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In the News

HOProtecting soft targets from terrorists – The government has announced an extra £5m to protect the public from the threat of terrorist attacks in crowded places.  The funding comes as a consultation (closes on 10 July 2009) is published on how local authorities, businesses, the police & communities can work together to better secure the places where we live, work and play.

New guidance will help local partners understand their roles and the practical difference they can make to reduce the vulnerability of public areas like pubs, clubs, shopping centres, sports stadia and schools.  They will be able to prioritise their work based on advice from police Counter Terrorism Security Advisers (CTSAs) who are carrying out a standardised risk assessment of crowded places across the country.

Sector-specific guidance is available from the National Counter Terrorism Security Office (NaCTSO) website.  Building on their existing work, NaCTSO and Counter Terrorism Security Advisors (CTSA) have already produced & distributed detailed protective security advice to more than 500 sports stadia, 600 shopping centres and 10,000 city & town centre bars, pubs & nightclubs.
Defra Will £10m bee enough given their importance to the food chain? - Up to £10m is to be spent to help to identify the main threats to bees and other insect pollinators.  Pollinators - including honey & bumble bees, butterflies & moths - play an essential role growing food through the pollination of many vital crops.

These insects are susceptible to a variety of disease and environmental threats, some of which have increased significantly over the last 5 to 10 years.  Climate change, in particular warmer winters and wetter summers, has had a major impact on pollinators.  As a result, their numbers have been declining steadily in recent years, with the number of bees in the UK alone falling by between 10 & 15% over the last 2 years.

The funding will be made available to research teams across the UK under the Living With Environmental Change (LWEC) partnership.  This is a joint initiative from the Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), Defra, Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), Wellcome Trust and ScotGov.
HM TreasuryWhen does a ‘saving’ become a ‘cut’? - The findings of the Operational Efficiency Programme (OEP), a year-long programme examining operational spending in the public sector, have been published.  The 5 senior external advisors have identified a total of £15bn annual ‘savings’ from back office operations & IT, collaborative procurement, asset management & sales, property and local incentives & empowerment.

Their assessment is that around £6bn of these will be delivered as part of the current spending review period, contributing to the £35bn efficiency target, with the rest being delivered by the end of the next spending period.

The PCS union condemned the plans, claiming that they will result in the Land Registry being cut by a half, at a cost of 4,000 jobs, and to open it up to privatisation through market testing.  The union went on to accuse the government of preparing to sell off the family silver with its plans for the Royal Mint.

The PCS also claims that plans detailed in a Treasury report also opened the way to outsourcing & sell offs in other areas, such as the Defence Storage & Distribution Agency (DSDA), the Met Office and Ordnance Survey.
Press release ~ PCS press release ~ Operational Efficiency Programme: Final Report ~ HMT – Value for Money ~ NAO Efficiency Toolkit ~ Review of Arrangements for Efficiencies from Smarter Procurement in Local Government ~ CLG - Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR07) ~ National Improvement and Efficiency Strategy (NIES) ~ National Procurement Strategy ~ Previous PCS press release ~ Previous FDA press release ~ Gershon Review ~ Previous CPA press release ~ Committee of Public Accounts - The Efficiency Programme: A Second Review of Progress ~ NAO - The Efficiency Programme: A Second Review of Progress ~ OGC - The Efficiency Team and What We Do ~ Value For Money in public sector corporate services - A joint project by the UK Public Sector Audit Agencies ~ Public Sector Performance: Efficiency or Quality? ~ Public service reform in Scotland ~ The Administrative Burdens Reduction Programme, 2008 ~ AC: Back to Front

ScotGov:  Providing a decent start in life - New laws to improve stability for young people in care and minimise upheaval as they grow up have been unveiled by the Scottish Government.  The measures are intended to lead to better long-term planning by councils for children in care to ensure both their immediate & future needs are fully considered.

The Adoption and Children (Scotland) Act 2007 Regulations and Looked After Children (Scotland) Regulations 2009 are intended to:
* provide children in care with more certainty & stability about their long-term future with a new family through the introduction of Permanence Orders
* ensure the network of wider family & friends is considered first for care placements
* improve the planning & reviewing of care arrangements to help reduce the number of different homes that children are placed in and ensure appropriate family support if the young person is to return to their parents

The Act will also remove the restriction on same sex couples adopting, bringing the law into line with existing practice. Currently only one partner of a same-sex couple who are living together can adopt.

