In the News
CQC: Detained but not all cared for to an appropriate standard - The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has set out its main concerns about the care provided to people detained under the Mental Health Act. It is releasing the final biennial report from its predecessor regulator, the Mental Health Act Commission (MHAC), covering the two-year period to 1 April 2009.
The report shows that during its visits to services & meetings with patients, MHAC found examples of people receiving effective treatment in appropriate & safe environments. But it also indicates that there is variation across services.
Publishing a 13 page response alongside the MHAC report, CQC says it is most concerned about:
* safe practice
* the quality of inpatient care & people’s experience of services
* how people’s human rights are protected
Cabinet Office: Bring back Grammar Schools? - Unleashing Aspiration - The Final Report of the Panel on Fair Access to the Professions concludes that without action to address Britain’s ‘closed shop’ mentality, tomorrow’s generation of talented young people will miss out on a new wave of social mobility.
Up to 7m more professionals are likely to be needed in Britain by 2020 as the global economy expands. A new focus is therefore needed, the report says, to unleash aspiration in all children and make social mobility the number one social policy priority for this & future governments.
Over 80 recommendations are in the final report including:
* All young children need dedicated careers support from primary school. ‘Connexions’ is not the right service for this and should be replaced.
* Parents should have the right of redress for schools consistently failing their children and have the right to move children to better schools.
* At the same time the professions should review their recruitment & internship practices and report to Government by 2010 on improvements.
* Universities should offer modular degrees & flexible learning. Student finance should be available for part-time students, as they are for full-time students.
* People needing training should have their own Government funded budget which individuals control through a new ‘Lifelong Skill Account’ worth up to £5,000.
NAO/PCS: Not all staff treated equally! - The Comptroller &Auditor General has qualified the accounts of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) because the EHRC re-engaged, without Treasury authority, 7 former senior employees of the former Commission for Racial Equality who had left that body under a voluntary early severance scheme.
The EHRC faced difficulties from the beginning as, at 1 October 2007, it had a shortfall of 140 staff out of an agreed complement of 525, with particular problems at senior staff level - with only 10 of the agreed complement of 25 directors in place. The severity of the shortfall arose partly because some 180 staff left the legacy commissions under voluntary early severance programmes.
The EHRC had little influence over which legacy Commission staff left under these schemes, and to try & resolve some of its key staffing difficulties it re-engaged without a break in service 7 staff members who had left under the voluntary exit schemes. The Treasury had not authorised in advance the payments to re-engage these staff, and refused to do so retrospectively because it did not consider that the payments represented value for money.
The PCS union have expressed concern over the use of consultants following the publication of the report which highlighted the use of consultants at a cost of £323,708 and comes at the same time as the commission is reorganising its helplines - resulting in the loss of 50 posts and the closure of the Manchester based helpline.
HMRC: Refunds only come in the post - Criminal gangs are targeting taxpayers with thousands of scam emails offering bogus tax refunds. The online attacks, known as ‘phishing’, have peaked during July leading to increased reports of fraud to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC). In the last 12 months HMRC has received over 15,000 reports of fraudulent repayment emails.
The scams tell the recipient they are due a tax refund and ask for bank or credit card details so that the fictitious tax refund can be paid out. HMRC is warning customers about the possible dangers of falling for this scam during this phase of increased attacks on UK residents. All customers who provide their details to the fraudsters run a real risk of their accounts being emptied and credit cards used to their limit.
Lesley Strathie, HMRC Chief Executive said: “We only ever contact customers who are due a refund in writing by post. We never use emails, telephone calls or external companies in these circumstances.
Do not visit the website contained within the email or disclose any personal or payment information. Forward suspicious email to HMRC at email@example.com and then delete it from your computer / mail account".
NE: Doing what comes naturally - In the face of projections suggesting that 90% adults could be overweight or obese by 2050, Natural England has launched its ‘Natural Health Service’ which calls for a step-change in the way that people are given access to green spaces and the ways in which outdoor activity programmes are supported by GPs.
Dr Helen Phillips, Natural England’s Chief Executive, announced the findings of the latest research from the Universities of Bristol and East Anglia which shows that - even after taking account of socioeconomic variations - people living more than 1.25 miles away from a park were less likely to be physically active and 27% more likely to be overweight or obese. The findings reinforce earlier research conducted by Glasgow and St Andrew’s Universities, which found that people who live near to green spaces live longer.
Accompanying the Manifesto launch, the Department of Health joined NE in announcing an expansion of NE’s Walking the Way to Health programme. Health Walks already form an important part of Natural England’s health & access activities, with over 2,000 walks taking place every week and more than 37,000 volunteer walk leaders trained so far.
Industry News: Swine Flu is not the only ‘risk’ the NHS National Services Scotland faces - NHS National Services Scotland is responsible for delivering the best value for public money and when new information security products were sourced (for the 22 Scottish Health Boards) and it selected Lumension® to enforce security policies governing the storage of data on portable storage devices such as laptops, USB sticks & CDs or DVDs.
The final Data Handling Procedures in UK Government report highlighted the need to restrict access to public sector data and to encrypt data held on removable storage devices. Following its publication (and its own investigation into a high profile ‘data loss’), the Scottish Government made £1m available to the Scottish Health Boards to enable them to comply with new data handling standards.
Mark Salveta, NHS National Services Scotland, said; “We needed a solution that would prevent anyone from storing patient data or any other health board information, onto a CD, DVD, USB stick or laptop, without having express permission to do so. Where this method of data transfer was sanctioned, we needed to know that the information was encrypted”.
After reviewing products from ten vendors using a technical rating, cost & the quality of vendor’s service, Lumension Device Control scored the highest and has already been rolled out at NHS Lothian and NHS Grampian, following a product evaluation period and a well planned staff education programme.
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FSA: Heinz is recalling a batch of Heinz Mum’s Own Spaghetti Bolognese baby food due to the possibility of small pieces of plastic being in it, which could be a choking hazard. The Food Standards Agency has issued a Food Alert for Information. No other Heinz products are known to be affected.
NE: Eco-towns must be genuinely sustainable and the standards that are being proposed for them should be part of all urban development Natural England has said in response to the publication, by the Department of Communities and Local Government, of the shortlist of potential eco-town locations and the Planning Policy Statement setting outline standards of sustainability that eco-towns need to reach.
Helen Phillips, Natural England’s Chief Executive, said: “Eco-towns and the policies associated with them cannot be treated as isolated showcases of urban planning – the challenge of greening urban development is a truly national one that cannot be addressed piecemeal. The environmental standards proposed for eco-towns are demanding and rightly so, but similar standards should be set for all new development to ensure that they provide the quantity and quality of green infrastructure that communities and the environment need”.
