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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

Newswire - PACNHS ICT project still a major financial risk - Edward Leigh MP, Chairman of the Committee of Public Accounts, speaking as the Committee published its 2nd Report of this Session, said:
"The risks to the successful delivery of the National Programme for IT are as serious as ever.  Essential systems are late or, when deployed, do not meet expectations of clinical staff; estimates of local costs are still very unreliable; and, despite action to secure their commitment, many NHS staff remain unenthusiastic.  It is also worrying that, if Trusts decide not to deploy the patient care records systems, the taxpayer can still be obliged to make payments to the suppliers concerned.

The original aim was for the systems to be fully implemented by 2010.  The truth is that, while some are complete or well advanced, the major ones such as the care records systems are way off the pace.  Even the revised completion date of 2014-15 for these systems now looks doubtful in the light of the termination last year of Fujitsu's contract covering the South”.
DHBut will it divert resources away from delivering medical services? - The NHS has pledged, in a new Strategy (Saving Carbon, Improving Health), to become one of England's leading sustainable & low carbon organisations and to meet the Government's target of an 80% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050. 

The NHS has a carbon footprint of 18m tonnes of CO2 per year - 3.2% of carbon emissions and 25% of public sector emissions in England.  Each organisation will set its own targets using the guidance from the Strategy and the NHS has set itself an ambition of achieving a 10% reduction in its 2007 carbon footprint by 2015.

Key recommendations in the NHS Strategy call for NHS organisations to:
* Establish a Board approved Sustainable Development Management Plan
* Sign up to the Good Corporate Citizenship Assessment Model
* Monitor & report on carbon
* Actively promote carbon awareness at every level of the organisation.

The strategy also provides guidance & actions on: energy & carbon management; procurement; travel & transport; water; waste; designing the built environment; organisational and workforce development; role of partnership and networks; and governance.
Press release ~ NHS Sustainable Development Unit ~ Good Corporate Citizenship Assessment Model ~ NHS Carbon Reduction Strategy ~ NHS England Carbon Emissions: Carbon Footprinting Report ~ Publicly Available Specification (PAS) 2050 ~ Carbon Trust Carbon Reduction Label ~ Defra – Carbon Footprint ~ Methods report to support the PAS for the calculations for the calculation of the embodied greenhouse gas emissions of goods and services ~ Improving the efficiency of central government's office property ~ Carbon Trust’s Energy Efficiency Accreditation Scheme ~ Carbon Trust’s Research and Technology Accelerators ~ Environment and greener living : Directgov ~ The Right Climate for Change - Using the Carbon Footprint to reduce CO2 emissions - a guide for local authorities ~ Towards a low footprint Scotland (6.2Mb)

Newswire - Treasury CommitteeGovernment too optimistic in its projections - In a report last week the Treasury Committee called for the Government to do more to ‘ease the flow of credit’.  The Committee's report on the 2008 Pre-Budget Report (PBR) highlights the lack of bank lending as ‘the single most critical problem for the economy in the near term’. 

Given the importance of easing credit flows, the report recommends that the Lending Panel, or a suitable agency of the Treasury, provide regular updates on the actual lending by the banks to the real economy.  The Committee considers that the balance of risks to the Treasury's forecast in the 2008 PBR, for a swift recovery in economic growth for 2010, after a significant decline in output in 2009, is on the downside.
The overall effect of the fiscal stimulus remains uncertain, the Report says.  The cost of the reduction in VAT is considerable and, in the view of the majority of commentators, the Treasury's analysis of its impact is an optimistic one, it says.   In addition, while the need for lower interest rates to maintain economic growth is crucial at the present time, the needs of savers must not be forgotten.

The PCS union has also echoed concerns highlighted by the report on the 2008 pre-budget report regarding apprehension about government plans to find a further £5bn of efficiency savings in addition to a planned target of £30bn by 2011.  In echoing these concerns the PCS warned that civil and public services would continue to suffer if the further ‘efficiency savings’ were made at the expense of jobs and services.
DIUSBuilding block for future of UK - A campaign to create a more science literate society, highlighting the science & technology based industries of the future has been launched.  Science (So What? So Everything) aims to show people how science benefits them in their everyday lives, is crucial in strengthening the UK economy and is vital to meeting some of the major challenges of our time.

The campaign builds on work started by the Government's Science and Society Consultation in 2008 and picks up on themes provided in responses to it, a summary of which has been published.  A new website will give access to information, careers advice and events related to science while a small amount of targeted advertising will challenge & encourage people to think again about science and its role in their lives.
DWPHave the banks eaten the children's share of the cake? - The Government set out its plans to ‘make sure every child gets the best start in life by tackling child poverty which can unfairly hold children back and prevent them from reaching their full potential’.  It has launched a consultation (closes 11 March 2009) ahead of a Child Poverty Bill which will ‘enshrine in legislation the Government's promise to eradicate child poverty by 2020 and mean the Government will be held to account on the success of ending child poverty’.

Yvette Cooper, James Purnell and Ed Balls launched the consultation, 'Ending Child Poverty: Making it Happen' alongside a guarantee to fund childcare to help parents back to work.
Press release ~ 'Ending Child Poverty: Making it Happen' ~ JRF – Child Poverty ~ End Child Poverty coalition ~ Child Poverty Action Group ~ Eradicating Child Poverty in Wales: Measuring Success ~ United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child ~ ‘Child Poverty Solutions Wales’ website ~ Toolkits ~ Save the Children in Wales ~ WAG – Child Poverty ~ JRF: Combating child poverty in Wales: are effective education strategies in place? ~ Child Poverty Solutions Wales- Briefing (3) ~ Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland ~ IRISS - Severe Child Poverty in Scotland ~ Estimating the Cost of Child Poverty - Approaches and Evidence ~ Taking Forward The Government Economic Strategy: A Discussion Paper on Tackling Poverty, Inequality and Deprivation in Scotland ~ Fairer Scotland Fund

Industry NewsMany Briefs, One message: How to ensure everyone imparts the same information – In times of a ‘crisis’, all organisations all have one primary ‘need’ - To ensure that any explanation / information given out is the consistentInconsistency can lead to panic / anger among the public, or (perhaps worse still) ‘screaming’ headlines in the media, accusations of incompetence and unnecessary loss of reputation.

