, specifically designed for the protection of bridges, was installed last month.
The bridge carries M6 traffic over the West Coast Main Line and the blocks have been installed to prevent and minimise the impact of bridge strikes.  Incidents involving bridge strikes can cause long delays for safety reasons as engineers need to check for damage before re-opening roads or railway lines.
STFC: Researchers have discovered that the mysterious overweight stars known as blue stragglers are the result of ‘stellar cannibalism’ where plasma is gradually pulled from one star to another to form a massive, unusually hot star that appears younger than it is.
The process takes place in binary stars – star systems consisting of two stars orbiting around their common centre of mass.  This discovery helps to resolve a long standing mystery in stellar evolution.
HEFCE:  The Higher Education Funding Council for England and the Office for Fair Access have called on higher education institutions to submit strategic assessments of their widening participation activity. They have set out details of the new form of reporting for institutions on widening participation in higher education.
FAFellows’ Associates reports that Northgate Public Services (NPS) has announced its participation in the development of the national e-Consultation Hub in partnership with the Planning Portal.

Following a successful 3-month pilot with a number of local authorities, NPS is building a connector linking Northgate’s local authority planning systems to the national e-Consultation hub.  The connector will be available in Spring 2009 and will provide the missing piece in the end to end e-planning process.

Policy Statements and Initiatives

WAG: Plans to roll-out a system that will enable clinicians in hospital emergency departments and out-of-hours GPs to have access to important patient information to help with diagnosis & treatment have been approved following a successful pilot with the GPs out-of-hours service and medical admissions unit in Gwent.
The £4.7m WAG-funded scheme is intended to allow doctors, nurses and pharmacists to view, with the patient’s permission, a copy of the information on their medical record, held by their GP. Initially, the information will be shared between local GP surgeries and local unscheduled care providers.  This Individual Health Record includes details of the patient’s current medication & conditions, major health conditions, allergies, immunisations or vaccinations as well as blood pressure and test results.
Informing Healthcare will now prepare a final business case for the roll out for the Health Minister’s consideration.
ScotGov: Ministers are working to improve the support provided by PACE - Partnership Action for Continuing Employment - the partnership initiative which provides help to employees when an organisation faces potential redundancies.
PACE was set up in 2000 to provide support to employees when an organisation announces redundancies, with one of its key tasks being to identify, early on, ways of helping companies facing financial difficulties to minimise job losses.
WAG: The Welsh Assembly Government has recently confirmed that it is ready to introduce the draft Affordable Housing Legislative Competence Order with the support of the Westminster Government.  The new powers that would be provided by the Order could enable local authorities to preserve their social housing stock, thereby increasing the availability of affordable housing for rent.
The next step will be for the new powers order to be put to the National Assembly for Wales for approval. Subject to the National Assembly agreeing the LCO, the Secretary of State for Wales will put the order before Parliament for agreement.  If passed by both legislatures, the Assembly will then be able to legislate, by way of Assembly Measures, in relation to the disposal of land and housing by social landlords.
ScotGov: Financial support for part-time students is to be extended to help more learners develop their skills, retrain and improve job prospects during these tough economic times. Funding for postgraduate students, currently limited to those on full-time courses, will be extended to up to 150 part-time students on a pilot basis during session 2009-10.
This will cover funding for course fees and be targeted on a pilot group of institutions and a small number of subject areas, linked to the Scottish Government's economic priority sectors, including energy, life sciences, tourism, food & drink industries, financial & business services, creative industries and education.
To help widen the choice of learning on offer and help students improve future career prospects the Scottish Government is also extending the availability of Individual Learning Account (ILA) funding for part-time students. The ILA500 Scheme, which currently offers grants of up to £500 a year to part-time higher education students, will be made available for learners on a broader range of courses.
WAG: The Minister for Finance and Public Service Delivery, Andrew Davies, has announced that the Welsh Assembly Government has become one of the first public sector organisations within the UK to undertake a tender exercise that is reserved for supported businesses and supported factories.
These are companies and organisations where 50% or more of the workforce have disabilities and the reserving of contracts for such organisations is encouraged under European law.  Contracts when let will allow Welsh public sector organisations to source strategically from supported factories and business’ to ensure these organisations continue to fulfil their vital role in employing those with disabilities.
DfT: Transport Secretary, Geoff Hoon, has confirmed Government support for a third runway at Heathrow airport, but not for ‘mixed mode’ which would have seen the two existing runways used more intensively.  Alongside this the Transport Secretary announced new measures to protect the environment and help ensure that Britain meets its climate change commitments.
In order to give further assurance that environmental limits will be met, Mr Hoon also announced that new capacity at Heathrow would be released only once strict air quality and noise conditions are shown to be met and on the basis of independent assessment & enforcement.
HMT: HM Treasury has responded to the Parliamentary Ombudsman's Report into the prudential regulation of the Equitable Life Assurance Society from 1988 to December 2001. The Government accepts some, but not all of the Ombudsman's report's findingsof maladministration by public bodies during the period under review.
The Government is to set up a scheme to provide ex-gratia payments for those who have been most heavily affected by events at Equitable Life.  The Government has also apologised on behalf of public bodies and successive Governments stretching back to 1990 for the maladministration that it believes took place.


