In the News
BIG: From little Acorns - A new Big Lottery Fund (BIG) scheme to help 6 rural villages across the UK to regenerate their communities through new business ventures has been launched in partnership with BBC1. The search is also on for six enterprising & visionary individuals to become ‘Village Champions’ and work with the villages to help achieve their ambitions of starting a successful rural business.
BBC1 will be documenting the journey of the 6 villages and their Village Champions for a major prime time series in winter 2010. The BIG scheme aims to fund 3 awards in England and 1 each in Northern Ireland, Scotland & Wales in villages with a population of up to 3,000. Applications close on 14 August 2009.
18 villages will be shortlisted to receive a development grant of up to £10,000 and will choose a ‘Village Champion’ to work with to advance their ideas. In May 2010 6 projects will be awarded Lottery funding of up to £400,000 and their respective Village Champions will move into the villages for a year to help them turn their business idea into a reality.
The Village Champions will be recruited through a nationwide search run by the BBC and Make Your Mark, part of the charity Enterprise Insight. Champions could be anyone with a successful track record in business - banker, baker or builder - as long as they have the drive & charisma to launch a new venture and the desire to live & work in a rural village for a year.
Alongside the series will be a major learning campaign to help other villages use the learning & enthusiasm from the programme to take a step towards starting a new business that will regenerate their own communities.
CQC: Ensuring a high standard of care - The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has launched a consultation (closes on 24 August 2009) on guidance outlining what health & adult social care services will need to do to meet new legally enforceable registration standards.
From April 2010, the regulator will begin to put in place a registration system covering all health & adult social care services in, whether they are public or independent.
The CQC has now released guidance on what services must do to meet the 29 registration requirements set by the government. It focuses on what constitutes a positive outcome for a person receiving care and what services should be doing to achieve that outcome. It will be used to decide whether a service should be registered, whether it should maintain registration and whether further action from CQC is needed.
The CQC wants feedback on whether the guidance appropriately reflects the registration requirements and if it reflects what should rightly be expected of a safe, quality health or adult social care service.
The DH has recently completed a consultation on registration requirements and will take final legislation through Parliament. It is expected that NHS providers will be the first to register under the new system. They will be required to declare their compliance with the registration requirements & guidance in January 2010, with registration by 1 April 2010.
All providers of adult social care services and independent providers of healthcare services will be registered under the new system by 1 October 2010.
Newswire – JRF: Throwing money at it is not the total answer - Approximately 21% of children in are living in poverty, according to a recent report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. Despite earlier progress over the last decade in reducing child poverty – reductions were greater in Scotland than in other UK regions – levels have stalled since 2004/05 and are now fairly similar to the rest of the UK.
The report - Child poverty in Scotland: taking the next steps - discusses progress made to end child poverty in Scotland. It states that the Scottish government could do more to reduce child poverty in Scotland. A wide range of policy measures are recommended to get progress back on track, from increasing the availability of affordable childcare, to encouraging ScotGov to look seriously at defining & paying a living wage.
Specific measures that authors suggest the Scottish government should implement include:
* encouraging employers to create more flexible jobs which allow parents to combine work & care responsibilities
* increasing access to affordable, flexible childcare
* providing in-work support & advice to help parents remain in employment
* giving serious consideration to the concept of a Scottish living wage and what more public sector employers can do to tackle poverty among their employees
However, the authors acknowledge that some measures required to reduce child poverty in are beyond the current devolved powers of the Scottish Government.
OS: Blue Lights cannot afford to get stuck under a bridge - Ordnance Survey has completed a 2-year programme of quality control on its flagship transport dataset: OS MasterMap Integrated Transport Network (ITN) Layer. The programme has seen every road link in Britain checked by an Ordnance Survey data editor to ensure quality levels are maintained consistently across the country.
ITN Layer records the location of the nation’s roads & forms the foundation to many of the market-leading ‘satnavs’ and is relied on by the emergency services for route planning. Maintaining a high level of currency & accuracy is therefore essential.
The programme covered 10,625 'tiles' of mapping and included checking the accuracy of road weight, width & height restrictions – information vital to help avoid misrouting heavy goods vehicles. Routing through local streets was also verified to ensure it was appropriate & safe.
For the first time many utility assets have been connected to the road network, including electrical substations, waterworks & wind turbines, to enable easier and more accurate routing.
