In the News
Please note that this is the last Newsletter before our editorial team's summer break. Publication will resume in mid September.
Defra: Swede and Turnips for all? - The UK will need to change the way food is produced & processed so that we continue to enjoy healthy affordable food in the decades ahead, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary Hilary Benn claimed as he published the country’s first food security assessment.
The challenges will be to ensure the sustainability of the UK’s food supply. In particular we will need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to adapt to a changing climate here & overseas that will affect what food can be grown and where & how it can be grown. The assessment also highlights the availability & effective use of water to produce food – the need to get more ‘crop per drop’ – and the depletion of fish stocks.
The UK Food Security Assessment is part of a package being published, which also includes:
* Food 2030, an online discussion seeking views on the future of our food system
* Food Matters: One Year On
* Draft indicators for the sustainability of the food system
Mr Benn said that there were 3 big challenges that needed to be met – How to:
* meet the economic & environmental challenges of increased productivity in the food chain
* help people eat more healthily and ensure people have access to safe, affordable food
* ensure that the way food is produced doesn’t damage the natural resources on which future production depends
The food strategy for the future will be published later in the year, drawing on responses to online consultation which closes on 16 October 2009.
Newswire – HCA: Housing to suit all budgets - Online guidance to help local authorities & developers establish the economic viability of housing and mixed-use regeneration schemes has been updated & re-issued, by the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA).
The Economic Appraisal Tool (EAT) allows local authorities to establish effective, but realistic, affordable housing targets in order to meet national planning policy requirements, based on a calculation of residual land value. The tool is designed to be site specific, but can also be used to inform viability modelling to test affordable housing targets in Local Development Frameworks.
The HCA encourages bids for grant funding to be accompanied by an EAT submission, which it then uses to help determine grant levels, as well as demonstrate the added value social housing grant can bring to a scheme. Local authorities are able to estimate a saleable value for land as well as negotiate s106 and other planning obligation agreements; and developers can use the EAT to estimate how much they should pay for land as well as to inform their own s106 negotiations.
It should be read in conjunction with the HCA’s recently published good practice note HCA Investment and Planning Obligations: Responding to the Downturn, which seeks to encourage a collaborative & transparent approach to establishing the viability of schemes.
Newswire – Banardo’s: Effective justice to protect society or just ‘out of site, out of mind’ - A Barnardo’s study of children aged 12, 13 & 14 years old who have served a custodial sentence, has found that more than a third of them should not have been put behind bars, when judged against the Government’s own criteria.
The law states children aged 14 and under should not be sent to custody unless they have committed a grave offence or have committed a serious offence and are deemed to be a persistent offender. But Barnardo’s examination of the cases of 214 children – 46% of those in this age group sent to custody in 2007/08 - found that more than a third did not meet this criterion, but were still incarcerated. Child custody is expensive & ineffective, with re-offending rates at 80% and it can cost as much as £185,780 to accommodate one young person for a year.
The study also reveals that:
* just under half the children locked up had been abused
* more than a third were living with a known offender
* 38% had witnessed violence in their family
* 8% had attempted suicide
* the likelihood of being sent to custody varied significantly by postcode.
CLG: Ensuring cheap local housing remains just that - Affordable rural homes in thousands of newly designated 'protected' areas will be safeguarded for future generations of first time buyers under new provisions. In rural areas where replacing affordable housing is difficult, new shared ownership properties will have to remain shared ownership to ensure future buyers also have a chance to own a home.
Under new powers in the Housing and Regeneration Act 2008, more than 13,000 small rural settlements will be designated 'protected' areas across England. These will be areas where land to build new affordable homes is severely limited or where it is not possible to buy existing properties for shared ownership, because of the small size of the housing market.
Shared ownership properties in these 'protected' areas will be retained by either restricting to 80% the share owners can buy or allowing owners to acquire up to 100%, but ensuring the provider, for example a housing association, buys the property back to retain it for future purchasers.
Housing Minister, Ian Austin, is also boosting the Governments support for Community Land Trusts (CLTs) to help ensure more are set up to provide much needed affordable housing. CLTs are private bodies that own or control land & assets for the benefit of the community.
A £500,000 grant is being made to the charity Carnegie UK to further develop the CLT sector by developing a trade body, launching a website with portal & forum to provide information on creating a Trust and providing training courses for professionals working for lenders, local authorities etc.
Newswire – EC: Politicians prepare to woo voters (as if we were not depressed enough) - The Electoral Commission, is reminding potential voters that now’s the time to make sure you are on the electoral register ahead of the forthcoming General Election & English local elections. Local authorities are currently sending out registration forms to households across the country to make sure the registers are up to date so that everyone who is entitled to vote can do so.
Press release ~ About my Vote ~ Electoral CommissionIndustry News: Combining the functionality of office ‘tools’ increases productivity BUT also raises issues – The good news is that ‘slanting office shoulder’ may become a thing of the past as the functionality of the once ‘humble’ mobile phone keeps increasing month by month, thus lessening the need to walk around with a portable PC slung over ones shoulder. The ‘bad’ news isn’t really news, but rather more of a cautionary warning, as a item that was once just a personal device takes on the multi-funtionary abilities of a everyday working tool.
Most of us now take as written that a portable computer (and its various storage devices) need both physical & online protection to keep its contents ‘safe’, as required by the Data Protection Act 1998. However, as the mobile phone increasingly takes on the functionality of a computer, camera, email device, etc. there is a danger that we don’t realise just how much personal ‘work’ data we are now storing on them.
This trend is likely to continue as Fixed-moblie convergence (FMC) technology gains acceptance. After all, why would one want to switch phones (mobile to landline & back) when the same device could function in all situations. This is especially true when one considers the spread of home working and hot-desking in the office environment and with it the need to ‘just have the one number / phone’.
Click here to find out more about some of the security issues and to receive the latest information sheets from Cable & Wireless on Secure Voice and Secure Managed Video Conferencing.
