In the News
CompC/ScotGov: Nobody believes the supermarkets are ‘just protecting the consumers’ - The Competition Commission (CompC) has formally recommended to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) that it should establish an Ombudsman to arbitrate on disputes between grocery retailers & suppliers and investigate complaints under the new Groceries Supply Code of Practice (GSCOP).
The CompC has published the Order setting out the GSCOP, the formal Recommendation to BIS to establish the Ombudsman, and a covering letter to the Minister of State at BIS, Kevin Brennan. These measures follow the CompC’s inquiry into UK groceries retailing which finished last year and concluded that measures were needed to address its concerns about relationships between retailers and their suppliers.
Retailers covered by the Order now have six months to comply. The CompC does not have the power to establish an Ombudsman itself, and so has been trying to secure the agreement of retailers, making it clear that without this it would recommend to BIS that it establish the Ombudsman instead. After the majority of retailers declined to agree, the CompC is pressing ahead with the recommendation.
Peter Freeman, CompC Chairman and Chairman of the Groceries inquiry said: "The costs of the Ombudsman, which we think would be about £5m a year in total including initial set-up costs, are very modest compared with the annual turnover of £70bn in grocery supplies to retailers".
Scotland's Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham said: "We have repeatedly told the UK Government that we believe a supermarket ombudsman would help provide long-term security for many parts of the food chain, including consumers. Supermarkets wield a huge amount of influence over the future of our food industry and, as the experience of the banking sector shows us, robust regulation is essential”.
Ofsted: Giving them ‘Care in Care’ will help them lead a normal life - Almost 50% of children in care worry about other people knowing their background, mainly because they fear being judged, bullied or treated differently, according to the latest report by Children’s Rights Director for England, Dr Roger Morgan.
The Care and Prejudice report surveyed the views of 362 children invited to take part randomly from children’s homes & foster care across the country. Of these, 276 completed a detailed survey. Almost half are worried most about employers, other children & young people and possible landlords finding out they are from care. Those concerned about employers finding out thought it would affect their chances of getting a job.
However, the majority of children did report they were not treated either better or worse than others because they were in care. For most being in care meant being supported & looked after properly by good carers or staff. For a few it also meant being safe. As one young person said; 'I feel happier because I am away from abuse.'
Overall, children in care – especially girls, young people in children’s homes, those who had spent longest in care and disabled children – believe that the general public have a negative view of children in care. Almost half thought the public saw children in care as bad & uncontrollable and just under a quarter thought they were seen as troublemakers.
Worryingly the report found that the longer children spent in care, the more likely they were to report sometimes being treated worse. In addition, where children were placed in care also made a big difference to their experience of being in care. Children in foster care were more likely than those in children’s homes to say they have been treated better for being in care.
MoJ: Getting the balance right – Billions to build new prisons against ‘peanuts’ to prevent re-offending - An additional £8.4m is to be invested into reducing youth re-offending and creating safer communities through improved resettlement & rehabilitation arrangements for young offenders leaving prison, Justice Minister Claire Ward has announced. Over the next 2 years, new programmes will be established across England & Wales to break the cycle of offending for young people leaving custody each year.
Designed to ensure that young offenders make a positive contribution to society by developing essential skills and so turn their backs on a life of crime, this youth rehabilitation project will offer funding to help local areas establish & maintain the services necessary to provide practical alternatives to crime.
WAG: False rumours in the valleys - BBC Wales ran a story last Wednesday about alleged plans to review the Welsh Assembly Government's concessionary travel scheme - despite being told that WAG have no plans whatsoever to scrap the scheme. WAG also informed the BBC that there were no plans to change the entitlement or eligibility criteria for the scheme.
WAG would like to reassure people that there will be no change to the scheme - they are simply running an audit of the reimbursement mechanism between WAG, local authorities and bus operators.
Forthcoming Event: Surviving the present while preparing for the future - The Gartner Enterprise Architecture Summit (14 -15 September 2009) provides a comprehensive view of how enterprise architecture can help public sector organisations optimize costs in the short term, while preparing for possible funding reductions / nil growth in the medium / long term.
The scope & focus of enterprise architecture (EA) has evolved during the past 15 years; from a simple technology focus to a concern with information & service provision, and from tactical IT decisions to analysis & linkage to the business strategy.
Three agenda tracks offer practical advice for novice & advanced EA practitioners on EA & related topics such as BPM, Cloud Computing and Social Software and much more, to help you align your EA efforts with the top service delivery priorities.
The Gartner Enterprise Architecture Summit will provide you with the necessary skills to:
* Identify cost optimization & efficiency opportunities
* Deliver on current practical challenges, whilst anticipating future service models to match resources
*Gain a complete view of priorities, methodological consistency and the potential for greater synergy across the organisation
* Position yourself as the Architect of Change manage through the anticipated tough times to come as public sector finances contract
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WAG: Readers of Wired-Gov Plus may find the information about Readers and software useful when viewing items on the Internet.
ScotGov: The Road Equivalent Tariff pilot operating on all ferry routes to the Western Isles has attracted 23% more cars and 14% more passengers compared with the same period in 2007-08. Highlands & Islands Enterprise (HIE) is responsible for working with public partners in encouraging areas participating in the pilot to maximise benefits in the local economy.
RET involves setting ferry fares on the basis of the cost of travelling an equivalent distance by road. High ferry fares have been seen by many as a barrier to economic growth on the islands. Lowering the fares to a level analogous to mainland traffic costs will act as a boost to island economies by reducing freight costs to local businesses, lowering the cost of living for island residents and making the islands more attractive to tourists. The pilot commenced on October 19, 2008 and will run until spring 2011.
