In the News
LDA: A welcome change from relying on just financial services - The London Development Agency has announced plans to launch a revised & improved advice service for manufacturing businesses in the capital. The Manufacturing Advisory Service (MAS) will offer support to manufacturing SMEs, particularly those with the potential to innovate & grow.
The new MAS is one of the commitments made by the London Development Agency in the Mayor of London’s Economic Recovery Action Plan, published in December 2008 in response to the current economic downturn. The LDA will issue invitations to tender in mid-February, with the service to be operational in summer 2009.
SMEs will receive expert support to develop products & services which can command premium prices and produce a better customer experience. This is a shift away from an era of heavy engineering towards a future where new technologies, products & ways of working reinforce manufacturing with services - an approach highlighted in the recently published Manufacturing Strategy.
HO: The 'crime' is that it takes so long to implement obvious changes - The Home Secretary has announced the next step in ‘common sense policing’ by scrapping a police timesheet, freeing up an estimated 260,000 police hours. Police officers will no longer have to complete the annual police activity analysis form accounting for their activity for each 15 minute working period of their shifts over a 2 week period - which will hopefully free up approximately 150 extra officers & staff.
The Home Secretary also announced that she accepted all of the recommendations made by Sir David Normington, Permanent Secretary of the Home Office, in his Review of Data Collection, which could halve the number of data requests the Home Office issues to police forces. In addition, she welcomed the interim report on ‘reducing bureaucracy in policing’ by Independent Reducing Bureaucracy Advocate, Jan Berry.
However, of the 59 recommendations made by Sir Ronnie Flanagan (covering both his interim and final reports), only 19 have already been implemented.
WAG: An aptly titled seminar - A new series of seminars will be held throughout Wales to highlight the wide range of support business can get in fighting the current recession. The seminars – entitled ‘Weathering the Storm’ – will inform those taking part of recently announced UK-wide schemes as well, as support measures available only in Wales.
They will kick off in Llandudno on 30 March 2009 and sessions will also take place in Aberystwyth, Newtown, Swansea and Cardiff. The aim is to ensure grass-roots businesses in every part of Wales get the maximum possible support during the recession and are able to emerge from it in a healthy position.
DH: At least they admit one size cannot fit all - People on sick leave will be helped back into work more quickly under a pilot scheme from the 'Fit for Work' Service Programme. Backed by £13m, it will test out how sickness absentees can be helped to recover & supported to get back to work more quickly than would otherwise be the case.
They will test a range of different ways of providing support, to identify what works best. Each pilot will test personalised, back to work support for people off sick. The range of services within a pilot should go beyond just healthcare and join up local services, including:
* Skills advice
* Employment advice
* Health & wellbeing services with a particular focus on vocational rehabilitation
* Wider social support such as debt or housing advice
* Conciliation to overcome escalated disputes between employees & employers
The pilots are expected to begin later this year and the Department of Health and the Department for Work and Pensions are jointly calling for organisations to come forward to participate in the pilot process. A series of workshops for parties interested in applying to become part of the piloting will be held as below:
* 16 March 2009 - Edinburgh (City Centre)
* 17 March 2009 - Birmingham (City Centre)
* 18 March 2009 - Cardiff (City Centre)
CCWater: No ‘deflation’ here then - Water bills across England & Wales are set to rise by an average of 4.1% including inflation, increasing the average bill to £342 a year. Because of the way that water prices are set, these price increases were agreed by the regulator, Ofwat, back in 2004 to provide water companies with funding to invest in upgrading their networks, leakage control, customer service and environment improvements.
Dame Yve Buckland, Chair of the Consumer Council for Water, said: "Customers have told us that they are unhappy with year on year above inflation price increases, and since we were set up in 2005, we have called for water companies to give something back to consumers from their profits…….. This resulted in £130m in reduced prices, help for vulnerable customers, and extra investments to benefit consumers.
Water companies, Ofwat, the Consumer Council for Water, and other regulators are now in discussions that will set prices for 2010 to 2015…..."
CLG: Some good work has already been done around the regions - Councils can make even greater savings through improved procurement processes and give council taxpayers even greater value for money according to the independent Roots Review. The Review of Arrangements for Efficiencies from Smarter Procurement in Local Government, carried out by Bill Roots, former Westminster City Council Chief Executive, examines the procurement of goods, services and capital purchases to identify ways to make further efficiency savings.
The report challenges councils to 'spring clean' their procurement systems and recommends substantial practical support for councils, including the appointment of a new local government procurement champion and greater support from Regional Improvement and Efficiency Partnerships (RIEPS), by increasing the practical procurement advice and 'best buy' information they hold. The key recommendations of the Roots review set out specific steps that will help councils improve the efficiency of their procurement processes and deliver greater value for money.