ScotGov: War veterans are surfing the web to boost job & training opportunities as a result of a Government-backed IT facility. An IT resource centre, the first of its kind in Scotland, has been opened in Whitefoord House in Edinburgh, run by Scottish Veterans' Residences (SVR). It enables veterans to access the internet for job seeking, employment advice, education and training.
Scottish Veterans' Residences is Scotland's oldest ex-Service charity, founded in 1910. Each year it helps some 300 ex-service men and women and their spouses.
Socitm: Entries in the Graham Williamson Challenge, Socitm’s travel award for people starting out on their career in ICT or a related discipline, are now open. The closing date is 31 August 2009 and the winner will be announced at Socitm 2009 in Edinburgh on Tuesday 13 October 2009.
The award was created in 2004 to enable a person at an early stage in their career to undertake a short period of work experience abroad, in order to broaden their understanding and knowledge of ICT & related disciplines in a wider public, or third sector context.
ScotGov: A new state-of-the art refuge for women & children affected by domestic abuse has officially opened its doors in Glasgow. The Refuge is run by Drumchapel Women's Aid, one of 41 local groups affiliated to Scottish Women's Aid.
The £1.8m purpose built facility offers:
* A secret location with the latest security features including digital access fobs and hi-tech security cameras
* Individual flats housing up to 8 women & 16 children at any one time
* A crèche for young children, enabling parents to get back into work if they wish
* A play room for toddlers & young children
* A games room with the latest gadgets & games consoles for older children
* A therapeutic room offering counselling, as well as complementary therapies & massage
* An outside playground, placed discreetly at the back of the building, unseen from the road
* Two flats built to fully meet the needs of wheelchair users
* Help from specialist support services to allow users to find permanent homes
TfL: Londoners & visitors walking through Piccadilly Circus can now get the latest information on their Tube journeys by glancing at the world-famous ‘Coca-Cola’ Piccadilly Sign. Transport for London (TfL) has formed a partnership with Coca-Cola Great Britain to display up-to-the-minute Tube travel information on the iconic digital billboards.
The billboard screen which is run on 100% certified green electricity will display Tube travel updates by running a live ticker alongside a ‘Bus’ & ‘Tube sequence, at the bottom of the ‘Coca-Cola’ Piccadilly Sign. The information will run every 5 minutes from Monday to Friday from 8am to 6pm and is targeted at the 1.1m people who pass through Piccadilly Circus during the course of the week.
This move complements TfL’s extensive range of online Travel Tools which include the TfL website with its travel information status board and free text & email alerts – which are aimed at providing Londoners and visitors with the latest Tube travel information to help them work out the quickest journey from A to B.
BIS: A mobile film studio for disadvantaged young adults, football skills for the homeless and university lectures for older people are among the 18 projects which have won Government funding, kicking off a £20m scheme that will hopefully see creative learning flourish across the country.
The projects are the first ‘Early Bird’ bids to receive funding under the Government’s £20m Transformation Fund to support informal adult learning – learning for pleasure, self-development and community development. The projects will introduce a range of innovative adult learning initiatives and activities for the benefit of a diverse range of communities and individuals.
HO: The Association of Chief Police Officers’ Vehicle Crime Intelligence Service (AVCIS) will use its annual grant, which has been increased from £200,000 to £300,000, to fund its ongoing work identifying emerging trends in vehicle crime, co-ordinating intelligence & best practice, as well as recovering stolen vehicles, with more than £14m worth of stolen vehicles reclaimed since 2006.
Vehicle crime remains historically low, however organised criminals continue to develop new ways of profiting from vehicle crime such as cloning legitimate cars’ identities for stolen vehicles and stealing high performance cars to order & shipping them abroad.
LDA: Londoners are to be given an opportunity to cut their bills and make their homes more energy efficient under a proposal given a £9.5m boost. It will be a joint initiative between the Mayor, the London Development Agency, London Councils and the capital's 33 boroughs, across London in April 2010, following the trial stages taking place in the coming months.
The scheme will include free-of-charge, easy-to-do & innovative measures – from changing to low energy light bulbs, to installing stand-by switches. The aim is that more substantial steps, such as loft & cavity wall insulation, will involve no upfront costs and be free for those on benefits and subsidised for those able to pay.
Over a third of London’s carbon dioxide emissions are generated from homes. 60% of London's housing was built before 1945, compared to 40% nationally, so it is less energy efficient than the UK average, which will allow London to make big savings through easy-to-complete measures.
HEFCE: The HEFCE has issued revised annual grants & funding agreements to universities & colleges for the academic year 2009-10. The agreements are accompanied by grant tables unique to each institution, which incorporate changes since the provisional announcement of grant in March.
These changes include an efficiency saving of £65m, following notification by the then Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills in May that higher education would be required to deliver efficiency savings of £180m as part of the additional efficiencies required in 2010-11 set out in the 2008 Pre-Budget Report – See also item in ‘Consultations’ section.
Newswire – EHRC: A new framework for monitoring progress towards equality & human rights in England, Scotland & Wales has been published. The Equality Measurement Framework (EMF) was developed for the Equality and Human Rights Commission and the Government Equalities Office by a team based at the London School of Economics.
The EMF will provide information for government & public bodies to inform policy, public services and campaigning priorities. It will also be a resource for journalists, voluntary sector groups & academics to find out more about the state of equality and human rights in Britain.
Ofsted: A revised framework for the inspection of the further education & skills sector has been launched by the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted). The framework continues to place a strong focus on learners’ achievements and includes more emphasis on the capacity of providers to make & sustain improvements, so raising expectations for all learners.
Ofwat/CCWater: Ofwat has published draft proposals for the prices water & sewerage companies can charge their customers between 2010 – 15, following the submission of water companies' final business plans in April 2009. Its proposals would see household bills remaining broadly stable until 2015.
The regulator's scrutiny of companies' business plans will see the average household water and sewerage bill reduced by around 4% or £14 to £330 by 2015. This is before inflation is considered. Companies will still be able to invest extensively. Almost £21bn will be pumped into helping maintain & improve services to consumers. Flooding in 2007 highlighted the risk extreme weather conditions pose to water supplies and the proposed investment will see this risk reduced for around 10m people.
The Consumer Council for Water said it was ‘pleased that the regulator, Ofwat, seems to have listened to customers when putting together its draft decisions on water price limits in England and Wales from 2010 to 2015’.
TfL: A green woodpecker sitting in grass and a seagull mid-flight clutching an ice cream are just some of the entries that have scooped top prizes from London Underground (LU) and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) Mind the Bird photography competition.
The competition was launched to encourage Londoners to discover the Capital’s rich & varied bird life and highlight the easy access the Tube can provide to London’s green spaces & wildlife. LU itself is home to 42 bird species that have been recorded on its network while 1,000 plus different species of animals have been spotted along the Tube network.
