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

In the News

DH:   NICE will be nicer to patients in future - A package of measures designed to speed up access to new drugs & treatments for NHS patients, has been announced by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE).

The 4 proposed changes are meant to ensure that more NHS patients receive the life-saving, clinically & cost effective drugs and treatments they need faster.  It will also ensure that, where NICE guidance has not yet been issued for a new drug or treatment, the local NHS makes more robust & transparent decisions about what treatments it will fund.

The measures announced are:
* A consultation on a new & faster system for referring drugs to NICE for appraisal
* An additional new appraisal committee - to increase NICE’s capacity to appraise new drugs & treatments
* Increased investment in ‘horizon scanning’ to ensure that new drugs are identified early on for appraisal
* A guidance document for the NHS - detailing good practice on how decisions on new drugs should be made by Primary Care Trusts where there is no existing NICE guidance

The consultation on the proposed changes to the NICE topic selection will close on 22 May 2009, whilst the guidance to PCTs will be issued to the NHS with immediate effect. The measures also support the implementation of the recommendations in Mike Richard's review on the funding of additional private care.
WAGIs poverty or safety the No.1 issue for children at risk? - Tackling child poverty and strengthening support to those families in greatest need is at the heart of a new Welsh law recently laid before the Welsh National Assembly by Ministers.  The proposed Children and Families (Wales) Measure is intended to help improve the lives of some of the most disadvantaged children and families in Wales.

It sets a clear direction for the WAG’s aim of improving the quality of life & equality of opportunity for every community in Wales.  A duty will be placed on Welsh Ministers to develop a new Child Poverty Strategy for Wales, which would have to be reviewed every 3 years.  The proposed Measure will also place a duty on specific Welsh public bodies to identify & take action to assist in the goal of eradicating child poverty by 2020.

Providing opportunities for play will also be embedded in the Measure, as will assuring children & young people’s participation in decisions which affect their lives. Welsh Ministers will also be able to place a duty on local authorities to secure free, high quality, targeted childcare in specific areas, in line with One Wales commitments.

New Integrated Family Support Teams will be created across Wales to help children & families whose complex needs such as substance misuse and domestic violence, require intense & multi-disciplinary support from skilled professionals.
ScotGovA tough challenge, but it impacts on so many lives in a family - The Scottish Government has published its framework for tackling Scotland's £2.25bn alcohol misuse problem.  The strategy was launched with minimum pricing and local flexibility to ban off-sales to under-21s among its key elements in tackling what health experts regard as Scotland's most pressing public health concern.

Changing Scotland's Relationship with Alcohol: A Framework for Action aims to:
* Introduce a minimum price for a unit of alcohol to stop strong drink being sold for 'pocket money prices'
* Establish a legal obligation on licensing boards to consider whether alcohol-related problems in their area warrant an off-sales purchase age of 21, with local police Chief Constables able to request this at any time
*Ban off-sales promotions such as '3 for 2' and cut-price offers, which encourage bulk buying and over-consumption, and ban selling alcohol as a 'loss leader'
* Restrict the display & marketing of alcohol products to specified areas in off-sales premises
*Put in place the legal power to introduce a Social Responsibility Fee for some retailers

Those measures which require new legislation to implement will be included as part of the Scottish Government's forthcoming Criminal Justice and Licensing Bill
TfLA logical solution for big city residents - Transport for London (TfL) has announced a £1m investment package to support the growth of car clubs across London over the next 2 years, to bring around a third of London residents within just a five minute walk of a car club vehicle.

The funding will be used to identify & install on-street parking bay locations & signage and help promote car clubs in London.  This will result in 726 new parking spaces for car club vehicles across 19 London boroughs during the next 2 years

Car clubs offer pay-as-you-go access to a car and are a cost effective way to give people all the benefits of using a car when they need to, while reducing the number of vehicles on London's roads, easing pressure on parking and reducing congestion.  Almost 53,000 Londoners are now members of a car club.  Members typically save nearly £3,500 a year by joining a car club and reduce their car mileage by an average of 36%. 
LCGTicking Timebomb put on hold - The Government has acted to protect the public from potential service cuts or council tax increases that could result from local authority investments in Icelandic banks, while efforts continue to recover the money.  Local Government Minister John Healey has laid regulations before Parliament that enable authorities to postpone any possible budgetary impact of this until 2010-11.

New statistics show that, as at the end of last year, 125 local authorities in England had outstanding investments of around £923.2m in Icelandic banks.  The Local Authorities (Capital Finance and Accounting) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2009 S.I. No. 321 made under the Local Government Act 2003, come into force on 31 March 2009 and apply immediately.
CLG3% is still a lot more than interest on savings - Housing Minister Margaret Beckett has announced new support to help councils cut their planned rent increases for tenants in the current economic climate.  The average guideline rent increase for 2009/10 will be halved from 6.2 % to 3.1% for local authority tenants, to encourage councils to reduce the amount tenants would have to pay for the coming year.