BCS: The reality is that we don’t trust the government with our data - BCS, in partnership with the Information Security Awareness Forum (ISAF) has launched the Personal Data Guardianship Code in an effort to change the culture of organisations towards the handling of personal data.
The code follows on the success of the BCS petition objecting to the changes in the Coroners and Justice Bill which would have seen drastic changes to the way in which government departments could have used personal information.
The code identifies the principles & responsibilities of everyone involved in the collection, management & use of personal data, including guidelines outlining:
* the roles & responsibilities of the responsible person
* the roles & responsibilities of the data handler
* an overview of the rights & responsibilities of the data subject
BCS and the ISAF have produced the code in direct response to the number of high profile data breaches in recent years, including several in government offices. It follows sustained activity by BCS on the topic of security and data protection.
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MoD: The Massed Bands of the Royal Marines will perform their spectacular Beating Retreat ceremony on London's Horse Guards from 9-11 June 2009. All 220 musicians from the 5 Royal Marines Bands will be on Parade in celebration of the birthday of His Royal Highness Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh (their Captain-General).
Only performed once every 3 years, the pageant of military music, precision drill and colour dates back to the 16th century and is regarded as a piece of living history. The proceeds from the Beating Retreat will go to Service Charities including Help for Heroes, Seafarers UK and the Royal Navy & Royal Marines Charity.
This year, elements of each Band deployed with 3 Commando Brigade to Afghanistan. The musicians worked with the Commando Logistics Regiment as part of the Medical Squadron; their main duties were as Drivers, driving vehicles such as Battlefield Ambulances, Support Vehicles, Mastiff and Vector.
Newswire – Unite/CPHVA: Unite, which embraces the Community Practitioners’ and Health Visitors’ Association (CPHVA), has rejected the call by a former chairman of the British Medical Association (BMA), Sir Sandy Macara for children under five to be compulsorily immunised with the MMR injections against measles, mumps and rubella.
Cheryll Adams, Unite’s Lead Professional Officer, Strategy & Practice Development said: “… Unite/CPHVA believes that employing more health visitors and community nurses would provide the enhanced coverage necessary by healthcare professionals to explain to parents that MMR is a vital defence against these diseases which can either kill or cause serious disability".
Cheryll Adams said that health visitors believed there was a direct link between the declining MMR take-up rates and the slimming down of the health visiting service by primary cares trusts (PCTs) over the last four years.
HMRC: HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) has issued a reminder to tax credits claimants - make sure you renew your claim by 31 July otherwise your payments could stop. Anyone claiming tax credits should have received a renewal pack by now, containing details of their 2008/09 award.
They need to check this and let HMRC know of any changes in their circumstances, such as their working hours or pay. They will also be asked to provide details of their previous year's income, so HMRC can check they are receiving all the tax credits their entitled to.
OFT: The Motor Codes Ltd Code of Practice for vehicle warranty products has completed Stage One of the OFT Consumer Codes Approval Scheme. Subscribers to the code administer around 2m warranties for cars & motor vehicle products every year. By signing up to this code, they have agreed to raise their standard of customer service above that required by law.
Motor Codes Ltd was established to look after motor industry codes of practice, including ones that had originally been developed & administered by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders Limited (SMMT). Having completed stage one of the OFT's code scheme, it will now carry out comprehensive monitoring including visits to garages and customer satisfaction surveys, to ensure that the Code is working effectively.
WAG: Minister for Social Justice and Local Government, Dr Brian Gibbons, asked people across Wales to ‘Give a Little and Gain a Lot’ during Volunteering Week. There is a huge range of volunteering opportunities on offer across Wales, offering something for everyone. The campaign coincided with the 25th anniversary of Volunteers Week (1 – 7 June 2009) and will be run again in the New Year to help people realise their new year’s resolutions to volunteer.
Whether it is nature conservation, volunteering with a youth group, in a care home or castle, organisations are looking for willing individuals to give something to the community and gain a great deal for themselves. Making it easier for people to find information about volunteering is just one of the ways the Welsh Assembly Government is helping people deal with the impacts of the recession.
NA: From Shakespearean plays written in the 19th century to letters about the social life of Noel Coward: a talk this month on forgeries in the archives explains why people are driven to commit forgery - and how they get caught. In addition, ‘The road to Jamestown’ looks at why English sailors and the crown turned their attention to the New World in the 16th century, and how piracy, greed, religion & warfare became the foundations of attempts to settle America.
