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In the News

FDA‘Serving the public’ should mean serving them first and not oneself -  In his speech to the FDA's annual conference on 14 May, Jonathan Baume, General Secretary of the FDA – the union for senior managers and professionals in public service – called for the renewal of Lord Nolan's Seven Principles of Public Life, saying:

"Democracy in Britain is reaching a point of crisis. The greed of many MPs, including Ministers, is little short of corruption. Had they been civil servants, they would have been sacked. Too many politicians have broken the bond of trust with the taxpayer, and they will find it hard to repair………….

The government has spent a decade drawing up regulations to govern as much as possible of professional and personal activity.  Yet, although it is unfashionable to say this, what we actually need is not more regulation or new rules - but to return to a concept of what is right and wrong."
Press release ~ Jonathan Baume ADC speech 2009 ~ FDA ~ Lord Nolan's Seven Principles of Public Life ~ Committee on Standards in Public Life ~ Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards

CDNeither ‘Cheap’ nor ‘Cheerful’ - As the sun comes out, so do the rogue traders, warns Consumer DirectBetween April & September 2009, Consumer Direct, the OFT's advice service, received 2,384 complaints about cold callers offering home maintenance services, 15% higher than during the autumn and winter months.  

The top complaints were about contractors offering tarmacing and paving services (25%), roofing repairs (20%) and insulation work (11%). Putting right sub-standard work can also be costly.  Recent research by Lloyds TSB Insurance found that the cost for correcting botched home improvement work averaged £460.

New consumer protection regulations which came into force in October 2008 require all doorstep traders to provide consumers with a seven day cooling-off period in writing, provided the price is more than £35. Consumers who request work to start before the cooling off period ends still have the right to cancel, but may be liable to pay reasonable costs for any work done.
Press release ~ Consumer Direct – Home Improvements and Building ~ Trustmark scheme ~ Local Authority Assured Trader Scheme Network ~ Lloyds TSB: Rogue traders on the Rise

OFTWhy do we believe we can have won a competition we never entered? - The psychological reasons consumers may fall victim to mass marketed scams have been revealed in research undertaken by the University of Exeter for the Office of Fair Trading. It provides a valuable insight into why consumers fall victim to scams, as well as the psychological techniques used by scammers to con the UK public out of an estimated £3.5bn every year.

The research also found that many scams use a range of highly persuasive techniques.  A common tactic is to seek to exploit basic human emotions such as excitement or fear to provoke a spontaneous 'gut reaction' to the scam offer.  Such scams also abuse people's trust of authority by making a scam look like a legitimate offer from a reputable business or official institution.

The research findings will help to inform the joint OFT and Serious Organised Crime Agency's National Strategy for tackling mass marketed fraud, in particular in developing more effective consumer awareness campaigns to help consumers recognise & resist scams.
Press release ~ The psychology of scams: Provoking and committing errors of judgement ~ National Fraud Strategy ~ OFT – Scams Awareness ~ National Fraud Strategic Authority (NFSA) ~ Report a scam

DefraFor Peat’s Sake - Environment Secretary Hilary Benn has urged garden centres & retailers to make it clear if compost they sell contains peat and to highlight the damage its use does to wildlife & the environment. Peat bogs are an important store of carbon emissions, but peat dug up in Britain for garden compost releases almost half a million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year - the equivalent of 100,000 cars on the road.  Defra commissioned reports on peat & the greenhouse gas emissions from growing media are due in the summer.

Amateur gardeners account for almost 69% of all peat used in the UK - mainly in the form of 'Multi-purpose Compost' and 'Grow Bags'. The Government target for 40% of the growing media market to be peat free by 2005 was met (with 47% peat-free) and a follow-up target was set for 90% of the growing media market peat free by 2010.
Press release ~ Monitoring of peat and alternative products for growing media and soil improvers in the UK 2007 ~ Growing Media Initiative ~ Guidance on environmental claims on growing media ~ Kew – Gardening without Peat ~ RHS – Peat free growing media

BSBid lower or you won’t win the contract - A series of eAuctions (sponsored by Buying Solutions) have enabled public sector organisations to make 13% to 29% savings across a range of products & services, including mobile solutions, IT hardware and furniture.

