In the News
HO: It could be a very short-term appointment if scheme is scrapped - The first Identity Commissioner, Sir Joseph Pilling, has been confirmed by the Home Secretary, Alan Johnson. He will take up his appointment on 1 October 2009 in time for the issue of the first identity cards to people in Greater Manchester.
He is meant to act independently and on behalf of the public to ensure that information held on the National Identity Register is accurate & secure as well as monitoring the use identity cards are put to by both public & private sectors.
His oversight role does not cover identity cards for foreign nationals, which are subject to oversight arrangements by the Information Commissioner and the Chief Inspector for UK Border Agency.
Newswire - AC: Bad enough in good times but in the current financial situation! - In a new report - Protecting the public purse - local government fighting fraud - the Audit Commission says that councils can do more to tackle fraud.
Council taxpayers could be losing almost £2m a week to fraudsters claiming a 25% single person discount on their council tax. The discount can be claimed by householders where there are no other residents aged 18 or over living at an address.
There is a significant social cost to fraud. The Commission found housing tenancy fraud could be tying up at least 50,000 council & housing association properties worth more than £2bn, while queues for homes have increased by more than 50% over the last 6 years. The number of people in need of social housing is predicted to rise to 2m by 2011.
HO: Help for the Corner shop - The £5m Small Retailers Grants Fund is offering grants of up to £3k to small retailers in 50 priority Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnership (CDRP) and Community Safety Partnership (CSP) areas, to buy security devices including security grills, dye packs to mark goods, alarms & radios.
Groups of small retailers working in partnership in an area can also team up to bid for grants of up to £50k to help improve a neighbourhood by cleaning it up or adding additional lighting to reduce the risk of crime. The deadline for applications to the fund is 30 September 2009 and retailers in the 50 are being urged to get in touch before they miss out.
DCSF: Still necessary after 12 years of Education, Education, Education! - Children's Secretary, Ed Balls, has claimed that thousands of 7-to-16-year olds this year will get intensive bursts of 10 hours 1 - 1 tuition with a qualified tutor to get them back on track in the basics – up to 150,000 in English and 150,000 in maths.
It is the first step to reaching the Government's commitment that, by March 2011, 300,000 pupils overall in English and 300,000 overall in maths will be getting 1 - 1 tuition a year - with GCSE students in schools in the most challenging circumstances also getting support. The Government's Expert Group on Assessment recommended in May 2009 that tuition for 11 & 12-year-olds was ‘vital to smooth pupils' progress when they changed schools at 11’.
Over 25,000 1 - 1 tutors have already registered with the Training & Development Agency since it launched its recruitment campaign in June 2009 - with the overall aim of reaching up to 100,000 by 2010/11. Tutors will get paid an hourly rate of between £25 & £29 out of school hours and schools can take on full-time tutors so that tuition can take place during normal classroom hours, as well as evenings & weekends.
Cabinet Office: Not Just Green but also financially prudent - The Government has saved at least £7m over the past year by making its IT systems greener. Changes including extending the life of PCs, making double-sided printing the default option and making sure computers are turned off at night have helped cut the carbon footprint of central Government computers by 12,000 tonnes – the same as taking 5,000 cars off the road.
ICT is responsible for up to 20% of carbon emissions generated by Government offices. Each year it generates around 460,000 tonnes, the same amount created by 1m households in a month or a jumbo jet flying around the world more than a thousand times.
Last year the Government introduced measures to tackle the huge financial & environmental cost of ICT. Departments were asked to take 18 key steps including turning off all machines at night, extending the lifecycle of computers, reusing as much IT equipment as possible and increasing server efficiency.
DH: Preparing for the coming ‘storm’ - The upcoming swine flu vaccination programme will be administered by GPs following successful negotiations between the Department of Health, General Practitioners Committee (GPC) of the British Medical Association (BMA) and NHS Employers. The vaccination programme, which is expected to begin in the autumn, subject to the vaccine being licensed, will target the 9m people most at risk from complications.
The new deal will mean that GP surgeries will receive £5.25 per dose of vaccine given. The additional money will come from the DH budget and will help surgeries to contact patients, administer the vaccine and, if necessary, take on extra staff. It is currently expected that patients will receive 2 doses of the vaccine. This advice may change following clinical trials.
Wiredgov – CC: Eating is one of the few pleasures left to people in later life - The majority of Scotland’s care homes for older people are ensuring residents eat & drink properly – but the Care Commission (CC) has warned that it remains concerned at the number of complaints it receives about poor nutrition.
A new CC report - Eating Well in Care Homes for Older People - details the quality of nutritional care in Scotland’s care homes based on an analysis of inspections from 303 care homes, complaint investigations and enforcement action.
The recommendations include:
* Raising awareness of the National Care Standards for eating well
* Increasing staff training in the areas of eating, drinking and nutrition
* Ensuring staff numbers are sufficient to encourage and help residents to eat well and drink regularly
* Ensuring menus are properly planned for older people who have diabetes, unplanned weight loss or difficulty swallowing & chewing.
Industry News: Open your systems to a Source of alternative software – The headlines in the media are full of dire predictions of ‘savage’ cuts in public sector budgets or (at best) pressure to do more with less. However, it may not all be ‘doom & gloom’ for those organisations dependent on computerised systems to deliver their services:
* Transport for London achieved an 80% operational saving on its Oyster card web channel redevelopment
* Sheffield City Council has been a trailblazer in improving the sharing & management of information concerning children
* the largest e-learning network of its kind in the world, learndirect, has gained 99.989% uptime & drastically cut project costs by 20-30%
How have these organisations – and many other government departments and agencies – improved performance while reducing their costs? They’ve chosen the Open Source route with its built-in advantages of freedom from software vendor lock-in, no software licensing fees, and improved reliability & security.