Monitor: The Walton Centre NHS Foundation Trust has been authorised since 1 August 2009. The announcement means there are now 122 NHS foundation trusts in total, of which 36 are mental health NHS foundation trusts.
HA: The Highways Agency has launched its summer ‘Bag it Bin it’ campaign, with the support of the AA, the RAC Foundation and the Institute of Advanced Motorists, reminding road users about the problems that litter can cause on motorways and major A roads.
Clearing rubbish also puts workers at risk of injury and diverts resources away from road maintenance & repairs. The HA estimates that approximately 700,000 bags of litter are removed from our road network in England every year.
As part of ‘Bag it and Bin it’, drivers are being encouraged to carry a litter bag in their vehicle to collect their rubbish until it can be safely disposed of. To get the message across, the HA is distributing biodegradable and recyclable paper litter bags from its exhibition stand at events this summer.
HO: An awards scheme to recognise people who have been at the forefront of tackling crime and anti-social behaviour in their communities has been launched by the Government, building on the success of the previous Home Office Taking A Stand Awards. The Community Crime Fighter awards are part of the Government’s Justice Seen, Justice Done programme which is all about engaging the public in the fight against crime, informing the public of their rights on crime & justice and giving them the best possible local services.
Community Crime Fighters are experienced local volunteers who are given the skills & training to work alongside police and local authorities to help make their areas safer. The Government pledged to have 3,600 trained by the end of 2009 and is on target with more than 2,000 trained so far.
Defra: Scouts & Girl Guides at the Scout Jamboree in Windsor Great Park last week were taking part in a campaign which aims to encourage families & people of all ages to get out & about in the countryside by taking part in volunteering projects which help the environment.
Defra’s Muck In4Life stand at the Scout Jamboree, which is organised by scouting organisation WINGS09, had lots of activities for everyone to enjoy throughout the event, from building a bird feeder to making a pledge to help the environment promise in the ‘promise book’. Activities volunteers can take part in include anything from clearing out pond weed, picking up litter, to counting bats or birds or even building a dry stone wall.
NA: The National Archives' education service has been awarded a Sandford Award for its work with schools. Its specialist staff reach 15,000 pupils a year, through workshops on site at NA in Kew and videoconferences with schools across the country.
The Sandford Awards are awarded by the Heritage Education Trust, which recognises & promotes good practice in learning services within the historic environment & related collections.
NE: A new, contemporary beehive for the urban beekeeper, launched by Omlet with support from Natural England, will make it easy for anyone - from amateurs to seasoned apiarists - to help bees find a home in urban gardens up & down the country. Omlet launched the world famous Eglu chicken house in 2004, sparking a new wave of urban chicken keeping.
The strikingly designed hive - called the ‘Beehaus’ - is developed with the help of leading beekeepers to be a 21st century home for bees and has urban spaces very much in mind. With proper care & access to local sources of nectar it's quite possible to collect over 20kg of honey from a Beehaus hive in a good year.
The Beehaus comes with legs to keep the bees out of the coldest air in winter when they are hibernating; the legs raise the hive to a comfortable height for the beekeeper, which makes inspecting the hive much easier. It has a mesh floor that provides year round ventilation helping the bees to maintain a hygienic home and assists the beekeeper in controlling the varroa mite by allowing fallen mite to drop away from the hive.
NA: Ancestry.co.uk has launched online the registers of 1.4m individuals across England & Wales who were indicted for trial from the late 18th to the late 19th centuries. The England and Wales Criminal Registers, 1791-1892 (1791 to 1804 are for Middlesex only) are taken from 279 original paper volumes held at The National Archives (series HO 26 and HO 27).
They document trials & sentences for crimes ranging from murder & highway robbery, through petty theft & fraud, to minor cases of bad language and scrumping (stealing fruit from orchards). The registers show details of the crime, the full name &date of birth of the accused, the location of the trial and the judgment passed. You can search the trial records for free, but there is a charge to download images of the original documents.
Defra: The dairy industry looks set to smash targets for cutting the impact producing dairy products has on the environment. One year after launching the Milk Roadmap, first indications are that the industry is well on the way towards the first set of milestones in 2010.
Dairy producers committed to have half of dairy managed farmland in Environmental Schemes by 2010 and have already hit 45%, one year ahead of schedule. Milk processors are working with partners in the supply chain and are on track to incorporate 10% of recycled plastic into milk bottles by the end of 2010. In addition:
* Nearly half of dairy farmers have a Nutrient Management Plan (2010 target of 65%)
* Water conservation –70+% of farmers have made changes to the management of clean water on their farms
*Retailers - One major supermarket has slashed in store energy use by 50% since 2000.
Newswire – TSA: Two organisations, one raising the standards for tenants' homes, the other responsible for resolving housing disputes, have demonstrated their commitment to improving services to tenants by signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for exchanging information.
The Tenant Services Authority (TSA) and the Housing Ombudsman Service (HOS) have agreed an interim protocol, which will enable information sharing between the 2 organisations and improve the complaints procedures for tenants. Joint working will include the sharing of quarterly reports and statistics between the TSA and HOS, which will indicate themes of enquiries and complaints so that trends can be analysed.
STFC: STFC Innovations Ltd’s excellence in knowledge exchange & technology transfer has been recognised with the awarding of a prestigious contract by the European Space Agency (ESA). It has been selected to lead ESA’s Technology Transfer Programme (TPP) in the UK as part of its Technology Transfer Network.