Prizes for the winners included an annual pass to RSPB reserves, a family pass to the London Transport Museum, and bird-related goodies including books and bird feeders. Images of the winning and shortlisted entrants will be featured on the Mind the Bird section of the TfL website for 4 weeks.
ScotGov: Technology which will help radically reduce fish discards is to be installed on Scottish vessels over the coming weeks. Seven skippers have been selected from a list of volunteers to participate in the pilot that will use CCTV to enhance monitoring, control & observation capability. A similar plan in Denmark has already begun to show hugely successful results in cutting discards.
It's claimed a significant amount of fish that is currently caught could be legally landed but instead is actually discarded. One reason is the mismatch between the quota available for North Sea cod and the increased abundance of the stock, particularly the abundance of marketable fish above the minimum landing size.
In the North Sea 45% of cod caught last year was discarded - according to last month's ICES advice; 50% of West of Scotland haddock "caught in recent years" (ICES wording) is discarded; 94% of the 1-year old North Sea cod that is caught is discarded: and 35% of the North Sea plaice that was caught in 2008 was discarded.
ScotGov: There were 832,565 visits to scotland.org in the year from April 2008 to March 2009 - a 51% increase over the previous 12 months - and an average of over 2,281 visitors a day. While the numbers show a strong interest in Scotland from traditional diaspora centres like the US, Canada and Australia, there is a marked increase in visits from other countries.
Opening the Scottish Diaspora Forum at the Scottish Parliament on Saturday, Minister for External Affairs Michael Russell said that these numbers demonstrate a clear opportunity for all Scots to benefit in the Year of Homecoming.
Policy Statements and Initiatives
WAG: New entrants to farming are set to benefit from a new Welsh Assembly Government scheme providing grants & business support announced by Rural Affairs Minister Elin Jones. The Young Entrants Support Scheme (YESS) aims to encourage & support new entrants, which is a One Wales commitment of the Welsh Assembly Government. YESS will open to applications in 2010.
The assistance package includes the following key elements:
* a one off direct aid grant up to a maximum of £15,000
* access to a dedicated Young Entrants’ Business Enabler service
* access to funded mentoring services from established farmers
DH: A joint Department of Health and Home Office review group has published (internally only) its findings on a review into access to the NHS by foreign nationals, which set out to examine the rules on charging non-UK residents for access to NHS services in England. The government has concluded that there should not be any significant change for either primary or secondary care.
However, the government has now agreed on a number of proposals, which will be consulted on in the autumn, including:
* Asylum seekers whose claim has been refused, but who are being supported because there are recognised barriers to their return home, should be exempt from charges
* Unaccompanied children, including those in local authority care, should be exempt from charges
* UK residents may be absent from the country for up to 6 months in a year before being considered for charges for NHS hospital treatment
* Working with the UK Border Agency to recover money owed to the NHS and exploring options to amend the Immigration Rules so that visitors will normally be refused permission to enter or remain in the UK if they have significant debts to the NHS
* Investigating the longer-term feasibility of introducing health insurance requirements for visitors.
DH: Learning from the failings identified at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, Health Secretary Andy Burnham has announced a package of measures to tackle exceptional failures in Foundation Trusts. As part of that package, the Health Secretary has set up a further, independent, inquiry chaired by Robert Francis QC to hear evidence from patients & families – building on the reports to date and the Independent Clinical Reviews underway - and identify lessons for the future.
Relevant staff at the Trust, including former managers, will be asked to give evidence to the inquiry and the government expect both current & former NHS staff to co-operate. If the Chair considers that it is necessary to have the power to require witnesses to attend, the Secretary of State has the power to convert this into an inquiry under the Inquiries Act 2005.
The other measures in the package include consulting on changes (to be published in the next few days) that will enable Monitor, the foundation trust regulator, to ‘de-authorise’ a foundation trust where the trust is failing to meet the high standards rightly expected of an organisation afforded FT status. These measures help to address concerns arising from the Care Quality Commission’s 3-month stock take report on Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust, also published recently.
HO: A shared strategy for ensuring a safe & secure Olympic Games has been published by the Home Secretary. The 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Safety and Security Strategy sets out how the Government will achieve its aim of a safe & secure Games, in keeping with the Olympic culture & spirit, and confirms that Olympic security will be delivered within the £60m funding envelope.
It will apply to competition venues and other areas directly & significantly affected by the Games as well as the transport routes that will carry a significant proportion of people to the competition venues. The Olympic and Paralympic Games will run from 27 July to 9 September 2012.
There will be 26 Olympic sports in 34 venues and 20 Paralympic sports in 21 venues across London and the UK. Up to 250,000 accredited persons will attend, including around 20,000 press; an estimated 9m tickets are likely to be sold.
Cabinet Office: The Prime Minister has announced the Government’s support for a new scheme designed to get more people volunteering during the recession. The National Talent Bank is part of the Government’s approach to tackling the recession and is designed to ‘share the talent' between the private, public and third sector.
Developed by the Prime Minister's Council on Social Action, The National Talent Bank will act as an intermediary between companies, who are reducing their working hours, frontline volunteering opportunities, and third sector organisations who are best placed to deploy this newly-available talent into effective use in the community.
The scheme will target employers who are releasing employees for a fixed period, reducing the working week, deferring the start dates for new recruits (but still paying them), or retaining staff whose posts have been made redundant.
DfT: The Government has announced a £1.1bn programme of modernisation & investment to ‘help create a 21st century railway, improve passenger journeys, cut carbon emissions and boost the economy’. Work will start immediately and for Liverpool-Manchester will be completed within 4 years and for London-Swansea within 8 years, although stages in between will be completed earlier. It will also mean the first electric main line trains ever running in Wales.
Hybrid diesel/ electric Super Express trains will serve destinations beyond the electrified network. This, and other replacements of diesel by electric trains, will hopefully yield significant savings in train leasing & operating costs, as well as benefiting passengers with more reliable & quieter trains.
The Government will (in the coming months) consider the case for further electrification, particularly in respect of the Midland Main Line (between London, Derby, Nottingham and Sheffield) and routes between Manchester & Preston and Liverpool & Preston. The Government also announced that a new rolling stock deployment plan, taking into account the new electrification, will be published in the autumn.
HO: Details of the next phase of the Tackling Knives Action Programme (TKAP), including a specialist team to help tackle gang related violence, have been unveiled by Home Secretary. Intelligence from the TKAP police forces suggests that while the likelihood of young people being involved in serious violence remains rare, the risks may vary between age groups.
For example younger teenagers are more likely to be affected on the street, particularly in the time after school, whereas older teenagers and people in their early twenties are more likely to be affected when out & about in or outside bars & clubs, particularly on Friday and Saturday nights.
CLG: A £9m Tackling Race Inequality Fund (TRIF) to address discrimination & underachievement has been announced by Communities Secretary John Denham. TRIF projects will give targeted help to disadvantaged groups and all reflect a sense of shared values & fairness.