Red Hat is offering government departments & agencies the opportunity to hold an on-site workshop for key team members, completely free of charge. The workshops explore what’s involved in going the open source route and cover strategy, business, and/or technical issues.
Find out more about Red Hat's free on-site work shops and receive the following public sector whitepapers:
* Savings, security, interoperability and innovation for government
* How learndirect provides 24-hour availability on its systems to two million users
For information on forthcoming public sector events please click HERE to visit the WGPlus Events Calendar
For other Industry News please click HERE
DH: The use of phone numbers that charge the public or patients a premium rate to contact the NHS are to be banned in England. The announcement follows a recent public consultation on the use of 084 numbers in the NHS.
The ban on the use of numbers charging patients a premium rate to call NHS services will allow a marketplace to evolve where 084 numbers compete alongside 01, 02 and 03 numbers, but where patients will pay no more than the cost of a local call. The ban means that GPs and other NHS organisations remain free to use 084 numbers, providing patients are not charged more than a local rate number.
The NHS Direct telephone advice service currently operates on 0845 4647. However, the Department (with OfCom) are currently consulting on options for the introduction of a new three-digit telephone number to help people find the right local service to meet their urgent, unplanned care needs. NHS Direct will retain its current 084 number until DH and they are clear about any future role & function they may have in implementing a national 3-digit number for urgent care.
PCS: A study into civil service pay by Income Data Services (IDS) for PCS has ‘exposed the myth’ that civil servants are paid more than their counterparts in the private sector with pay gaps of more than £5,000 between the civil service and private sector. Nearly 100,000 civil & public service jobs have gone over the last 5 years and more than half of the civil service earn less than the UK national wage.
The IDS findings on the eve of this year’s TUC conference come as employer led organisations attempt to portray civil & public servants as ‘having it easy’ compared to the private sector. PCS claim that the myth is far from the reality with the average pension for civil servants amounting to £6,500 and dropping to £4,200 once high earners are excluded.
Ofgem: Frontline workers have been armed with the know-how to help households, many of them in fuel poverty, save money through Energy Best Deal, a campaign launched last year by the Department for Energy and Climate Change, energy regulator Ofgem and national charity Citizens Advice.
An independent evaluation of the scheme carried out by the Centre for Sustainable Energy found that of the ordinary consumers who attended the sessions:
* Before the session, 15% did not know they could switch their energy supplier
* 45% went on to look into getting a better deal on their energy
Most people can switch energy supplier, those who have never done so before could save on average between £73 - £91 depending on how they pay their bills and where they live. Everyone aged over 60 is entitled to a winter fuel payment (from £125 to £250) and those aged over 80 can get between £200, £275 or £400 depending on their circumstances.
DH: A new ‘Smokefree Generation’ of children say that they will never try a cigarette, think that smoking is really uncool and are increasingly worried about the health of smoking parents according to new research conducted on behalf of NHS Stop Smoking Services.
The research, which polled 1,000 children in England aged 8-13, coincides with the launch of a new Department of Health advertising campaign aimed at getting loved ones to stop smoking. It features real children, not actors, talking about how concerned they are about their parents’ smoking.
CRC: Last week Dr. Stuart Burgess, the Government’s Rural Advocate and Chairman of the Commission for Rural Communities (CRC), visited County Durham to see projects in place to tackle rural fuel poverty. A quarter of all those in fuel poverty live in rural areas, as many as 42% of rural homes are not connected to mains gas (and therefore have to rely on more expensive fuels) and are also not eligible for ‘dual fuel’ discounts.
In addition, a third of rural homes have solid walls which are much more costly to insulate yet just 10% of Warm Front energy efficiency grants go to households in rural areas.
The CRC has invited Durham County Council, along with Shropshireand the East Riding of Yorkshire, to take part in a year-long pilot scheme to understand the full impact of fuel poverty in rural areas. The pilot, named ‘Hands Up’ will include reducing levels of rural fuel poverty, saving money, saving energy and working with local communities. The findings will be used to advise Government on ways of combating fuel poverty & addressing energy conservation. The Rural Services Network is working with the CRC to deliver the project.
TfL: Launched last week, TfL’s BikeSafe London team’s TV campaign will run throughout the autumn, timed to coincide with the return to work of thousands of Londoners and a rise in the number of casualties among motorbike & scooter riders. Last year there were 4,890 collisions in Greater London involving motorcycles and/or scooters with other road users.
The TV ads highlight an optical effect that psychologists believe could put motorcyclists at risk. It is caused by the way the brain assesses approaching objects. Drivers can underestimate the time that small vehicles take to reach them - causing risk of collision when pulling out in front of approaching motorcycles.
ACE: Arts Council England has announced changes to its Grants for the arts programme that will ‘transform the way it serves artists and save on administration costs, which will be reinvested in the arts’. The changes will come into effect from 1 March 2010 when a ‘central Grants for the arts team’, with artform specialisations, will assess & monitor all applications.
This will hopefully provide an efficient & simplified application process, consistent advice for applicants and considerable administration savings - 23% of the overall administrative savings required by Government in the organisation review. For the first time artists & arts organisations will be able to apply online.