Other free talks during June at the National Archives offer a wealth of help & information to people researching their family history, including:
* Tracing your Scottish ancestors
* Using the death duty records
* Sources for Anglican clergymen
* Apprenticeship records
LLUK: The Open University in Scotland has introduced courses & qualifications in working with young people. These courses are specifically relevant to staff & volunteers working in Youth Work and Community Learning Development settings in Scotland. They are designed to develop knowledge & skills needed in this sector.
TfL: Transport for London (TfL) has agreed a new way of working with CCTV maintenance contractor, Tyco Fire and Security (UK) Ltd, which will place greater emphasis on the working performance of the 1,500 cameras used to keep London’s roads free from congestion & incidents and flowing more smoothly.
From 1 July 2009, Tyco will be responsible for ensuring that 98.5% of all system equipment, including CCTV cameras, operator screens and network connections, are all in working order all of the time, or the contractor won’t be paid. This new style of working will encourage the contractor to give their absolute best all of the time, ensuring maintenance of the system is performed regularly & efficiently to avoid any system breakdowns.
The output of TfL’s traffic monitoring CCTV cameras would be most familiar to the public from camera links on TfL’s website – www.tfl.gov.uk/trafficnews - and through ‘JamCam’ updates on London news broadcasts.
CD: A rise in complaints about mobility aids has led Consumer Direct to issue a warning about the sharp practices of some operators selling mobility scooters, bath aids and orthopaedic furniture. CD has received more than 1,500 complaints about mobility aid purchases in the first 4 months of 2009, up 8% on the same period last year. Many complaints related to defective products and customer service issues, while almost a quarter were about sales & business practices, including allegations that traders were making misleading claims.
Callers complained about salespeople engaging in high pressure sales tactics, spending several hours in their homes, and in some cases falsely claiming to be working for Social Services, the DWP, or the NHS.
New laws that came into force in October 2008 in most cases give consumers 7 days to cancel contracts entered into in the home. Other regulations introduced in May 2008 prohibit traders from treating consumers unfairly, misleading them through acts or omissions, or subjecting them to aggressive practices such as high pressure selling techniques. Traders are also required to leave premises when asked.
DFID: The Department for International Development has announced £4.5m of aid to boost trade from Helmand's renovated airfield, which was officially opened last week. USAID, who work with DFID in the Helmand Provincial Reconstruction Team, have turned a gravel airstrip into a tarmac runway capable of taking modern civil aircraft connecting Helmand with the rest of Afghanistan and opening up the province for trade.
Bost Airfield is the only completely civilian airstrip in Southern Afghanistan and is the new gateway to Helmand province. A business centre alongside the airfield will be the focus of food processing so that farmers' produce from the fertile Helmand valley can be prepared for food markets around the country. The new developments will hopefully strengthen counter narcotics work by giving farmers a further incentive to plant legal food crops, rather than illegal poppy.
ScotGov: Coca-Cola's Scottish factory has announced plans to completely stop sending waste to landfill by the end of 2011 - another step towards making Scotland a zero waste society. The plant in East Kilbride, whose products include Coca-Cola, Fanta, Dr Pepper and Sprite, will improve its recycling facilities and work with an external waste contractor to reach the target.
The EU Landfill Directive requires Scotland to reduce to a maximum of 1.32m tonnes, the amount of biodegradable municipal waste sent to landfill by the end of 2010. However, new figures published by SEPA show that target has already been achieved 18 months early, with 1.29m tonnes being landfilled.
PCS: Home Secretary (at the time), Jacqui Smith, has said that she wants to prevent the BNP from targeting Home Office buildings for protests after a strong complaint from the Public and Commercial Services union. In a letter to PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka, Ms Smith says she shares their concern about the use of the Home Office as a ‘backdrop’ for BNP demonstrations.
PCS wrote to the home secretary in April after the BNP held an anti-immigration demo outside Lunar House in Croydon, one of the department’s main immigration enquiry offices. With just hours notice of the event, the union organised a counter demonstration and pointed out that PCS representatives had previously been denied permission to hand out leaflets about members’ pay on the same spot.
MO: Geoengineering solutions to curb global warming may offer advantages in combating temperature rise, but could also significantly damage the earth's eco-systems climate scientists say ,according to the Met Office.
