In the News
ScotGov: Could sustainable energy sources replace oil revenues without disputes over ‘ownership’? – ‘An independent Scotland with full fiscal autonomy would be better able to achieve its full economic potential’. Finance Secretary John Swinney made the claim last week as the Scottish Government published Fiscal Autonomy in Scotland: the case for change and options for reform as part of the ongoing National Conversation on Scotland's future.
The publication contains a detailed assessment of all options for reform of Scotland's financial framework and is designed to help inform & spark debate on the best way forward. It concludes that full fiscal autonomy through independence would both help Scotland deal with short term issues like the global downturn and put the country on the best path for a more successful future - unlike other options short of independence.
The publication takes five potential options for reform:
* devolution max
* enhanced devolution
* assigned revenues
* current framework
CLG: But will it address the growing problem of ‘unemployed & disadvantaged whites’? - A consultation on improving opportunities for Black, Asian and minority ethnic people has been announced. A new report is claimed to demonstrate that the Government has made significant progress in tackling race equality in everything from the job market & health services, to education, housing and criminal justice.
The third & final report on the Government's race equality strategy - Improving Opportunity, Strengthening Society - claims that further progress depends on recognising that different ethnic groups are experiencing disadvantage in different ways. The Government is consulting on how best to move away from a ‘one size fits all’ approach to targeted help addressing the different needs of particular groups.
The consultation will also take account of the additional challenge posed by the economic downturn. Past evidence shows that Black, Asian and minority ethnic groups, as well as disadvantaged White people, are hit harder than others because of the type of job they have or because they live in deprived areas.
To kick-start the debate a discussion document - Tackling Race Equalities - is also being published. It invites views (by 18 May 2009) on what the Government's future approach to promoting race equality should be, asking as well as rights, what responsibilities are there for people from all communities in Britain to others and themselves.
WAG: Will prevailing ‘Westerlies’ blow away Welsh dependence on fossil fuels? - A new plan to lessen Wales’ reliance on fossil fuels and increase the use of renewable, low-carbon energy sources has been published for consultation (closes on 22 May 2009) by Welsh Environment Minister, Jane Davidson. The Bioenergy Action Plan for Wales aims to generate at least 5 terawatt hours of electricity (about 20% of current needs) from renewable biomass by 2020. It also aims to have biomass provide 2.5 terawatt hours of usable heat energy (about 3% of current needs).
This will result in a reduction of about 3m tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions per year in comparison with generation based on fossil fuels and will hopefully also create new jobs. Biomass is ‘carbon neutral’, in that the amount of carbon it absorbs while growing is the same as the amount it produces when burned.
CO: With Public Borrowing soaring can the public sector afford proprietary software? - The Cabinet Office has published a new policy on Open Source software that is intended to ‘ensure maximum value for money for taxpayers’. Minister for Digital Engagement, Tom Watson, said "the new policy reflects changes to both the Open Source market and the Government's approach to IT. It sets out ten actions that will make sure of a level playing field for Open Source Software, and encourage the use of Open Standards".
There are three aspects to the new policy:
* Open Source software: the policy includes 10 actions that will actively help make sure the best possible, best value for money software solutions are put forward for tenders, be they Open Source or propriety products
* Open Standards: the policy contains an explicit reference to Open Standards, ensuring systems are inter-operable and avoiding getting locked into a particular product where possible
* Re-use: the Government will look to re-use what it has already bought, with successful solutions being made available across Government.
HA: Something to help parents sleep better at night - The Highways Agency is following up on its highly successful Driver Information Programme for motorcyclists - Great Roads Great Rides - with a new interactive DVD-ROM. ‘Great Roads Great Rides 2’ is a new resource to help riders 'read the road' successfully and stay safe while enjoying their biking experience.
The package includes a DVD film and interactive package. With clever filming techniques, it puts the viewer on the bike, inside the helmet & close to the road, and features a 14-minute ride-out from motorway on to urban and countryside roads.
Riders can then use the second section offering an interactive challenge when the disc is used with a computer. Here the ride-out section freezes at specific points so the viewer can have a go at identifying the clues that they would use when reading the road ahead. Motorcyclists are 30 times more likely to be killed or seriously injured than car occupants. One in four accidents involved no other vehicle and almost half of the accidents involving a motorcycle occurred at a junction.
The Highways Agency will be giving away copies of the 'Great Rides Great Roads 2' DVD at the 'Ally Pally Motorcycle Show' at Alexandra Palace (Stand G46) from Friday 27 February until Sunday 1 March 2009. In addition, the Agency will also be exhibiting a new bikers survival pack. The kit has been specially designed to fit neatly under a motor bike seat and includes a light-weight high visibility jacket, a visor wiper and a light weight survival blanket.
NAO: How best to not keep re-inventing the wheel - To obtain value for money from public spending, lessons must be learnt from both success and failure. Although there is some effective learning within departments, learning is still not as prioritised as much as it should be, according to a new National Audit Office report.
Much learning in government occurs after large projects, initiatives or crises, but important learning should also take place routinely on a day-to-day basis, as teams and individuals carry out their work, or as a result of research and evaluations. Feedback from outside the organisation, particularly from service users, is also vital for improving service delivery.