Mrs Beckett announced that the Government would make funding available to support local authorities to make the changes and revise their rents for 2009/10 accordingly.  The government expects that the changes to the guideline rent increase means tenants should see a marked drop in their proposed average rent increase for the coming year from around £4 per week to approximately just under £2.
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General News

CIOB:  The Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) is set to partner the Leonardo da Vinci funded project ‘PROCONSTR’, which aims to improve vocational education in the construction industry by identifying & recognising qualifications across the European Union.  The CIOB will be responsible for preparing the syllabus & training materials.
The program of vocational training will be based on European regulations for certifying & qualification.  The initial focus will be on 8 selected construction professions for graduates from vocational schools & technical secondary schools.  As well as employees who are professionally active and want to increase their skills.
STFC: UK astronomers, using a telescope aboard the NASA Swift Satellite, have captured information from the early stages of a gamma ray burst - the most violent & luminous explosions occurring in the Universe since the Big Bang.  The work was published on 27 February in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
Swift is able to both locate & point at gamma ray bursts (GRBs) far quicker than any other telescope, so by using its Ultraviolet/Optical Telescope (UVOT) the astronomers were able to obtain an ultraviolet spectrum of a GRB just 251 seconds after its onset - the earliest ever captured.  It is currently thought that some GRBs are caused by immense explosions following the collapse of the core of a rapidly rotating, high-mass star into a black hole, but there are still many mysteries surrounding them.
HO: A new state of the art £8m national ballistics service to assist police in solving gun crimes has been officially opened (it went live on 3 November 2008). The National Ballistics Intelligence Service (NABIS) provides a specialist 'CSI-style' analysis of all ballistics - effectively giving guns & bullets a 'fingerprint' which can be tracked.  This means that police across the country will be able to quickly match guns to offenders and trace which gun a bullet has been fired from when criminals are using it more than once.
NABIS will support the police to solve crimes where firearms have been used quickly, identify the few individuals who import, store & supply illegal firearms and track down the people involved in illegally converting or adapting firearms.
The government & police are also concerned about the use of deactivated firearms in crime.  The concerns are on two fronts: the reactivation of deactivated firearms and the misuse of firearms while in their deactivated form to threaten and intimidate people. A new consultation paper (closes 25May 2009) seeks views on which of several possible options represent the best way forward.
MoD: The strategic missile submarine HMS Vigilant will be kitted out with updated weapons systems and a new nuclear reactor core under a refit contract worth in excess of £300m. The 16,000 tonne submarine is expected to spend around 3.5 years under refit by Babcock at Devonport Royal Dockyard in Plymouth.  The work is expected to sustain employment for around 1,000 people in the dockyard and another 1,000 across the industry at its peak.
TfLTransport for London (TfL) is encouraging people to visit its Oyster online shop to find out about the benefits of managing Oyster via the web.  The Oyster online shop enables you to purchase pay as you go credit, Travelcard and Bus Pass season tickets from the comfort of your home or workplace, whenever is convenient for you – enabling you to beat the queues at ticket offices or ticket machines.

