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

In the News

ScotGov:  Will we be singing ‘Auld Lang Syne’ for the Union? - The National Conversation on Scotland's constitutional future was intensified recently with a pledge by Scottish Ministers to publish a White Paper on independence on St Andrews Day (30 November 2009).  First Minister Alex Salmond said that the views of the public will inform the content of the White Paper, through a series of public consultation events & position papers for discussion.

The document will be the conclusion of the process set out when the Scottish Government published its National Conversation previous White paper in August 2007, and will form the basis of the case for independence which Ministers plan to put to the people of Scotland in a referendum in 2010 – See also ‘Policy Statements and Initiatives’ section for more on Calman Review.
Newswire – Alzheimers SocietyNot ready or trained enough to care - The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Dementia (APPG) has published the findings of its inquiry into the dementia care skills of care home staff and staff supporting people with dementia in their own homes.  The Group launched this inquiry to build a clearer picture of the current state of the social care workforce and its readiness to deliver personalised care to people with dementia.
The parliamentarians concluded that levels of dementia care training are low and that, as a whole, the social care workforce is not currently ready to provide high quality dementia care.   MPs and Peers heard that one third of care homes with dedicated dementia provision report having no specific dementia training for staff.

In response to these concerning findings, which can be read here, the Group sets out 7 recommendations to transform dementia care and overcome barriers to workforce development.  The APPG have called on the DH to meet the commitments it made in the National Dementia Strategy to improve dementia training & skills.
ESRCA Bloody Disaster - Other countries could learn from the mistakes made in UK blood policy concludes research awarded by the Economic and Social Research Council’s Michael Young Prize (2010 applications close 31 July 2009).  Carol Grayson’s research supports the message from the World Health Organisation, Red Cross and Red Crescent on World Blood Donor Day (14th June) for 100% of global blood donations to be unpaid contributions.

The award-winning research stresses the importance of an open & safe blood policy for all countries to cut the risk of patients contracting other blood borne infections which scientists conclude is not a question of ‘if’ a new virus emerges but ‘when’.

Carol’s study found that successive governments’ failed to honour the commitment of former Health Minister (Lord) David Owen in the 1970s to achieve self-sufficiency in UK blood products.  Although the UK did not pay its donors, it bought blood products from America that came from virally ‘high-risk’ donors from prisons and from blood collection centres where sick & homeless people often sold their blood. 

These paid donors where more at risk of having HIV and Hepatitis C.  Their blood was manufactured into factor concentrates which were then given to haemophiliacs in the UK as part of their NHS treatment. Haemophiliacs have been hugely affected by the contamination of blood products with 4,700 infected with HIV and/or hepatitis viruses.  Almost 2,000 haemophiliacs have since died or are terminally ill.
COI:  Is e-Government delivering for its clients? - The Central Office of Information (COI) is driving forward a programme of work to assess the value for money of government websites to the taxpayerABCe has been appointed, by COI, as a sole third party to independently validate the figures generated by an audit of government websites, in the largest project of its kind to date. COI will publish comprehensive figures on the cost quality and use of government websites by June 2010.

Recent COI guidance has created a common framework for government departments to measure the cost effectiveness, use and performance of their websites.  All central government departments will be required to provide their usage figures for auditing.  Departments must ensure that every website planned to be open on 1 April 2010 has an audit schedule ending no later than 31 December 2009.

To improve user satisfaction a usability toolkit for departments who are developing new, or refreshing existing government sites, is also now available from COI.  This forms part of a suite of new materials and guidance developed in conjunction with the Cabinet Office and the Power of Information Task Force
Industry NewsAvoid the headlines and keep your pupils data safe cost effectively - Becta have published a Data Handling documnet outlining guidelines for access to & use of data in Education.  Given the complex & variable relationships between education and other public sector organisations there is some confusion about what security measures should be implemented, and by whom.

Becta have also set a deadline of September 2009 to implement security measures, so time is of the essence:
* Find out how to quickly & easily secure your data in line with Becta guidelines
* Download a free whitepaper, solution brochure and case study providing guidance & clarification on IT security and user authentication for Schools, Local Authorities and Grids for Learning.

The case study - Yorkshire & Humber Grid for Learning (YHGfL) - is a regional body consisting of 12 Local Authority members, which, in turn, consist of over 2,000 schools and their partners in learning.  YHGfL provides them with a full suite of value-added services including internet access, VPN, webmail, email domains, anti-virus, content filtering and access to school backend systems.