ScotGov: Proposals for alternative business structures (ABS) for the legal profession in Scotland have been published for consultation (closes on Friday 3 April 2009)
Which? submitted a super-complaint to the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) asserting that the current regulation of Scottish legal forms restricts choice to consumers and prevents the formation of alternative business structures (ABS).  The Scottish Government published its response to the OFT in December 2007 which detailed its policy views on lifting restrictions on ABS, where considered appropriate, for the Scottish legal services market.
The Scottish Government has now brought forward proposals for the Legal Profession Bill which the First Minister announced as part of the legislative programme on September 3, 2008.  The proposals in this paper for a robust regulatory regime will allow alternative business structures to operate in an open, transparent and accessible way in Scotland's legal services market.
FSA: The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has published a consultation paper (closes on 6 April 2009) setting out proposals for speeding up the payout of compensation to make it possible for customers to get back their money within seven days if a bank fails.
The consultation paper also includes proposals on how the FSA aims to increase the awareness & understanding of the FSCS among consumers.
Ofgem: Energy regulator Ofgem (Office of the Gas and Electricity Markets) has launched a consultation (closes on Friday 20 February 2009) on proposals to introduce new rules for energy suppliers to address unfair pricing identified in the regulator’s recent supply market probe. 
Following this consultation they will seek agreement with suppliers on the proposed licence conditions – modified as appropriate in the light of comments received from stakeholders – which we will aim to propose formally by March 2009.  At a minimum, they will seek to introduce a condition to ensure cost reflectivity between payment methods.  Any proposed licence changes would be through a collective licence modification subject to statutory consultation.
ScotGov: Two consultations (closing on 3 April 2009) seeking views on how to ensure long term improvements to water environments have been launched. The consultations 'Scotland's Water: Future Directions' and 'Restoration of the Water Environment' follow the publication of the first draft river basin management plans for Scotland on 22 December 2008.
The draft plans cover the Scotland and Solway Tweed river basin districts and introduce a holistic approach to the protection & improvement of one of our most valuable assets. They project that, through current policy, legislative and funding mechanisms, the number of Scotland's waters in very good condition could be increased from 57% to 67%.
DWP: The Social Security Advisory Committee (SSAC) has been asked by the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions to consider proposals for the Housing Benefit Amendment Regulations (2009).  The main change that these proposals would introduce is for the regulations to provide for levels of Housing Benefit (HB) to be capped at a maximum level of the 5 bed room Local Housing Allowance (LHA) from April 2009.
Before the Committee considers & reports on the proposals, it would like to hear from organisations and individuals (by 10 February 2009) who have views, in particular on the following aspects of the proposed changes:
* HB costs to be capped at the rate for 5 bedroom accommodation
* Equality issues, including the impact of the proposed changes on customers with disabilities and ethnic minority groups
* The proposed provision of 13 weeks transitional protection
WAG: Environment Minister, Jane Davidson, has launched a consultation (closes on 20 February 2009) on how the Welsh Assembly Government will measure its target to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 3% per year from 2011 onwards in devolved areas.
The Assembly Government has set a baseline against which its target can be measured and also identified areas where it can make a difference: transport, homes & buildings, businesses, the public sector, waste, agriculture and land use.
FSA: The Financial Services Authority (FSA) is consulting (closes on 26 January 2009) on proposals to reduce the minimum subscription period for companies undertaking a rights issue to either 14 calendar days or 10 business days.  Reducing the minimum subscription period from 21 calendar days will help make capital raising more efficient.
These proposals follow recommendations made in the Rights Issue Review Group (RIRG) report to the Chancellor of the Exchequer on 24 November 2008. The proposed rule change will only apply to the minimum subscription period.  Issuers and their advisers can still conduct their rights issues over a longer period, if required. The FSA will aim to finalise the proposals with changes to the relevant Listing Rules taking effect at the start of February 2009.
WAG: Strong & cohesive local communities are needed to meet the challenges of a modern, globalised world Minister for Social Justice & Local Government, Dr Brian Gibbons, said when speaking at the launch of a consultation (closes 6 April 2009) on the All Wales Community Cohesion Strategy, a One Wales commitment.  
The draft strategy highlights the issues that can cause tensions within communities including intergenerational differences, competition for employment, the increased threat of terrorism, poverty and deprivation. While being aimed at everyone the strategy will be particularly useful for people working to improve community cohesion, provide services or develop local policies.
In addition, the draft strategy highlights how three key factors, housing, learning and communication skills, are vital to improving cohesion.  The relationship between community cohesion & violent extremism and how the Welsh Assembly Government and communities across Wales are responding to the threat is also explained.
OFT: The OFT has reached a preliminary view to recommend to the Competition Commission that it relaxes ITV's Contract Rights Renewal (CRR) Undertakings.  These were introduced following the merger of Carlton and Granada in 2003.
The OFT's consultation document (closes on 27 Feb 2009) explores a range of possible outcomes from, at one end of the scale, the removal of CRR in its entirety to retaining CRR largely as it is today, and various easements & modifications in between the two extremes.

Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides

LLUK: The introduction of new qualifications for learning support practitioners will support the professionalisation of this important role within the lifelong learning sector.  The qualifications will also lead to a wider recognition of the valuable contribution that learning support makes to the teaching and learning process.
Lifelong Learning UK has produced a guidance document that will support those awarding institutions involved in the development of these qualifications. The guidance describes the role and associated responsibilities of a learning support practitioner and provides detailed information about the three new initial qualifications.  It also includes the mandatory and optional units of assessment required for each.
The development of these qualifications has been underpinned by National Occupational Standards for learning support practitioners.  At the time of issuing this guidance, these standards are awaiting final approval by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills.
ScotGov: New rules for reporting hospital infection rates will offer the public greater transparency about their local hospital's performance in Scotland. Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon claims that the new HAI reporting template will allow health boards and the new Care Environment Inspectorate to monitor infection trends more closely.
The implementation of an HAI Reporting Template was a requirement of the action plan published following the Vale of Leven investigations and reports.  The template will form the basis of infection control managers' annual reports. Health boards will now begin using the template for all future bi-monthly Board meetings.
Defra: A new one-stop shop practical guide to help farmers, growers and land managers protect the environment effectively has been launched by Farming Minister Jane Kennedy.
The Code of Good Agricultural Practice, a single document that consolidates three previous codes last published in 1998, offers free best practice advice for farmers of all kinds to protect & enhance water, soil and air quality in agricultural environments, with advice covering subjects including managing fertilisers and applying nutrients to avoid soil contamination, storing silage & handling effluents, and waste storage, recovery & disposal.
The code is appropriate for all farming systems, including organic farming, and is designed to help farmers, growers and other land managers make the most appropriate choices for their individual situations. The code also includes a section which provides advice for farmers on minimising nitrate loss to water.  The practices described in this section are also included in the Action Programme of measures that farmers with land located in Nitrate Vulnerable Zones (NVZs) must implement.  
LR: The Land Registry has published a guide warning against so-called ‘land banking investment schemes’ which are often advertised as offering big returns on investments in land. The government department says many investors have handed over thousands of pounds for land that has little or no chance of being developed.
Plots of land are offered for sale, often online, and sometimes with the claim that there will be huge returns when planning permission is obtained for housing or other development.  But the land is usually in areas protected from development by planning law.
LLUKLifelong Learning UK has issued a companion guide to the Application of the Professional Standards for Teachers of English (literacy and ESOL) in the Lifelong Learning Sector (LLUK, 2007).  The companion guide supports the professional development of teachers of literacy and ESOL in further education in England.
The guide provides teacher educators, teacher trainees and teachers with a discussion of the similarities and differences between the two disciplines, accompanied by a range of resources
MoJ: Too many burial grounds operators are staking or laying down memorials which are not a serious risk to the public.  New guidance makes it clear this should only be done as a last resort. The guidance, which applies to burial grounds in England only, operators to take a sensible approach when assessing the safety of memorial stones and the risk they present to the public.
Families will still own the memorial stones and burial ground operators will need to contact them to make any repairs necessary, only taking immediate action if there is imminent risk of serious injury due to the state of the memorial.
UKSA: The UK Statistics Authority has published the new Code of Practice for Official Statistics following a consultation in July and September 2008.  Only those sets of statistics that the Authority judges to be produced in compliance with the Code will be allowed, in future, to carry the National Statistics designation – See ‘In the News’ for more information.

