You are viewing our public content
You can sign in or register for additional services

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

Swine Flu Update:  Please check out the following links for the latest advice & information:
* ScotGov: Mexican Swine Flu ~ Pandemic Flu Planning ~ 01-05-09 press release ~ Dedicated swine flu advice line NHS 24: 08454 24 24 24
* WAGSwine Flu
GEOPerhaps not the optimum timing for such legislation - The Government Equalities Office has published the Equality Bill which sets out new laws which are intended to:
* help narrow the gap between rich & poor
* require business to report on gender pay
* outlaw age discrimination
* significantly strengthen Britain's anti-discrimination legislation

The Bill tries to simplify the law which, over the last 4 decades, has become complex & difficult to navigate. Nine major pieces of legislation and around 100 other measures will be replaced by a single Act written in plain English intended to make it easier for individuals & employers to understand their legal rights & obligations.  The Bill is expected to come in to force from autumn 2010.

The Government is publishing a new ageing strategy later this year, which will look at creating an age friendly society, preparing for & living well in later life, as well as making sure stronger protection & support is available.
MoDCutting edge forces or more to do with cutting budgets? - The Ministry of Defence has published its report on the Strategic Review of UK Reserve Forces.  The review was launched in April 2008 to ‘reflect the changing demands faced by our reservists in recent years’.  As well as preparing to defend the country in the event of a major conflict, they are now required to work as an integral part of the UK's military force on operations.

The review provides a basis for improving the training & organisation of the reserves to match this new role.  It also claims to strengthen the assistance provided to employers, who support reservists through deployments & training and accommodate the demands of reservist commitment.

The review - the first focussed specifically on UK Reserves - produced 7 central findings, including improving training, creating clearer command structures and increasing the use of individual reservists' skills.
DefraFree skin peel when you go swimming! - A five-year, £11m study into the effects of climate change on Britain's seas has been announced as scientists warn of more acidic seas affecting the food chain.  Ocean acidity, caused by increased amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the sea, has risen 30% in the last 200 years, faster than any time in the last 65m years, with serious implications for sealife and our climate, according to a new report.

The sea absorbs CO2 in the atmosphere but, over time as emissions have increased, it has become more acidic, which means not only will it absorb less CO2 in future, but that corals, plankton, shellfish and other vital links in the food chain will be under threat.

Now Defra is jointly funding a major research programme with the Natural Environment Research Councils (NERC).  It will concentrate on the North East Atlantic, Antarctic & Arctic oceans and study the effects of acidification on biodiversity, habitats, species and wider socio-economic implications.
CLGRecycle rather than rebuild - Communities Secretary Hazel Blears has unveiled a series of measures intended to ‘back a people's revolution to recycle buildings by putting real power in the hands of locals to support communities during the downturn and beyond’.  A new Asset Transfer Unit will give local people the information they need to get through any planning, legal and financial barriers.

As part of the Government's empowerment agenda, Ms Blears has announced a new single advice line - 0845 345 4564 - and other Government support to make it easier for people to take control of community assets, from community centres to theatres.
DFIDSo that’s why our forces are there! - The Department for International Development's (DFID) Country Plan for Afghanistan has been launched by Secretary of State Douglas Alexander.  The Plan sets out the framework for Britain's aid to the country for the next 4 years with a pledge of over £127m a year in assistance between now and 2013, a total of £510m.  The UK is the second largest national provider of aid to Afghanistan.

That includes a commitment of £225m to provide direct support for the Government of Afghanistan's spending on basic services, including education & health and its plans for investment to create much-needed jobs.  The plan also includes £30m to help the Government provide new opportunities in farming & business for people in rural areas, who may otherwise rely on the opium trade to make a living.
Forthcoming EventBe prepared for massive reductions in public sector funding - Want to find the right balance between optimizing costs and improving performance by outsourcing your requirements? Attending the Gartner Outsourcing & IT Services Summit (15 – 16 June 2009) will ensure your ITO, BPO and Global Sourcing initiatives help you cope with a future of shrinking resources – check out the Suggested Timetable for Government and Public Sector Professionals.

The Summit has 4 tracks, plus 2 virtual tracks, which cover:
* Track 1: Reassessing Sourcing Strategies for Challenging Times
* Track 2: Marketplace and Providers: Accelerating Your Choices, Minimizing Your Risks
* Track 3: Negotiating for Cost, Flexibility and Risk Mitigation
* Track 4: Managing Sourcing and Vendors
* Virtual Track 1: Leveraging Offshore and Global Delivery
* Virtual Track: Executing an Effective BPO Strategy
In addition, the hands-on workshops are specifically designed to be highly interactive, facilitating peer to peer exchange - combined with the expert advice of Gartner's analysts & consultants.

Just a few of the Key Issues addressed include:
* Identifying the common sourcing cost cutting traps
* Balancing risk & speed in vendor selection and contracting
* Understanding the key multisourcing competencies and why they are critical
* Structuring SLA's & OLAs, Penalties and Incentives
* Critical success factors in making a Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) relationship work
Further information and Registration

Forthcoming EventA lean time ahead for public sector funding - The Government’s Operational Efficiency Programme tasks public sector managers with driving efficiency savings and delivering service excellence at better value for money. The Manufacturing Institute has already been helping prove that efficiency savings, driven by lean principles, offer a proven path for dramatically improving the quality of services and significantly reducing costs in the Health Service

This has been achieved by using ‘systems thinking’ to prioritise the improvement activities required and developing a sequenced implementation plan which encompasses ‘best practice implementation’ such as: Lean, Six Sigma, Supply chain, Leadership and Culture change.