Crucially, the Grid also provides access to key central government systems & applications which provide the standard tools for education professionals & students which are increasingly becoming a key requirement for parental access.

YHGfL chose CRYPTOCard to provide a complete solution that consists of a suite of applications designed for implementing & operating strong passwords using two-factor authentication and provides everything required for securing remote access, domain and desktop logon or web portal access with two-factor authentication.

“We found the solution CRYPTOCard offers to be 50% less expensive than the competitors.  It protects everything – the network infrastructure and the services infrastructure.  It eliminates having to rely on insecure and difficult to manage static passwords. It also ensures that all access within our network conforms to the latest Government compliance regulations.”: (Andrew Yoward, Head of Support Services, YHGfL).
For other Industry News please click HERE

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

General News

ESRCShould commercial providers of direct-to-consumer genetic tests have to back up their advertising claims and should they be subject to international market controls?  These were among the questions discussed at a major conference on genetics & healthcare last week.
Personal genetic testing is a rapidly growing market, but there is increasing concern among healthcare professionals that the information provided by commercial genetic tests is often hard to interpret, yet may profoundly influence an individual’s lifestyle choices and, ultimately, long term health.
The conference explored whether stricter international market controls would safeguard the interests of consumers and ensure they can make rational & informed choices about taking genetic tests.   The Human Genetics Commission will be consulting on a draft of the principles during the summer.
UKonline: Lord Stephen Carter (Minister for Communications, Technology and Broadcasting) officially announced the appointment of Martha Lane Fox as the Government’s new Champion for Digital Inclusion and the establishment of a Task Force of 10 expert advisors as part of the launch of the Digital Britain report.  
The announcement follows the Digital Britain report’s commitment to do more for the 17m people who are still excluded from digital technology and calls for further action for the 6m who are both digitally & socially excluded.
Equitable Life compensation: Sir John Chadwick has issued a document that sets out:
* his understanding of the Ombudsman’s Findings of injustice that the Government has accepted
* the approach he intends to adopt over the course of his work – specifically to enable him to reach a view about the relative losses suffered by different classes of policyholder, and
* the specific issues he thinks need to be addressed to enable him to provide advice to the Government in relation to the Equitable Life ex-gratia payment scheme
The document is intended to give interested parties an opportunity to comment on Sir John’s proposed approach.  Those wishing to do so should send written comments to the Office of Sir John Chadwick by 17 July 2009.  Sir John has established a website, through which interested parties can keep informed of his work as it progresses and make representations to his Office.
In light of any representations and his further work, he expects to make an interim report to Government later this summer.  This will contain a definitive statement of his approach for determining relative losses and a definitive list of the specific issues he will address.
CWCG: The Commonwealth War Graves Commission is delighted to announce that work to repair damage to the naval war memorial on Plymouth Hoe will take place this week.  The Commission was determined to replace the stolen bronze name plaques in time for Armed Forces Day events, following the huge public outcry which followed the thefts.
The first of the plaques, listing the names of Royal Marines who died during the WW2, was stolen just hours after a Veterans' Day event on 29 June 2008.  Another three plaques were stolen the following night.  Two of the plaques were later sold for scrap, raising just a few hundred pounds, but were recovered.  Two others were damaged beyond repair.  The cost to replace them is over £17,000.
The names of over 23,000 men & women are recorded on the memorial; of these some 7,000 died during the WW1 and 16,000 during the WW2.  All were buried or lost at sea or were otherwise denied, by the fortunes of war, a known and honoured grave.
BSBuying Solutions has launched a new collaborative Project Management and Full Design Team Services framework agreement, which could save users more than £70m on the £10bn p.a. that the public sector spends on accommodation, office refurbishments and renovation projects.
The new arrangements have been developed between Buying Solutions and Improvement and Efficiency South East (IESE), and will provide a one-stop-shop solution for major projects or programmes of work. It provides customers with access to a project management & full design team service to take projects through the RIBA Plan of Work Stages and OGC Gateway Review Process when delivering new build schemes, regeneration and major works programmes.
As well as delivering against the Operational Efficiency Programme, the new arrangements also support & embed the Office of Government Commerce’s Construction Policy on High Performing Property, which is expected to achieve £1.5bn in savings by 2013.
CQC: The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has urged NHS trusts to do more to comply with essential standards or risk strict conditions being placed on their licence to operate in the future.  The regulator will introduce a new registration system from April 2010, meaning all health & adult social care providers, including NHS trusts, must meet new government standards to be allowed to function.