In September 2008, ScotGov published - These Are Our Bairns - the which set out the role & responsibilities of everyone who are responsible for our looked after children.  Guidance to help local authorities and other agencies implement the new regulations is being developed by BAAF & TFN.  Permanence Orders will replace a number of existing court orders which councils can apply for, allowing greater flexibility.
Industry NewsWhy programmes are perceived to succeed or fail - In an article, taken from a recent British Computer Society (BCS) Thought Leadership debate, the UK’s industry body for IT professionals examines the differences between public & private sector procurement and looks into why programmes are perceived to succeed or fail. 

Points coming out of the debate included:
* the observation that the UK has the best 'best practice' advice in the world in the shape of project & service management techniques such as Prince and ITIL (in fact many of the big international companies use them), but that we don't always use the good advice ourselves.

* The procurement process may not be fully fit-for-purpose.  Competitive tendering works best for clear, achievable requirements and for products & services that are well understood.  IT systems are often immensely complex and the customer's understanding of what is being offered is generally much more limited than with 'tangible' purchases.

* There is often insufficient focus on reality.  Both parties need to be more honest with each other about what can be done and within what timescale.  The supplier need to promise only what they can realistically deliver and, to do this, a greater degree of professionalism within the industry is needed.  Some suppliers state that they can do things they later find out they cannot do, hence cannot meet their commitments.  The answer is to benchmark suppliers against one another for comparison purposes.
For other Industry News please click HERE

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

General News

ScotGov: The Scottish Government claims that changes to the Individual Learning Accounts Scotland Scheme, which will be available to learners in the 2009-10 academic year, mean that up to 250,000 more people can now be helped to develop their learning when changing jobs or facing redundancy.
The changes are:
* the income threshold will be increased from £18k to £22k
* the minimum study requirement for the ILA £500 grant will be reduced from 50% of a full-time course to 40 SCQF Credits
* eligible students studying P/T taught postgraduate courses (SCQF level 11) will be supported through the ILA500 scheme
MO: The new joint Environment Agency (EA) & Met Office Flood Forecasting Centre (FFC) for England & Wales has been officially opened by the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Hilary Benn MP. The FFChas been created to forecast river & coastal flooding, as well as extreme rainfall which may lead to flooding from surface water.
It will help provide earlier warnings of floods to local authorities and the emergency services, to give them more time to prepare for floods and reduce the risk of loss of life and damage to property. The new service combines the EA’s expertise in flood risk management and the MO's expertise in weather forecasting.
WAG: Funding of £500,000 for Wales’ first factory to be partially powered by its own waste has been announced by Jane Davidson, Minister for the Environment, Sustainability & Housing.  The ready meals factory will use state-of-the-art technology, to transform food waste into heat, power and compost.  It will contribute up to 10% of the factory’s power and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by an estimated 7,500 tonnes p.a.
The Welsh Assembly Government funding will contribute towards a £5m large-scale anaerobic digestion (AD) unit being developed by InSource Energy Limited.  The unit will help power the R F Brookes ready meals plant at Rogerstone, who supply major names in the retail & hospitality sector, including Marks & Spencer.
BSBuying Solutions has announced the creation of a new national framework agreement covering consultancy services. The collaborative arrangements, which go live on 1 December 2009, have been developed in conjunction with the needs of the 9 Improvement & Efficiency Partnerships (IEPs) and take into account the key drivers that local authorities need to transform their services.
Working in partnership with Improvement and Efficiency West Midlands, the framework agreement will be developed to reflect the needs of local government for skills in core disciplines including:
* Strategic Consultancy
* Organisational Change
* Programme & Project Management
BERR: Motorists are being offered £2,000 towards a new car or van if they trade in their 10+ year-old vehicle for scrap under plans unveiled in the Budget. The grant is made up of £1,000 from government with matched funding from industry.  The scheme will operate from mid-May until March 2010 or until the government’s £300m has been usedNot all manufacturers or dealers may participate as the scheme is voluntary.
The conditions include:
*Trade-in passenger cars or small vans up to 3.5 tonnes first registered in UK on or before 31 July 1999
* New vehicle must be first registered in the UK or after the date the scrappage scheme is launched & declared new at first registration in the UK with no former keepers
Directgov:  In the wake of the Chancellor's Budget, Directgov has launched Moneyspeak, a free simple tool which has two functions:
* A search facility for financial words or phrases, which then picks up relevant references from across the web
* It identifies information relating to the chosen search term by linking to the relevant Directgov pages
CLG: The Government has published a new strategy for the Ordnance Survey (OS), the business responsible for the national mapping of Great Britain, which is intended to improve ease of access to geographic data & services for both commercial and non-commercial use.
The strategy will balance the need to maintain the highest quality standards with the need to stimulate innovation in the geographical information market and make data more widely available. The OS will continue to be self-funded and earn revenue by licensing its data, but it will make sure it is easier for customers and other businesses to access its data & services.
In addition, the enhanced OS OpenSpace, the digital mapping service that enables innovators to experiment & develop their ideas for free, will be launched on 12 May 2009.
TfLiBus, the state-of-the-art system which provides passengers with useful information about their bus service, has now been fitted on all 8,000 London buses.  The on-board ‘next stop’ announcements help ensure that passengers know exactly where their bus is and what the next stop & final destination will be.
iBus uses a combination of technologies, including satellite tracking and GPRS data transfer that can pinpoint the precise location of all of the city's 8,000 buses.  It provides real time audio-visual journey information for passengers as well as more accurate predictions of arrival times at bus stop Countdown signs.  It also provides improved radio communications for drivers and allows bus controllers to improve performance & reliability.
MO: Climate change will have a dramatic effect on the way we build houses in the future.  At Grand Designs Live,London the Met Office will show you why new houses must be designed to reduce their carbon footprint.
Visitors can present a forecast with a difference from the Met Office TV studio, situated in the Grand Village. The forecast will show just how much climate change will affect the UK's weather in the future due to our actions today.  Met Office climate scientists will also be there to advise on what changes we can make to adapt and mitigate for climate change.