Learn more about a lean philosophy & approach at The Manufacturing Institute’s UK/US Shingo Summit, Hilton Manchester (10 – 12 June 2009).

Presentations on Day 2 (Thursday 11 June) of the Summit include:
* Zoe Radnor, Associate Professor, Warwick Business School, who will draw on case study examples to explain how public sector organisations are responding to government efficiency targets by going lean
* Martyn Craske, Lean Programme Manager, Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), who will explore the challenges of rolling out the DWP Lean Approach in one of Whitehall’s largest departments
*Case studies from the NHS

You can also benefit from an exclusive Breakfast Seminar on Thursday 11 June which will look at lean principles in a public sector context and address the particular challenges faced by the sector.
For information on other forthcoming public sector events please click HERE to visit the WGPlus Events Calendar

For Industry News please click HERE

General News

NA: The National Archives gets ‘down & dirty’ in May with a talk on the vast array of information related to public health held at The National Archives.  A most foul and putrid mess: public health records for historians shows that a significant amount of these records are under-used and demonstrates the best way to approach them.
Other free talks during May look at the administration of the royal household and important sources relating to Oscar Wilde, while their daily drop-in sessions 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.
FSCS: Consumers will benefit from new compensation limits from next January following an FSA review of the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) limits.  The FSA has announced that new limits would come into force for investments, insurance & home intermediation from January 2010.  The changes to the limits were proposed in an FSA consultation paper published in October 2008.
WAG: Contracts reserved for supported businesses & factories have been given the go-ahead, Andrew Davies, Minister for Finance & Public Service Delivery has announced.  The Welsh Assembly Government has become one of the first public sector organisations within the UK to undertake a tender exercise that is reserved for supported businesses & supported factories.
These are companies & organisations where 50% or more of the workforce have disabilities and the reserving of contracts for such organisations is encouraged under European law. The contracts will in turn allow the public sector in Wales to engage more with supported factories & businesses and enable them to fulfil their vital role in employing those with disabilities.
MoD: The Ministry of Defence is encouraging councils, businesses & homes across the country to show their support for Britain's Armed Forces by flying a special flag designed forArmed Forces Day on Saturday 27 June 2009.  Hundreds of councils have pledged to raise the Flag at 10.30am on Monday 22 June to officially commence a week of celebrations in honour of our Armed Forces.
The design of the flag is based on the Union Jack and it measures 5ft by 3ft. Flags cost £10, which includes a £1 donation by the flag supplier, Piggotts, to the Forces Children's Trust, a charity devoted to helping dependent children that have lost a parent whilst serving with the Armed Forces.
PCS: Member of the PCS unions in HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) have postponed their planned industrial action after gaining a significant agreement that protects their working conditions - 10,000 members in Revenue & Customs were set to take action at 20 sites across the UK.
Staff had been angered by ‘draconian’ working conditions such as excessive individual monitoring, tightening of leave allowances and threats to flexible working hours agreements. There have been key gains including that staff should no longer be pressured into terminating calls before the caller’s query is adequately dealt with.
DH: A strategy for accelerating the pace of delivery for the National Programme for IT (NPfIT) and introducing additional supplier capacity has been outlined by the Department of Health's Director General for Informatics.
The Department of Health is also working on a toolkit which will allow new products to be developed locally, accredited centrally and linked to existing deployments of information systems such as Cerner and Lorenzo.  It is envisaged that work on this toolkit will be complete by March 2010.
It is claimed that good progress has been made in many areas. However, as has been recently pointed out by the Public Accounts Committee, progress in implementing electronic information systems in the acute sector has proved more challenging.  Greater pace needs to be injected into these implementations.  If significant progress is not achieved by the end of November 2009, a new plan for delivering informatics to healthcare will be adopted.
ACE: Last week marked the half way point in the application stage of Artists taking the lead, the most ambitious & wide ranging art prize in the UK, developed by Arts Council England in partnership with London 2012 and the arts councils of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
Artists of all kinds have been challenged to submit their big ideas for 12 inspirational commissions, one in each of the nine English regions, and in the nations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Artists have until Friday 29 May 2009 to submit their ideas online.
STFC: The NASA/STFC/ASI Swift satellite has found a gamma-ray burst from a star that died when the Universe was 640m years old, or less than 5% of its present age.  The event, dubbed GRB 090423, is the most distant cosmic explosion ever seen and gives astronomers an insight into the early Universe.
Gamma-ray bursts are the Universe's most luminous explosions.  Most occur when massive stars run out of nuclear fuel.  As their cores collapse into a black hole or neutron star, gas jets - driven by processes not fully understood - punch through the star and blast into space.  There, they strike gas previously shed by the star and heat it, which generates short-lived afterglows in other wavelengths.
SESport England recently joined the Mayor of London and his Sports Commissioner Kate Hoey to launch ‘A Sporting Future for London– a plan to encourage more people to play sport in London in the run up to the 2012 Games.
Key initiatives in the plan include:
* Mobile swimming pools
* Boxing academies
* Street athletics
* Competitive sport for children with disabilities
Cabinet Office: The Government has announced plans for an award that recognises the extraordinary acts of courage shown by a number of British citizens. Britons who made a difference during the Holocaust include Jane Haining from Dunscore in Scotland - who was sent to Auschwitz after caring for 400 Jewish girls in occupied Hungary - and 10 British prisoners of war who rescued a girl from a death march in Poland and hid her in their PoW camp.
Precise details of the award will be discussed between the Communities Secretary & the Minister for the Cabinet Office, with representatives of families of the heroes and the Holocaust Educational Trust.  Full details will be published in due course.