The CQC also recently published information on what the NHS thinks of its compliance against the existing standards. The regulator is concerned that only half of trusts said they met all current standards and that there was significant variation between regions.  CQC said compliance with the core standards will be used a key indicator of whether a trust meets the new registration requirements.

In October 2009, information on compliance with the core standards will be considered alongside data about whether trusts are meeting government targets.  The Commission will then give a rating for the quality of services at each trust.  This year, for the first time, primary care trusts will be given 2 ratings:
* one for the quality of services they provide
* one for the services they commission
LDA: The London Development Agency's (LDA) 2012 London Cultural Skills Fund is offering £1.2m worth of support for strong community-based skills, training & employment support projects aimed at ensuring Londoners can participate in the Cultural Olympiad and other arts related activities in the run up to 2012.
The fund, managed by the Arts Council England, is split into three bidding rounds, with the final round of bidding - offering £500,000 worth of grants – now open.  Organisations must register their interest and complete pre-eligibility checks on the CompeteFor website by 3 July, 2009.
COI: The British Army Recruiting Group is expanding its commitment to digital marketing following the success of its Start Thinking Soldier campaign. To support this work it is seeking a new digital agency, via the Central Office of Information (COI).  
The agency will be expected to work alongside Publicis Modem, the architects of the current campaign, who will retain responsibility for the creative digital element of Army Recruitment marketing. The overall aim of the Army Recruitment Marketing Strategy is to inspire & raise awareness of Army careers, guiding and motivating sufficient young people through the recruitment process.
HA: New road signs to let drivers know where they are if they break down or want to report a problem on the motorway have been installed by the Highways Agency in parts of north Lancashire and Cumbria.  The programme should be completed by autumn 2009 with signs along the rest of the M6 in Cumbria, between junctions 37 and 45 north of Carlisle up to the border with Scotland.
The large yellow-lettering-on-blue-background signs include information which helps the Highways Agency’s Traffic Officer Service and emergency services to pinpoint where people are when they call their control rooms or a recovery service.  Lettering & numbering on the signs tell motorway users which motorway they are driving on, the direction they are travelling in and exactly where they are on the motorway. 