The main barriers to learning within departments are ineffective tools to capture and share learning, keeping insights and information within the team rather than sharing them across the organisation, high turnover within the workforce leading to a loss of knowledge, and a lack of time given to capturing lessons from experience.
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TfL: Twenty-five arrests were made over the weekend, following Operation Helvellyn - part of a drive to tackle taxi touts in central London. The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) and the Cab Enforcement Unit, part of the Transport for London (TfL) funded Transport Operational Command Unit (TOCU), targeted illegal cabs during a high visibility operation.
Uniformed Police Officers and Police Community Support Officers patrolled hotspots to tackle touting and other cab related issues. They also offered advice to members of the public warning them that any minicab journey that is not booked through a licensed minicab operator is illegal, uninsured & unsafe. Bar & club managers whose venues attract high numbers of illegal cabs were also advised on the danger these cabs pose to their customers.
Press release ~ Safer Travel at Night ~ Cabwise ~ Findaride ~ Traveltools
NA: With the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin's birth celebrated this month, The National Archives looks at some of the documents & resources held on the pioneering naturalist. The event that was to change Darwin's life (and the course of scientific theory forever) was his 5-year voyage around the world aboard HMS Beagle - the Admiralty surveying ship under the command of Robert Fitzroy.
The observations & collections made on his voyage, particularly of the different species found in the Galapagos Islands, led Darwin to develop his theory of evolution by natural selection. His ground-breaking and controversial work, On the Origin of Species, was published in 1859, following over 20 years of research & development.
PCS: The PCS union has highlighted a recent announcement from The Chagos Island Community Association (CICA) regarding the death of Chagossian Regina Mandarin, who died of pneumonia recently at the age of 68.
She was born in 1940 on the Peros Banhos atoll in the Chagos Archipelago. Regina was forcibly removed along with her family, on different ships, to Mauritius by the British government of Harold Wilson which had signed a secret deal with the US government to use the main island of Diego Garcia as a US military base.
Regina inspired her family, countless friends & supporters by her dogged determination, her passion and principled stand on the fundamental question of the islanders ‘right to return’ and the removal of the US military base on Diego Garcia.
ScotGov: Last week saw Scottish Ministers taking part in a series of events to mark Scottish Environment Week (SEW) and urge even more Scots to 'Go Greener' in 2009. SEW brings together politicians and environmental groups to celebrate Scotland's Environment. Since it's inception in 2003, the week has become a popular fixture in the parliamentary calendar.
CRC: Recent Commission for Rural Communities (CRC) studies show that rural people are becoming increasingly dependent on the car as a result of the decline in public transport services and the CRC fears that the issue will hit remote communities hard as the recession deepens. Dr Stuart Burgess, Chair of the CRC, visited Lincolnshire last week to see how public authorities are tackling isolation faced by rural locations.
In Lincolnshire, the issue is being tackled head on by local authorities, who are running on-demand public transport links in conjunction with scheduled services to meet the travel needs of everyone in the county, not just those in busy urban centres and towns. The CallConnect service operates from 7am to 7pm, taking people where they need to go, when they need to.
TDA: Teaching is experiencing its biggest recruitment boom for years with one in ten workers considering a career in teaching, according to statistics from the Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA). The TDA has seen an increase of 45% in online enquiries from potential teachers since the start of the recruitment year, compared to the same period year on year.
The TDA is hosting 3 Train to Teach recruitment events across the country starting in the capital on Friday 27 February. The events encourage jobseekers to speak to teachers and training providers about life in the classroom and the application process. So far this year, 8,977 people have registered to attend an event, significantly up on 2008.
BERR: The hunt has begun for the UK's enterprise success stories with the launch of the Enterprising Britain 2009 competition in Scarborough - the winner of last year's competition. The competition seeks out areas of enterprise excellence from across the UK - villages, towns, cities and neighbourhoods which have embedded a culture of enterprise that supports and encourages their entrepreneurs & businesses, helping them to survive the downturn and emerge stronger on the other side.
Enterprising Britain is free to enter and is open to all places in the UK that can demonstrate the impact enterprise has had on their community in the past two years. Entries must be submitted by 30 April 2009 and the winner will be announced in October.
WAG: As Fair Trade Fortnight began, 2 farmers from the developing world were touring Wales to raise awareness of how they are trading their way out of poverty. Bernard Ranaweera, a tea producer from Sri Lanka and Bella Joachim, a banana farmer from Dominica in the Windward Isles visited locations & events all over Wales to raise awareness of how Fair Trade helps them.
June 2008 saw Wales become the world’s first fair trade nation following a 2-year campaign by the Wales Fair Trade Forum, funded by the Welsh Assembly Government, to increase the availability of fair trade products in towns, cities & counties across Wales, and encouraging schools, businesses and other organisations to switch to Fair Trade.
ScotGov: Two limited extensions have been made to the April 30 deadline for the compulsory vaccination of cattle and sheep against bluetongue. Farmers with livestock on uninhabited islands and, on a case by case basis, with particularly remote hill sheep flocks north of the Great Glen can apply for a vaccination extension of two months. The extended deadline of June 30 reflects difficulties and potential welfare implications for these groups.