This will see them identify opportunities to exploit ESA’s technology, expertise and know-how to create social & economic impact in non-space sectors. ESA’s technologies have been used in a wide number of areas including; to improve air purification in hospital intensive care wards, produce enhanced materials for sports equipment such as running shoes, to monitor offshore oil & gas fields, and help manufacturers to develop or improve new and existing products.
STFC Innovations Ltd has a long track record of successful commercialisation & knowledge exchange. Since its creation in 2002 it has successfully established 15 spin-out companies which have raised more than £25m of external investment between them. STFC Innovations Ltd is the new name for CLIK Knowledge Transfer Ltd.
ScotGov: Two wind farm developments that will supply green energy to around 43,000 more homes have been approved. The 29 turbine Berry Burn wind farm, on the Altyre Estate near Forres, will have a capacity of 78 Megawatts (MW). The six turbine extension to the 20 turbine Millennium wind farm near Fort Augustus will increase the capacity by 15 MW to 65 MW.
Combined, the schemes will employ around 100 people during construction and provide 5 full time jobs. The ScotGov's Energy Consents &Deployment Unit is currently processing 34 renewable project applications - 25 wind farms & 9 hydro projects.
VSO: Local VSO returned volunteers are calling on their primary school colleagues across Derby to follow in their footsteps and spend just 20 minutes of their summer holiday applying to be a volunteer. The international development charity is looking for primary teachers who can share their skills across the developing world in 2010.
To ensure thousands of children across the developing world have access to quality education, VSO needs qualified primary school teachers (with at least 2 years’ experience) to volunteer their time & expertise in countries such as Malawi, Nepal and Ghana. By sharing skills with local teachers, VSO volunteers help to ensure more children experience inspiring, happy and lively classrooms.
Primary school teachers who apply this summer will be able to be overseas as early as January 2010. Working with a cluster of schools and local colleagues, volunteers observe lessons, run workshops, help teachers develop educational materials and focus on helping teachers use child centred teaching methods to help make the classroom a rewarding experience.
VSO provides volunteers with flights, accommodation and an allowance to cover basic costs. UK public sector professionals volunteering for between 6 months and 2 years are entitled to claim pension contributions providing they return to the public sector for a minimum of 6 months on their return to the UK.
Policy Statements and Initiatives
BIS: The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has taken the next step in setting up the UK Innovation Investment Fund (UK IIF) – a venture capital fund of funds to support the UK’s technology companies – just one month after securing cornerstone investment for the Fund.
Capital for Enterprise Ltd will release the Request for Proposals (RFP) for prospective Fund of Fund managers for the UK IIF. The RFP is a key milestone in delivering the Fund as it sets out the parameters for the fund and details the information expected from prospective Fund of Fund managers.
The RFP will ask potential Fund Managers to target the sectors of the future, such as life sciences, low carbon, digital and advanced manufacturing. Success in these sectors is key to the Government’s industrial strategy set out in New Industry New Jobs, and will hopefully create the highly skilled jobs as Britain emerges out of the global downturn. The RFP will also ask Fund Mangers how they will raise money from private sector investors to create the largest technology Fund in Europe.
ScotGov: An extra £800,000 for Gaelic education has been announced, bringing Scottish Government investment in the Gaelic Schools Fund to £2.15m this year. First Minister Alex Salmond made the announcement at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, Scotland's Gaelic college in Skye on his way to the Western Isles for a historic first Scottish Cabinet meeting in Stornoway.
WAG: At the National Eisteddfod in Bala, the Welsh Assembly Government have been inviting members of the public to debate the action that needs to be taken in order to protect the Welsh language, to promote bilingualism and to increase the number of people who use & speak Welsh. Visitors to the WAG stand were asked to complete a short postcard survey and there are several events to kick-start discussions.
WAG is currently seeking powers from Westminster in order to introduce new legislation, through an Assembly Measure, on the Welsh language. The Government is committed to ensuring that the Measure will confirm official status for both Welsh & English, would provide linguistic rights in the provision of services and would establish the post of Language Commissioner.
ScotGov: Further measures to create a more effective planning system to support economic recovery came into effect last week. The changes include:
* Establishing local review bodies so that councillors, rather than the Scottish Government, can review decisions made over small-scale, local developments
* A requirement on developers to consult communities before submitting major development proposals
* More information being made available on planning decisions
* Increasing the options for planning authorities to take effective enforcement action
DH: A new Equality and Diversity Council that is intended to ‘strengthen the national focus on improving quality in the National Health Service’, has announced by the Department of Health. Its key role will be reporting on equality & diversity issues to the NHS Management Board, including championing improvement and campaigning for change.
Lay members are being asked to apply to join the council which will include representatives from patient groups, NHS staff, social care and voluntary organisations and the Council will be chaired by NHS Chief Executive, David Nicholson. The Council will be established in late summer and there will be an appointment process for lay members. The first Council meeting will take place in October.
CLG: 15 projects from deprived neighbourhoods across England will share a £10m fund - the areas chosen having identified low aspiration as a barrier to their young people achieving their potential. Projects from Barking and Dagenham, Cumbria, Manchester, Rotherham, Stoke on Trent, Barnsley, Kent and Bristol are among the ones chosen.
The Inspiring Communities initiative is about getting people in communities working together to boost the aspirations & achievements of their young people. Parents, schools, businesses, third-sector organisations and local agencies will run the initiatives – bringing together as many people and organisations as possible who can help youngsters on the road to success.
DCSF: Ed Balls, Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, has announced plans to strengthen inspection law so schools are assessed on how they support children with special educational needs (SEN) and disabilities.