For information on forthcoming public sector events please click HERE to visit the WGPlus Events Calendar
MoD: Her Majesty The Queen and His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh will attend a service of remembrance to be held in St Paul’s Cathedral at 1100hrs on Friday 9 October 2009 to mark the end of combat operations in Iraq. The service will be an opportunity to honour the members of the UK Forces & civil servants who served in Iraq and to remember those who gave their lives over the six year operation.
Attendance at the service will be by invitation only and the majority of the congregation will consist of serving and ex-serving veterans of the conflict, along with their commanders, the injured and families of those who died.
BIS: The government claims that figures show that the Government’s vehicle scrappage scheme has been a success up & down the country, with orders reaching 154,927. The scheme has contributed to the 13.5% jump in car manufacturing and the first growth in new car registrations since April 2008. Data also reveals that, on average, the replacements have CO2 emissions that are 25% lower than the cars scrapped.
NSG: A New Deal to provide the Civil Service with the skills & training to deliver better value for money services for people was outlined at Civil Service Live 2009 recently. The New Deal has brought together Permanent Secretaries, the human resources community, Government Skills and others to agree a Core Learning Programme to cover the essential areas of policy, leadership and professional development. As the corporate learning resource for the Civil Service, the NSG is responsible for its design & delivery.
TfL: Every day hundreds of passengers leave a variety of objects on the Tube - last year 66,588 - but for most people it is just annoying that they have left an umbrella on the train. On their ‘trip of a lifetime’ to England, one Sri Lankan woman and her 2 grown-up children left a bag containing all their holiday money, passports, tickets & credit cards on a Northern line Tube train.
When Mrs Suranganie Joseph realised she had lost the bag, distraught & frantic with worry, she asked Leicester Square Tube station Station Supervisor, Bob Khaira, for help and he ‘sprang into action’. Checking pictures on her daughter's digital camera Bob discovered that she still had the bag with her when she got on the Tube. He eventually tracked the bag down to Woodside Park station and they were reunited with the bag (all of its contents were untouched).
Property normally takes a minimum of 2 working days to arrive at the Lost Property Office. Positively identified lost property is returned to the owner (in person or by post) once a restoration fee, postage and (for property lost in taxis) a driver's award has been paid. Property not claimed after 3 months is either donated to charity or sold at auction, with all revenue generated contributing towards the cost of running the LPO service.
MoD: The UK’s torpedo industry will benefit from a 10-year support contract following a £370m deal with BAE Systems, which covers all aspects of support & maintenance for the heavyweight Spearfish torpedoes that arm Britain’s submarine fleet and lightweight Sting Ray torpedoes which are carried on Royal Navy ships & helicopters and Royal Air Force Nimrod Maritime Patrol aircraft:
* Spearfish is a submarine-launched heavyweight torpedo and is embarked in current attack (Swiftsure & Trafalgar) and deterrent (Vanguard) submarines. It will be deployed in the Astute class from 2010.
* Sting Ray is a lightweight anti-submarine torpedo carried aboard RN ships, Lynx & Merlin Helicopters and RAF Nimrod Maritime Patrol Aircraft. It is fully autonomous once launched.
MoD: DNA tests commenced last week on the remains of hundreds of British & Australian World War I soldiers discovered in northern France. The group burial in Fromelles was confirmed during a limited excavation in May 2008 and it is thought that between 250-300 Australian & British soldiers were buried there by German forces after the Battle of Fromelles.
A full archaeological excavation of the site is expected to be completed by the end of September 2009 and an identification board will convene in March 2010 to consider the available evidence that may lead to the identification of individual soldiers. Anyone who believes they may be related to a soldier killed at Fromelles should contact the Joint Casualty & Compassionate Centre by calling 01452 712612, extension 6303, or by emailing Fromelles@spva.mod.uk. Families already registered will be contacted with details about the DNA testing process.
DH: A new online service that allows patients to rate & compare hospitals on issues such as car parking & waiting times has been launched. As patients now have the right to choose when & where they receive hospital treatment, a new web-based scorecard is now available to give people all the information they need to make the right choice of hospital for them.
The scorecard, which works in a similar way to internet comparison websites, means patients will no longer have to search multiple sources to find key information about where to receive treatment. Instead patients will be able to compare a range of hospitals and their ratings in one place.
The website allows patients to pick from a drop down menu, and choose criteria which are most important to them when making their decisions. People can either look at a general scorecard, which compares different hospitals, or look in more details at specific treatments & procedures within those hospitals. Later in 2009, a similar service is being launched to allow patients to rate & compare GP Practices.
IfL: The Institute for Learning has highlighted that to declare the CPD you have completed for the 2008-09 year, you can access & complete their short online CPD declaration form or, alternatively, if you have been recording your CPD in REfLECT, you can log into your REfLECT account to make your declaration.
FDA: The announcement by Northern Ireland finance minister Sammy Wilson that the 220 most senior civil servants in Northern Ireland would not be receiving any performance-related bonus payments this year has been condemned by the FDA (the union for senior managers in the civil service).
FDA Northern Ireland secretary Jim Caldwell said: "These performance-related payments were originally introduced as a cost-saving mechanism - they are not consolidated into base pay and are therefore non-pensionable………. Following Sir David Normington's fundamental review of the SCS reward structure, the Cabinet Office is working towards a new mechanism for SCS pay.
These proposals are to be put in the autumn to the independent Senior Salaries Review Body (SSRB), which makes recommendations to the Government on senior pay. It makes no sense to make this change in advance of consideration by the SSRB……… the lack of consultation around these decisions and the refusal of the minister to meet with the FDA, despite our requests, are particularly regrettable."
MCA: At 1650 last Tuesday evening, Holyhead Coastguard was alerted to 3 people who had launched a white speedboat into Bull Bay around an hour previously and had not returned. The craft had an outboard engine and was carrying only 2 lifejackets for the 3 people on board. It also possessed no VHF radio. Two of the people on board were teenagers of 16 years old and the craft was being driven by the father of one of the young people.
