In the News
MoD: Make it a happy AND less dangerous Christmas - Generous members of the public who show their support for Armed Forces personnel by sending welfare parcels to Afghanistan are being urged to stop & think – and consider alternative & better ways they can back the troops and support practical efforts to make their free time more enjoyable & comfortable.
Whilst the kindness & generosity of people who send boxes of treats out to operational theatre are greatly appreciated, the sheer volume of mail now being received - and the unintentional inclusion of inappropriate items - is causing serious difficulties for those charged with running the distribution service of supplies (including post) in theatre.
The message comes direct from military personnel at the sharp end and it is simple: 'Troops on the ground in Helmand Province really appreciate support from back home, but the mountains of well-intentioned mail cause genuine difficulties which outweigh the benefits'.
For example, the onward delivery of goodwill parcels to forward operating bases necessitates additional re-supply flights & convoys, which places Service personnel at additional risk in what is already a difficult & dangerous operating environment.
Supporters are requested to channel their ‘goodwill’ through charities which send welfare parcels to Afghanistan – but they do so, in consultation & partnership with the Armed Forces, in a co-ordinated way which does not put undue pressure on resources
Ofwat/CCWater: Shouldn’t shareholders pay for their own capital investment? - Ofwat has published its final decisions on the prices water & sewerage companies can charge their customers between 2010 - 15. Its decision will see more than £22bn invested in maintaining & improving services to consumers, while household bills remain broadly flat until 2015. The average bill across England & Wales will decrease by £3 to £340 by 2015 (This is before inflation is considered).
Compared to what companies asked for, Ofwat's challenge sees average bills about £34 (10%) lower by 2015. Ofwat's decision will see more than £935 invested for every property across England & Wales by 2015. Ofwat’s final decision on price limits is due to come into effect in April 2010, with the delivery of bills for April 2010 – March 2011.
The Consumer Council for Water (CCWater) responded to the announcement by giving Ofwat a ‘mark of seven out of 10’, but is concerned about impact for some customers. Customers of some companies will all see rises in average bills – such as Essex & Suffolk Water (13%), Bristol Water (7%), Southern Water (5%) and Thames Water (3%). South West Water customers without a meter could see a 29% rise in bills.
Water companies can appeal to the Competition Commission if they are not happy with Ofwat’s final decision and, if they do so, the CCWater will continue to strongly represent water consumers throughout this process.
DH: Vote winner or just reallocation of scarce resources? - The Bill that is intended to help individuals with the highest care needs remain independent for longer has been introduced in Parliament by Health Secretary Andy Burnham.
The Personal Care at Home Bill will help around 400,000 people with the highest care needs. It is claimed to guarantee free personal care for 280,000 people – including those with serious dementia or Parkinson's disease – and will also help 130,000 people who need home care to regain their independence.
The new proposals, which will cost £670m, are the Government's first step towards setting up a new National Care Service – a simple, fair & affordable care system for everyone. Also published was a consultation document and an Impact Assessment on proposals for the regulations & guidance to be made under the legislation (comments by 23 February 2010).
Newswire – SC RHC: Restoring democracy to Parliament - The Select Committee on Reform of the House of Commons, set up to consider & make recommendations to the House on several specified matters, has agreed its First Report. The Select Committee was appointed to consider & report on 4 specified matters:
* the appointment of members & chairmen of select committees
* the appointment of the Chairman & Deputy Chairmen of Ways & Means
* scheduling business in the House
* enabling the public to initiate debates & proceedings in the House
SSRB: At least the Hereditary Peers were a lot cheaper - The Government has published the report of the Review Body on Senior Salaries (SSRB) on financial support for Members of the House of Lords. Key features & recommendations include:
* A reduced overnight subsistence allowance of up to £140 per night
* Replacement of the existing daily allowances of up to £180 per day by a fee of £200 for each day
* Salaries & financial support to Lords Ministers to be reviewed by the SSRB when the salaries of MPs are reviewed in the next Parliament.
DH: Consequences of inaction - Health should be at the centre of our fight against climate change, Health Secretary, Andy Burnham said at the launch of a new report on Health & Climate Change. The report calls on health ministers & professionals across the world to recognise the danger that climate change poses to health, in the run up to the UN conference in Copenhagen in December 2009.
The report models the effects of different policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in high & low-income countries. Case studies focus on power generation, transport, household energy, food and agriculture.
ESRC: More Costly Spin than Sound Educational Practice – The Government’s £5bn Skills for Life initiative has not significantly improved literacy or the economic performance of participating companies, despite what policymakers believe. These are the findings of the UK’s first study of basic skills learning in the workplace, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).
According to Professor Alison Wolf, of King’s College London (who led the study), workplace basic skills courses are having little impact, in their current form. She believes that one of the main reasons for the failure of the initiative is that courses were simply not long enough. However, the study also found that one of the broader benefits of the course was that it boosted workers’ confidence. A significant number of participants went on to do further courses.
For information on forthcoming public sector events please click HERE to visit the WGPlus Events Calendar
HO: Nearly 1m passengers have used the latest face scanning technology at Britain's airports, the Home Secretary, Alan Johnson has claimed. The facial recognition gates offer legitimate passengers the choice between queuing at traditional, staffed passport controls and using the self-service gates.
The gates take seconds to scan each passenger's face against the digital photo recorded in their passport. If there is a match, the e-passport gates open, to allow the traveller across the border. The gates are staffed by UK Border Agency officers who examine any passengers rejected by the gate, as well as making manual checks where appropriate.
ScotGov: Staging the RACMSA Rally of Scotland over the next 3 years will bring significant benefits & secure Scotland's place as a top motorsport destination, First Minister Alex Salmond claimed last week. The First Minister and Sir Jackie Stewart officially started the inaugural event, which is part of the Homecoming Programme, at Scone Palace.
EH: English Heritage (EH) is asking you to help them track down Charles Darwin's missing 'Galapagos' notebook which contains the scientist's on-the-spot observations and which would prove invaluable when he was later writing the groundbreaking On the Origin of Species, published 150 years ago this month.
The notebook went missing (it was possibly stolen) around the early 1980s from the home of Charles Darwin, Down House in Kent, before the house came under the care of English Heritage. The appeal comes as EH digitises & publishes online the remaining 14 Beagle notebooks, as well as highlights from a 1969 microfilm of the missing notebook.
These are the small field notebooks which Darwin used to jot down his day-to-day thoughts while travelling around the world on board HMS Beagle (1831-1836). From now on, you will be able to read the notebooks – all 116,000 words and 300 sketches & doodles.
BIS: Following the announcement on 11 November 2009 in the White Paper, Skills for Growth, of a 5th competitive round of National Skills Academies, the Learning and Skills Council has now published the 2009 Prospectus. The closing date for submissions of Expressions of Interest is on the 25 January 2010.
DH: More than 3.8m adults in England are misguidedly trying to burn off the booze with exercise, according to new research. A YouGov survey, on behalf of the Know Your Limits campaign shows that 19% of adults in England who exercise regularly & drink alcohol admit to taking exercise or playing sport in order to ‘make up’ for having drunk a lot of alcohol in the previous few days.