These extensions were devised following discussions with key industry stakeholders such as NFU Scotland, the National Sheep Association and the Scottish Crofting Foundation. They particularly reflect concerns regarding the gathering of heavily pregnant ewes or those with lambs at foot.
MO: AVOID - a new research programme to advise the UK on ‘Avoiding dangerous climate change’ – has been launched by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). The programme will initially run until the end of 2012.
The key objective of AVOID, in its first year, will be to provide supportive evidence to UK negotiators who aim to secure a robust international agreement in Copenhagen this December which will reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.
DH: More overseas junior doctors will be able to take up a 2-year training placement in the NHS. The Medical Training Initiative (MTI) that provided 250 time-limited placements for doctors from developing countries last year will now be expanded in stages to provide up to 750 opportunities.
The MTI placements can only be made available where a suitable UK doctor cannot be found for the placement. Doctors accepted to the MTI scheme must be from developing countries where medical training is not widely available. MTI visas are limited to two years and doctors will then not be allowed to return on another MTI visa for 5 years.
ACE: Arts Council England (ACE) has announced details of a proposed organisation-wide restructure that will save £6.5m a year in administration costs and invest these savings in the arts. The proposed changes will meet the government’s requirement that ACE saves 15% on its grant in aid administration costs by 2010. This major review has also given ACE the opportunity to address the recommendations of the July 2008 McIntosh report and the Chief Executive’s vision for the organisation, arising out of his response to that report.
A period of formal consultation with all Arts Council employees about the proposal has now begun and will run until 26 May 2009. Final plans will then be drawn up and submitted for approval to the National Council in July 2009. It is expected that all the changes will have been implemented by the end of March 2010.
WAG: Cadw, the Welsh Assembly Government’s historic environment division has announced that for the second year it will be operating its small grants scheme which will help towards maintenance costs of places of worship in Wales which are listed. Applications will be accepted from 1 March 2009 (for 6 months or until fund used up) and grants must be claimed by 31 December 2009.
Responsibility for the maintenance & upkeep of places of worship lies with individual denominations. However, Cadw can assist with its small grants scheme - the ‘Spring Clean’ grants scheme. A grant of a maximum of £500 per building is available for a range of minor repairs – for example, cleaning rain water gutters & downpipes or securing slipped roof slates - which are necessary to keep places of worship in good order.
HA: Construction of the UK's longest road tunnel under land, near Hindhead in Surrey, is a step closer to completion after the tunnel excavations from the north and south met deep under the Surrey Hills. The breakthrough to link the two tunnels is a major milestone for the £371m project. The next step for the scheme is to complete the tunnel & approach roads. The scheme is due to open to traffic in summer 2011.
When complete, the A3 road tunnel will reduce traffic at a notorious bottleneck and restore peace & tranquillity in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Approximately 30,000 vehicles a day will be taken away from the Surrey Hills - instead travelling deep beneath this protected landscape. The scheme will also take traffic away from Hindhead village - and complete the A3 dual carriageway link between Portsmouth and London.
Policy Statements and Initiatives
ScotGov: Online scanning to allow remote diagnosis for island patients and Scotland's biggest telehealth system are among a raft of hi-tech projects to help more patients be treated quicker & closer to home. eHealth investment totalling £1.6m - including funding from the NHS's major IT contractor – has been announced by Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon.
Projects extending the use of electronic technology in the NHS include:
* Touch screens in the homes of hundreds of patients with chronic conditions in Lothian, allowing them to be monitored from home
* Online scanning allowing patients in Orkney to be diagnosed remotely, avoiding lengthy trips to hospital
* New software in Glasgow transmitting patients' records directly to consulting rooms
HO: 120 children were safely returned to their homes after being found unsupervised on the streets late on one recent Friday night. Police & Children's Services in 27 areas of England were running Operation Staysafe patrols as part of a co-ordinated effort to protect vulnerable children and to reassure the public that they are dealing with issues of local concern.
The operation identifies young people who are out late at night and at risk of becoming a victim of crime or being drawn into criminal behaviour, and takes them to a place of safety. They are then returned to their parents, carers or guardians and follow up actions may then be put in place by the authorities to stop problem behaviour from recurring.
Operation Staysafe is part of the £100m cross government Youth Crime Action Plan launched in July 2008. It originated in Merseyside as part of Merseyside Police's approach to tackling & preventing youth crime in the city.
WAG: During the next 6 years the Welsh Assembly Government will spend nearly £20m (including European Regional Development Fund monies) on a new digital inclusion programme to provide community groups, social enterprises and individuals with support to use technologies.
WAG will also establish a Digital Inclusion Unit, which will take forward policy development, and will co-ordinate and mainstream digital inclusion activity, as well as oversee the delivery of the programme, named Communities 2.0, which is intended tobuild on WAG’s highly successful Communities @One initiative.
ScotGov: The UK Government has been urged to reduce the drink driving limit to reduce accidents on Scotland's roads. In a letter to the UK Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon, Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said that changing the law would have widespread public backing and would send a clear message that drinking & driving is a potentially lethal concoction.