The driver of the vessel had also locked his mobile phone in his car. No passage plan had been worked out for the vessel and therefore its whereabouts was unknown. No flares were being carried on board.
In the subsequent search, 2 Coastguard Rescue Teams were turned out, 2 all weather lifeboats were requested to launch and 1 inshore lifeboat was also called upon. Eventually the people were found after 1800hrs, cold but well, 5 nautical miles from Bull Bay with the weather deteriorating with squalls and southwesterly winds of 20 – 25 knots. The seas locally were 1 – 2 metres high.
Newswire – EA: The River Thames is to receive a £5.1m upgrade this year, with 13 locks benefiting from repairs & improvements. The Environment Agency (EA) will be investing in new lock gates, repair of lock chambers, improved layby walkways and better mooring facilities. In total, 10 locks will be affected by temporary closures, with work scheduled to take place during various periods between November 2009 & February 2010.
The EA’s drive to provide ‘out of hours’ public power at all its hydraulic locks reaches its conclusion this year when the final 3 will be installed at Iffley, Whitchurch and Marlow locks. This allows boaters to operate the lock at half power when the lock keeper is not available to help.
To help boaters plan their journeys on the river while the works are underway the EA has produced a handy map, detailing the work taking place and how long locks will be closed. The map will be regularly updated.
SE: 3 years out from the London 2012 Games, the 46 national governing bodies (NGBs) benefiting from £480m of Sport England investment are putting in place the building blocks to achieve ambitious sport-by-sport targets. For swimming that includes a number of initiatives, including beacon clubs, a national volunteering recognition scheme - and the Government's free swimming initiative.
MoD: After 6 years of service in Iraq, the last Puma & Merlin helicopters have come home to Royal Air Force Benson in Oxfordshire. Engineering work has already begun on upgrading the Merlin fleet to Theatre Entry Standard, which includes fitting improved rotor blades and updating the Defensive Aids Suite, while the Helicopter Force prepares for a 4-month training exercise in the United States.
DFID: Young people in the UK are being given the opportunity to open their world up by volunteering on community projects overseas through a fully funded scheme from the Department for International Development (DFID) called Platform2.
The £10m 3-year scheme raises awareness of global development with young British adults from less advantaged backgrounds who would not be able to afford to volunteer overseas. Successful volunteers spend 10 weeks living & working at one of several projects, including looking after vulnerable children at the Johannesburg Child Welfare Society in South Africa; helping build a secondary school in Nepal; working on conservation projects in Kenya, or teaching local children at a school in the foothills of the Indian Himalayas.
MoD: A high-tech temperature-controlled medical storage facility which will help military medics save lives on the frontline - The Bulk Medical Storage Facility (BMSF) - can hold the equivalent volume of blood products to a small hospital bloodbank. It is designed to work in extremes of temperature and the UK military will be the only forces in the world to have this capability.
It will provide secure storage for medical material at deep frozen, refrigerated & ambient temperatures simultaneously, even when external temperatures rise as high as +58C or drop as low as -26C. Each BMSF is based on 20ft ISO containers with on-board power generation and a capability to ‘hook up’ to expeditionary infrastructure power supplies.
The BSMF will be tested by the MOD this month and then a further 13 will be produced, which could save the lives of troops injured on the frontline as early as next summer. The BMSF affords the MoD the capability of moving significant quantities of blood (Red cell Concentrate), and blood components (Specifically Fresh Frozen Plasma and Cryoprecipitate) in one shipment in a controlled environment that ensures the blood & blood components are suitable for immediate use.
Under the contract, General Dynamics UK have already supplied 88 man-portable refrigerator systems (holding up to 30 units of blood) that can be taken closer to front line operations and will keep blood products at +4C. The blood can be safely stored at the correct temperature anywhere where there is a power supply and for up to eight hours without power.
TfL: TfL has announced that Serco is the successful bidder for the contract to set up & operate the London Cycle Hire scheme, which will launch in summer 2010. More than a quarter of the 400 cycle docking station sites, where people will pick up & drop off the cycle hire bikes, have already received planning permission.
The scheme will launch with 6,000 hire bicycles based in the 9 London boroughs & Royal Parks that make up London's zone one travel area and are expected to generate around 40,000 extra cycle trips a day. It will be based on, but not identical to, the award-winning Canadian cycle hire scheme, Bixi, which launched in Montreal earlier this year. A simple to use payment system will support the scheme.
STFC: A team of scientists has found a new planet which orbits the wrong way around its host star. The planet, named WASP-17, and orbiting a star 1,000 light years away, was found by the UK's WASP project in collaboration with Geneva Observatory.
Since planets form out of the same swirling gas cloud that creates a star, they are expected to orbit in the same direction that the star spins. Graduate students David Anderson, of Keele University, and Amaury Triaud, of Geneva Observatory, were surprised to find that WASP-17 is orbiting the wrong way, making it the first planet known to have a ‘retrograde’ orbit.
WASP-17 appears to have been the victim of a game of planetary billiards, flung into its unusual orbit by a close encounter with a ‘big brother’ planet. Professor Coel Hellier, of Keele University, remarks: "Shakespeare said that two planets could no more occupy the same orbit than two kings could rule England; WASP-17 shows that he was right.”
FSA: Sainsbury’s has withdrawn its Taste the Difference Scotch Beef Burgers with Smoked Jalapeno Chillies (pack of two), because the product contains cheese that is not mentioned in the allergy advice box although it is correctly labelled in the ingredients list. This makes the product a possible health risk for anyone who is allergic or intolerant to milk or milk constituents.
The Food Standards Agency has issued an Allergy Alert advising anyone with an allergy or intolerance to milk or milk constituents not to eat this product. No other Sainsbury’s products are known to be affected.
FSA: The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has awarded grants to help more than 5,000 caterers & food retailers improve food safety. This is the fourth year the FSA has given these grants as part of its ongoing commitment to helping food businesses comply with EU hygiene regulations.