One such proposal is the deliberate brightening of clouds by adding sea-salt particles to increase their reflectivity. Extensive sheets of low-level cloud exist off the coasts of South Africa, South America and the western USA, and by 'seeding' these clouds to reflect more sunlight away from the Earth, global warming could be slowed by up to 25 years.
While there is clearly significant benefit in delaying increased temperatures, the results also reveal the downside to such geoengineering. The most serious is a sharp decrease in rainfall over South America, which would likely accelerate the die-back of the Amazon rainforest and the subsequent loss of one of the world's major carbon stores.
HMRC: Three men have been jailed for a total of 10 years for their part in a plot to supply military equipment to keep Iranian F-14 'Tomcat' fighter jets airborne & combat ready in contravention of an embargo on military exports to Iran. HM Revenue & Customs officers uncovered the plot when they found a consignment of oxygen cylinders at Heathrow Airport which were bound for Tehran. The restricted parts had been sourced in the USA using eBay, thereby avoiding export controls.
Mohsen Akhavan Nik and his son Mohammad Akhavan Nik, who were granted political asylum in the UK having apparently fled from Iran in 1995, together with Nithish Jaitha, breached an arms embargo by acting as middle-men supplying military hardware to Iran, until officers uncovered their network of illegal shipments and fraudulent documents.
Iran's ageing jet fighters, including the F-14 'Tomcat', as featured in the 1980s film 'Top Gun', together with F4 Phantoms, F5 Tigers and Cobra Attack Helicopters can only be kept in service through parts purchased in the USA and then illegally shipped to Iran using fraudulent paperwork and bogus supply routes.
MoD: Ten British WW2 veterans were honoured by the French government last week for their role in liberating France in 1944. The 9 men and 1 woman, who all took part in the D-Day landings, received the Legion d'Honneur in ceremonies marking the 65th anniversary of D-Day. The men were among the first to land on the Normandy beaches on the morning of June 6th 1944, while the female was a nurse who attended to the many wounded on Gold beach.
Nine of the veterans became Knights of the Legion d'Honneur, while the tenth Veteran, who landed on Juno beach on D-Day, received the higher rank of Officer of the Legion d'Honneur from President Sarkozy.
OS: Five companies celebrated success at Ordnance Survey’s recent Partner Conference awards – thanks to their innovative use of geographic information. Leica Geosystems, Mapflow, Garmin, Senergy Econnect and ESRI (UK) all triumphed with awards at a recent ceremony in St Albans, Hertfordshire.
NA: Digital versions of the original Registration District maps from the 1871 census (Catalogue reference RG 18/1-110) are now available to browse & download. The maps are based on the Ordnance Survey 'Old Series', but were hand annotated to show the Registration Districts of England & Wales as they existed then.
Cassini used scanned images of the originals that were then digitally stitched together to create a seamless mosaic of mapping. The maps are free to view online and you can search by postcode, place name, parish and district name. There is a charge to download the maps.
NA: A new project is underway to recapture life as it was during WW2, when American troops and Italian prisoners of war (PoW) were positioned at a camp on the site which is now home to The National Archives. The Kew Society and the Richmond Local History Society are calling on those with memories, records or tales of this fascinating period in Kew's history to come forward and share their knowledge & experiences.
This could well be the last opportunity to recall life as it was in Kew from 1939 to 1945. So if you have memories, knowledge or family records of tales like these at Kew with American GIs or Italian PoWs, please get in touch by email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or call the Richmond Local History Society's David Blomfield on 0208 940 8749.
Policy Statements and Initiatives
ScotGov: Patients in Scotland could be set to benefit from a new simpler, less expensive & quicker system of medical compensation. An expert group has been established to consider the introduction of no-fault compensation north of the border. The group's report should be submitted by October 2010.
At present compensation for medical injuries, through treatment provided by the NHS in Scotland, depends on proving legal responsibility and that there was clinical negligence. International evidence suggests that no-fault compensation reduces the administrative & legal costs of handling claims, is less expensive and quicker in resolving cases. In New Zealand straightforward cases can be resolved within weeks and all cases have to be determined within nine months.
DH: The Department of Health is rolling out a new systems-based approach to improve stop smoking interventions in primary care. This new approach is claimed to have increased referrals to local NHS Stop Smoking services by up to 49% in pilot areas. People who are referred to local NHS Stop Smoking Services are up to 4 times more likely to quit.