Worryingly, this is even more prevalent among heavy drinkers: the survey shows 20% of English adults are drinking more than double the NHS recommended limits and, of those who also exercise, 28% admit doing so to make up for their drinking. This compares to just 10% of people who exercise & drink at 'lower risk' - those who do not regularly drink more than 3-4 units a day for men, and 2-3 units a day for women.
Men who regularly drink more than 8 units a day (about 3 pints of lager) and women who regularly drink more than 6 units a day (about 2 large glasses of wine) are considered by the NHS to be at 'higher risk' of harming their health. Both are more than 5 times more likelythan non-drinkers to suffer mouth cancer and more than 3 times more likely to have a stroke.
Newswire – HCA: London boroughs could be given more influence over affordable housing investment in return for commitments on the delivery of affordable housing, the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has announced.
A new pilot scheme - approved by the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) London Board (chaired by the Mayor) - has been set up to explore what immediate steps can be taken to give London’s councils greater control & flexibility over housing decisions. The pilot will also explore a framework which could see boroughs agree to an indicative budget for housing investment from 2011, as part of the next public funding round.
Croydon, Westminster and Hackney councils have been invited to take part in the pilot, starting from April 2010, as they represent a wide selection of the housing challenges in the capital, from over-crowding to major estate regeneration, and have all developed robust & ambitious investment plans working with the HCA. Every borough will potentially be offered the opportunity to negotiate a delegated contract for the 2011 investment round.
EHRC: The Equality and Human Rights Commission has announced the recipients of its Strategic Funding Programme, which will award nearly £10m to 61 community & voluntary sector organisations across England, Scotland & Wales. This is in addition to the £4.2m awarded earlier this month to 77 voluntary sector organisations, including law centres, advice bureaux, racial equality councils, disability advice specialists and human rights organisations, as part of Commission’s legal grants funding programme.
A further grants programme in the next financial year will see about £1m given to organisations to support smaller-scale projects. This year’s recipients provide guidance, advice & advocacy services to help break down discrimination & inequality in areas including education, health and employment. Funding also supports organisations building good relations, particularly between groups, or in areas, where there are known tensions.
TfL: A new campaign warning Londoners about the dangers of using un-booked minicabs has been launched by the Mayor, Transport for London, the Metropolitan Police Service and the City of London Police. Timed to coincide with the start of the Christmas party season it features a powerful TV & cinema advert to get across the message that getting into any minicab without booking is illegal, potentially dangerous and can pose the serious risk of sexual assault.
Monitor: Monitor, the independent regulator for NHS foundation trusts, has confirmed the following foundation trusts will be authorised from 1 December 2009:
* Liverpool Heart and Chest NHS Foundation Trust
* Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust
* Royal Surrey County NHS Foundation Trust
PCS: The PCS union has claimed that the government risks playing politics with public sector workers' lives with its latest plans to move more civil servants out of London & the south east (in line with the Lyons review). While relocating public sector jobs can help regenerate less economically active regions of the UK, PCS members have learned the hard way that it is often a thinly disguised attack on jobs, wages & services.
At the Office for National Statistics, for example, management was publicly criticised for failing to maintain the quality of its service following a move from central London to Newport in south Wales. Estimates have suggested the move will take a staggering 25 years to pay for itself.
PCS also commented that, before any further relocations are planned, the government must consider very carefully the disproportionately negative impact relocation has on black workers, as London has the highest BME population in the UK.
CQC: Healthcare regulators are taking action to address concerns around leadership & quality of care at Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. Monitor, the independent regulator of NHS foundation trusts has used its formal powers of intervention to require the Trust to take immediate action to deliver improvement.
This follows a decision by Monitor's Board that the Trust is significant breach of the terms of their Authorisation as a result of concerns around compliance with healthcare standards, Board effectiveness and governance. These concerns include the Trust Board's rate of progress and success in designing, overseeing and implementing effective actions to address high hospitalised standardised mortality rates.
WAG: Social Justice and Local Government Minister Dr Brian Gibbons has visited Welsh Women’s Aid to launch the Violence against Women and Domestic Abuse Christmas Publicity campaign. The campaign will raise awareness of the ‘early warning signs’ of an abusive relationship, as well as publicise the ways in which the Wales Domestic Abuse helpline provides support to people experiencing domestic abuse.
ScotGov: Protection for vulnerable young people is to be helped by an enhanced nationwide helpline. The 24 hour Child Protection Line will in future be staffed by qualified child protection professionals rather than trained call handlers, who after an initial professional assessment will be able to give an informed referral to the relevant local services. The helpline will remain open in its current form until a new provider is appointed.
The changes follow an independent evaluation of the line, by York Consulting, which confirmed the need for a national helpline & highlighted the fact that a promotional campaign early last year prompted an increase in calls. However, the report also concluded that the line, as it currently stands, does not fully meet the needs of the public & services, or provide value for money.
Press release ~ Child Protection Line ~ Independent evaluation of the Child Protection Line
Policy Statements and Initiatives
HO: A programme to educate young people convicted of knife possession about the dangers & consequences of carrying a knife has been rolled out across all Tackling Knives and Serious Youth Violence Action Programme (TKAP) areas. Following a pilot, the Knife Crime Prevention Programme (KCPP) is now being run by nearly 100 Youth Offending Teams in TKAP areas. The programme is targeted solely at young people (aged 10 — 17) convicted of any offence involving a knife and does not replace the sentences imposed on adults or repeat offenders.
Run by the Home Office and Youth Justice Board the programme consists of eight modules including — attitudes towards carrying a knife, the legal implications of buying knives, impact of knife wounds including images, and talks from victims or their family.
DfT: A new action plan to improve lorry parking in England has been announced. The new strategy is intended to help raise standards at existing truck stops and tackle shortages of lorry parking facilities. The Department has also updated the Truck Stop Guide in conjunction with the Highways Agency to ensure that drivers and operators have the most up to date information on the facilities available to them.
The DfT will be developing guidance for operators & local councils to help improve the consistency & quality of services offered to drivers. In addition, the Department wants to encourage new lorry parking facilities by increasing coverage of them in local & national planning documents and by allowing them to be accessed directly from the motorway.
HMT: The Government will implement the reforms of bank pay & governance proposed by Sir David Walker. Sir David’s review was commissioned by the Government earlier in 2009 to explore failures of corporate governance & management of banks. His final report suggests a series of reforms to strengthen the role of shareholders, improve the quality of bank boards and to increase transparency of pay & bonus policies.
Specifically, the Government’s Financial Services Bill will allow the Treasury to issue regulations forcing banks to disclose (in bands) the number of staff earning more than £1m p.a.. It will issue draft regulations for consultation in the New Year and bring them into force as soon as practicable after enactment of the Bill. This will force disclosure for the 2010 performance year.
ScotGov: Over £830m was saved through government efficiencies last year, according to figures published recently. At 3.1%, the savings far exceed the target of 2% cash savings for 2008-09 and newly published Efficiency Delivery Plans claim the public sector is on track to exceed this year's even higher target.