Local authorities and a range of other organisations will administer the grants, to support food businesses in implementing Safer food, better business (SFBB) – an innovative & practical approach to helping small businesses put in place systems to manage food safety risks.
This year grants were awarded to projects that address one or more of our three main priorities:
* preparation for the 2012 Olympics
* moving to a new 6-tier Scores on the Doors scheme
* sustainability of SFBB implementation
TfL: Transport for London (TfL) has announced a 12 month trial, which will see 20 uniformed Travel Safe Officers on London Overground services who will help passengers and deter antisocial behaviour. The new team will, in time, have the power (under the Railway Safety Accreditation Scheme) to issue Penalty Notices for Disorder such as graffiti, criminal damage or littering and will also be able to take names & addresses of people behaving unacceptably on the network and pass them on to the Police.
The new team will work closely with the British Transport Police’s (BTP’s) Neighbourhood Policing Teams, who already work on the Overground and provide an extra deterrent to bad behaviour & help tackle the fear of crime.
ScotGov: The Minister for Schools and Skills, Keith Brown, recently hosted a send-off reception for the young Scots who have been selected for the UK team for WorldSkills 2009 - the biggest skills competition in the world, to be held in Canada next month. It will run between September 1 - 7 and see these young people compete alongside 1,000 other competitors from 51 countries, watched by more than 200,000 spectators.
Young people aged 15 to 23, who are in education or training, and interested in qualifying for the next WorldSkills competition, to be held in London in 2011, can register on the Wordskills UK website.
CLG: Ten community radio stations across the country are backing a 'Fire Kills' campaign for Ramadan, to inform their listeners about the potential dangers of fire in the home and what they can do to protect their family and the community. 80 people die each year as a result of not having a working smoke alarm.
The radio stations will be hosting special live shows on the Fire Kills campaign and to discuss fire safety issues.
Special Ramadan timetables have also been produced with support from the radio stations and will be exclusively distributed to the local communities.
Research carried out by Communities and Local Government found that people living in households without a working smoke alarm are more than twice as likely to die from a fire. It provides the vital early warning needed to allow members of a household to escape in the event of a fire before they are overcome by smoke & fumes. By having one and testing it every week, you can help keep your family safer from fire.
DH: The priority groups who will be first in line for vaccination against swine flu will include pregnant women, frontline health & social care workers and everyone in at-risk groups aged over 6 months. The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) reviewed the evidence and advised the Department of Health on the crucial risk groups to be offered vaccination in order to reduce the rate or possibility of serious illness.
Vaccination of frontline health & social care workers (approximately 2m people) will begin at the same time as the first at-risk group, and will continue for as long as necessary. This group is at increased risk of infection and of transmitting that infection to susceptible patients. Protecting these people will help the NHS workforce to remain resilient and able to treat sick patients.
Preparations continue to be made to extend the programme beyond these initial priority groups, and the JCVI will consider this matter further and report back in due course. This advice was also scrutinised & endorsed by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE). The vaccination programme is expected to begin in the Autumn, subject to the vaccine being licensed by the European Medicines Agency.
CQC: The Care Quality Commission have developed advice for care providers during the swine flu pandemic. Health & adult social care regulations continue to apply during a flu pandemic, unless otherwise announced by the Department of Health. This situation is being kept under review and may change – See ‘Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides’ section for more information.
Defra: Movements of fish into, out of & within a fishery in Cambridgeshire have been restricted, following the confirmation of koi herpesvirus disease. Cefas, acting on behalf of Defra, has issued a Confirmed Designation prohibiting the movement of fish into, out of & within the affected site. The affected fishery is Long Island Lake, Earith, Cambridgeshire and the designation also includes nearby Earith Carp Lakes.
Under the requirements of the designation both fisheries have been directed to either, establish & maintain on-site facilities for the disinfection of angling equipment at all access points or, to provide anglers with nets, mats and slings for exclusive use on the affected fisheries. Anglers must comply with these requirements.
Policy Statements and Initiatives
WAG: Jane Davidson, Minister for Environment, Sustainability and Housing is encouraging everyone to enjoy the Welsh countryside this summer by cycling. For family routes based on the national cycle network, Sustrans' Routes2Ride website is really useful for planning a bike ride for all abilities. In addition, Wales is one of the best places in the world to go mountain biking (Mountain Biking Wales).
Another great way to choose an on road cycling destination this summer is to look at the Cycle Breaks packs which showcase quiet routes in Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, Powys, Pembrokeshire and Snowdonia. You can order brochures and download maps online at the Cycle Breaks Wales website.
WAG: Farming Connect, the Welsh Assembly Government’s integrated support service for farm & forestry businesses in Wales, has awarded a number of new contracts which will enhance & strengthen the services currently provided. The contracts will take effect later in August 2009 and run for up to 3 years.
All eligible farm & forestry businesses which have registered with Farming Connect since last July can claim back 50% of the costs of all the above, while businesses with Young Entrant status (i.e. where one partner is under the age of 40 years at the time of application) are entitled to claim back 80% of the costs for the Whole Farm Plan and Farm Advisory Service.
Many other services, including all the Farming Connect Development Programmes, are fully subsidised. Farming Connect is funded through the Rural Development Plan 2007-2013, which is financed by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and WAG.
DECC: A new 95mw power plant, capable of turning 600,000 tonnes of waste each year into electricity & heat (to be built at Ince in Cheshire) has been approved by the Government. The waste, which would have otherwise gone to landfill, will instead be used to generate electricity to power a new Resource Recovery Park. Excess electricity will also be exported to the National Grid.
The approval follows a public inquiry held into both the power plant and the Resource Recovery Park, which recommended that consent should be granted for the construction & operation of the plant and also that planning permission be given for the Resource Recovery Park.
DCMS: Local councils in England are to get a fresh opportunity to join the Government’s free swimming initiative. Councils that are only offering free swimming for people aged 60 & over at the moment are being given the chance to provide it for people aged 16 & under as well – and local authorities not participating in the scheme at all will be able to join, providing they offer free swimming for both the age groups.