Policy Statements and Initiatives

ScotGov: The Scottish Government will be running an emergency exercise this week (from April 27 2009) to make sure it is prepared for any pandemic flu outbreak that may occur. 'Cauld Craw' will be the government's main civil contingencies exercise for 2009 and is part of a programme of events to ensure Scotland is well prepared to deal with the consequences of any emergency.
The 4-week exercise, involving a range of agencies across the country, will test resilience and improve knowledge & understanding of how to handle the issues Scotland would face in the event of a pandemic.  All participants will be conducting business as usual during this period. The Scottish Government is currently working with the UK Government to develop a national pandemic flu communications strategy.
WAG: A major exercise was held across Wales last week, focusing on local preparations for a flu pandemic.  Exercise Taliesin looked at how local organisations in Wales will work together in the event of a pandemic.
The one day exercise considered a broad range of likely impacts that may result from a flu pandemic that go much wider than the immediate impact on health.  This included the impact on schools, council services & utilities and the possible resulting disruption to everyday life.
BERR: A strategic plan to invest in Britain's economic & industrial future has been launched by the Government. The policy statement - Building Britain's Future - New Industry, New Jobs - identifies key areas where Government action can have most impact.
Key areas identified for immediate action & reform to win a bigger share of the opportunities ahead are centred on innovation, skills, finance, infrastructure and trade.
ScotGovAlcohol & Drug Partnerships (ADPs) will be set up for every local council area in Scotland to transform the provision of services to tackle substance misuse. Replacing the current model of alcohol & drug action teams, they will be brought into the community planning process for each local authority area, including decision-making & accountability systems such as Single Outcome Agreements and NHS performance management.
Each ADP will develop & implement a local alcohol & drugs strategy to reduce the numbers of people with substance misuse problems.  The strategies will ensure all relevant partners play their part, better identify local needs and ensure investment is focused on achieving agreed outcomes.
Minister for Community Safety Fergus Ewing also unveiled plans to set up a delivery commission to oversee the implementation of the national drugs strategy, identify emerging challenges and helping drive forward the necessary reforms.
In addition, he announced plans for a Scottish Drugs Recovery Consortium - a charitable trust bringing together key partners from the voluntary, public and academic field to promote and assist the greater focus on recovery - among services providers, workforce and the public. Further details of the new Commission and Consortium will be announced in the coming months.
MoD: The MOD has announced that it will be conducting an assessment of the health needs of nuclear test veterans and their descendants in a move welcomed by the British Nuclear Test Veterans Association (BNTVA). MOD experts will join representatives from the BNTVA and MPs to form a working group designed to finalise details of this research and identify a sample group to study.
The MOD will also follow up on last year's New Zealand chromosomal study.  This work is in the planning stages but the aim is to create a study that will provide veterans with practical, relevant and timely results. It is hoped that these research projects will both be underway by the end of 2009.
ScotGov: The Scottish Government has earmarked £150m as the first step to establishing a Scottish Investment Bank, delegates at the Scottish Trades Union Congress conference in Perth were told last week.
The Scottish Government will work towards establishing a Scottish Investment Bank to support business growth by initially bringing together Scottish Enterprise's existing Scottish Co-investment Fund, Scottish Venture Fund and Scottish Seed Fund.
DH: A new support team to tackle infant mortality has been launched by Public Health Minister Dawn Primarolo, who said it would ‘help turn the tide on health inequalities’. The new Infant Mortality National Support Team will visit 43 areas with the highest rate of infant mortality in the routine & manual group, to deliver intensive four-day programmes of interviews & workshops and tailored support to local areas.
The team will help local health teams to deal with maternal obesity, smoking, teenage pregnancy, housing and child poverty all which have significant roles to play in the life expectancy of an infant.  Other related factors include ensuring that all women have a health & social care needs assessment by 12 weeks of pregnancy. Ethnicity, immunisation, management of the unwell infant and infant nutrition can also have an impact.