MOD: The Passing of the World War One Generation will be formally marked in a national event at Westminster Abbey on Remembrance Day, Wednesday 11 November 2009 at 10:45 in the presence of Her Majesty The Queen and His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh. The service will recognise not only the military contribution in World War One, but also that of the civilian population.
This year saw the passing of the 3 remaining veterans of World War One living in the UK; 108 year old William Stone in January, and both Henry Allingham (113) and Harry Patch (111) in July. The World War One Generation included those associated with the horrors of the trenches, those engaged in duties at sea and in the air, and those working back home in vital support roles. The war left an enduring impact on those serving and on the nation as a whole. The passing of this generation is a significant milestone in our nation’s history.
Attendance at the service will be by invitation only, but the congregation will consist of a broad cross-section of the population of the United Kingdom, with links to the War. The Lord Lieutenants in each county will nominate people to represent their areas.
DECC: The world’s biggest wind turbine blades will be made in Britain, Energy & Climate Secretary, Ed Miliband claimed, when announcing grants for 3 offshore wind energy companies recently.
Clipper Wind Power is being given £4.4m to develop their first prototype blade for the Britannia project – the largest wind turbines in the world. Once constructed, each blade will be more than 70m long and weigh over 30 tonnes. The blades are part of the turbines that will stand at 175 meters tall.
Defra: Movements of fish into, out of & within a fishery in Lincolnshire have been restricted, following the confirmation of Koi Herpesvirus disease. Cefas, acting on behalf of Defra, has issued a Confirmed Designation prohibiting the movement of fish to, from & within Wagtail Fishery, Cliff Lane, Marston, Grantham, Lincolnshire. There are no implications for human health.
ScotGov: Health Secretary, Nicola Sturgeon, has welcomed the Nursing & Midwifery Council's (NMC) announcement that it will write to almost 10,000 nurses & midwives across Scotland whose registration has lapsed within the previous four years. In Scotland this includes, 7,695 nurses, 148 midwives and 1,686 dual qualified nurses/midwives who will be contacted.
This action is being taken to support services to address any potential staffing shortages in the event of an escalation of the swine flu pandemic. To be eligible to work in the UK, a nurse or midwife must be registered with the NMC. Across the UK approximately 90,000 nurses will be contacted.
WAG: Health Minister, Edwina Hart, has met kidney patients who are taking part in a self-care dialysis project at Morriston Hospital, Swansea. The project aims to increase the number of patients who are able to receive dialysis treatment in the comfort of their own homes. The self-care project has been part-funded by the Welsh Assembly Government as part of the additional £9.3m provided over the last 2 years to improve dialysis services across Wales.
On 25 August 2009, Mrs Hart announced that a single body is being set up to manage kidney services in Wales. The All-Wales Renal Network will plan & develop services on a Wales-wide basis, helping to improve access and care for patients. It formally brings together the Renal Advisory Group and the North & South Wales Renal Networks.
STFC: The Planck space observatory, ESA’s mission to study the early Universe, has successfully completed its initial test survey of the sky, confirming that both of the scientific instruments and the sophisticated cooling system (all of which the UK played a key role in building) are working well.
Following the successful survey, Planck has now embarked on its 15 month mission to map the structure of the Cosmic Microwave Background radiation (CMB) – the relic radiation from the Big Bang.
MoD: A former Chief of the Defence Staff (Admiral The Lord Boyce GCB, OBE, DL) has been chosen as the Independent Chair of the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme (AFCS) Review. As well as chairing the MoD’s review, he will also chair an Independent Scrutiny Group which will support the review. The group will comprise representatives of ex-service organisations, a service families’ representative, a beneficiary of the AFCS and medical and legal experts.
NA: Last week saw the launch of The National Archives' new education website, which replaces the award-winning Learning Curve, with the same resources for teaching & learning history, but in a new design and a structure that should make resources much easier to find. The site also showcases the huge range of taught sessions that NA staff deliver on site, by videoconference and now online in our virtual classroom.
WAG: It has been likened to the Cannes festival of the food world and once again food lovers were spoilt for choice at the Abergavenny Food Festival (19/20 September). The annual event attracts thousands of visitors who come to taste & buy an array of food & drink as well as watch top chefs in action and take part in discussions about the food industry.
For the first time there was a dedicated Welsh fishing industry presence at the Festival. There is an extremely buoyant aquaculture industry in Wales - 50% of Europe's mussels are supplied from North Wales and shellfish accounts for the majority of landings by Welsh fishing boats, with over 400 boats in the Welsh fleet. However, there has historically been a lack of supply chain infrastructure something the Welsh Assembly Government is working with the industry to address.
Policy Statements and Initiatives
BIS: One in three people feel their consumer rights have been ignored and 28% are more likely to complain about goods they bought during the economic downturn according to a new survey. The survey, commissioned by the Department for Business, was released on the same day as Consumer Minister Kevin Brennan launched a ‘Know Your Consumer Rights’ campaign - a new drive to support consumers and help them understand their rights, including that if goods are faulty it is the retailers responsibility not the manufacturers.
The campaign is focussed on ensuring consumers know 3 key legal rights:
* Goods must fit the description given
* Be of satisfactory quality
* Be suitable for purpose
HO: New measures to support victims of hate crime, bring more perpetrators to justice and increase reporting of these crimes have been outlined by the government. The Hate Crime Action Plan sets out government work to address all forms of hate crime with an emphasis on preventing these crimes from occurring or escalating in seriousness.