One certainty is that ‘bad news’ stories will continue to happen, whether it be a Minister inadvisably claiming that she can see the ‘green shoots’ of recovery, a local council dealing with a major explosion at an oil terminal, or a police force dealing with a murder inquiry.  One good way of mitigating the circumstances, or not making a bad situation worse, is to plan for a proactive relationship with the media and general public. 

To assist in the timely & accurate distribution of information to the media (relating to incidents, cases, events and policy) the Met Police have developed a system with Solcara that they call PressBureau, the name of their news desk.  The system came into its own on July 7th, 2005.

The Met’s Press Office were first made aware of the atrocities committed on London’s transport systems at 9.05am.  By 9.24am the first statement was circulated to news media.  There were no fewer than 27 updates circulated on that day.  In the months after these events there have been approximately 200 updates and statements including 20 operational notes to the media.
For information on the software system (now named Solcara Spotlight) and to access a White Paper on media relations management, please click HERE.

For other Industry News please click HERE

For information on forthcoming public sector events please click HERE to visit the WGPlus Events Calendar

General News

DH: Holiday bargain hunters travelling in Europe are being urged to check their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) expiry date before they travel to avoid them having to pay out unnecessarily for medical costs that could be covered by a valid EHIC.
With more Brits cutting back on vital holiday preparations (such as taking out travel insurance) and 50% not knowing the EHIC has a shelf life, the DH is urging them to check their EHIC expiry date and take out adequate travel insurance to avoid putting their health at risk and getting into financial trouble when abroad. The EHIC can be renewed online or over the phone and will be delivered within 10 days; it can also be renewed up to six months in advance of expiry.
MoJ: Ms Sara Payne has agreed to take on the new post of Victims' Champion - a new independent public voice for victims of & witnesses to crime.  She will work with existing victims' groups as well as with the Government's 60 neighbourhood Crime and Justice Coordinators, based around England & Wales.
NA: Free talks at The National Archives during February offer a wealth of help & ideas to family historians, from DNA testing to tracing elusive ancestors. Other talks include:
* Locality, land and livelihood - medieval & early modern sources for local history
* Finding company records - accessing the various repositories & less obvious resources
* George Ives – a look at the diary of the early homosexual law reformer
Most talks & lectures will be made available as podcasts soon after they have taken place.
DfT: To make life easier for pregnant, elderly, or disabled passengers the Mayor and London Underground are launching two new Tube maps:
* A Tube Toilet map which stations have male, female and accessible toilets for wheelchair users, whether they are inside or outside the ticket gates, and whether they have baby changing facilities.
* A Step-free Tube Guide gives information about the step & gap between the train and platform at step-free stations and gives information about the stations where you can change between lines without encountering steps or escalators.  This guide will also help passengers with heavy luggage or those with children’s buggies.
LSN: The Learning and Skills Network, on behalf of the Learning and Skills Improvement Service is offering all post-16 providers and networks the opportunity to request free in-house briefings to help people get started with the implementation of Progression Pathways within the Foundation Learning Tier (FLT).
Post-16 providers and provider groups or networks who are not currently delivering Progression Pathways can request a free in-house briefing session to help their organisations prepare for the implementation of Progression Pathways within the FLT.
LLUKLifelong Learning UK is about to commence the first annual collection of workforce data developed specifically for work based learning and adult & community learning providers.  The need for a better understanding of the whole of the further education sector workforce was identified in ‘The Workforce Strategy for the Further Education Sector in England.
DfT: Thousands of passengers will benefit from more convenient rail services thanks to a new 'greener' railway station designed to get drivers out of their cars and into trains. East Midlands Parkway station will be served by more than 100 trains a day travelling across the region with up to three or four services to London an hour.
The new £25.5m station, which has been built by Network Rail, will serve as a park & ride facility for commuters, relieving road congestion by reducing the number of car journeys into Nottingham city centre. Meanwhile travellers will benefit from a dedicated shuttle bus from East Midlands Parkway station to Nottingham East Midlands Airport with services running every 30 minutes between 7am and 11.30pm.
FDA:   The FDA (First Division Association) has urged politicians in all political parties to consider seriously the National Association of Pension Funds’ report on the UK’s pension schemes.  The report - Pension Provision and the Economic Crisis - reveals that 1,000 (52%) of open private-sector defined-benefit schemes are set to close to new members over the next five years.