Forthcoming Event(s): Performance Measurement in the Public Sector – These 2-day workshops draw on the latest thinking, tools & techniques in performance measurement & management and focus on the development of integrated performance measurement systems. Key themes include:
* Measurement systems and frameworks (Balanced Scorecard, Performance Prism etc)
* Developing success maps to satisfy stakeholders
* The impact of performance measurement on people
* Designing appropriate targets and indicators
* Fostering a culture of performance
Performance measurement-related initiatives can often fail to bring the intended benefits. While performance measurement can generally be productive and help improve performance, if done poorly, it can be very costly, and actually drive dysfunctional behaviours.
Led by Dr Pietro Micheli, from the Centre for Business Performance at Cranfield School of Management, these workshops provide an excellent mixing of theory with examples. Due to their interactive nature, attendance is strictly limited to 30 delegates per workshop. Click below to find out more & to book:
For information on other forthcoming public sector events please click HERE to visit the WGPlus Events Calendar
For Industry News please click HERE
NE: Natural England’s Walking the Way to Health Initiative (WHI) has recently been recognised by the Department of Health for its important contribution to improving the health of the nation. In its Physical Activity Plan, the DH has shown a major commitment to the expansion of WHI - and getting people active in the natural environment has been recognised as having a major role to play in promoting physical and mental health.
With over 2,000 walks taking place every week and more than 37,000 volunteer walk leaders trained so far, Natural England’s WHI has encouraged hundreds of thousands of people to use the natural environment for the benefit of their health. Natural England is looking to expand the scheme and is now hoping to quadruple the number of people walking regularly for their health by the 2012 Olympics.
MoD: Royal Navy aviators & veterans, including Jock Moffat, the Swordfish pilot whose torpedo crippled the Bismark in World War Two, gathered last week at the Royal Aeronautical Society in London to launch the One Hundredth Anniversary of Naval Aviation.
The anniversary marks the Admiralty's far-sighted & visionary decision on 7 May 1909 to order the first airship, HMS Airship 1, and embark on a development programme for military aviation. It was also the Royal Navy who carried out the first strategic bombing from the air, the first air to air kill, the first sinking of a ship using a torpedo from the air and the first use of aircraft in a sea battle.
The highlight of the anniversary events will be on 7 May 2009 at Greenwich, London with a fly past of historic & current Fleet Air Arm aircraft over the aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious. A Service of Thanksgiving at St Paul's Cathedral on 8 May 2009 will formally recognise & pay tribute to the sacrifices made during the history of the Royal Naval Air Service and the Fleet Air Arm.
NE: The Ladybird spider, so named for the male’s red hot markings during the mating season, has made a remarkable recovery from near extinction in England thanks to a major conservation effort by a partnership of leading conservation bodies & landowners, as part of Natural England's Species Recovery Programme.
Conservation efforts carried out by Natural England - in partnership with the Ministry of Defence, Herpetological Conservation Trust, the Forestry Commission, Dudley Zoo, and members from the British Arachnological Society - have given the Ladybird spider a fighting chance for survival. The latest ‘web count’ revealed around 1,000 animals (up from 56 in 1994).
LSN: Further education students made their voices heard on a national stage last night, at an awards evening to celebrate the winners of ‘Look at it this way’, the Learning and Skills Network’s Citizenship short film competition.
A group of ten media students from Guildford College were awarded first prize by Oscar-winning film producer Lord Puttnam of Queensgate for their film ‘Student Voice 2008’. The competition was run by the Learning and Skills Network with support from the Association for Citizenship Teaching and the Department for Children, Schools and Families.
TfL: A notice has been published in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU) inviting bus manufacturers to express an interest in developing & building a new bus for London, based on the iconic Routemaster.
Manufacturers will be expected to take the innovative ideas & designs put forward in the New Bus for London competition and consider these in combination with their own expertise in designing & building buses to come up with a final design.
It is anticipated contracts will be awarded at the end of 2009 with on street trials of the first of the new buses on the streets of London in 2011. Interested parties need to complete a pre-qualification questionnaire by mid March.
DH: The latest phase in a campaign to remind the public that antibiotics do not help to treat viral infections such as cough's, colds and a sore throat has been launched by the Chief Medical Officer for England.
The campaign forms part of the Government's strategy to tackle the increasing problem antibiotic resistance which could make treatment for common bacterial infections such as pneumonia much more difficult in the future.