Mr Balls also plans to give greater rights to parents unhappy with their child’s statement of SEN. This will give parents more say over the objectives set for their child. The new appeal rights given to parents will help ensure that SEN statements are up to date and an effective way of monitoring the progress of their child. Where parents have had a statement reviewed but not amended by the local authority, they will have a new right of appeal at this stage.
These announcements come as the Government accepts recommendations in reports published by expert Brian Lamb, in advance of his wider review of the special educational needs system. More details on these changes will be available following publication of the final Lamb Inquiry report in September 2009. The full Government response to the Lamb Inquiry is expected in Autumn.
DCSF: Children’s Minister Dawn Primarolo has claimed that over 300,000 children will have access to new & improved play areas this summer, as thousands of children across the country celebrate national ‘Playday’. This summer children will have access to more than 530 play sites opened since last year in 63 local authorities. 3.000 more are due to be opened across by 2011 as part of the roll out of the £235m play investment announced in the flagship Children’s Plan.
HO: A £5m fund for small retailers to buy security devices such as alarms, UV markers or radios and an online assessment tool are part of a new retail crime action plan unveiled by Home Office Minister Alan Campbell. The retail crime action plan (RCAP), which has been drawn up in partnership with the retail industry, details a broad range of actions to tackle crimes against retailers and small businesses.
The risk assessment tool, developed by crime prevention experts (which businesses can complete online) helps to identify simple measures they can take to reduce the risk of crime. A competition to find new ways of 'designing out' crime opportunities in small businesses will be launched in September 2009.
WAG: Communities across Wales are set to benefit from more than £6.4m funding thanks to the Welsh Assembly Government’s Community Facilities and Activities Programme (CFAP). Launched in 2002, CFAP is a grant scheme available to community or voluntary organisations to help support the creation of new facilities & services. In this funding round, 48 projects across Wales have been awarded grants totalling £6.413m.
ScotGov: Further steps to support economic recovery by the water industry have been announced by Infrastructure Minister Stewart Stevenson. The length of the next water industry regulatory period is to be extended by a year to 2015 to give households & businesses more certainty about future charges and ensure the civil engineering industry is provided with a steady rather than fluctuating flow of work.
Changes to the way businesses are charged for their surface water drainage, due to be introduced in 2010, are also being delayed to help avoid unnecessary disruption during the economic downturn. The change would have meant that premises with low rateable values and larger surface areas would pay a higher charge.
ScotGov: 48 Scottish towns will benefit from a share of government cash to help revitalise their town centres & sustain jobs. Nearly £40m has been allocated in this round of funding out of the dedicated £60m fund with applications invited for a £20m second round to be shared out later this year. The closing date for applicants has been extended to 28 August 2009.
Better retail, business, community & leisure facilities will be created, while many town centres will see public access & transport links improved. The funding will also kick start a number of town centre housing developments.
DFID: The UK is set to remodel its education programme in the world’s poorest countries in an attempt to help children who are considered the hardest to reach & revive international efforts to get all primary aged children into school by 2015.
The Department for International Development is launching a public consultation (closes on 30 October 2009) to investigate a range of options that will help shape a new education strategy. The consultation is calling on the UK’s leading education experts, teachers, charity workers, NGOs and others to apply their knowledge & experience. The consultation will inform a new education strategy which will be published later this year.
The consultation will look at how to improve access for children in countries affected by conflict & instability alongside improving education for girls, better teachers & curricula focussed on jobs. As well as getting more children into school it's also important to ensure those attending continue to do so and the quality of their learning is improved. Around the world 75 million primary aged children are still not in school.
DFID: The UK has announced new support to clear northern Sri Lanka of thousands of mines & unexploded bombs left over from decades of fighting. The Department for International Development will give the Mines Advisory Group (MAG) a £500,000 grant to help survey minefields and pinpoint unexploded ordinance so they can be safely disposed of.
With DFID’s funding, MAG will be able to survey and help clear villages, roads & agricultural land in the northern areas worst affected by the conflict. This contribution is the first stage of the DFID’s 3-part early recovery strategy and will enable civilians to return to land which is declared free from land mines and unexploded ordnance.
WAG: The Welsh Assembly Government and the Welsh Language Board have signed a memorandum of understanding to work together to improve the provision of business advice & support through the medium of Welsh.
WAG: Deputy Minister for Regeneration Leighton Andrews and Huw Vaughan Thomas, Chair of the Big Lottery Fund have announced an agreement between the Welsh Assembly Government and the Big Lottery Fund to deliver a new Community Asset Transfer programme.
The aim of the fund is to help community groups acquire public buildings & facilities and to refurbish them to suit their needs. The Big Lottery Fund will administer the fund and provide revenue funding, while WAG will provide capital funding. Organisations will be able to make applications from mid October 2009.
DCSF: Children and Young People’s Minister Dawn Primarolo is calling on all local authorities to let young people know about all the fun activities and places for them to go to in their area. Research reveals that young people see organised activities as a good thing but are held back from taking part because they don’t know what is on offer to them.
The research also reveals other reasons preventing young people getting involved in activities, including:
* Young people see organised activities as something reserved only for the very sporty or talented kids
* Low self confidence and lack of self belief in their ability to take part
* Peer group pressure - teenagers prioritise friends & leisure time over taking part in activities and are often put off if their friends don’t take part
HO: Plans requiring would-be-citizens to earn enough points to stay permanently in the UK have been revealed by the Government. The new Points Based Test for Citizenship - an extension of the Australian-style Points Based System - will award migrants points for building up different attributes & skills.
Proposals being launched in the new consultation (closes on 26 October 2009) would see people rewarded for economic contributions, skills & English language proficiency above the level already expected. Points could be removed and citizenship withheld or delayed for those breaking the law or committing anti-social behaviour.