DWP: Recognising the benefits of mutual co-operation, the United Kingdom (DWP), United States, Canada, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand have come together to sign the 'Windsor Arrangement' which aims to achieve stronger prevention, earlier detection and effective deterrence of benefit fraud.  This costs the UK taxpayer £800m a year.
The six signatories have agreed to work together to share intelligence and risk profiling, to share strategies & best practice for combating fraud, to determine scope for carrying out investigations & enforcement for each other and to enhance understanding of the nature & extent of identity fraud.
DECC: English and Welsh waters are to be scoped out for their potential to host marine energy devices.  A new study will look at the potential for wave, tidal-stream and tidal range technologies around the English & Welsh coastline.
The work will also build on data already gathered for the Offshore Energy SEA, the Welsh Marine Energy Strategic Plan (due summer 2010) and other studies. It will also help identify any data gaps needed to put in place a Strategic Environment Assessment (SEA) for marine energy devices in England and Wales.
HATraffic access arrangements for the British Grand Prix at Silverstone in Northamptonshire have been announced. The arrangements for the Grand Prix on the 19, 20 and 21 June 2009 will be very similar to the past five years.
Drivers who use the A43 and local residents are being given advance notice of these changes and diversion routes so they can plan their journeys or make alternative arrangements if necessary.  Non-race traffic is advised to avoid roads in the area if possible.
Detailed access arrangements will be given to residents between now and the Grand Prix for each of the villages affected by the closures and diversions, including the impact on school & public bus services, to keep disruption to a minimum.
LDA: A new centre for the NationalSkillsAcademy for Construction (NSAfC) was launched recently at the National Construction College East London campus to help Londoners develop the right skills to help deliver the venues & infrastructure for the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympic Games and other large-scale projects taking place across the region, such as Stratford City and Crossrail.
The centre will offer 2,000 training places a year in much needed trades including plant maintenance, concreting, formworking, steel fixing, flooring and highways maintenance.  It is funded by the Learning and Skills Council (LSC), the London Development Agency (LDA), ConstructionSkills and the five Host Boroughs (Greenwich, Hackney, Newham, Tower Hamlets, Waltham Forest) working with the Olympic Delivery Authority).  
The centre will be managed by, and training will be delivered through, the National Construction College (NCC), which is Europe’s largest construction training provider.
ScotGov: A new online system to enable people in all parts of Scotland to apply for developments, appeal against decisions and track progress of proposals has been launched. The £11.2m ePlanning initiative is intended to make Scotland's planning system simpler, faster & more accessible, providing a consistent level of service throughout the country.
The Directorate for Planning and Environmental Appeals (DPEA) has also launched a new service.  Details of all appeals and all documents considered by the decision maker are now published on the internet where there is access to all current cases.
PCS: Last week the start of a major equal pay case brought by PCS union in the Department for Transport (DfT) where there is a 21% gender pay gap.  PCS successfully fought a similar equal pay case in the Prison Service in 2006, which cost the employer £50m to introduce equal pay.
Commenting Mark Serwotka, PCS general secretary, said: "It is a bitter irony that in the same week the government publishes that Equalities Bill we are forced to once again take a government department to tribunal over equal pay……The department and the government need to face up to the culture of low pay and pay inequality they have created in the DfT with pay gaps of around £5,000 for people doing similar jobs”. See also ‘In the News’ section)
DH: Extra nurses and an experienced Assistant Director of Nursing are being deployed to Stafford Hospital to boost frontline staff & further improve patient care as part of a package of measures in the wake of Health Secretary Alan Johnson's response to recent reports into the standard of care at the Trust.
The extra nurses are being put in place on the advice of Chief Nursing Officer Dame Christine Beasley in response to recommendations from two reports commissioned by Alan Johnson, following the Healthcare Commission's findings last month.  Mr Johnson has accepted all the reports' recommendations and made it clear that greater priority must be given to patients' views.
The Department of will also, in future, publish on the NHS Choices website, the Hospital Standardised Mortality Rates (HSMR) for hospitals in England.
DfT: The dangers of texting while driving are highlighted in a new THINK! campaign launched by Road Safety Minister Jim Fitzpatrick after research showed that 30% of young drivers admitted to texting at the wheel. Using a mobile phone at the wheel is considered the second most unacceptable driving behaviour among motorists with 93% agreeing that texting while driving is dangerous.  However, 12% of all motorists admit to texting while driving.
The new radio advert features a driver's voice spelling out a text message followed by the sound of a car crash. Anonline 'driving challenge' game- which demonstrates how using a mobile at the wheel can completely distract the driver - is being circulated online via social networking communities & entertainment sites.
STFC: On 14 May 2009, ESA’s Herschel and Planck satellites will be launched on an Ariane 5 from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana together into space, where they will collect the most detailed information yet about the birth & evolution of our Universe and its stars and galaxies.  The UK is playing major roles in both missions, with funding from the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC).
MoD: A brand new £14m training area at Stanford Training Area (STANTA) in Norfolk will provide all troops deploying to Afghanistan with the most advanced & relevant training facilities in the UK. The facilities consist of a RuralMiddleEasternVillage and an Urban Middle Eastern Complex which were designed by the Operational Training Advisory Group (OPTAG) to replicate as closely as possible the situations which troops could face on operations in Afghanistan and South Asia.
With the help of Afghan nationals and others who take on the role of insurgents in these training areas, OPTAG will be able to replicate the sights, sounds & smells of the South Asia.  From the call to prayer heard across a busy market place, a bustling family home, to a network of claustrophobic alleyways with high walls, the areas provide for a complex and realistic way to train troops and test their skills under demanding conditions.