Jonathan Baume, FDA General Secretary, said:  “It is time for a new political consensus to halt the rapid deterioration in pension provision for millions of people working in the private sector.  Too many people in work feel that they are being abandoned and fear that they will face poverty in retirement.  Politicians must work together to find new ways to support employers to make decent pension provision a reality once more."
FDA:   The FDA (First Division Association) has acknowledged the importance of financial literacy at senior levels in the civil service.  Responding to proposals from the Conservative Party published last week, Jonathan Baume, FDA General Secretary, said:
“It is important that everyone at senior levels in the civil service is financially literate and understands the importance of sound financial management of government spending.  This is especially critical given the scale of the economic crisis facing the UK and the long term implications for public spending…….  It is however important to emphasise that such discipline should also apply to ministers.  Cost overruns and perceived waste are not about individual decisions but usually a consequence of political imperatives”.
HEFCE: The Higher Education Funding Council for England HEFCE has launched the Economic Challenge Investment Fund (ECIF) to enable higher education to respond rapidly to the needs of employers & individuals during the economic downturn.  
Universities and colleges in England are being invited to take part in a £50m scheme to help individuals & businesses through the recession. The ECIF will enable universities and colleges to provide tailored training, development and professional support to vulnerable groups.
ScotGov: A new online service providing practical advice to people worried about home heating bills has been launched to back up a helpline already provided by the Energy Retail Association. The new website is fund by Britain’s six major energy suppliers.
MoDHMS Daring, the first of the new Royal Navy's Type 45 destroyers, entered Portsmouth & berthed for the first time in her home port, witnessed by hundreds of well-wishers. The occasion marks a major milestone in the programme's development.  The six Type 45 destroyers, of which HMS Daring is the first of class, will form the backbone of the Royal Navy's Air Defence capability for the 21st Century.
HMS Daring is extremely versatile and able to undertake a broad range of missions from combat to humanitarian assistance.  She can operate a number of helicopters, including the Chinook, providing greater operational flexibility than other ships of her size.
TfL: As part of the continuing drive to improve the safety of motorcyclists in the capital, Transport for London (TfL) has hosted a 2-day summit of experts from four other major European cities.  The eSUM (European Safer Urban Motorcycling) Project brings together 4 major motorcycling cities; London, Paris, Barcelona and Rome.
The aim of the project is to identify the best ways of improving the safety of motorcyclists on city roads.  Other partners in the project include universities in Athens & Florence, motorcycle manufacturers BMW & Piaggio and ACEM, the organisation that represents the motorcycle industry in Europe.
TfL is a major partner in the project, which is part of the European Commission’s drive to halve the number of fatalities on EU roads from 54,000 to 27,000 between 2001 and 2010.  As part of the project TfL will contribute to a tool kit that brings together the best schemes to reduce motorcyclist casualties from cities in Europe and across the globe.
DSA: The Driving Standards Agency (DSA) is introducing a new 2-part motorcycle test:
* Module 1 will contain the specified manoeuvres element of the test including exercises designed to assess the rider's ability to control their machine safely, including avoidance and emergency stop exercises.
* Module 2 will include an eyesight test and at least 30 minutes of on road riding, assessing the rider's ability to safely interact with other road users.
Bookings will be taken from the 30 March 2009 at the latest, with the first tests taking place on 27 April 2009.
LDcic: The winners of the Land Data Local Land Charges Industry Awards, have been announced. The winners were honoured across 6 categories covering marketing innovation, customer satisfaction, best NLIS Local Land Charges Department, Local Land Charges Officer of the Year and a special tribute award.
LDA: A year after the service was introduced, more than 16,000 London businesses have signed up to an ‘online dating agency’ for 2012 and local government contracts.  CompeteFor, which now carries 1,700 contract opportunities, was designed by the LDA working closely with the London Business Network and London 2012
It allows companies to register as potential suppliers online and then notifies them of contracts as they are put out to tender, allowing them to apply quickly & easily. More than 45% of contracts awarded so far have gone to London companies, with many more opportunities coming online now the service is established.
DCMS: Darwin's home & workplace, Darwin's Landscape Laboratory, has been chosen as the UK's 2009 nomination to become a World Heritage Site. 2009 is the bicentenary of Darwin's birth and the 150th anniversary of the publication of his seminal work - 'On the Origin of Species'.
The Laboratory, situated in the LB of Bromley, comprises Charles Darwin's house, experimental garden and the 7km of countryside immediately around his property.  It was used for Darwin's important scientific investigations for 40 years after his round-the-world voyage on HMS Beagle in the 1830s.  It was here that Darwin developed & demonstrated his theory of evolution by natural selection through the study of plants & animals in natural settings and under human management.
OGC BS: Organisations throughout the public sector will have simpler access to a wider range of good value learning & development solutions through a new framework agreement launched by
The Learning and Development and eLearning Solutions framework agreement, sponsored by Government Skills - the Sector Skills Council for central government - will deliver solutions for the public sector across 22 key competency areas ranging from communications, marketing & customer service to working with ministers, management, leadership and policy skills.
MoJ: The financial entitlement for someone whose spouse or civil partner has died without leaving a Will has been doubled, with the potential to reach £450,000.  This comes in parallel with the biggest overhaul of the Coroners system in 100 years, as the Coroners and Justice Bill takes forward the Government's commitment to providing more & better support to the bereaved.
At present, a spouse or civil partner with children automatically gets £125,000 from the estate of someone who has died without leaving a will.  Where someone leaves not only a spouse or civil partner but also parents or siblings, but no children, they get £200,000.  From 1 February 2009 the amounts will increase to £250,000 and £450,000 respectively.