DH: A consultation (closes on 2 November 2009) on whether, and if so, how, practitioners of acupuncture, herbal medicine and traditional Chinese medicine should be regulated has been launched by the Department of Health. At present, there is no statutory regulation of practitioners who offer acupuncture, herbal medicine and traditional Chinese medicine in the UK.
The consultation will seek views on whether a regulatory system should be established to govern the practice of these complementary & alternative therapies. The 3 Health Ministers for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have agreed that this consultation should be UK-wide. Once the consultation responses have been considered, a decision will be made on whether or not to move towards statutory regulation of these professions.
The consultation follows publication of a report from the Extending Professional Regulation (EPR) Working Group (16 July 2009), which considers the approach to the regulation of currently unregulated roles and alternatives to statutory regulation in the future.
CLG: Housing Minister John Healey has set out plans for consultation (closes on 14 October 2009) to give new legal protection to tenants vulnerable to being thrown out on the street with little or no notice if their private landlord is repossessed. When mortgage borrowers have let their properties without the knowledge or consent of lenders, tenants currently have very limited rights if the property is repossessed.
Advice centres are seeing an increase in requests for help on this issue and CLG estimate between 2,000-3,000 households could be affected this year. The Minister wants tenants in this position to receive 2 months' notice (rather than currently just a few days) to vacate the property - giving them time to find suitable alternative accommodation. The Minister is also calling on lenders to use alternatives to repossession, such as appointing Receivers of Rent to collect rent & manage occupied properties.
Defra: Defra has launched a supplementary consultation (closes on 31 August 2009) on how the EU rules on the electronic identification (EID) for sheep and individual recording of sheep & goats can best be implemented in England. On 31 March 2009, the Government sought views about proposals for implementing EID. Since then, further beneficial changes have been achieved at the EU level, which will reduce the impact of individual recording on keepers when the new rules are introduced on 31 December 2009.
The consultation seeks further views on the implementation in England of sheep EID and individual recording for sheep & goats as required by Council Regulation (EC) 21/2004. The new provision allows individual recording to be carried out on behalf of keepers at approved central recording points (such as markets and abattoirs) and could reduce UK implementation costs by between £7- £18m.
CLG: Proposals on how regions should prepare new style Regional Strategies and new Local Authority Leaders Boards have been published for consultation (closes on 30 October 2009). Regional Strategies are part of the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction (LDEDC) Bill which is in the final stages of going through Parliament.
Regional Strategies are intended to combine the current economic & regional spatial strategies into a single integrated vision. The consultation sets out how the Bill will be implemented after Royal Assent has been achieved. Local Authorities through their Leaders Boards will decide the Regional Strategy in partnership with the Regional Development Agency.
CLG: Council tenants are set to benefit from increased protection under proposals announced for consultation (closes on 30 October 2009) to extend the powers of the Tenant Services Authority (TSA). For the first time all social housing would be covered by a single regulator, putting housing association tenants & council tenants on an equal footing when it comes to housing standards and services.
The proposals would extend the remit of the new TSA to regulate both housing associations & council landlords from April 2010 and give the TSA the powers it needs to set common standards across all social housing providers.
NA: The consultation on the government's proposals for a new policy on archives will close this week (12 August 2009). The consultation document - Archives for the 21st century - seeks to build the foundations for a sustainable future for archival services, responding to the challenges of the digital age and the opportunities it presents, to make archives accessible to a wider range of people.
Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides
HEFCE: The government has published guidance for higher & further education institutions on dealing with swine flu.
CRC: The National Indicator (NI) Set is designed to offer government & partners a common framework for assessment of conditions, and change in those conditions, across England. The NIs relate to government’s priorities and have been developed around quantitative data which is both available and can be consistently applied at local authority level across the country.
Local Area Agreements (LAAs) cover large areas and use of indicators at this scale can mask great variation in policy needs & outcomes. Working with communities and in neighbourhoods requires intelligence at a finer spatial level. A fully searchable version of the tables will be available on IDeA's LAA online Knowledge forum shortly.
WAG: A CD-Rom resource pack to help schools promote healthy eating as part of the Appetite for Life Action Plan was sent to all 22 local authorities across Wales. Appetite for Life was launched by the Welsh Assembly Government in November 2007 and sets out the actions needed to improve the nutritional standards of food and drink provided throughout the school day.
Promotional work and activities with schools to support Appetite for Life needs to be planned & co-ordinated at a local level and WAG are providing the Appetite for Life contact and the Healthy Schools co-ordinator in each authority with five copies each of the CD Rom. They will to work together to determine how best to use and distribute their resources to maximise the local Appetite for Life marketing campaign within their area.
Newswire - IDeA: A new framework to help chief executives get the very best out of their staff has been launched. The ‘Getting the best out of your people’ organisational productivity framework has been developed by the Improvement and Development Agency (IDeA) and Regional Improvement and Efficiency Partnerships (RIEPs), in consultation with chief executives, and by looking at best practice in other sectors.
Characteristics shared by successful authorities include having the right organisational structure with clear priorities focusing on the things that matter most to residents; having services delivered by well motivated staff who have the right skills; and incorporating continuous improvement into all departments. The importance of engaging with staff was repeatedly emphasised by the 12 chief executives interviewed for the framework’s development.
Directgov: With the impending GCSE & A Level exam results and 300,000 students graduating this summer, Directgov is launching What’s Next – a new resource for education leavers and their parents. It is a central source of easy-to-understand information & guidance on a range of topics relevant to young people looking at their options after finishing education. The website covers higher & further education, training, financial support as well as practical advice for those looking for jobs.