Policy Statements and Initiatives

DWP: Some heroin or crack cocaine users claiming benefits in England are now able to access advice & referral from their Jobcentre to a drug treatment service so that they can get better and take steps to return to work. The Welfare Reform Bill, currently before Parliament, includes provisions to pilot a new mandatory employment-support programme for problem drug users.
They will be required to attend discussions about treatment and agree a rehabilitation plan.  The plan will set out the steps they will take to address both their drug problem and any other barriers to work that they face.  Failing to comply with the plan could result in benefit sanctions.
ScotGov: A new initiative in teacher training - the National Framework for Inclusion - aims to ensure better classroom support for pupils with additional needs, such as dyslexia, by offering advice to encourage student teachers & qualified teachers to be inclusive in their teaching.
The Framework was funded by the Scottish Government and developed by the Scottish Teacher Education Committee (STEC), the body for the seven Scottish universities who provide teacher training. A web-based resource will give support by providing relevant, high quality materials & documentation.
ScotGov: Stopping the revolving door of re-offending is not just a job for government, Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said last week when sharing a platform with Cosla spokesman Harry McGuigan: "Our proposals in the Criminal Justice Bill will deliver flexible new Community Payback Orders to tackle the causes of offending behaviour as well as responding to its effect…………  
But this is not just a matter for criminal justice agencies.  This is about partnership working with Cosla and ensuring the strategies to redress inequalities in income, health or access to services take into account the needs of offenders.  Helping offenders play a positive role in their communities benefits them, their families and everyone around them."
‘Protecting Scotland's Communities - Fair, Fast and Flexible Justice’ is the Scottish Government's response to the Scottish Prisons Commissions report published last year.  It outlines how the government plans to take forward the issues of offender management including plans to improve the immediacy of community sentences and reducing the number of short prison sentences.
DIUS: Businesses & training providers are being encouraged to bid for funding from a pot of £7m to take on apprentices in the downturn, Apprenticeships Minister Lord Young has announced. The additional funding is available to pay for new & innovative approaches to make it easier for small businesses to take on apprentices.
Details of the new approach are outlined in the prospectus 'Testing Alternative Delivery Models: Group Training Associations and Apprenticeships Training Agencies. The £7m will fund up to 10 new Apprenticeship Training Agencies (ATAs) to be set up this year which together will have the potential to deliver up to 15,000 apprenticeship places per year by 2014/15.
DH: England's ten Strategic Health Authorities (SHAs) will each receive £2m this year and £5m in each of the following 4 years to support frontline NHS staff in developing innovative ideas.  The cash will be invested directly into a combination of projects on the ground and at regional level. Each SHA will establish its own systems for making this money available to frontline staff, details of which will be published locally.
The Government has also announced that alongside this funding, it has put in a place a support structure on innovation for SHAs, with NESTA (the National Endowment for Science Technology and the Arts) and the Young Foundation acting as advisers to SHAs in bringing about a true innovation culture.
In addition, Lord Darzi announced further details of the 'Innovation Challenge Prizes' which will engage with innovators globally and invite them to devise new ways to address key health challenges. Research has shown that where prizes have been offered in other sectors for innovation, the resultant value of the research work undertaken has eclipsed the value of the prize by up to 16 times the value of the prize.
DWP: The Government has challenged councils, charities and other organisations to submit innovative bids for funding for new jobs from the £1bn Future Jobs Fund which it hopes will create 150,000 new jobs. National sports organisations have already pledged to bid for at least 5,000 jobs for young people, including sports coaches, swimming and fitness instructors, and other active leisure posts.
ScotGov: More than 100 individuals in Scotland are to be offered a place in a new Home Energy Apprenticeship Programme. The Scottish Government will support Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) in a Home Energy Apprenticeship Pilot Programme which will build a framework of energy professionals to support the company's long term ability to contribute to energy efficiency goals.
 SSE also intends to deliver a programme of upskilling existing staff to increase its capacity to assist customers with energy efficiency advice and solutions. SSE intends to pilot the upskilling programme later this year in parallel with the Modern Apprenticeship Programme.
DIUS: Graduates who want to boost their skills for employment will get help through the new 'Graduate Talent Pool', the next stage in the government’s graduate internship initiative. The scheme is intended to help create & match people to internships, so assisting more graduates to kick-start their careers by gaining the skills & experience they need to get-on and will offer companies a great way to inject fresh talent into the workplace.
A new dedicated website, which will match employers with suitable graduates, will be launched over the summer, although interested organisations can register their interest now.
DH: The Government has published its response to Lord Bradley's report on people with mental health problems and learning difficulties in the Criminal Justice System. In December 2007 the Secretary of State for Justice, Jack Straw, invited Lord Keith Bradley to lead an independent inquiry into diversion of offenders with mental health problems or learning disabilities away from prison into other more appropriate services.
The report has made 82 recommendations, the overwhelming majority of which the government either fully accepts, or accepts in principle.  However, Lord Bradley's report itself recognises many recommendations are longer term and will need further work to ensure that all implications are considered.
A Health and Criminal Justice National Programme Board will be set up by the end of May to bring together the relevant departments covering health, social care and criminal justice for children and adults.  The first priority for the Board will be to consider the recommendations and develop a national delivery plan by October 2009.  A National Advisory Board will also be established to ensure wider involvement from interested organisations.
DfT: The Department for Transport (DfT) has issued Safeguarding Directions to protect a potential extension of Crossrail from Maidenhead Station to Reading West Junction.  No decision or commitment to extend it further west to Reading has been made.  However, DfT believes it sensible to safeguard this corridor for a potential extension of Crossrail to Reading.  Safeguarding will also allow them to carry out alternative works, such as electrification, that could enable future operational requirements to be met.
Crossrail will run 118 km from Maidenhead & Heathrow in the west, through new twin-bore 21 km tunnels under central London to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east.  It will bring an additional 1.5m people within 60 minutes commuting distance of London's key business districts.  
Preparatory works will continue throughout 2009 and main Crossrail construction starts in 2010. When Crossrail opens in 2017 it will increase London's public transport network capacity by 10%.
Press release ~ Crossrail ~ Office of Rail Regulation - Crossrail access ~ Crossrail Act 2008