Policy Statements and Initiatives

DECC: The nuclear industry has until 31 March 2009 to nominate sites for the first wave of new nuclear power stations in the UK, the Government has announced. The call for nominations came alongside publication of the criteria against which potential sites will be assessed.
The criteria include conditions that new sites should not be near major population centres or certain types of military activity.  The industry has indicated that the most suitable sites for new build are in the vicinity of existing nuclear power stations.
WAG: Patients in Wales needing kidney cancer drugs that are yet to be approved by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) will receive them on the NHS in the meantime, Health Minister Edwina Hart has announced.
NICE does not currently recommend sunitinib for advanced renal cancer, but is currently reconsidering its advice and is expected to issue firm guidance in the near future. Prior to that announcement, Mrs Hart has decided to introduce a system to allow patients to have greater access to sunitinib and 3 other drugs currently being reviewed by NICE for use in advanced renal cancer - Bevacizumab (Avastin), sorafenib (Nexavar) and temsirolimus (Torisel).
ScotGov: At a conference on The Concordat: One Year On, the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth John Swinney has reflected on progress made since the Concordat was signed by local & national government more than a year ago - and highlight the crucial role of councils in delivering economic recovery.
WAG: The ProAct scheme will receive £48m of Welsh Assembly Government funding, including £30m from the Convergence European Social Fund, to cover the year 2009-10 and the current pilot phase.  ProAct assists employers & employees to deal with a fall-off in orders and provides an alternative to redundancy by way of short time working and retraining during the days not being worked.  
This scheme will also include support to apprentices to complete their training, whose employers are struggling to see them through to the end of the course. A further £20m will be made available, subject to support from European Structural Funds, for the creation of a package of measures to help sustain & encourage new apprenticeship recruitment.
BERR: The Government has announced a package of measures aimed at freeing up lending of more than £2bn for the automotive industry. The elements of support that have been announced:
* Guarantees to unlock loans of up to £1.3bn European Investment Bank (EIB) guarantees for investment in lower carbon initiatives
* Loans or loan guarantees to support of up to £1bn of lending for lower carbon initiatives for non-EIB backed projects
* Increased funding for training of employees under 'Train to Gain'
* Mervyn Davies, the new Trade and Investment Minister, tasked to draw up a plan for improving access to finance for manufacturers' finance arms.
WAG: Environment, Sustainability & Housing Minister Jane Davidson has announced a major investment that paves the way for the next generation environmentally-friendly recycling plant in South East Wales, which will generate energy from waste.
The funding will help get Prosiect Gwyrdd started.  The Project is a joint initiative between 5 South Wales councils, which will look at the best way to dispose of municipal waste that can’t be recycled or composted.  The extra funding will be up to £7.8m in a full year of operation, depending on the final costs of the project.
DHHospitals that treat patients in mixed sex accommodation will not be paid for their care.  The Department of Health's guidance to trusts is that men & women should not have to share sleeping accommodation or toilet facilities.  From 2010/11 hospitals who fail to deliver this will face serious financial consequences - unless there is an overriding clinical justification.
The Health Secretary also announced that a £100m Privacy and Dignity Fund will be made available to support the NHS to make the necessary changes to eliminate mixed sex accommodation.
ScotGov: The latest steps aimed at 'easing the challenges facing Scotland's house building industry' and increasing the supply of affordable housing have been unveiled by the Scottish Government. Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced that £17m will be invested to speed up the delivery of affordable housing.
The money is part of the £120m acceleration in the 3-year affordable housing budget being brought forward over 2009/10. It will allow housing associations to purchase unsold stock from the private sector as well as land on which future affordable housing can be built.
ScotGov: The Scottish Government has commissioned a Marine Spatial Plan for the Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters, which will help harness Scotland's renewable energy potential by looking at environmental challenges and all commercial and development opportunities.
A draft planning framework (available by April 2009) will be developed into an initial marine plan (through extensive consultation) over the next 12 months.  The plan will fit with the outcomes of the Marine Bill process.
MoJ: The independent team appointed by the Prime Minster and the Lord Chancellor to review the '30 year rule' under which public records are released has recommended its reduction to 15 years. The review recommends that the new 15 year rule - which will apply retrospectively to all documents - be phased in over a period of 15 years.
DfT: A harrowing new £3.2m THINK! campaign (from 2 February to 30 March after 7.30pm) to highlight the life-wrecking consequences of speeding for drivers as well as victims has been launched. The campaign's ('Kill your speed, or live with it') stark message is that if you kill someone while speeding, you will be tormented by it forever.  In the new television advert a driver is haunted by images of the child he has killed - seeing his body in the bathroom mirror, through the window of a bus and when in the park with his son. 
The radio adverts - 'Always There' - feature a chilling message from 'beyond the grave'.  Children's voices describe what life is like for the driver who killed them while speeding several years ago.  The drivers cannot sleep, watch a football match or spend time with their own children without thinking of the dead child.
DH: The biggest health survey of children's health - 'How Are the Kids?' – has been launched.  Around 11m surveys will be sent out from 2 February 2009, asking families in England to give information about their eating & activity habits - in return they will receive a specially tailored plan to help them eat well, move more & live longer.
It's a well known fact that, without intervention, nine out of ten children could be overweight or obese by 2050 if current trends continue.  At present, almost a third of 10 and 11-year-olds are overweight or obese.


DECC: A proposed shortlist of schemes to generate clean, green electricity from the power of the tides in the Severn estuary has been unveiled for consultation (closes 23 April 2006) by the Department of Energy and Climate Change.  The shortlist includes a mixture of barrages and innovative lagoon schemes.
The Energy and Climate Change Secretary, Ed Miliband, has also announced £500,000 of new funding to further develop embryonic technologies like tidal reefs and fences.  The progress of these technologies will be considered before decisions are taken whether to go ahead with a Severn tidal power scheme.
The tides in the Severn estuary are the second highest in the world.  The largest proposed scheme has the potential to generate nearly 5% of the UK's electricity from a domestic, low carbon & sustainable source.
DefraDefra is seeking views on the UK application to the European Commission for an extension to meet air quality targets for Particulate Matter (PM10). The application for an extension will be submitted to the European Commission as soon as possible after this consultation has closed (10 March 2009).
PM10 is made up of very small particles of soot and dust in the air, less than 10 micrometers in diameter (human hair ranges from 17-180 micrometers in diameter).  Most other Member States have also reported some breaches of the EU PM10 limits since they came into force in 2005, and will also need to apply to the European Commission for the additional time available under the new ambient air quality directive.  Twenty four out of 27 reported breaches of the limit values in 2007.
DH: Chief Medical Officer, Sir Liam Donaldson has announced clear medical guidance on alcohol consumption which recommends that young people up to the age of 15 should avoid alcohol altogether.
The five-point guidance document will form part of a consultation (closes 23 April 2009) on alcohol & young people and was a commitment in the Youth Alcohol Action Plan (June 2008) and responds to calls from parents for clear messages on the health effects & risks of young people drinking alcohol.
WAG‘Tackling poverty, promoting sustainability and ensuring affordability’ will be central to Wales' new National Housing Strategy. Deputy Minister for Housing, Jocelyn Davies launched the National Housing Strategy for Wales for consultation (closes on 1 May 2009) at the Alway Regeneration Project in Newport.  The Strategy sets out the Government’s long term vision for housing in Wales.
CQC: The new Care Quality Commission (CQC) has launched a consultation (closes 25 March 2009) on its 'Statement of Involvement’, which explains the importance of people's views & experience to the work of the Commission and sets out how the CQC plans to involve people who use services in all of its work - including inspections and reviews of services and helping to shape its priorities. 
The CQC became a legal entity on 1 October 2008 and takes up its responsibilities for the quality of health and adult social care on 1 April 2009.
MoJ: The new Legal Services Board (LSB) has published its draft 2009/10 Business Plan for consultation (closes on 13 March 2009). The final version of the Plan will be published in April 2009 – See ‘Legislation / Legal’ for more information.
DWP: The Government has launched a consultation (closes 11 March 2009) ahead of a Child Poverty Bill which will ‘enshrine in legislation the Government's promise to eradicate child poverty by 2020 and mean the Government will be held to account on the success of ending child poverty’.  The consultation - Ending Child Poverty: Making it Happen – was launched alongside a guarantee to fund childcare to help parents back to work– See ‘In the News’ for more information.
Defra: Plans to implement Europe's first comprehensive welfare rules on ‘chickens raised for meat’ have been released for consultation (closes 20 April 2009) – See ‘EU legislation, initiatives’ for more information.
Defra: A proposal that will hopefully ensure all animals across Europe are protected at the time of slaughter will be subject to comprehensive consultation (closes 20 April 2009) Farming Minister Jane Kennedy has claimed – See ‘EU legislation, initiatives’ for more information.

Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides

IPO: A new best practice toolkit which gives businesses practical advice on how they can better protect themselves from the dangers of fake goods entering business supply chains has been launched. The Supply Chain Toolkit has been produced by the Intellectual Property Office's IP Crime Group.  
It includes a step by step approach on what action should be taken if counterfeits are found within the supply chain and guidance on how to strengthen and protect IP assets.
NICE: New National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidance outlines how healthcare professionals can involve & support patients in decisions about taking prescribed medicines.  It recommends that healthcare professionals encourage patients to engage in a two-way dialogue so that patients are involved in the decision to prescribe and that the patient’s decision to use medicines is an informed decision – this includes clearly explaining to the patient about the disease or condition, how the medicine influences this and also clarifying what the patient expects from treatment.
Between 30-50% of medicines prescribed for long term conditions are not used as prescribed.  The guideline recognises that non-adherence can occur because of a failure to achieve informed agreement to the prescription in the first place or to identify and provide the support that a patient needs later on.
ScotGov: Health workers have been warned that there's no excuse for failing to comply with hand hygiene procedures following the launch of a zero tolerance policy to non-compliance across NHS Scotland.  The policy is contained in new guidance issued to NHS Boards last week.
The launch coincides with the latest phase of Scotland's hand hygiene media campaign which aims to raise public awareness of the importance of regular hand washing. A 'one stop shop' is being developed to give the public easy access to all published information on hospital infection rates and hand hygiene compliance. 
BERR / Andersen Review: Small businesses will get a one stop shop for guidance on health & safety and employment legislation, that will help make sure they comply with the law and save them time & money, under new recommendations from the independent review, undertaken by small business person Sarah Anderson.
They include:
* a telephone advice service, free to SMEs for the first year, providing tailored & ‘insured advice’ to make sure they comply with employment and health & safety law
* Government taking responsibility for its guidance, removing disclaimers and encouraging discretion over prosecution of ‘reasonable’ businesses
* creating a single access point for all government guidance
DH: Personal health budgets (PHBs) in England moved a step closer with the Department of Health inviting expressions of interest for a new pilot programme, which will run from the end of 2009 until 2012.  The closing date for applications is 27 March 2009.
To support PCTs and local authority partners who wish to submit a proposal to the pilot programme, the DH has published Personal health budgets: first steps - a document that outlines how personal health budgets might work in the NHS and sets out evidence from other health systems.  Rather than a definitive guide or rulebook, First Steps encourages PCTs to take an innovative approach to PHBs and explore the opportunities they offer.
LDA:  The London Development Agency has found overwhelming demand for expert business advice in a series of ‘recovery’ seminars led by specialists from business advisory firms KPMG and Deloitte.  The current series has just ended but, given the demand for these seminars, the LDA is working to provide a series of further events – details of which will be published shortly on the LDA website.
NICEThe National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has published final guidance on the use of cochlear implants for severe to profound deafness in children & adults.  The guidance makes recommendations on the implantation of cochlear implants in one ear (unilateral implantation) and in both ears (bilateral implantation).
About 1 in every 1,000 children is severely or profoundly deaf at 3 years old, this rises to 2 in every 1,000 children aged 9 to 16 years.  There are approximately 613,000 people older than 16 years with severe to profound deafness in England & Wales.
NICEThe National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has published new guidance on methods for storing donor kidneys.  It recommends the use of two systems to maintain the condition of kidneys from deceased donors before they are used for transplants in the NHS.

Before a transplant can take place, time is needed to match the kidney to the recipient, to transport and prepare the recipient and the kidney and finally to implant the kidney.  To allow time for this process, kidneys need to be preserved to maintain their function – cooling the kidney & preparing it as quickly as possible is important to reduce damage caused by time spent deprived of oxygen.

NICEThe National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has recently issued guidance on promoting physical activity, active play & sport for all children and young people up to the age of 18 in family, pre-school, school and community settings.
Current national guidelines recommend that children and young people should do a minimum of 60 minutes of at least moderate-intensity physical activity each day.  However, in a recent survey only 45% of 15 year old girls and 68% of 15 year old boys questioned reached the recommended levels of activity.
Press release ~ Promoting physical activity for children and young people ~ Promoting and creating built or natural environments that encourage and support physical activity ~ Promoting children's social and emotional wellbeing in primary education ~ Obesity: guidance on the prevention, identification, assessment and management of overweight and obesity in adults and children ~ Depression in children and young people: identification and management in primary, community and secondary care ~ Mind, Exercise, Nutrition... Do It! or MEND for short ~ Healthy and Active Lifestyles in Wales ~ Change4Life ~ 'Healthy Weight, Healthy Lives toolkit: A Toolkit for Developing Local Strategies' ~ DH - Obesity ~ Foresight Tackling Obesities: Future Choices Project ~ Obesity: defusing a health time bomb ~ The National Child Measurement Programme: guidance and resources ~ Tackling Child Obesity - First Steps ~ Information Centre for Health and Social Care - Obesity ~ Child Health - obesity ~ Useful publications
NICEThe National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has published new guidelines outlining how healthcare professionals can treat, manage & prevent antisocial personality disorder (ASPD).