FSCS: The Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) Annual Report and Accounts 2008/09 chronicles the impact of the continuing turbulence in the markets on the work of the FSCS, including the Scheme’s work in relation to the recent bank failures.
In 2008/09, the FSCS protected the holders of about 3.5m bank accounts while delivering compensation in innovative ways and managing costs effectively. During the 6 months from the end of September 2008, the FSCS paid out more than £21bn in compensation. This compared to some £1bn the Scheme paid from its inception in 2001 until late September 2008.
DCSF: Schools Minister Diana Johnson has ‘welcomed’ the provisional Key Stage 2 test results for 11 year olds. The figures show that the number of primary school pupils reaching level 5 in maths has increased by 4 percentage points, meaning that 23,000 more are reaching this higher level than in 2008.
ECGD: ECGD, the UK’s official export credit agency, has published its Annual Review and Resource Accounts 2008-09, showing it provided £1.46bn of support to UK exporters & UK investors undertaking business overseas. The report showed ECGD issued 136 guarantees & insurance policies to support British companies competing in overseas markets, compared to 96 in the previous financial year. ECGD earned £38m of premium and recorded a net operating income of £299m.
ScotGov: For almost 160,000 anxious pupils across Scotland the wait is finally over, as the Scottish Qualifications Authority delivers their exam results. For the majority of pupils it will be good news, as pass rates from Access 3 to Advance Higher level remain stable with small improvements in attainment in most cases.
The Scottish Government is working to develop the next generation of Scottish qualifications, which will come into effect from 2013. These will deliver qualifications that reflect Scotland's new approach to teaching & learning with a more streamlined system, which is simpler for pupils, parents and employers to understand.
BIS: The Government has published annual performance reports for each of England’s Regional Development Agencies (RDAs). They showed that all of the RDAs are meeting the objectives, milestones and targets set out in their corporate plans. An independent study earlier in the year claimed that, overall, every pound invested by RDAs will generate at least £4.50 for their regional economies.
The RDA funded BusinessLink service has refocused its service to meet the immediate needs of businesses to survive & prepare for the upturn. Over the last year the service has nationally supported 942,166 businesses, the majority of which are SMEs which are the backbone of the country’s business community.
ScotGov: Latest figures show that 248 people in Scotland died in 2008 where Clostridium difficile was the main cause of death, while there were 48 deaths due to MRSA. According to the figures, the number of deaths where C.diff was the main cause of death fell steadily throughout 2008, from 75 in the first quarter to 42 in the last.
Following a Health Protection Scotland investigation in 2008, commissioned by the Scottish Government, some health boards revised their guidance to doctors on the completion of death certificates. This was done to reduce the number of occasions on which C.diff is mentioned in the wrong part of the death certificate. Because of this, statistics for 2008 are not directly comparable to those for 2007 and earlier years.
ScotGov: Official statistics published by the General Register Office for Scotland (GROS) show that, in 2008, Scotland remains on-track to meet key targets on cutting premature deaths from the 'big three' killers - heart disease, stroke and cancer.
The Scottish Government's new Better Heart Disease and Stroke Care Action Plan has improving people's health before problems develop at its core. Measures range from encouraging healthier lifestyles to improving cardiac and stroke treatment & care and boosting staff skills.
Latest figures showed that NHS Scotland met the national target to treat 95% of urgently referred cancer patients within 2 months for the first time. The Scottish Government's action plan, Better Cancer Care, sets a new target that, by 2011, all patients diagnosed with cancer, whatever the route of referral, will start treatment within 31 days from the date of decision to treat.
General Reports and Other Publications
CRC: The Commission for Rural Communities (CRC) welcomes the recent report of the Public Accounts Committee on the operation of the Government’s Warm Front Scheme, which recognises that many rural properties are hard to heat & to insulate, but points out that nearly 75% of households helped by Warm Front are not in fuel poverty. In addition, although 28% of those in fuel poverty live in rural communities, Warm Front is only reaching 15% of rural fuel poor households.
Crispin Moor Executive Director at the CRC said: “……, we are calling on DECC to introduce (statutory) social tariffs for the rural fuel poor, and to widen measures available under Warm Front to include secondary glazing.
ACE: Arts Council England has published findings from 2 new pieces of digital research. The research is part of the first phase of the organisation’s 3 year programme to help the arts world seize the digital opportunity:
* The first study explores the public’s understanding of & engagement with art in the digital space
* The second study assessed the online offer of all the ACE’s regularly funded organisations (RFOs) to produce a ‘snapshot’ of the digital presence of arts organisations across the country
ACE is currently developing the next phase of its digital research programme and all findings will inform the digital elements of the organisation’s future strategy.
CRC: The Commission for Rural Communities’ inquiry into the future for England's upland communities has been gathering evidence on how these areas can best be equipped to secure their economic prosperity, and provide sustainable benefits for all. To supplement their findings they commissioned research to build & extend on the responses they gathered. It was designed to engage with a wide range of people, particularly those who might not otherwise participate in the Inquiry.
ScotGov: First Minister Alex Salmond has published the report of the Ministerial Code Inquiry into a complaint from Iain Gray MSP regarding exchanges at First Minister's Questions. The report is the second to be carried out by the Rt Hon Lord Steel of Aikwood and the Rt Hon George Reid, Independent Advisers to the First Minister. Lord Steel had lead responsibility for inquiring into this referral.