TfL: Cycling in Sutton has shot up by 50% cent in one year following the introduction of the Smarter Travel Sutton schemein the borough. Smarter Travel Sutton is a 3-year, £5m project, funded by Transport for London and delivered in partnership with the London Borough of Sutton, local businesses and the local community. It aims to encourage people in the borough to travel in more sustainable ways, on public transport, foot or bike.
Every school in Sutton is now actively participating in the Smarter Travel initiative and has an approved travel plan. Sutton is the first London borough to achieve this feat, 2 years ahead of government targets, and as a result, fewer parents are driving their children to school
PCS: PCS members fighting the closure of HM Revenue and Customs' offices in Scotland have set up on-line petitions in support of their campaign. An office in Peterhead, where £25bn worth of taxes from the Scottish fishing industry has been collected in the last five years, is one of many threatened with closure.
The closure would mean the loss of 10 jobs and has already been run down by the Department over the past decade meaning that it only has enough resources to cover the east coast of Scotland. Therefore the £25 billion worth of tax that has been collected there comes from what is effectively just 50% of the Scottish fishing industry.
FDA: Two press releases from the FDA (the union for senior managers & professionals in the public service) highlight the changes in governance expected from top level management to reflect public expectations, especially in the current financial climate:
* The first concerns the decision by the permanent secretaries of government departments to give up their 'bonuses' this year.
* The second concerns the publication of the hospitality received by board members of government departments.
MoD: The UK's Veterans Minister, Kevan Jones and his Australian counterpart, Minister for Defence Science and Personnel, Warren Snowdon, have announced that Oxford Archaeology had been awarded the contract to undertake the archaeological excavation of six mass WWI graves in Fromelles, France.
The 1916 Battle of Fromelles saw significant losses from both countries and the graves located at Pheasant Wood contain both British and Australian casualties. Excavation work is due to start in May 2009 and is expected to take up to six months. The existence of the mass graves was confirmed in 2008 and a decision was made by both Governments to conduct a full archaeological excavation of the site.
Anyone believing they may be related to British soldiers buried at Fromelles should contact the Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre, Historic Casualty & Deceased Estates Casework, Services Personnel and Veterans Agency, Building 182, Imjin Barracks, Gloucester GL3 1HW, firstname.lastname@example.org, 01452 519951.
ScotGov: A hydro electric scheme, capable of powering up to 700 homes, has been given the go ahead by Scottish Ministers. The run of river station, at Invervar in North Perthshire, will have an installed capacity of 1.2 Megawatts (MW). In run of river hydro schemes, the generator & turbine are either located in or alongside the dam, which depends on the flow of the river.
MO: A new service from the Met Office is designed to help insurance companies improve their service regarding weather-related claims. Traditionally, insurers have had to rely on a limited number of weather observations and then estimate the weather in between.
ClaimCheck(tm), backed by innovative use of computer modelling, builds a detailed picture of weather for any given hour right across the country at a resolution of 2km, mapped to individual postcode sectors. Typically the processing techniques used for ClaimCheck(tm) use around 70,000 observations each hour with 1,000 surface observations being augmented by observations from satellites, aircraft and upper air stations, plus over 400,000 2 km resolution radar rainfall observations.
HMRC: Contributions from landfill operators to the Landfill Communities Fund (LCF) hashit £1bn. The fund, introduced in 1996 to redresses some of the environmental costs of landfill, has benefited 24,000+ local projects.
The LCF allows a maximum of 6% of an operator's annual landfill tax liability to be claimed as a tax credit, giving a potential value to the scheme of about £70m credit claimable. The Fund is managed by an organisation independent of government, the Environmental Trust Scheme Regulatory Body Ltd (ENTRUST), formed specifically to regulate the Fund.
NA: Over 1.5m people visited the new website 1911census.co.uk in its first 4 weeks, downloading over a million transcripts and more than 380,000 original census images. The website is run by brightsolid, in association with The National Archives.
There's an option to search for name variants – for example, to find everyone listed as 'Smyth' and 'Smythe' along with 'Smith'. If you don't have exact dates, you can now search within a range of plus or minus 5 years on date of marriage, and 10 years on date of birth.
OFT: As part of its Scams Awareness Month, the OFT has launched two spoof websites (advertising 'Glucobate' and 'Fatfoe' pads) to warn consumers of the dangers of 'miracle' health and weight loss scams that cost UK consumers an estimated £20m every year.