The projects are split between 21 national & 6 regional organisations, including the Stephen Lawrence Trust, Age Concern, the Race Equality Foundation and Mind. TRIF grants are being given to projects aiming to reduce gaps in outcomes for people from BAME groups in a range of public services and in employment. Particular groups still face specific challenges which prevent them realising their potential at school, at work or in society.
WAG: The Financial Inclusion Strategy for Wales - Taking Everyone into Account - has been launched by Dr Gibbons at Clwyd Coast Credit Union in Rhyl, which is 1 of 18 that will receive a share of the £750,000 available from the all-Wales funding programme. In 2009-10 Clwyd Coast will receive an extra £22,718 to provide core services and employ a manager.
The Strategy sets out how the Welsh Assembly Government will work with other organisations to promote financial inclusion and tackle over-indebtedness. It builds on activity to improve financial literacy in schools, support the credit union movement, widen access to debt advisers and challenge illegal money-lending.
WAG recognises that credit unions play a crucial role in tackling financial exclusion and is committed to providing universal coverage across Wales. European funding has been secured towards an all-Wales programme totalling £750,000 in the current year.
HO: 12 months on from the £100m Youth Crime Action Plan (YCAP), Ed Balls and Alan Johnson are writing to all local authorities in England asking them to expand & accelerate Family Intervention Projects (FIPs) which, in the last year, have challenged & supported over 2,300 families to turn their behaviour around.
The Government is also setting out future plans for turning around Youth Offending Teams (YOTs) where there are serious concerns. The Government is keen to get tough on failing YOTs because they play such a crucial role in preventing & tackling youth crime and anti-social behaviour in their areas. The proposed changes to the law would give the Government powers to intervene in YOTs if an inspection finds serious problems.
DH: Simple measures such as good footcare, sight tests and light exercise can help older people live better, Care Service Minister Phil Hope claimed as he launched the Older People’s Prevention Package, which sets out how preventing health problems before they occur can help older people live better & healthier lives. It is part of the government’s ageing strategy Building a Society for All Ages.
The prevention package is designed to:
* promote best practice around falls prevention & effective fracture management
* introduce measures to improve access to affordable footcare services
* clearly set out health ‘entitlements’ including sight tests, flu vaccination & cancer screening
* summarise existing progress on audiology & telecare services
Additional services will be incorporated into the prevention package over time, including continence care, treatment for depression and arthritis.
DSA: A new online campaign highlighting the benefits of enhanced training for motorcyclists has been launched by the Driving Standards Agency. DSA has set up a dedicated microsite and is using popular social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to promote the Enhanced Rider Scheme (ERS).
ERS is a joint DSA & Motorcycle Industry Association (MIA) road safety initiative, designed to encourage riders, regardless of ability, to continually develop their skills. Under the scheme, riders go through an assessment with a qualified trainer, who can then take them through a tailored training course to improve their skills.
After completing ERS, riders receive the DSA Certificate of Competence – Enhanced Rider Bonus, which qualifies them for a discount from any of the motorcycle insurance companies which endorse the scheme.
ScotGov: The Cabinet Secretary for Education & Lifelong Learning, Fiona Hyslop, visited two projects in Glasgow last week (Action for Children's Youthbuild Project and South West Arts and Music Project (SWAMP) which are helping to improve the employment & life opportunities of young people in their area.
Cabinet Office: The £16.7m Hardship Fund is now open, Minister for the Third Sector Angela Smith has announced. Building on the £42.5m package of measures in the Government’s Real Help for Communities Action Plan, the Fund offers grants between £50,000 & £250,000 to provide support to third sector organisations in England delivering front line services to the most vulnerable & disadvantaged people in society.
The Hardship Fund is available for third sector organisations that are suffering financial hardship that is impacting on their ability to deliver services in health & social care, housing support, education & training, and information, advice & guidance. To apply, organisations must have a turnover of £200k+ p.a.
DH: Secretary of State for Health, Andy Burnham is calling on kids up & down the country to help Swim4Life create a brand new swimming stroke. The national competition to kick off Swim4Life, part of Change4Life, asks youngsters to send their ideas, including a description of how they came up with their new stroke, a picture that inspired it and a suggested name.
Over the next few weeks selected local papers will carry a free Swim4Life poster crammed full of fun facts & swimming games and parents will be able to download free swimming tips & advice for families on getting more active through swimming.
DCMS: New figures show that young people & senior citizens have taken the plunge more than 4.4m times thanks to the Government’s £140m free swimming initiative. More than a thousand local authority pools in England have been offering free swimming to 20m people aged 16 and under, or 60 & over, since April 2009 – with more than 250 councils backing the scheme.
CLG: Coastal communities will get new planning powers to help their local economy & tourist industry. Temporary, cost effective recreation projects such as beach huts, cafes & car-parks that can boost the local economy will be considered by councils in areas at risk of coastal erosion for the first time.
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Under new planning policy, published for consultation (closes on 12 October 2009), all inappropriate residential development such as housing will continue to be banned in areas vulnerable to coastal erosion. But there will no longer be a blanket ban on temporary development that has wider economic benefits, an acceptable coastal use and could be relocated when required.
The Environment Agency is currently mapping coastal erosion rates for the next 100years giving communities a better idea of how the changing coastline will affect them. The erosion information is very closely linked to the Shoreline Management Plans and will be published alongside the SMPs between autumn 2009 & 2011.
CLG/LSN: Reforms being proposed in a consultation (closes on 2 October 2009) by Government in the Strengthening Local Democracy Consultation are intended to result in a strengthening of local democracy by giving citizens a much bigger role in shaping the places in which they live and the public services they use.
A combination of the new measures being proposed, together with recent reforms will mean that councillors, as elected representatives acting on behalf of local people, would have local influence & accountability over more than £100bn of public money a year that is currently spent on key local public services, but sits outside elected councillors’ control.
In addition responsibility for commissioning education & training provision for 16-19 year olds (funding worth £7bn a year) is to be transferred from the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) to local authorities from 2010.
The LSN (Learning and Skills Network) have published a report advising local authorities to be careful with new powers of commissioning post-16 education & training – or risk jeopardising Government plans to keep teenagers in education to the age of 18. ‘The 14-19 shake-up’ report sets out some of the challenges local authorities face from April 2010
CLG: Housing Minister John Healey has unveiled plans for consultation (closes on 27 October 2009) to dismantle the current council housing finance system and replace it with what is claimed to be a ‘clearer, more transparent system that puts councils firmly in control and better able to respond to the needs of local tenants and residents’.
The proposals for a devolved self-financing alternative to the current system is claimed to ‘remove the need to redistribute revenue nationally, whilst continuing to ensure that all councils have sufficient resources. Councils will finance their own business from their own rents & revenues, in exchange for a one-off allocation of housing debt’.