WAG: Social Justice Minister Dr Brian Gibbons has announced that children in Wales will receive a Welsh premium on top the UK government’s Child Trust Fund payment before the end of the financial year. The Child Trust Fund Cymru will mean that children born between 1 September 2002 & 31 August 2004, who already have a Child Trust Fund account, will have £50 paid into their account.
Application forms for the Child Trust Fund Cymru will be distributed via local education authorities by the end of November and should be returned to WAG by the end of December to ensure payment this financial year. Parents of children who are home schooled or attend independent schools should contact the Welsh Assembly Government.
ScotGov: Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning, Fiona Hyslop recently published the National Conversation paper on Employability and Skills, which promotes the idea of a single system of support for those in training and those looking for a job. Ms Hyslop said that the paper underlined the need for policy levers, currently reserved to Westminster, to be transferred to Scotland.
The E&Ss paper is the 8th in a series of papers being published by ScotGov as contributions to the National Conversation. While ScotGov has welcomed the proposals of the Commission on Scottish Devolution in this area, they consider that ‘they do not go far enough in enabling the Scottish Government to tackle unemployment’. In particular, under these proposals, decisions taken outside Scotland will continue to have a direct impact on the employment prospects of people across Scotland.
ScotGov: The National Conversation paper on Energy, highlights ways that more power over energy policy would benefit Scots for future generations. Energy Minister, Jim Mather, said: "The Calman Commission considered the case for greater devolution of energy powers and failed to recognise that we are limited in what we can achieve by the status quo. This Government believes that independence, with full responsibility for all international representation, is the best option to enable Scotland to fulfil its full energy potential."
ScotGov: Scottish Ministers have urged the UK Government to transfer the responsibilities from Westminster to Holyrood set out in its response to the Calman Commission recommendations without delay. Constitution Minister Michael Russell published a letter from the First Minister to the PM, which sets out a detailed timetable for the early implementation of those proposals where there is a consensus for change.
Mr Russell also strongly opposed the UK Government's proposals to transfer responsibilities back from Holyrood to Westminster - for example, the regulation of all healthcare professions within Scotland's distinctive National Health Service.
WAG: The Welsh Assembly Government has reaffirmed its commitment to the One Wales agreement in relation to a referendum on Part Four powers. Both parties recognise the difficulties which would be created for a purposeful & united ‘Yes’ campaign, if that were attempted to be held during the run up to a General Election. All options for the timing of a referendum remain open. Nothing has been ruled in or ruled out, including, if it proved practical, a referendum in the autumn.
HO: A review of rape victims' experience of the criminal justice system has been welcomed by the Home Secretary Alan Johnson. All the immediate recommendations from the review, led by the Victims' Champion Sara Payne, have been considered in the Violence Against Women and Girls strategy (published last week). The publication will feed into a wider review of how rape complaints are handled, being carried out by Baroness Stern. It will look at how public authorities, including the police, local authorities, health providers & the CPS, respond to rape complaints and interact with each other. Its findings will be published in the New Year.
MLA: The Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) and The National Archives are committed to taking forward the Government's new vision for publicly funded archive services, ensuring they are as relevant in a digital age as they have been in the past. The policy, Archives for the 21st Century, re-asserts the vital importance of archives as the gateway to the nation’s common legacy, whilst reflecting the technological transition society is going through.
WAG: Andrew Davies, the Minister for Finance & Public Service Delivery, has told a conference of public service providers that ‘Wales needs the X factor’ of enthusiasm, energy & drive to meet the challenges ahead. Speaking at the annual Local Service Board conference in Llandudno, the Minister called for a ‘Team Wales’ approach. Local Service Boards were set up as part of the WAG’s response to the Beecham report on improving public services and there is now an LSB in every local authority area with over 90 local service board projects.
The Minister also announced the launch of the Good Practice Wales web portal, which is intended to provide a single point of access to a wide range of examples of good practice available across public services in Wales.
In addition he has welcomed the findings of a survey that asked over 7,500 households across Wales about their experiences of a selection of services, which show that overall, satisfaction levels across a range of public services areas were high. From 2009-10 the Living in Wales survey will be replaced with a new National Survey for Wales, which will be on a larger scale.
ScotGov: Scotland's plan to tackle the spread of HIV has been unveiled by Minister for Public Health and Sport Shona Robison. The HIV Action Plan aims to reduce the number of transmissions taking place in Scotland through increased prevention, increasing early diagnosis and improving the treatment & care of those living with the virus.
WAG: The transformation of Higher Education (HE) in Wales has been announced by Education Minister Jane Hutt. The Minister has outlined a significant shift in how the £400m+ annual funding from the WAG to the HE sector in Wales will be spent to improve efficiency, widen access, develop strong links between the economy & higher education providers and improve opportunities for learning through the medium of Welsh.
BIS: Business Secretary, Lord Mandelson, has announced investment totalling £22m to further advance the development of ‘composite’ materials. Composites are increasingly used for their lightweight, super strength properties in aeroplane wings and racing cars. He also announced the publication of the Government’s new Composite Strategy. He estimates that the high-value composites market is currently worth about £1bn to the British economy. The UK offshore composite wind turbine blade & aerospace wing market alone could be worth £22bn by 2020 – highlighting composites’ low carbon credentials.
WAG: The Welsh Assembly Government has made a statement on the UK Government's response to the Holtham Commission. The first Holtham Report concluded that, on the basis of its set of assumptions, Wales today is underfunded by 2% (or £300m).
DCMS: The Government has set out how it will deliver on its vision & promise for ‘making homes & neighbourhoods high quality, safe and more sustainable places to live in’. Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw and Housing Minister Ian Austin have published the action plan on how the Government intends to work with its partners - in particular the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA), CABE and English Heritage, as well as with the industry - to deliver the ambitions set out in World Class Places.
ScotGov: John Swinney, Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth, has claimed that householders & businesses will benefit from Scotland's 2010-11 local government settlement, as revenue funding to local government will increase by £308m (2.9%) on 2009-10 levels and the business rates poundage for 2010-11 will remain in-line with England at 40.7p, giving Scottish businesses a saving worth almost £220m. The proposals outlined in the Settlement are subject to the Scottish Government's budget receiving Parliamentary support in January 2010.
ScotGov: Proposals for the comprehensive population survey that helps to decide how billions of pounds worth of future public services are planned, were unveiled last week. The Scottish Parliament has been asked to consider the draft Census (Scotland) Order, which is required to set out the date for the next census – 27 March 2011 - and the questions that should be asked of us all in order to provide quality services for Scotland's 5m people. The 2011 Census will ask 14 household questions and up to 35 questions for each individual.
DCSF: Children’s Secretary Ed Balls has called for a new drive in schools & local authoritiesto ‘invest public money effectively, while securing frontline services post-2011’. Mr Balls also announced that he would invest £12m in new ‘smart’ meters to give schools real-time digital information about their electricity use from January 2010, thereby helping children learn about climate change & carbon reduction while, at the same time, helping schools with financial management.