Employing similar techniques to those used by scammers, the OFT will be drawing consumers to the spoof - but initially convincing - miracle cure sites and then revealing that they are the victims of a potential scam. Internet banner advertising, sponsored links on search engine sites, and keyword techniques that push the sites higher up in online searches, will be used to drive consumers looking for health or slimming treatments to the fake websites.
TfL: Transport for London’s Freight Operator Recognition Scheme (FORS) benchmarking system has now gone live and freight operators are using it to compare their performance with that of similar operators working in the Capital.
The benchmarking system, which is available online, allows FORS members to anonymously & instantly compare their performance and costs with those of other London freight operators in fuel use, carbon dioxide emissions, collisions and fines and charges. Benchmarking will help operators improve their performance over time against these criteria and allow them to demonstrate this to their existing and potential customers.
STFC: Astronomers using the NASA Swift Satellite are tracking a spectacular comet as it closes in on Earth and sheds gas & dust from its vaporised ice. The team, which is led by UK astronomers, is studying the comet to find out more about its chemistry and to gather clues about the origin of comets and the solar system. Swift is a NASA mission in collaboration with the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) in the UK and the Italian Space Agency (ASI).
The comet is now faintly visible from a dark site. Lulin will pass closest to Earth – 38m miles, or about 160 times farther than the moon - on 24 February 2009.
STFC: Roman artefacts, which are nearly two thousand years old, with similarities to ancient remains found at Pompeii in Italy were examined at the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s ISIS neutron source in Oxfordshire last weekend. Researchers hope to learn more about our heritage by discovering whether the items were imported from southern Italy, or manufactured using similar techniques in Britain.
The bronze artefacts, which include a wine-mixing vessel, jugs and ceremonial pan-shaped objects, were discovered in Kent in two high status Roman pit-burials that are among the best examples ever seen in Britain. Archaeological scientists will compare the 1st Century AD artefacts from Kent with those from Pompeii in Italy. The neutron beams at the world-leading ISIS facility allow for detailed crystal structure analysis of intact delicate objects without cutting out a sample of the material.
NE: Natural England is one of 11 organisations celebrating the launch of the Million Ponds Project, an initiative co-ordinated by the charity Pond Conservation. Natural England’s contribution is the funding of a full-time Project Officer, Dawn Isaac, who is based in Peterborough to work on this initiative.
The Million Ponds Project will start by making 5,000 ponds in the next 4 years, with a focus on 1,000 sites that will benefit more than 80 species listed in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan that use or live in ponds. These include the spangled water beetle, tassel stonewort and the pondweed leafhopper. The project will provide a network of clean water havens for these and other endangered freshwater plants & animals that depend on unpolluted water.
NA: To celebrate the fifth Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans (LGBT) History Month, the National Archives are highlighting some historical documents about Oscar Wilde, held at The National Archives and elsewhere. Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) was an Irish playwright, poet and author who lived in late-Victorian London. His plays, such as The Importance of Being Earnest and Lady Windermere's Fan, were hugely successful. He was also one of the greatest celebrities of his day, known for his biting wit.
In 1895, John Sholto Douglas, the Marquis of Queensberry, left an insulting calling card for Oscar Wilde at the Albemarle Club in London. Wilde decided to sue the marquis for libel - setting off a chain of events that ended in his own trial and imprisonment.
Policy Statements and Initiatives
ScotGov: Local authorities across Scotland have confirmed that they will freeze council tax for the second year running. Finance Secretary John Swinney, said the decision by a majority of councils would provide vital relief for households at a time when the effects of the economic downturn are being felt across the country. The remaining councils are expected to follow suit in the near future.
Every council which freezes Council Tax will receive a share of the £70m set aside by the Scottish Government to compensate for the loss of increased council tax income.
ScotGov: Minister for Community Safety Fergus Ewing has reiterated the Scottish Government's complete opposition to UK Government proposals for a National Identity Scheme. The Minister made his views clear in a response to a consultation by the Westminster Government on their ID cards secondary legislation.
WAG: Woodland in the shadow of Cadair Idris has been chosen as the second site for the Welsh Assembly Government scheme to plant a tree for every child born or adopted in Wales. The Plant! scheme was launched in December 2007 and is a commitment in the One Wales programme as part of the WAG’s drive to achieve a sustainable environment.
By planting up to 30 hectares of new woodland a year, the scheme will make a significant contribution to the creation of a WelshNational Forest of native trees. To date, 22,000 mixed native broadleaf trees have been planted at Cefn Ila, near Usk. The Plant! scheme is being delivered by Forestry Commission Wales in partnership with Coed Cadw on behalf of the Welsh Assembly Government.
