In the News
The WGPlus editorial team welcomes back its readers after the summer break with a newsletter that provides a quick ‘catch-up’ facility of the main news releases of the last 3 weeks - providing links to the reports, guidance, consultations, etc. that readers may need to ‘action’ on their return from their own holidays.
Newswire – Civitas: Do we really believe it can improve EVERY year? - A report from independent think-tank Civitas - Straight A's? A-level teachers' views on today's A-levels - based on a nationwide survey of randomly selected senior A-level teachers, reveals that:
* 0% of A-level teachers surveyed think that the increase in A grades is down to more able students
* Only 4% think better quality teachers are the main reason for an increase in A grades at A-level
Instead, the findings show that 80% of teachers who expressed a view think they themselves would have achieved higher overall grades had they taken today's A-levels - and just 16% think they would have achieved the same set of A-level grades.
The general consensus is that the system today allows the same calibre of students to achieve higher grades. Specifically, the majority of teachers surveyed regard the increase in top grades to be down to students knowing more about what will be examined. In addition:
* 71% of teachers who expressed a view estimated that 50% or more of their last year's A-level students did at least one re-sit
* 69% of teachers who expressed a view estimated that 50% or more of those students who re-sat achieved a higher overall A-level grade as a result
'Teachers and students are understandably riled by the annual criticism of A-levels, but the point is not that students and teachers aren't working - it's that the system isn't,' commented Anastasia de Waal, Director of Family & Education at Civitas and author of the report. The A-level has become a means to an end - about grades for university, not knowledge & understanding. The irony is that universities are now rejecting A-level results as reliable indicators. A-levels are therefore running the risk of becoming defunct.
MoD: The least we can provide to help rebuild their lives - A milestone in care provision for injured soldiers was reached recently with the official opening of the new Army Recovery Centre at Erskine's Edinburgh Home, Gilmerton. The state-of-the-art centre, a dedicated 12-bed wing of the £8.6m Erskine Edinburgh Home, is the result of a partnership between the Army, veterans’ charity Erskine and Help for Heroes who together are providing accommodation & support for soldiers wounded or injured during duty.
This is the first purpose-built Army Recovery Centre to be launched in the UK. Continuous evaluation of this pathfinder scheme will show the way to deliver similar services wherever the need is identified, with planning already underway towards a second pathfinder facility in Colchester.
The centre has been named Mark Wright House in honour of Corporal Mark Wright GC who was killed in 2006 in Afghanistan's Helmand Province, when a routine patrol encountered an unmarked minefield. Mark was posthumously awarded the George Cross in recognition of the courage he displayed during the incident.
Prior to the new Army Recovery Centre, once patients left hospital or the Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre at Headley Court, most continued to convalesce at home. However, some families simply cannot provide the required level of support & care needed to allow patients to return to duty or gain a smooth transition to a skilled & supported civilian life.
In addition, news has subsequently been released that the Royal Navy and Royal Marines have formed a new Royal Marine Unit called Hasler Company specifically to help aid the recovery, rehabilitation & re-integration of Marines needing focussed & individual attention. It is based in HMS Drake, HM Naval Base Devonport, Plymouth, and was officially opened on Monday 7 September 2009.
HMS Drake is also home to the Khumbu Challenge 09 – a mountaineering expedition taking place this autumn for various troops recovering from war or accidents.
Defra: A drop in the ocean compared to the £2bn bill for summer 2007 damage - Local communities across England will benefit from £16m funding to help them tackle surface water flooding, Environment Secretary Hilary Benn has claimed. £9.7m has been awarded to 77 local authorities for areas where the evidence shows that the risk & potential impact of surface water flooding could be highest. Local authorities for all other areas will also be able to bid for a share of £5m to help them deal with known local flooding problems.
Defra will publish details of how local authorities can bid for the £5m funding and the criteria on which bids will be assessed, in the next few weeks. Innovative proposals for tackling surface water flooding especially in rural areas will be particularly welcomed. Defra is also spending £1m on making training, data & other tools available to help all local authorities manage flood risk.
DfT: Is this just another way for the government to keep tabs on us? - New technology, enabling mobile phones to double up as ‘swipe & go’ cards and bank cards to be used to pay directly for journeys could revolutionise how travellers purchase & use tickets according to a new consultation (closes on 23 October 2009).
The Government estimates that the benefits of universal 'integrated smart' ticketing could be as much as £2bn per year through improved journey times and faster, more convenient & reliable purchasing and use of tickets, with benefits for local government & operators too.
Central to the vision is the implementation of smart ticketing infrastructure using the Government backed ITSO specification to allow seamless travel between, and within, cities & regions; and different modes of transport. The Government hopes that the Smart & Integrated Ticketing Strategy will build on the success already seen in London where 'Oyster’ smart cards are now used for 78% of bus & tube journeys.
Newswire – Audit Scotland: Not prepared for every eventuality yet - A new report by Audit Scotland - Improving civil contingencies planning - says that there is a long history of organisations working together in emergency situations. Key organisations are working well together to plan for dealing with major disruptions and events such as severe weather and the current flu pandemic. However there is still more they could do to improve their arrangements.
There are 8 Strategic Coordinating Groups (SCG) across Scotland, which are the focal point for local multi-agency planning. They bring together local authorities, health boards & organisations such as utilities & telecommunications companies and also provide for some involvement from the voluntary and private sectors.
The Audit Scotland report says that:
* arrangements for dealing with incidents that cross organisational boundaries or borders are often untested
* mutual aid agreements for sharing resources between different parts of Scotland during emergencies are often too informal
* There needs to be a standard approach to the handling of sensitive information
* Greater clarity is also needed on leadership, roles & responsibilities, accountability and priorities
* Communicating with local communities needs to improve so that the public are better informed
OS: Mapping out a basic skill for children - Schoolchildren across England & Wales have the chance to get their hands on free Ordnance Survey maps, following the launch of the national mapping agency’s the Free maps for 11-year-olds scheme (teachers must place their order by 30 November 2009). The initiative offers every Year 7 pupil a free OS Explorer Map and has been an great success since its launch in 2002, with the 5 millionth map given away last year.
This year Ordnance Survey is working with Natural England to offer teachers an additional resource. A booklet entitled - The language of landscape (also created with help from the Geographical Association) - will be distributed to teachers in England and features practical lesson ideas & tips on further incorporating map work into the curriculum.
As well as a free OS Explorer Map, pupils are also being given the chance to win an all-expenses paid day out with the Field Studies Council in Exmoor National Park. The 12 winners that can correctly complete the answers to 5 questions will have the chance to put their map-reading skills into practice and enjoy the many activities planned for the day.
ScotGov: Will 13 be a 'lucky' number for the SNP in the run up to the General Election? - In a recent statement to the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood, the First Minister, Alex Salmond, outlined the Government's priorities contained in the document 'Towards a More Successful Scotland'.
The 13 proposed bills include plans to tackle alcohol misuse, allow for the construction of a vital new Forth Crossing, end the right-to-buy for all new social housing, and pave the way for a referendum to ‘allow the people of Scotland a free & fair choice on the country's constitutional future’
Industry News: If Public Sector Organisations want to exchange data they have to learn to CoCo - The aim of the Code of Connection (CoCo) is to develop the trust required both within and between communities; the CoCo then becomes a minimum set of security standards that organisations must adhere to when joining the Government Secure Intranet (GSi).
As a Tier 1 ICT OGC Prime contractor, Equanet provides bespoke IT solutions to public sector organisations which ensure their clients’ compliance with the Code of Connection controls. With the release of V4 and the tightening of the requirements, a large number of the SHOULDs have become MUSTs, it's now time to start planning for your annual CoCo reauthorisation.
Forthcoming Event: Gartner
Center Summit 2009 | 5–6 October | Royal Lancaster Hotel,
London - Cost Optimization and Beyond: Enabling Business Change and the Path to Growth.
Cost optimization, cost reduction, cost… has been the focus for many organisations so far in 2009. But business does not stop, should not stop, will not stop.
The aim of this event is to help you to manage this unique turbulence of our time: cost optimization and enabling business growth at the same time.
Experience with the best in the industry:
* Leading-edge Gartner Analysts
* Keynote Presenters
* Pioneering End-User Case Studies
* In-depth Foundation Sessions
* Top-tier networking with over 400 of your peers
* An exclusive opportunity to speak one-on-one with a Gartner Analyst
* Meet business needs
* Make wise investments
* Sound deployment of resources
* Safeguard clients
* Deepen tactical knowledge
* Strengthen strategic vision
* Develop your knowledge and skills
Click here to view the full Agenda and to register online.
For information on other forthcoming public sector events please click HERE to visit the WGPlus Events Calendar
For other Industry News please click HERE
TfL: Parents in London are being reminded to check that their children are signed up to Transport for London’s Zip card scheme; so that they can take advantage of their right to free travel on buses & trams in the capital with the start of the new school term in September.