Speaking at the 2009 Specialist Schools and Academies Trust annual conference (SSAT), the he said that it was not for ministers to micromanage individual headteachers’ budgets, but he pointed to a discussion document - Securing our future: using our resources well - published last week, which sets out four main areas where finances could be run more efficiently and the support package available to schools.
Press release ~ Specialist Schools and Academies Trust annual conference today (SSAT) ~ Securing our future: using our resources well ~ Schools Recruitment Service ~ Let's talk resources ~ Consultancy for Schools ~ Financial Management Standard in Schools site ~ Financial Benchmarking site ~ National College: Models of leadership website ~ Zero Carbon Task Force
FSA: An American company has applied to the Food Standards Agency for approval to market phosphated distarch phosphate as a 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.
The company, MGP Ingredients Inc., proposes to market its phosphated distarch phosphate as an added source of dietary fibre for use in a range of foods, including white bread, processed breakfast cereals, pasta, cakes, biscuits & crackers and starch-based snack foods. Comments by 13 December 2009 please.
ScotGov: New fire safety guidance is set to reduce the financial & administrative burden on Scotland's estimated 7,000 B&B and self-catering businesses. The sector had raised concerns with the Scottish Government that previous fire safety requirements were complex & prohibitively expensive. The new guidance developed to directly address these concerns will maintain fire safety levels while reducing the average investment in safety equipment by over 90%.
The new proposals (consultation closes on 4 February 2010) would require all B&B owners to apply an agreed level of fire safety cover, consistent with the size & risk profile of the property. On average, a B&B business would be required to install around £1,300 of safety equipment. Independent analysis of average cost of compliance under the previous guidance is £15,376.
MoJ: Should the Government abolish the edited version of the Electoral Register or should it be retained but with changes made to who can purchase it? These were 2 of the 6 proposals put forward by the government as it launched a public consultation (closes on 23 February 2010) on the future of the Edited Register.
The Edited Register is a record of the names & addresses of electors who have opted to have their details made publicly available. 'Electoral Registers - proposed changes to the Edited Register' seeks views on the recommendation (no. 19) in Dr Mark Walport & Richard Thomas's independent review of the use of personal information in the public & private sector that the Edited Register should be abolished.
HMT: The protections enjoyed by UK mortgages borrowers are to be strengthened under new proposals (to be implemented through secondary legislation) published by the Treasury. The Government is publishing a consultation document (closes on 15 February 2010), which sets out its proposals to:
* extend the scope of FSA regulation to include second-charge mortgages
* extend the scope of FSA regulation to include buy-to-let mortgages
* protect borrowers when lenders sell on mortgage books to third parties
DH: A pilot to help patients get innovative new drugs not currently available on the NHS has been launched for consultation (closes on 8 February 2010) by Health Minister Mike O’Brien and Science and Innovation Minister Lord Drayson. The Office for Life Sciences (OLS) Blueprint published in July 2009, detailed the Government’s commitment to create an ‘Innovation Pass’ pilot to allow patients with rarer diseases access to highly innovative new drugs which are not yet appraised by NICE (National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence), and where there is limited data on their effectiveness.
As the number of patients using these drugs is small, the lack of current evidence available means that NICE are not able to conduct a full assessment for their use on the NHS. During the 3-year pilot, the Innovation Pass will allow valuable data to be collected on the impact of these new drugs on patients and their cost effectiveness, helping contribute towards a future NICE appraisal.
NE: A formal consultation (closes on 26 February 2010) on 12 proposed new marine conservation sites has started. The sites are being put forward as the latest additions to the ‘Natura 2000’ network of European protected areas designed to protect important habitats, species and birds. Following this formal consultation process, site proposals will be submitted to Government and Ministers will decide which site recommendations to submit to the European Commission in August 2010.
The 12 proposed new sites consist of 10 possible Special Areas of Conservation (pSACs) and 2 potential Special Protection Areas (pSPAs) which incorporate a range of important habitats & species - from the sandbanks of the Outer Wash and southern North Sea to areas in the Irish Sea that are important for birds and to the cold water coral reefs off north-west Scotland.
Natural England, the Joint Nature Conservation Committee and the Countryside Council for Wales are asking consultees to comment on the scientific reasons for proposing the sites and on the assessment of the likely impacts of the site designation on marine industries such as fishing, recreation, sand & gravel extraction, windfarms and the oil and gas industry.
DH: The Bill that is intended to help individuals with the highest care needs remain independent for longer has been introduced in Parliament by Health Secretary Andy Burnham. The Personal Care at Home Bill guarantees free personal care for 280,000 people – including those with serious dementia or Parkinson's disease – and, will also help around 130,000 people who need home care to regain their independence. A related consultation closes on 23 February 2010 – See ‘In the News’ section for more information.
CLG: Housing Minister John Healey and Rural Minister Dan Norris have backed councils with cash & support to kickstart plans to build homes people can afford, where they want to live & develop rural areas to meet the needs of local people.
Councils with the best proposals for rural towns & villages will be given specialist advice to develop masterplans for new neighbourhoods of high quality housing that will include green spaces, commercial & business premises, shops and services. The new neighbourhoods will make the most of existing buildings, help provide homes for local people and help rural businesses who often find it difficult to recruit & keep staff priced out of rural communities. The Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) and Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE) will be involved in assessing bids & in administering the fund. The closing date for bids is 15 January 2010.
The latest figures from the Commission for Rural Communities (CRC) show that the lowest house prices in rural areas are 7.4 times the lowest annual incomes, compared to 5.5 times the lowest annual incomes in urban areas. The average house is now over £40,000 more expensive in rural than in urban areas. The government is therefore consulting (closes on 18 February 2010) on proposals to incentivise landowners to bring forward additional land for rural affordable housing.
Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides
NICE: The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) is currently appraising the use of sorafenib for advanced hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) in patients for whom surgery or therapies in the region the cancer arose have failed or are not suitable. In its latest draft guidance (published 19/11/2009), NICE does not recommend sorafenib.
In line with the NICE technology appraisals process this draft guidance is now with consultees, who have the opportunity to appeal against the proposed guidance. NICE has not yet issued final guidance to the NHS. Until NICE issues final guidance, NHS bodies should make decisions locally on the funding of specific treatments. Subject to any appeals being received, guidance is expected in January 2010.
WAG: Environment Minister Jane Davidson and Deputy Minister for Housing Jocelyn Davies, have called on local authorities & house builders in Wales to work together during the economic downturn to deliver affordable housing through the planning system.
To assist them updated guidance on ‘Delivering affordable housing using section 106 agreements’ has been published. The original practice guidance was published in July 2008 with the aim of assisting local authorities to improve the development, negotiation & implementation of section 106 agreements, so that more affordable housing is delivered through the planning system.
The updated guidance summarises actions by the WAG to help the housing market and looks at how local authorities can use the planning process to bring forward development and continue to deliver the maximum possible amount of affordable housing.
HSE: Kent Fire & Rescue Service have joined forces with the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) & partners to help business benefit from a new & innovative support programme. Demand from small business in the South East prompted the creation of a new scheme, Estates Excellence, which addresses the health & safety needs of organisations on industrial estates in the Kent area.