WAG: Six proposed demonstration projects across Wales have been given Communities First funding of £1.5m over the next three years as part of the new Communities First Outcomes Fund. The fund provides money to develop & deliver new activities, services and projects for the benefit of Communities First Communities.
The Outcomes Fund, which will be in place from 1 April 2009, is structured to support activities which deliver real improvements at local level in terms of tackling key priorities for Communities First such as child poverty, economic inactivity and job creation.
WAG: Over 1,000 farmers have contacted Farming Connect to register since Elin Jones, Minister for Rural Affairs, launched the Welsh Assembly Government’s new revised range of Farming Connect services last July, but many more could be missing out because they have failed to re-register for the service.
Of the 1,000 farm and forestry business owners wanting to sign up, 85% are seeking assistance to identify their future business needs and 80% are interested in training. Farmers who registered for the original service are being urged to re-register as soon as possible in order not to hold up accessing the practical elements of the new programme, which include one-to-one support, guidance and skills development or training.
Many of the services now available are fully funded, while others such as the Whole Farm Plan and Farm Advisory Service - which helps farmers meet cross compliance - are subsidised, by 50% for most eligible farmers and 80% for young entrants.
ScotGov: Public Health Minister, Shona Robison, has announced an extension to the transition fund set up last year, to help keep Healthy Living centres running as they put in place sustainable plans for long-term funding. Up to £70,000 will be provided per Centre for 2009-2010.
This will ensure that those with good prospects of securing long-term sustainable funding - but affected by shortfalls following the end of their Big Lottery Funding - will continue to have lifeline funding during the critical transition period.
The aim of Healthy Living Centres is to promote good health and reduce health inequalities in Scotland's most disadvantaged communities. They were established with £34.5m from the New Opportunities Fund (now the Big Lottery Fund) between 1999 and 2002.
WAG: The Welsh Assembly Government has unveiled a new plan to make the Wales healthier & greener. The 4-year blueprint aims to get more people to walk & cycle safely as part of their daily lives. It brings together a range of key initiatives and policies with the sole objective of getting more people, both young and old, to walk and cycle more.
Deputy First Minister, Ieuan Wyn Jones, said: “More walking and biking in Wales is a win-win situation on all fronts. It will ease congestion, lower emissions and address growing obesity levels. If levels of activity increase we will have a healthier nation. Surveys show that 57% of adults in Wales are either overweight or obese. We can transform this through making changes to our daily lives”.
WAG: A new £7m Convergence initiative to prevent thousands of disadvantaged youngsters from dropping out of school and becoming economically inactive across the Heads of the Valleys has been announced by Deputy Minister for Skills, John Griffiths.
Pre-VENT (NEET) has been given the go ahead for almost £4m from the Convergence European Social Fund to tackle the causes of youngsters who find it difficult to learn and are at risk of leaving school without qualifications or the skills to find a job.
Led by Blaenau Gwent, the project will collaborate with Bridgend, Caerphilly, Merthyr Tydfil and Torfaen councils, alongside Careers Wales, to raise aspirations and tackle the barriers to learning faced by some youngsters.
Defra: Birds of prey and a near-extinct shellfish are among the animals earmarked for top priority in a strengthened fight against wildlife crime in the coming year. The freshwater pearl mussel, once widespread throughout Europe, is now extremely rare and outside of Britain & Ireland is found in less than 50 rivers worldwide, while and birds of prey such as hen harriers are under threat from nest destruction and deliberate killing.
Wildlife Minister, Huw Irranca-Davies, set out the government's wildlife crime priorities for 2009-2010, including poaching, crimes against bats & the illegal trade in endangered species, and urged people to help combat the criminals.
ScotGov: Cracking down on underage and illegal cigarette sales is the aim of a partnership scheme launched last week. The Enhanced Tobacco Sales Enforcement Programme will see the Scottish Government, Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs and Trading Standards officers throughout Scotland working together to tackle the problem.
The scheme has two main aims:
* stepping up enforcement of tobacco sales law to prevent underage cigarette sales
* stemming the flow of smuggled or counterfeit cigarettes
ScotGov: An inflatable pool filled with enough custard to make 875 trifles, one Cabinet Secretary for Education & Lifelong Learning, a Chief Scientific Adviser and a group of enthusiastic youngsters gathered in Edinburgh today to send out the message: ‘Do something creative; do science’.
A new advertising campaign launched by the Scottish Government aims to show young people that science can be rewarding to study and can open the doors to many careers, from sports medicine to fashion design. To prove that science can be fun, pupils from TrinityAcademy, in Edinburgh, demonstrated a messy experiment when they took turns to demonstrate the non-Newtonian nature of custard - or rather run across a pool of custard without sinking.
MoJ: New proposals to control costs in defamation proceedings have been announced by Justice Minister Bridget Prentice. This follows widespread concerns about the high cost of legal fees in defamation cases. Measures under consideration are:
* Limiting recoverable hourly rates by setting either maximum or fixed recoverable rates
* Mandatory cost capping or mandatory consideration of cost capping in every case
* Requiring the proportionality of total costs to be considered on cost assessments conducted by the court.