The Zip travel concession has also benefited some of London's most disadvantaged families by giving 11-15 year old Oyster photocard holders child-rate travel on the Tube, DLR & London Overground, with a daily cap of just £1 (Zones 1-6). These savings are designed to enable children & young people to explore everything the capital has to offer, no matter where they live in London.
Zip Oyster photocard application forms are available from Post Offices within London. It may take up to 2 weeks to process your application. 11-18 year olds who do not have a valid Oyster photocard must pay the cash fare on buses & trams. Proof of application will not be accepted by bus drivers as a valid ticket for travel.
DfT: A national TV advertising campaign to tackle drug driving has been launched by the government after new research showed that 10% of young male drivers admit to driving after taking illegal drugs.
The new £2.3m campaign highlights that the police can & will detect drug drivers - and that anyone convicted will face the same tough penalties as a drink driver. 20% of drivers killed in road accidents may have an impairing drug in their system.
TfL: The Mayor of London has announced that Transport for London (TfL) is to install energy busting LEDs at 3,500 traffic lights at around 300 junctions in the Capital. These 300 new LED (Light Emitting Diodes) fitted junctions will save 600 tonnes of these emissions a year and around £200,000 in energy costs. The bulbs will replace the existing bulbs at 3,500 traffic signal heads, each of which contain at least three bulbs.
The initiative follows the introduction of LED lighting at all London Buses roadside ticket machines and LED lighting at 3,500 solar powered bus stops (to provide illumination for the stop & signage) and 640 shelters. If LED lights are installed in all of London’s 6,000 junctions which have traffic signals, CO2 emissions could be reduced by around 12,000 tonnes a year.
TfL: Transport for London is calling for volunteers with hidden disabilities such as autism, learning difficulties, or people who are hard of hearing, to trial a new Travel Support Card. The card can be used to help them use public transport in the capital.
The credit card sized card is designed for people with disabilities that can’t be seen, to give them greater confidence to ask for help if they need it. Showing the card will alert members of staff that the passenger may need extra support and will help people with disabilities have more confidence in asking for help.
TfL are working with disability charities, but more volunteers are needed. Volunteers with hidden disabilities who would like to take part in this trial, particularly those who live in Stratford, Willesden Junction and Wimbledon should call Kathryn Lyon at TfL on 020 7027 8340.
MoD: The first Elizabeth Cross was presented to the family of Warrant Officer Class 2 (WO2) Sean Upton at his funeral recently. WO2 Upton, from 5th Regiment Royal Artillery, was killed in an explosion while on a foot patrol in Sangin District, Helmand Province, on 27th July 2009.
The institution of the award of the Elizabeth Cross, to which Her Majesty The Queen has given Her name, was announced in Parliament on 1st July 2009 in national recognition of the loss & sacrifice suffered by the families of those who are killed on operations or as a result of an act of terrorism. It is available to the next of kin of those who have died on medal earning operations or as a result of terrorism since 1948, including the Korean War, the Falklands conflict and operations in Northern Ireland.
The Elizabeth Cross – a sterling silver emblem, in the shape of a cross over a wreath – plus a Memorial Scroll signed by The Queen were presented to WO2 Upton’s wife, Karen Upton, before the funeral, which was held at the Garrison Church at Catterick, Yorkshire.
DCMS: Plans to merge the UK Film Council (UKFC) and the British Film Institute (BFI) into a single body to support film could benefit both the film-going public and the industry, Film Minister Siôn Simon has claimed. An organisation with both a cultural & economic remit would mean public support for film is better coordinated, with more of the available funding channelled directly to frontline services.
A proposed merger, designed to protect the key existing functions of both the BFI and UKFC, while reducing gaps & overlaps, is now being considered by Government and industry leaders. A project board, chaired by DCMS and with equal representatives from the BFI and UKFC will now look at the proposal to develop a possible new model and governance structure.
The project board will consider the practical and legal issues that would need to be resolved before such a merger could take place. It is expected to complete this analysis before the end of the 2009.
STFC: UK scientists are helping us edge ever closer to finding the mysterious, theorised ripples in the fabric of spacetime (known as gravitational waves) with the production of 25 new assemblies for the LIGO facility – a network of detectors designed to search for these elusive waves.
Funded by the US National Science Foundation (NSF), LIGO also allows us to look inside the most violent events in the Universe and traces its exotic phenomena in great detail. By increasing the sensitivity of the LIGO detectors by a factor of 10, the upgrades will greatly increase our chances of finding gravitational waves and open a new observational window on the Universe to test our current theories and models.
The UK’s Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) is contributing £8.5m to this multimillion-dollar upgrade project, named Advanced LIGO, and is managing the UK’s overall involvement, including collaboration from the Universities of Glasgow, Birmingham, Strathclyde and Cardiff.
ScotGov: A facility for extracting plant oil has been formally opened by Environment Secretary, Richard Lochhead. The Essentially Scottish Botanicals steam distillation unit in Beauly will be used to extract oil from Myrica gale an indigenous Scottish plant more commonly known as Bog myrtle.
Boots has struck a long-term contract with the company to supply them with the oil for use in cosmetic & healthcare products giving the potential to add differentiation and value to their brands. Oil samples have been tested on a daily basis with the assistance of Boots research & development facility. A key discovery has been the fact that more oil is derived from dry plants than fresh.
A 3-year agreement with the Agronomy Institute in Orkney worth £313,000 is aiding this testing process. This secures work on a full-time basis for one PhD student assisted by four others on a part-time basis. The University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) Millennium Institute is committed to £94,000 of the overall cost.
WAG: If you’re planning on taking a break in Wales over the next few weeks, there’s one way in which you can make sure that you reduce your carbon footprint and explore more of the local area at the same time. The Welsh Assembly Government has supported many sustainable transport schemes in Wales which provide a vital link for visitors during the summer months and reduce the use of cars in some of our most popular holiday destinations.
NA: New releases from the Security Service, available now to download from The National Archives, feature fascinating files on Hitler's deputy, Martin Bormann, actor & director Sam Wanamaker and other high-profile figures from the Second World War and post-war period. The latest release includes reports alleging Martin Bormann had survived WW2, as well as an interview with a man who claimed to have been his pilot.
Also included in the release are files on Dorothy Galton, the Security Service's 'official link' at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES); left-wing American journalist Anna Strong, who was rumoured to have been 'a teacher of English to Trotsky'; and leading scientist Solly Zuckerman. Files on these 5 individuals are available to download for free until 30 September 2009).
DECC: £2.1m has been allocated by the UK for a secure storage facility to house used radioactive sources from across Ukraine, removing the potential danger they could pose to public health or from illicit trafficking. A Memorandum of Understanding has been signed to establish a framework for the construction of the UK-funded Sealed Radioactive Sources Centralised Store inside the Chornobyl Exclusion Zone.
The funding, which is for the design & construction of the project, is from the UK Government’s Global Threat Reduction Programme. It is being delivered in close cooperation with the Ministry of Ukraine of Emergencies and Population Protection From the Consequences of Chornobyl Catastrophe, and USC Radon.
NE: Supported by Natural England, the Environment Agency and the Department of Health, the Blue Gym is a new initiative which aims to promote health & wellbeing and appreciation of the environment, as well as saving millions of pounds for the NHS. The Blue Gym will create an information & communication hub to showcase activities and encourage use of the coastline and inland waterways.
Regular contact with the natural environment results in many benefits including:
* Reduction in stress
* Increased physical activity
* Stronger communities
UK OC: The third annual Get online day will take place on Friday 23 October 2009 and is part of an established calendar of digital inclusion & skills events. But with digital participation and informal learning figuring large in mainstream policy papers Digital Britain and The Learning Revolution, this year’s campaign is set to be bigger & better than ever, with 700 official Get online day events taking place at UK online centres across England between 19 and 31 October.
The aim is to encourage thousands of off-line people to be a part of IT, and take their first steps onto the internet. For those already online, Get online day is a chance to find out more about how the internet can save them time, hassle & money and how they – and their families – can make the most of online life.
Helen Milner, Managing Director of UK online centres, said: “An estimated 15m people in this country still can’t, won’t or don’t use new technologies. Engaging, motivating, and supporting those people is absolutely key in achieving a truly digital Britain, and in driving forwards the vision laid out by Carter and Mandelson in the Digital Britain report”.
ScotGov: Random blood testing will be carried out at markets & farms to assess compliance with rules to vaccinate livestock against bluetongue disease. Samples will be taken from cattle & sheep throughout September, where possible during routine visits to farms and markets.
The compulsory vaccination programme, compliance with which has been very high, will be suspended on 25 October as we move into the vector free period. After this date keepers may continue to vaccinate their stock on a voluntary basis.
Surveillance will be carried out in November to provide a clearer picture of the disease situation. This will inform discussions between the Scottish Government and stakeholders with the aim of agreeing the vaccination arrangements for 2010 by the end of 2009. If a further compulsory campaign is required in 2010, full vaccination of stock will again be required by the end of April 2010, in the same way as it was in 2009.
NA: The National Archives is looking forward to the launch of its new education website this autumn. The site replaces its award-winning Learning Curve website and will have the same extensive resources for teaching & learning history.