The project starts with a 4-week programme of advice, training, workshops & lifestyle assistance that is set to tour the South East. Following the initial phase of the programme, Estates Excellence will continue in the same location for a minimum of a year, giving further support & guidance.
Benefits of taking part in the scheme are that everything is free to the business, the advice addresses any risks within the workplace and participating often has the side effect of boosting the bottom line. Businesses that can demonstrate their commitment and meet the Estates Excellence criteria will receive a Participation Award and will be entered in an open register of Estates Excellence businesses.
Newswire – GSCC: The General Social Care Council (GSCC) has launched the Grow Your Own (GYO) toolkit, a step-by-step guide to help students, employers & universities get the most out of GYO schemes. GYO schemes are used by local authorities and the voluntary and private sectors to support their employees, or potential employees, to qualify as social workers.
The GYO toolkit has been jointly produced by the GSCC, the Social Care Workforce Research Unit at King’s College London (KCL) and overseen by a partnership of key stakeholders. It brings together the experience & knowledge of people who have run or participated in GYO schemes over many years.
NICE: NICE has published final guidance that recommends the use of topotecan as a second line treatment for relapsed lung cancer and preliminary recommendations published for consultation that state that the use of bevacizumab for the treatment of metastatic colorectal cancer does not represent a cost-effective use of NHS resources.
CLG: The Planning Portal has launched a series of visual guides for the most common home improvement projects - extensions, loft conversions and porches. The visual guides (which apply to England only) explain in simple terms the work householders can & cannot do under the new rules. Extensions, loft conversions and porches fall under the permitted development regime, not requiring planning permission provided certain limits & conditions are met.
DfT: New safety ratings for motorcycle helmets have been published by Road Safety Minister Paul Clark. An extra 25 motorcycle helmets have been rated by SHARP - the Department for Transport's Safety Helmet Assessment and Rating Programme - taking the total number of ratings published to 175. Paul Clark said: "If all riders wore the safest helmets available 50 lives could be saved each year”. In addition, an independent report on SHARP has been published by the Transport Research Laboratory.
BIS: Science Minister Lord Drayson dropped into a centre last week where teachers return to the classroom to transform their practical skills and inspire the scientists of tomorrow. The Minister saw how the Science Learning Centre East Midlands at the University of Leicester helps teachers to learn new knowledge & techniques to deliver science classes, which are even more exciting & relevant.
These include a multitude of hands-on practical challenges such as the ‘Cannon Fire’ demonstration which uses chemicals to produce explosive noises & flames or the ‘blue bottle experiment’ – where a clear liquid made up of 2 chemicals turns a dramatic Leicester City FC blue when shaken.
Since opening in 2004, more than 7,000 teachers, technicians & teaching assistants have graduated from the Science Learning Centre. The SASP course has been running for chemistry since July and the centre plans to start offering a new one for physics from July 2010.
DCMS: The London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games remain on time & within budget, new official data published by the Government & Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) confirms. Figures from the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games Quarterly Economic Report show a small rise in the Anticipated Final Cost (AFC) of the construction programme being delivered by the ODA – up by £7m to £7.241bn during the last quarter, equivalent to an increase of less than 0.1%.
But no contingency has had to be released to cover these potential increases as it is anticipated that they will be covered, either wholly or in part, by savings made in other parts of the building programme. The majority (£1.27bn) of contingency remains unreleased and the ODA continues to make good progress in preparing the venues and infrastructure in the Olympic Park, with construction on all major venues underway.
GEO: New research commissioned by the Government Equality Office show that women are deterred from applying to sit on boards because corporate boards are dominated by ‘old boys’ networks’. The research found that women continue to be under-represented at board level despite having the right education & experience they need to succeed.
It also found that board room cultures were often inhospitable to under-represented groups and that the small number of female board directors was not down to a lack of aspiration or competence on the part of women, but a failure by companies to identify their talent.
However the report singled out the positive action provision in the Government’s Equality Bill as being particularly helpful for women in the future, allowing businesses to employ a person from an under represented group when all the candidates are equally qualified.
ScotGov: Scotland's Chief Statistician has published Free Personal and Nursing Care, Scotland 2007 - 08. This statistics release presents information on the number of people benefiting from free personal care & free nursing care in Scotland and how much Local Authorities spend on personal care services. See also related DH item in ‘In the News’ section.
Ofsted: A picture of overall improvement in care, education & skills in England is revealed in Ofsted’s Annual Report, launched last week by Her Majesty's Chief Inspector, Christine Gilbert. Bringing together evidence from almost 40,000 inspections carried out during 2008/9, the report acknowledges overall progress and many successes, but also focuses on where improvements must still be made.
It highlights the continuing gap between the best & worst provision for children, young people & adult learners, and challenges those who deliver services that are mediocre or inadequate. Using evidence from Ofsted’s inspection findings, the report considers 3 matters of national importance & interest, the:
* first focuses on what works for one of the most vulnerable groups in society: looked after children
* second looks at an issue at the heart of school & college effectiveness: teaching & learning
* third tackles head on the challenges faced by the skills sector at a time of economic change and uncertainty
ScotGov: National statistics published recently - based on information from police forces across Scotland for 2008-09 - show a 5 percentage point increase in incidents of domestic abuse being recorded as crimes or offences. This means that the figure now stands at 55%, up from 50% of incidents in 2007-08 and over the previous five years. The police also referred 35% of incidents to the procurator fiscal - up three percentage points on the previous year.
MoD: As at 1 October 2009, the full time trained strength of the UK Armed Forces was 174, 890 against a target of 178,490. This comprises 170,050 UK Regular Forces, 1,320 full time reserve service personnel and 3,520 Gurkhas.
CLG: One year on from the launch of the ‘No One Left Out’ strategy to end rough sleeping, further action to stem the flow of new rough sleepers coming onto the street and reach entrenched rough sleepers is well underway, according to a progress report published last week.
Funding has been provided to help hundreds of rough sleepers find homes in the private rented sector through the Small Grants programme. Through this, councils can help provide deposits so that rough sleepers are able to secure privately rented accommodation. A mentoring & befriending scheme has also been established for vulnerable housed rough sleepers to help the stay in their accommodation and begin to make friends & new social support networks in their community.
Defra: The 13th edition of The environment in your pocket has been published by Defra. This is an annual publication containing material on various environmental themes including waste & recycling, sustainable consumption, climate change, air quality, land, coastal & marine waters, radioactivity, wildlife and inland water.
The main themes of this year’s publication are waste, recycling & sustainable consumption and larger sections have been devoted to these topics. It covers almost 60 key data series and focuses on providing trends over time, including performance against quantified targets & commitments set at the national & international level. It includes several environmental indicators of sustainable development.
General Reports and Other Publications
ESRC: 70% of households always separate their rubbish for recycling, but only 2% buy their energy on a green tariff, according to the early findings of a major new annual household Survey, called Understanding Society, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).
Green behaviours costing the least money & effort are currently the most popular with the British public, despite the fact that 59% of people think that if things continue on their current course we will soon experience a major environmental disaster. A fuller picture of environmental and other behaviours & attitudes based on the first annual survey of 100,000 individuals from 40,000 households for Understanding Society will be published in summer 2010.