Annual Reports

HC: Patients rate highly the care they receive in NHS A&E departments, with 88% rating it as ‘excellent’, ‘very good’ or ‘good, according to a survey published last week by the Healthcare Commission.  The survey also shows that 69% of patients who travelled to A&E in an ambulance rated the care they received from the ambulance staff as ‘excellent’.

The survey included responses from just under 50,000 patients over age 16 who had visited an A&E or emergency department between January and March 2008.  It was coordinated for the Commission by the Picker Institute and carried out by 151 hospital trusts.

The survey shows improvements in communication since it was last carried out in 2003 and 2004, but the survey results also highlight some key areas of concern.
RFA: The Renewable Fuels Agency has released provisional data on biofuels supplied to UK forecourts in the first 6 months of the RTFO.  Several fossil fuel companies (ConocoPhillips, Greenergy and Mabanaft) are currently above all three of the Government's 2008/09 targets for biofuel sustainability, showing that good performance is achievable.
However, the RFA is disappointed that other companies are currently well below some targets.  In particular, Chevron, Esso, Murco, Prax and Topaz have so far failed to supply any fuel meeting sustainability standards, with Prax and Topaz failing to report any data at all on the origins of their biofuels.  This suggests that it is unlikely that these companies will meet the Government target for the year that 30% of biofuel should meet environmental sustainability standards.

General Reports and Other Publications

CRC: The Commission for Rural Communities are pleased to support the publication of Nice work if you can get it: Achieving a sustainable solution to low pay and in-work poverty, published by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR).
Low pay & in-work poverty are persistent features in some rural labour markets.  In-work poverty is increasing and this report highlights a need to address the prevalence of low skilled, low paid jobs in rural areas.
ScotGov: A new map highlighting 'hot spots', where confirmed poisoning of birds of prey has taken place over the last five years in Scotland, has been published. The Government-verified map marks agreement among Partnership for Action against Wildlife Crime (PAW), Scotland's partner organisations on the size & general location of the problem of poisonings.
Led by PAW Scotland members RSPB Scotland and the Scottish Rural Property and Business Association (SRPBA), the new map was compiled using data held by the Scottish Agricultural Science Agency (SASA).  The final result displays the number & frequency of confirmed poisoning incidents over the past 5 years.
MoD: The Defence Information Infrastructure (DII) is a major IT programme which the Mod claims is already delivering benefits to the UK's front-line troops and to the wider Ministry of Defence (MoD).  It is one of the largest IT projects in Europe and will provide a single, secure and coherent computer infrastructure across the whole of Defence while maintaining essential operational continuity.
The MoD claims that a new Public Accounts Committee report acknowledges that the performance of the DII programme has improved. However, rapid improvement to the current 4,300 terminals a month rollout will be needed if the Department’s latest deadlines are to be met.
The PCS union who have 16,000 members in the MoD welcomed the PAC report by the, which they claim heavily criticises the MoD's £7bn DII project and which they say highlights concerns previously identified by PCS that DII suffered from bad planning from the start and was now 18 months behind schedule with programme costs having already overrun by £182m.
It also pointed out that ATLAS, led by EDS, had delivered less than half of the software designed to run on the new system and that MoD staff were dissatisfied with the new system. The report also highlighted that the delays in implementing DII had increased the risks that one of the MoD’s legacy systems could fail and also pointed to concerns over the security aspects of DII and the MoD’s record on data loss.
ScotGov: The Scottish Government has published its response to the Council of Economic Advisers' (CEA) First Annual Report. First Minister Alex Salmond said that one of the recommendations, borrowing powers for the Scottish Parliament alongside the Government's six point economic recovery plan, would help Scotland emerge from the economic downturn stronger and more competitive.
OFT: The OFT has published the evaluation report of its consumer education toolkit 'Skilled to Go', whichwas launched in June 2008 and which aims to help adult learners develop consumer skills such as writing a letter of complaint, buying goods such as a mobile phone, and calculating discounts on products.  
‘Skilled to Go' offers learning resources for teachers in the form of activities such as games, quizzes, listening & video activities, a range of tactile materials as well as comprehensive teacher notes and background consumer information.
Almost half of further education colleges in the UK have now signed up to use 'Skilled to Go' on the OFT website, and the toolkit is now being used in secondary schools in Scotland. The toolkit is free to users and is designed to increase the consumer confidence and knowledge of learners.