An eAuction, which is effectively an electronic reverse auction, is a Further Competition tool available under Buying Solutions' framework agreements, which can be utilised to ensure minimum procurement overheads for maximum savings return.

Suppliers take part & compete against each other to place increasingly lower bids representing the amount they would be prepared to accept in payment for the contract.  This is how 'reverse' auctions differ from traditional auctions in which buyers compete with one another on how much they are prepared to pay.
Press release ~ Government's Operational Efficiency Programme ~ BS - eAuctions

Industry NewsThe way to Best Value Procurement is through e-Auctions - In the current economic climate eAuctions offer procurers the ability to secure better contract terms & prices for the commodities they procure, whilst enabling the supplier to compete for business in a more transparent manner, where they can make judgment calls based on their actual ability to supply.  This allows Public Sector organisations to gain cashable savings without compromising on quality.

What commodities are suitable for an eAuction?  Any goods or services that can be accurately specified and are of a sufficient value to attract competition are suitable for an eAuction.

What are the possible cost savings?  Due North have effectively carried out & fully managed a number of successful eAuctions which have generated cost savings, for example, of 4% for School/Social Care Transport, 13% for Agency Staff, 30% for Telecoms and up to 50% for Water Dispensers

Due North’s ProAuction software provides you with a platform that facilitates real time negotiations with your suppliers.  It can be adopted as a standalone module or fully integrated with the ProContract e-sourcing & contract management suite.  Due to the intuitive nature of the software any organisation can, with ease, set up & run their own auctions, or where preferred, opt to select the fully managed service Due North offer, including set up & execution of the auction on your behalf.

Click here to find out more about how eAuctions can be easily integrated with your current procurement process and to receive your free copy of Due North's eAuctions Uncovered Guide.

Forthcoming EventThe Gartner SOA & Application Development Summit 2009 - Service-oriented architecture (SOA)will provide future benefits in your business and IT function, but investment spending comes first.  There are methods to reduce the early investment in SOA without sacrificing its potential.  Gartner can show you ways to minimize the near-term cost of SOA projects without jeopardizing the long-term success of your SOA strategy.

The Summit will help you understand the practical steps you must take today to secure the success of your SOA and related technology initiatives - middleware, application integration, BPM, BAM, governance technology, application platforms, application development tools, data integration, MDM, multi-enterprise B2B tools & services, Web 2.0, cloud and others.

The Gartner SOA & Application Development and Integration Summit is the one event that gives you the complete - and richest - view of SOA, Application Development, Application Integration and emerging trends available.  Come and get your SOA Health Check.
Click here to find out more and to register.