Socitm: Socitm’s latest policy briefing – ICT, resourcing and transformation - doing more, better, with less - argues that investment is needed now in radically different approaches to service delivery so that citizens’ future needs can be met despite increased demand and much reduced budgets. The briefing includes Socitm’s response to the Government’s Operational Efficiency Programme report.
COI: A common approach to calculating the financial effectiveness & efficiency of public sector marketing is possible according to a new report from the Central Office of Information (COI). The paper shows that the 1998-2005 Teacher Recruitment campaign not only paid for itself; but should provide returns of another £85 for every £1 spent. While the Tobacco Control campaign, is estimated to have saved the economy £7.1bn; against an advertising spend of £49.3m between 1999-2004.
The paper proposes a series of universal definitions to ensure practitioners adopt the same terminology & outlines a 10-step process to help government communicators determine sensible & robust estimates of Payback - the absolute financial benefit delivered by marketing - and Return on Marketing Investment (ROMI) - the number of pounds of Payback delivered, less the cost of the marketing - for every pound spent. It also provides 6 key principles that should underpin this.
The report explains that while evaluation of the return delivered on investment by public sector marketing is currently carried out across government - and in some cases very well - it is carried out inconsistently in terms of methodology & approach. While not all communication interventions are suitable for a monetised approach, the authors argue there should be at least common, and, at best, universal, practice across government.
Defra: Environment Secretary, Hilary Benn, has welcomed Professor Read’s report ‘A National Assessment of Forestry and Climate Change’. Professor Read’s report gives advice & recommendations on how providing extra tree cover in the UK can help reduce carbon emissions preventing damaging climate change.
Professor Read’s report was commissioned by the Forestry Commission and claims that an extra 4% of the UK’s land covered by forests would reduce the UK carbon emissions by 10%. This would increase tree coverage to approximately 16%.
CRC: For many children & young people, the idyll of living in the countryside is far from the reality. Their remoteness from essential services is often made worse because of limited access to transport and the hidden disadvantages which affect poorer families. A new study highlights the barriers & solutions to the provision of children’s services in rural areas, raising important issues for providers & funders around accessibility, provision of employment and training, isolation and poverty.
The research was undertaken for the Commission for rural Communities by Capacity Ltd, with expert advice from the Coalition for Rural Children and Young People. The work of selected children’s centres was profiled & analysed against local health, education, employment, transport and social conditions.
NAO: The National Audit Office has reported to Parliament that there are risks to value for money from the way the Legal Services Commission (the LSC) administers & procures legal aid for criminal cases. In 2008-09, the Commission spent more than £1.1bn on criminal legal aid – legal assistance for people suspected of, or charged with, a criminal offence.
A study by the NAO has discovered that the LSC should do more to understand the market for criminal legal aid to make the most of its ability to control price & quality. The LSC has implemented some significant market reforms in the last few years, but it has not always piloted reforms or evaluated their impact, nor has it confirmed the financial savings generated. It also overpaid solicitors by an estimated £25m in 2008-09.
Defra: A report was laid before Parliament last week following a public consultation on the proposed strategy for using powers under the Climate Change Act. The Act requires public bodies & statutory undertakings (such as utilities companies) to ensure that they are adequately prepared for the impacts of climate change. It prioritises those organisations that are responsible for our key public services, such as energy, water, transport & health.
These organisations will report to Government by the end of 2011. Government will also use the information to inform the National Adaptation Programme, which will be laid before Parliament in 2012. Government departments will be producing high level Adaptation Plans by spring 2010, setting out how they are assessing & managing the risks from climate change across their programmes and estates.
Legislation / Legal
MoJ: The government hopes that it can increase the UK’s reputation as ‘one of the least corrupt countries in the world’ with new laws that will enable courts to tackle bribery at home & abroad more effectively. The Bribery Bill, introduced into Parliament last week, is intended to ensure the UK is ‘at the forefront of the battle against bribery and pave the way for fairer practice by encouraging businesses to adopt anti-bribery safeguards’.
The proposed Bill will make it a criminal offence to give, promise or offer a bribe and to request, agree to receive or accept a bribe, either at home or abroad. The measures cover bribery of a foreign public official. The Bribery Bill will replace offences in common law and the Prevention of Corruption Acts 1889-1916.
Defra: Changes to the law to protect scout groups, faith groups, amateur sports clubs and other community groups from unaffordable rises in bills for surface water drainage have been set out by the Government. The details have been published as part of the Flood and Water Management Bill.
Secretary of State Hilary Benn announced in September that the Government would legislate to enable water companies to operate a concessionary charge scheme for surface water drainage charges, tackling the problems that have been seen community organisation’s bills going up by hundreds or thousands of pounds.
Water companies will be enabled by law to operate a concessionary scheme for certain community organisations or groups – it would be up to the water company to decide which groups should receive the concessionary charge although the Government will provide guidance to water companies which will be subject to consultation. Over 45,000 people have signed a No10 e-petition calling on the issue to be resolved.
The independent Walker Review of charging for household water & sewerage services is currently looking at issues around water affordability for household customers. The Review’s interim report was published on 29 June and the final report is expected later this year.
ScotGov: Education will be ‘at the centre of consultations on changes to schools, with an educational benefit statement & report from HMIE required in every case’. The Schools (Consultation) (Scotland) Bill, passed by Parliament last week creates a robust & transparent framework for consultation on school closures, and other major changes, that means educational issues must be taken into account.
The process will be more open with pupils, staff, parents, parent councils and all school users having to be consulted. There will be a mandatory 6 week term time consultation period. The Bill also requires full & detailed proposals to be provided at the start of a consultation and provides opportunities to challenge incomplete or inaccurate information.
For rural schools, councils will have to give full consideration to all viable alternatives, the impact on the community and the impact on travel arrangements, before consultation. An additional safeguard for school closures means Ministers will be able to ‘call in’ decisions where they feel there have been serious flaws in the process.
OFT: The Office of Fair Trading has recently published the full decision it made following its investigation into anti-competitive collusion by 103 construction firms. This publication follows the announcement of the decision in September 2009 and its imposition of financial penalties on the firms as a result of findings of illegal bid-rigging activities in 199 tenders from 2000 to 2006.
Defra: Under new regulations, people who enjoy a (responsible) tipple of Scotch Whisky will be able to do so with the confidence they are purchasing the genuine article. The UK Scotch Whisky Regulations that came into force last week will protect consumers from counterfeit products & insufficient labelling by providing legal protection to the £3bn industry. Transitional arrangements mean that operators will have time to adjust to the new labelling and bottling requirements.
MoJ: Making it easier & less expensive to claim compensation from insolvent defendants is the aim of a new Bill put before Parliament recently. The Third Parties (Rights Against Insurers) Bill proposes that claimants should be able to sue the insolvent defendant’s insurer directly, without having to sue the wrongdoer first. This changes the current legislation, passed in 1930, that requires claimants to establish the wrongdoer’s liability, before bringing a separate claim against their insurer.