HO: A new £1.6m national crime prevention campaign has been launched by Home Secretary Jacqui Smith. The adverts will carry simple messages about how the public can make their homes safer and protect themselves from opportunistic criminals with the strapline ‘Lets Keep Crime Down’.
According to the British Crime Survey 36% of burglaries occur in properties with unlocked doors & windows and this new campaign aims to make people aware of the very simple steps they can take to protect their homes and valuables.
Defra: A new task force aimed at helping secure the future of the pig meat industry has been announced by Farming Minister Jane Kennedy. The Pig Meat Supply Chain Task Force will focus on helping the whole supply chain to thrive in a way that is sustainable in the long term.
It will bring together key representatives, from all sectors in the pig meat supply chain to increase collaboration between Government and the various sectors in the industry. The Task Force will examine areas of concern that may include labelling, public sector procurement, endemic disease and better communications throughout the supply chain.
Ms Kennedy has also launched a vision for anaerobic digestion, the process of breaking down organic material such as food waste and farm manures & slurries to create heat & power and transport fuel.
HO: A secure videolink that is allowing first time passport applicants to be interviewed by trained staff hundreds of miles away, is rolling out to smaller communities & islands in Scotland, England and Wales. As well as a powerful fraud deterrent, videolink interviews are more convenient for the estimated 4,000 customers from far-flung communities in England, Scotland and Wales who apply for a passport each year.
The hi-tech link follows the introduction of 68 interview offices set up over the last 18 months to interview first-time adult passport applicants face-to-face in a bid to deter fraudsters. The new service is operated in partnership with local authorities who provide premises & staff to facilitate the interviews with IPS officials at a central office.
Defra: A new action plan to make fashion more sustainable and less environmentally damaging was launched at the start of London Fashion Week. The Sustainable Clothing Roadmap has brought together over 300 organisations, from high street retailers, to designers and textile manufacturers to battle the environmental impacts of 'throw away fashion'.
While having many economic benefits, clothing has a significant environmental & ethical impact ranging from increased carbon emissions, waste, water usage and pollution to child labour and unfair trading conditions. The clothing & textiles sector in the UK alone produces around 3.1m tonnes of CO2, 2m tonnes of waste and 70m tonnes of waste water per year - with 1.5m tonnes of unwanted clothing ultimately ending up in landfill.
Defra: Environment Secretary, Hilary Benn, has announced how more than £8m for wildlife conservation projects will be allocated across the developing world. The 43 projects under Defra's Darwin Initiative, which gives money & UK expertise to help start up & extend wildlife conservation projects in developing countries, include activities as diverse as the conservation of chameleons in Madagascar and the restoration of habitats in small Pacific islands.
WAG: Deputy Minister for Skills, John Griffiths, has announced that there would be changes to how the Deprived Area Fund will be implemented in Wales from April 2009. The fund was set up by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) to tackle unemployment & economic inactivity in the disadvantaged areas within the UK.
From April 2009 new arrangements for the delivery of the fund will see 2 new local partnerships being set up in Wales that will identify priorities, to work together in a more joined-up way, and to join resources to add value to the work that DWP and Jobcentre Plus are doing at a local level. The two new partnership areas and details about how funding will be allocated will be announced in April 2009.
DH: The Department of Health is giving Ambulance Services more choice over how they answer 999 calls. An alternative system for 999 operators called NHS Pathways has been approved for use in ambulance control rooms allowing staff to make immediate referrals to urgent care services for patients who don't need an ambulance. The system has been used successfully in the North East for over two years and safely handled over 1 million calls.
WAG: Wales’s strategy for the future of the Supporting People Programme (SPP) was recently unveiled for consultation (closes on 12 May 2009) -See ‘Consultations’ for more information.
WAG: Wales’s strategy for the future of the Supporting People Programme (SPP) was recently unveiled for consultation (closes on 12 May 2009). An Action Plan will then be developed with all partners, including service users and will provide more detail on how the SPP moves forward.
Supporting People, set up in 2003, provides a policy & funding framework for voluntary organisations, Local Authorities and Housing Associations to provide housing help & advice to the most vulnerable people in Wales. It is centred on supporting independent living and those most affected are:
* Older people who live in sheltered accommodation
* Women escaping domestic abuse
* Young people leaving care
The SPP is central to the development & sustainability of many support & care services in Wales, including those working with vulnerable young people and individuals and families affected by disabilities, homelessness, domestic violence and health problems.
HM Treasury: The Government has launched a consultation document (closes on 4 May 2009) on secondary legislation to establish a UK dormant accounts scheme. Subject to responses, the Government will introduce the secondary legislation in Parliament later in 2009.