The consultation is aimed at, in particular, legal representatives who conduct litigation in the area of defamation, media organisations, insurers and those in England & Wales with an interest in, or views on, the proposals.
BERR: The Government has launched a consultation (closes on 22 May 2009) on its new scheme to compensate trawlermen who lost their livelihoods following the 1970s 'Cod Wars'. The Government intends to open the new scheme to applications in the summer. The previous scheme that ran from 2000 to 2002 was found to be unfair by the Parliamentary Ombudsman.
FSA: The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has published a further consultation paper (closes on 22 May 2009) relating to compensation & redress payments arising from operational failures including mis-selling that life insurance companies may currently charge to their with-profits funds. These proposals relate specifically to proprietary firms rather than mutuals.
BERR: A new internet discussion site to encourage an online debate about the Government's vision for a fully digital economy and society has been launched. To kick-start the discussion, Minister for Technology, Communications and Broadband, Stephen Carter, has filmed a video appealing for views on the Digital Britain interim report's recommendations. To enable a genuinely networked debate, the discussion site contains links to the relevant blogs about Digital Britain that have already appeared on Write to Reply, Twitter and other significant sites.
Stakeholders have been invited to submit formal responses to the interim report by 12 March 2009. This discussion site is additional to this process and will run beyond that deadline.
SGC: Fraudsters who use stolen identities to carry out their crimes should face severe sentences – the Sentencing Guidelines Council has recommended in a consultation (closes on Friday 15 May 2009) guideline on fraud offences.
Sentencers are also advised to give heavier sentences to fraudsters & tricksters who prey on vulnerable victims. The guideline highlights the cases of victims of advance fee cons, which defraud individuals with promises of prizes or windfalls.
DECC: Two measures have been announced to help provide clarity and confidence for consumers concerned about climate change:
* A New Carbon offsetting quality mark - the Carbon Offsetting Quality Assurance Scheme
* A Consultation (closes on 21 May 2009) proposing improved stringency & greater consistency in the use of the term ‘carbon neutral’
CompC: The Competition Commission (CC) has published a draft Order for consultation (closes 30 March 2009) which will see the creation of a new strengthened & extended Groceries Supply Code of Practice (GSCOP).
The Order follows the CC's inquiry into UK groceries retailing last year, which concluded that measures were needed to address its concerns about relationships between retailers and their suppliers. The CC will also shortly publish a draft Order outlining measures to prevent exclusivity arrangements & restrictive covenants being used by grocery retailers to restrict entry by competitors in order to improve competition in local areas.
The CC will also be consulting publicly in the next couple of weeks on draft undertakings which would establish an Ombudsman to oversee & resolve disputes under the new Code. Unlike with the GSCOP, the CC does not have the power to establish an Ombudsman itself, so this requires the agreement of retailers.
CLG: Local residents are to be given more time to respond to the Government's second eco-towns public consultation after Housing Minister Margaret Beckett extended the deadline for responses. The consultation on the draft Planning Policy Statement (PPS) and Sustainability Appraisal on eco-towns has now been extended to Thursday 30 April 2009, meaning it will run for more than five months. There will be a further opportunity for the public to have a say once planning applications are submitted for eco-towns.
A viability study on the proposals submitted by developers will also be published shortly and will provide more information to people looking to respond to the consultation. Ministers will carefully consider all consultation responses before coming to final decisions on the PPS.
LLUK: Lifelong Learning UK is leading a process of data collection about the workforce to ensure there is a better understanding of those operating in the lifelong learning sector. They have been analysing & reporting labour market intelligence gained through the Staff Individualised Record (SIR) submissions received from further education (FE) colleges.
As part of a data collection process revision, Lifelong Learning UK has now created an online consultation portal for all those involved in submitting data to discuss any aspects of the collection. The portal will enable frequent & simple interaction and will build a community of users to assist each other.
Ofgem: RPI-X@20 is one of a number of forward-looking projects at Ofgem designed to ensure that Britain’s gas and electricity industries meet the needs of consumers, now & in the future, and pave the way for a low-carbon economy. Not only does this represent a wholesale review of the core business of Ofgem (pipes and wires regulation), but it significantly affects consumers as it impacts on at least 20% of the energy bill.
‘Principles, Process and Issues’ is the first consultation (closes 24 April 2009) in a root & branch review that could re-shape the future of energy network regulation. The regulator is re-evaluating the regime that has governed the revenue & expenditure of the energy networks for almost 20 years. The review, Regulating Energy Networks for the Future - RPI-X@20, will hopefully ensure that regulation of Britain’s energy networks is fit for purpose in the face of new environmental, economic and social challenges.
Ofgem intend to publish two further consultation documents and a final decision document. These documents will provide an update on their thinking and allow interested parties to formally express their views.
WAG: A new plan to lessen Wales’ reliance on fossil fuels and increase the use of renewable, low-carbon energy sources has been published for consultation (closes on 22 May 2009)by Welsh Environment Minister, Jane Davidson – See ‘In the News’ for more information.
Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides
OFT: The OFT has published new advice for businesses to help them avoid becoming victims of scams as part of its Scams Awareness Month. Businesses continue to be targeted by scammers using deceptive & aggressive sales practices to con them out of hundreds of pounds.