The plan sets out how local organisations like the police & councils will get new advice on the best ways to deal with hate crime. This includes new guidance on preventing hate crime and a training toolkit for crime reduction bodies to improve the identification of & support for vulnerable witnesses. It also sets out work to better tackle hate crime by boosting victims' confidence in the justice system to help to increase reporting of these crimes.
ScotGov: Honey bees are to be fed icing sugar laced with small quantities of antibiotic powder in an attempt to halt the spread of a deadly disease sweeping through Scottish hives. European Foul Brood (EFB) was discovered in Scottish bees in June 2009 and could severely affect the £2.25m honey industry if left unchecked. ScotGov's sugary solution aims to protect mildly infected hives and ensure healthy populations for the next honey-collecting season.
Bees using the sugar to feed their larvae will clear the gut infection allowing the young to develop into healthy adult bees. Use of the treatment powder in September will minimise the possibility of antibiotic residues in honey produced next year.
American Foul Brood (AFB) is also considered a problem however this disease can only be controlled by complete destruction of hives and equipment. The current situation in Scotland is 2,466 hives (in 235 apiaries) have been inspected since July, 232 hives have been found with EFB, and 110 with AFB.
DCSF: Children’s Secretary, Ed Balls, recently celebrated the launch of Sure Start Children’s Centre Week - which coincides with the start of free childcare for the most disadvantaged 2 year olds throughout the country. Together with the entitlement to free childcare for all 3 & 4 year olds, parents can now access up to 1,500 hours of free childcare during their child’s first five years.
Sure Start Children’s Centres Week (14th-18th September) kicked off a major communications campaign to promote Sure Start Children’s Centres locally to parents unfamiliar with Sure Start to find & access the services on offer.
Cabinet Office: Speaking at Social Finance’s Social Investment Conference, the Minister for the Third Sector, Angela Smith Minister, made a series of announcements to support social investment:
* £5m will be invested into the Bridges Social Entrepreneurs Fund and will be matched by individuals, foundations & institutions. The fund will improve access to risk capital for new & growing social enterprises that deliver a high social impact.
* In light of this growing appetite for social return on investment the Office of the Third Sector has published 3 new SROI guides. The guides give an overview of SROI and what it can do for organisations, commissioners & investors to help achieve the greatest social impact in their work.
* The Minister also presented the new Social Investment Almanack; ‘Good Deals 2009’ – a comprehensive guide to the world of social investment.
ScotGov: More people are being encouraged to stand in community council elections to help improve their local areas. A pilot scheme involving 13 community councils in Moray will raise community councils' profile, validate their role in local decision making and show that community councils are democratic. Each community council has received £500 to promote becoming a community councillor, ahead of elections in October 2009.
DfT: Passengers in South Yorkshire could be the first in the UK to take a continental-style tram-train under plans announced by the Department for Transport, Northern Rail, Network Rail and South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive. Passengers could see tram-trains running between Sheffield & Rotherham on the current freight route from Rotherham and then joining the Sheffield Supertram network at the Meadowhall Interchange.
Tram-trains are greener than conventional trains as they use less fuel, have faster acceleration and deceleration rates; which offer passengers better journey times. They are also are lighter which may reduce wear & tear on tracks cutting the need for disruptive maintenance works.
The trial will assess the environmental benefits, operating costs and technical suitability of the tram-trains as well as testing how popular the vehicles are with passengers. These are the first steps in a process which could lead to more tram-trains operating throughout the UK.
WAG: Health Minister Edwina Hart has signed an agreement with the police which allows them to work more closely with the NHS in Wales in the investigation of allegations of violence towards NHS staff. This Memorandum of Understanding follows the signing of an agreement with the Crown Prosecution Service in March 2007, to ensure the effective prosecution of the perpetrators of violent attacks.
Mrs Hart is confident that the Memorandum will promote the prosecution of violent offenders, which will help act as a deterrent to others. Latest figures show that there were 7,343 incidents of violence & aggression in the NHS in Wales in 2007/08.
Newswire – TSA: 37 innovative housing projects from across the country which involve the development of local standards between landlords and their tenants to improve services have been selected as local standards pilots by the Tenant Services Authority (TSA).
The 37 projects will benefit tenants living in 380,000 homes across the country and will see landlords working on a wide range of projects that involve tenants playing a key role in agreeing local targets that reflect priorities & needs. The pilots are scheduled to start in September 2009 and will be funded through to April 2010.
ScotGov: A blueprint for improving the teaching & learning of science in Scotland's schools has been launched. The report contains the actions resulting from Scotland's first Schools Science Summit and sets out how the Scottish Government plans to improve the pupil experience in science education, engineering & technology.
WAG: A new smartcard for concessionary bus pass holders has been rolled-out across Wales and is the first step in transforming the way people use public transport. As set out in the National Transport Plan, the Welsh Assembly Government plan to introduce the newWales Transport Entitlement card by 2014.
BIS: Trade unions’ efforts to support vulnerable workers have been given a boost with Lord Young announcing Government funding for 14 new projects. A total of £2.46m will be made available to help unions improve their ability to meet the needs of hard-to-reach groups of vulnerable workers. It will be matched with at least an equivalent union contribution.
The money will be distributed under Round Three of the Union Modernisation Fund which provides financial assistance to trade unions and their federations for innovative projects with the potential to transform their effectiveness. Bids are assessed by an independent Supervisory Board comprising individuals from union, academic and industry backgrounds.