The new approach was developed to ensure stop smoking interventions by healthcare professionals are routine & systematic, providing a tailored & consistent approach to patient referral. It will be rolled out to practices over the next few months by trained local NHS Stop Smoking Service advisers who will support its implementation in local primary care settings.
The approach recognises smoking as a key clinical issue requiring treatment or referral to a specialist, joining standard issues such as hypertension or high cholesterol. The system ensures that basic advice on stopping smoking is offered to all smokers, which doubles the likelihood of a quit attempt.
ScotGov: A blueprint to crack down on violence against women in Scotland has been launched by the Scottish Government and COSLA. Safer Lives, Changed Lives - a Shared Approach to Tackling Violence Against Women in Scotland, outlines how the Government, local authorities and key support agencies will work together to tackle all forms of violence against women.
It aims to increase the focus on prevention and considers the best means to support those experiencing violence & abuse, including those more marginalised women and children;
NE: A new project to re-introduce the short-haired bumblebee to Southern England has been announced by Natural England, the Bumblebee Conservation Trust (BBCT), RSPB and Hymettus. It became extinct in England in 2000, but for over a century a small number of the original English population has clung on in New Zealand, having been transported there in the late nineteenth to pollinate crops of red clover.
The bees were shipped aboard the first refrigerated lamb boats, and established small populations the south island of New Zealand, but there they remain unprotected and under threat.
Poul Christensen, Natural England’s Acting Chair, said: “Bumblebees play a key role in maintaining food supplies - we rely on their ability to pollinate crops and we have to do all we can to provide suitable habitat and to sustain the diversity of bee species. This international rescue mission has two aims – to restore habitat in England, thereby giving existing bees a boost; and to bring the short-haired bumblebee home where it can be protected”.
ScotGov: Scotland's leading crime fighting agency (the Serious Organised Crime Taskforce) is to have its staff numbers boosted by more than 25% over the next 2 years as part of a major new drive against serious organised crime. The £4m ScotGov funding package spearheads a raft of initiatives which include:
* providing 80 new posts at SCDEA (includes covert officers, e-crime specialists & financial investigators
* the creation of a Scottish Intelligence and Co-ordination Unit to permanently 'map' organised crime
* provide Scotland's first dedicated expert resources to build the intelligence picture to support complex fraud & human trafficking investigation
* the publication of Scotland's first multi-agency strategy to ensure that law enforcement, businesses, public bodies and communities work together to defeat organised crime
The Taskforce also published details of the ground-breaking 'mapping' initiative which shows that:
* 367 serious organised crime groups involving over 4,000 individuals are operating across the country.
* over half the groups are involved in multiple types of crime, with 90% involved in drug crime
* over half the groups have access to firearms
WAG: The First Minister for Wales, Rhodri Morgan, has welcomed a new report on poverty & social exclusion and outlined the actions to be being taken by the Welsh Assembly Government. The report, funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, highlights the detrimental effects that the recession has had on poverty and in particular levels of unemployment.
SFC: The Scottish Funding Council has published Learning to Work Two - a consultation paper on employability (closes on 10 August 2009). The SFC will be running 3 consultation events in June to invite some early discussion on the questions raised in the consultation paper:
* Thursday 11 June in Dundee
* Monday 15 June in Glasgow
* Friday 26 June in Edinburgh
Defra: A public consultation (closes on 7 August 2009) on guidance aimed at helping organisations to manage & reduce their greenhouse gas (GHGs) emissions has been launched by Defra and DECC. The guidance, published under the requirements of the Climate Change Act 2008, outlines a simple & clear step-by-step process on how an organisation should calculate its own corporate 'carbon footprint’.
This guidance is voluntary but, by 6 April 2012, the government must introduce regulations requiring the mandatory reporting of GHG emissions, or explain why this has not happened. The guidance will be published after the consultation by 1 October 2009
FSA: The Financial Services Authority (FSA) is consulting (closes on 5 September 2009) on additional guidance to ensure that building societies diversifying away from the traditional business model have the risk management systems & skills necessary to operate safely.
Using a combination of existing & new guidance, the FSA expects building societies to re-examine their risk management & business models in the areas of liquidity, wholesale funding & lending to ensure they are aligned.
Societies that demonstrate the necessary risk management systems & skills will have complete flexibility to run their business within the statutory limits set by the Building Societies Act. Those which cannot, the FSA will steer to a simpler business model category and activities they can safely undertake.