HO: New measures to maintain the capability of public authorities to obtain access to communications data have been announced by the Home Secretary.  Publishing the consultation - 'Protecting the public in a changing communications environment' - the government explicitly rules out setting up a single store of all communications data.
Communications data is the ‘who, when, where and how’ information from mobile phone calls, texts, emails and instant messages, but is not the content.  The consultation (closes on 20 July 2009) outlines ways to collect & retain communications data and seeks views on how to strike the right balance between privacy and security.
The system the government is proposing is based on the current model where Communications Service Providers (CSPs) collect & store the data and where there are safeguards in place to regulate access by public authorities.
DefraDefra, the Welsh Assembly Government and the Department of Agriculture and Rural Affairs in Northern Ireland, are consulting (closes on 20 July 2009) on the way import checks are conducted on rabies-susceptible animals, including commercial consignments and unaccompanied pets.
On arrival into the UK, rabies-susceptible animals are securely transported to quarantine premises where they undergo a six-month programme of veterinary inspection and monitoring.  The most recent case of an animal in quarantine with rabies was in April 2008, when disease was detected in a puppy imported from Sri Lanka.
The European Commission is recommending that this system is changed so that these consignments of animals are checked at the border before being transported to the quarantine premises.
DWP:  The Government has announced that they are looking at officially recognising Workers Memorial Day, to commemorate the thousands of people who have been killed, seriously injured or made ill through work.  It would also provide an annual focal point for the importance of healthy & safe workplaces.  A formal consultation will be launched shortly. 
Following its inception in Canada in 1984, Workers Memorial Day is already recognised as a national day in many countries around the world including Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Luxembourg, Peru, Portugal, Spain, Thailand, Taiwan and the USA. International Workers Memorial Day takes place annually around the world on 28 April.
DfT: Plans to ‘improve the delivery’ of the concessionary bus pass scheme have been announced by Transport Minister Paul Clark, as he launched a consultation (closes on 21 July 2009) on possible changes to the way the scheme is administered.
One option being considered is to give county councils responsibility for running the scheme.  Currently administration of the scheme is mainly handled by district councils, but the Government believes a change will simplify the system and allow for the more accurate distribution of funding.
From 1st April 2008 people aged 60 or over and eligible disabled, whose principle residence is England, were able to take advantage of free off-peak local bus travel anywhere in England.  These criteria are unaffected by the consultation.
CompC: The Competition Commission is now consulting publicly (closes 28 May 2009) on draft Undertakings to establish an Ombudsman to arbitrate on disputes between retailers & suppliers and investigate complaints under the new Groceries Supply Code of Practice (GSCOP).
In February this year, the CC published a draft Order for consultation, which will see the creation of a new strengthened and extended GSCOP, and is now considering responses before finalizing it.  Unlike with the GSCOP, the CC does not have the power to establish an Ombudsman itself, so this will require the agreement of retailers.  If retailers do not sign up to the Undertakings, then the CC will recommend to the Department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) that it takes steps to establish the Ombudsman instead.
In addition, the CompC has renewed work on the 'competition test' following the successful challenge by Tesco in a case heard before the Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) in November 2008. On 3 April 2009, the CAT 'remitted' the matter back to the CC in order for it to carry out further work and analysis to address the CAT's concerns over some issues related to the introduction of the test.
HO: The Home Office has announced a new consultation (closes on 23 July 2009) into plans to subject rogue wheel clamping businesses to new regulations. The Government's proposals include the introduction of compulsory licensing to tackle the limited number of wheel clamping businesses whose practices include excessive fines for releasing clamped cars, towing cars unreasonably quickly after being clamped and putting up hidden, missing or confusing signs warning drivers that clamping takes place.
Currently, any individual undertaking wheel clamping must hold a frontline licence from the Security Industry Authority (SIA), with supervisors or directors holding a non-frontline licence.  The new proposals could also make it mandatory for the business itself to be licensed to help ensure it upholds standards of conduct, which will be enforced if they are not met.
DH: Five people with Autism Spectrum Conditions have met with Care Services Minister Phil Hope to respond in person to a new consultation on Autism (closes on 15 September 2009). The issues raised will be formally submitted as the first responses to the consultation, which asks for opinions on what should be in the Government's National Autism Strategy to be published later this year.
People responding to the consultation will be asked for their views on five key themes:
* Health
* Social Inclusion
* Choice & Control
* Awareness raising & training for staff
* Access to training & employment
DSA:  The Driving Standards Agency (DSA) has launched a consultation (closes on 23 July 2009) proposing measures to improve the Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC) scheme which affects professional bus, coach and lorry drivers.
Defra: Farmers, land owners, and the public will be able to have their say on how Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) money could be managed more effectively following the launch of a consultation (closes on 22 July 2009) on changes to the eligibility rules for the Single Payment Scheme (SPS).
Defra is seeking views on the most suitable size limit in order to assess the potential benefits of a reduced administrative burden balanced against any impacts on the amount of land managed under cross compliance Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition. In England the minimum area for SPS claims can now be set between 1 & 5 hectares.
The proposals are the result of improvements to the CAP achieved at the CAP Health Check last year and any changes will be implemented in time for the 2010 SPS payments.
Defra: Consultation (closes on 22 July 2009) on plans that will ensure all greyhound racing tracks comply with minimum welfare standards have been launched by Animal Welfare Minister Jane Kennedy. The proposals would require all English tracks to be licensed by a local authority or regulated by an officially accredited body, as well as ensure a vet is present at all races and has appropriate facilities to be able to administer first aid.
This follows recommendations from an independent report into the greyhound industry, the Donoughue Report, and the Associate Parliamentary Group for Animal Welfare inquiry into greyhound welfare.
CompC: The Competition Commission (CompC) and the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) have issued draft joint guidelines on how they assess the competitive impact of mergers and have called for comments (by 7 August 2009) on the document from interested parties.
The publication revises & expands guidance material currently contained in several publications issued separately by the two authorities after the introduction of the Enterprise Act 2002.  The draft policy has been developed in consultation with government, the European Commission and other external parties involved in merger inquiries or competition policy.
Press release ~ Merger Assessment Guidelines ~ Review of Guidelines for Merger References ~ Memorandum of Understanding to promote greater clarity on their process for reviewing merger, monopoly and market undertakings

Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides

WAG: The Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales (CSSIW) has announced a reform to the way in which social services are reviewed & inspected.  The new framework will be implemented from April 2009. The new framework stresses that local authorities are responsible for the quality & improvement of their social services. 
The main elements of the new inspection system are:
* Local authorities will be required have an annual improvement plan for social services, which they will have to report on how it is being delivered in a public annual report
* CSSIW will undertake a review & analysis of evidence underpinning the annual report including evidence from other inspectorates & regulators
* The analysis will result in an individual Inspection and Review Plan for each authority
* All authorities will receive announced & unannounced visits annually
LSIS:  The new Skills for Life core curriculum is set to make a difference to the lives of trainers & teachers who support adult learners.  Developed by the Learning and Skills Improvement Service and available exclusively via the Excellence Gateway - LSIS’s online portal for the FE sector - the revised adult core curriculum is now online and will provide vital guidance to practitioners.
The new core curriculum also includes improvements to the existing adult literacy, ESOL (English for speakers of other languages) and numeracy curricula as well as an interactive service for teachers of the adult pre-entry curriculum.
LLUK: The Scottish Government has published new guidance & principals underpinning how all agencies in Scotland can help young people to fulfil their potential'Valuing Young People - Principles and connections to support young people achieve their potential' aims to help schools, teachers, community groups and other organisations work together to involve young people in decision making and provide more joined-up services.

Annual Reports

ScotGov: The 'large increase' in the average sentence handed down to those convicted of handling an offensive weapon sends a clear message that Scotland's courts are treating knife crime with the seriousness such crimes demand, Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill has claimed. The increase is revealed in the recently published Criminal Proceedings in Scottish Courts, 2007-08.
The statistics show that the average length of determinate custodial sentences increased by 7% in 2007-08 - and that for those convicted of handling an offensive weapon, the average sentence increased by 35%, making the average sentence longer than 7 months.
CMEC: The Child Support Agency has collected or arranged more than £100m in maintenance in a single month for the first time in its history (March 2009), which marks a fitting end to the CSA's three-year improvement programme. The Agency is now the responsibility of the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission, which is developing an entirely new maintenance scheme to replace the two CSA schemes from 2011.
The Operational Improvement Plan was designed to address urgent issues facing the maintenance system as part of a 2-stage approach to reform.  The second will see more fundamental change with the 'future' maintenance scheme underpinned by new IT systems & improved processes for assessment, collection and enforcement.
HEFCE: The content of submissions made to 2008 Research Assessment Exercise (RAE2008) has been published on the RAE2008 web-site.  These are the submission data that the 67 panels of experts examined to determine the results of the RAE2008.
NAO: The National Audit Office has reported that the Department for Work and Pensions increased recoveries of benefit overpayments from £180m in 2005-06 to £272m in 2007-08 and preliminary results suggest that the Department has achieved its recovery target of £279m for 2008-09.  But recoveries are not keeping pace with the rate of increase in identified overpayments.
The NAO report also found that the Department recovers about £3 for every £1 spent on debt recovery operations, though recoveries in 2007-08 represent only some 15% of the identified debt outstanding by the end of the year.
The Department’s ability to accelerate recovery is restricted by a number of factors, including limitations on the amount which can be deducted weekly from customers’ benefits payments under Social Security legislation, and difficulties in tracing some customers who are no longer on benefits.

General Reports and Other Publications

HEFCE: International differences in the student experience, with a focus on the amount of time devoted to study, show a diversified student landscape, according to a report commissioned by HEFCE.  The study shows that the nature & extent of the way in which students engage with their studies varies considerably.  
These differences occur between individuals, and to some extent between the subjects studied and the kinds of institutions attended. A review of literature and the re-analysis of existing data collected as part of two recent studies informed the report.  
LSNUnderstanding FE mergers is a new report which is based on research undertaken by the Learning and Skills Network (LSN), to examine the factors that drive mergers among colleges, the circumstances in which they happen and the elements that make them work.
CIOB: Research by the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) has shown that construction managers over the age of 60 are the fastest growing age group in the sector.  Responses highlight a fear of many workers entering retirement within a short space of time and the resulting significant loss of skills in the industry.  This would also mean that the industry is losing a valuable teaching resource, as older workers often use their expertise & experience to help develop new entrants.
NAO: A National Audit Office report has found that government has strengthened its drive to purchase more environmentally sustainable goods & services.  In 2005 the government set a target ‘to be recognised by 2009 as one of the leaders in the EU in sustainable procurement’.  However a number of departments are not yet on course to be practising sustainable procurement across their businesses by the end of 2009.