Policy Statements and Initiatives

ScotGov: The Calman Commission which has been examining the experience of 10 years of Scottish devolution has published its final report. Constitution Minister Michael Russell responded: "The Scottish Government welcome any proposals for additional responsibilities for the Scottish Parliament and Government - as part of the overall powers that Scotland needs as an independent nation. And we support a number of the Calman Commission's specific recommendations - such as devolving responsibility for air weapons, drink-drive limits, and indeed the running of Scottish Parliament elections - while rejecting any suggestion of transferring any powers back to Westminster…………
Scotland needs full fiscal autonomy, allowing this country to raise all the money it spends and take the big economic decisions.  That is the best and simplest solution - anything else risks being a messy fudge.  Borrowing powers for Scotland are to be welcomed, although the Calman proposals are too limited. ………………
In particular, the failure to recommend giving Scotland any control over its own oil and gas resources is extremely disappointing.  It runs entirely counter to the findings of the Calman Commission's own expert group, which said that Scotland was entitled to a 90% share ……… worth around £30bn over the next 5 years, at a time when the UK Government is planning to cut £500m a year from Scotland's budget”.
ScotGov: The Scottish Government is to double the number of Modern Apprenticeships in the hospitality sector by opening the apprenticeship to all ages of applicants. This follows an announcement earlier in 2009 to make all-age support available for the Professional Cookery Framework and provides increased skills support for the Tourism and Hospitality Sector across Scotland.
The decision to open the scheme to adults is part of ScotAction - the Scottish Government's skills support package to help support Scotland's economy out of recession and back to economic growth.
WAG: An expert group has been set up to review pharmacy services across Wales as part of the Welsh Assembly Government’s commitment to develop community pharmacy services and pharmacy-based drop-in centres.
The Task & Finish Group will look at all aspects of the current Community Pharmacy contract and how community pharmacists can play a greater role in delivering high quality healthcare to Welsh patients.  It will also look at the provision of enhanced services from community pharmacies, with a view to standardising the availability & specifications of those services across Local Health Board areas.
In addition, the Group will focus on how to reduce the amount of medication wasted each year in Wales and will be looking specifically at chronic conditions management and admission & discharge to and from hospital. The T&F group is due to submit a draft report to the National Advisory Board in July 2009, with a final report expected by November 2009.
HEFCE: Further details have been announced for the £20m national programme starting summer 2009 that aims to increase the number of students graduating from science, technology, engineering & mathematics (STEM) courses.  The programme also aims to make a significant contribution to meeting the skills needs of local economies.
Using £20 million from HEFCE, with a further £1 million from HEFCW, and running for three years, the National Higher Education STEM programme will be hosted by the University of Birmingham. Resources will be channelled through six regional centres led by higher education institutions (HEIs) in the Midlands, North East, North West, South East, South West and Wales.
The programme will build on the activity, experience and expertise developed within 4 pilot projects: Chemistry for our Future, Stimulating Physics, the London Engineering Project and More Maths Grads.
ScotGov: New research to keep Scotland on track to meet ambitious renewables targets without damaging its unique marine environment will get under way this year. Marine Scotland has announced 3 projects looking at the potential impact of marine renewables on Scotland's biodiversity:
* A review of the potential impacts of renewable energy on Scotland's marine environment
* Estimates of collision risk of harbour porpoises & marine renewable devices at sites of high tidal stream energy
* The use of acoustic devices to warn marine mammals of tidal-stream energy renewable devices
ScotGov: A massive increase in clean, green energy and full take up of electric & alternative fuel vehicles is needed to drastically cut emissions by 2050 and transform Scotland into a low carbon economy. The measures are part of the Scottish Government's Climate Change Delivery Plan, which sets out a vision to meet the world leading Climate Change Bill target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050.
Four major transformational measures are envisioned:
* Low carbon electricity by 2030, through increased renewables & clean fossil fuels utilising carbon capture and storage technology
* Wholesale adoption of low carbon road vehicles and significant electrification of rail by 2050, with significant progress by 2030
* Low carbon heating by 2050, with significant progress by 2030, through reduced demand, better energy efficiency and a massive increase in renewable and low carbon heating systems;
* Fewer emissions from agricultural businesses, more woodland planting & appropriate protection for Scotland's carbon rich soils
The annual progress report on tackling climate change in Scotland has also been published. The report outlines key achievements in 2008-09 and provides an overview of Scottish, UK and EU level targets.
ScotGov: Scots are being urged to ditch their inhibitions and talk to their partner about sex as part of a drive to cut unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections. The sexual health marketing campaign (which will be launched in July 2009)will be backed by a website providing facts, help & advice - with a light-hearted approach.
The main strand of the marketing campaign will be to encourage people to become more open about sex. There will be two further strands:
* one aimed at encouraging the wider use of long-lasting, reversible contraception
* the other at reducing rates of HIV
WAG: Andrew Davies, Minister for Finance and Public Service Delivery, has been to see how an innovative scheme has helped get long-term unemployed people back to work.  He met employees of Cwm Taf NHS Trust in Merthyr who have secured permanent jobs as a result of a pre-employment course for the long-term economically inactive.
The Trust has developed the course to help meet their continuing demand for hotel services, domestic and catering staff, bank health care assistants and administration posts. Partners such as Job Centre Plus, Remploy, Working Links and other community groups nominate participants for each course.
They attend an ‘Awareness Day’ and then a 10-day workshop with a guaranteed job interview.  Participants are normally in receipt of incapacity benefit, are long term unemployed and have suffered depression or stress related problems.  So far eleven courses have been held with one 160 participants, of whom 100 have gained employment with the Trust and 12 with other organisations.
WAG: The Welsh Assembly Government recently announced that it was going to seek new, more wide ranging powers to modernise social housing in line with its draft National Housing Strategy, Supporting People Strategy and Homelessness plans, as well as its work with partners to implement the Essex Review.  All of these will be complete & published in the autumn 2009.
The new housing Legislative Competence Order will incorporate the aims of the Affordable Housing LCO to preserve social housing stock, which is being withdrawn from Parliament. It will also seek to modernise the system, meet tenants aspirations for home equity ownership and reform the Right to Buy scheme.
ScotGov: By the 2080's summer temperatures in Scotland could increase by more than 3ºC if emissions continue at their present rate, according to projections published last week. Snowfall could also reduce by 60% or more in the mountains, and might stop completely in other parts of Scotland.
These are the key Scottish findings in the new UK Climate Projections 2009 study (UKCP 09) which looks at how the UK climate will change over coming decades. The Scottish Government is currently undertaking the second stage of the consultation process on its adaptation framework which closes on July 20, 2009.
DECC: A concerted programme of action in response to climate change is being pursued across the Government, led by DECC and DEFRA. Starting last week with the publication by DEFRA of the latest UK Climate Projections, Ministers will this summer set out the building blocks of a ‘five point plan’ designed both to reduce emissions at home & abroad and to protect and prepare for the changes that are already inevitable:
* Protecting the public from immediate risk
* Preparing for the future
* Limiting the severity of future climate change through a new international climate agreement
* Building a low carbon UK
* Supporting individuals, communities and businesses to play their part