Tribunals Service: 1 September 2009 marked the end of the Charity Tribunal, Estate Agents Appeals Panel and the Consumer Credit Appeals Tribunal, as a new regime for dealing with these disputes ‘kicked in’. Although the tribunals will no longer exist as separate entities, their jurisdictions – along with part of the Transport Tribunal - will be transferred into the new General Regulatory Chamber (GRC) of the First-tier Tribunal.
This means that people & organisations appealing on the various issues covered by the previous tribunals will now submit their appeals to the GRC instead. Onward appeals will be to the Upper Tribunal, which sits within the same structure. The existing judiciary & staff from the previous 4 tribunals will be moving across into the two-tier system to ensure that valuable expertise is preserved.
Defra: A review of the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) is to be carried out by its sponsor department, the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs. The review will consider the RPA’s financial & operational activities, as well as its management capability and will take account of previous National Audit Office findings and Parliamentary review.
The review will chaired by the Director General of the Food and Farming Group within Defra. It will initially consider the RPA’s financial & operational (Single Payment Scheme-related) processes, identifying where the RPA may be able to make improvements and efficiencies in its activities.
NA: War on Film is a new series of six innovative videocasts, created by The National Archives, to mark the 70th anniversary of the Second World War. The series recounts the events that went on to inspire popular war films, using extracts from real government records and archive footage.
The first of the videocasts, addressing the theme of evacuation, as featured in the 1987 film Hope and Glory, is available now. A videocast on a different theme will be released each week until 8 October 2009.
DSA: The Driving Standards Agency (DSA) will start to introduce case studies into the driving theory test from 28 September 2009. As part of the multiple choice section of the test, the case study will assess candidates' understanding of driving theory, whilst the multiple choice questions will continue to assess their knowledge of the subject.
The introductory theory test case study will take the form of a scenario, or short story, on which 5 questions will be based. Candidates will answer the questions in the same way as they do now, using either the touch screen or mouse.
Changes to the theory test are part of Learning to Drive, a long-term programme of major reforms that will progressively strengthen the way that people learn to drive and are tested. This approach received general support from the almost 7,000 people who responded to the consultation.
TfL: Transport for London (TfL) has announced that within the next 2 years, Londoners will be able to find out exactly when their next bus is due by using their mobile phone or the internet. Brand new Countdown signs will also provide bus arrival time predictions at 2,500 key stops across the Capital.
3 contracts to develop & deliver these improvements have been awarded to telent, ACIS and Trueform. Mobile & web information should be available by the beginning of 2011 and the roll out of new Countdown signs will begin a few months later.
ScotGov: A pot of cash totalling £1m is available for youth projects right across Scotland. The large haul of cash has been seized from crooks and is now being made available to be reinvested back into the community, as part of the Scottish Government's 'Cashback for Communities' initiative.
CashBack For Communities is a programme of young people's activity funded from assets seized through the Proceeds Of Crime Act 2002. Its main objective is to provide a wide range of positive activities for young people between the ages of 10 to 19 across Scotland. The fund is being administered by YouthLink Scotland, from whom any youth project interested in applying for funding can obtain guidance & application forms
ScotGov: Venison producers in Scotland have urged consumers to eat more of the meat, stressing its increased availability, health benefits and its quality. Producers of both wild & farmed venison are working hard to embed - 4 September - in the UK culinary calendar as Eat Scottish Venison Day. Central to the initiative is the launch of a new web portal for Scottish venison that will give both trade customers and consumers a one-stop source for anything they want to know.
The initiative, which has been developed by the Scottish Venison Working Group, is intended as a 3-year push that, through increased consumer & trade demand, will raise quality standards more widely and should encourage producers to bring more venison to the market - not just from red deer but also from sika & roe, the bulk of which currently goes for export to Europe.
ACE: Music stars including Russell Watson, Gary Barlow and Jamie Cullum, along with rising star Dani Harmer (aka Tracy Beaker) are urging everyone to pick up a musical instrument and play their part in raising money for children’s cancer charity CLIC Sargent.
They’re supporting a unique partnership between Arts Council England and CLIC Sargent’s Pratice-a-thon Music (PATM) campaign which encourages people of all ages & abilities to get sponsored to practice their musical instruments to help raise money for children and young people with cancer.
PATM has teamed up with ACE’s ‘Take it away’ scheme, which provides interest free loans for the purchase of musical instruments and tuition. Whether participants choose to practise for 1 week or a whole year, the important thing is to make more music, have fun and raise money for a great cause in the process.
TfL: Transport for London has announced that Oyster pay as you go customers could get cheaper fares by touching in mid way through their journeys at 9 key London Overground & Tube stations dependent on the route they take.
From 6 September 2009 all Oyster pay as you go passengers should touch their cards on new pink 'Oyster Route Validators' when they change between services at Gospel Oak, Gunnersbury, Highbury & Islington, Kensington Olympia, Rayners Lane, Stratford, West Brompton, Willesden Junction and Blackhorse Road.
The introduction of Oyster Route Validators will mean that the Oyster system will identify when passengers have avoided travelling through Zone 1 for those journeys where there are several different choices of route. This will mean that passengers who use the new readers, and touch in and out at the start and end of their journeys, will show that they have avoided Zone 1, and will be charged the appropriate fare.
Policy Statements and Initiatives
WAG: An implementation plan detailing how the Wales Fisheries Strategy will be delivered over the next decade has been published by the Welsh Assembly Government. The plan has been developed by the Wales Fisheries Strategy Steering Group and it builds on the Wales Fisheries Strategy, the Welsh Assembly Government’s strategy for the management & development of fisheries in Wales up to 2020, which was launched in July 2008.
The new implementation plan identifies keys priorities and provides all fisheries stakeholders with practical guidance that will help them to achieve the goals of the Wales Fisheries Strategy. It also sets out a number of actions that stakeholders can take to achieve these goals and identifies a number of common issues that would benefit from a co-operative approach.
CLG: Better value for money and millions of pounds of savings could be achieved by Fire & Rescue Authorities (FRAs) joining up to buy goods & services, says a new procurement strategy published by the Department for Communities and Local Government.
The National Procurement Strategy for the Fire and Rescue Service in England 2009-12 encourages Authorities to work together to achieve their joint needs while achieving best value through bulk buying. By co-ordinating their buying, F&RAs could save at least £3.5m a year from the £100m they spend on goods & services such as vehicles, ladders and breathing apparatus.
The Strategy also recommends that FRAs using professional buying organisations - such as Buying Solutions, Central Buying Consortium, the National Policing Improvement Agency and Firebuy – will gain the most favourable contract terms and value for money for the taxpayer.
ScotGov: A new opportunity for forestry projects to take advantage of substantial funding from the Scotland Rural Development Programme (SRDP) has been announced. Forestry proposals within Rural Priorities will now be assessed on an ongoing basis rather than only being examined at the assessment centres (RPACs) which are scheduled to take place three times annually.
The new measure will apply only to cases deemed as being non-contentious and the same level of rigorous assessment will apply. The announcement follows recommendations of both the review of SRDP by Peter Cook and the Confor report (‘Recommendations for changes to the systems and operations of SRDP - A Forestry Perspective’ December 2008).
BIS: Science & Innovation Minister Lord Drayson and entrepreneur James Caan have called on the UK’s best innovators to put themselves forward for the iawards - the Government backed-awards which celebrate achievements in science, innovation & technology - to get the recognition they deserve. The closing date for entries is 16 September 2009.
HO: A new fingerprint sharing deal with Canada & Australia will hopefully boost the fight against identity fraud, the Home Office has claimed. Under the new data sharing agreement, the UK will be able to swap fingerprint information of foreign criminals & asylum seekers with these 2 countries.
This agreement has been developed by the members of the Five Country Conference, which is a forum for cooperation on measures to improve immigration controls and border security. The United States will be joining shortly and New Zealand is considering legislation to join in the near future.
Each country will have the same ability to check fingerprints and for the first year of the agreement each country will be able to share 3,000 sets of fingerprints with partner countries - this will rise as the deal rolls out. The collaboration will make it easier to detect those people with previous criminal histories in other countries, as well as speed up removals and establish previously unknown identities.
In one such case, an individual claiming asylum in the UK as a Somali was found to have previously been fingerprinted on arrival in the USA while traveling on an Australian passport. Australia subsequently confirmed that the individual was an Australian citizen wanted for rape. This resulted in his deportation to Australia, where he faced court proceedings and is now serving a jail sentence.
WAG: Wales’s top Civil Servant, Dame Gillian Morgan, has joined members of her team to help convert an unused piece of wasteland near Pontypridd into a useful community space. They all volunteered for the Glyncoch Communities First Partnership’s Summer Challenge, to highlight the benefits employee volunteering can have for staff and communities alike.
During the day the WAG team joined local volunteers carrying out a variety of tasks on the project, which involves clearing a ‘grotspot’ at Garth Avenue and redeveloping it with planting, landscaping and a sculpture project. he scheme builds on the success of a similar summer challenge project in the area last year.