Any councils offering free swimming for both age groups, as a result of this move, will be able to apply for a share of a capital modernisation fund of £25m to build new pools, or renovate existing ones, in 2010/11.
DCSF: The Fire Fighters Charity and the Communities and Local Government Fire Kills Campaign have joined forces to encourage schools across England to work with their local fire & rescue service and help launch a National Schools' Fire Safety Day on Wednesday 14 October 2009.
Supported by the DCSF, this year's campaign will focus on 'planning a safe escape' and will be specifically targeted at Key Stage 1 children. The main objective for the Day is for Year 2 children to learn 5 related key messages, which they can take home & relay to their families.
ScotGov: Funding totalling £4m is to be provided by the Scottish Government to improve play opportunities among 5 to 13 year-olds. 'Go Play', which will run over 2 years, will help improve facilities & services in areas where children have the least opportunities to develop through play. For example, through creative approaches to play using Scotland's natural environment and play workers working within the community.
Voluntary groups will be able to submit funding bids from mid-September, with support available for regional bodies, small grassroots community organisations and medium and large scale charities. Inspiring Scotland - the national charity which uses skills & money to improve the lives of Scotland's most vulnerable people - will manage the fund and work with these groups to increase their capacity for providing play opportunities.
ScotGov: More than 1,250 Scottish jobs can be created or safeguarded with the help of Regional Selective Assistance (RSA) from the Scottish Government. RSA is the Scottish Government's main national scheme of financial assistance to industry. It is aimed at encouraging investment & job creation in the Assisted Areas (AAs) of Scotland. It also encompasses support available to SMEs in other areas (referred to as Tier 3).
Recent changes to Tier 3 assistance mean that small businesses can now qualify, subject to meeting scheme criteria, for up to 20% (10% for medium-sized companies) of eligible project costs. Tier 3 coverage has been extended to areas of Scotland which had not previously been eligible for RSA support.
HO: ‘Synthetic cannabinoids’, often known on the street as ‘Spice’, are as harmful as cannabis and should be made illegal, according to advice given to the Government by the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD).
The harmful so-called ‘legal high’ is sold as herbal material, but scientists have found that the plant-based mix, which contains neither tobacco nor cannabis, is coated with synthetic cannabinoids that imitate the effects of the active ingredient in cannabis called tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
These synthetic cannabinoid products are being sold mainly though ‘head shops’ and the internet for as little as £20. Young people think they are safer herbal alternatives to cannabis, but they have the potential to be more harmful because users don’t know the mixture and quantity of chemicals in the product.
WAG: A major press & radio campaign has been launched to remind people of the symptoms of swine flu and what they should do if they have them. The campaign will complement the leaflet that was sent to all households across Wales earlier this year and the work of health professionals in keeping people up to date on the latest situation through the media.
The campaign also comes as tourist season in Wales is in full swing and while visitors will be welcomed from the UK & abroad, it is important to get the message across of where they can get help if they feel ill. Latest figures show that the number of people contacting their GP with flu-like symptoms has fallen. It is normal for there to be fluctuations but it is predicted that the rate will increase again with further waves of the virus over the next year.
Wales, along with Scotland and Northern Ireland, have decided not to join the interim National Pandemic Flu Service that was launched in England recently to cope with the increase in pressure on health services there.
WAG: Wales will be the first in the UK to introduce a screening programme to identify people who are at risk of heart attacks due to high cholesterol. Familial hypercholesterolaemia (FH) - is an inherited condition which causes high levels of cholesterol from birth and, if untreated, leads to coronary heart disease and heart attacks in young adults. It is estimated that up to 6,000 people in Wales have Familial hypercholesterolaemia, but as many as 4,800 may be unaware they have the potentially life-threatening condition.
The Welsh Assembly Government in partnership with the British Heart Foundation is funding the roll-out of a screening programme (which has been piloted & evaluated since 2005) to find people at risk of the condition.
ScotGov: 45 science projects across Scotland are to receive a share of £650,000 from the Scottish Government's Science Engagement Scheme, designed to make science more accessible to the public. The SE Grants scheme is run by the Scottish Government's Office of the Chief Scientific Adviser (OCSA) and supports projects that make science accessible, complement the school curriculum, provide opportunities for the public to meet scientists & discuss their work, and inspire the public about science issues & opportunities.
HO: Experts from industry & academia are being invited to provide groundbreaking innovations to help combat the threat of terrorism as part of the government’s recently launched Science and Technology Counter Terrorism Strategy.
The 3-year Strategy published aims to:
* Understand future threats & opportunities;
* Develop effective solutions
* Work with our international partners on counter terrorism-related science and technology
Alongside the strategy, a brochure has been produced for science & technology experts, to put them in touch with key contacts.
EHRC: The Equality and Human Rights Commission has launched a consultation (closes on 28 October 2009) on how private and voluntary sector employers with at least 250 staff can measure & report on their gender pay gap. Women working full-time currently earn 17.1% less per hour on average than men, with the gap failing to improve in the past 3 years. The difference in some sectors such as finance, are much wider and the majority of organisations are not aware of their own gender pay gap.
The Commission believes that developing ways for employers to measure & report on their gender pay gap will be a crucial step towards reducing pay inequity by providing greater transparency. The aim is to empower private & voluntary sector employers to report on a voluntary basis, but the Equality Bill does contain a reserve power which, if a future Secretary of State chose to use, could lead to mandatory reporting if progress has not been made on a voluntary basis by 2013.
Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides
NICE: The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has published the first menu of potential indicators for the 2010/11 Quality and Outcomes Framework (QOF) together with recommendations on indicators to be considered for retirement. NHS Employers, on behalf of the UK Health Departments will now consult the British Medical Association (BMA) on which indicators should be introduced for the 2010/11 QOF.