DH: 50,000 long-term unemployed young people will be helped into social care apprenticeships under new plans published by the Government. Backed by £75m from the Department for Work and Pensions, employers will receive a £1,500 subsidy to take on social care trainees aged between 18 & 24.
In a new Adult Social Care Workforce Strategy, Care Services Minister Phil Hope, also aims to lure experienced graduates, managers and leaders from the private sector into the social care sector.
DECC: A future that curbs emissions from new coal fired power stations will see the UK ‘lead the world’ in the development of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology, according to Ed Miliband, when he announced proposals for the basis on which coal fired power which will be permitted in the future:
* No new coal without CCS demonstration from day one.  Alongside the Government's ongoing competition to build a post-combustion demonstrator, up to three further projects including pre-combustion technology, will be funded by a new levy mechanism
* Full scale retrofit of CCS within 5 years of the technology being independently judged as technically & commercially proven
These proposals form part of a consultation that will be released in the summer, alongside an environmental report.
The Government also published its response to last year's consultation 'Towards Carbon Capture and Storage', which sets out our approach to carbon capture readiness.  This will apply to all new gas, oil, biomass, waste-to-energy and also coal power station applications on or above 300MW.
ScotGov: Disadvantaged young people will be given the chance to undertake work placements under one of the first projects to be supported by the Scottish Government's £1m Social Entrepreneurs Fund. The new fund has been launched to get new social enterprises off the ground, enabling them to help get people into work and keep Scotland's economy moving.
The Social Entrepreneurs Fund is delivered by Firstport, a charity working to help start up social entrepreneurs and social enterprises throughout Scotland.
WAG: Plans are being developed in Wales to trial new measures to help protect NHS staff from violence & aggression and to provide more evidence to prosecute offenders when incidents take place.  During the 12-month trial, CCTV will be installed in clinical & non-clinical areas in 4 major accident & emergency departments and some vehicles from one ambulance station.  If the trials prove successful the initiative will be extended across Wales.
Recording of images will be carefully managed to ensure adequate information is obtained to assist with prosecution of offenders, whilst ensuring vigilant compliance with data security rules & guidance, other relevant legislation and patient privacy. Clear signage will be displayed to ensure public awareness of CCTV.
In addition, a number of devices & systems are being considered to improve protection and safety of lone workers in the NHS in Wales.  This includes the possibility of personal safety alarms being linked to a centralised control system.
WAG: A new £150m fund which is intended to support the expansion of more than 800 businesses and create up to 15,000 jobs across Wales has been launched using £75m funding from the European Investment Bank under the EU’s JEREMIE (Joint European Resources for Micro to Medium Enterprises) initiative and a further £60m from the Welsh Assembly Government, via the European Regional Development Fund resources.
The funding – the first JEREMIE fund to be launched in the UK, will enable Finance Wales plc, a commercial funding provider to small & medium sized business in Wales (owned by the Welsh Assembly Government) to make debt & equity investments in growing businesses throughout Wales.
The fund is particularly important in the current economic climate in enabling the creation & expansion of small enterprises and encouraging regional economic growth.
CLG: Communities Secretary Hazel Blears is encouraging everyone to show their community spirit and get involved in making preparations for the BIG LUNCH - a national event, taking place on 19 July 2009, which is hoping to see millions of people across Britain get together with their neighbours to share food, drink & conversation.
DWP: The Department for Work and Pensions has extended its benefit cheats hotline to the Costa del Sol and Canary Islands following its launch in Alicante in September 2008. Residents in these popular ex-pat areas can report suspected British benefit thieves to a local number and their concerns will be passed on by the operator of the hotline to a team of investigators in the UK.
A publicity campaign, 'We're closing in', in the local ex-pat media is raising awareness of the hotline as well as a dedicated web site where suspected British benefit thieves living abroad can be reported on-line. This initiative is part of a growing relationship between Spain and the UK on social security issues that already includes agreements to data-match and share death notifications.