WAG: Social Justice Minister, Dr Brian Gibbons, has announced the opening of bidding rounds for Welsh Assembly Government equality grants for the remainder of this financial year and 2010/11. The annual £883,000 AE fund will support revenue projects managed by third, community or public sector organisations for services which address the needs of people facing multiple discrimination in their everyday lives.
It also includes funding for International Women's Day, an annual event which takes place on 8 March. The theme for next year’s International Women's Day is ‘Promoting Women into Public and Political Life’.
ScotGov: The Scottish Government will protect frontline services, despite having to wrestle with the first real terms cut in its budget since devolution, John Swinney said when presenting the draft budget for 2010-2011, The Cabinet Secretary for Finance & Sustainable Growth stressed that the Government's approach has been to ‘protect programmes that matter most to the people of Scotland’.
The budget shows the ScotGov’s Departmental Expenditure Limit (DEL) Budget - the money over which it has direct control - will reduce in real terms by 0.9% compared to 2009 - 2010. This is a result of the £500m cut in planned expenditure for 2010-11 imposed on Scotland by the UK Government, and accelerated capital expenditure.
DEL is the funds available to departments through the operation of the Barnett Formula. Allocations within the Scottish Block Grant are determined by Scottish Ministers. DEL spending is discretionary.
HO: A crackdown on prolific offenders, free security devices for the public and targeted police operations to follow convicted burglars & disrupt the sale of stolen goods are some of the actions being funded in 35 areas to tackle burglary & robbery. The Vigilance Programme helps deliver pre-emptive support, training & additional resources to those areas. The taskforce has worked with each area to develop a strategy to address emerging issues and has awarded them grants from the £4.4m fund to implement new action.
DH: A consultation (closes on 11 December 2009) seeking views on how students studying to be nurses, midwives & doctors should be funded in their studies has been launched. It forms part of the NHS Student Support Review and will primarily seek views as to the best option for resolving the discrepancy of support available to degree & diploma students.
Currently the NHS offers bursaries to healthcare students studying diplomas and degree level courses. However, the current system provides an incentive for students to opt for a diploma over a degree because they can receive additional funding, which is not mean-tested.
As the Nursing and Midwifery Council has indicated that the minimum qualification for new entry into the profession will, in the near future, be changed to a degree; the DH is keen to ensure that the system will adequately support students throughout their studies. A final recommendation will be announced in early 2010.
MoJ: A debate on aspects of defamation law & how it works in the internet age, has been launched by the Ministry of Justice. Part of the law on defamation originates from the 1840s, long before the internet arrived and changed the way that opinions & comment are often communicated. The consultation (closes on 16 December 2009) seeks views on specific issues (including those around the multiple publication rule) that could interest anybody who posts or publishes on the internet, particularly those who maintain online archives.
Currently (for example), a defamation claim has to be made within a year of publication. But the internet now allows content to be accessed immediately and for many years into the future. So does this time limit need to be changed and how might that work?
This consultation is part of a wider reform of defamation law currently underway, which includes the decriminalisation of seditious libel that is currently before Parliament and a consultation earlier this year on controlling costs in defamation proceedings, the responses to which are currently being considered by the Ministry of Justice.
DfT: Cyclists will be allowed to ride in both directions on a number of one way streets as part of a series of measures to encourage greener travel. The pilot project in the LB of Kensington & Chelsea will allow cyclists to travel both ways on specific one way roads in the borough where a 'no entry except for cyclists' sign will be used.
Proposals to significantly reduce red tape for councils wanting to use certain traffic signs have also been published for consultation (closes on 10 December 2009). The new measures will allow councils to put in place certain signs - including those for car club parking spaces, electric car charging points and cyclists - without the need for Government to approve their use individually.
WAG: The Welsh Assembly Government have set out for consultation (closes on 16 December 2009) how it plans to use new powers to protect the seas around Wales by creating Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs). Through the Marine and Coastal Access Bill, Welsh Ministers will have the ability to create these zones to protect nationally important habitats and species.
The new strategy, as well as underlining WAG’s ongoing commitment to managing existing sites effectively, will establish 'The MCZ Project Wales' that will look into & recommend sites for designating as new MCZs.
MPA: The MPA Civil Liberties Panel met on 17 September 2009 to question 3 senior Met officers, with responsibility for public order policing, about the tactics used in recent events, and specifically G20. Assistant Commissioner Chris Allison, Commander Bob Broadhurst and Chief Superintendent Ian Thomas, were asked to explain why they had used certain tactics such as ‘kettling’, and how the Met intends to ensure lessons learnt & public expectations are fed into future public order planning.
Victoria Borwick, MPA member and chair of the panel said: “We will be inviting people from all sides of the issue - protestors, police, business groups and people caught up in protests as they go about their daily business - to ask them what they want from their police service during a public order event.”
If you are interested in attending the meeting on 5 November 2009, or wish to submit a question, details will be on the MPA website by the beginning of October.
Defra: Defra has launched a public consultation (closes on 13 November 2009) on the implementation of new European legislation concerning the classification of beef, pig & sheep carcases and the reporting of prices. The European Commission has recently consolidated legislation governing agricultural commodity markets into a single common organisation of the markets. In the meat sector this now incorporates 3 earlier regulations setting rules on the classification of and price reporting on beef, sheep and pig carcases.
The impact on the livestock sector of the proposed Regulations is expected to be small. Those affected are operators of approved slaughterhouses killing adult bovine animals & pigs, classifiers of bovine animals & pigs, and beef & pig farmers.