The scams include 'free' listings in business directories where the victim unknowingly signs up to paying for repeated entries; businesses unwittingly agreeing to paying for adverts being placed in bogus 'charitable' publications; and companies being tricked into ordering unwanted and overpriced office supplies.
The advice, on the OFT's website, explains how the most common scams work, and offers tips to companies and their staff on how to protect their business from losing money to the scammers.
NICE: The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) and the National Collaborating Centre for Chronic Conditions have issued a guideline to improve the management of rheumatoid arthritis in adults. It sets out how best to identify rheumatoid arthritis, which treatments and therapies are effective, and when surgery should be considered.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a long-term disease in which joints in the body become inflamed, causing pain, swelling and stiffness. It often affects the small joints of the hands and the feet, and usually both sides equally and symmetrically. Around 400,000 people in the UK have RA and people of all ages can develop the disease. Over twice as many women as men suffer from the condition.
NICE: The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has published final guidance on the use of endovascular stent grafts for the treatment of infra-renal abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAA). Aortic aneurysms develop when the wall of the aorta weakens, causing it to bulge and form a balloon-like projection.
This leads to further stretching of the wall of the aorta and eventually the wall can rupture, leading to massive internal bleeding. The main risk factors for AAA include increasing age, high blood pressure, smoking and family history of the condition.
NICE: The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has issued a new guideline on best practice for the diagnosis & treatment of advanced breast cancer. There are approximately 40,500 women diagnosed with breast cancer and 10,900 deaths recorded in England and Wales each year, making it the most common cancer affecting women.
The guideline, produced for NICE by the National Collaborating Centre for Cancer, will help clinicians to provide coherent & consistent care for patients with advanced breast cancer, providing a systematic framework to support patients with the disease and ensuring equal access to services across England and Wales.
NICE: The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has issued a new guideline on best practice for the diagnosis & treatment of early and locally advanced breast cancer.
Over recent years there have been a number of significant advances in the management of breast cancer including new types of chemotherapy, as well as biological and hormonal agents. The guideline, produced for NICE by the National Collaborating Centre for Cancer, will help clinicians to provide coherent & consistent care for patients with early breast cancer, providing comprehensive information to ensure equal access to services across England and Wales.
NICE: The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has published guidance encouraging Primary Care Trusts to review their local needle & syringe services with an aim to expand availability, alongside the publication of an ACMD report - See ‘General Reports and Other Publications’ for further information.
General Reports and Other Publications
ESRC: A group of leading UK scientists and social scientists led by the ESRC Genomics Forum, based at the University of Edinburgh, has called for joined-up thinking on the emerging politics of plants, where ‘Green is the new gold’.
The world is waking up to the potential of plants — from food to fuel, industrial feedstocks to carbon sinks, there is growing talk of plants replacing oil as the cornerstone of the global economy. But such fame comes at a price. Recent ‘food versus biofuel’ debates are just one example of a new ‘politics of plants’ that needs urgent attention at both national and international levels.
Food & energy security are major concerns, but so are safeguarding human health, tackling climate change, protecting landscapes and global biodiversity, supporting rural communities, and providing raw materials for industry. All of these issues are connected to our use and management of plants.
HO: More testing, encouragement to take up combination drug substitution treatments and provision of sterile syringes are among the recommendations to tackle hepatitis C made by the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) last week.
In its report the ACMD makes clear that hepatitis C is a significant public health issue. Estimates in 2003 show that, in England and Wales, there were 190,000 individuals infected with the hepatitis C virus. The majority of these and new hepatitis C infections are within the intravenous drug injecting community. The ACMD recognises the key importance of a combination of interventions for the primary prevention of hepatitis C and it makes a total of 12 recommendations to help tackle the spread of hepatitis C.
The publication of the ACMD report coincides with guidance published by National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) encouraging Primary Care Trusts to review their local needle & syringe services with an aim to expand availability.
MoD: The MoD has ‘welcomed’ the House of Commons Defence Select Committee's report into Defence Equipment 2009. The report makes a number of recommendations on particular equipment programmes such as FRES, the A400M and the Defence Industrial Strategy, which the department ‘notes and will respond to’. The report’s summary includes the following:
* The Urgent Operational Requirement (UOR) system remains highly effective in enabling vital equipment to be provided quickly to the two theatres to meet rapidly changing threats. However, we are concerned at the extent to which UORs represent a partial failure to equip our forces for predicted expeditionary operations, and at their effects on the core budget in future years.
* The performance of DE&S in delivering equipment and supplies to the two theatres, often in very challenging environments, has been impressive. However, given the ageing transport aircraft fleet, there are pressures on the airbridge. The A400M aircraft programme—to provide new tactical and strategic airlift - is running some two years late.
* DE&S’ performance in procuring longer-term equipment declined significantly in 2007– 08.
* Some commentators have suggested that an extra £1.5 billion a year is needed for the defence equipment element of the budget if the Defence Industrial Strategy Defence Equipment 2009 is to be fully delivered.
*The FRES programme has been a fiasco.
* We condemn the failure to date to publish an updated version of the Defence Industrial Strategy and consider that its continuing absence increases the risk that the UK Defence Industrial Base will not be able to meet the future requirements of our Armed Forces.