CQC: The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has launched a consultation (closes on 24 August 2009) on guidance outlining what health & adult social care services will need to do to meet new legally enforceable registration standards. From April 2010, the regulator will begin to put in place a registration system covering all health & adult social care services in, whether they are public or independent – See ‘In the News’ section for more information.
Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides
DH: Women who are breastfeeding should continue while receiving antiviral treatment or prophylaxis as they are not contraindicated in breastfeeding. In particular mothers should feed on demand. Where possible additional formula should not be used so that the infant receives as much of the maternal antibodies as possible.
If a mother is ill, she should continue breastfeeding and increase feeding frequency. If she becomes too ill to feed then expressing milk may still be possible. It the baby becomes too ill to breastfeed then expressed milk should be used. The risk for swine influenza transmission through breast milk is unknown. However, reports of viraemia with seasonal influenza infection are rare.
NICE: The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has recently issued a guideline to improve the recognition & diagnosis of coeliac disease. Coeliac disease is a condition in which the immune system in a person’s intestine (gut) reacts to a protein called gluten.
The immune reaction makes part of the gut inflamed, which can make it difficult for the person to absorb nutrients from their food. Coeliac disease can cause a wide range of symptoms in the digestive system (such as indigestion, diarrhoea or constipation) and in the rest of the body (such as tiredness, weight loss and bone thinning).
The disease is believed to be present in up to 1 in 100 of the population, although only about 10–15% of people with the condition are clinically diagnosed. Many of the remainder may be well, but many will have chronic problems such as lethargy, or gastrointestinal symptoms - these can result in chronic ill health and often extensive medical investigation without a definite diagnosis.
NICE: The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has recently published its 300th piece of interventional procedures (IP) guidance. Launched in 2002, the IP programme produces recommendations on whether interventional procedures used for diagnosis or treatment are safe enough and work well enough for routine use in the NHS. It does not make recommendations to the NHS about whether or not they should fund procedures.
The first IP guidance NICE produced was uterine artery embolisation for fibroids and the 300th, issued last week, is keyhole treatment of a prolapsed (slipped) lumbar disc by endoscope-guided laser.
WAG: New standards to improve access to diagnosis & treatment of sarcomas have been published by the Welsh Assembly Government. Sarcomas are a rare & diverse group of cancers that can be broadly divided into those of bone and those of soft tissue. When combined sarcomas are the 21st most common cancer type. As a result, a GP may only expect to see one or two patients with this type of cancer throughout their working lifetime.
The standards aim to improve the co-ordination of care with clearly designated diagnostic clinics which should speed up diagnosis. For those patients found to have sarcoma, a rapid onward referral, as part of a clinical pathway, to an appropriate specialist team will ensure prompt treatment by experts in this rare disease. The NHS in Wales must submit plans to the Assembly Government by the end of September on how it will achieve the new standards by June 2012.
ScotGov: Revised standards for hospital cleaning - incorporating the latest technology & modern methods – have been announced. All hospitals across Scotland will adopt the new measures, which will also be used to scrutinise standards when Health Protection Scotland carry out quarterly audits.
The National Cleaning Specification sets out specific cleaning frequencies which boards have to achieve. The specification is linked to the national monitoring tool which ensures boards deliver to these frequencies. Key points in the revised standards, published by Health Facilities Scotland, include:
* Guidance on the use of steam cleaners
* Further awareness of the importance of hand hygiene and health & safety
* A colour coding system to ensure specific clothes, etc. are used for specific areas
Defra: A public consultation (closes on 7 August 2009) on guidance aimed at helping organisations to manage & reduce their greenhouse gas (GHGs) emissions has been launched by Defra and DECC – See ‘Consultations’ section for more information.
ScotGov: The Scottish Government and financial services industry has published the annual report of joint industry advisory board FiSAB. The report claims that Scotland continues to build the conditions necessary for future growth in financial services, while particular sectors - including insurance and fund management - continue to perform well.
General Reports and Other Publications
PCS: A short film set in a record shop run by a racist highlights how racism has no place in today's Britain. Many people have given their time, energy and commitment to this project because they believe that racism & fascism have no place in our society (Video playtime: 1 minute 7 seconds).
The film uses the important & positive links between music and our diverse culture to illustrate an anti-racism message. The film features Dizzee Rascal’s number one hit ‘Dance Wiv Me’ and the artists mentioned in the ‘Racist Records’ shop such as The White Stripes and the James Brown Estate have given their permission and support to the project.