Online customers can also access a range of services, including: checking their pay as you go balance, protecting their card if it is lost or stolen and setting up Auto top-up so that their pay as you go credit automatically tops up whenever their balance drops below £5. First time customers can also purchase an Oyster card online and have it sent to their home.
NA: Throughout March 2009, specialists are sharing their knowledge & expertise in free talks at The National Archives, providing a wealth of help & ideas to family historians, offering research advice and revealing the truth behind historical fictions. Subjects include:
* Catching Victorian and Edwardian criminals on paper
* Nonconformist genealogy
* The Great Escape: you've seen the film now hear the truth
* Charles Darwin and the Beagle
Also, why not join one of their daily drop-in sessions, which introduce first-time visitors to the services available at The National Archives and how to make the most of their resources.  These free sessions start at 11:30 and last approximately 30 minutes; pre-booking is not required.
MonitorMonitor, the independent regulator of NHS foundation trusts has confirmed that East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust has been authorised as from 1 March 2009. The announcement means there are now 115 NHS foundation trusts in total, of which 32 are mental health NHS foundation trusts.
MonitorMonitor, the independent regulator of NHS foundation trusts has taken the decision to use its formal powers of intervention to appoint - with immediate effect - an interim Chair at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust.  In addition, they will be requiring the trust to appoint an interim Chief Executive to be chosen by Monitor.
This follows notification from the Trust’s Chair of her intention to resign immediately and notification from the Trust’s Chief Executive of his expected departure. Monitor’s Board has found that under section 52 of the 2006 Act, Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust is in significant breach of two conditions of its authorisation and that discretionary intervention is necessary.
SE: More of us now live within 20 minutes travel of quality sports facilities - according to new Audit Commission statistics.  41% of people in England live within a 20-minute walk in urban areas, and drive in rural areas, of three different types of sports facilities, one of which has to be quality assured by schemes such as Sport England’s Quest programme.  In 2006, the figure was just 23%.
Sport England is working with national governing bodies of sport, local government & other partners to create a world leading community sport system capable of getting 1m people playing & enjoying more sport by 2013.
SESport England recently unveiled a £10m investment fund that will create sporting opportunities for people in rural areas. Sport England’s Active People Survey 2 shows that two thirds of the local authorities with the lowest sports participation rates are in rural areas.
The first in a series of themed funding rounds, it will open for business on 1 April 2009.  A detailed application prospectus for the Rural Communities Themed Round will be available on Sport England’s website by 1 April 2009, and there will be a 3-month window for outline applications.
Themed rounds is intended to enable SE to tackle specific challenges & opportunities that they know exist in grassroots sport as well, as helping to ensure that their investment is effectively distributed across the country and across different communities. The second themed round will be announced by 1 September 2009 and will open for business in October 2009.
LDA: The London Development Agency (LDA) has provided £2.35m in funding towards a new centre to open up products & services for the elderly and people with disabilities to perform tasks they would otherwise be unable to do – known as ‘assistive technology (AT)’.  One of the products the centre will specialise in is a new paediatric wheelchair called the Wizzybug that will allow disabled children to control their mobility from the age when they would otherwise be crawling.
A new report published by ATcare highlights the need for better co-ordination of assistive technology development, which the LDA’s funding aims to address.  Products that will broaden leisure and work opportunities are being developed to address a range of needs such as visual impairment, long-term health conditions and mobility challenges.
Press release ~ ATcare Design and Development Centre ~ London Development Agency ~ Co-ordination of assistive technology development report available on request from:
ScotGov: The first automated recycling centre at a Scottish supermarket has been opened.  Items accepted include cans, plastic and glass.  Waste is then crushed & compacted on site resulting in fewer lorry collections and reduced carbon emissions. Under Tesco's current promotion, recyclers will receive one Green club card point for every two aluminium cans recycled.
The TOMRA machines were designed by Scandinavian engineers and are already used with success in many European countries.  Recyclable items are dropped one at a time into the machine and lasers scan & identify the material being deposited.  These are then transferred mechanically onto a conveyor system and crushed and/or shredded prior to being deposited into collection bins.
The TOMRA machines can recycle glass bottles & jars, steel & aluminium food and drink cars, plastic bottles, yoghurt pots and plastic food trays. 
LLUKLifelong Learning UK has launched a nationwide programme to connect teachers, tutors, and trainers in the further education sector with business & industry employers, helping them enhance their vocational skills.  Business Interchange encourages & supports tutors wishing to take part in a work placement with a local business, helping them gather continuing professional development (CPD) experience.
Tutors in the further education sector need to undertake a minimum 30 hours professional development per year to maintain their competencies & learning potential.  Business Interchange provides a way for them to make the most of their CPD time and bring sharper skills & knowledge back to their learners, whilst also linking with the employers whose needs they address.
ScotGov: Schools Minister Keith Brown has just opened a new Confucius Classroom Hub covering Aberdeen City, Aberdeenshire, Angus and Moray. This is Scotland's eighth hub, fulfilling an agreement that Learning and Teaching Scotland (LTS) signed with the Chinese authorities in April 2008 to open eight Confucius Classroom Hubs within one year.
The latest hub is based at Hazlehead Academy in Aberdeen and will provide a central learning point to primary & secondary schools across the North East for Chinese culture, language, heritage, history, art, food, music and sport.
To help overcome the wide geographical spread of the region, the North East Hub will use Glow, the innovative intranet for Scottish schools, to share resources.  This will also allow inter-school video communication to share the best approaches in implementing Chinese learning.
DIFD: The Secretary of State for International Development, Douglas Alexander, and Comic Relief supporter, Reggie Yates, have marked the start of a new education initiative that's all set to make a huge difference to some of the 35m children across Africa who can't go to school.
As part of this year's Red Nose Day campaign, schools across the UK are being asked to choose how the cash the raise gets spent to help overcome three of the major barriers that prevent kids across Africa from going to school.
In Africa some children's families are too poor to afford school.  Other children aren't able to go because they have to help at home when a family member is sick.  And some are so busy fending for themselves away from home that they just can't go to school.  UK schools are helping to break down these barriers when they fundraise this Red Nose Day.
TfL:   Ahead of the clocks going forward on 29 March, Transport for London (TfL) has launched its spring campaign to cut the number of motorcyclists killed & injured in the Capital.  The TV ads, which remind drivers to ‘give motorcyclists a second thought’, highlight an optical effect that psychologists believe could put motorcyclists at risk. 
This optical effect, caused by the way the brain assesses approaching objects, could cause drivers to underestimate how much time & space they have available when pulling out in front of approaching motorcycles.  Known by psychologists as the ‘size-arrival effect’, the phenomenon has now been demonstrated in a number of independent studies.
ESRC: Students from 13 secondary schools in & around the Peak District National Park are taking part in an investigation to better understand the role the park plays in climate change.  Groups of students will measure the quality of the moorland as part of the Festival of Social Science which is organised by the Economic and Social Research Council from 6 to 15 March 2009.