QCA: The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority has launched a public consultation (closes on Friday 9 July 2009) on A level mathematics criteria.  As the government agency for the development of qualifications, QCA is working with DCELLS in Wales and CCEA in Northern Ireland on criteria for revised A levels to start when the current specifications are no longer available.
QCA has worked with subject experts & representatives from the mathematics community, including teachers, subject associations, universities and awarding bodies, to develop draft criteria for consultation.  Any individuals or organisations interested in the content of criteria for A levels in mathematics can contribute their views.
It is proposed that new specifications in mathematics and further mathematics will be taught from September 2012 and new specifications in use of mathematics and use of statistics will be taught from September 2011.
Monitor: Foundation Trust governors now have the opportunity to comment on a new document designed to help them exercise their statutory duties.  The guide has been issued for consultation (closes on Monday 13 July 2009) by Monitor, the independent regulator of NHS foundation trusts.
In 2007 Monitor commissioned research to investigate how well governors were performing in their new role and what challenges they faced.  The findings underpin the guide that has been issued for consultation. It looks at what the statutory powers and duties of governors are, what is required of governors in relation to them and in practice how governors can best meet these challenges.  Monitor intends to publish the final report and a summary of the consultation responses by the end of the summer.
Defra: The draft Flood and Water Management Bill, designed to improve how we prepare for & respond to flood emergencies and better protect water supplies during drought, has been published for public consultation (closes on 24 July 2009).
As well as improving the management of flood risk by clearly defining roles & responsibilities for those involved in flood risk management, the draft Bill also includes measure to better protect the supply of water during drought.
Parts of England are already water stressed and the impacts of both climate change and a rising population will increase demands for more, or better, water & sewerage infrastructure and mean that the management of water as a precious resource must be improved.
DfT: New measures to ensure all roads have the right speed limit and the formation of a new expert panel to investigate road safety are part of government plans to cut road deaths by a third by 2020 and make Britain's roads the safest in the world. Consultation on the proposals ends 14 July 2009.
The way people learn to drive and how they are tested is also set for major reform in response to the Learning to Drive consultation conducted last year.  A new road safety qualification will offer young people a partial credit towards their car theory test, while the learning process and the theory & practical tests will all be improved.  Van drivers also will be given the chance to enhance the skills they need for their work through a new qualification.
The DSA has also published a consultation (closes on 20 July 2009) document - An abridged theory test for learner car drivers - seeking views on the proposed reduced fee of £24 for the abridged theory test.
Later this week, the DfT will launch the first phase of the new THINK! road safety education programme, with resources, activities & materials for early-years and upper- primary children, teachers , parents and Road Safety professionals.
SAP: The Sentencing Advisory Panel has published a consultation (closes on 15 July 2009) paper relating to the sentencing of the most commonly committed drug offences.  One of the most fundamental issues the Panel asks the public to consider is the relative seriousness of drug offences compared with other forms of offending behaviour, in particular with violent offences, sexual offences and offences of dishonesty.

Currently, Crown Courts impose higher sentences in the most serious cases of supplying drugs than they do for cases of rape of an adult, for the most serious cases of assault and for causing death by dangerous driving.  
Research suggests that drug barons are more concerned about the loss of their assets than the threat of imprisonment, so the Panel is proposing more extensive use of confiscation orders which not only can recover the proceeds of crime, but can also remove legitimate assets from drug offenders.
HO: An extra £5m to protect the public from the threat of terrorist attacks in crowded places has been announced by Security Minister Lord West. The funding comes as a public consultation (closes on 10 July 2009) is published on how local authorities, businesses, the police and communities can work together to better secure the places where we live, work and play – See ‘In the News’ section for more information.

Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides

NICE: The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) and the National Clinical Guideline Centre have issued a guideline to improve the diagnosis & management of chronic open angle glaucoma (COAG) and ocular hypertension (OHT).  It sets out how best to diagnose COAG, how people with COAG, OHT or at risk of COAG should be monitored, and which treatments should be considered.

Affecting an estimated 480,00 people in England, COAG is a common condition involving optic nerve damage and loss of the visual field that can lead to blindness if it’s not diagnosed early & treated promptly.  Around 10% of UK blindness registrations are due to glaucoma.  Glaucoma is more common with increasing age and people of African or Caribbean descent or with a family history of glaucoma may be at greater risk of developing it.
NICE: The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) and the National Collaborating Centre for Women’s and Children’s Health have published a clinical guideline on assessing & managing diarrhoea & vomiting caused by gastroenteritis in children under the age of five.
The guideline provides healthcare professionals with consistent advice on key issues such as fluid intake, nutritional management and preventing & managing dehydration.  It also provides recommendations on advice to be given to parents & carers and when care should be escalated – from home management through to hospital admission.
NICE: The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has published final guidance on the use of rivaroxaban for the prevention of venous thromboembolism in adults after having planned total hip replacement or total knee replacement surgery.  NICE produced the guidance as part of its rapid single technology appraisal (STA) work programme.
When a blood clot forms in one of the deep veins in the leg, thigh, pelvis or arm it is known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT).  DVT occurs in over 20% of surgical patients and over 40% of patients undergoing major orthopaedic surgery.  The blood clot itself is not life threatening, but if it comes loose it can be carried in the blood to another part of the body where it can cause problems – this is called a venous thromboembolism.  If the blood clot reaches the lungs (called pulmonary embolism) it can be fatal.
ScotGov: A new map showing which areas of Scotland have the highest levels of the naturally-occurring radioactive gas radon has been published to help homeowners identify whether they need to take any action. Radon occurs in all rocks & most soils and, while quickly diluted if it escapes into the air, it can get trapped inside buildings and, over time, exposure can increase the risk of lung cancer.
The maps - produced by the UK Health Protection Agency for the Scottish Government - shows 'Radon Affected Areas', where at least one house in a hundred can be expected to exceed the HPA's Action Level.  The HPA advises that any house showing a radon build-up above this level should have work carried out to remedy the problem.
In response to the map's publication, the Scottish Government has announced free testing for homeowners in areas with a 5% chance or more of houses being above the Action Level. In Scotland as a whole, around 62,000 homes are located in Radon Affected Areas, although it is estimated that only between 1,000 and 3,000 of these will have radon concentrations above the Action Level.

Annual Reports

DIUS: The latest survey outlining students' income, spending & saving has been published by the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills. This survey looks at students' financial situations under both the new and old financial support systems, and compares these with the previous (2004/05) survey.
DSA:  Changes to the driver training & testing process, the launch of a new motorcycle test, improved customer service criteria and the introduction of a Certificate of Professional Competence for professional lorry drivers are some of the highlights for the coming year in the Driving Standards Agency's Business Plan 2009/10.
The DSA also intends to introduce a series of Customer Service Promises as well as making £4m of efficiency savings during the year.