For other Industry News please click HERE

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

General News

WAG: A technically sophisticated ‘intelligent’ washing machine with green credentials designed, developed and hand built in West Wales is creating a major impact - before full production is underway.  The Reason washing machine – which has been 7 years in the development stage - was only launched in March this year when 200 were auctioned on-line (with bids exceeding £2,000) to test the market and raise the profile of the brand.
The Reason washing machine saves energy & resources by sensing exactly how much water and detergent is needed for each wash – whether a towel or king sized duvet. Its green credentials are reinforced by using a water storage tank to stabilise the machine rather than the traditional use of steel or concrete.
The tank has a double purpose – it acts as ballast and stores water for washing.  The stored water warms to the ambient room temperature and can be used with the 15º C new generation detergents without any additional heating.
HA: The Highways Agency, Durham and Cumbria Police are urging drivers to take care on the A66 in the run up to, during and after the Appleby Horse Fair, which this year runs from 4-11 June. The Fair is the largest Horse Fair in Europe and the week-long event attracts in the region of 1,000 to 1,400 caravans & horse drawn vehicles to the area each year and more than 30,000 visitors.
Gypsies & Travellers traditionally begin to arrive from late May, finally settling in Appleby when Fair Hill is opened. Horse drawn vehicles are particularly vulnerable and motorists need to take special care during the fair period.  The message to horse drawn vehicle owners is simple; be safe be seen.
PCS: A ballot for strike action involving PCS members working for the highly profitable defence technology company QinetiQ began last week over the company's decision to freeze pay, which came despite a rise in underlying operating profits from £106m in 2007 to £127m in 2008. The UK part of QinetiQ saw profits rise sharply by 30% in the 6 months till 30th September 2008.
Staff are angry that the company is using the recession as an excuse to freeze their pay whilst senior managers still receive large bonus payments. Last year chief executive Graham Love received a bonus payment of over £230,000. QinetiQ has attracted controversy since its privatisation which saw senior managers such as, Chief Executive Sir John Chisholm see his personal investment of £0.13m increase to £26m on flotation of the company.
ScotGov: A recent multi-media campaign urging Scots parents to discuss drugs with their children has prompted a near six-fold increase in visits to the 'Know the Score' website and a 41% rise in calls to the helpline.
In the 2006 Scottish Schools Adolescent Lifestyle & Substance Use Survey, 23% of 13 year olds said they had been offered a drug, while 9% said they had used a drug.  53% of 15 year olds said they had been offered a drug and 27% said they had used a drug.
WAG: A total of 38 beaches and 5 Marinas in Wales have been awarded the prestigious European Blue Flag award this year, recognising the highest standards of bathing water quality and beach management.  For the first time, Llanfairfechan in Conwy and Coppet Hall in Pembrokeshire have been awarded the Blue Flag honour.
The number of Blue Flags varies each year depending on natural effects including the weather. Rain affects water quality and added an extra dimension to the challenge of gaining these awards.  
FSCS: Customers of Kaupthing Singer and Friedlander (KSF) and Heritable Bank will shortly receive a letter from the Administrators of both banks, Ernst & Young LLP, asking them to submit a claim in order to qualify for the first dividend distribution which is expected to be paid in or around July 2009.  Customers must submit their claims to the Administrators by the date specified in the letter.
Customers who have already been paid compensation by the FSCS will not be entitled to any dividend payments from the relevant administration as they will have had their claims paid in full and their rights will have been assigned in their entirety to the FSCS.
BERR: Consumer Affairs Minister Gareth Thomas has reminded British pilgrims to know their rights and be wary of dodgy tour operators when booking for Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages. In previous years many pilgrims have been left disappointed & angry by tour operators offering a bad service.
With the average cost of a round-trip at £2,500 the Minister has written to Mosques and community groups to highlight the risk of scam artists and urge them to be vigilant. Since meeting with tour operators and pilgrims' groups last year applications to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) from Hajj tour operators seeking an Air Travel Organiser's Licence (ATOL) have doubled.
MCA‘Tombstoning’ claimed another life when a 17 year old died from his injuries recently after jumping from rocks at South Shields.  The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) want to persuade young people to consider the risks involved and reinforce the message - Don't jump into the unknown!
Outdoor posters & stickers are available for use at danger spots such as promenades, harbours and piers.  The MCA is working in partnership with the RNLI & RoSPA to tackle this growing problem through educational initiatives and working with local authorities who have tombstoning 'blackspots' in their area.
The MCA is a partner in the Sea Vision UK campaign to raise awareness & understanding of the sea and maritime activities.  Sea Vision promotes the importance & economic value of the sector and works to highlight the exciting range of activities and career opportunities available to young people within the UK growing maritime sector
NA: With public health campaigns still an important means of communicating messages to the nation, The National Archives highlights some of the topical public information posters & films from the Second World War and beyond.
The government department responsible for publicity & propaganda during the Second World War was the Ministry of Information.  The Central Office of Information (COI) was established in 1946, following the dissolution of the wartime Ministry of Information.
ESRC: The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) hasannounced significant changes to how it supports postgraduate training in the social sciences.  The new Postgraduate Training Framework will move the ESRC away from a system of providing training through recognised outlets & individual courses and will instead create a national network of institutional level Doctoral Training Centres (DTC) and Doctoral Training Units (DTU) providing the very best training provision.
Key milestones in the implementation of the new framework:
July 2009 - Detailed requirements of application process circulated to HEIs
October 2009 - Workshop for applicants to be held in London
March 2010 - Closing date for submission of DTC and DTU applications
April - July 2010 - Peer review & assessment of DTC/DTU applications
July/August 2010 - Decisions announced in applicants
October 2011 - Students start under the new Framework