Each indicator is accompanied by a suite of supporting information which provides further information on why the clinical indicator was put forward for consideration by the negotiators for next year’s framework and the potential benefits ‘incentivisation’ in this area of healthcare will bring, not just to primary care, but across the NHS.
DH: A new interactive website to help parents & carers keep their babies healthy, happy & safe is being rolled out nationally by the Department of Health. NHS Baby LifeCheck is designed to provide information & advice to mums, dads and carers of babies aged five to eight months.
It guides parents & carers through a set of simple multiple choice questions, then offers advice & reassurance on making the best decisions for their child. It covers topics including: development, talking & playing, feeding, healthy teeth, safety, sleep routine, immunisations and being a parent.
Newswire – AC: The Audit Commission has launched a new risk management diagnostic tool for use (by its auditors) across all sectors, which focuses on risk leadership, partnership risk management and risk related outcomes. 'Risk it to make it' is based on tried & tested frameworks devised by HM Treasury and contains information on what represents excellent & strongly improving performance through integrated risk management.
This new tool enables an organisation or partnership to:
* know how well its risk management arrangements are working
* improve integrating risk management with its corporate business processes
* target improvement action especially on risk leadership & outcomes
NA: The National Archives has launched an innovative online tool to point researchers directly to the historical resources they are looking for. Known as 'research signposts, the first set of guides - 'Looking for records of a person?' - simplify the process of researching an individual's history by drawing together all useful research resources in one place. The signposts indicate whether the information being researched exists, and where to find it - be it online, as original documents or from external sources.
Complementing the research signposts are a series of 2 minute animated guides, collectively entitled 'Understand the archives in minutes'. These have been designed to develop researchers' skills so they can explore the archives more effectively.
CQC: The Care Quality Commission have developed advice for care providers during the swine flu pandemic. Health & adult social care regulations continue to apply during a flu pandemic, unless otherwise announced by the Department of Health. This situation is being kept under review and may change. Please refer to the National Pandemic Flu Service for all the latest information and advice on swine flu.
FSA: The Food Standards Agency has published a new range of resources to enable young people to learn essential food-related skills & knowledge. Food route: a journey through food' is a range of colourful age-appropriate workbooks designed & developed to bring the Agency's food competences to life. The materials are supported by teachers' user guides & downloadable certificates, which can be awarded on completion of the various activities.
The primary school resources deliver learning around a healthy balanced diet, being safe in the kitchen, carrying out basic cooking skills, such as peeling, slicing & mixing, as well as teaching children about food labelling and where their food comes from.
The secondary school workbooks contain activities for young people looking at the Agency's '8 tips for eating well', being a healthy weight, preventing cross-contamination, understanding storage instructions on food labels, factors affecting our food choices (including the influence of advertising) and how to make recipes healthier when they cook.
WAG: Health Minister Edwina Hart has visited Nevill Hall Hospital in Abergavenny to see how new standards on nutrition are being implemented to improve patient care. The standards have been developed by the Welsh Assembly Government following an expert report on enhancing the role of hospital ward sisters and improving the patient’s experience in hospitals. The group said nutrition should be elevated to the same importance as medication due to its role in patient recovery.
New resources – the All Wales Food Record chart and a revised Intake and Output fluid balance chart – are being introduced to provide clear standards & guidance on nutrition in hospitals. This supports the work of nutritional risk screening, which involves monitoring food & fluid intake and output, protecting mealtimes to maximise the opportunity for nutritional intake and addressing the risk of malnutrition in vulnerable patients.
The new tools for staff have been trialed in 5 NHS Trusts and will now be rolled out across Wales. An ‘e-Learning’ package is being developed and will be available by the end of the year to complement the new resources for healthcare staff which will be integrated into the NHS core training for nurses.
OGC: The Office of Government Commerce (OGC), in conjunction with its delivery partner Partnerships UK, has published an enhanced version (V2.3) of the Information Communication Technology (ICT) Model Services Agreement and Guidance for major or complex ICT enabled business change projects. The free-to-use solution includes significant updates in the key areas of financial distress & security management.
The model contract aims to help achieve better outcomes for projects with complex ICT procurements, while at the same time saving time & money. Users of previous versions have reported a positive delivery benefit, including a reduction in negotiation time.
FSA: The sixth of a series of guides for the food industry has been published. The retail guide (produced by the retail trade & other working groups) sets out recommendations that will help retailers meet the legal obligations to ensure food safety. The guide is recognised by the Food Standards Agency.
The main aim is to provide easy to understand & practicable advice on the best ways of complying with the requirements in both Regulation (EC) No. 852/2004 and national legislation. The guide will assist with applying a food safety management system based on the principles of HACCP.
Newswire – HCA: Online guidance to help local authorities & developers establish the economic viability of housing and mixed-use regeneration schemes has been updated & re-issued, by the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) – See ‘In the News’ section for more information.
ScotGov: The Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme (WIIS) have reported fewer incidents of death, deliberate abuse & cases requiring investigation - but further improvements remain vital. Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture (SASA) operate the scheme in Scotland. Their 'Pesticide Poisoning of Animals in 2008' report, details the suspected poisoning of wild animals, domestic pets, livestock and even beneficial insects like honey bees.
Newswire – TSA: Housing associations are thriving in the continuing difficult housing and credit market conditions, despite 92 associations reporting impairment charges totalling £174m for 2008/09 because the value of their homes & land has dropped, according to the Tenant Services Authority (TSA).
However, the revised impairment figure, which is up by nearly 40% on the previous quarter’s estimate, represents less than 0.5% of the associations’ total assets and none of the associations have reported financial difficulties or are in breach of covenants in their loan agreements with lenders because of the charges.
The TSA’s latest quarterly survey (April-June 2009) also reports that the number of unsold homes has continued to fall, suggesting that the property market is stabilising. Housing associations also converted less unsold low-cost home ownership (LCHO) homes to rented social housing – down from 2,200 to 344 – indicating that associations have been more successful in selling their empty LCHO homes.