Social Justice Minister, Dr Brian Gibbons, said the Assembly Government encouraged a culture of volunteering, demonstrated by investment in initiatives such as GwirVol, the youth volunteering project, and the ‘Give a little, Gain a Lot’ campaign he launched in June to encourage more people to volunteer.
MoD: The MOD has said that it aims to have all UK service families living in the highest standard of accommodation by 2020. The aim is revealed in the Defence Estates (DE) 10 Year Accommodation Management Strategy which sets out plans for improving housing for both Service Families Accommodation (SFA) and Single Living Accommodation (SLA) over the next decade.
Defence Estates will now target its major upgrade programme on improving 4,000 houses in the worst condition (Standard 3 and 4) every year for the next 3 years. By March 2013 very few, if any, families should be living in houses that don’t meet the top two condition standards. By the same date, 50% of single living accommodation should also be at the top grade. By 2020, Defence Estates aims to provide 70% of SLA at the top level (Grade 1) and the remainder at Grade 2.
DfT: Transport minister Sadiq Khan has signalled the Government’s intention to crack down on rogue parking firms with the introduction of new rules limiting the access to driver data. Currently, private companies can request vehicle keepers’ details from the DVLA in order to issue penalty notices for drivers who have illegally parked on private land.
They will now all need to be a member of an Accredited Trade Association – requiring them to abide by a strict code of conduct – to get this information (to date, the only ATA for car parking companies is the British Parking Association). The measure is part of a broader cross-Government action plan to overhaul the rules governing the enforcement of parking on private land, due to be published in the Autumn. The plan is designed to target rogue firms & landowners who unfairly clamp vehicles or demand extortionate payments.
Other measures being considered include a compulsory licensing system for clamping firms which will ensure they behave responsibly and will allow the Security Industry Authority – the body that regulates the private security industry – to hold them to account. The Government is also considering how they can secure an independent review of complaints and how best to make sure motorists are aware of their rights under consumer protection legislation.
DFID: A new UK backed campaign to rid Nigeria of malaria and distribute over 63m lifesaving bednets has launched its second phase in the north of the country. Malaria is a wholly preventable disease and sleeping under a bednet is a simple & effective way of avoiding infection. With support from several donors, including £50m in UKaid, 2 insecticide treated bed nets will be distributed to every Nigerian household by December 2010, reaching over 30m homes and saving thousands of lives.
The malaria crisis in Nigeria is severe. Nigeria accounts for over a quarter of all cases of malaria in Africa and it is having a damaging impact on the country's economy. It is estimated that the inability of people to work due to malaria illness costs Nigeria at least $1bn each year.
DECC: Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband has outlined Government’s latest measures to help householders save money & energy as he welcomed 10:10 – a new campaign to cut carbon emissions by 10% in 2010.
HO: Action to prevent criminals abusing new mobile phone technology, which allows them to be used like debit, credit and pre-pay cards, has been agreed by the Government, mobile phone and card payments industries, Home Office Minister Alan Campbell has announced.
The new technology, which will allow customers to buy things by swiping them over sensors in a similar way to Oyster cards, is being trialled by phone companies and banks in the UK. In an effort to design out opportunities for crime and reduce harm to consumers, the government has been working with industry to ensure the technology builds in tough security measures at the earliest stages.
Working with the government the mobile phone & banking industry have agreed to a set of guidelines. They have committed to ensuring consumers are not put at an increased risk due to the development of this technology, especially young people who are often the earliest adopters of technology and suffer from disproportionate risk.
ScotGov: Planned investment of £23.5m to ensure Scotland capitalises on the economic, social & cultural advantages of the 2014 Commonwealth Games have been announced. A games legacy for Scotland will support athletes, improve facilities, coaching and, together with key stakeholders (including Cosla), help to create a network of Community Sports Hubs across Scotland.
The legacy plan aims to create a healthier Scotland through Active Nation, the Government's new physical activity programme.
ScotGov: Scotland's Children's Minister, Adam Ingram, has launched the Scottish Government's action plan on children's rights - 'Do the Right Thing'. The action plan sets out how the Scottish Government will build on a range of activity under way to improve children's rights in 21 areas of work during the next 4 years.
* Improving the participation of children & young people in how their schools are organised & run
* Promoting positive parenting by working with local partners to implement the Early Years Framework
* Improving support for young carers & children with disabilities
* Continuing to improve outcomes for looked after children
ScotGov: 37 projects across Scotland have received £3.5m to tackle climate change in their communities. Collectively, the projects will reduce carbon emissions by over 250,000 tonnes - the equivalent of taking over 83,000 cars off the UK roads.
Successful applicants in round 5 of the landmark Climate Challenge Fund (CCF) include an organic garden in Bothwell, a carbon reduction scheme on the small Orkney island of Eday and an eco-friendly education centre in Markinch, Fife. This brings the total number of CCF projects to 157.
WAG: From the start of this autumn term the Assembly Government’s play-based curriculum rolls out to include 4 to 5-year olds. By the 2011/2012 school year all children aged 3 to 7 will benefit from this new approach to learning.
As the Foundation Phase operates on a 1:8 adult to child ratio for 3 to 5 year olds, schools have seen an increase in the number of classroom assistants being employed. Across Wales since September 2008 almost 2,000 additional classroom assistants have joined the Foundation Phase workforce. Indications are that this will rise to 3,250 from this September.
HO: Home Secretary Alan Johnson has announced the appointment of Sunita Mason as the Government's Independent Advisor for Criminality Information Management. Sunita Mason will scrutinise & advise the Government on how to improve the sharing of information about criminals between key Government departments and frontline agencies. The appointment was a commitment made by the Government following Sir Ian Magee's Review of Criminality Information.
WAG: A panel of experts set up to consider ways of encouraging a broader range of people to become councillors in Wales has come up with a series of recommendations for consultation (closes on 6 November 2009) which they hope will widen participation in local government in Wales.
The Councillors Commission Expert Panel looked at the barriers that may prevent people standing for election to councils and the support & training that councillors need to be effective in carrying out their roles as community representatives.
OFT: The Office of Fair Trading has published proposed changes to its guidance on director disqualification orders in competition law cases. A company director can be disqualified from acting as a director for up to 15 years if his or her company is involved in a breach of competition law and the court considers he/ she is unfit to be involved in the management of a company as a result.
The OFT's guidance currently indicates that the OFT or a regulator would focus on cases where a director was directly involved in a breach of competition law, such as ‘cartel activity’. Under the proposed changes, the guidance would indicate that the OFT or a regulator would also focus on cases where a director should have taken steps to prevent a breach or where a director ought to have known of a breach but did not.
This consultation (closes on 20 November 2009) also considers a number of other changes to the detail of the OFT's guidance.
ScotGov: The Scottish Government have published the draft plan for consultation (closes on 13 November 2009), which details the steps Scotland needs to take on the journey towards a Zero Waste society.
As well as outlining the Scottish Government's priorities & polices in relation to waste, the plan, when finalised, will comply with the requirement in Article 28 of the revised Waste Framework Directive for Member States to have a waste management plan. It will also comply with the requirement in Article 29 for Member States to have a waste prevention programme.
MoJ: The Ministry of Justice has set out proposals to rebalance the legal aid budget to ensure that the £2bn currently spent every year goes as far as possible in favour of civil help for those who need it most. The proposals intend to make better use of the criminal legal aid budget, reform & rationalise payment structures and sustain legal aid for the next 60 years.
In addition, the Legal Services Commission has also been asked to find an additional 5% saving from its administrative budget this year and 10% next year. The consultation paper has been issued to stakeholders across the legal sector and will close on 12 November 2009.
OFT: The Office of Fair Trading is to conduct a market study looking at the impact on consumers from potentially misleading advertising and pricing of goods & services, and is asking interested individuals, businesses and other organisations for their views on the scope of the study.
The study will look at the application of consumer law to advertising & pricing, with a particular focus on the internet. It will evaluate which online & offline pricing and advertising practices have potential to be most detrimental to consumers, and may also look at the use of personal information in advertising & pricing - in particular, where information from a consumer's online activity is used to target the internet advertising he or she receives.
The market study is expected to commence in the autumn, and the OFT will be contacting some key parties directly. Other interested parties can submit their written views to firstname.lastname@example.org by 18 September 2009.
BIS: The Government is seeking views on the idea of including a power, under the forthcoming Digital Economy Bill, for the Secretary of State to direct Ofcom to introduce technical measures to clamp down on piracy, if necessary.
This would involve an obligation on Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to take action against individual, repeat infringers - for example by blocking access to download sites, reducing broadband speeds, or by temporarily suspending the individual’s Internet account.
To enable stakeholders to provide feedback on the new ideas, the Government has issued an explanatory statement and extended the current consultation on unlawful P2P file sharing to 29 September 2009.