HO: All former Gurkhas who have served in the British Army for at least 4 years will now be eligible for settlement in the UK, the Home Secretary has announced in Parliament. Under the new policy, those Gurkhas who retired prior to 1 July 1997 and completed 4 years service can apply to settle in the UK with their spouses and dependent children. Those who retired after 1 July 1997 are already eligible to apply for settlement under the current immigration rules.
The British Army's Brigade of Gurkhas (BG) is currently around 3,800 strong and provides around 3% of the Army's strength and 8% of the Infantry.
FAFellows Associates have highlighted that the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) and Northgate Public Services have signed a new 3-year innovation partnership aimed at promoting & encouraging information exchange between the public and private sectors to deliver positive social care outcomes.

The two organisations at the forefront of the Transforming Social Care agenda will coordinate their activities at a time when the implications of self-directed support have created significant changes for all those who work in adult social care.  Under the terms of the agreement, ADASS and Northgate will work together to provide complementary support including policy exchange, business planning development and website support.  The partnership is set to run until 2011.
PCS: The PCS union has set in train a process that could see the union standing & supporting other candidates in future parliamentary elections.  Delegates at the union’s national conference in Brighton overwhelmingly passed a motion to consult PCS members on whether to support or stand pro-public service trade union candidates in elections.
The decision to take forward the union’s Make Your Vote Campaign comes as anger mounts over MPs expenses, civil and public service cuts and dogmatic privatisation. Following a consultation with members, the union will ballot its 300,000 membership with proposals on standing or supporting candidates in elections after the general election.
NA: The National Archives has announced a study (closes late July 2009) into how archived websites are collected & made available to users.  The study is funded by the Joint Information Systems Committee and will take place in collaboration with the UK Web Archiving Consortium.  

Please contact if you would like to take part in surveys or discussions.  The results will be published on The National Archives and UK Web Archiving Consortium websites in August 2009.
ScotGoveProcurement Scotland (ePS) handled nearly £2.5bn worth of transactions last year, a rise of 45% on 2007.  Public sector procurement in Scotland is worth around £8bn a year. Set up in 2002, ePS is a fully hosted & managed eProcurement service for the Scottish public sector, including central government, local government, further & higher education and the NHS. There are over 100 public bodies currently using ePS and 70,000 suppliers are registered.
The Scottish Government's free advertising portal Public Contracts Scotland is a single source to give suppliers essential information on public sector business opportunities, worth around £8bn a year in Scotland.