ScotGov: Fergus Ewing has renewed the Scottish Government's pledge to tackle drug misuse by continuing work to put the Drugs Strategy into practice. The pledge came as figures compiled by the General Register Office for Scotland show that there were 574 drug-related deaths in 2008.
Biba Brand, of Scottish Drugs Forum said: "It is difficult to tell exactly why older drug users are increasingly featuring among the drug death statistics. However, many will have been using drugs - primarily heroin - for a long time. As a result, their physical health will have deteriorated and many will have become increasingly socially isolated over the years. This could make them more vulnerable to accidental or deliberate overdose. In addition, older drug users not in treatment services can lose hope about their chances of overcoming their drug problem and living a normal life”.
General Reports and Other Publications
Newswire – AC: Age Concern and Help the Aged has welcomed support from the Work and Pensions Select Committee for an urgent increase to the Personal Expenses Allowance (PEA) that 240‚000 pensioner care home residents will receive this year.
The Select Committee report - Tackling Pensioner Poverty - rightly agrees the level of PEA is far too low for care home residents to live dignified lives and calls for it to be increased to £40 a week. PEA is the allowance older care home residents with savings of less than £23‚000 get after they surrender their pensions and most of their assets to pay for care home fees.
Under national means-testing rules‚ older people are left with a ‘measly’ £21.90 to pay for essential personal items such as clothes‚ hairdressing‚ toiletries and reading materials. Even worse‚ all too often older residents have to make the money stretch to essential services such as toenail cutting & chiropody.
Earlier this year‚ ministers reneged on previous commitments to consult on the level of the PEA and failed to address the issue in the Care and Support Green Paper‚ published earlier this month.
Newswire – WWF: More than 350 new species, including a flying frog and the world’s smallest deer, have been discovered in the Eastern Himalayas, a WWF report has revealed. But this treasure trove of biological diversity is now threatened by climate change, it warns.
The report - The Eastern Himalayas – Where Worlds Collide - describes a host of new species found over the last decade in the remote mountain region spanning Bhutan, north-eastern India, northern Myanmar (Burma), Nepal and southern parts of Tibet.
They include 244 plants, 16 amphibians, 16 reptiles, 14 fish, 2 birds, 2 mammals and at least 60 invertebrates. Among the discoveries are a bright green frog which uses its long red webbed feet to glide in the air and the miniature muntjac or leaf deer. At just over 2 feet tall, the leaf deer is the world’s smallest deer species.
Unfortunately, this globally-important hotspot of biological diversity is highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change. WWF have therefore launched their Climate for Life campaign to bring the plight of the Himalayas to the attention of the world.
ESRC: High-growth & innovation are essential if the UK wants to successfully surface from the recession. Research has an important role to play in successfully introducing new improved services, products, processes and business models to support the business sector. In return this will give businesses more opportunities to effectively meet public demands & needs.
Following the successful implementation of phase one of the Innovation Research Initiative, the UK Innovation Research Centre (UK~IRC), and partners are pleased to announce phase two. This phase included applications in two research areas:
* substantive research projects
* exploratory research projects
Newswire – CABE: New homes do not provide enough space for everyday activities such as preparing food easily, having friends round for dinner, or even recycling. CABE conducted the research with the owners of 2,500 private new homes, to explore views on the adequacy of internal space.
* 44% say they do not have enough space for small children to play safely in the kitchen while cooking
* 37% say they or their children do not have enough space to entertain guests privately.
* 72% do not have enough space for the 3 small bins required to recycle properly
* 35% do not have the kitchen space for basic cooking appliances such as a toaster or a microwave
* 57% do not have enough storage
* 47% cannot accommodate all the furniture they have, or would like to have.
Richard Simmons, CABE chief executive, says the research brings into question the argument that the market will meet the demands of people living in private housing developments; 'We need local planning authorities to ensure much higher space standards before giving developments the go-ahead.' The Homes and Communities Agency should seize the opportunity to produce new cross agency standards for space.
SE: Sport England and British Universities & Colleges Sport (BUCS) have published a new partnership plan to capitalise on the potential of students to make a major contribution to SE’s goals, while improving their own life prospects.
SE’s target is to increase the number of people playing regular sport by 1m – and they believe students can account for almost a third of these participants. Their research shows that 819,000 students already play sport once or twice a week – which they aim to increase to at least 3 times a week.
FSA: Tim Smith, the Chief Executive of the Food Standards Agency, has written an open letter to interested parties about the independent organic review. The letter emphasises the validity of the independent study published recently that shows that there are no important differences in the nutrition content of organic food when compared with conventionally produced food.
The letter goes on to say: ‘Pesticides were specifically excluded from the scope of this work. This is because our position on the safety of pesticides is already clear: pesticides are rigorously assessed and their residues are closely monitored. Because of this the use of pesticides in either organic or conventional food production does not pose an unacceptable risk to human health and helps to ensure a plentiful supply of food all year round’……….
‘The important message from this report is not that people should avoid organic food but that they should eat a healthy balanced diet and, in terms of nutrition, it doesn’t matter if this is made up of organic or conventionally produced food’.
BIS: Most college learners believe their course played an important role in getting a job, a Government report has claimed. In a survey of over 4,800 people who had completed a further education course and were out of work when they began their studies, 41% had secured a job 2 years after they had ‘graduated’, up from 34% the previous year.
L62% of learners now in work said their course was either vital or helpful to getting a new or different job after college. Among those seeking employment, 64% believed their college course improved their chances of finding work. College courses were also seen by many to boost promotion prospects & job security.
Going to college has also influenced many learners’ decision to continue education, with 73% likely to undertake further learning or training within the next two years. 26% have already gained a further qualification since they completed their course in 2005/6.
ESRC: Young people working on conservation projects are often coerced into ‘grunt’ activities like digging holes or picking up litter and gain little from environmental volunteering, according to research at the University of Exeter.