Councils currently provide around 2m rented homes and, alongside, housing associations they provide decent, secure & affordable accommodation for over 8m people.
BIS: As the whole world celebrates the anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landings in 1969, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills is beginning a consultation (closes 14 October 2009) which aims to thrust the UK space sector forward for the next 40 years & beyond.
It will seek views on whether the current organisation which oversees space in the UK, the British National Space Centre (BNSC), is the best funding structure to meet the challenges of the future and deliver the greatest benefit to the country. The BNSC has helped the UK to build a successful sector which is second only to the USA in space science, contributes £6.5bn a year to the UK economy and supports 68,000 jobs.
The consultation is starting on the day the European Space Agency (ESA) ‘lands’ in Harwell, Oxfordshire – opening its first facility in the UK, which will focus on three areas:
* adapting space data & images to create new everyday applications
* climate change modelling that uses space data
* developing technologies such as novel power sources & innovative robotics which could be used to explore the Moon & Mars
DH: Urban allotments, reading groups and computer training for the over 50s are just some of the good practice initiatives featured as part of a new approach to public mental health & well-being, announced for consultation (closes on 15 October 2009) by Care Services Minister Phil Hope. ‘New Horizons’ sets out a new approach to improving well-being for the whole population, aiming to create a powerful alliance that can target the root causes of poor mental health.
One in six of us experience a mental health problem at any one time. Poor mental health is already believed to cost the economy £77bn a year, with the King’s Fund predicting that the cost in terms of GDP will double to over 10% by 2026. The indirect costs of poor mental health include poor educational attainment, unemployment and increased crime & anti-social behaviour.
Defra: Defra Ministers are seeking people’s views (by 19 October 2009) on proposals to release the non-native psyllid Aphalara itadori to help control Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica). This plant has spread across Britain since being introduced as an ornamental plant in the early nineteenth century and costs the country millions of pounds in repairs to buildings, roads and railway lines.
The government is considering an application for a licence to release the psyllid to attack the plant to reduce its vigour, thus reducing the use of chemicals and the costs of control including weedkillers and physical removal. The cost of eradication nationally using conventional methods was estimated at £1.56bn in 2003.
If a licence is issued, it is expected that the psyllid would be released & monitored at a small number of sites initially, followed by wider release in England & Wales. The psyllid has been tested on 87 non-target types of plant including those closely related to Japanese knotweed, as well as ornamental plants and important crops, to determine whether it will feed on other plants. The findings suggest that only a few closely-related non-native knotweeds are potential hosts in Britain.
DfT: A wide ranging consultation (closes on 13 October 2009) has been launched on the hours many van, bus and other professional drivers can work. Drivers’ hours rules set daily driving & duty limits (and in some instances break & rest requirements) in order to improve road safety, promote good working conditions and ensure fair competition between operators.
The consultation published covers the UK domestic drivers' hours rules. As well as van & many bus drivers, these apply to refuse collection & breakdown vehicles and a range of other professional drivers. They do not apply to lorries or buses on longer routes, which come under the scope of European Union drivers’ hours rules.
HEFCE: The HEFCE is consulting (closes on Wednesday 14 October 2009) on proposed efficiency savings in teaching funding. The consultation specifically suggests savings among 'targeted allocations' outside the mainstream teaching grant.
This consultation follows the May 2009 letter to HEFCE from the then Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills, which requested that HEFCE assume the need to make cashable efficiency savings of about £180m across recurrent resources for teaching & research in 2010-11 – See also ‘Revised annual grants & funding agreements to universities and colleges’ item in General News.
ScotGov: Anyone attempting to bribe another individual will face up to 10 years in jail under anti-corruption proposals published by the Scottish Government. Bribing of a foreign public official would also become a separate offence under the plans – See ‘Legislation / Legal’ section for more information.
Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides
WAG: Two new leaflets aimed at supporting young people & parents affected by the global downturn have been launched by Education Minister Jane Hutt. The ‘Supporting Young People and Parents through the Recession’ campaign will provide useful information on all learning & skill opportunities that are available to young people aged between 16 and 18 across Wales.
It will also give information on how parents & guardians who have been affected by the economic climate can access support to help their children through full-time education. The campaign will target young people throughout youth centres and leisure centres during the summer and will promote the message that ‘education and learning works’.
NICE: The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has published final guidance recommending the use of tenofovir disoproxil for the treatment of people with chronic HBeAg-positive or HBeAg-negative hepatitis B in whom antiviral treatment is indicated.
This guidance does not apply to people with chronic hepatitis B who also have hepatitis C, hepatitis D or HIV.
NICE: The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has published guidance on the use of rituximab for the first line treatment of chronic lymphocytic leukaemia. The guidance recommends that rituximab should be considered as a possible first treatment for people with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia who are able to take fludarabine in combination with cyclophosphamide.
Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia is the most common form of adult leukaemia and is a cancer of the white blood cells (lymphocytes). The cancerous lymphocytes multiply in an uncontrolled way and stop normal white blood cells, red blood cells & platelets (blood fragments that have a role in the clotting of blood) from working properly.
NICE: The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has published guidance to help healthcare professionals to identify children who may have been maltreated. The guidance provides a summary of alerting features that should prompt a healthcare professional to consider, suspect or exclude child maltreatment. Child maltreatment includes neglect, physical, sexual & emotional abuse and fabricated or induced illness.
In the 12 months to 31 March 2008 there were 538,500 referrals of children to social services departments (DCSF 2008). The number of referrals only represents those children identified as ‘at risk’ of maltreatment and, as such, is likely to underestimate the number of children being maltreated.
CLG: Housing & Planning Minister John Healey has announced new guidelines for councils & developers to make the most of the nation’s historic assets like Victorian stations or our network of canal sides for imaginative new developments across the country.
This integrated planning policy for protecting the historic environment, affecting archaeology, historic areas, buildings & landscapes, is intended to send a clear message that the historic environment should be seen as an asset, not an obstacle to development.
The new policy, which is accompanied by detailed guidance from English Heritage, sets out that councils & developers should use the historic environment to stimulate & inspire new buildings and development of imaginative and high quality design.
The new Planning Policy Statement 15: Planning for the Historic Environment (published for consultation - closes on 30 October 2009) replaces Planning Policy Guidance notes PPG15 and 16. It is accompanied by a Historic Environment Planning Practice Guide.
HEFCE: HEFCE has received a letter from Higher Education Minister David Lammy on behalf of the Secretary of State setting out how he would like the Council to respond to the announcement that the Government will fund student support for an extra 10,000 full-time undergraduate places for 2009-10.
HEFCE will be writing to all institutions this week setting out the distribution of these new student places. The guidance will include the detailed list of the subjects relating to the broad categories specified in the annex to the Minister's letter.