MoJ: Plans to help people solve their debt problems as quickly & fairly as possible have been published by the government. The consultation paper (closes on 18 December 2009) - Debt Management Schemes – delivering effective and balanced solutions for debtors and creditors - asks for views on how Debt Management (DM) Schemes can help people in debt – and their creditors – as effectively as possible.
DM schemes are designed to assist those who are in debt and are unable to meet their commitments. In these situations finances are assessed and a monthly repayment deal is brokered with all their creditors which all sides agree to and the debtor is able to maintain. Later this year, the Office of Fair Trading plans to launch a review of its DM Guidance to obtain a clearer picture of compliance levels within the DM sector and take appropriate follow-up action.
This consultation is published in conjunction with the government response to another consultation – Administration and Enforcement Restriction Orders: setting the parameters – which looked at reforming existing measures designed to help people with multiple debt. However, it would not have been possible to implement these reforms until April 2011 at the earliest.
More immediately, the government plans to raise awareness about the benefits & pitfalls of current DM schemes by publishing guidance on what to expect from non-court based operators to help debtors better understand their options.
Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides
HEFCE: Government guidance for higher & further education institutions on dealing with swine flu, published on 14 September 2009.
FSA: A new online training course about vacuum packing and modified atmosphere packing of food has been developed by the Food Standards Agency. The course aims to give local authority food law enforcement officers, who are responsible for food hygiene, an enhanced understanding of the vacuum packing processes, and the importance of microbiological safety in their use.
Vacuum packing techniques are used to increase the shelf-life of chilled foods by taking the air out of the packaging surrounding the food. Because there is no air in the packet, most bacteria stop growing, which helps keep the food fresher for longer.
However, some types of bacteria can still grow without any air – Clostridium botulinum is one of these. This type of bacteria produces a very harmful toxin that causes severe food poisoning. It is therefore important that appropriate controls are in place to keep the food safe.
HO: A project aimed to offer good practice counter terrorism advice to hotel staff, to enable them to deal with the threat of a terrorist attack, has been launched by the Home Office. Project Argus Hotels helps hotels to not only prevent terrorist attacks, but also to handle their response should it happen and recover from it afterwards.
A spokesperson in the Office for Security and Counter Terrorism (OSCT) said: “The initiative encourages hotels to develop their own bespoke counter terrorism security plan. Argus uses a multimedia simulation of a terrorist attack to prompt discussions in syndicate groups with expert good practice advice on hand so each hotel can think about what response is right for them”.
Developed by the National Counter Terrorism Security Office (NaCTSO), Project Argus already exists for retail and the night-time economy. This is the latest package aimed at crowded places business sectors and follows work to assess the implications of attacks in Mumbai last year. Project Argus is also currently in development for the health & education sectors.
Ofsted: Two valuable new aids for teachers of music have been launched as part of the Year of Music by Ofsted, the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills. The booklets, Making more of music: improving the quality of music teaching in primary/secondary schools, highlight the aspects of effective teaching and present them in a chart which describes the satisfactory, good & outstanding features seen in Ofsted’s music inspections.
The booklets also feature best practice examples from the 2008/9 academic year and from the Ofsted music report - Making more of music - which was published in February and led to development of these resources.
The music report found that school music has the potential to improve pupils’ development, personally as well as musically, yet all too often this powerful tool isn’t properly harnessed. It also revealed that the main weaknesses in music provision all related strongly to the quality of teaching.
DCSF: Schools Minister Vernon Coaker has launched a DVD for pupils and a new resource pack for schools to help them prevent & tackle bullying of young people with special educational needs (SEN) & disabilities.
The DVD ‘Make Them Go Away’ is aimed at children from 7 to 14 to raise awareness of their peers with SEN & disabilities. The support package for teachers will help them stimulate classroom discussions so that pupils understand the damaging impact of bullying on their disabled peers.
CLG: Following the most comprehensive review of operational guidance for the Fire & Rescue Service for 10 years, the first 2 of over 40 topic guides are now available from the new Fire & Rescue Service Operational Guidance: Generic Risk Assessments (GRA) They offer guidance on:
* Turning out & arriving at the scene of an incident
* Flashover & backdraught fires
The revised GRA guidance reflects modern good practice and changes in health & safety legislation, as well as occupational health and welfare management.
WAG: The Welsh Assembly Government has published new planning guidance on how local planning authorities can allow for continued development while protecting the natural heritage of Wales. Technical Advice Notice 5 (TAN 5) gives revised guidance on the conservation of internationally & nationally designated sites & habitats.
* addresses the conservation of protected species
* sets out the key principles of positive planning for nature conservation, including the relevant legal requirements and their impact within the land use planning system
BIS: As part of the Progress Report on the Strategy for Sustainable Construction the Government & industry have revealed the achievements made so far on their commitments to change radically the way the UK construction industry designs & builds.
CCW: The Consumer Council for Water has revealed that overall complaints to water companies in England & Wales dropped last year by nearly 15%. A few companies had significant improvements in complaint figures as they recovered from problems in previous years, bringing the industry average down.
However, there are still companies that need to improve complaints figures. Last year complaints to United Utilities rose by over 36%, and United Utilities, Southern Water, South East Water and South West Water had the highest number of complaints for the number of customers they serve (complaints per 10,000 customers). Last year CCWater helped customers secure £2.5m in compensation & rebates from water companies - 40% more than the year before.
DECC: New climate change stats revealing the carbon footprint of every single part of the UK have been published. The statistics calculate the climate impact of the energy used by homes, businesses & road transport in each local authority area throughout England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.