DECC: New rules to revamp the way power plants get connected to the UK’s power grid have been proposed by Energy and Climate Secretary, Ed Miliband. The shake-up will help new projects waiting to get a date to feed electricity into the grid to get out of the queue and will in particular help renewable energy projects such as wind farms. There is currently over 60 GW of new generation capacity – around 200 projects – that are waiting to be connected to the grid, including around 17 GW from renewable sources.
With the current system projects get a connection date on a first come, first served basis regardless of when the project would start generating energy. This means some wind farms were given connection dates years after when they were due to start producing electricity. The consultation (closes on 17 November 2009) offers industry a say on three options for how the new system will work.
DH: GPs & health professionals working in maternity, obstetrics, gynaecology & sexual health are being asked to take part (closes 8 October 2009) in a new study into Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in a bid to better ensure that services to protect women & girls are as effective as possible. FGM, also known as female genital cutting, can cause long-term mental & physical suffering, difficulty in giving birth, infertility and even death. It is illegal in the UK and the maximum penalty for committing or aiding the offence is 14 years imprisonment.
The study aims to increase the Government’s knowledge about women & girls affected by FGM England. It will also look at how the training needs of key health professionals could be improved and provide information for the development of appropriate sexual & reproductive health services. The findings will inform the forthcoming cross-government strategy on tackling Violence Against Women and Girls.
The Department of Health has produced a comprehensive training video for health professionals that outlines appropriate actions & guidance for dealing with FGM. This can be made available for reproduction on third party websites
Defra: Defra is consulting (closes on 2 December 2009) on proposed new domestic regulations governing prevention, control & eradication of certain Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies (TSEs), including BSE & scrapie in England.
The proposed new regulations include amendments affecting TSE testing, the seizure of milk where TSEs are suspected or confirmed in sheep & goats and changes to the compensation system. It would update the existing Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies (England) Regulations 2008, which would be revoked.
AC: The Audit Commission wants views on whether and how rules on pay-offs to senior council staff may need to be strengthened as it launches its inquiry into severance settlements. The Communities Secretary John Denham has asked the Commission to look at the regulation of financial agreements between councils & chief executives who leave before their contracts are up, especially those who subsequently move to another local authority to take a top job.
The call for evidence closes on Friday 2 October 2009. Its main question is whether pay off rules & conventions adequately protect the interests of council tax payers. Evidence should be submitted by email to email@example.com.
Auditors appointed by the Commission to oversee local authority accounts already monitor individual cases. It now wants to hear from elected members, chief executives, council audit committees and officials designated to monitor ethics in local government, as well as the public.
OFT: The Office of Fair Trading is issuing formal written notices to 26 retirement home firms setting out concerns over fees charged when residents sell or rent their properties. The OFT is concerned in particular about the fairness & clarity of contract terms providing for these so-called 'exit fees', charged to occupants of purpose built retirement homes which may breach the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations. The firms are being given 14 days to respond.
The OFT is also seeking information & views about the terms from residents, consumer groups and other interested parties. Those who wish to send information should email: firstname.lastname@example.org by 22 January 2010. Once all parties have provided their input the OFT will decide how to proceed.
The investigation follows voluntary undertakings secured from a major builder of UK retirement apartments, McCarthy and Stone, to remove an exit fee charging consumers 1% of the sale price when a property
DfT: New technology, enabling mobile phones to double up as ‘swipe & go’ cards and bank cards to be used to pay directly for journeys could revolutionise how travellers purchase & use tickets according to a new consultation (closes on 23 October 2009) – See ‘In the News’ section for more information.
Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides
PADA: The Personal Accounts Delivery Authority has published information to explain how the personal accounts scheme will fit into the pension landscape from 2012, when the Government's workplace pension reforms come into force.
Aimed at dispelling common misunderstandings & confusion around the role of the scheme, PADA has published updated versions of its Myth Buster and Key Facts documents on its website.
FSA: Shutki Raja Chutney Powder has been produced on unregistered, or possibly unapproved, premises and the Food Standards Agency has issued a Food Alert for Action asking local authority food law enforcement officers to make sure the chutney is withdrawn from sale & destroyed.
A business must register its premises with the environmental health service at its local authority at least 28 days before opening. In addition, if the business works with certain types of food that might pose a significant risk to consumers, the business must be approved by its local authority.
Despite enquiries by local authorities in London, it has not been possible to obtain full distribution details or product traceability records for the product because the company no longer trades. However, distribution is believed to be restricted to the London area. This product appears to be distributed, through direct van sales, to businesses that mainly sell ethnic food products.
DH: Experts have recommended that all hospitals with an A&E department should provide acute oncology services to ensure the correct treatment of emergency cancer patients and those who suffer severe side effects from chemotherapy. The recommendation forms part of new best practice to improve the quality & safety of chemotherapy published by the National Chemotherapy Advisory Group (NCAG).
The report – Chemotherapy Services in England: Ensuring quality and safety - sets out recommendations that all hospitals with emergency departments should establish an acute oncology service that can quickly identify the symptoms and then treat appropriately patients who develop severe side effects from chemotherapy or undiagnosed cancer patients who present as emergencies.
Newswire – IDeA: The Healthy Communities Community of Practice (CoP) has been established to provide a forum for anyone dedicated to promoting good health & reducing health inequalities. A community of practice is a network of individuals with common challenges or interests. A CoP provides a valuable tool for councils and their partners to share good practice, spread information and aid improvement throughout the public sector.
Using the CoP, members will share ideas, information, knowledge and good practice to help find solutions while expanding knowledge, thus promoting healthy communities for all. To join, go to Communities of Practice website – and click on ‘Register’ - Enter your details as requested & select ‘confirm and complete’. You will receive a confirmation email. Click the link to activate your account and search for ‘healthy communities’ to locate the CoP.
CO: The Cabinet Office has published guidance for emergency planners on Logistic Operations for Emergency Supplies. The objective of the guidance is to provide a common understanding of options available to emergency planners for the coordination, prioritisation & acquisition of emergency supplies.
LLUK: Lifelong Learning UK is proud to be a part of talentmap, which is:
* a simple framework to help employers understand & engage with the education employment & skills systems in the UK
* an interactive web tool which lets you SEARCH for practical support & funding, PLAN your activity in a joined up way and SHARE what you know with colleagues, suppliers and others in the talentmap community
FSA: The Food Standards Agency has warned consumers not to drink certain brands of clay-based products, following test results that show unsafe levels of arsenic & lead. Exposure to arsenic can be associated with an increased risk of lung, skin and bladder cancer. Additionally, exposure to lead by pregnant women, infants & children poses a risk to the development of the brain which can affect intellectual performance.
DCSF: A new free leaflet called ‘Fit for the Future’ has been produced by the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) and the British Dietetic Association (BDA). It sets out simple advice & ideas to get children active and eating healthily.
DfT: An additional 25 motorcycle helmets have been rated by SHARP - the Department for Transport's Safety Helmet Assessment and Ratings Programme - taking the number of ratings published to 150.
LLUK: Lifelong Learning UK has launched a new guide to help people who are interested in starting a new career as a teacher or assessor in the further education sector. The Guide to Working in Further Education explains the sector and the sorts of training & learning it provides.
It gives information on different roles, what they involve, typical pay & conditions, entry routes and qualifications. It also offers lots of practical advice on completing application forms and how to do well in interviews and presentations - all tailored to recruitment practices in the sector.
The guide has been produced as part of our Pass on Your Skills programme, which aims to encourage more people with job-related skills and experience into further education in England. Over 5,000 people have already applied to take part, from areas including construction, health & social care, hair & beauty, engineering and manufacturing.
OS: With more & more people holidaying in Britain the country’s Mountain rescue teams are experiencing one of their busiest years with a rise in emergency calls from inexperienced walkers. With some teams of volunteers being called out up to 3 times a week by ramblers who have forgotten a map, Ordnance Survey, Britain’s national mapping agency, is adding its voice to those calling for walkers to be well prepared.
Julian Carradice, who leads the Mountain Rescue team in Wasdale, told the BBC that people needed to be better educated about the basics of fell walking: "A lot of the call-outs I'm getting are from people who could, to be honest, be much better prepared and could take a bit of responsibility for their own safety. They could be finding their own way off without needing us, who are actually an emergency service."
There are a range of resources available for inexperienced walkers to help understand the basics of map reading as well as the general walking advice available from the Mountain Rescue Service. Map reading podcasts are available online as are downloadable guides.
CLG: Local authorities will receive a £7.5m funding boost to tackle Al-Qaeda influenced extremism, Communities Secretary John Denham has announced. The new funding will give them greater flexibility to support a broader range of activities to improve the effectiveness of the Prevent programme.
The extra funding backs new recently published cross-Government guidance, which reflects feedback from local authorities and from Muslim communities. The new guidance acknowledges that the effectiveness of the Prevent programme can be reduced if the labelling of local activities or their restriction solely to Muslim communities discourages some groups from becoming involved.
NICE: The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has issued guidance on the use of bevacizumab, sorafenib, and temsirolimus for the treatment of renal cell carcinoma and the use of sorafenib and sunitinib for second-line treatment options for people with renal cell carcinoma.