General Reports and Other Publications

DECC: New research, released by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), reveals there is strong support among the UK public, at deliberative research events, in favour of Government action to decarbonise the nation's housing stock.
As part of the 'Big Energy Shift' engagement process, householders in England, Wales and Northern Ireland were asked for their opinions & ideas on the challenges facing us - with the results forming part of the Government's long-term Heat and Energy Saving Strategy and Renewable Energy Strategy.
Under the UK Government's 'Great British Refurb' plans, at least 7m homes will have been offered 'whole-house' upgrades with energy efficiency & micro-generation technologies by 2020 and every home by 2030 - virtually eliminating carbon emissions from our homes.
Newswire – AC: A new report by public services watchdog the Audit Commission finds that Local Strategic Partnerships (LSPs), which bring together health, councils, the police and other service providers, have 'important lessons to learn from one another'.  The national report - Working Better Together? - says that; 'LSPs are developing, and each has its own unique history and challenges.'
It finds that the more mature LSPs are further advanced, that those in multi-tier areas face greater challenges than those in single-tier areas, but that there is no one model that will guarantee future success.  The report recommends a layered approach to joint working:
* a strategic layer sets overall direction & checks progress
* an executive layer allocates resources & manages performance
* and an operational layer deals with actual service delivery
There is a special mention for elected members, who it says should better understand LSPs through training and the scrutiny role.  The Audit Commission will be providing a range of products, including on-line improvement tools, to help LSPs and their partners on their improvement journeys and to influence government to improve policy.
Defra: The final report by Professor Martin Cave into competition & innovation in water markets has been published.  It sets out the challenges & opportunities facing the industry and recommends measures for increasing competition & innovation to benefit customers and the economy by up to £2.5bn over 30 years and deliver considerable environmental and service improvements.
The Consumer Council for Water said it welcomed the recommendations put forward in Martin Cave's report on competition in the water industry and echoes his call for a step by step approach which gets competition right for business customers first.
LLUK: The Scottish Union Learning has commissioned a 16-page supplement which showcases the role trade unions are playing in increasing access & opportunities in learning and training for workers in the Highlands & Islands. 
LSN: The Learning and Skills Network recently hosted a presentation evening to launch a new report called UK employment and skills in a global recession, by Tom Bewick. The report looks at & answers the questions:
* What should be the role of the FE system in speeding recovery?
* What is the latest thinking and what options should be considered to tackle the crisis?
This paper presents a call to look ahead - beyond the immediate piecemeal measures - proposing more comprehensive labour market reforms that aim to protect & develop the UK skills base.  It presents practical solutions that can be delivered immediately on a sectoral basis, seeking to build-in competitiveness, as we emerge from recession.
DH: To coincide with World Meningitis Day, a new report highlights the success of childhood vaccines against the 3 main strains of meningitis. In the next 3 years, a vaccine against the last significant cause of bacterial meningitis, group B meningococcal disease, is a very real prospect.
Meningitis & septicaemia can be difficult to spot in young children.  The bacterial form of the diseases is fatal in 10% of cases and urgent treatment is required.  Many of those who recover are left with long-term conditions including hearing loss, brain damage, paralysis, and seizures.
Ofsted: Opportunities to work with an inspiring teacher, a visiting artist or in an art gallery can have an immediate & lasting impact on pupils’ creative aspirations & achievement, says Ofsted in its new report - Drawing together: art, craft and design in schools.  However, these experiences are rarely available to all pupils, the report reveals.
DH: Results from a survey of Change4Life families show that 72% of their children are not getting 60 minutes of daily activity outside of school.  The campaign's new TV ad urges families get up & about more in an effort to cut levels of obesity.  The advert responds to the need for families to get more physical activity into their daily routines - to make sure that the energy in, is matched by the energy out.
The 'How Are The Kids Survey', launched in January, is the biggest national survey of children's diet & activity levels, and received more than 260,000 responses from families across England. The survey of change4life families also found that 45% of their kids watched TV or played non-active video games before school and only 22% did something active after their evening meal.

Legislation / Legal

OFTManchester United has agreed with the OFT to revise its season ticket terms & conditions to make them clearer & fairer for fans. Following a complaint from the Manchester United Supporters Trust in November, the OFT identified a number of potentially unfair terms with the club's season tickets under the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contract Regulations (UTCCRs). The club has responded positively and agreed to amend its terms.
Though Manchester United did not agree that the previous terms & conditions were unfair the club has provided assurances that these changes will be implemented in time for supporters considering the purchase of season tickets for 2009/2010.
In December 2008, the OFT secured an agreement from Tottenham Hotspur to amend its terms & conditions relating to ticket refunds for fans and wrote to the Football Associations of England, Wales, Scotland & Northern Ireland calling on clubs to ensure terms are compliant with the law.
WAG: Environment Minister Jane Davidson has reminded planners that some planning applications in Wales will require new Design and Access Statements from 1 June 2009.  The Statements that will now accompany planning applications and/or listed building consent, will show how the final design was reached and contain information on the sustainability of the development.
The Welsh Assembly Government expects applicants and all local planning authorities to implement this legislation once it is in place.  Training for local planning authorities will be rolled out shortly.  A revision of TAN 12: ‘Design’ will also be available from this date to provide up to date guidance on design & access issues.
BERR: The Secretary of State has agreed with a recommendation by the Office of Fair Trading that newspaper wholesalers will no longer have to conform to a statutory code of practice requiring them to supply all new retail outlets. The decision was taken following a review carried out by the OFT and an open consultation by BERR.
Changes in circumstances in the market mean the problem the code of practice was designed to address - refusal to supply new retail outlets - is no longer a concern and not likely to re-emerge. There will be a 6 month period for businesses in the industry to review & amend contractual agreements before the undertakings are released with effect from 20 October 2009.
OFT: The Office of Fair Trading has imposed requirements on Citifinancial Europe plc (Citi) after its terms & conditions had wrongly claimed it did not share joint liability for overseas credit card transactions.  Under the requirements Citi will invite those consumers who feel they may have been misled, and think they have a claim, to contact them.
Under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974, credit card issuers are individually & jointly liable with suppliers if a consumer has a valid claim against the supplier for misrepresentation or breach of contract.
Defra: The draft Flood and Water Management Bill, designed to improve how we prepare for & respond to flood emergencies and better protect water supplies during drought, has been published for public consultation (closes on 24 July 2009) by Environment Secretary Hilary Benn – See ‘Consultations’ section for more information.

EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.

HM Treasury: In line with the government's commitment to support a robust & stable carbon market, HM Treasury has published the Community Emission Trading Scheme (Auctioning of Allowances) Scheme 2009, whichreplaces the CETS (Allocation of Allowances for Payment) Scheme 2008.
The Scheme sets out how the UK will conduct auctions of carbon allowances and the terms governing participation in auctions during Phase II of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme.
Defra: UK Fisheries Minister Huw Irranca-Davies, has welcomed the adoption of the Council Conclusions on the EU Shark Action Plan, saying: "We must do all we can to protect and sustainably manage these vulnerable species.  I am delighted that Council Conclusions on the Action Plan have been adopted, and am personally pleased to see a commitment in the conclusions to reviewing the Council Regulation on shark finning”.
The Shark Action Plan includes measures to:
* ensure that directed fisheries for shark are sustainable & that by-catches from other fisheries are properly regulated
* improve knowledge both on shark fisheries & on shark species and their role in the ecosystem;
* encourage a consistent approach inside & out EC waters with endorsement from Regional Fisheries Management Organisations and others

Charity and Voluntary Sector

BIG: Community groups across the country have less than 3 weeks to beat the deadline and enter The People’s Millions TV contest to secure the chance to win a Lottery award of up to £50,000 to improve their local area.  Community groups will need to enter the contest by the deadline of 12 noon on 15 May 2009.  
Now in its fifth year, the contest is a partnership between the Big Lottery Fund (BIG) and ITV, which gives the public the chance to choose which local projects receive lottery funding.  This year the contest will make 69 awards of up to £50,000 across the ITV regions for projects that will enhance local facilities or help people to enjoy their local area.

Business and Other Briefings

HMRC: From 22 April 2009, any viable business anticipating making a trading loss in the current tax year will be able to have the anticipated loss taken into account as part of any rescheduling of its Corporation Tax or Income Tax payments.
This new measure means businesses will no longer have to wait for the end of their accounting period - which may be months ahead - to have the loss taken into account in calculating what they have to pay.  This new business support initiative will be administered by the existing HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) Business Payment Support Service (BPSS).
TIS: Large & medium-sized companies facing difficulties could receive additional help under proposed changes to insolvency laws announced in the 2009 Budget. The Insolvency Service will consult (in June 2009) on 2 important proposals:
* Giving large & medium-sized companies breathing space while they seek legally binding Company Voluntary Agreements (CVAs) with their creditors, without first having to place their companies into administration
* Giving absolute priority to new money lent to companies in CVA or administration.  This would make it more attractive to lend to companies in this situation, allowing them to access the funding they need to get back on their feet and stay in business.
In addition, The Insolvency Service announced that this summer (not in June as stated in the Budget) will see the publication of the first of a series of regular reports on the monitoring of the operation of pre-pack sales.
The Statement of Insolvency Practice 16 issued earlier this year requires administrators to provide creditors with detailed reports explaining their decisions for a pre-pack administration as soon as they are appointed.  Closer scrutiny of the reports by The Insolvency Service is designed to ensure that creditors are not being treated unfairly through the abuse of pre-pack sales.
Reverse charge accounting for businesses trading in mobile telephones and computer chips: renewal of EU derogation.

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