The music fan turns his back on the shop’s proprietor and leaves empty handed – as the shop has nothing to offer him, because racists have no music. The film illustrates the vibrant culture we all enjoy because of our multicultural society which we want to celebrate and defend.
NA: The National Archives has published the final version of a strategy to support the collection & preservation of the heritage of England and Wales. The National Collections Strategy is an initiative to ensure that the records of major sporting and cultural events, of the lives & activities of individuals & communities and of public, private & charitable organisations are kept in the right places, effectively preserved and made easily available.
NAO: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has made good progress in its financial management, aiming to establish itself as one of the best departments in Whitehall in this respect. It has shown strong leadership in raising the profile of good financial management across the Department, according to a report from the National Audit Office. Up to 2007-08, however, the FCO has under-spent consistently against its budget.
The Department has introduced a financial management improvement programme ‘Five Star Finance’, the aim of which is for the department to be a Whitehall leader in financial management. It currently rates itself at 3.5 stars on a 1(low) to 5 (high) scale. The NAO report confirms this as a sound assessment.
ESRC: A fresh approach to public sector leadership is vital if the Scottish Government’s vision of a more successful country is to be realised – especially given challenges such as the current financial situation and a general loss of trust in leaders - according to a new report from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). ‘Leadership in the Public Sector in Scotland’ suggests that current global concerns around leadership are especially sensitive in Scotland following the major financial services companies fall from grace.
The report identifies a trend of ‘celebrity leadership’; in which leaders are credited with having all the answers and are rewarded as a result. This has lead to the uproar around their role which has been seen in institutions such as RBS and the Dunfermline Building Society. In response, says the report, Scotland’s public sector leaders must throw their weight behind collaborative efforts in response to social issues.
NAO: The National Audit Office has reported that Government departments and local health & social care organisations do not have enough information on numbers of adults with autism. They also lack a full understanding & awareness of the condition, limiting their ability to plan & deliver services effectively.
Autism, which includes Asperger syndrome, is a lifelong condition which affects the way in which people interact with the world around them. It is estimated that there are around 400,000 adults with autism in England, many of whom may require specialised support.
Three quarters of local authorities do not have a specific commissioning strategy for adults with autism. In addition, GPs and social care staff have low awareness of autism and how to diagnose it, with 80% of GPs surveyed reporting that they need additional guidance & training in order to identify and treat patients with autism more effectively.
NAO: A National Audit Office report has found that the Post Office Network Change Programme has largely met its targets and complied with the undertakings given by the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform. However, the implementation of some of the new Outreach services, planned for 500 locations where conventional post offices are to be closed, is behind schedule.
By March 2009, 2,383 post offices had been closed in the Programme so far, 98% of the final total of 2,435 now planned. NAO found that the handling of some closures suffered from poor communication, causing resentment among some local customers.
NAO: A report by the National Audit Office has found that the failure of Metronet – a private infrastructure company responsible for the maintenance and upgrade of sections of the London Underground – has led to an estimated direct loss to the taxpayer of between £170m and £410m. The report found that London Underground’s ability to identify risks & effectively manage the contracts was repeatedly ‘hampered by the poor quality of information available from Metronet’.
There has also been an impact on passengers who have not seen all the improvements that were promised in the original timescales, though £4.2bn of maintenance & upgrades were nevertheless delivered by Metronet under the public private partnership contracts.
DfT needs to consider how to reduce future risks to the taxpayer and, with the Mayor of London, how best to ensure effective and efficient delivery of improvements & maintenance of the Underground.
DECC: The UK remains on track to almost double its greenhouse gas reduction obligations under the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, a new report to the United Nations released by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) claims.
As communities across the globe marked United Nations World Environment Day, the report shows that UK greenhouse gas emissions are expected to be about 23% below 1990 levels by 2010 - well in excess of the target of 12.5% set out under the Kyoto agreement.
To help people understand the negotiations at Copenhagen, the Government will soon launch a new website, which will contain information on what it hopes to achieve with a global deal and links to other websites where citizens can sign a number of pledges calling on world Governments to work together to reach agreement.
HA: A new magazine from the Highways Agency is making information & helpful guidelines available to road users who may consider themselves to have a disability. The magazine, called ‘My Way’, aims to help road users stay safe and keep moving.