The consultation document sets out draft secondary legislation to extend the scope of the Financial Services Authority's regulation to include dormant accounts reclaim funds. It also places a requirement on building societies participating in the scheme for smaller institutions to publicly disclose information in line with the requirements placed on smaller banks by the Act.
FSA: The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has set out for consultation (closes on 30 April 2009)how it aims to regulate the new reclaim funds – the institutions that will be responsible for dormant accounts transferred to them from banks and building societies.
Under the Dormant Bank and Building Society Accounts Act 2008 (the Act), which received Royal Assent on 26 November 2008, reclaim funds will be authorised and regulated by the FSA. They will be under an obligation to transfer surplus money, after meeting FSA requirements and their own expenses, to the Government’s ‘Big Lottery Fund’ (BIG), which will reinvest the money according to Government priorities.
As part of the reunification exercise, The BBA, BSA and National Savings and Investments (NS&I) have joined forces to develop the FREE www.mylostaccount.org.uk, which brings together the three separate tracing schemes for dormant accounts with banks, building societies, and national savings in a single website.
DCMS: The ticketing & events industries need to improve the service they offer to fans and cut down significantly on the number of tickets being sold to touts, Sports Minister Gerry Sutcliffe has said. The Government is proposing a package of measures designed to help consumers and wants to see much more use of innovative approaches that have successfully prevented touts from buying up tickets for high profile events.
In a cross-Government approach, designed to tackle the problems associated with ticket touting, the Government has published:
* a consultation (closes on 15 May 2009) which seeks to find consensus on how best to improve the ticketing market for the benefit of consumers and
* new advice from Consumer Direct with tips on how to safely shop for tickets online
A further measure proposed is to ask more football clubs to adopt official exchange arrangements for fans who want to sell tickets they can no longer use. Under current public order legislation, unofficial resale of football tickets is illegal, but official, club-sanctioned exchange systems are allowed.
LLUK: Lifelong Learning UK has secured funding from the Department for Employment and Learning in Northern Ireland to develop Professional Standards for Learning Delivery. The objective of the project is to develop Northern Ireland specific Professional Standards for teachers, tutors and trainers in the lifelong learning sector. These will then underpin appropriate guides for application in an e-learning environment to ensure practitioners have access to updated guidance.
The consultation phase is now open (closes on Friday 13 March 2009) and the draft Professional Standards & a questionnaire is available to download. Consultation workshop event dates are also available for booking.
DIUS: Further Education colleges are at the heart of communities and have a key role to play in isolating & challenging the minority who promote violent extremism, Skills Secretary John Denham claimed as he launched new guidance for FE colleges (for consultation – closes 6 May 2008) to help them promote mutual respect & understanding and encourage debate around the social challenges posed by the threat of extremism – See ‘Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides’ for more information
Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides
MoJ: Businesses that mislead the public by claiming they can arrange for unpaid loans, credit card debts or other consumer debts to be written off have been told to ‘stop or face action’, as new guidance is issued by the Ministry of Justice. The guidance highlights misleading statements in adverts making dubious claims or leaving out important information which might breach consumer protection regulations.
Businesses making these statements could face enforcement action by the Ministry of Justice which might ultimately result in authorisations being removed. Consumers can check whether a business holds an appropriate consumer credit licence by searching the OFT's online consumer credit register.
DIUS: Further Education colleges are at the heart of communities and have a key role to play in isolating & challenging the minority who promote violent extremism, Skills Secretary John Denham claimed as he launched new guidance for FE colleges (for consultation – closes 6 May 2008) to help them promote mutual respect & understanding and encourage debate around the social challenges posed by the threat of extremism.
The 'Learning together to be safe' toolkit contains advice on how colleges can embody the values of openness, free debate & tolerance, and promote them through the way they operate - vital since a large number of young people from a diverse range of backgrounds pass through further education. The FE guidance comes after similar guidance for universities and the HE sector was launched in January 2008.
Defra: Lord Philip Hunt, the Minister for Sustainable Development, has announced a steering group to update Defra's 'Green Claims' Code, which was devised to assist businesses to advertise their green products and services with confidence and help protect consumers from bogus or inaccurate claims.
The code was last updated in 2003 but due to the massive growth in the market for 'green' products, the code now needs revising to support businesses and ensure the broad range of environmental claims they make are accurate, truthful and relevant. The updated version will address gaps in the current guidance to keep pace with the vast range of claims made about products and services. Further announcements about the code's developments can be expected in the Autumn of 2009.