 The investigation, known as the Moorland Indicators of Climate Change Initiative, will see students test samples back at school, as well as passing on information to scientists for further analysis.  The research results will enable scientists to map the quality of the moorland in the Peak District and identify the areas that contribute to climate change and the areas that actually slow global warming.
PCS: The PCS union has echoed concerns expressed recently by the House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee, that contractors delivering the Flexible New Deal could ‘cream’ the easy cases of helping people back into work, whilst ‘parking’ those who are harder to help.
The select committee report, DWP’s Commissioning Strategy and the Flexible New Deal, also expressed concern about the lack of evidence in the UK on the performance of the private & voluntary sectors when compared to the public sector.
Whilst sharing some of the committee’s concerns over the funding for the programme, the union disagreed with the committee’s endorsement of contracting out the Flexible New Deal. PCS questioned whether there was the capacity & skills in the private sector to successfully deliver the Flexible New Deal.
Dstl:  Students from Larkhill Primary School recently enjoyed a fun-filled & informative Science and Engineering Day, courtesy of the Defence, Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl).  Scientists from Dstl’s headquarters at Porton Down visited the local school in the run up to Science and Engineering Week.  This national initiative is a celebration of science, engineering and technology, running from 6 to 15 of March 2009.

The purpose of the day was to introduce school children to science, engineering & technology in a way that would show them the relevance of these subjects to every day life.  Workshops included a microbiology activity called ‘Grubby Hands’ which saw students counting the number of germs on their hands and ‘Protecting the Soldier’, an interactive science show which helped explain the importance of Dstl’s work to protect front line troops.

Policy Statements and Initiatives

ScotGov: New building standards for homes and non-domestic buildings in Scotland will reduce carbon emissions by 30% beyond current standards. The moves, to be introduced in October 2010 by the Scottish Government, flow from the Sullivan Report which looked at ways to make homes & buildings more energy efficient. There will be a detailed consultation this summer on the best way to implement the new standards.
BERR: New measures to tackle criminals illegally lending money have been announced by Consumer Affairs Minister Gareth Thomas. The national hotline (0300 555 2222) - which is confidential - is now up & running and gives consumers one single point of contact. A new website has also been launched providing information on managing finances and how to borrow money safely.
ScotGov: Public service reform must accelerate at a time of increasing pressure on public spending. Speaking at a conference in Edinburgh, Finance Secretary, John Swinney, said that public sector reform is 'inescapable' in a changing financial climate.  He added that ‘innovation & efficiency - and not restructuring local authority boundaries - are crucial to provide high quality public services in a recession’.
The Scottish Government is committed to simplifying the public sector landscape to ensure that it is simpler, sharper & easier to navigate by bringing together organisations with similar skills, expertise and processes. ScotGov has published a comprehensive baseline list of 199 (currently 165) national public sector organisations and set out proposals as part of the Simplification Programme to reduce this number by 25% by 2011.
Defra: The fight against a deadly plant disease plaguing historic gardens, woodland & heathlands across England & Wales has received a boost with Environment Minister Jane Kennedy providing £25m to help eradicate the disease.
The new funding will support a 5-year programme to manage & contain the risks of two plant diseases Phytophthora ramorum and Phytophthora kernoviae from spreading further, following a scientific review and stakeholder consultation.
The work will be managed by a new agency, FERA - the Food and Environment Research Agency.  The new executive agency will bring together the expertise of the Central Science Laboratory, the Decontamination Service and Defra's plant health and seeds directorate.
HM Treasury: The Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Yvette Cooper, has announced Government action to ensure vital PFI infrastructure projects will go forward as planned despite the current financial market conditions.
This action is intended to ensure that crucial & valuable public investment will not be disrupted by problems in the financial markets.  In total, £13bn of public investment in procurement will be safeguarded.  In addition, the Government will lend to those PFI projects that cannot raise sufficient debt finance on acceptable terms, lending alongside commercial lenders and the European Investment Bank.  
ScotGov: The Scottish Government is spending £400,000 on 250 steam cleaners which will be distributed to health boards.  These are the most modern & efficient way of carrying out specialist cleaning and used in conjunction with micro-fibre cloths are particularly effective against Clostridium difficile.