Bevacizumab, sorafenib and temsirolimus are not recommended as first-line treatment options for advanced and/or metastatic renal cell carcinoma. In addition, the two drugs also licensed for second-line treatment of advanced or metastatic renal cell carcinoma, sorafenib and sunitinib, are not recommended for this indication.
The appeal against the Final Appraisal Determination from Roche, Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, James Whale Fund for Kidney Cancer and a joint appeal from Rarers Cancer Forum and Macmillan Cancer Support, have not been upheld.
NICE: The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has issued final guidance on the use of cetuximab for the first-line treatment of metastatic colorectal cancer.
NICE: The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has published final guidance recommending the use of alitretinoin as a treatment option for adults with severe chronic hand eczema that has not responded to potent topical corticosteroids. In these cases, alitretinoin is recommended, within its licensed indication, if the person is assessed as having severe disease.
WAG: Installing micro-generation equipment such as solar panels in Welsh homes has become easier as new planning rules have come into force. The aim of the 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, also reducing the financial burden. Equipment that comes under the new rules includes:
* small scale solar panels
* ground source heat pumps
* biomass flues
HEFCE: The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) HEFCE has published details of a new policy that sets out its approach to institutions experiencing chronic &continuing problems in the quality of learning & teaching. The policy sets out steps that will be taken where a HE institution or FE college has failed to address issues of unsatisfactory quality under the existing processes.
Such failures might include an institution that has received two successive 'no confidence' judgements in audits for quality & standards carried out by the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA); or where an institution does not agree to, or satisfactorily progress, an action plan following a 'no confidence' judgement.
MoJ: People behind with payments on their homes now have a new way of finding the best solution to their arrears problems, with the publication of information & advice by the Ministry of Justice. New animated videos, interview clips & articles, to be featured on Directgov, go from the point where there may be a problem, to communicating with landlords or mortgage lenders, how to prepare for court and what happens during & after a court hearing.
HMRC: With schools across the country getting ready for the new school year, HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) is urging teachers to log onto its new, free online resource for teachers – Tax Matters. Specifically designed for Personal, Social, Health & Economic education (PSHE), Business Studies & Citizenship teachers of pupils aged 11-19, the resource contains 3 new teaching modules, to help secondary school pupils gain an understanding of how tax is raised, what the main taxes are and what they ultimately pay for.
The 3 modules – which cover Income Tax, National Insurance and Tax & Society – use fun, interactive features such as videos, quizzes & games, as well as key facts & figures, to help teachers bring the subject to life in the classroom. There are also accompanying, ready-made lesson plans for each module available online, for both Key Stage 3 and Key Stage 4 pupils.
EHRC: The Equality and Human Rights Commission has published its 2009/10 business plan which sets out priorities for the next year of operation.
LR: Land Registry, the government department responsible for land registration in England & Wales, has published its Annual Report and Accounts for 2008/9.
Introducing the report, Peter Collis, Chief Land Registrar and Chief Executive, said: "While it has probably been one of the most difficult periods in our 147 year history, …… The current property slump led to a challenging financial year, which has seen our core business collapse by up to 75 per cent in volume. In the future we envisage a smaller, leaner, more customer-focused organisation dealing with many applications electronically and providing an expanding range of products and services to customers."
CQC: The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has published on its website details of all mortality alerts it has reviewed & closed since its mortality outlier programme began in 2007. CQC's programme uses statistical analysis to generate an alert where the numbers of patients who have died after being admitted to hospital for a particular condition or procedure is significantly higher than expected.
The regulator has published cases analysed & closed in the 2 years to June 2009. It includes details of each alert, outlining: at which trust it was generated; when it was raised; the medical condition or procedure to which it relates; what action was taken; and the reasons why the alert was closed.
HSE: There has been an increase in mesothelioma mortality in Great Britain, with 1,705 deaths recorded in 2006. In 2005, a statistical model was developed based on a simple birth-cohort model, which assumes that the risk of mesothelioma depends on age & years of exposure and that an individual’s asbestos exposure depends on the year of exposure. In this report, the model has been refined & refitted.
ScotGov: Scotland's Chief Statistician has published Main Transport Trends - which summarises a range of transport statistics.
ScotGov: Scotland's Chief Statistician has published Key Scottish Environment Statistics 2009. This is the ninth edition of the publication that provides key data sets on the state of the environment in Scotland, with an emphasis on the trends over time. It includes previously published statistics & figures produced by other organisations some of which are not official statistics.
MoJ: The publication of the population in custody figures for July 2009 has been postponed. Due to technical problems, the Head of Profession for Statistics has taken the decision to delay publication of this bulletin and, in line with the Code of Practice for Official Statistics, has written to the National Statistician to explain the reasons for delay.
In May 2009, the National Offender Management Service began roll-out of a new case management system for prisons (Prison-NOMIS). The system has been successfully deployed to 30 prisons. However, data collection issues have emerged that need addressing to ensure a high quality data feed for the statistical bulletin. Headline weekly management information using a manual work-around is still available and details of the overall prison population can be found on the Prison Service website.
At present we believe that this suspension of the monthly bulletin is liable to affect publication of end of August data at the end of September and possibly future publications as well. A further announcement will be made when we can give a definite timetable for resumption of this series.
Newswire – AC: A new Audit Commission report says NHS trusts are making fewer errors under the Payment by Results (PbR) system, but some medical records are still poor quality. The second annual PbR data assurance framework shows that in the cases audited last year, over 12% of the clinical codes for diagnoses & procedures were wrong. However, this is an improvement on 2007/08's figure of 16.5% and the improvement in specialist trusts, such as hospitals for children, neurological, orthopaedic and cancer patients, was particularly notable.
The Commission raises concern over the poor quality of some medical records - about 80% of PbR audit reports recorded problems relating to the quality of records. Some medical records were judged unsafe to audit.
A report for the Commission by the Royal College of Physicians, published alongside this year's PbR framework, makes a series of recommendations to improve the recording of medical information. Implementing the College's national standards for the structure and content of medical records would provide much needed clarity and consistency in documenting episodes and care and improves the efficiency of clinical coding.
WAG: New figures show that all Local Authorities in Wales have achieved their 2010 targets to reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill a year early. The Landfill Allowances Scheme (LAS) limits the amount of biodegradable municipal waste (such as paper, cardboard and kitchen scraps) that councils are allowed to send to landfill. It aims to encourage the recycling, composting and treatment of this waste.
2010 is the first Landfill Directive Target year when Wales will need to report to the EU on its LAS performance. Any Local Authorities who exceed their targets face severe financial penalties.
General Reports and Other Publications
Ofsted: Schools, colleges and employers working in partnership are ‘key to widening options for 14–19 year olds and successfully introducing the new Diplomas’, according to a report published by Ofsted, the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills.
The report - Implementation of 14–19 reforms - including the introduction of Diplomas - reveals that Her Majesty’s Inspectors found a mixed picture, but with positive features, at this relatively early stage in the Diploma programmes.
The key recommendations from the report are for the 14–19 partnerships and Diploma consortia to put in place rigorous procedures to assure the quality of collaborative provision, co-ordinate their approaches to functional skills, and link this work more closely to the principal learning in Diploma courses, and develop a more coherent range of additional and specialised learning options for Diploma students.
Chadwick: Sir John Chadwick has issued an interim report that sets out:
* An approach for assessing relative loss, so that an ex gratia payment scheme can be delivered fairly, quickly and placing minimal burden on policyholders
* The definitive questions he believes need to addressed
* The principles he proposes to adopt to determine the appropriate proportion of losses to apportion to the public bodies.
Those wishing to make representations on Sir John's approach or to answer the questions he feels he may need to answer should send written comments to him by Friday 2 October 2009.
ScotGov: The number of board members for Scotland's National Park Authorities will be reduced as part of the Scottish Government's commitment to streamlining the public sector. A National Parks Strategy Group, chaired by Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham, will also be set up to shape the future direction of Scotland's most iconic areas.
These key decisions have been announced in the wake of the consultation on recommendations from the National Park Review.
ScotGov: A new report mapping out how Scotland's fishing fleets can increase profitability has been unveiled. The 'Profitable Futures for Fishing' report was carried out by Seafish on behalf of the Fuel Task Force (FTF). The segment by segment analysis of the Scottish fleet has identified over 30 actions that may help to increase fleet profit for the scallops, nephrops, demersal, pelagic and crab and lobster sectors.
The FTF will now recommend the report to the Scottish Fisheries Council (SFC) and ask the relevant sub-groups to take responsibility for taking the actions forward.
NE: Natural England publishes a wide range of science & technical reports to help support their environmental delivery work and ensure that their advice, to Government & others, is based on the best available evidence. In July 2009, the following reports were publiushed and are now available.
DH: Drinkers across England are losing valuable sleep and disrupting vital brain functions without knowing that their boozing is the cause, new research for the Government’s Know Your Limits campaign has revealed. 58% of 2,000 drinkers surveyed by YouGov did not realise that drinking above the recommended daily limits can cause sleep problems, with more men (63%) than women (53%) unaware of the link.