The UK has already reduced its emissions by 21% on 1990 levels and is committed to a reduction of at least 34% by 2020. In these results the UK’s overall CO2 emissions dropped by 2% between 2005 & 2007.
General Reports and Other Publications
Defra: The Council of Food Policy Advisors has published its first report for Environment Secretary Hilary Benn. The Council has identified 3 priority areas to focus on:
* Defining an environmentally sustainable healthy diet
* Government setting an example via public procurement
* A UK fruit & vegetable strategy
A meeting of retailers, growers & public procurers to consider the barriers to greater consumption and production of fruit & vegetables in the UK has already taken place, following discussions between the Council and Ministers.
MO: Global warming continues to pose a real threat that should not be ignored — a claim reinforced in a new study by scientists reported in a supplement of the August issue of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. This is despite very small global temperature rises over the last 10 years.
Met Office Hadley Centre scientists investigated how often decades with a neutral trend in global mean temperature occurred in computer modelled climate change simulations. They found that despite continued increases in greenhouse gas concentrations, a single-decade hiatus in warming occurs relatively often.
However, the Met Office’s decadal forecast predicts renewed warming after 2010 with about half of the years to 2015 likely to be warmer globally than the current warmest year on record.
FSA: The Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food (ACMSF) has, after public consultation, published a report on increased incidence of listeriosis in the UK. Following reports of an increase in cases of listeria, predominantly in the over-60s age group, the Agency sought advice from the ACMSF, an independent scientific advisory committee, on the reasons for this change. Similar increases were also reported in other European countries, including France & Germany.
Newswire – CABE: Nearly 90% of people say that better quality buildings & public spaces improve their quality of life according to new MORI research, published by CABE on its tenth anniversary. CABE is marking its first decade with an exploration of fresh ideas for the next 10 years. As a society, we face three crises – an age of austerity, a short time to stabilise greenhouse gas emissions and social pessimism. The strongest response to all these can come through changes to our built environment.
The current risk is that public spending cuts to non-statutory council services (like parks management & maintenance) lead to places becoming dirtier & shabbier, with key targets like community safety & obesity being missed as a result.
The new research shows that the quality of the built environment is seen as important by voters across the political spectrum. Only 2% of people who intend to vote Conservative don’t have any interest in what buildings, streets, parks and public spaces look or feel like to use. This compares with 4% of people who said they would vote Labour and 3% said they would vote for other parties.
ESRC: Britain has now been in recession for over a year. How can policy-makers respond most effectively, on a global scale as well as nationally? And what are the likely effects – both now and in the future – on jobs, on businesses and on people’s lives?
A new report published by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) explores what can be learned from evidence on previous recessions: the 3 that Britain has experienced most recently – in the mid-1970s, the early 1980s and the early 1990s (as well as recessions elsewhere in the world) and the global recessionary period to which current times have often been compared - the 1930s.
Cabinet Office: A joint response to the consultation on plans for a new type of incorporated charity structure has been published by The Office of the Third Sector in the Cabinet Office and the Charity Commission. The Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO) will be the first incorporated legal structure designed specifically with the needs of charities in mind.
It will be an entirely new type of charity structure that will provide charity trustees with protections & responsibilities similar to those given to directors of limited companies. Responding to the consultation on how the CIO will work, the Government and the Charity Commission have agreed to make a number of important changes to initial proposals. The aim is for the CIO to become an option for charities from spring 2010.
Increasingly, charities are seeking incorporation as a means of limiting the risk of personal liability for trustees. Currently, around 4 in every 10 new registered charities are incorporated as companies, but this brings the burden of double regulation by both the Charity Commission and Companies House. The new CIO will be regulated by the Charity Commission alone.
CQC: The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has called for a renewed drive to cut numbers of people with cardiovascular disease (CVD), which is responsible for 1 in 3 deaths in England. It is publishing a study on efforts to cut deaths from the disease and to reduce inequalities between those in deprived areas and other parts of the country of which CVD is the biggest cause.
The Government has already met its target of cutting total deaths among people under 75 by at least 40% by 2010 and it is on track to meet its target of narrowing the gap between worse-off areas and the country as a whole. But CQC says the nation must go further as the UK still has one of the highest CVD rates in Europe.
Caused mainly by obesity & smoking, CVD costs the country more than £30bn a year. It is set to affect greater numbers of people with forecasters predicting that 90% of adults will be overweight or obese by 2050.
Legislation / Legal
ScotGov: Parents in Tayside will be entitled to know if a sex offender has access to their children under a new pilot project. Under the scheme, the first of its kind in Scotland, parents, carers or guardians will now be able to formally register their concerns and will be informed if the named individual has a conviction for sex offences against children. If a child is found to be at risk, child protection measures will be implemented.
As of September 21, 2009, callers to Tayside Police on 0300 111 2222 who have concerns about the safety of a child will be directed to a dedicated line where the information will be acted upon by specialists in the field of child protection.
The move is part of new Government efforts to strengthen Scotland's approach to dealing with sex offenders and the pilot will run until May 2010. If successful, it could be rolled out right across Scotland.
DfT: Plans to crack down on the menace of uninsured drivers have been confirmed by Road Safety Minister Paul Clark. The new measures will make it an offence to keep an uninsured vehicle – rather than just to drive when uninsured – making it easier to catch uninsured drivers and keep them off the roads. Only vehicles with a valid Statutory Off Road Notice (SORN) will not be required to be insured.