What happens next:
* Late June – Publication of ‘The Road to Copenhagen
* Summer – International Development White Paper
* Mid July – National Strategy for Climate and Energy
* Throughout July – Public engagement on climate change
ScotGov:   Wide-ranging proposals to dramatically cut the number of deaths on Scotland's roads were announced by Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson when he launched a new 10 year road safety framework for Scotland -Go Safe on Scotland's roads - it's everyone's responsibility.
Scotland will have its own road safety targets with new targets to reduce the number of serious injuries on Scotland's roads by 50% and the number of fatalities by 40% over the next decade. These are only interim targets, leading to an ultimate vision of a future where there are no road fatalities in Scotland.
New proposals for Scotland include:
* action to target young drivers
* a pilot of high tech devices which restrict vehicle speed to ensure speed limits cannot be exceeded
* examining the case for introducing greater restrictions on newly qualified drivers
* encouraging LAs to introduce 20mph zones in all residential areas
The framework also includes calls for changes in legislation - powers currently reserved to Westminster – which come as the Calman Commission recommends that some limited powers over drink-drive and speed limits be transferred to Scotland – See also ‘Policy Statements and Initiatives’ section for more on Calman Review.


ScotGov: A consultation (closes on 4 September 2009) on options to reform outdated wildlife & natural environment laws, some dating back over 200 years, has been unveiled by the Scottish Government. Current legislation contains anomalies & weaknesses which need to be addressed to ensure Scotland has suitable structures in place to manage & sustain its wildlife and the natural environment.
The consultation paper sets out a number of potential areas of reform, including:
* Stronger action to address problems created by invasive non-native species such as Japanese knotweed and the American signal crayfish
* The reform of game laws, some dating back to the 18th century
* More robust & sustainable deer management practices, including raising the standards of those involved in shooting deer
WAG: Proposals (consultation closes on 5 October 2009) to improve people’s sexual health and sexual health services have been unveiled by the Welsh Assembly Government.  The plan also aims to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies, particularly amongst teenage girls, reduce the rates of HIV & sexually transmitted infections and to create a culture that supports open & responsible discussion of sexual health.
The draft working document ‘Sexual Health and Wellbeing Strategy for Wales 2009-2014’, aims to increase awareness of the importance & understanding of sexual health & relationships, improve access to sexual health services, reduce the number of unintended pregnancies, reduce the number of new diagnoses of sexually transmitted infections, HIV and Hepatitis B and improve the health and social care for people living with HIV.
DECCClean coal technology could bring between £2-4bn a year into the UK economy by 2030 and support between 30,000-60,000 in jobs such as engineering, manufacturing & procurement, according to new research. The report - ‘Future Value Of Coal Carbon Abatement Technologies To UK Industry’ - by AEA Group, is published alongside the Government’s consultation (closes on 9 September 2009) document ‘A framework for the development of clean coal’.
The consultation details how the Government proposes to reconcile the need to curb emissions of carbon from future coal fired power stations with the need to maintain a secure diverse energy mix.  Coal currently accounts for 37% (29GW) of the UK’s electricity capacity, generating 31% of the UK’s electricity in 2008.
Defra:   With the risk of coastal erosion & flooding set to increase over the next 100 years, a consultation (closes on 25 September 2009)published by Defra  examines what managing coastal change could look like for individuals, businesses, local infrastructure and the historic & natural environment.  It also sets out ideas on how the Government can best support local communities.
Mr Benn has also launched an £11m Coastal Change Fund, which gives local authorities the opportunity to ‘test-drive’ potential adaptation schemes in partnership with their local communities. Schemes could range from helping restore coastal footpaths or maintain beach access points, to exploring innovative approaches where properties are at risk such as buy & lease back schemes. 
The outcome of the consultation and selected local authority pathfinders will be announced in the autumn.  The pathfinder programme will then run until spring 2011.
IS: The Insolvency Service has launched a consultation (closes on the 7 September 2009) on ‘revising insolvency rules to help businesses facing financial difficulties’. The key proposals include:
* To give absolute priority to new money lent to companies in difficulty.  This would make it more attractive to lend to businesses in this situation, allowing them to access the funding they need to get back on their feet and stay in business.
* Giving large & medium-sized companies breathing space while they seek legally binding Company Voluntary Agreements (CVAs) with their creditors, without first having to place their companies into administration
* To introduce new procedures to allow a court-agreed moratorium of up to 3 months, where the court is satisfied that creditors’ interests are properly safeguarded
NA: The National Archives' online survey June 2009 – NA are seeking your feedback to help with their ongoing website development to improve the online service The National Archives provides. Please take a few minutes to have your say in their customer satisfaction survey. It is completely anonymous and you will not be asked for any contact details.

Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides

DH: The NHS is taking a step closer to ending regional variation in the provision of IVF to couples who are unable to conceive naturally. The number of local health services offering three cycles of IVF treatment has increased by 22 percentage points in the past year, according to a new survey.  Now, 27% of primary care trusts offer three full cycles of treatment – up from just 5% in 2007.

Infertility Network UK, working with the Department of Health, has produced access criteria to help the local NHS provide equal services for fertility patients across the country.  Key points in the new criteria relate to smoking, weight and children from previous relationships.  NICE guidelines recommended an upper body mass index limit of 30 for IVF treatment and that patients shouldn’t smoke.
NICE: The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has published final guidance on the use of lenalidomide for multiple myeloma in people who have received at least one prior therapy. It recommends lenalidomide in combination with dexamethasone as a treatment option for people with multiple myeloma who have received two or more prior therapies.
The cost of the drug beyond 26 cycles (each of 28 days; normally a period of 2 years) will be met by the manufacturer, Celgene.   For those patients who have not received two or more prior therapies, but are currently receiving lenalidomide, the independent Appraisal Committee has recommended they have the option to continue treatment until they and their clinician consider it appropriate to stop.
HEFCE: Government guidance for higher & further education institutions on dealing with swine flu.

Annual Reports

SESport England has published a quarterly update on sports participation in England.  Its Active People survey of 190,000 people is the biggest of its kind, and is used to measure progress against our targets to get people playing & enjoying more sport. The results show sport participation levels in the 12-month rolling period from April 2008 – April 2009.  Headline Active People updates will now be published on a quarterly basis.
ScotGov: The latest Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland (GERS) report is ‘further evidence of the clear benefits of full fiscal autonomy' - according to Finance Secretary John Swinney. Including a geographical share of North Sea revenues, the GERS figures show Scotland with a current budget surplus in each of the last three years from 2005-06.
GERS also estimates Scotland's net fiscal balance - which factors in capital and infrastructure investment for the nation's long term benefit. The Scottish figure of a deficit of 2.7% of GDP reflects a relatively high level of net capital investment in Scotland in 2007-08.
Defra: The Agricultural Wages Board met on 15-17 June 2009 for the 2009 annual pay negotiations. The Board has put forward proposals for the new annual Agricultural Wages Order which will come into force on Thursday 1 October 2009.
Full details of the Board’s proposals can be obtained from the AWB Secretariat, Tel 020 7238 6523. Representations or other comments on the proposals must be lodged with the Secretary to the Board by Monday 20 July.
HEFCEThe Higher Education Funding Council for England has published its updated Strategic Plan for 2006-11, which sets out their strategy for the development of higher education in England to 2011.