Antisocial personality disorder is not usually diagnosed before the age of 18, but characteristics of the disorder can be recognised in younger people as conduct problems.  Early treatment of children (aged 5–11 years) and young people (aged 12–17 years) with conduct problems may help to prevent antisocial personality disorder from developing later.
NICEThe National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has published new guidelines outlining how healthcare professionals can identify, treat & manage people with borderline personality disorder (PBD). 
People with PBD come from many different backgrounds, but most will have suffered some kind of trauma or neglect as children.
LLUKLifelong Learning UK is calling on student liaison officers and other people employed in learner support  roles to share their views on what the proposed new National Occupational Standards (NOS) for Learner Involvement should look like.
The aim of introducing standards is to ensure the same opportunities for career development and professionalism for everyone working in learner support – from counselling, to facilities and advice to administration – as well as student liaison officers.
The consultation is taking place between 5 January 2009 and 6 February 2009 (with the project due to complete by 31 March 2009) through a series of workshops and online.  Lifelong Learning UK wants as many liaison officers and stakeholders to take part as possible to help shape this important initiative.
DH: Chief Medical Officer, Sir Liam Donaldson has announced clear medical guidance on alcohol consumption which recommends that young people up to the age of 15 should avoid alcohol altogether – See ‘Consultations’ for more information.

Annual Reports

Newswire – HMIoP: After a year in which prisons held a record number of prisoners, the prison system remains under pressure, and important lessons must be learnt if prisons are to be safe & effective, said the Chief Inspector of Prisons, Dame Anne Owers, in her annual report.

Despite ‘sustained and chronic’ pressure, the report recognises progress over the past year.  Overall, the Inspectorate’s assessments of prisons inspected last year were more positive than those of prisons inspected the previous year, particularly in resettlement work.  The number of self-inflicted deaths also decreased last year.
Alongside the annual report, HMIP have also published a review: The prison characteristics that predict prisons being assessed as performing ‘well’.
DH: The government claims that the third national Health Profile of England demonstrates improvements in critical areas of the nation's health.  Death rates from cancer, heart disease and suicides continue to decline, whilst life expectancy is higher than ever and infant mortality at its lowest.
CLG: People feel their local area is a place where individuals from different backgrounds get on well together, new figures show. Headline figures from the citizenship survey show that 82% of people see their community as cohesive, an increase from 80% in 2005.
The survey is less positive on people feeling their voices are being heard at a local level.  Fewer than 40% of respondents felt able to influence decisions in their local area.  This is an area the Government claims it is keen to address and has set out plans - in its Communities in Control White Paper and in new legislation currently in Parliament - which will go even further in giving more power to local people.