This is only the second Bill to be introduced straight to the House of Lords, as part of a trial procedure designed to simplify the passage through Parliament of Bills arising out of Law Commission proposals (the first was the Perpetuities and Accumulations Act 2009 which received Royal Assent earlier this month). It is proposed that the Bill would apply across all of the UK.
DH: The Bill that is intended to help individuals with the highest care needs remain independent for longer has been introduced in Parliament. The Personal Care at Home Bill will help around 400,000 people with the highest care needs. It guarantees free personal care for 280,000 people – including those with serious dementia or Parkinson's disease – and, will also help around 130,000 people who need home care for the first time to regain their independence – See ‘In the News’ section for more information.
QCDA: The Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Bill has passed successfully through Parliament and has received Royal Assent. This legislation enshrines in law the establishment of QCDA to carry out its new role as a modern & collaborative development agency, as well as creating Ofqual as an independent regulatory organisation. They are now entering the final stage in their progress towards formally becoming QCDA, which is expected to be complete by 1 April 2010.
ScotGov: Scotland has a 'once in a generation chance' to tackle the country's alcohol problems, Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said last week as the Alcohol Bill was published. She said radical measures rooted in evidence were needed to help reduce the £2.25bn cost of alcohol misuse to Scotland's public services & economy.
EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.
ScotGov: Fisheries negotiations on new technical conservation measures concluded in Brussels on 21 November 2009. Responding to the outcome, Fisheries Minister Richard Lochhead joined the Scottish fishing industry in expressing relief that proposed new regulations from the European Commission were thrown out in favour of continuing existing rules.
However, measures that put severe catch composition rules on whitefish vessels operating on the West Coast (adopted on an emergency basis last year) are to be extended up to a further 18 months. Mr Lochhead branded the decision "extremely disappointing and a serious breach of faith".
When it became clear that the new technical conservation regulation was not going to get support from Member States, the Commission proposed rolling over the existing regulation. This unexpectedly included prolonging measures on the West Coast instead of being allowed to expire - as promised to Scotland last year. The UK, backed by the Scottish Government, therefore took the highly unusual step of voting against the final package.
NE: Due to the timing of new mapping data from the Rural Land Register (RLR) and enhancements to Environmental Stewardship, Natural England will need to make short-term changes to the processing of new ELS agreements.
NE is minimising the impact of these changes on their customers, but NE’s ELS Online system will be taken offline and application packs for ELS (including Organic ELS) will not be issued. HLS will be unaffected.
The temporary suspension of ELS Online & application packs will run from 4 December 2009 to late January 2010, although farmers will still be able to join ELS by returning a valid paper application to NE before Christmas. Farmers who cannot do this will be able to see the scheme changes in new handbooks available online from early December. ELS Online & ELS application packs will be made available again at the end of January. Any applications received in February will be given a 1 March 2010 start date.
Charity and Voluntary Sector
CQC: The Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) is giving grants to registered providers of adult social care in England to assist them with their information, communications & technology. The initiative is to allow those who use, visit or work in adult social care services to benefit from the learning, knowledge & access that the internet can bring. This will support adult social care providers who need to register with CQC by 1 October 2010. To register, providers will need to complete an online registration form.
CO: Capacitybuilders has released details of how it intends to build on its existing investment through the Office of the Third Sector funded Volunteer Management programme. From April 2010 nearly £1m worth of bursary support will be made available to help meet some of the skills development needs of people managing volunteers.
Capacitybuilders are seeking expressions of interest to provide development programmes at two levels the:
* first to support those coordinating volunteering activity day to day
* second to focus more on those with management & strategic responsibilities
Business and Other Briefings
BIS: The Government has welcomed the publication of Chris Rowlands’ independent review into the availability of growth capital to SMEs. Welcoming the report, PM Gordon Brown announced the Government’s intention to develop a proposal for a new growth fund to provide finance for companies looking to invest & grow.
The Rowlands’ Growth Capital Review concludes that a permanent gap exists for businesses looking for between £2m - £10m in growth capital and that neither banks nor equity investors are likely to fill this gap in the near future. It adds that the potential for increased demand for this type of financing in a recovering economy should provide a strong rationale for Government intervention to address this market failure.
LBRO: The Local Better Regulation Office (LBRO), which has strongly argued the case for business regarding the VAT rate reversion in the New Year, welcomes the move by BIS to amend the Price Marking Order.
If adopted, it will give retailers 28 days (instead of 14) to update price tickets following the change on 1 January 2010 and the extended period will significantly reduce the burden on them during their busiest trading period of the year.
HO: From 14 December 2009, the resident labour market test for Tier 2 of the points-based system will be extended to 4 weeks for all jobs, the Government has announced. This will replace the current requirement to advertise jobs for 2 weeks, or 1 week for jobs where the salary is £40,000 or more. This change was proposed by the independent Migration Advisory Committee in their Tier 2 report which was published on 19 August 2009.
This change will apply to advertising campaigns that start on or after 14 December 2009. Employers that have already run advertisements will not need to re-advertise to meet the new requirement. Updated guidance for Tier 2 sponsors will be published on the HO website on 14 December. The other changes to Tier 2 recommended by the MAC will be implemented in spring 2010.
HSE: Kent Fire & Rescue Service have joined forces with the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) & partners to help business benefit from a new & innovative support programme. Demand from small business in the South East prompted the creation of a new scheme, Estates Excellence, which addresses the health & safety needs of organisations on industrial estates in the Kent area – See ‘Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides’ section for more information.
HEFCE: UnLtd, the Foundation for Social Entrepreneurs and HEFCE have joined forces to launchthe HE Social Entrepreneurship Awards scheme to promote & recognise social entrepreneurship activity in higher education (HE). Through the scheme, higher education institutions (HEIs) are being encouraged to develop their enterprise skills in supporting activities that have a social purpose (for example: the environment, healthcare, education, social cohesion, fair trade and micro-finance).
The scheme will provide staff & students with support & funding for enterprising new ventures. The Awards will be provided as a grant with applications across an 18-month period (from 19 November 2009) underpinned by an investment of nearly £1m through HEFCE's Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF).
The Awards cover 2 categories: 'Catalyst Awards' of up to £5,000 (with an average award of £2,500) will allow individuals to grow an entrepreneurial idea that also creates positive social change, while 'Development Awards' of up to £15,000 will be available to those with exceptional projects with the potential of developing to scale or becoming investment-ready.
In addition to financial support for up to 200 social entrepreneurs, the programme includes a package of non-financial support, networking & awareness-raising activities to promote social entrepreneurship among staff & students in English HEIs.
DECC: Farmers, foresters and local authorities can now apply for £1.5m grants to help develop the supply of biomass, such as wood chips or energy crops like miscanthus, in England through Round 3 of the Bio-energy Infrastructure Scheme. As with previous rounds, the objectives of the scheme are to increase renewable energy generation & reduce greenhouse gas emissions, while contributing to sustainable land management.
The Scheme provides grants to help the development of the supply chain required to harvest, process, store and supply biomass to heat, combined heat & power and electricity end-users. The scheme is restricted to projects based in England and is open to businesses, local authorities and charities.