General Reports and Other Publications

CRC: The Commission for Rural Communities’ latest State of the Countryside Update looks at some of the data & analysis being used to help inform their inquiry into the future for England's upland communities, which will report in the autumn.
It indicates that many prevailing views about uplands life need challenging.  On one hand a quarter of households in the uplands are living below the poverty line, average hill farming incomes have fallen by as much as 40% and there is a continuing decline in the provision of local services.
On the other hand upland economies demonstrate a diverse range of employment opportunities.  As many as 1 in 4 businesses are run by enterprising sole traders and the uplands in general demonstrate a much more balanced age profile and stable population.
DH: Men are worried that drinking too much alcohol will affect their appearance according to a new survey for the Know Your Limits campaign published recently. Released during Men's Health Week, the statistics show that watching the waistline is no longer only the preserve of women, with 37% of men claiming they would reduce their drinking to cut down on the number of calories they consume.  Only money-saving (44%) is a bigger incentive.
But awareness of the specific health risks is generally worse among men than women.  While most men (73%) were aware of the increased risk of liver disease associated with drinking above the recommended limits:
* 83% didn't know about the link with mouth cancer
* 84% were equally unaware of the risk of throat cancer
* 66% were blind to the increased risk of stroke
HEFCE: There have been widespread improvements in human resources (HR) management in higher education (HE) since 2001, according to an independent study.  HEFCE funding has supported a concerted effort by universities and colleges together with the Universities and Colleges Employers Association.
The study found that £888m of HEFCE funding has helped higher education institutions (HEIs) to modernise & transform their HR functions.  The funding was provided via HEFCE's Rewarding and Developing Staff in Higher Education initiative.
Because HEIs spend more than half their income on staff costs, effective HR management & staff development is crucial when facing potential changes in income caused by the global economic downturn. HEFCE will produce a new workforce framework towards the end of 2009, directed by the HE Workforce Steering Group.
BIS: A report by Baroness Estelle Morris calls for more support for 11.6m who need basic computing skills training in England. It recommends an entitlement for all adults to access free training in basic ICT skills.
The review, which has also informed Stephen Carter’s Digital Britain report, outlines the importance of digital skills to the health & wellbeing of UK citizens as well as the wider economy.  It calls for a more focused strategy to address the skills gap that has been identified.  The Government will consider further how it responds to Estelle Morris’s recommendations as the Digital Britain programme is taken forward.
LSN: The Big Debate 2009Learning and Skills Network’s Big Debate is a unique event in the post-16 education calendar, bringing expert speakers together with practitioners & stakeholders to debate a key issue in a lively and stimulating format. This year, the debate covered the 14-19 Machinery of Government changes, arguably the biggest change for our sector since incorporation.

Chaired by Alan Thomson from the TES, engaging & thought-provoking input from the floor followed, with a wide variety of stakeholders, including head teachers, college governors, local authority leaders, private sector partners, youth agency and practitioner representatives, contributing their thoughts, questions & analysis.
Ofsted: Most Armed Forces’ recruits & trainees feel safe and well-supported in training but a number of areas for improvement remain in the overall quality of welfare & duty of care, according to a report - The quality of welfare and duty of care for recruits and trainees in the Armed Forces - published by Ofsted, the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills.
While there has been satisfactory progress in the last 5 years, the Armed Forces still needs to address a number of issues relating to the recruitment of, and the training done by, new recruits.
ScotGov: A joint report by the Social Work Inspection Agency and HM Inspectorates of Constabulary and of Prisons on the management of serious violent and sexual offenders has been published.
ScotGovStandards in English in schools are improving but not rising fast enough, according to an Ofsted report - ‘English at the crossroads’ – which shows that effective schools have strong direction from leaders who understand the subject’s importance and place it at the centre of their drive for improvement.
At present, the main focus of school improvement is on helping the lowest performing institutions.  There are too few effective systems to identify & share good practice.
NE: Following last week’s publication of the Government’s latest projections for UK climate change, Natural England has highlighted the urgent need to enable the natural environment to adapt to the major changes now being forecast.
Helen Phillips, Natural England’s Chief Executive said: “In the face of the challenges presented by climate change we have to allow natural processes within the environment to function.  We cannot rely on technology or on building our way out of trouble.  The critical services that a healthy environment delivers – like carbon capture, coastal defence, clean water, clean air or healthy, productive soils – must be allowed to operate unimpeded and undamaged to a much greater degree than they have been able to in recent years.”
Natural England has already undertaken a series of wide-ranging studies looking at how different landscapes are likely to change and has started to identify the most appropriate forms of management that will enable wildlife & habitats to adapt and to continue to provide the vital life support services that humans depend on.
The Climate Change Character Area reports published to date focus on four treasured, and very different, English landscapes, the:
* high fells of the Lake District
*woodland and chalk grassland of the Dorset Downs and Cranborne Chase
*varied, farmed landscape of the Shropshire Hills
* low-lying wetlands of the Norfolk Broads