General Reports and Other Publications

Newswire - PAC: Edward Leigh MP, Chairman of the Committee of Public Accounts, said upon the publication of the Committee's 3rd Report, Session 2008-09: "The Skills for Life strategy was launched in 2001 with the aim of improving adult literacy and numeracy in England. By 2007, despite expenditure of some £5 billion, the evidence was that a large proportion of the adult population still could not read, write and count adequately………………. This is a dismal picture, both for the many who face diminished prospects in what they can achieve in life and for the competitiveness of our country in the world economy.  
There is an immediate need to gather up to date information on where we are at present.  The Department must follow up its 2003 Skills for Life survey to find out just how effective its programme has been in improving the basic skills of our population”.
Many hard-to-reach people with poor literacy and numeracy skills come into contact with other government services, such as Jobcentre Plus, the Prison Service and the Probation Service.  More of these people are being encouraged to take up courses to improve their literacy and numeracy skills, but the percentage who participate is still relatively small.  
For example, only one in five offenders with an identified literacy or numeracy need enrol on a course.  The Department's biggest challenges are reaching people in the workplace who lack skills and getting employers to recognise the benefits of raising the skills of their workforce.
P&HSO: The Public Administration Select Committee (PASC) is to re-open its inquiry into Equitable Life.  This follows the Government’s response earlier this month to a report (Equitable Life: a decade of regulatory failure, initial observations) from the Parliamentary Ombudsman.
Following the publication of the government’s response, the Ombudsman has published a Memorandum which sets out her initial observations on the Government’s response to her July 2008 report.  In it she says: ‘However, the Government’s published response raises a number of issues, many of them fundamental, which are of concern to me – and which I believe should also concern the Committee and Parliament more generally’.
DH: Around a third of people don't know how hepatitis C can be passed from person to person, according to new research commissioned & published by the Department of Health. The findings come as a major hepatitis C awareness campaign is launched to reach out to the estimated 100,000 people in England who are unaware they have the infection and stop others getting it. Hepatitis C is a blood-borne virus that can cause chronic infection and lead to serious liver damage - even premature death.
NAO: The New Asylum Model, introduced by the Home Office in 2006 to achieve faster conclusions to asylum applications, has strengthened aspects of the asylum process, according to a report by the National Audit Office.
The case ownership approach, in which a single individual manages an application from start to finish, has created a strong incentive to conclude cases and applications are being concluded more quickly.  But the new process is not yet working to its optimum efficiency & effectiveness.
There are signs that the quality of decision-making is improving, but the backlog of decisions to be made has however more than doubled in over a year, to 8,700 in the second quarter of 2008.  Few removals of failed applicants are being achieved under the New Asylum Model, hampered by a lack of detention space and problems obtaining emergency travel documents.
DECC: A new study of the UK's shores recommends (subject to a consultation which closes on 22 April 2009) there's scope for between 5,000 and 7,000 more offshore wind turbines, enough to power the equivalent of almost all the homes in the UK and make a massive contribution to renewable energy targets.
Experts have spent more than a year surveying the environment of the UK's seas to assess the potential for further development in offshore wind, oil & gas licensing and natural gas storage.  The work included the surveying of bird populations, studying the geology of the seabed, tagging marine mammals like grey & harbour seals, as well as charting how shipping, fishing and other industries use the seas around the UK.
ScotGov: All forces should work to implement the National Police Firearms Training Curriculum and get to at least provisional status within 6 months - that's the main recommendations from a report from HM Inspectorate of Constabulary - which provides an update on the implementation of the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland's (ACPOS) Capability and Capacity Review on the Police Use of Firearms.  It also finds that some progress has been made, but in certain areas is too slow.
HEFCE: The Higher Education Funding Council for England is committed to reducing avoidable burdens on institutions and it commissioned PA Consulting to carry out 3 studies on the costs, impacts & burdens of accountability in English higher education in 2000, 2004 and 2008.
The latest report, 'Positive accountability' has found that costs to institutions continued to fall between 2004 and 2008 by 21%, which is broadly in line with HEFCE's stated objective in its strategic plan.  HEFCE is looking for a further 10% reduction by 2010-11. The progress made in 2004-2008 follows a reported 25% reduction in administrative burden between 2000 and 2004.
CRC: The Commission for Rural Communities has submitted the 3rd of its regular reports to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on the rural impacts of the recession. They help inform his contribution to the National Economic Council, which meets weekly to consider impacts of the recession and recovery measures.
ScotGov: The first ever audit of current provision for the Scots language has been published.  Commissioned by the Scottish Government, the audit identifies where provision currently exists, who the providers are, where there are gaps, and what opportunities may exist to expand provision in Scotland.
The audit findings will be discussed with members of the Scots language community at a conference in Stirling (9 February 2009).  The event will be led by the broadcaster & advocate for the Scots language, Billy Kay.
DIUS: Presenting the Government's response to the National Student Forum (NSF) report, Lord Young and Ministers from the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills will look to develop more innovative and immediate ways of listening & talking to students.
Measures will include developing online discussions and a blog which will allow students to keep up with what students are saying when Ministers visit campuses across the country, as well as linking to the issues being discussed at the National Student Forum.
ScotGov: The criteria for admission to the Open Estate have been tightened considerably in the past year and the number of absconds has reduced, according to the latest report by Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons.
Although the inspection was not carried out as a direct result of the Robert Foye case last year, some of the comments in the report reflect the changes made to the Open Prison Estate by the Scottish Prison Service following this case.
DWP: Older people are living longer, healthier lives than they did 10 years ago, according to a new report – Opportunity Age Indicators’ - which looks at progress made since the Government published their strategy for an ageing society in 2005.
The new strategy will build on this and address four key areas: creating an age friendly society, preparing for later life, living well in later life and providing stronger protection and support. Other research published today also shows that a little bit of help can make a big difference to older people.
BERR/DCMS: The Government has published a plan to secure Britain's place at the forefront of the global digital economy.  The interim report contains more than 20 recommendations, including specific proposals on:
* next generation networks
* universal access to broadband
* the creation of a second public service provider of scale
In addition to specific commitments, the Interim Report outlines Britain's progress in building a digital market-place, while also setting priorities for industry engagement ahead of the publication of the final Digital Britain Report, due before the summer.
UK OC: The need to boost engagement in new technologies is gathering momentum within government and is seen as a way to unite isolated communities and involve local people in the control of local issues.  
Hazel Blears’ Empowerment White Paper last July announced the creation of Digital Mentors to support digital content creation in deprived communities.  The UK online centre’s Community Media Beacons will kick-start that work across the 6,000 strong UK online centres network.
HC: A report released by the Healthcare Commission and the National Treatment Agency (NTA) shows how well local areas are meeting the needs of diverse communities and people who require inpatient or residential drug treatment. But improvements are required in the monitoring & support of patients discharged from detoxification, to minimise overdose risk.
Findings reveal widespread good practice with 15% of local drug partnerships rated as ‘excellent’ and 72% ‘’good’ overall.  13% were rated ‘fair’ and no partnerships had an overall score of ‘weak’.
DH: A new Centre of Excellence, that will help local NHS organisations deliver better & more efficient workforce planning, has been announced by the Department of Health. Following a consultation with the service and a report by the The King's Fund, it is expected that this centre will ‘provide the NHS with high quality intelligence that informs their workforce planning and strengthens decision making at every level in the health and social care system’.
Local service providers and commissioners will hopefully be better informed & supported to plan their workforce and make key decisions around their education, deployment and development.
CLG: The impact of the credit crunch on regeneration is serious but with the right sort of long term leadership and resources it can come through the downturn, according to the recently published Parkinson report. The report is clear that regeneration is a long run game and it must continue to have that outlook.  
The independent report ‘The Credit Crunch and Regeneration: Impact and Implications’ found that the financial crisis is impacting on a financial model that has underpinned regeneration in recent years and pressure on the sector is likely to get more intense.