The NAO report, which reviewed actions taken by the Office of Government Commerce (OGC) and 5 of the largest spending departments, found that some have introduced initiatives which are reducing environmental impact and in some cases also saving money.  The OGC is collaborating with departments in the establishment of framework contracts for sustainable products, to drive sustainable outcomes and achieve savings.

HO: The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) has published the first review of the shortage occupation lists for skilled workers coming to the UK from outside the European Economic Area (EEA). In the UK labour market, vacancy levels have fallen and unemployment and redundancies have risen sharply.
The MAC has responded to the current economic climate by suspending quantity surveyors and managers in construction from the shortage occupation lists.
NAO: The Department for Children, Schools and Families has made progress in improving its financial management, with strong commitment at senior management & board level, according to a National Audit Office report.
The Department’s ability to reach a high standard of financial management depends partly on successful working with local authorities, other partner organisations, and the schools themselves.  It does, however, face specific challenges, including the need for better strategic management of its large capital programme and to encourage better financial management in schools.

Its capital expenditure programme will need to be carefully managed given the history of under-spending and the challenge of bringing forward £924m of expenditure from 2010–11 to 2009–10 as part of the Government’s fiscal stimulus.
UKOC: The fourth national Digital Inclusion Conference, NDI09, which took place last week, saw more than 400 delegates come through the doors, more than 600 follow on the live webstream, 6 Ministers report on progress & policy, four workshops whittle down 20 ideas for digi-inc action, a team of 12 social reporters post more than 50 video interviews.

It covered economic & social e-implications and opportunities from learning to health, community to democracy, business practice to individual empowerment.  Meanwhile, frustrations, feedback, ideas and connections – from the conference and beyond - are still being discussed on the new digital engagement blog, where the 20 big ideas from delegates will be refined into a digital manifesto.
LSN: Requirements & processes have been set in place by Lifelong Learning UK (LLUK) and Institute for Learning (IfL) to ensure that every teacher engages in CPD – but is it getting the strategic attention it deserves in every organisation?
Rethinking continuing professional development in further education – eight things you already know about CPD aims to provoke discussion on the issue, question some current shibboleths, identify potential approaches and explore how to make the most out of the new CPD entitlement. 
AC: The Boards of NHS trusts & foundation trusts in England must be more challenging of the information they receive about the running of their hospitals, according to Taking it on Trust, a new study from the Audit Commission (AC), which examines how the Boards assure themselves that internal controls are in place and operating effectively.
While hospitals have processes to guard against risks, the controls & assurances are often poorly defined.  This makes it difficult for boards to be clear that the assurances they receive are sound, which is essential if they are to keep patients safe and achieve their objectives.
The new report follows recent investigations by the Healthcare Commission into Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust and Birmingham Children's Hospital NHS Foundation Trusts, which found failures in governance arrangements.
The AC says there are significant gaps between the processes on paper & the rigour with which they are applied.
There is much guidance in place, but as with the banking crisis in the UK, this report finds that NHS board members need to understand, question & assess risk on an informed and ongoing basis.

Legislation / Legal

WAG: Draft legislation that could give the National Assembly for Wales new powers to create its own environment laws has been presented to Assembly Members (AMs) and Parliament.  If approved, the revised Environment Legislative Competence Order (LCO) will provide the Assembly with legislative competence to make Welsh laws, called Measures, on the Environment in relation to three specific areas: waste, pollution and nuisances.  
OfgemOfgem has welcomed the Competition Appeal Tribunal’s (CAT) decision to uphold Ofgem’s finding that National Grid was in breach of competition law, restricting the development of competition in the domestic gas meter market.

In its decision the CAT has ruled that National Grid should face a £30m financial penalty – although lower than the £41.6 million fine imposed by Ofgem it is the highest penalty for abuse of dominance imposed to date in the UK.  In its judgment the CAT has also upheld Ofgem’s directions which require National Grid to bring these multi-million pound contracts into compliance with competition law.
ScotGov: Scotland's first Marine Bill has been introduced to the Scottish Parliament. Key measures include a new marine planning framework so that increasing use of the seas for energy, fishing, aquaculture, recreation and other purposes is well managed. In addition improved marine nature & historic conservation will safeguard & protect Scotland's unique habitats, wildlife and marine archaeology & wrecks
Scotland's seas generate more than £2.2bn of marine-industry (excluding oil & gas) and provide 50,000 jobs in Scotland.  They support approximately 6,500 species of plants & animals (44,000 if microbial species are included).  Scotland has 18,862 km of coastline (59% of the UK total) and 470,000 km² of seas (60% of total).
GEO: Harriet Harman has published the Equality Bill which will simplify the law which, over the last four decades, has become complex & difficult to navigate.  Nine major pieces of legislation and around 100 other measures will be replaced by a single Act written in plain English intended to make it easier for individuals and employers to understand their legal rights and obligations.  The Bill is expected to come in to force from autumn 2010 – See ‘In the News’ section for more information.

EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.