Legislation / Legal

ScotGov: A Bill to update the way the Scottish Parliament deals with legislation has been introduced by the Minister for Parliament Bruce Crawford. It replaces a number of orders made at the time of devolution with new legislation to control:
* how legislation made by the Scottish Parliament is interpreted
* how the Parliament scrutinises subordinate legislation
* how the Parliament deals with the special procedure that applies to orders that are subject to special Parliamentary procedures.
The Interpretation and Legislative Reform (Scotland) Bill also gives Scottish Ministers the power to make certain amendments to legislation to consolidate the legislation.
Defra: Defra has announced measures to modernise the licensing & inspection of the private keeping of dangerous wild animals. Changes to the Dangerous Wild Animals Act include:
* No mandatory requirement for inspection for certain replacement licences, to allow targeting of inspections where there may be concerns.  Local authorities will still be able to make inspections whenever required
* Validity of a licence extended from a maximum of 1 year to 2 years
* Licences will come into force immediately upon being granted
Defra will also publish new guidance for local authorities and wildlife keepers, but it will not to take forward a previous proposal to remove the animal welfare  provisions from the Act. The amendments are expected to come into force from October 2009.
ScotGov: The law will be changed to offer stronger safeguards to people unable to meet mortgage repayments, MSPs were told last week. A Bill will be introduced in the Scottish Parliament in autumn 2009 to build on the protection available through the Mortgage Rights (Scotland) Act 2001 in repossession cases. And legal obligations will be imposed on lenders to show that they have considered every reasonable alternative to repossession.
The move follows recommendations from the independent Repossessions Working Group advising on further help to homeowners facing repossession. Health Secretary, Nicola Sturgeon, also revealed that an additional £250,000 will be granted by the Government to help agencies deliver quality debt advice to clients.
OfgemOfgem and the Department of Energy and Climate Change have unveiled the finalised regime for regulating the undersea networks and other infrastructure that will carry power from offshore wind farms.  The regime opens the gates for new investors to join a £15bn programme that will deliver vital contributions to GB’s drive to meet climate change targets and provide secure energy supplies while bringing value for money to consumers.
The licences to build & operate the offshore networks will be subject to competitive tender, run by Ofgem.  This approach is expected to rein in the costs of providing this crucial infrastructure.  Successful bidders will be able to participate in a long-term, low-risk regulatory regime.  Up to 39 GW of offshore wind capacity is expected to be installed by 2020.  

EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.

WAG: Rural Affairs Minister Elin Jones has announced that the Welsh Assembly Government will not be introducing a National Envelope scheme for farming in Wales.  The National Envelope redirects 10% of the Single Payment allocated to farmers.  This Envelope can be used to protect or enhance the environment or to improve the quality and marketing of agricultural products.
The decision takes account of the comments received following an extensive consultation by WAG on whether to take forward the Envelope provision that was included in the November 2008 agreement under the CAP Health Check process. 
It was felt that the Wales Rural Development Plan already delivers dedicated support to improve the competitiveness of Welsh farming through schemes to support farm produce and marketing skills as well as action that enable farmers to manage their land in a sustainable fashion.

Charity and Voluntary Sector

BIG: A new support network to enable carers of disabled children to take short breaks is among 18 projects receiving funding from the Big Lottery Fund’s Reaching Communities programmeShared Care Network has been awarded £379,128 to set up an England-wide short break carers network, giving families of disabled children a short respite from their caring duties.
The 4-year grant will be used to establish a network of volunteer carers that will step in & look after a child for short periods on a regular basis either in the carer's home, the child's home, or in the community. The project will also establish a national database of short-break carers and a website will be set up where carers can register.
Press release ~ Reaching Communities programme ~ Shared Care Network – The Short Breaks Charity ~ Solace - Leeds based charity ~ Council for Disabled Children ~ Preventing Social Exclusion of Disabled Children and Their Families ~ Family Fund ~ Support groups for parents of disabled children : Directgov

Business and Other Briefings

HMRCRevenue & Customs Brief 34/09
Further to Revenue and Customs Brief 28/09 - The Government has been successful in renewing the UK's derrogation with ECOFIN. The VAT reverse charge for mobile phones and computer chips has now been extended until April 2011.

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