ScotGov is investing £54m (over 3 years) in a range of initiatives designed to tackle HAIs.  These include a national MRSA screening programme, prudent prescribing of antibiotics, 100% single room provision in all new hospitals and a Care Environment Inspectorate to carry out unannounced inspections of hospitals.
ScotGov: A new initiative to convince young people that they'll 'have a better life without a knife' has been announced at the Scottish Government's national youth conference on violence & knife crime. The 'No Knives Better Lives' initiative is designed to make young people aware of the dangers & consequences of carrying a knife.  This will be done through a range of communications that will be delivered in schools, the community, on the internet and at conferences.
DfT: A centre to revolutionise the future of UK transport industry’has been announced by Transport Minister, Andrew Adonis.  The £7.75m programme will be based at Imperial College London as well as University College London and the University of Leeds, and will draw on scientific experts from across the country.
The UK Transport Research Centre (UKTRC) will undertake long and short-term research on some of the key big questions likely to face transport in the next decade & beyond, including:
* Economic competitiveness
* The environment
* Society
* Mobility & accessibility
* Technology
HO: Publishing the single national target for the police, Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith has challenged the police service to answer to the public - and not Government. From now on, the only national police target set from Whitehallis to increase public confidence by 15 percentage points so that the crime and anti-social behaviour issues that matter to them locally are being addressed.
Recent Home Office figures show that confidence levels currently vary across the country, with the latest national average at 46%.  The new national target announced today is 60%.
Police forces and authorities have also been set a level of confidence that they should reach by March 2011.  Both this, and their 2012 target, will be measured by questions asked in the regular British Crime Survey.
DECC: New independent research by Innovas - 'Low Carbon and Environmental Goods and Services: an industry analysis' - shows:
* The UK is already the 6th largest low carbon and environmental goods & services (LCEGS) economy.
* In 2007/8 it was worth £107bn to the UK economy, and could grow by another £45bn over the next decade
* There are already over 880,000 jobs in the LCEGS sector when the supply chain is included
* If employment grows at projected rates, an additional 400,000 jobs could be created in the next decade
* 31% of overall activity is in manufacturing
* The global market for the LCEGS sector is estimated to be worth £3 trillion
A new pamphlet - 'Low Carbon Industrial Strategy: a Vision' - highlights a range of companies in the UK already taking advantage of low carbon opportunity and sets out the scope & ambition of the Government's plans.  Businesses and others with an interest are asked for their input through a new interactive website to inform a final Strategy to be published before the summer.


WO: Secretary of State for Wales, Paul Murphy, is urging everyone to have their say on the proposed Welsh Language Order from the Welsh Assembly Government. Addressing MPs at the annual St David’s Day Welsh Debate, Mr Murphy said he wanted to see the biggest public debate on the Welsh language in recent years, to ensure the draft Legislative Competence Order (LCO) meets the needs of all the people of Wales.
Mr Murphy said the comments & opinions received by the Wales Office over the next two months would inform both his deliberations and the scrutiny of the Order being undertaken in Parliament and the National Assembly.
Defra / NE: People are being asked for their views on 2 different approaches to enhancing farmland wildlife habitats and the natural environment in a consultation paper (closes 27 May 2009) published by Environment Secretary, Hilary Benn.
Although set-aside was originally introduced as a way of controlling production, it also resulted in a range of environmental and biodiversity benefits for our countryside.  Set-aside has now been abolished and the consultation asks how best to regain these benefits.
Natural England welcomed Defra’s recognition of the environmental importance of set-aside - especially its role in reversing the long-standing decline of some of our farmland birds, such as the skylark, corn bunting and lapwing - and the commitment shown to recapturing these and other environmental benefits that it produced.
DfT: A new scheme to cap aviation emissions will be supervised in England & Wales by the Environment Agency, Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon and Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband have announced.
The EU Emissions Trading scheme - which caps net CO2 emissions from aviation at average 2004-06 levels - will come into force for flights arriving & departing EU airports from 1 January 2012, following agreement in Brussels in late 2008.
The Department for Transport and the Department of Energy & Climate Change, in partnership with the Scottish Government, Welsh Assembly Government and the Northern Ireland Executive have begun a consultation (closes on 14 May 2009) on the regulations under which EU ETS for aviation will operate in the UK.
OFT:  The OFT has launched a market study into the supply of local bus services. This sector has become increasingly concentrated by takeovers, with nearly two-thirds of services now controlled by 5 operators.
The study will consider whether concentration in the market has a positive or negative impact on the prices consumers pay & the services they receive, and whether or not there is competition between operators bidding for tendered services. The OFT will be contacting key parties directly.  Other interested parties can submit written views, by 8 May 2009.
HO: The Government & police are also concerned about the use of deactivated firearms in crime.  The concerns are on two fronts: the reactivation of deactivated firearms and the misuse of firearms while in their deactivated form to threaten and intimidate people. A new consultation paper (closes 25 May 2009) seeks views on which of several possible options represent the best way forward - ‘See ‘General News’ for more information.
HMRC: Modernising the UK's direct tax law has taken another step forward, as two new draft bills rewriting corporation tax and international tax legislation were published by the Tax Law Rewrite project. The consultation period ends on 29 May 2009 See ‘Legislation / Legal’ for more information.

Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides

MO: A new online service highlighting the potential for small-scale wind power generation at specific locations has been launched by the Met Office. The innovative web tool has been developed by applying science from the Met Office and follows a study commissioned by the Carbon Trust.
By simply entering a postcode, users can choose the relevant type of building and local environment to understand the total power yield of installing a small wind turbine. The effectiveness of wind generation has been calculated by using historical Met Office climate data, local land use and large scale orography of the land.