Almost half (45%) of those surveyed admit to experiencing tiredness the day after drinking over the recommended daily limits, but it seems many people don’t realise this could be due to alcohol interfering with their normal, restful sleep.
Contrary to popular opinion dozing off after a couple of glasses of wine or passing out after a night of heavier drinking is not the start of a deep sleep. The campaign reveals that drinking late in the evening before you go to bed is actually far more likely to prevent you getting the quality sleep your body needs. Instead, you could be upsetting your sleep patterns, encouraging dehydration and altering the blood pressure of the brain, leaving you far from fresh the next day.
HO: Immigration plays an important role in supporting the UK economy the Migration Advisory Committee’s (MAC) report into the workings of Tier 2 of the Points Based System (PBS) highlights. However, the report recommends that:
* the earnings thresholds for gaining points should be raised
* jobs should be advertised within the UK for longer
* the arrangements for intra-company transfers should be strengthened
* strong monitoring & enforcement of Tier 2 is also required
Sponsored skilled workers from outside the EU can work in the UK under Tier 2 of the PBS. This gives British workers priority on all advertised jobs, but where British workers are not available Tier 2 will let companies employ people from outside of the EU, making sure that there are no skill gaps in the British economy.
The MAC recommends that all routes in Tier 2 remain in place. However, it does recommend that some changes are made and that the UK Border Agency (UKBA) considers whether there are enough resources devoted to enforcement and the penalties for employers are sufficient.
NSG: Whole Systems Go!: Improving leadership across the whole public service system, published last week, sets out the parameters to promote & cultivate leadership capability across the public service. The paper, commissioned by the National School of Government and the Public Service Leaders Alliance, is authored by Professors John Benington and Jean Hartley from Warwick Business School.
It addresses the question; ‘What would it take to create more effective leadership of the whole governmental and public service system?’ Benington and Hartley argue that the current economic crisis provides a significant catalyst for developing more effective approaches to public leadership & organisation development by working in an integrated way across the whole public service system.
Their recommendations include:
* New patterns of ‘adaptive leadership’ to tackle tough, complex, cross-cutting problems in the community
* Joined up leadership development programmes to address whole system challenges
* Leadership development programmes that translate individual learning into & inter-organisational action and improvement
ScotGov: Many aspects of Greenock prison which have been commended in previous inspectorate reports continue to be good, according to the latest report by Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons. However, the report also notes that:
* Living conditions in Ailsa and Darroch Halls are not good: cells are cold & feel damp
* The health centre is not fit for purpose, but care delivery itself is satisfactory
* Prisoners do not receive their daily medications, including methadone, prior to going to court
* The preparation for the release of sex offenders is poor, although risk is monitored well
ScotGov: In a statement in response to Network Rail's New Lines Study published recently, Stewart Stevenson, Minister for Transport, said: "The Scottish Government …. have long advocated the need for high speed links from Europe and London not to stop at Leeds but to continue north to Scotland…… Cutting journey times between Scotland and London to below the three-hour mark would also offer direct competition with air travel and could result in helping us towards achieving our 42 per cent cut in emissions as set out in our world-leading Climate Change (Scotland) Act…………. If, as research suggests, up to three times as many passengers will be travelling on our railways by 2020, then it is important that we move quickly in planning today for the rail network of tomorrow”.
CRC: This year’s State of the Countryside conference 2009 was held in Birmingham and was targeted at all those with an interest in rural research & analysis and for non-rural researchers interested in services, sustainability, economic and governance issues. Their ideas & expertise will help them shape the 2010 report.
CQC: The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has published a report detailing progress in implementing regulations introduced in response to the Shipman Inquiry, to monitor controlled drugs. The Shipman Inquiry found that ineffective monitoring had allowed Dr Harold Shipman to obtain large quantities of diamorphine, which he used to kill at least 15 and possibly up to 200 patients.
The Controlled Drugs (Supervision of Management and Use) Regulations 2006 were introduced in January 2007. This is the second report on implementation of the regulations and covers progress made during 2008.
CQC said healthcare workers are now better trained to deal with concerns about controlled drugs and to identify problems sooner. But CQC also said there are still important parts of the system that need to be improved.
LDA: New housing can revitalise town centres in South London, according to a new study by the London Development Agency. Rather than damaging their character, the study shows that new, well-designed housing can actually make these areas even more distinctive.
London’s population is expected to grow by a further 500,000 households by 2026. Much of this growth will happen in London’s suburbs. The study aims to inform the debate about the future shape of London’s housing growth – especially in its suburbs.
The study - SEVEN: Housing Intensification in seven south London town centres - uses different scenarios to illustrate how increases in housing can be accommodated in different ways in different areas and lead to a better environment, revitalised shopping areas and new community facilities.
CRC: Reacting to the National Housing Federation’s press release - ‘One village primary school closes every month...’ - issued on 1 September 2009, the Commission for Rural Communities has issued a response to highlight the role of the primary school in the community they serve.
ScotGov: Documentation related to Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill's decision to release on compassionate grounds the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing has been published. Mr MacAskill said: "The published material includes all the relevant information from the Scottish Government as well as relevant documents where third party agreement has been sought and received. Where that agreement has not been reached, those decisions are clearly outlined. Where agreement to release information is reached at a later stage, those documents will be added to the web page."
SDC: A new Sustainable Development Commission report finds that the influence of public service regulators on schools, hospitals, PCTs and local councils will be vital in creating a sustainable future. Public services in the health, education & local authority sectors employ one in seven workers in the UK, and spend £88bn on goods & services, giving them considerable purchasing muscle.
The SDC's Review of Public Service Regulators is the culmination of 2 years work with the Audit Commission, Ofsted and the Healthcare Commission, and later the Care Quality Commission. The ensuing report on their progress finds a mixed picture of how regulators are embedding sustainable thinking into their work. While the AC has made strong progress and Ofsted has made good strides towards embedding sustainable development into its work, the CQC does not accept that sustainable development falls within its remit.
Michael O'Higgins, Chairman of the Audit Commission, said: “We have made it clear to councils and their partners, through the development of CAA, that greener working is no longer a 'nice-to-have' but a crucial element of any area's future success”. The AC will provide more guidance & insight into sustainable development in local government with the publication of a national study later this year, looking at CO2 emissions from domestic energy use.
Monitor: Following the significant failings in quality of care at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, Monitor commissioned KPMG, its internal auditors, to consider how the way Monitor operates & works with others could be improved.
Monitor’s Board is committed to making this process transparent and felt it was important to share both the KPMG report and Monitor’s response. Both documents have now been published. The report makes 14 recommendations; all of these have been accepted and good progress has already been made against many of these.
HEFCE: The HEFCE has welcomed the publication of a survey of students who left higher education during 2005. The survey - the Longitudinal Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education (LDLHE) - asks graduates & postgraduates about their working life and experience three & a half years after they left university.
The LDLHE is published by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) and tells us about the sorts of jobs students are in; whether they would study the same subject again; and the salaries they were earning. The overview data show improvements in levels of employment and salaries compared to students surveyed 2 years earlier.
Legislation / Legal
HO: From 30 September 2009 courts will have greater freedom to grant restraining orders when abusers appear before them, giving victims immediate protection and sparing them the ordeal of a separate civil action. Currently courts can only issue restraining orders following conviction for 2 types of offences: harassment or putting someone in fear of violence.
Under the new rules an order can be made following conviction for any offence (and even where someone is acquitted) in order to better protect victims. Breaking the terms of a restraining order is a criminal offence punishable by up to 5 years in prison.
A cross-government Violence Against Women and Girls strategy will be published in the Autumn following a consultation earlier in 2009.
HO: Man-made chemicals which are sprayed on herbal smoking products such as ‘Spice’ and the chemical solvent GBL are two of the so called ‘Legal highs’ to be banned by the end of 2009, Home Secretary Alan Johnson has announced.
As part of the Government’s commitment to tackle the emerging threat of so called ‘legal highs’, a new information campaign to educate young people on the dangers of a range of these substances has also been announced. The campaign, which will launch during the traditional student Freshers’ week in September, will highlight their dangers, particularly when they are mixed with alcohol.
HO: New powers to crack down on people responsible for alcohol-fuelled crime & antisocial behaviour have come into force. Police & local authorities are now able to apply for Drinking Banning Orders (DBO) on individuals aged 16 & upwards, who regularly commit crime or anti-social behaviour while under the influence of the alcohol.
Magistrates will be able to impose any condition they think is necessary under the ‘booze ASBOs’ to protect the public from that individual committing further offences. This could include banning from consuming alcohol in public places, including certain pubs, bars & off licences and restricting them from entering certain areas.
DBO Positive Behaviour Intervention Courses will be available across the country and will be run by a list of approved providers. The Government is not supporting these courses financially and participants will be expected to pay a fee for attending the courses, between £120 and £250, to cover the costs.