Legislation / Legal

HMRC: The influence of the global economic downturn on the tax avoidance industry was one of the key issues for leaders of the Joint International Tax Shelter Information Centre (JITSIC) in Kyoto. JITSIC leaders from Australia, Canada, China, Japan, United Kingdom and the United States reviewed successes and decided on JITSIC's future direction.
JITSIC was established in 2004 by the tax administrations of Australia, Canada, the UK and the United States, to supplement the ongoing work of the Australian Taxation Office, the Canada Revenue Agency, HM Revenue & Customs, and the Internal Revenue Service in identifying & curbing tax avoidance and shelters and those who promote them & invest in them.
HO: The deadline is fast approaching for universities, colleges and schools who want to sponsor international students when the student tier of Britain's new points system goes live, the UK Border Agency has warned. The introduction of the student tier - Tier 4 - will complete the rollout of the points system.
If education institutions want to bring in international students when Tier 4 starts at the end of March 2009 they must apply by 2 February 2009.  So far more than 800 universities, colleges and schools have signed up. Institutions who do not apply before the deadline will not be able to sponsor students from the go-live date in March.
MoJ: The new Legal Services Board (LSB) has published its draft 2009/10 Business Plan for consultation (closes on 13 March 2009). Recently established as the independent body responsible for overseeing the regulation of lawyers in England & Wales, the LSB's goal is to reform & modernise the legal services market place by putting the interests of consumers and citizens at the heart of the system. The final version of the Plan will be published in April 2009.
CompC: The Competition Commission (CC) has published its final report into the Payment Protection Insurance (PPI) market, setting out the measures it has decided are needed to introduce competition between suppliers.
The CC has concluded that businesses that offer PPI alongside credit face little or no competition when selling PPI to their credit customers.  To address the lack of competition, the CC will be introducing a package of measures to introduce competition in the market including:
* a ban on the sale of PPI during the sale of the credit product and for seven days afterwards
* a prohibition on single-premium policies
* personal PPI quotes
* annual statements
* measures to make sure that improved information is available to consumers to make it easier for them to compare & search for products and switch policies at a later point
The CC expects that the measures will come into force during 2010, with the information remedies in place by April 2010 and other measures by October 2010, each to coincide with Government common commencement dates for new legislation and regulation.
OFT: The Office of Fair Trading has issued formal notices to 16 Sale & Rent Back firms, asking them to substantiate claims they make in their adverts. These firms buy homes from individuals, usually at a significant discount, and then rent them back to the previous owners.
This action follows a 2008 OFT market study into the sector which concluded that there was a need for statutory regulation.  It found that some firms may be misleading consumers as to the value of their property or how long they may stay in the property after it is sold which may only be guaranteed for 6 to 12 months.

EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.

Defra: Plans to implement Europe's first comprehensive welfare rules on chickens raised for meat have been released for consultation (closes 20 April 2009). The EU rules focus on the overall welfare of birds, as well as the individual factors that contribute to welfare, and include the monitoring of birds at slaughterhouses so that signs of poor welfare can be raised with both producers & agencies responsible for animal welfare and food safety.
The new European rules do, for the first time, produce a legal baseline for all producers, including those who do not participate in any voluntary assurance schemes, while complementing, not replacing, existing voluntary assurance schemes.
Once finalised, the Welfare of Farmed Animals and Mutilations (Permitted Procedures) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2009 will come into force in June 2010 and are made under the Animal Welfare Act 2006.  They will implement Council Directive 2007/43/EC.
ScotGov: Two Shetland companies are to benefit from grant assistance totalling £1,158,000 delivered through the European Fisheries Fund (EFF). Lerwick Fish Traders and Rossyew Ltd will use the funding for fish processing projects which will create 17 new jobs, a vital boost for the local economy.
Projects eligible for EFF grants include:
* The development & delivery of professional, safety and specialist skills training
* Improved management, sustainable exploitation of resources, improved hygiene standards and minimisation of environmental impacts
* Pilot projects in partnership with scientific or technical bodies
Defra: A proposal that will hopefully ensure all animals across Europe are protected at the time of slaughter will be subject to comprehensive consultation (closes 20 April 2009) Farming Minister Jane Kennedy has claimed. 
The EU proposal focuses on ensuring there's a level playing field with respect to welfare standards for animals killed in a slaughterhouse, on a farm or for disease management purposes and that they're spared avoidable suffering.  The proposal covers all animals including poultry & fish, but exclude reptiles and amphibians.
Also under the proposal, all animals except for fish would need to be killed by a method that leads to instant death or death after stunning.  However, the proposal would include an exemption to allow slaughter to be carried out in accordance with religious rites without prior stunning, in line with current practice in the UK.
Defra: Farmers in England will not have to tag sheep intended for slaughter before they are 12 months old when the new EU Electronic Identification (EID) rules come into force on 31 December 2009, Farming Minister Jane Kennedy has announced.
The Government has already secured a number of other changes to the EID regulations including:
* no animals have to be recorded individually on a movement document until 1 January 2011
* no animals born before 31 January 2009 have to be recorded individually on a movement document until 31 December 2011
* no animals born before 31 December 2009 and moving to slaughter (directly or via a market) have to be recorded individually on a movement document at all.
Defra: Defra is seeking views on the UK application to the European Commission for an extension to meet air quality targets for Particulate Matter (PM10). The application for an extension will be submitted to the European Commission as soon as possible after this consultation has closed (10 March 2009) – See ‘Consultations’ for further information.

Charity and Voluntary Sector

BIG:  Charitable projects in Ealing and Lambeth will support families caring for disabled children and community unity.  Both projects are being made possible by Big Lottery Fund (BIG) grants together worth over £370,000, announced last week.  The grants are awarded as part of BIG’s Reaching Communities programme, which aims to improve the lives of those most in need and to build stronger communities.
Press release ~ BIG’s Reaching Communities programme

Business and Other Briefings

BERR: The limits on payments & awards made to workers by employment tribunals in certain employment rights cases have risen from 1 February 2009, under the annual index-linked formula. The increased limits affect:
* statutory redundancy payments
* the basic and compensatory awards for unfair dismissal
* the limit on guarantee payment made when employees are not provided with work
* the minimum basic award for unfair dismissal in health and safety and certain other cases
Adoption of EU Directive and Regulation relating to EC Sales Lists and Time of Supply Of Services (update to Revenue and Customs Brief 53/08).
Adoption of EU Directive and Regulation relating to EC Sales Lists and Time of Supply Of Services (update to Revenue and Customs Brief 53/08).

Forthcoming Event

LSN: The Learning and Skills Network Research and Policy Conference - The Shape of Things to Come: New research in Education and Skills (Tuesday 21 April 2009) - brings together researchers, practitioners and policy-makers to share innovative research and thinking taking place around education & skills.  
The day seeks not only to showcase high quality, creative and forward-thinking research, but to explore how this can better inform policy-making and encourage delegates to link their work to wider related areas.  Topic areas will cover teaching and learning, curriculum & qualifications, equalities, participation and access, technology and economic performance analysis.  

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