DECC: The UK is on track to meet the challenge of securing energy supplies both internationally & domestically, a new report commissioned by the Prime Minister Gordon Brown claims. The report - ‘Energy Security: a national challenge in a changing world’ complements the actions set out in the recently published UK Low Carbon Transition Plan. It finds that many of the actions being taken to reduce climate risk also need to be sustained to tackle energy security.
Defra: A poorly developed demand for veterinary services rather than a shortage of farm animal veterinarians has been identified by a personal report published by Professor Philip Lowe. The report was commissioned by Defra on behalf of a Government/Industry Steering Group which has been considering whether there is a shortage of farm animal veterinarians in Great Britain.
The report concluded that there was no such shortage, nor a lack of interest in veterinary graduates pursuing a career in farm animal veterinary work. The report identified the potential for veterinarians to increase their role as providers of expert advice to the farming & food industries.
A recurring theme in the report is the need to better align farm animal veterinary services to meet the changing needs of the livestock industries. Professor Lowe recommends the creation of a Veterinary Development Council as an appropriate forum for bring the suppliers & customers of farm animals veterinary services together.
CLG: Communities and Local Government Secretary John Denham has welcomed the publication of Sir Ken Knight’s report into issues emerging from the Camberwell fire. Sir Ken’s Terms of Reference for his report included the fire safety matters applicable to this building and consideration of operational procedures at this incident in relation to the appropriateness of current national guidance, training and procedures.
HO: A new report by ippr - Shall we stay or Shall we Go: Re-migration trends among Britain's immigrants - claims that more & more immigrants to the United Kingdom are staying for a short time and then leaving. The outflow in the last couple of years is close to 400,000.
Research in 5 countries showed that migrants tend to come to the United Kingdom for economic reasons, but leave for personal reasons. The migrants who are most likely to leave are those with high skills, good education and low barriers to movement. These people are becoming increasingly 'super mobile'.
CRC: The Commission for Rural Communities have responded to CLG’s consultation on Planning Policy Statement 4: Planning for Prosperous Economies (PPS4). CRC have welcomed this step to reflect changes in policy, specifically relating to sustainable development and addressing the challenges of the current recession and of climate change.
It has also welcomed the fact that some of the recommendations from Matthew Taylor's 'Living Working Countryside' report and the Rural Advocate’s report 'England’s rural areas: steps to release their economic potential' have been taken forward.
There are 2 key areas where CRC believe PPS4 should be strengthened to help overcome rural economic disadvantage & release the economic potential of rural areas:
* reflect & promote a stronger evidence based understanding of how local rural economies work
* replace the notion of blanket protection with criteria which should be applied at the local level
HEFCE: The scale of the funding adjustments to London Metropolitan University (LMU) and the public interest it has generated, including many Freedom of Information requests, are exceptional & unprecedented. The HEFCE have decided therefore to release information relating to their dealings with the University.
The information includes an overview of the events, a timeline and supporting information. The Information also includes an externally commissioned report, following an independent review by KPMG, of the lessons they have learned or need to learn from this exceptional case. The University is also commissioning a lessons learned review for its own purposes. A further report on an independent audit of student records at the University by BDO Stoy Hayward cannot be released at this time for legal reasons.
Newswire – SfE: The public feels local councillors are more likely to be truthful than local MPs, according to recent research carried out for Standards for England. The research, which repeated questions asked previously in 2007, was carried out in June, at a time when press coverage about MPs’ expenses was hitting the headlines.
ESRC: Giving people a sense of being in control is an important element in health messages, according to researchers at Nottingham and De Montfort universities. The research, which was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), looked at how language used in policy messages & media coverage affects the public perception of health threats.
The report warns that lyrical & over-emotional language may be counter-productive when issuing warnings & advice about pandemics and hospital infections. Professor Brigitte Nerlich, who led the research said: “During the SARS and bird flu scare scientists & health organisations used disaster metaphors, such as ‘tsunami’, ‘perfect storm’ and ‘bio-terrorism’ to mobilise the media, governments, and individuals to prepare for a pandemic in waiting.
Such terms can make people sit up & listen, but they can also lead to panic or cynicism. Recent advice on swine flu has centred on basic hygiene, which makes people feel they can do something practical, instead of being mere victims of so-called ‘superbugs’ or ‘killer viruses’. But obviously this is easier to do when a disease is relatively benign”.
Legislation / Legal
HO: Strong new civil orders to further protect the public from violence and additional support for victims of sexual assault have been announced by Policing Minister David Hanson at the launch of an updated strategy to tackle violent crime. The publication of An Action Plan to Tackle Violence – One Year On marks the introduction of Violent Offender Orders (VOOs) to help prevent violent individuals re-offending by disrupting their patterns of offending behaviour.
VOOs are legislated for in the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 and came into force on 3 August 2009. Under the terms of VOOs serious offenders who have reached the end of their prison sentences or licence & who may be at risk of re-offending can be banned from places, events and from contacting specified people, for between 2 and 5 years.
Like sex offenders they must tell police if they move home, change their name, or go abroad. Breaking the terms of a VOO is a criminal offence punishable by 5 years in prison. Police can apply to a magistrates’ court to grant a VOO. Offenders must have served at least 12 months in prison for serious violent offences including manslaughter, attempted murder, GBH, or malicious wounding.
OFT: 12 firms offering sale & rent back services have agreed to change their adverts or take down their websites completely after the OFT challenged some of their statements made to consumers. The OFT issued formal notifications to the firms in January about advertising for sale & rent back services, which involves buying homes from individuals, usually at a significant discount, and renting them back to the previous owners.
The OFT asked the firms to substantiate claims made in their adverts or change them - typical statements included that residents are able to live in properties for life after they have sold them, benefit from low rent or buy back their homes at any point.