Defra: The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has issued revised guidance to all local authorities on managing air quality. The practice guidance includes information on:
* principles for the assessment of local measures to improve air quality
* low emission zones (including examples of where these have been successfully introduced)
* measures to encourage the uptake of low emission vehicles (a measure in the UK Air Quality Strategy 2007)
* measures to encourage the uptake of retro fitted abatement equipment to vehicles
The devolved administrations in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales are preparing their own policy and practice guidance for their local authorities.
Press release ~ Guidance documents
HC: Some NHS trusts are still not responding to complaints effectively or learning lessons from them, says the Healthcare Commission in its latest report. The way trusts handle complaints is still the number one issue raised by complainants, accounting for 19% of cases reviewed, up from 16% last year.
In almost half of complaints reviewed, the Commission either upheld the complaint or sent it back to the trust for further work because the trust’s initial response to the complainant was not good enough. The report, the third of its kind, covers the 8,949 complaints reviewed in the year to 31 July 2008.
From 1 April 2009, a new two-tier complaints handling system will replace the current three-tier procedure. If a person complains to a trust & they are unhappy with the trust’s response they will be able to request a review from the Parliamentary & Health Service Ombudsman. The Commission has made 12 key recommendations to all NHS trusts to improve the way they resolve complaints in preparation for the new system.
DECC: A report on reducing the threat of proliferation of dangerous nuclear, radiological, biological and chemical materials and expertise has been published by the government. The UK Global Threat Reduction Programme 2008 Annual Report highlights the progress made on projects including the safe destruction of chemical weapons in Russia, other former Soviet Union countries and elsewhere. The programme is funded from the UK's Global Threat Reduction Programme annual budget of £36m.
The report includes the development of a strategy for the management of some 30 tonnes of spent nuclear fuel from decommissioned submarines in North West Russia, progress on construction of a key chemical weapons destruction facility, redirection of former WMD scientists, implementation of a programme of enhancements to security of nuclear materials, and assistance towards the irreversible closure of weapons grade plutonium production reactors in Russia.
FSCS: The Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) has recently published its Plan and Budget 2009/10 containing first indicative estimates of its levies on financial services firms for 2009/10. The FSCS Plan & Budget provides the Scheme’s initial assumptions of future claims and its funding needs for the coming financial year. It covers the full range of the FSCS’s work including insurance and investments.
Coming against the backdrop of continuing uncertainty in the markets, the FSCS says financial services firms are likely to pay a levy of £186m in 2009/10 against £130.8m (excluding a possible interim levy of up to £40m) in 2008/09. In addition, deposit taking firms will pay the interest costs on loans to fund the five bank defaults in 2008/09.
General Reports and Other Publications
NAO: The Building Schools for the Future programme aims to rebuild, refurbish and provide new Information Technology for all 3,500 secondary schools in England by 2020. A report by the National Audit Office has found that the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) underestimated how long it would take to launch the programme & build the schools, though the speed of delivery has compared well with previous school building programmes.
78% Local Authorities and 86% of companies involved in the BSF programme believe that it is leading to more strategic procurement of school infrastructure than previous school building programmes. BSF schools are built to higher specifications & space standards than previous schools; though until post occupancy reviews take place a year after each opens it will be too early to say whether they will meet user expectations.
To include all schools in the programme, 250 schools will need to be built a year and the number of schools in procurement & construction at any one time will need to double from 2011 onwards. The extent to which problems in the finance markets will affect BSF is still unclear.
NAO: The National Audit Office has reported that the processes used by central government to recruit civil servants do not fully deliver value for money. Departments are working to understand & improve parts of the external recruitment process, but more can be done.
In 2007-08, central government recruited more than 40,000 new staff, with 78% for positions at junior grades in a diverse range of areas such as job centres, courts, prisons, airports and tax offices across the UK. The NAO’s analysis of how six organizations recruit identifies three common issues, the:
* costs of staff used in the recruitment process are too high
* length of the recruitment process is too long
* quality of the recruitment process needs to be improved
Within central government, it can typically take 16 weeks to recruit a new member of staff. Time could be saved by better anticipating recruitment demands, using resources more effectively and, where possible, standardizing the process.
CRC: Nicola Lloyd, the Commission for Rural Communities’ Director of Analysis, has written about what the future might hold for rural transport in the latest issue of the Social Research Association's e-bulletin. The article draws on the CRC’s recent transport ‘thinkpieces’.
ScotGov: Five things are 'badly wrong' at Aberdeen prison; and there is very little that the prison can do to make them better, according to the latest report by Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons. The report also highlights that the conditions at Aberdeen Sheriff Court are 'unacceptable'.