Policy Statements and Initiatives

CO: The Minister for the Cabinet Office, Liam Byrne, has announced a new Innovators Council made up of creative thinkers from public services, charities and businesses to help drive public service reform.  The public are being asked to submit their ideas by e-mail, post or online (where they can comment on other ideas).
Two pilot schemes currently being run by the Government show how simple innovative ideas can make a real difference to peoples' lives:
* The Tell Us Once initiative will mean people only have to contact the Government once when their circumstances change - the idea developed from a project that helped people cope with bereavement, where frontline workers discovered how distressing it was to have to contact dozens of agencies when a loved-one died.
* Online Free School Meals is joining up central government with local authorities to cut the time it takes to process an application from 6 weeks to just a few hours, making sure people get the help they need quicker and cutting administration costs too.
WAG: A new Welsh Assembly Government campaign is underway to get people in Wales to cut the number of single use carrier bags.  The bi-lingual campaign – ‘Get Carried Away’ - aims to encourage people to re-use their single use carrier bags and help them remember to take their bags with them when they go shopping.  In February 2009, the Welsh Assembly Government became the first administration in the UK to start work on legislation to end the use of free single use plastic bags.
Alongside radio adverts, there is a website aimed at consumers & retailers.  The first 1,000 people who register with the site will receive a re-usable bag.  Hundreds of people have registered their support for the campaign in the first week, with more coming in each day.
ScotGov: 26 projects across Scotland have been awarded a share of £1.6m under the Scottish Biomass Heat Scheme to install biomass heating systems and district heating systems in small businesses like hotels and offices. In total, the projects will install approximately 7 Megawatts of renewable heat energy.
The news comes as a new round of the Scottish Biomass Heat Scheme opens for applications (closing date for applications 4 September 2009). The scheme is managed in partnership between Scottish Government and Forestry Commission Scotland.  It is targeted at businesses (specifically SMEs) and will also encourage the development of district heating demonstrators from private developers.
WAG: Andrew Davies, Minister for Finance and Public Service Delivery has unveiled details of a £60m investment fund to support the delivery of more effective and efficient public services. The new fund, administered by Value Wales, is intended to support new ways of working in which services can be delivered more effectively & efficiently.
Andrew Davies said: “I am inviting public sector organisations, including local authorities, the NHS, education institutions etc to bring forward their project proposals and to discuss with us how these, with support from the fund, might deliver real benefits in public service delivery.”
ScotGov: Teachers with specialist skills in early childhood education are to be created in Scotland by new courses which begin after the summer. The courses will provide specific training in early education so that graduate teachers can best meet the needs of younger children in nursery and early primary.
The Scottish Government is committing over £150,000 to pilot a postgraduate degree in early education for teachers at the University of Aberdeen and over £60,000 to the University of Stirling to develop a primary teaching degree with an early years specialism.
The Scottish Government has increased nursery entitlement to 475 hours per year for every child with a further increase to 570 hours coming in 2010.
WAG: First Minister Rhodri Morgan has said all parts of Welsh society will have to play their part to fashion a sustainable future and a Wales fit for generations to come.  He made his comments as he launched a major new policy to mainstream the sustainability agenda that will affect every aspect of life in Wales.
The Sustainable Development Scheme sets out a number of targets & actions for WAG to take, including:
*The need to reduce our reliance on carbon based energy by 80 – 90%
*A move towards becoming a zero waste nation & achieving 70% recycling of municipal waste by 2025
* The introduction of a grant scheme to extend the use of ecological foot-printing in Wales
* Investing £190m in public health to improve equity in health
* Giving further support to Sustainable Development education initiatives
* Incorporating sustainability into all tourism promotion & development
DFID: The UK has given an additional £10m to help over 2m people displaced by the fighting in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and North West Frontier Province of Pakistan.  This is in immediate response to an urgent UN Appeal for humanitarian assistance for those fleeing the unrest in Pakistan.
The new commitment brings the UK's contribution to addressing the humanitarian situation in Pakistan to £22m.  The £10mk will be distributed through the UN to aid agencies working in NWFP.  They will provide food, water emergency shelter and other critical humanitarian help to those most in need.


ScotGov: Views are being sought on a range of measures to create a system of crofting 'fit for the 21st century'. Launching a consultation (closes on 12 August 2009) into the draft Crofting Reform Bill, Environment Minister, Roseanna Cunningham, has demanded an end to the 'corrosive effect of absenteeism, neglect and speculation' and the development of a system which allowed crofters to shape their own destiny.
The proposals include:
* New Area Committees of the Crofters Commission to improve transparency, democracy & accountability
* An improved Crofting Register to reduce disputes over boundaries & rights
* Granting standard security over croft tenancies allowing crofters to access financial products
* An occupancy requirement for houses built on land taken out of crofting tenure that will address the damaging effect of speculation on croft land
* Tightening existing requirements on crofters to be resident on, or near the croft, and to work the land

HO:  New controls for a range of substances including GBL have been set out in two public consultations (both closing on 13 August 2009). The aim is to prevent the misuse of GBL, 1,4 BD, BZP and a range of anabolic steroids as part of the Home Office's drug strategy and its commitment to responding to the changing drugs environment and emerging threats to public health.
GBL (gamma-butyrolactone) and its precursor 1,4 BD (1,4-butanediol) have wide legitimate uses as solvents but can be converted into the Class C controlled drug GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyric acid) in the body.  The consultation sets out three options for control and invites industry, commerce and the general public to set out to the Government the potential impacts of the different approaches.
The second consultation sets out the Government's intention to control BZP (1- benzylpiperazine) as a Class C drug.  It also makes clear the Home Office's aim, in line with the advice published last week from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, to control a group of related compounds or substituted piperazines that have the same or very similar harms to BZP.
The consultation also sets out the Government's intention to update the list of steroids currently controlled as Class C drugs by adding a further 24 anabolic steroids and two non-steroidal substances to the class.

Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides

MCA: Double Olympic sailing gold medallist Shirley Robertson is helping the Maritime and Coastguard Agency to save lives this summer by presenting two new sailing safety video podcasts for their website. Her Majesty's Coastguard coordinate up to 3,000 leisure boat incidents per year and sadly 17 sailors lost their lives in 2008.
The new films cover essential topics including preparing the boat before you go, safety afloat, lifejackets, navigation, communications and training.
DH: Practical action to prepare for a potential heatwave is the central theme of the 2009 Heatwave Plan published by the Department of Health.  People are advised to contact their local environmental health officer if they have concerns for themselves or a vulnerable friend, neighbour or relative.  Environmental health workers at local authorities can visit to inspect the condition of a home for hazards to health, including excess heat.
The Heatwave Plan for 2009 has been updated with extra guidance that outlines the benefits of insulating houses to keep them cool during summer months and warm during the winter, while also reducing fuel costs and carbon emissions.  Grants are available to help homeowners who want to install cavity and roof insulation - the plan outlines how to access these.

Annual Reports

CIOB: Results from the Chartered Institute of Building’s (CIOB) third annual skills survey show that the industry is still suffering a skills shortage despite the recession and downturn in construction demand.  77% of respondents believe there is a skills shortage in construction and 78% of those feel that the loss of skills will hinder the industry’s recovery when the economy improves.
Respondents felt that the skills shortage is largely due to companies being unable to afford to employ their workers.  54% of respondents state that their company has had to make redundancies, and 14% expect redundancies to occur.

The results show that only 12% of respondents are aware of their companies recruiting more graduates and only 1% are recruiting the same number of graduates as before, while only 37% are sure their companies are still employing apprentices.
CEOP: 346 children have been safeguarded in the last 3 years, the UK's national centre for tackling the sexual abuse of children - the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre – has claimed. 139 were safeguarded in the last 12 months while over 700 suspected offenders have been arrested since the organisation was launched in April 2006.  334 suspected offenders were arrested in the last year alone.
The figures - published in the organisation's Annual Review for 2008/09 and covering work specifically involving CEOP teams - shows a year-on-year increase as more young children are safeguarded from circumstances of horrific abuse.
DH: NHS Chief Executive David Nicholson launched his third annual report at the annual NHS Chief Executive's Conference, saying that ‘while the NHS had delivered what it said it would over the year, it had to go further and faster to improve the quality of services for patients’.
The NHS has 11% growth in funding over the next 2 years, which will be locked in on recurring basis, but would need to prepare for leaner times after that.  This meant the NHS would need to deliver efficiency savings in the order of £15bn over the three years after 2011.
NE: To mark International Biodiversity Day 2009 last Friday, Natural England has published a major report identifying the potential for a number of non-native animal species to increase in number in England and become invasive.
Non-native species pose one of the biggest threats to England’s natural biodiversity and ecosystems.  Of 161 species evaluated, 84 were categorised as medium to high risk in terms of the likelihood of their becoming invasive and the disruption they could have on our natural environment and native wildlife.
A number of non-native species are already established in England and in many cases - like American mink, Japanese knotweed and Himalayan balsam – they have become invasive and have wiped out native competitors.
By commissioning the report, Natural England is hoping to identify potential problem species, so that early action can be taken to prevent their spread.  The partnership project to eradicate an infestation of rats on Lundy Island – enabling the rare Manx shearwater to raise chicks again - shows what can be done when targeted concerted action is taken.
TfL: The number of people killed and seriously injured (KSI) on London’s roads fell by 7% in 2008, according to Transport for London’s (TfL) annual road casualty statistics.  This means 258 fewer people were killed or seriously injured than in 2007.