This action follows a market study by the OFT which recommended that the sale & rentback sector was regulated. One objective of the OFT's action was to ensure that consumer protection enforcement was effective while the Government implemented the OFT's recommendations. The FSA recently implemented an interim regime.
ScotGov: The Climate Change Scotland Bill has been granted Royal Assent and will now become an Act of Parliament. Climate Change Minister Stewart Stevenson has pledged to share Scotland's forward-thinking strategies with the rest of the UK and also with the rest of the world at this year's UN climate summit in Copenhagen (7 – 18 December 2009).
The legislation creates a long-term framework that:
* introduces a statutory target to reduce Scotland's greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% by 2050
* establishes an interim target of at least 42% emissions reductions by 2020
* establishes a framework of annual targets
* includes emissions from international aviation and international shipping
HSE: The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is warning companies responsible for carrying out legionella surveys on water systems of the need to ensure that their work is thorough & accurate. The warning follows the conviction of a Berkshire-based water treatment company for carrying out inadequate & misleading surveys at nursing homes in Blaenau Gwent and Powys.
As a result, vulnerable residents at the homes would have been at a heightened risk of contracting legionnaires disease, a potentially fatal form of pneumonia.
At Abertillery Magistrates Court on Thursday 6 th August 2009, DEBA UK Ltd of Unit 15, The Metro Centre, Toutley Road, Wokingham, pleaded guilty to three charges under Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. They were fined £24,000 and ordered to pay costs of £17,276.
Ofgem: Energy regulator Ofgem is to introduce new obligations on suppliers to ensure direct debit payments are accurately set & clearly explained. Ofgem reviewed the direct debit arrangements of the six major suppliers after customers complained about significant increases in amounts they were being asked to pay. Ofgem was also concerned that suppliers were doing a poor job in explaining the basis for payments.
The new condition in suppliers’ licences would mean they must ensure payment levels are clearly & accurately explained and based on the best available information. Suppliers will also need to be able to justify why they are holding onto credit surpluses built up by a customer.
In a separate move to protect customers, Ofgem has opened the final stage in consultation on a package of remedies emerging from last year’s retail market probe. The measures include tougher rules on doorstep sales, better information for customers via their energy bills and new annual statements on their energy use and how much it costs them each year. The package also includes increased protection for small businesses through curbing and controlling automatic roll-over of energy contracts.
Ofgem has also today confirmed that new supply licence conditions banning unjustified price differences will come into force on 1 September 2009. The licence conditions will prevent overcharging for example on pre-payment meters and for customers off the gas grid, identified last year by Ofgem’s retail probe. In direct response to this energy suppliers have already removed more than £300 million of unfair price premiums.
WAG: Planning rules that will make it easier for people to install micro-generation equipment such as solar panels in their homes are to be introduced in Wales. The aim of the latest planning changes is to remove certain types of micro-generation equipment from requiring planning permission, making it easier for individuals and local communities install equipment that will contribute to tackling climate change and lower energy bills. There will be no requirement to pay planning fees, reducing the financial burden to homeowners.
EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.
Defra: Food & Farming Minister
Jim Fitzpatrick, hosting a celebration of foods with Protected Food Name statusat
Downing Street, urged more producers to stand up for their food and more
consumers to support local produce. More UK producers should apply for
protected status for the food they produce and join iconic British foods like
Stilton cheese, Cornish clotted cream and Arbroath Smokies.
highlights regional & traditional foods whose authenticity and origin can
be guaranteed. Under the system a named food or drink registered at a
European level will be given legal protection against imitation throughout the
There are 38
products currently registered in the UK, including Melton Mowbray Pork Pies,
West Country Farmhouse Cheddar Cheese and Whitstable Oysters which serve as
major tourism draw cards for their home regions. In addition, Defra have
submitted 15 applications for protection to the European Commission.
Charity and Voluntary Sector
BIG: WW2 veterans across the country are set for trips to theatres of war throughout the world to commemorate the battles that led to the end of WW2 with 430 grants announced by the Big Lottery Fund (BIG). This third round of announcements will see a total of almost 1,100 WW2 veterans, widows, spouses & carers making commemorative trips to mark overseas anniversaries under BIG’s Heroes Return 2 programme which will run throughout 2009 and 2010.
Some veterans are travelling in groups or accompanied by family and carers, while others are making final solo visits to the places where they fought in the battle against fascism.
Business and Other Briefings
OFT: Registration has started for businesses supervised by the OFT under Government anti-money laundering regulations which aim to reduce the possibility of legitimate businesses being used for money laundering or terrorist financing. In order to comply with these regulations certain categories of business need to register with the OFT within 6 months of registration starting.
* Estate agents
* Consumer Credit Financial Institutions (CCFIs)
BIS: Every small business in the UK will now have free access to thousands of lower value government contracts on the Government’s website Supply2.gov.uk, which for 3 years has advertised thousands of public sector procurement opportunities worth up to £100,000 – making the website ideally suited to SMEs.
The fee that was previously charged to search the site across the UK will now be removed, providing firms with better access to public sector contracts to help their businesses grow. Searching for lower-value contracts across the UK was previously only available as part of a subscription service, which cost up to £180p.a.
This announcement is a move towards delivering on a key recommendation outlined in the Glover Review – that, by the end of 2010, all public sector contract opportunities should be accessible through a single, free online web portal.
This brief sets out HMRC's concerns regarding the application of tax, National Insurance and National Minimum Wage legislation in respect of temporary workers.
This brief replaces Revenue & Customs Brief 42/08. It is intended to clarify the rules for vehicles invovled in grass cutting work.
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