The project, which was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), found that many young volunteers travelled long distances from cities to short-term projects in rural areas and felt they were being punished for being disruptive or naughty at school. They saw the conservation work as having no relevance to their future employment, or educating them on green issues.
Dr Michael Leyshon, who led the project, said:
“The problem lies in the mismatch between youth services and environmental education. 'Environmental conservation is largely organised by people with a background in environmental science, but no training in youth work and youth workers have no training in conservation. The result is that young people and the environment both lose out. We need more coordination in the voluntary sector and an effective interface with youth services”.
LDA: The Mayor of London has published London’s tourism vision for taking full advantage of the opportunities for the capital’s economy arising from the 2012 Olympic & Paralympic Games. It aims to strengthen the capital's position as the world’s most popular destination for visitors.
The London Tourism Action Plan 2009-13, produced by the London Development Agency, sets out how it will deliver the Mayor’s key priority of ensuring the capital remains the number one choice for international travellers and that the city provides an inspirational experience for everyone in the capital during the 2012 Games.
Newswire – AC: Local & national government have made a positive initial response to the recession says an Audit Commission (AC) report, but it warns that councils should prepare for worsening social impact as unemployment rises. Demand for benefits, welfare & help with debt are growing and social problems such as domestic violence & mental ill-health are expected to follow as the recession deepens.
The new national report When it comes to the crunch... also describes a longer-term 'third wave' of recession, which would see most areas bounce back while others continue to flounder.
This is the second in a series of national reports on how local authorities are responding to the recession. The first Crunch Time?, published December 2008, looked at the impact on local government finances. This latest report exposes the broader impact on councils, on their services and on the communities they serve.
In addition to Crunch Time? the AC has produced other relevant reports including A Mine of Opportunities(a study of the regeneration of the former English coalfields - December 08) and Room for Improvement(how councils can manage their assets better - June 09), and will soon publish Building Better Lives (strategic housing management).
Defra: The Food Matters report published in July 2008 by the Cabinet Office included 2 parallel action points for the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and Defra on genetically modified (GM) food & animal feed. The action points were as follows:
* Defra, working with the FSA, will publish an analysis of the potential impacts on the livestock sector arising from global food trends in GM production and the current operation of the GM approval system in the EU.
* In parallel, the FSA, working with Defra, will publish an analysis of the extent to which changes in the market are putting a strain on the regulatory system for GM products (including animal feed) and the implications for UK consumers.
A progress report updating all of the Food Matters actions, including the 2 action points above, has been published - ‘Food Matters: One year on’.
Business and Other Briefings
HMRC: Two ground breaking tax agreements between the Government of Liechtenstein and the UK signed last week will result in off shore investments in Liechtenstein made by UK residents being properly taxed & represent the commitment of Liechtenstein to increased tax transparency.
A new Tax Information Exchange Agreement (TIEA) will enable the UK and Liechtenstein to exchange information to ensure the right tax is paid in each country in future. It will allow penalties on unpaid tax to be capped at 10% of tax evaded over the last 10 years providing the taxpayer tells HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) everything. Those who fail to make a full disclosure by the end of the programme will find their accounts in Liechtenstein closed down and face penalties of up to 100% when HMRC catches up with them.
The Liechtenstein Disclosure Facility (LDF) runs from 1 September 2009 to 31 March 2015. The Liechtenstein Government will introduce new laws to ensure audit of the process.
HMRC: The Tax Chamber of the First-tier Tribunal have today ordered over 300 banks to give details to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) about their customers who hold offshore accounts. HMRC can now issue the information notices to banks ahead of the New Disclosure Opportunity (NDO).
The NDO will allow people with unpaid taxes linked to offshore accounts or assets to settle their tax liabilities at a favourable penalty rate. Under the rules of the NDO, people who make a complete & accurate disclosure will qualify for a 10% penalty. Those who choose not to take this opportunity and are subsequently found to have undeclared tax liabilities are likely to face a 30% or higher penalty and also run an increased risk of criminal prosecution.
FSA: The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has introduced a new code that will require large banks, building societies & broker dealers in the UK to establish, implement & maintain remuneration policies consistent with effective risk management.
The new code is designed to achieve two objectives:
* firstly, that boards focus more closely on ensuring that the total amount distributed by a firm is consistent with good risk management & sustainability
* secondly that individual compensation practices provide the right incentives
Eight principles have also been added to the FSA’s handbook to ensure firms understand how the FSA will assess compliance. The code claims to make it clear that it is not expected that firms will enter into contracts with individuals which provide guaranteed bonuses for more than 1 year. It is also expected that for senior employees two-thirds of bonuses will be spread over three years.
Firms are expected to provide the FSA with a remuneration policy statement by the end of October 2009. This will have to be signed off by remuneration committees and will enable the FSA to check compliance with the code. Non-compliant firms could face enforcement action or, ultimately, be forced to hold additional capital should they pursue risky processes.
CLG: Many high streets in areas of high deprivation are seeing empty shops boarded up because of the downturn, which is impacting on consumer and business confidence. The Government wants to help ensure town centres remain vibrant places for people to meet & shop and is providing £3m to help 57 of the hardest hit areas find creative ways to use their empty shops and re-open them as facilities for communities.
Each council will receive a grant of more than £50,000 to use as they see fit on ideas to boost town centres and transform empty shops into something useful such as a meeting place, a learning centre or a even a showroom for local artists.
The Government's Looking after our town centres guide was welcomed by the Association of Town Centre Management for giving councils tips & ideas for combating the effects of the downturn. It has already been downloaded over 9,000 times in only a few months. It sets out how councils can encourage activities like traditional retail & farmers markets, local festivals or other entertainments that can bring added attractions to communities and high streets during the downturn.
This brief sets out HMRC's view on the Inheritance Tax position in relation to contributions to an Employee Benefit Trust.
A new VAT Information Sheet 14/09 and Revenue & Customs brief 51/09 are being published to replace the incorrect VAT Information sheet 12/09 and Revenue & Customs Brief 44/09 which are now withdrawn.
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