Legislation / Legal

NENatural England has lodged an appeal against the judgment in the Easton Bavents High Court case brought last month by Mr Peter Boggis. Shaun Thomas, Regional Director of Natural England, said: “The High Court’s judgment has unintended consequences that go far beyond the specifics of the case.  It threatens to stifle the ways in which advice and expert opinion can be used to inform planning and development decisions and poses a real risk of unnecessary bureaucracy”.
OFT: The Office of Fair Trading has secured an agreement from a major builder of UK retirement apartments to amend its leases, especially in relation to the re-sale of propertiesMcCarthy & Stone plc has agreed to remove from future contracts (and not enforce in existing contracts) a term in its leases that involved charging consumers a 'transfer' fee of 1% of the sale price when the property was subsequently sold.
The OFT considered this term was likely to be in breach of the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999 (the UTCCRs).  The company said that it did not agree with the OFT's view but co-operated with discussions and agreed to the changes.  The company has also agreed to amend various other terms.
The OFT has raised the issue of 'transfer' fees with the proposed body that will be responsible for delivering a code of conduct & redress scheme in the homebuilding industry, which has agreed to consider the matter and facilitate discussions with the industry.  This body is being formed in response to the OFT's Homebuilding market study.
MoJ: Modernisation of the coroners system and better protection for witnesses during criminal investigations were amongst the new measures announced by Justice Secretary Jack Straw in Parliament when he published the Coroners and Justice Bill.
Currently bereaved families have to apply for judicial review of a coroner's decision.  Under new proposals announced in a Charter and the Bill, families will have a right of appeal to the new position of Chief Coroner on a range of issues, including if they think there should be a post-mortem examination and if they are unhappy with the verdict of the inquest.
HO: A bill intended to make newcomers to the UK earn the right to stay here, strengthen the border, and ensure we have a ‘firm but fair immigration system’ has been published in Parliament. The Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Bill will lay down a new approach to British citizenship that will require all migrants to speak English & obey the law if they want to gain citizenship and stay permanently in Britain - while speeding up the path to citizenship for those who contribute to the community by being active citizens.
Under the new system full access to benefits and social housing will be reserved for citizens and permanent residents - which means, if you are not a citizen, full access to benefits will not be allowed. In addition, foreign nationals sent to prison will face removal and even those committing minor offences will normally need to wait until their conviction is ‘spent’ before they can become citizens.
BERR: Last summer the Department for Business launched a consultation on unlawful Peer-to-Peer (P2P) file-sharing and its impact on the British arts and entertainment industries.  The consultation called for evidence on the issues involved and invited views from rights holders, Internet Service Providers (ISPs), consumer organisations and the wider public on a range of options to tackle the problem.
A summary of the responses has been published highlighting that there was no across-the-board support for the Government's preferred co-regulatory proposal, which would give legal footing to an industry code of conduct agreed by the rights holders and ISPs.
DH: New measures that will permit direct payments for healthcare to patients have been published in the Health Bill, which sets out proposals that intended to give patients more choice, greater control over the care they receive and improve the quality of health services.
It will also place a legal duty on the NHS and its providers to have regard to the NHS Constitution, which will hopefully safeguard the principles & values of the NHS for the future and sets out the rights & responsibilities of patients and staff.
DWP/PCS: The Government's new Welfare Reform Bill has been introduced. It is intended to build on the White Paper published in December 2008 and contains a new ‘right to control’ for disabled people, which recognises that they are the experts in their own lives – See ‘In the News’ section for more information.

Charity and Voluntary Sector

BIG: Thousands of disadvantaged people in Africa, India and Asia will be helped to build more sustainable futures following funding of more than £6.7m from the Big Lottery Fund (BIG), announced last week.
Sixteen UK-based organisations have been awarded grants from BIG’s International Programme, which supports projects that tackle the root-causes of poverty and deprivation and help people to improve their life chances. Among the 16 grants, five are going to projects that will help people rebuild their lives after the Asian Tsunami in 2004.