PB: The Parole Board has published its Annual Report and Accounts for 2008/09, reporting on its performance against business plan targets, statistics for determinate sentence & indeterminate sentence prisoners and accounts for the year.
The report records the work carried out by the Board last year to maintain its high standards of risk assessment during a year in which it faced the twin challenges of a critical shortage of judicial resources and continued changes to its workload as a result of government legislation.
PB: The Parole Board has published its Business Plan for 2009/10, setting out its aims, objectives, targets and projected workloads for the coming 12 months. The Plan details how the Board will manage the changing nature of its work as it faces an increased workload and a consultation over the future of the Board itself.
COI: The Central Office of Information (COI) has published its annual report & accounts for 2008/9. The report reveals that COI secured ‘record savings’ for the government departments and public sector bodies it serves. Its centralised buying position meant it was able to negotiate a 49.9% reduction in media costs against recognised industry benchmarks, a saving of £241m. This is in addition to the £50m savings made across a range of other services such as publications, direct marketing & events.
The report shows that government departments and public sector bodies spent a total of £540m on marketing & communications through COI during 2008/9, up 43% on the previous year. The increases have been driven by departments taking greater advantage of COI’s centralised buying position & expertise and the growing need for government to effectively communicate important information to the public.
HMCS: Innovative ways to improve the public’s experience of courts; improvements against performance targets; providing fair and simple routes to civil and family justice: these are some of the highlights of the HMCS Annual Report & Accounts 2008/09.
The court user satisfaction survey shows that 83% were ‘very satisfied’ or ‘satisfied’ with their experience. HMCS has also improved witness waiting times, achieved its best ever timeliness performance and successfully reduced the number of pre-trial mention hearings in the Crown Court.
The report highlights new HMCS case management procedures for care & supervision cases. The Public Law Outline promotes better co-operation between all parties involved, reduces unnecessary delay and makes the process less distressing for children & their families.
IS: The Insolvency Service has published its report on the first 6 months operation of ‘Statement of Insolvency Practice 16 (SIP 16)’. The report looks at insolvency practitioners’ compliance with the SIP and whether the increased use of pre-packs has resulted in an increased incidence of directors’ misconduct, particularly in relation to the insolvent company’s debts being left unpaid whilst assets are sold on to a new company. The Insolvency Service will report again in early 2010.
MoD: The Ministry of Defence’s Annual Report & Accounts 2008/09 have been published by the Secretary of State for Defence, Bob Ainsworth, along with a press release ‘Understatement of the Year’ quote saying that; ‘It remains a very busy period for defence’. The continuing high operational tempo has meant that the Army and the RAF did not meet individual separate service or unit harmony guidelines and the Royal Navy breaching its guidelines by less than 1%.
NAO/HMRC: The economic downturn has been largely responsible for a £21.7bn reduction in taxes & duties collected by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) in 2008-9, according to a National Audit Office report.
NA: Michael Wills, Minister of State for Justice, has announced the publication of the UK Annual Report on the Re-use of Public Sector Information 2009. The Report tracks the progress that has been made in the UK since the UK implementation of the European Directive on the Re-use of Public Sector Information (PSI) in 2005. Publication coincides with the European Commission's recent review of the implementation of the Directive.
Ofgem: Energy regulator Ofgem (Office of the Gas and Electricity Markets) has highlighted progress in a series of major projects that will benefit energy consumers in the immediate term and in the future. In its annual report for 2008-09 Ofgem has outlined its achievements as well as other gains in prospect.
In Project Discovery the regulator is looking ahead over the next decade at the prospects for security of supply in Britain, with the independent & impartial analysis that it is uniquely positioned to deliver.
HO: Annual statistics on the use of animals in scientific research have been published by the Home Office along with the Animal Scientific Procedures Inspectorate Annual Report 2008. The ‘Statistics of Scientific Procedures on Living Animals 2008’ is compiled from returns provided by project licence holders covering scientific procedures performed using living animals subject to the provisions of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986.
For the first time this year the Home Office has published a joint ‘Animals (Scientific Procedures) Division (ASPD) and Inspectorate (ASPI) Annual Report 2008’. The report provides a collective account of many of the ‘behind-the-scenes’ activities of the Home Office staff who regulate this work.
NAO: The Comptroller and Auditor General, the head of the National Audit Office, has reported to Parliament that he has qualified his audit opinion on HM Treasury’s Resource Accounts for 2008-09. This was because, in that year, HM Treasury incurred expenditure of some £24bn more than Parliament had authorized.
This arose because of the need to provide for expected net losses arising from the operation of the Asset Protection Scheme – under which HM Treasury provides banks with protection against future credit losses on certain assets in exchange for a fee.
NAO: The head of the National Audit Office, the Comptroller and Auditor General, has qualified the accounts of the Department for Work and Pensions for the 20th consecutive year. The accounts have been qualified because of the material level of fraud & error in expenditure on state benefits, except for State Pension which has a low level of error and therefore this element of the accounts has not been qualified. The total loss due to fraud & error is an estimated £2.7bn.
NAO: The National Audit Office has identified errors in specialist pay, allowances & expenses paid to the Armed Forces via their Payroll & Human Resources system, as well as the inadequacy of evidence to support certain fixed assets and stock balances in the financial statements. For this reason, the Comptroller and Auditor General has qualified his audit opinion on the 2008-09 accounts of the Ministry of Defence.
ESRC: Social science research is essential to tackling UK & global security challenges, getting to grips with reforming the financial markets and helping households adapt to climate change. This is the message from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) as it publishes its Strategic Plan 2009-2014.
The Plan provides a road map for economic & social research over the next 5 years, with the aim of delivering a step-change in the impact of the social sciences. Impact does not stop at the scientific; research directly & indirectly contributes to society and the economy by informing public debates, as well as policy and practice at an individual level through to organisations and nations.
RCPO: The Revenue and Customs Prosecutions Office’s (RCPO’s) annual report indicates that its performance has continued to improve. It achieved a conviction in 92% of the 1,121 cases it prosecuted in 2008/09 and it obtained 499 confiscation orders against criminals amounting to over £69m. During the year, it collected almost £22m in confiscated criminal assets.
NAO: The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) met only 1 of its 3 targets to reach new audiences by increasing the number of people from under-represented groups who visit the historic environment by 2007-08. DCMS did, however, meet its target to increase the number of people from BME groups visiting the historic environment, by delivering a 3.4% rise over the period 2005-06 to 2007-08.
As the leader of the heritage sector and a custodian of historic sites, English Heritage was a key player in the DCMS strategy to increase the number of people from under-represented groups visiting the historic environment. A National Audit Office report to Parliament has revealed that there was a weak link between DCMS’s policy objectives to broaden participation and the targets agreed with English Heritage.