Uninsured driving adds around £30 a year to every motorist's insurance premium - amounting to more than £400m a year in additional premiums. It is also estimated that uninsured & untraced drivers kill 160 people and injure 23,000 every year. Using Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) equipment, police removed around 150,000 vehicles in 2007 - more than 400 a day.
Last year a new offence of causing death by driving while unlicensed, disqualified or uninsured was introduced.
The DfT has published the results of its consultation on how the scheme will operate. Regulations will now be drafted, with the powers expected to come into force in the next financial year.
FSA: The Financial Services Authority (FSA) is taking action against penny share dealers after finding that older people are being targeted with high pressure sales tactics. Penny shares are investments with a low market price and not traded on the main stock exchange. They are very high risk and difficult to sell on.
The FSA found that certain stockbrokers targeted people who already own shares, usually people over the age of 50 years, some of whom may have acquired a few shares through privatisations. In some cases the brokers were paid commission to sell a particular share which was then aggressively marketed to consumers regardless of whether or not it was suitable for them.
ScotGov: A clampdown on rogue taxi operators in the Edinburgh area has been announced. Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said that the Scottish Government is determined to work with the police and local authorities to clamp down on gangsters trying to muscle in on the trade. He also stressed the benefits that legitimate taxi & private hire car trade plays in the local economy in Edinburgh and the Lothians.
MoJ: Low income earners across England & Wales will benefit from free legal advice for debt, housing, family & employment problems with the launch of a new legal advice helpline in Swansea. Swansea business, Ty Arian, has been awarded a government contract to deliver specialist legal advice to people on low incomes through the Community Legal Advice helpline.
Along with the telephone advice, Ty Arian also provide advice to prisoners and their families in Parc Prison which aims to reduce re-offending, as well as running specialist training courses for other lawyers & advisers in social welfare law.
HO: The UK Border Agency has confirmed that phase 3 of Tier 4 of the points-based system for immigration is set to go live on the 5 October 2009. Phase 3 is the voluntary trialling period of the sponsorship management system for Tier 4 sponsors.
The trial allows sponsors to continue using visa letters whilst gradually adopting the use of the sponsorship management system to issue confirmations of acceptance for studies prior to them becoming mandatory in February 2010. Would-be students applying from outside of the UK will be required to continue to apply with a visa letter until February 2010.
HMRC: Civil servant John Brian Agdomar and an accomplice, Olanekan Omatayo Ogunmekan, are now behind bars after being caught out by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) investigators. Between them, the pair fabricated more than 1,400 fictitious children, hijacked hundreds of identities and illegally claimed more than £1.2m in tax credits.
The pair had developed a scheme which saw Agdomar using his job as a civil servant at the Department for Work and Pensions as a cover to illegally access genuine customer records to obtain personal information. This allowed the pair to hijack existing claims for tax credits, diverting the payments into a complex network of bank accounts. John Brian Agdomar will be subject to confiscation proceedings under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002; the next hearing in this case will be in February 2010.
HO: Ensuring suspected sex offenders are swiftly brought to justice is one of the aims of a new extradition treaty, which the UK has recently signed with the Philippines. The Philippines has been known as a destination for suspected British sex offenders. A number of those accused of such serious crimes are believed to have fled there from the UK.
The UK and the Philippines have also signed a treaty of mutual legal assistance in criminal matters. This will help ensure if evidence required for the investigation or trial of an alleged offence in the UK is located in the Philippines, that the UK will be able to obtain this evidence in an admissible form in the quickest manner possible.
EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.
Defra: Britain has indicated its support for an international ban on the sale of bluefin tuna, the long term survival of which is threatened by over fishing. The docu-film The End of the Line, released earlier this year, presented the bluefin as the starkest example of 21st Century over-fishing. It is considered a highly valued delicacy in many parts of the world where a fully grown bluefin tuna can command up to $100,000 US (£60,800) at market.
Monaco has drafted a proposal that the species be added to Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and the European Union is currently considering whether to add its support and act as co-sponsor to their call. The European Commission has tabled a proposal for the species to be listed at the next meeting of CITES which takes place in Doha in March 2010.
Management of Atlantic tuna fisheries is currently undertaken by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT). Bluefin tuna will be discussed at the annual meeting to be held in Recife, Brazil in November 2009.
Charity and Voluntary Sector
BIG: As the 65th anniversary of Operation Market Garden approaches, Second World War veterans from across the nation have been awarded Big Lottery Fund grants to return to Holland and the battlefields of Europe & beyond to commemorate those that lost their lives.
The latest round from the Big Lottery Fund’s Heroes Return 2 programme has awarded over £640,000 to allow more than 400 veterans, along with their widows, spouses & carers to commemorate those that didn’t make it home from the battles that shaped the outcome of the Second World War. Operation Market Garden saw 30,000 British & American airborne troops flown behind enemy lines to capture the 8 bridges that spanned the network of canals & rivers on the Dutch/German border.
Business and Other Briefings
WAG: Senior executives from some of
France’s largest companies enjoyed a taste of Wales during a high profile
visit last week. The icing on the cake was lunch with Penny Fillon, the
Welsh-born wife of the French Prime Minister. The 2-day visit was
organised by International Business Wales (the Welsh Assembly
Government trade & investment arm).
In the past 18
months patron members have participated in two particularly prestigious events
organised by IBW:
* a dinner
hosted by Prince Charles at Clarence House, and
*a dinner with
the First Minister and the French Prime Minister at his Paris residence.
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