Business and Other Briefings

HMRC: Over 20,000 businesses have delayed paying more than £350m of tax after contacting HMRC's Business Payment Support Service (BPSS) in the last six weeks. The new service, announced at the Pre Budget Report (PBR), gives businesses the opportunity to pay all their HMRC taxes, including PAYE, National insurance Contributions and VAT through payment timetables which they can afford.
PADA: The Personal Accounts Delivery Authority (PADA) has announced the launch of its procurement process for the personal accounts Scheme Administration services.
As a public body, PADA is procuring services for the personal accounts scheme through the public sector procurement processes.  This means services are bought through fair & open competition in accordance with European Union procurement directives.  PADA expects to make an announcement on the award in the summer of 2010.
BERR: Business Secretary, Lord Mandelson, has unveiled a package of measures designed to address the cash flow, credit and investment needs of small & medium businesses. The support package consists of loan guarantees and a new Enterprise Fund aimed at helping companies struggling to access finance for working capital and investment – See ‘In the News’ for more information.
Advance Thin Capitalisation Agreements - Frequently Asked Questions
This brief supplements Revenue & Customs Brief 50/08 on the Energy Products Directive - Expiry of the derogations allowing a reduced rate or exempt fuel for private pleasure-flying, and provides further information on the procedures for users.
This brief supplements Revenue and Customs Brief 50/08 on the Energy Products Directive: Expiry of the derogations allowing a reduced rate or exempt fuel for private pleasure-flying and provides further information on the procedures for users.
A brief inviting comments on draft guidance in respect of the Finance Act 2008 changes to the Capital Allowances Act 2001. It also draws attention to HMRC's view on slurry storage facilities and the meaning of 'dwelling house'.
This Revenue & Customs Brief announces a change in the valuation rate of interest applied to Discounted Gift Schemes.
This brief announces that the rules in tonnage tax on where ships are registered ('flagging rules') will be applied at a company or group level in fiscal year 2009.
This Brief announces decisions of the VAT Tribunal in the cases of Rank plc, in respect of the supply of Mechanised Cash Bingo (MCB) and gaming machine takings.
This brief sets out HMRC's revised guidance following the announcement at the Pre Budget Report that HMRC has changed its view on whether or not a plant is not a substance for the purposes of land remediation relief.
This Brief announces changes to the Intrastat Exemption and Delivery Terms thresholds from 1 January 2009 and changes that are expected to take place from 1 January 2010.
This brief clarifies that redeemers in the Nectar scheme must treat supplies referred to in Revenue & Customs Brief 46/08 with effect from 17 September 2008.
This Brief outlines HMRC’s view of what it means to be 'associated companies' for the purposes of the exception to the degrouping charge, following the Court of Appeal decision in Johnston Publishing.
This brief is for landfill site operators and is our response to the judgment of the Court of Appeal in Commissioners for Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs -v- Waste Recycling Group Limited.

Forthcoming Event

LSN: During February & March, the Qualification Reform Support Programme (QRSP) will be hosting 5 national workshops, designed to break down knowledge barriers and provide updates on the progress of the reforms.  At each event there will be a choice of activities, covering a range of topics including the Foundation Learning Tier (FLT), to help you and your organisation plan and deliver QCF provision.

The events are entitled Working with the reforms to vocational qualifications - using the QCF to improve delivery and will run on the following dates:
* Birmingham – 24th February 2009
* Durham – 2nd March 2009
* Liverpool – 5th March 2009
* London – 10th March 2009
* London – 23rd March 2009
NSG: A new & practical leadership development programme from the National School of Government will see participants tackle their own ‘real life’ work issues, whilst learning how to reframe their approaches to the problems that conventional techniques fail to resolve.

‘Leadership: problems, strategies and systems: making space to think’ – the first module of which takes place at Sunningdale Park between 3-5 June 2009 – takes as its starting point the kinds of complex environment in which leaders typically find it difficult to effect meaningful change.  It then encourages participants to explore their work challenges as consultants in pragmatic, problem-oriented ways.
CRC: The Commission for Rural Communities are working with the National Association of Local Councils (NALC) to hold a number of feedback sessions providing updates on the progress made in taking forward the findings & recommendations of the CRC’s Participation Inquiry, which directly informed the government’s White Paper Communities in control: Real people, real power.
NALC's regional Stepping Stones events will also share good practice and provide regional networking opportunities for councillors & officers of all tiers of local government.  They'll also provide an opportunity for newly established local councils and principal authorities to learn more about the work and capabilities of the parish and town council sector.

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