DH: Individual budgets can greatly improve carers' quality of life when compared with carers of people using conventional social services, new independent research has shown. They can allow carers more control & flexibility in their daily routines and some carers said individual budgets also improved quality of life for the person they were looking after.
Individual budgets are an alternative way of paying for social care. Instead of local authorities buying services on behalf of an individual, that person is given control of their own budget and can direct how it is spent, allowing the care package to be tailored to their needs.
NAO: The majority of carers who receive benefits from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) are satisfied with the support they receive (worth up to £2bn a year). The Department is delivering carers’ benefits effectively and has made improvements in processing claims in the last few years. But at least a 20% have difficulties in applying for Carer’s Allowance, a National Audit Office report has found.
Some carers are confused by the way Carer’s Allowance interacts with other benefits, including Pension Credit and Income Support. For example, carers who do not qualify for the full Carer’s Allowance still have to apply for it in order to get additional payments available on other benefits such as Income Support or Jobseeker’s Allowance.
LLUK: Lifelong learning UK recently published 'The Training Game', a special supplement with The Guardian that looks at aspects of the skills & training world in the light of the current economic climate. The supplement covers a range of subjects, from the impact of informal learning in libraries to developments in the higher education sector, and from the debate about globalisation to the role of the Institute for Learning in England.
Ofsted: Social workers should visit children and young people living away from home at least once a month. That is the strong message children in care are giving to the Government in a unique report that will help shape new regulations under the Children and Young Persons Act 2008.
The report, Future rules, published by the Children’s Rights Director for England, is the outcome of a national conference, where 136 young people in care and care leavers gave their views on a range of subjects relating to regulations that will affect their future. The new government regulations will need to say how often every child in care must be visited by someone from the council to make sure they are being looked after well.
Ofsted: A new study published by the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted) shows that over half the institutions offering citizenship courses for teachers are struggling to fill places, with three courses failing to get the numbers to run the course altogether.
The report, Professional development for citizenship teachers and leaders, finds the impact of citizenship courses on schools is good or outstanding, with a positive overall effect on a school’s ethos and pupils’ understanding.
Legislation / Legal
OFT: The Office of Fair Trading has formally launched its market study into home buying & selling, following two months of discussion with interested parties on its scope. The study will cover the whole of the UK, while recognizing the significant differences in how the market works in Scotland. The OFT intends to complete the study before the end of 2009.
MoJ: Plans to give young, vulnerable witnesses better support and encourage more witnesses to come forward with evidence of crimes have been published by Justice Minister Maria Eagle. These will enhance measures designed to make it less daunting for children to give evidence, and come alongside wider proposals in the Coroners and Justice Bill to put the needs of victims & witnesses at the forefront of the criminal justice system.
They also encourage a better & more consistent support to young & vulnerable witness, as well as individually tailor the processes in place. They include allowing young people more choice about the way in which they give evidence; formalising rules that allow a trusted adult to be present when children are giving evidence via video link; extending this support structure to include young people under the age of 18 years and allowing vulnerable defendants to use an intermediary to help them understand the questions they are asked when giving evidence.
BERR: The Government has published a Bill & detailed policy statement to ‘secure the future of a successful publicly-owned Royal Mail’. Business Secretary, Lord Mandelson, claims that the Bill ‘keeps the post office in public ownership, while allowing for a strategic partner to bring experience and investment to transform the Royal Mail, with the Government taking on its pension deficit’.
OFT: The OFT has announced that it is to launch a market study into Isle of Wight ferry services. This study will focus on a local market where consumers are wholly dependent on a small number of suppliers and where price, quality and general service have a major impact. It follows a complaint to the OFT, supported by 8,000 signatures, alleging high prices, unclear charging and declining levels of service.
The study will examine the nature of competition between operators and potential barriers to entry. This will include looking at port ownership arrangements, route competition & pricing. Its findings are expected to be published in May 2009.
EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.
DECC: The UK government intends to auction 4m allowances in its second auction as part of the EU ETS on Tuesday 24 March 2009. In 2009 the UK plans to auction a total of 25m allowances. The auction will comprise a competitive bidding facility only and the bidding window will be open between 8:00 and 10:00 GMT. The UK Government intends to charge VAT on all EU allowances auctioned in the UK.
The UK Government has also published a schedule of auction dates and volumes for subsequent auctions up to April 2010. The full schedule is available on the UK Debt Management Office's website.
DfT: Territorial Army reservists who drive for a living can take part in weekend military training after the Government secured an exemption from EU drivers' hours rules. The European Commission has agreed that professional drivers can take part in reservist exercises at the weekend without breaking general rules on weekly rest requirements.
It means a driver who finishes his normal driving duties on a Friday can complete a 34-hour period of military training and then resume his normal driving duties again on a Monday morning - as long as new safeguards are met. The new exemption will benefit volunteer reserve forces in the Territorial Army, Royal Navy Reservists, Royal Marine Reservists and Royal Auxiliary Air Force as well as cadet instructors.