In the last year emphasis has been placed on cycle safety and raising awareness of cyclists among other road users.  15,000 special 'fresnal' lenses to improve the visibility of lorry drivers are being issued, and another 5,000 await distribution, and TfL are working with the Metropolitan Police to run cycle safety awareness days for HGV drivers and cyclists.
The TfL’s latest advertising campaign is aimed at encouraging road safety amongst the Capital’s teenagers.  The new ‘Don’t let your friendship die on the road’ theme is based on the insight that friendship is one of the most important things in young people’s lives.  Stark posters show young actors who appear to be lying against a wall, however a second glance reveals them to be actually lying on the road as a result of a road collision.

General Reports and Other Publications

CRC: The Commission for Rural Communities has published a summary of notes from the 3rd Upland Communities inquiry hearing in Alnwick in March 2009. Some of those giving evidence to the Inquiry Panel suggested the uplands hold significant resources that could be tapped to generate energy.  Specific reference was made to six renewable energy projects in the uplands of Northumberland and opportunities offered by wind, biomass and geothermal energy and micro-hydro electricity.
These examples, together with several others are highlighted in a guide ‘Energy for Business: Demonstration Renewable Energy Projects’ published by the Northumberland Renewable Energy Group.
DH: The Government has responded to the independent inquiry into contaminated blood supplies in the 1970s and 1980s. In a Written Ministerial Statement, Public Health Minister Dawn Primarolo set out the Government's response to the Archer Inquiry into individuals infected by HIV and hepatitis C through infected NHS blood and blood products.
The response includes:
* there will be an increase in annual payments to £12,800 for individuals infected with HIV
* further support for the Haemophilia Society of £100,000p.a. for the next 5 years
* a commitment to review the financial relief for individuals affected by hepatitis C in 5 years time
NAO: The National Offender Management Service Executive Agency (NOMS) has obtained good value for money from its expenditure on prison maintenance, the National Audit Office has reported.  In spite of an increasing prisoner population spending has been kept at around £320m in recent years.
The Agency has scope to improve the way it plans major prison maintenance.  Currently, the Agency defers approved maintenance works if funds are no longer available.  Pressures on prisoner population can also delay maintenance work because of the lack of alternative cell spaces.
The Agency should develop long-term plans for maintaining equipment and other assets over their economic life.  It could also use more common & standardised parts, materials, fixtures & fittings, to bring cost savings to maintenance works.
Ofsted: Beginning in November 2008, Ofsted undertook a consultation on the proposals for new inspection arrangements for the further education and skills system.  The evaluation report summarises the responses to Ofsted’s consultation on the proposals for college, work-based learning and ‘nextstep’ inspections from September 2009.
NAO: The National Audit Office has reported that Home Office has made substantial improvements in its financial management since 2006, when the Comptroller & Auditor General disclaimed an opinion on its 2004-05 Resource Accounts.  Further sustained improvement will still be needed over the next few years, so that good financial management becomes ‘business as usual’ across all of the Department’s operations.
However, the strategic management of the Department’s capital programme has not been responsive enough to avoid large underspends, which amounted to £725m over the 5 years to 31 March 2008.  The Department also needs to develop further its understanding of the cost of its activities and the relationship between resource consumption and service outcomes.

Legislation / Legal

BERR: The Government's Postal Services Bill has cleared its third reading in the House of Lords and will now pass to the House of Commons, where it will be debated by MPs in early June
Amendments to the Bill following debate in the Lords include:
* Clarity that the legislation allows an employee share scheme to be created, provided that Royal Mail remains publicly owned
* A new requirement for the Post Office to produce an annual report on the breadth & accessibility of the Post Office network
* The Secretary of State must report to Parliament on any sale of shares in Royal Mail
* A new requirement for Ofcom to report on the cost of fulfilling the universal service obligation (collecting & delivering mail 6 days per week at a uniform price).  Ofcom will also have powers to ensure that the price other postal operators are charged by Royal Mail to access its network, including delivery over the final mile, properly reflect those costs.
ScotGov: Views are being sought on a range of measures to create a system of crofting 'fit for the 21st century'. Launching a consultation (closes on 12 August 2009) into the draft Crofting Reform Bill, Environment Minister, Roseanna Cunningham, has demanded an end to the 'corrosive effect of absenteeism, neglect and speculation' and the development of a system which allowed crofters to shape their own destiny – See ‘Consultations’ section for more information.

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