ScotGov: Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead and Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham were at the world's largest seafood show in Brussels last week to fly the flag for Scottish produce. And while there they announced that 39 companies are to share £2.9m from the European Fisheries Fund (EFF).  Last year's event created £2.83m of new business for Scottish exhibitors with a further £14.25m of potential business identified.
Ministers also used their attendance at this year's European Seafood Exposition to announce a new push to get more consumers in Scotland eating fish, highlighting its value as well as the many health benefits. By encouraging more people to eat their recommended weekly intake of fish, the Scottish Government aims to provide a further boost to the fishing industry.
DfT: Under the new rules - which came into force last week - motorists in England, Scotland & Wales can display the Union flag, Cross of St George, Saltire or Red Dragon of Wales.  The flags can be displayed on the left hand side of the number plate.
Vehicle number plates must comply with the specifications contained in the Road Vehicles (Display of Registration Marks) Regulations 2001.  These Regulations also make provision for the voluntary display of the blue European Flag with ‘GB’ within the circle of stars, which allows motorists to travel within the European Community without the need to display the conventional oval sticker to identify in which member state the vehicle is registered.
BERR: Talks on the EU Working Time Directive have broken down without agreement being reached. The collapse sees the end of the European Parliament's proposal to phase out the opt-out in 3 years.  The UK and other countries have consistently held firm against this proposal.
With the deadline for reaching an agreement rapidly approaching, and the differences between the parties too great, it was agreed there was no value in continuing the negotiations any further. The dossier in its current form will formally fall when the conciliation timetable reaches its conclusion in May.  It will then be for the European Commission to decide how to proceed.
DfT: New measures started to come in to force last week that will make it easier for manufacturers of commercial and special-purpose vehicles to access new European markets. These measures, which already apply to cars, are designed to ensure that all new vehicles across Europe meet the same safety & environmental standards.
Once fully implemented they will enable vehicle manufacturers to sell their products across 27 member states without incurring additional approval costs.  The changes - which cover vans, trucks, minibuses, buses, coaches, trailers, wheelchair-accessible cars and other special-purpose vehicles - are in response to a new European Directive on Whole Vehicle Type Approval Directive (ECWVTA), which will be phased in between 2009 and 2014
Low volume manufactures wishing to sell in the UK only will be required to meet National Small Series Type Approval or Individual Vehicle Approval requirements, rather than ECWVTA.
Defra: Young artists are being offered the chance for their work to appear in every supermarket and greengrocer's in the European Union. The EU is asking all students registered at an art or design college to come up with a new EU-wide organic logo (closing date25 June 2009).
Defra is supporting the EU's call for design students to enter the competition, for which the winner will receive a cash prize of 6,000 Euros. And what's more, the winning logo will appear on the label of all pre-packaged organic food throughout the EU from July 2010.

Charity and Voluntary Sector

BIG: Families from Cornwall & Middlesbrough are set to learn how to grow, harvest & cook their own fruit and vegetables as part of a new lottery–funded initiative by The Eden Project. The project is one of 32 to receive awards from the Big Lottery Fund’s Family Learning programme, which helps parents understand more about how their children learn and encourage adults & children to develop new skills as a family.
Eden, working with a range of partners organisations, has secured £380,248 for the Seeds, Soup and Sarnies (plant, grow, cook, share, eat!) project.  Families taking part will include children, parents & grandparents who will spend time together learning how to container grow fresh produce and swapping cultivation tips.
By the end of the sessions they will have the confidence to plan & create a small garden for vegetables & fruit of their own and will have become more physically active, with improved literacy, numeracy, social and team-building skills.

Business and Other Briefings

NBTN: The National Business Travel network (NBTN), part of the government's ACT on CO2 campaign, is calling on businesses to implement smart travel plans for staff to cut costs and significantly reduce carbon emissions. 
Latest research by NBTN, of employee's who travel to work in Great Britain, reveals that 63% of those surveyed would take up a work travel plan if their organisation offered one. 
The NBTN is a business-to-business network which enables companies to share best practice and promote the rationale for travel plans and Smarter Choices.  Through research & practical case studies, NBTN is developing and demonstrating the strong business case for workplace travel planning.
DIUS: A new online guide to help SMEs access funding for growth & innovation has been launched by the Government. 'The No-Nonsense Guide to Finance for High Growth and Innovative Businesses', will act as a one stop resource for companies which want to know where & how they can access sources of funding available to support innovation.
The guide is intended to bridge the information gap between providers of funding and SMEs to ensure they can find out about & access the full range of funding options available to support innovation.  It includes details on funding from both the private & public sectors.
BERR: Firms suffering from a reduction in credit insurance are now able to purchase up to six months top-up cover as part of the Government's trade credit insurance scheme. Under the scheme, which runs until 31 December 2009, suppliers will be able to purchase Government-backed insurance to either restore cover to the original level or double the amount they are able to obtain from the private sector up to the value of £1m (whichever is the lower).
A maximum of £5bn of top-up cover for trade credit insurance will be available through the scheme, which is part of the Real Help package and will be delivered through the Working Capital Scheme. To apply or for further information companies should contact their trade credit insurer.

Editorial Content Statement

WGPlus would like to make it clear that the commentary & links provided, in respect of any particular item, are published in its capacity as an independent non-government funded organisation and reflect the editorial team’s need to both précis & re‑format the content of news releases. 
Any views expressed are therefore entirely those of the WGPlus editorial team and independent of any sponsor, government organisation or political party.
For the official view of a source organisation, readers should click on the ‘press release’ that is the first link attached to each item.
Speed of download - Readers are reminded that some documents linked to can be large (VL) or even very, very large (VVL) and may take some time to download, even with a broadband link. Readers are encouraged to be patient.
While every care is taken to ensure that all links ’work’ in the newsletter (including checking just before publication), WGPlus cannot guarantee that websites will not make changes that will nullify individual links, especially over a period of time.
WGPlus is not responsible for the content of external websites
Business IT Support by: Trusted IT