Annual Reports

Ofgem: Energy regulator Ofgem has published the first of its quarterly reports on wholesale and retail energy prices.  The reports will provide clearer information & analysis for customers who want to understand the relationship between wholesale and retail prices.  The report will include information on forward wholesale gas and electricity costs, which make up the bulk of retail energy prices.
Socitm: Socitm’s Better Connected Report 2009 calls on councils to adopt a new strategic approach to ‘self-service’ in response to the economic crisis - and sets out blueprint for future website management
The report presents evidence showing that web is already the most used channel for accessing council services, and yet between 12% and 31% of web enquiries end in failure, leading to costly ‘avoidable contacts’ being generated for other, more expensive-to-serve channels like the phone.  This is against a background of significantly rising internet usage (a jump to 73% of all adults is reported) and some evidence at least of a narrowing gap in the digital divide.
ScotGov: The results of Scotland's Global Connections Survey 2007 have been released by Scotland's Chief Statistician. The figures provide an estimate of the cash value of Scotland's exports of goods & services, by industry and destination.  This is the only export survey covering all sectors of the Scottish economy.
Companies provided financial & sales information relating to 2007, therefore these results do not reflect the current Global decline in demand and subsequent economic situation.
MoD:  The MoD has welcomed the first annual report examining the fairness, effectiveness and efficiency of the Service Complaints System. The independent report by Service Complaints Commissioner, Dr Susan Atkins, commends the three Services for their commitment to tackling all forms of unacceptable behaviour and ensuring that Service men and women are treated well. It also includes a range of recommendations.
A formal, detailed response to the Service Complaints Commissioner's report will be issued once the recommendations have been considered fully by the MOD and the Services.
Cabinet Office: The Intelligence and Security Committee's Annual Report for 2007-2008 has been laid before Parliament by the Prime Minister.

General Reports and Other Publications

HC / MoD: The Healthcare Commission has published the first ever independent review of the Defence Medical Services (DMS), which is responsible for providing healthcare to defence personnel and their families in the UK and overseas.
It praised the care provided to casualties of war, highlighting systems to reach & treat casualties quickly, innovations in the treatment of major injuries, the training of staff, design of field hospitals, clinical audits to feedback important lessons and rehabilitation for injured personnel.
The Commission also identified a range of areas for improvement, urging the DMS to: ensure that universal standards are in place across all services; address problems relating to maintenance and cleanliness at some medical units away from the frontline; urgently replace ambulances in Cyprus; and improve awareness of procedures for safeguarding children.
Commenting on the report, Surgeon General Lillywhite said:
"The review has endorsed the excellent care we offer our personnel injured on operations, particularly our trauma care, our ability to reach and treat casualties and the training we give our deployed medical personnel….. The review also recommended improvements be made in certain areas.  Action has already been taken to deliver improvements.  I have appointed an Inspector General, Surgeon Rear Admiral Philip Raffaelli, who will ensure that all recommendations made in this review are implemented in full."
HEFCE: A new publication from HEFCE champions the world-class nature & achievements of higher education (HE) in England, and steers the public debate about its future.
'Higher Education in England', developed & published by HEFCE, takes a panoramic view of the character, size and scope of English HE.  This high-level analysis draws attention to its considerable successes, and aims to explain core areas of the sector's work where there is a perceived lack of public clarity.
CLG: Ministers have welcomed a new report setting out measures to support councils' efforts to boost employment in their areas. In his report Cllr Stephen Houghton, Leader of Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council, calls for an increase in the number of council apprenticeships and 'work taster' programmes, streamlining & pooling of financial support from both local & central government, and immediate efforts by councils to assess how the downturn is affecting their areas, and to develop plans to tackle it.
The report was published as Local Government Minister John Healey and Employment Minister Tony McNulty confirmed their commitment to this work through extra funding - £3m to kick start preparations for such changes & closer collaboration between central and local Government.
They will set up a new national forum, which will bring together Government departments, councils and other local organisations to support the implementation of Cllr Houghton's recommendations and to challenge Government where barriers exist to councils helping local unemployed people back into work.
Cabinet Office: Baroness Julia Neuberger, the Government's independent volunteering Champion, has called for more offenders to be able to volunteer as part of their rehabilitation
A report published by Baroness Neuberger recognises that volunteers already have a hugely important role in the criminal justice system.  There are some 30,000 volunteers working as Magistrates, 6,000 Victim Support volunteers and 14,000 special constables to name just a few.
Her first report on Volunteering in Health and Social Care found much potential to expand volunteering in health and social care to create more people-centred services, and a better understanding of service users.
LLUK: Ipsos MORI's independent report on the Scottish Government's Consultation on the Next Generation of National Qualifications in Scotland has now been published. This draws together evidence from different strands of the consultation as Ipsos MORI were commissioned to analyse the consultation responses, sample findings at consultation events and undertake related qualitative research.
The Scottish Government is currently working closely with the Curriculum for Excellence Management Board on issues raised by this report.  An announcement on the way forward on National Qualifications will be made before the end of June 2009.
DH: A renewed vision for Practice Based Commissioning (PBC), and how it relates to World Class Commissioning, was unveiled at a special event hosted by the King's Fund and the Department of Health.
'Clinical commissioning: our vision for practice-based commissioning' describes how clinicians and health service managers can combine their expertise to bring about improvements in local health by investing in better quality, better value, and better-designed health services.
It outlines the principles to achieve this and introduces a greater level of rigour into the system through a series of clear entitlements underlining the support practice-based commissioners can expect to receive.
NAO: The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has successfully tackled recent outbreaks of Avian Influenza and Foot & Mouth Disease in livestock, concludes a National Audit Office report.  But in regions where diseases or parasites have become well established within the country, such as Bovine Tuberculosis affecting cattle or the Varroa mite affecting honeybees, the Department has been less successful in managing them. 
There are no national standards on farm biosecurity to minimise the risk of diseases spreading.  The Department, Animal Health and other inspection bodies, such as local authorities, do not systematically collect and share information about biosecurity risks.  More effective planning and collaborative working would enable better control of endemic disease. 
DECC: Investment worth up to £4.7bn is expected to be needed to upgrade the electricity grid network to accommodate new power generation by 2020, according to a report published by the Electricity Networks Strategy Group (ENSG).
In what will be the largest single expansion of the grid since the early 1960s, up to 1,000 km of new cables will be needed to ensure new renewables and nuclear power stations can be connected to the electricity grid. 
IfL: The Institute for Learning (IfL) has welcomed the publication of ‘The initial training of further education teachers’ by the Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills (Ofsted).  The report presents an overview of the 2004-2008 inspection cycle of initial teacher training for further education, including national awarding body qualifications.
BERR:  The Government will pilot a one stop shop for advice on health & safety and employment legislation under new measures recently announced.  It is intended to help them to comply with the law and save them time & money.  The advice given will be backed by insurance, so businesses can be confident in following the advice they are given.
An independent review, undertaken by Sarah Anderson, recommended a range of innovative solutions to improve the quality of guidance government gives to business.  The recommendations are designed to increase compliance with the law, boost business confidence in government advice and cut costs for small businesses.  The government has now published its response to the review by committing to take actions.
OFT:  The OFT has welcomed the National Audit Office’s (NAO) progress report on the OFT's competition work. 'The Office of Fair Trading: Progress Report on Maintaining Competitive Markets', found that the OFT has improved the value for money it provides since the NAO's previous study in 2005.
It reports that the OFT has focused its resources on areas where it can have the most impact, become more proactive, and raised its profile by taking strong, high profile action against cases of anti-competitive behaviour.
MoD:   Minister for Defence Equipment and Support, Quentin Davies, has commented on the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report into the MoD's procurement of eight Chinook Mk3 helicopters for the RAF. This is the fourth report to deal with the Chinook MK3 helicopters and their procurement.
Edward Leigh MP, Chairman of the Committee of Public Accounts, said: "The story of the MOD's programme to make airworthy eight Chinook Mk3 helicopters, acquired from Boeing in 2001 for special operations work, has been one of bad decision-making to the point of irresponsibility. The consequences have included a shortage of helicopter support in Afghanistan thereby heightening the risk to the lives of British troops”.
Socitm: Ambitious IT professionals must sets their sights on becoming their organisation’s CIO (Chief Information Officer) and not restrict themselves to Chief Technical Officer (CTO) roles, which are being diminished by the de-skilling of technology. This prediction is set out in What’s in a name? The practicalities of being a public sector CIO by Socitm Insight. The report answers the questions; ‘What is it that CIOs do, and how does their role, personal skills and attributes differ from those of Head of ICT or CTOs?’