General Reports and Other Publications
LDA: 7 pillars of legacy were unveiled by a panel of teenagers recently in front of more than 200 young people who wanted to find out what an Olympic legacy could mean for them. It was the culmination of 10 months of work by the Legacy Now Youth Panel, which comprises of 25 teenagers from the 5 host boroughs with an interest in planning & design.
The London Development Agency (LDA), working with Stratford based Fundamental Architectural Inclusion and the 5 host boroughs, set up the panel to offer a unique voice for young people into the planning process and encourage others to take part.
The panel outlined their legacy manifesto at Hackney Ocean, Hackney, in front of hundreds of their peers from youth groups across London. The event also featured film screenings including a legacy flythrough of the Olympic Park site, V-J mixing video and sound Olympic themes and a 3D model of a possible Olympic Park of the future, which was brought to life through video & sounds.
ScotGov: The importance of Scotland developing a resilient food supply chain and growing more of its own produce has been highlighted in a new report. Mapping & Analysis of the Resilience of the Food Supply Chain in Scotland suggests Scotland is currently dependent on imports. It shows that global food chains may be vulnerable to both short & longer term emergency situations which could disrupt this supply.
The research will be used to help businesses prepare for future scenarios such as flooding, health scares and the impact of climate change. Measures in Scotland's new national food and drink policy which aim to address food security include:
* Building capacity & skills to produce food and keep food production at the heart of farming
* Build food security into the delivery of our farming, fishing and aquaculture policies.
* Support the appropriate legal framework to ensure our food & drink producers, processors, retailers and consumers are treated fairly
* Fund new research to help meet the challenges of food security in Scotland and the rest of world
DECC: A global carbon trading network will be vital to preventing dangerous climate change, a new report commissioned by the Prime Minister Gordon Brown has concluded. The report makes clear that without a global system for carbon trading, the ability of countries to avoid dangerous climate change will be limited and the costs of action increased.
The Global Carbon Trading report, by the Prime Minister’s Special Representative on Carbon Trading, Mark Lazarowicz MP, looks at the role that cap & trade systems can play as part of the global response to preventing dangerous climate change – and the steps needed to expand & link trading systems over the next decade.
CIOB: The Chartered Institute of Building’s (CIOB) research into crime in the construction industry has shown that an overwhelming majority have experienced theft, vandalism and health & safety neglect. These crimes contributed to respondents suffering severe financial losses in their business; 38% stated it cost their business at least £10,000 a year and 9% reported losses of over £100,000 a year.
Michael Brown, CIOB Deputy Chief Executive said; “The results suggest a real need for site & project managers to be trained on how to prevent crime on construction sites and what measures should be taken if it does occur”.
It was also evident that the industry is susceptible to attack from organised crime. Over 20% of respondents had experienced racketeering & money laundering in their business or on a project with which they were involved and 11% had experienced kidnapping.
WAG: The results of the most comprehensive survey of the Welsh countryside and its natural resources have been published in a report by the Countryside Survey partnership. The report identifies some positive changes including an increase in the area of broadleaved woodland, an improvement in the physical condition of streams, an increased number of ponds, and a reduction in soil acidity in line with reduced emissions of sulphur.
However, there is evidence that these changes have taken place against a general backdrop of decreasing plant species richness that is at odds with the aim of halting biodiversity loss. The survey also found that topsoil carbon stocks have remained stable over recent decades.
NAO: At a cost of £1.47bn by March 2009, Train to Gain had supported employer-focused training for over 1m learners, and had developed a skills brokerage service with which a majority of employers was satisfied. But while Train to Gain has achieved undoubted benefits for employers, the NAO has concluded that over its full lifetime the programme has not provided good value for money.
Unrealistically ambitious initial targets and inconsistent implementation reduced the efficiency of the programme. Learners have nevertheless benefited from improved work skills at a basic level and surveys of employers have provided evidence of improved business performance from the training. For many of the 554,100 learners who achieved a qualification it was their first qualification, giving them a boost in self-confidence as well as new employment skills.
CQC: The Care Quality Commission has said that inpatients at West London Mental Health NHS Trust had been put at risk due to a failure to properly investigate suicides and learn from serious incidents. Following an investigation into the trust, the CQC also highlighted serious concerns relating to sub-standard buildings, not enough beds, poor physical healthcare, not enough staff and lack of staff training.
The investigation looked at high-secure, inpatient services at Broadmoor Hospital as well as community & other inpatient services in Hounslow, Ealing, Hammersmith and Fulham.
The Commission said problems had persisted over a number of years, yet the trust's leadership had repeatedly failed to address issues. It said the board lacked ‘vitality and vigour’ and that the trust was ‘good at writing policies, but not good at putting them into action’.
CRC: The Commission for Rural Communities have submitted the 8th of their regular reports to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on the rural impacts of the recession. This report examines how market towns are being affected by the recession and makes suggestions for government actions.
NICE: In February 2009, NICE asked Professor Sir Ian Kennedy to undertake an independent study in response to the views expressed by Sir David Cooksey in his Review and Refresh of Bioscience 2015. Sir Ian was asked to carry out a short study on how NICE establishes the value of innovation and, in particular, to make recommendations about what approach should be adopted by NICE to ensure that innovation is properly taken into account when establishing the value of new health technologies.
BIS: The Better Regulation Executive (BRE), part of the Department for Business, has published 4 new reports, as part of their ongoing examination of national regulators, on the:
* Insolvency Service
* Human Tissue Authority
* Fish Health Inspectorate
* Natural England
The Hampton Implementation Reviews looked at the work of each regulator against the principles of better regulation set out by Philip Hampton in 2005. Each review found that the regulators were making progress implementing these principles but a range of issues still needed to be addressed in each case in order to meet fully the criteria set out by Hampton. Key areas for improvement by the regulators have been highlighted, as well as the improvements they have already made.
STFC: The Science and Technology Facilities Council has released its new Vision, which will guide its future investments in world leading science and technology for the UK. The Vision identifies the highest priority science & technology projects and world class research facilities that STFC will be taking forwards.
DCSF: Children’s Minister, Dawn Primarolo, has published the responses to a consultation on children, young people & alcohol. The responses show that there is a broad base of support for guidelines from the Chief Medical Office (CMO) on safe levels of drinking. There is also a clear need for government advice & information for parents.
The consultation has shown that parents & young people mostly agree with the CMO’s guidance which suggests that young people should not consume alcohol under the age of 15 and between 15 & 17 any alcohol consumption should be with the guidance or supervision of parents & carers.
CRC: How vital is hill farming to the new economies in the uplands? This was one of several topics discussed by about 40 participants attending the Commission for Rural Communities’ last of 6 regional hearings of its Uplands inquiry.
Some of those giving evidence suggested that agriculture remains ‘small but vital’ to the uplands economy, through its significant role in the conservation of landscape, provision for recreation and even its contribution to the greater diversity in the economy – farming providing the base for a multitude of new enterprises. References were also made to the extraordinary levels of home-working and the changing composition of upland communities, specifically the significance of in-migrants.