It contains advice on:
* how to plan for a journey
* where to get useful & up-to-date information about road conditions
* some tips to help road users cope in emergency situations
* special considerations for drivers or passengers with disabilities or hearing impairments
Legislation / Legal
BERR: The Government has warned 18 employment agencies supplying drivers to businesses in the West Midlands for failing to comply with the law (a total of 80 times between them). The warnings follow intelligence-led investigations by the Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate, in collaboration with the Gangmasters Licensing Authority.
These offences included:
* failing to confirm the identity of drivers
* not checking health and safety risks with hirers
* failing to issue terms and conditions
* not providing written agreements on pay
Inspectors will be conducting further visits in the coming months to follow up on intelligence received during the investigations. They are considering further action in a number of cases.
EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.
Ofgem: Energy regulators in North-West Europe have welcomed the successful conclusion of a voluntary project to increase the transparency of gas networks. Increasing the availability of information on transmission capacity & gas flows across networks in Belgium, Germany and other key transit routes in Europe is crucial to developing a more open & competitive European energy market.
The transparency project is being co-ordinated by Britain’s energy regulator, Ofgem and it is part of a wider regional initiative for north-west Europe, led by the Dutch Office of Energy Regulation.
The participating transmission system operators (TSOs) report that they are now 90% compliant with the project’s seven agreed deliverables compared to 50% compliance reported at the start of the project. 10 out of 17 gas transmission companies (TSOs) participating in the project now publish all the required data and firm commitments have been made by 7 TSOs to publish the outstanding 10% before the end of 2009.
Charity and Voluntary Sector
BIG: A NEW Big Lottery Fund (BIG) scheme to help 6 rural villages across the UK to regenerate their communities through new business ventures has been launched in partnership with BBC1. The search is also on for six enterprising & visionary individuals to become ‘Village Champions’ and work with the villages to help achieve their ambitions of starting a successful rural business – See ‘In the News’ section for more information.
Business and Other Briefings
FSA: The publication in the US of the results of bank stress tests has provoked considerable interest in the use of stress testing by authorities in other countries, in particular in Europe. Stress testing can & has been used in a variety of different ways and the appropriate degree of disclosure varies according to the purposes of the tests.
The UK authorities have not applied stress testing in the same way as in the US – a single exercise covering simultaneously the top 19 banks which account for two thirds of the assets of the US banking system. Instead, over the last 8 months since the intensification of the financial crisis, the Financial Services Authority (FSA) has:
* Greatly increased the use of stress tests as an integral element of their ongoing supervisory approach
* Begun the process of embedding this revised approach in their intensive supervisory regime
* Used stress tests to inform policy decisions such as access to the Credit Guarantee Scheme (CGS) and the Asset Protection Scheme (APS) working closely with the other Tripartite authorities
The current stress scenario models a recession more severe & more prolonged than those which the UK suffered in the 1980s & 1990s and therefore more severe than any other since WWII. It assumes a peak-to-trough fall in GDP of over 6%, with growth not returning until 2011 and only returning to trend growth rate in 2012.
It models the impact of unemployment rising to just over 12% and, crucially, the impact of a 50% peak-to-trough fall in house prices and a 60% peak-to-trough fall in commercial property prices.
FSA: The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has proposed to extend the current disclosure regime for significant net short positions in the stocks of UK financial sector companies, due to expire on 30 June 2009. Extending the regime will continue to help reduce the potential for abusive behaviour & disorderly markets. The FSA expects that, in the longer term, the requirements will be replaced by a broader short selling regime for all UK stocks.
As is the case at present, disclosures will only need to be made if a net short position exceeds 0.25% of a company’s issued shared capital or increases by 0.1% bands above that (e.g. net short position reaches 0.35%. 0.45% and so on).
FSA: The Financial Services Authority (FSA) is consulting (closes on 5 September 2009) on additional guidance to ensure that building societies diversifying away from the traditional business model have the risk management systems & skills necessary to operate safely – See ‘Consultations’ section for more information.
LSN: The Learning and Skills Network is running a series of 3 national briefing & training events (8, 14, 16 July 2009), covering Functional Skills Support which will be a fundamental part of the education & training landscape from 2010 onwards. There will be a range of presentations, workshops & contributions from across the pre- and post-16 sector.
The events will:
* provide information & updates on functional skills and the functional skills pilot
* include workshops introducing the functional skills standards
* provide an update on assessment, including information on the assessment models currently being piloted
* provide guidance & support to centres planning future CPD
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