In answering these questions, the report defines CIOs as digitally literate leaders who understand fully the operational environment in which their organisation works, and can build and interpret strategy at both business and technical levels.  They have the skills & attributes to lead their organisations to transform and continuously improve their services particularly by making best use of technology.

CTOs, by contrast, manage the technical infrastructure & software in order to deliver an economical, efficient and effective ICT service within their organisation, to partner organisations and to the community.

Legislation / Legal

ScotGov: The age of criminal responsibility at which children can be prosecuted in adult criminal courts will be raised to twelve in Scotland. This will bring Scots law into line with jurisdictions across Europe and implement a key recommendation of the 2002 Scottish Law Commission report.
In raising the age of criminal responsibility from 8 to 12, ministers have taken on board the views of the United Nations, but have ruled out suggestions the age should be raised to 14 or even 16.
The new measures, to be included in the Scottish Government's forthcoming Criminal Justice and Licensing bill, will mean that children under twelve will instead be held to account for any offending behaviour through Children's Hearings. Another measure in the bill, which was originally announced last year, will scrap the law that allows children to be locked up in Scottish jails without being convicted of an offence through so-called 'unruly certificates.'
ScotGov: Tougher guidelines for police and prosecutors (introduced on 26 June 2006) are having a significant impact on continuing efforts to combat knife crime, the Solicitor General for Scotland, Frank Mulholland QC, announced when unveiling figures showing that those caught carrying knives are being taken off the streets more quickly and kept in custody for longer.
HMRC: Modernising the UK's direct tax law has taken another step forward, as two new draft bills rewriting corporation tax and international tax legislation were published by the Tax Law Rewrite project. The consultation period ends on 29 May 2009..
MoJ: The Law Society and the Legal Services Complaints Commissioner are pleased to announce a range of client care measures costing £275,000, which are designed to boost capability & capacity to deal with clients in the solicitors' profession.
In June 2008 the Legal Services Complaints Commissioner, Zahida Manzoor CBE, announced that she would be imposing a penalty of £275,000 on the Law Society following her decision to declare the complaints handling plan submitted by the Legal Complaints Service as inadequate.
The Commissioner and the Law Society have been discussing ways forward, considering in particular measures to improve client care.  The Commissioner and the Law Society are pleased to announce that they have reached a regulatory settlement with the monies devoted to a range of measures primarily aimed at improving client care by solicitors.
OFT:  The OFT has told 11 financial management businesses with 'look alike' websites posing as official or charity advice sites to close them down immediately and is warning consumers to take care when searching for debt advice online.  The action followed complaints from a number of debt advice charities including.
The sites use similar or slightly amended domain names which imply that they are affiliated to organisations such as Citizens Advice, Advice UK, National Debtline or the Consumer Credit Counselling Service.  Some of the website names also imply that they have some official status or sanction from the Government. Parts of the content of these 'look alike' websites are often copied from legitimate sites offering free advice, despite the companies involved charging fees.
CompC: The Competition Commission (CC) has issued a statement after the Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) published its judgment on an appeal by Tesco in relation to the CC's Groceries report.
ScotGov:  Sweeping reforms to Scotland's criminal law and court procedures - in the form of the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Bill – have been unveiled.

EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.

CEOP: Major financial, internet and technology corporations have joined forces with international policing agencies, the European Commission and specialist child protection NGOs to track & disrupt child sex offenders through the money they make.
Led by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre - the UK's dedicated policing organisation for protecting children from sexual exploitation - and funded by the European Commission, the new European Financial Coalition (EFC) will bring together an increasing number of organisations from across all key sectors to send out a stark warning to criminals who seek to make money from the distribution of child sex abuse images.
The objective of the EFC is to bring together all stakeholder groups engaged in the fight against the commercial distribution of child abuse images in order to facilitate & support pan-European police operations, with cross-sector solutions targeting, in particular, the electronic payment systems that are used to purchase child exploitation and abuse images on the internet.

Charity and Voluntary Sector

BIG: Over £1.8m is to be invested in supporting the infrastructure of disability organisations across the UK.  Five different organisations are set to share in the cash injection from Big Lottery Fund’s BASIS (Building and Sustaining Infrastructure Support) programme.
BASIS is the first Big Lottery Fund programme to focus solely on developing voluntary & community sector infrastructure.  The scheme aims to fund a more expert, consistently available and sustainable set of support services for front line voluntary and community organisations across England.
BIG: The BIG Lottery Fund has announced a ‘big’ response to its public consultation on future priorities for its Lottery good cause funding with close to 3,400 submissions from across the UK. The responses will now be carefully analysed and help shape the Fund’s strategic framework of funding priorities from 2009-2015.
Sir Clive Booth, UK Chair of the Big Lottery Fund, said: “By the end of June we will be in a position to publish both the findings of the consultation and BIG’s new strategic plan that will be the foundation of BIG’s new funding programmes up to 2015.”

Industry News

HMRCHM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) has issued an alert to employers with 50 or more employees - important PAYE changes come into effect in April 2009, so make sure you're ready for them. These employers must send their employee starter & leaver information - P45s, P46s and P46 (Pen) for pensions - online from 6 April 2009.  Failure to do so could result in a penalty.
A new podcast, which explains the changes and offers help & advice on preparing for them, is available to download free from the HMRC website.
HMRC: Businesses need to get ready for the new aligned compliance checks framework that comes into effect next month, HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) has warned. With new information and inspection powers, record keeping requirements, time limits for tax assessments & claims and the accompanying safeguards, businesses need to make sure that they know what this will mean for them.
From 1 April 2009, HMRC will have one set of powers & safeguards covering PAYE, VAT, Income Tax, Capital Gains Tax, Corporation Tax and the Construction Industry Scheme.  There will also be safeguards in place to ensure that the powers are used appropriately.
FSA: Following extensive consultation and to help improve transparency in current market conditions, the new disclosure regime for Contracts for Difference (CfDs) will now take effect from 1 June 2009.  The new rules would have applied originally from September 2009.
Details of the new regime are set out in a Policy Statement on CfDs published by the Financial Services Authority (FSA).
HMRC: Employers are being reminded by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) that they must use the new A4 version of form P45from 6 April 2009. The new version was introduced in October 2008 and now includes an employee's date of birth & gender.  Any stocks of old A5 versions of the P45 should be destroyed.
Employers who use HMRC's free Online Return and Forms - PAYE service can print parts 1A, 2 and 3 of form P45 onto A4 plain paper, when they have submitted the P45 part 1 (employee leaving details) to HMRC online. This facility is also available in some payroll software packages. The form should be printed onto white A4 paper, using black ink.

Forthcoming Event

ESRC:  Running from Friday 6 March to Sunday 15 March the ESRC Festival of Social Science, organised by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), will celebrate some of the very best British social science research, highlighting the ways in which it makes a difference to all our lives.

More than 30 UK towns & cities, from Glasgow to Brighton, Belfast to Swansea as well as many places in between, are hosting events during the Festival.  Over 100 events are being organised during the Festival ranging from conferences to workshops and debates, exhibitions, film screenings, policy briefings and much more.  Plus if you can’t make it, there are even virtual events taking place across the week online.

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