HO: Female couples now have the same rights as heterosexual couples when registering the birth of a child conceived as a result of fertility treatment. From 1 September 2009, changes to the Registration of Births and Deaths Regulations 1987 mean female civil partners who use fertility treatment to conceive a child will be treated in the same way as married couples, with both female parents' names able to be included on the birth certificate.
In addition, female couples not in a civil partnership, but receiving fertility treatment may also be registered as parents in the same way as unmarried heterosexual couples. In both cases, providing relevant conditions are met, the female partner of the mother can be recorded as ‘parent’ in the birth or still-birth registration and on any certificates issued. Before this change, the mother's female partner could not be registered as a parent.
The changes to the regulations were approved by Registrar General, James Hall, earlier this year following Royal Assent for new parenthood provisions contained in the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008. The Act's provisions only apply to female couples who have fertility treatment on or after April 6 2009.
MoJ: The Ministry of Justice has set out proposals to rebalance the legal aid budget to ensure that the £2bn currently spent every year goes as far as possible in favour of civil help for those who need it most. The proposals intend to make better use of the criminal legal aid budget, reform & rationalise payment structures and sustain legal aid for the next 60 years - See ‘Consultations’ section for more information.
EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.
HM Treasury: The Government has secured the long-term future of a tax break designed to help small, high-growth companies to recruit & retain highly skilled employees by gaining State Aid approval from the European Commission.
The Government convinced the European Commission that the Enterprise Management Incentives (EMI), which provide a tax break on share options offered by small & medium sized companies to their employees, play a crucial role in enabling small firms to recruit & retain the highly skilled employees they need to thrive.
The Government is also widening the eligibility criteria so that companies based in the UK which carry out considerable overseas activity can use EMI to recruit key UK-based staff.
Defra: On 1 September 2009 the EU started the mandatory phase out of 100W and frosted incandescent (or old fashioned) lightbulbs. This new legislation to cut wasted energy and high electricity bills was agreed by EU Member States in December 2008, with support of the UK.
The UK has been at the forefront of efforts to cut down energy-inefficient products which cost people more money to run and are bad for the environment as they have higher carbon emissions. A voluntary initiative to phase out old fashioned bulbs started in 2007 with the keen support of a number of UK energy suppliers and retailers.
EU health experts concluded that there is not enough evidence to suggest that modern lamps can aggravate epilepsy or migraines, but Defra & DoH have worked really closely with groups representing those with specific sight and light-sensitive skin conditions to minimise any adverse effects from the use of CFLs.
ScotGov: Richard Lochhead, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, has agreed to a formal application to Brussels to recognise Scotland as officially free from tuberculosis. Scotland's Chief Veterinary Officer, Simon Hall, will present evidence to support the application during the next meeting of the Standing Committee on Food Chain and Animal Health (SCoFCAH) to be held on 8 September 2009.
Rigorous pre- & post movement testing of cattle coming to Scotland from areas with high incidence of bovine TB has meant that they are now eligible to apply to be recognised as officially TB free. The situation in other parts of the UK is worsening and this exposes Scotland to an increasing risk of disease unless they take steps to prevent it.
The final disease controls that will be required are still to be decided. ScotGov is working with livestock industry representatives to address concerns about potential impacts on trade.
FSA: When new European food hygiene legislation came into affect in January 2006, the European Commission made a commitment itself to provide a report by May 2009 that looked at the experience gained from the implementation of the hygiene package by all interested stakeholders.
This report was published in July 2009 and is based on information received from member states, representatives of the food industry & consumer organisations at European level and the Commission's Food and Veterinary Office.
The Food Standards Agency has issued a letter to interested parties seeking views on the report, which it has now placed on this website along with the Commission's Report.
FSA: According to the Food Standards Agency, on 5 August 2009, at Abertillery Magistrates Court, in Wales, Asphalia Food Products Ltd was found guilty with respect to 2 separate charges of placing a novel food onto the European market in breach of the Novel Food and Novel Food Ingredients Regulations 1997.
The prosecution was brought by Torfaen County Borough Council. The food supplements that were the subject of the charges are sold in the UK under the brand name Asphalia and contain the novel food ingredient Festuca arundinacea, which is a type of meadow grass. The supplements have been placed on the market by Asphalia Food Products Ltd without first seeking authorisation for the novel food ingredient.
A novel food is a food or food ingredient that does not have a significant history of consumption within the European Union before 15 May 1997, and a pre-market safety evaluation is required for such food or ingredients before they can be marketed legally in the EU.
The manufacturer has indicated that Asphalia supplements produced in 2009 do not contain Festuca arundinacea but, to date, there has been no product recall and the products continue to be labelled as Festuca. In view of this, the number of Asphalia supplements containing Festuca arundinacea presently on sale is unknown.
Charity and Voluntary Sector
ScotGov: First Minister, Alex Salmond, has lent his support to a charity in its mission to provide emergency service vehicles to Moldova. Blythswood Care is transporting 4 refurbished fire engines and 2 ambulances to the Eastern European country.
A team of 16 skilled volunteers will drive the vehicles and stay for a week to train the local people in the use & maintenance of the equipment. All of the vehicles, which are second-hand and no longer in use in Scotland, are checked over & fully kitted out. Blythswood has already transported vehicles to Serbia in 2007 and 2008.
Founded in 1966, Blythswood Care is a Christian charity involved in international relief & social care projects in Europe, Africa and Asia. In 2008, the charity sent 85 consignments of aid valued at £5.8m to 17 countries.
Cabinet Office: The Communitybuilders fund will provide a mix of loans, grants & mentoring support to a range of community anchor-type organisations across England. It is designed to help empower citizens & communities by strengthening the resilience of multi-purpose community-led organisations across England through a mixture of financial and advisory support.
The Fund will be organised into 3 investment packages:
* A development package consisting of bespoke business support based on an initial needs assessment and leadership grants of £2,000 for staff development and training
* A feasibility package consisting of further business support of up to 5 days & grants of up to £20,000 to use towards project development of a growth plan.
* Investment packages tailored for investees who are ready to develop, grow & expand their role within the community.
Business and Other Briefings
FSA: The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has set out how its rules apply to activist shareholders who wish to work together to promote effective corporate governance in companies in which they have invested. The FSA said in a letter sent to trade associations that its requirements do not prevent legitimate activity of this nature.
The FSA strongly supports Sir David Walker's proposals to strengthen shareholder engagement with the boards of investee companies aimed at promoting good corporate governance. The letter makes clear that its rules do not stand in the way of Sir David's proposals.
BIS: The Department for Business Innovation and Skills has announced further changes to the Government’s Trade Credit Insurance Top-up Scheme. Since 1 May 2009, companies that have had their credit insurance cover reduced have been able to purchase 6 months top-up cover under the Government Scheme. After feedback from business, the following 3 changes have been made to the scheme’s rules:
* The price of the top-up cover will be reduced from 2% to 1%
* The £20,000 lower limit on top-up cover will be removed
* The upper limit on top-up cover will be increased from £1m to £2m
The scheme, which runs until 31 December 2009, is a short-term intervention that allows suppliers to purchase Government-backed insurance to either restore cover to the original level or double the amount they are able to obtain from the private sector up to the value of £2m (whichever is the lower).
HMRC: A common approach to filing company accounts online has been announced in a joint statement by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) and Companies House. In order to reduce potential administrative burdens on business, Companies House has announced that it will accept company accounts in a data format known as Inline XBRL (iXBRL).
This is the same format in which all Company Tax Returns (CTRs) – including the return form, company accounts and tax computations – must be submitted online to HMRC from April 2011 (for accounting periods ending after 31 March 2010).
Companies House will introduce their iXBRL service for unaudited full accounts by the summer of 2010, and then continue to develop their iXBRL capability for all the main types of accounts they receive. HMRC’s new iXBRL service for CTRs will be available from November 2009. Commercial software that is iXBRL-enabled will be widely available in Spring 2010.
OFT: The OFT has published proposed changes to its guidance on director disqualification orders in competition law cases. A company director can be disqualified from acting as a director for up to 15 years if his or her company is involved in a breach of competition law and the court considers he/ she is unfit to be involved in the management of a company as a result – See ‘Consultation’ section for more information.
This Revenue and Customs Brief confirms HMRC policy on the VAT partial exemption 'payback' rules following the High Court decision in the case of Community Housing Association.
Further to HMRC Brief 11/07, the aim of this Brief is to clarify HMRC's view of the VAT treatment applying to the purchase and use (eg leasing and chartering) of pleasure craft and sets out HMRC's approach to artificial structures.
The brief sets out HMRC's policy on bingo duty as a result of the Rank ruling, and it also reminds operators of their legal obligations for accounting for duty.
HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) has published new regulations about whether information it has requested can be withheld due to legal professional privilege.
This brief explains our revised policy on VAT recovery by local authorities on expenditure relating to capital works at voluntary aided schools.
HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has published technical guidance on the new VAT and Excise Wrongdoing penalties which will be implemented on 1 April 2010. This Business Brief gives an overview of how the new system will work.
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