The Ministry of Defence will issue guidelines that outline how drivers can manage their volunteer reserve service in accordance with the exemption. The exemption has been granted in accordance with the provisions in Article 14.1 of Regulation (EC) 561/2006, applies to the weekly rest requirements in Article 8(2) and 8(6) of Regulation (EC) 561/2006.
ScotGov: Fifty projects which will create dozens of jobs and safeguard hundreds more in Scotland's fishing, processing & aquaculture sectors will benefit from grants totalling more than £5.8m. Successful projects from the European Fisheries Fund (EFF) include making vessels more fuel efficient, improving quality in the processing sector and trialling a New Zealand system of mussel farming.
BERR: The UK has been given the go ahead by the European Commission (EC) to offer state help for the automotive industry under the Automotive Assistance Programme. The approval by the EC enables the government to support up to £1 billion of loans & loan guarantees as well as loan guarantees through the European Investment Bank (EIB) enabling funding of up to £1.3 billion.
BERR will be holding a seminar in the next couple of weeks to bring together industry, banks and the relevant trade bodies to make sure that the Automotive Assistance Programme application process runs as smoothly and effectively as possible. The scheme will be administered by BERR and the Department will be publishing guidance and application criteria for companies shortly. Companies can register an interest by emailing BERR at email@example.com.
Business and Other Briefings
HMRC: A series of online, bite-sized video guides for new & small businesses has been launched by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC). The 10 videos, fronted by TV presenter Dan Snow, provide a helpful overview on a range of tax issues, including setting up in business, income tax for the self-employed, corporation tax and VAT. The videos also provide handy links to further online information and help.
In addition, HMRC is also following three people as they set up in business in a new video diary series called "The Start-up Diaries". It will follow three people - Ruth, Nick and Hannah - as they explain, in their own words, what it's like to go it alone. An introduction to the series (plus episode one of the diaries) is also now available. Episode 2 of the "Start-up Diaries" is scheduled for April 2009.
A free guide for new and small businesses has also been launched alongside the videos, entitled ‘Giving your business the best start with tax’.
FSA: The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has written to all firms still selling single premium Payment Protection Insurance with unsecured personal loans (SP PPI UPL) asking them to withdraw the product as soon as possible, and by no later than 29 May 2009. The letter asks for a written response to the request to withdraw SP PPI UPL to be sent to the FSA by 31 March 2009.
The letter from Jon Pain, the FSA’s managing director of retail markets, reminds firms that the Competition Commission’s final report on its PPI market inquiry, published on 29 January, included a remedy that prohibits the sale of single premium PPI policies after 1 October 2010.
HM Treasury: The Government made 2 announcements to further enhance financial stability & support increased lending to homeowners and businesses:
* Firstly, the Treasury has announced the details of the Asset Protection Scheme, which aims to remove continuing uncertainty about the value of banks' past investments
* Secondly, the Treasury has an agreement in principle with the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) to participate in the Scheme and other financial support to meet its objectives of economic and financial stability
FSA: The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has published a draft code of practice on remuneration policies relevant to all FSA regulated firms. The aim of the code is to ensure that firms have remuneration policies which are consistent with sound risk management, and which do not expose them to excessive risk.
It is not concerned with setting levels of remuneration, which are a matter for the boards of companies and their shareholders. The FSA will consult on the code and further proposals for remuneration policy in March.
CRC: At the Commission for rural Communities recent Releasing the Potential of Rural Economies: Innovation summit, Hilary Benn spoke of his continuing commitment to working with us to support rural communities. His speech highlighted the role of rural proofing in ensuring that the three tiers of government take into account the needs of rural communities.
CRC now working with Defra on a joint conference in May 2009, where Minister Huw Irranca-Davis and Stuart Burgess, CRC chair and the Government's Rural Advocate, will re-launch the rural proofing tools that they believe are the key to ensuring that government policies are relevant to rural communities.
ESRC: In the past 50 years individual levels of wealth have increased by but so have crime, deprivation, depression and addictions to alcohol & drugs. Most of us believe that more money will make us happier; however, as societies become richer, does that wealth positively impact on our happiness?
Professor Layard’s view is that the ultimate aim of public policy is to make people happier and last week saw him speaking at the first of three events (The ‘Recession: health and happiness’) organised by the Economic and Social Research Council, as part of the Festival of Social Science.
The other two events in the series will be:
* Global poverty and recession on 19 March 2009 at One Great George Street, Westminster
* Recession and the green economy on 22 April 2009, venue to be confirmed
CIOB: As part of the Chartered Institute of Building’s (CIOB) 175th anniversary, the Institute will be showcasing its history at this year’s Futurebuild and Ecobuild exhibition (3 – 5 March 2009 at Earls Court). The CIOB stand will feature a gallery showcasing buildings from around the globe to have been built by CIOB members.
The Institute will also be hosting a photography competition where entrants will be asked to list all of the iconic structures in the skyline of the CIOB’s 175th anniversary logo. Hays Construction, the only recruitment consultancy endorsed by CIOB, will also be present on the stand throughout the event offering visitors careers & recruitment advice specifically targeted towards the current economic climate.
Press release ~ Futurebuild & Ecobuild ~ To register ~ CIOB ~ Hays Construction
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