Grants will only be available for projects which complete by 31 March 2011. The deadline for receipt of applications is 26 February 2010, although applicant projects will be assessed on a rolling basis as they are received. The scheme is administered on DECC’s behalf by TUV NEL Ltd.
LSIS: Last week, the Learning and Skills Improvement Service (LSIS) announced the 30 successful bidders to its Flexibility and Innovation Fund. The money will fund a diverse collection of projects that aim to secure significant improvements in sector practice or performance. Subject matters for each project are varied with some addressing environmental issues (such as Coventry City College’s Planning for a low-carbon future) and others are more creatively inspired such as ‘Hair-i-tage Skills’ (from Salon Strategies).
Other successful bids cover virtual learning in the workplace, the role & value of entrepreneurial & creative leadership and developing whole sector driven approaches in Skills for Life and community cohesion. The Fund is a key plank in LSIS's new strategy to put the sector not just at the heart of improvement, but also in charge of it, building on & utilising expertise already in the sector. The next bidding round is in February & June 2010; criteria & advice for future bids will be available shortly.
CLG: Councils and their partners from across the country are going head to head in a new government scheme designed to find the public sector's brightest ideas. Local Government Minister Rosie Winterton has congratulated all the nominees who made it onto the independent advisory panel's shortlist following over 100 applications, involving nearly 200 councils and their partners.
Expert assessors looked at all the applications and have now narrowed them down to a shortlist of just 22. Shortlisted applicants for the new Local Innovation Awards had to demonstrate genuine collaboration, radically different ideas and leading edge practice, when tackling the challenges their area faced to get nominated.
The winners, to be announced in March 2010, will undertake a learning programme to teach others across the country how to improve their services. A £3m pot has been made available for the winning areas to set up pioneering schemes for spreading their winning ideas & best practice.
The Awards replace the Beacon scheme and have been jointly designed by the Government and the Local Government Association Group (including the IDeA), which will roll out the best practice across local government and the local public sector.
ScotGov: A new Scottish approach to supporting children & young people, tested in Highland and supported by the Scottish Government, is delivering real results for local youngsters. The 'Getting It Right For Every Child' pathfinder project, which aims to transform the way services are delivered, has been found to improve outcomes for children & families, cut non-offence referrals to the children's reporter by 70% and free up staff to spend more time supporting families, instead of writing reports.
The Highland pathfinder project was launched in September 2006 to ‘address all aspects of children's & young people's needs from birth through to 18’. In addition to children's services, it also covered services & agencies whose work significantly affects the lives of children and their families. This report focuses on the development & implementation phases to date.
The second pathfinder became operational in 2007 and was designed ‘to test implementation of the Getting it right approach in response to a single issue or theme: meeting the needs of children and young people living with or affected by domestic abuse’.
This is now being taken forward in 4 local authorities: Dumfries and Galloway, Edinburgh City, Falkirk and West Dunbartonshire. One of the further briefings will focus on the development & implementation phases in the single issue pathfinder areas.
FSA: 5 high street restaurant chains – Burger King, KFC, McDonald’s, the Subway chain and Wimpy – have set out how they intend to take further steps to provide their customers with healthier choices. These steps build on commitments made a year ago and demonstrate how these companies are continuing to support the Food Standards Agency’s efforts to make eating out of the home healthier. Together, the companies operate more than 4,000 restaurants across the UK.
The Agency is currently working with 44 companies, each of which has produced a commitment document that set out actions the companies have carried out (or are planning to) towards healthier catering. The actions cover procurement, menu planning, kitchen practice and consumer information. The commitment work covers the breadth of the catering sector and includes workplace caterers, foodservice suppliers, pubs, coffee & sandwich shop and restaurants chains.
DCMS: The Tyne Tees and Borders television region has been selected for a pilot scheme to develop new & innovative ways of providing local & regional news. This pilot region, in addition to one in Scotland & one in Wales, will trial Independently Funded News Consortia (IFNCs) which are being created to support sustainable multi-platform regional news.
As well as broadcasting in the regional news slots on channel 3 (ITV and STV), the consortia will be expected to provide increased local news using multi-media technology. IFNCs were a recommendation of the Digital Britain White Paper.
The tender process to run each of the three IFNC pilots has also been launched with an independent panel expected to select the successful consortia in each region by March 2010.
ScotGov: Scotland's most environmentally-friendly businesses were crowned at a prestigious award ceremony in Edinburgh last week. 8 companies saw off stiff competition from the cream of Scotland's green businesses to take winners titles at the 2009 Vision in Business for the Environment of Scotland (VIBES) Awards.
Now in its 10th year of operation, VIBES recognises & rewards the efforts of Scottish businesses to become more efficient & competitive through improving environmental performance and benefiting a company's bottom-line.
ScotGov: The Scottish Government, through Skills Development Scotland, will fund a new project to train 200 Registered Digital Installers (RDIs) to assist with the digital switchover which must be completed by 2012. This will support the upskilling of the current workforce of aerial installers to enable them to take advantage of the digital switchover which is taking place across the UK. The training to be undertaken is a Level 2 NVQ in Electrical and Electronic Servicing (Signal Reception Pathway)
BIS: More than 95,000 businesses have benefited from a Business Link ‘Health Check’, helping them to limit the impact of the economic downturn, Business Minister Lord Davies claimed last week. A year on from its launch, an average of 1,834 businesses a week have used the free business support service to help identify any potential problems early on, helping them shore up business plans amidst the difficult economic conditions.
An early assessment report into the success of the service has been published. Key findings included:
* Health Checks are improving the abilities of businesses to cope with the economic downturn and put in place strategies that will help them achieve growth as the economy recovers
* Around two-thirds of businesses helped had a better understanding of areas for development & identified new ideas for improving their business
* Customer satisfaction was high, at 79%, which increased to 93% for those companies that took up further assistance as a result of their Health Check
EH: How do you ensure that new developments fit in & are sensitive to their historic area? Building in Context is a training programme for local authorities run jointly by English Heritage and the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE).
Training events are run to provide local authorities with advice on managing change to our historic built environment and the decisions taken at local level on individual applications for development, exchanging best practice through case studies to improve decision making.
Previously the Building in Context training events & toolkit were aimed primarily at councillors (specifically Heritage & Design Champions) involved in making planning decisions. Now the audience is being widened to local authority officers. In addition to widening the audience, the way training events are run is also changing.
If local authorities want a workshop run in their area, or to run a training event themselves, it is now easier to arrange through the revised website. Training events can be requested, resources downloaded and more information found via the website: www.building-in-context.org.
ESRC: The British Inter-university China Centre (BICC), (a collaboration between Oxford, Manchester and Bristol Universities (funded by a £5m grant under the government’s ‘Language-Based Area Studies’ scheme), is to hold a major international conference in London & Manchester on 27-29 November 2009 looking at China’s changing role in the political world.
The conference will consist of a series of round table sessions featuring international experts on 27 November, to be held at the Cavendish Conference Centre in London, followed by a day of academic panels to be held at ManchesterUniversity on 28 November, before a series of language workshops on 29 November.
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