However, the report also points out that prisoners feel safe, all prisoners have access to very good learning opportunities (including those on remand) and healthcare is good.
HA: The Highways Agency and The Caravan Club have joined forces to work more closely together to make travel on England's motorways and other major roads safer and easier. A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed recently by Graham Dalton, Chief Executive of the Highways Agency, and Trevor Watson, Director General of The Caravan Club.
The MoU establishes a Highways Agency account manager to provide a direct link with The Caravan Club, so both sides can communicate more effectively on a range of issues and share skills & knowledge on areas of mutual interest.
Socitm: The impact of cloud computing - the use of web resources to provide facilities & services hosted elsewhere on the internet – could have an even more revolutionary impact on public sector ICT than the advent of the PC in the 1980s. This prediction comes in Cloud computing on the horizon, the latest of a monthly series of briefings on topical issues written & published by the Society of IT Management (Socitm) for ICT managers.
The briefing sets out the potential benefits of ‘the cloud’ for public services, including flexibility & lower costs, particularly as the burden of acquiring & maintaining server infrastructure and data centres can be shifted outside the organisation. However, the briefing warns that the agility cloud computing offers for exploiting information brings with it security and business continuity risks that public sector ICT managers may find difficult to live with.
TfL: Transport for London (TfL) has launched the first digital map of the Capital’s road speed limits to help drivers keep their driving within the law. This map (downloadable for free), once integrated into any SatNav or Global Positioning System (GPS), will be able to display the current, accurate speed limit to a driver and alert them if they exceed the legal speed limit.
GPS device manufacturers are being encouraged to take full advantage of this resource which will help to improve road safety in the capital. It is estimated that if everyone used the digital speed map, the number of road collisions could be reduced by 10%.
Legislation / Legal
ScotGov: The forthcoming Criminal Justice & Licensing Bill will provide greater support for victims of crime - as well as helping police prevent & combat criminal activities, Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill claimed when addressing the recent Victim Support Scotland's European Victims' Week conference in Glasgow, where delegates discussed the role of local & national government, the voluntary sector and the wider community in supporting victims of crime.
The Bill will include measures to:
* create new Witness anonymity orders
* extend support for vulnerable witnesses to all criminal proceedings in Sheriff and High Courts, not just during trials
* improve the courts' flexibility to award compensation, thus helping victims of crime achieve greater satisfaction
* make it easier for prosecutors to obtain criminal Non-Harassment Orders against offenders so that victims are protected from further harassment and repeat offending
Charity and Voluntary Sector
BIG: A new London project to support people affected by fatal gun, knife and violent crime is to start after being awarded £108,821 from the Big Lottery Fund. The project offering help & counselling to friends and family of victims of violent crime is one of 3 London projects sharing over £600,000 from BIG’s Reaching Communities programme.
The Peace of Life Project, run by Southwark Bereavement Care, will use the funding over three years to reduce the effects of gun, knife and violence-related deaths in Southwark and Lambeth. Staff & qualified volunteers will offer counselling, trauma therapy, mentoring & anger management to people who have lost someone through a violent death such as murder, accident or suicide.
The project will help the grieving process and mitigate a need for revenge, which can lead to stress, social isolation, insomnia, anxiety and anti-social behaviour.
CRC: The Commission for Rural Communities has responded to Big Lottery Fund’s 'Big thinking' consultation which is helping shape their future funding policies for 2009-15. They have welcomed Big Lottery Fund’s proposed continuing future focus on tackling disadvantage & vulnerability and helping people most in need.
There are different ways of delivering lottery funding, each with its own pros and cons. The important challenge is to consider the needs of individuals and communities in rural areas, as well as urban. They also suggest that in future the Big Lottery Fund uses the official urban rural definition to monitor the rural distribution of its grants in order to demonstrate and secure geographical equity.
Business and Other Briefings
HMRC: HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) has launched a podcast on the new compliance checks regime, which comes into effect in April 2009. The 8-minute podcast features HMRC's Simon Norris discussing the new, streamlined regime, and what it will mean in practice for small businesses and tax advisers. It covers new record-keeping requirements, new time limits for tax assessments, and outlines the safeguards that will be in place.
HMRC: Interest rates charged on late payments and paid on overpayments for corporation tax quarterly instalment payments (QIPs) and also early payments of corporation tax not due by instalments have now been cut, HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) confirm. The new rates took effect from 16 February 2009.
HMRC: Revenue & Customs Brief 06/09Claims for refund of 'overpaid' VAT by the retrospective application of Extra-Statutory Concession 3.35 are to be rejected.
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