ESRC: Those students with only a vocational background are still less likely to get to university than those with ‘A’ levels, despite the fact that government policy advocates vocational education as an alternative route to higher education. Furthermore, they are more likely to drop out after their first year. Students that combine vocational education with academic education are nearly as successful at entering & completing the first year of higher education as those with general academic qualifications.
Applicants with a purely vocational background come from lower socio-economic groups, are more often male, older, disabled and from a non-white ethnic background. The study also shows that students from vocational backgrounds tend to be in institutions with fewer resources and in institutions that carry less weight in the labour market. In addition, some of them find it difficult to balance academic work with family commitments and the work they have to do to pay for their studies.
The relative success of students who combine vocational with academic education may point the way forward for reform. Still, as Dr Hayward acknowledges, the greatest obstacle to widening higher education participation and to making access fairer is still the status inequality between vocational qualifications and traditional academic qualifications.
Legislation / Legal
FDA: The publication of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Bill has been welcomed by the FDA union. FDA General Secretary Jonathan Baume said: "For many years the FDA has been part of an alliance - together with the Public Administration Select Committee, the Civil Service Commission and others - that has argued for a Civil Service Act. We will now be looking at the detail of this bill, which seeks to put the Civil Service, its core values and the Civil Service Commission onto a statutory footing."
FSA: The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has offered firms a new waiver from its complaints handling rules regarding unauthorised overdraft charges for up to 6 months. The new waiver has been granted to those firms who signed up to the January 2009 waiver. These firms represent approximately 98% of the market.
The new waiver has been offered to firms because, although considerable progress had been made in the test case, it is not yet clear how firms should be responding to complaints about unauthorised overdraft charges so that customers are treated consistently & fairly.
Whilst the waiver is in place, signatories will not be required to handle complaints relating to unauthorised overdraft charges within the time limits set out in the FSA's Dispute Resolution manual.
MoJ: The Parliamentary Standards Bill has gained Royal Assent after completing its passage through Parliament. The Act will:
* create a new Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, to decide & administer the allowances system for MPs, administer MPs’ salaries, draw up a code of conduct on financial interests and set the rules for investigations
* establish an independent Commissioner for Parliamentary Investigations with the power to investigate complaints against MPs in relation to the allowances scheme or the registration of financial interests, and report his or her findings to the House of Commons Committee for Standards and Privileges
* create a new criminal offence of knowingly providing false or misleading information in a claim for an allowance, for which the maximum sanction is up to 12 months’ custodial sentence or an unlimited fine
OFT: Consumers buying tickets for concerts, theatres, events & attractions will receive fairer contract terms following the conclusion of discussions between the Office of Fair Trading and the body representing businesses selling or re-selling tickets.
The Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers (STAR), represents businesses selling or re-selling tickets to the general public or agents, whether through websites, box offices at entertainment venues or ticket booths. Members of STAR, who include Lastminute.com, Ticketmaster and the Big Bus Company, have agreed to implement revised terms & conditions that the OFT views as clearer & fairer under the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations. STAR members will phase in the model terms over the next 12 months.
The improvements include clarifying:
* what happens if an event is cancelled or rescheduled
* the circumstances under which consumers can seek redress in the event that things go wrong
* clarifying circumstances in which tickets can be re-sold by a consumer, and
* providing recourse to dispute resolution to consumers in the event of problems
ScotGov: Anyone attempting to bribe another individual will face up to 10 years in jail under anti-corruption proposals published by the Scottish Government. Bribing of a foreign public official would also become a separate offence under the plans.
The proposals have been put forward in a consultation (closes on 23 October 2009) launched by Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill who said the current law in Scotland is outdated and in need of reform. Proposals for modernising the law in England & Wales were published in March 2009 and the ScotGov proposals are modelled on these.
The proposals for England & Wales make it a criminal offence to give, promise or offer a bribe or to request, agree to receive or accept a bribe either at home or abroad, with the measures covering bribery of a foreign public official.
EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.
BIS: The Department for Business has published proposals for draft regulations to take forward the implementation of the Consumer Credit Directive. These include new requirements to promote responsible borrowing & lending, as set out in the recent Consumer White Paper.
Lenders will have to check consumers’ creditworthiness before they borrow and fully explain financial products. Consumers will also be allowed a 14-day period within which to withdraw from credit agreements. The finalised regulations will implement the requirements of the Directive to provide transparent, standardised information - helping consumers compare products, including the cost of credit on offer.
The provisions are being published in draft form to allow experts to provide feedback on their effect. The intention is for new laws to be introduced by the end of the year – well in advance of the Consumer Credit Directive coming into force in June 2010.
Business and Other Briefings
FSA: The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has fined 3 HSBC firms over £3m for not having adequate systems & controls in place to protect their customers' confidential details from being lost or stolen. These failings contributed to customer data being lost in the post on two occasions.
HSBC Life UK Limited (HSBC Life) was fined £1,610,000, HSBC Actuaries and Consultants Limited (HSBC Actuaries) was fined £875,000 and HSBC Insurance Brokers Limited (HSBC Insurance Brokers) was fined £700,000. FSA Principle 3 states that a firm must take reasonable care to organise & control its affairs responsibly and effectively, with adequate risk management systems.
FSA: The Financial services Authority has confirmed changes to with-profits rules, which mean that any liabilities arising from operational failures (including mis-selling) after the rule comes into effect on 31 July 2009 must be borne by shareholders, not policyholders.
Under current rules, a firm may pay compensation & redress from assets attributable to shareholders or from the inherited estate of its with-profits fund (if any).
FSA: The fast payout rules, which come into force on 31 December 2010, will mean many individuals & small businesses will receive compensation within a target of 7 days, and all payments within 20 days, as required under the Deposit Guarantee Schemes Directive. This will greatly reduce uncertainty for consumers.
An additional change is that in future, payouts will be made on a ‘gross’ basis, which will effectively ring fence the deposits if a depositor has savings and loans with the same firm. Currently, any outstanding loan or debt held with a firm would have been deducted from the amount of an individual’s or small business’ savings before compensation was paid out. The new rules change this arrangement and ensure that the customer's savings will be protected to the limit of £50,000 and not used to offset loans.
Consumer awareness of the FSCS will also be boosted by a new rule which comes into force from 1 January 2010, requiring firms to provide information on the existence of the FSCS and level of protection it offers to depositors, as well as proactively informing customers of any additional trading names under which the firm operates.
The brief announces that certain services performed by psychologists became exempt from 1 July 2009.
HMRC: Revenue & Customs Brief 42/09In this brief, HMRC is announcing a change of view on the Tonnage Tax treatment of specialist vessels that provide transportation in connection with services provided at sea.
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