In the News
CLG: With a minimum 10 Year wait, action is essential - Housing Minister, John Healey, has launched a national crackdown on tenancy cheats to recover up to 10,000 council & housing association homes fraudulently sublet and release them to those in real need. Tenancy cheats live elsewhere and can earn £0,000s a year by unlawfully subletting their properties at higher rental rates. If caught they will lose their tenancy and could lose their right to social housing in future.
Those occupying these properties may not know about the fraud, but 80% do not qualify for a council or housing association home and instead have to find a new home through the private rented sector. The Audit Commission have suggested that the number of social homes unlawfully acquired or sublet could range from 1% to as many as 5% in some inner-city areas – totalling as many as 50,000 homes nationwide.
Public tip-offs are vital to tackling the fraudsters – half of all homes recovered from cheats are done so after tip-offs from neighbours. So the Minister is offering a reward/bounty of £500 to anyone whose information leads to the recovery of one of the first 1,000 homes. The average cost of recovering a property from a tenancy cheat can be as little as £3,000 – while the total cost of building a new council or housing association home can reach well over £100,000 - See also ‘Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides’ section for related CLG Housing Allocation item.
ScotGov: SNP pile on election pressure - First Minister Alex Salmond has published the Scottish Government's White Paper - Your Scotland, Your Voice - which ‘paves the way for the people of Scotland to be given the right to choose their constitutional future in a referendum’.
As well as setting out the case for independence, the White Paper also examines the other constitutional options open to Scotland:
* the status quo
* the proposals of the Calman Commission on Scottish Devolution
* maximum devolution including fiscal autonomy
FSA: Salmonella seems to be always with us - The Food Standards Agency and Health Protection Agency (HPA) are investigating a recent increase in the number of cases of a certain type of salmonella in England & Wales. The increase in cases of Salmonella Enteritidis phage type (PT) 14b, since mid-August 2009, was noted by the HPA as part of its monitoring of infectious diseases.
A total of 443 cases have been reported to the HPA this year, compared with 137 cases in 2008. 14 clusters of cases in England & Wales are currently being investigated to determine if there is a common source of infection. The clusters have been linked to a number of different catering establishments and one care home.
The UK & Spanish authorities have been working in close cooperation to investigate this case and the Agency has received information from Spanish officials indicating that salmonella has been found in a particular flock on the production holding, Granja Avícola ‘El Angel’, in Spain. Spanish authorities will ensure that no further eggs from the affected flock are distributed until they are satisfied that contamination is no longer present in the flock & barns.
The FSA has contacted companies in the UK that are known to have received eggs from the affected establishment, to ensure that they do not place these eggs on the market or that they send them to an authorised establishment to be pasteurised. The letter sent to alert local authorities to this update and information about the companies contacted, can be found at the links below. Since January 2009, all EU member states are required to have a Salmonella National Control Programme and carry out testing for salmonella in laying flocks.
DCSF: Will this be the answer to the perennial cry of ‘Never Again’? - Children’s Secretary Ed Balls and Health Secretary Andy Burnham have announced the Government’s acceptance of a package of recommendations from the final Social Work Task Force report, to ‘transform social work & public understanding of social workers’ crucial contribution to our society’.
Under the package, every social worker will benefit from:
* Reforms to initial training
* A new ‘licensing’ system, which will introduce an assessed probationary year
* A revamped framework for continuing professional development
* A career structure so experienced practitioners can progress in front line roles as well as in management
* A new standard for employers
* Pay reform
* A new & independent College for Social Work led & owned by the profession
The Secretaries of State announced that the package also includes:
* a new campaign to improve the public understanding of social work
* a new system to help employers better plan & forecast the demand & workload of their social workers
DECC / Ofgem: Money saving technology or a touch of 1984? - Smart meters (SM) will be rolled out through energy suppliers to every home by the end of 2020 under final plans published by Energy & Climate Change Minister, Lord Hunt. DECC is also providing £6m to companies to continue developing smart technology, such as electricity storage.
The Government’s response to the SM consultation sets out how they will be rolled out across Britain, including:
* Making energy suppliers responsible for installing smart meters in their customers’ homes
* Supplying a standalone display device with meters to make it easy for consumers to see & understand their energy use & carbon emissions in real time
* Centrally coordinating the communications between smart meters & the utility companies to ensure easy switching between suppliers and to provide a platform for the development of smarter grids in the future
Ofgem will work with DECC & the energy industry to develop a framework to support their introduction. The first phase of this work will see a prospectus published in summer 2010, which will set out detailed proposals for the regulatory & commercial framework, as well as define the minimum functions that all smart meters will have to deliver for consumers. The management of the first phase of the programme will be carried out jointly between DECC and Ofgem’s delivery arm, Ofgem-E Serve.
‘Smarter Grids: The Opportunity’ makes the case for developing smart grids in the UK, as they will give operators & consumers much more information about supply & demand of electricity. Specifically smart grids will:
* Deliver electricity more efficiently & reliably
* Facilitate increased generation of low carbon electricity sources such as wind
* With smart meters, give consumers more control & choice of when they use electricity
Pre-Budget report: Will he, Won’t he bite the bullet of reducing Debt? - If you want to access all the latest information from across government on the 2009 Pre-Budget Report on Wednesday 9 December 2009 use the following links:
CO: How Fair will the cuts feel to Civil Servants? - The government claims that substantial reforms to the Civil Service Compensation Scheme (CSCS) will save up to £500m over the next 3 years without impacting on the very lowest-paid civil servants. The scheme sets out how much compensation should be given to staff who are made redundant or who volunteer to leave under an early exit programme from 1 April 2010.
Under the new rules announced by Minister for the Cabinet Office, Tessa Jowell, a new maximum severance payment limit will be imposed for all Civil Servants and all departments will be required to follow the same rules on redundancy payments (with some flexibility to set compensation payable in other circumstances) and the minimum qualifying period for redundancy payments will be increased.
Forthcoming events: 'Working Smarter’ can mitigate gloom and doom – Free Seminars - With substantial ‘efficency savings’ very much the theme of the forthcoming pre-Budget report, the immediate future looks challenging for PSO’s trying to decide how and what services they can afford to deliver next year (see previous 2 items).
Improved efficiency gains have long been believed as a means to reducing public spending as they can not only reduce costs, but also provide more efficient services. Over the last 10 years the Government has introduced a number of programmes/processes to make the most of public spending and to deliver efficient & effective services.
Asta Development is kicking off 2010 by holding two free public sector breakfast seminars.
Using case studies from Wandsworth Borough Council, The Hyde Housing Group, as well as references from their public sector client base, they will be taking a look at some of the current government programmes/processes aimed at maximising resources & delivering efficient services. They will also explain how effective project & resource management systems can support organisations in achieving these goals.
Click here to register your interest in these events and receive further
information as it becomes available.
For information on more forthcoming public sector events please click HERE to visit the WGPlus Events Calendar
MoD: Operational troops routinely receive 30 minutes of free talk time each week from the Ministry of Defence, which can be used to make phone calls. Troops also have unlimited access to the internet and are able to email home. This year during the festive period, troops will receive an additional 30 minutes free talk time from both the MOD & communications company Paradigm, meaning that they will be able to chat to family & friends for an extra hour over the festive period (defined as 22 Dec –2 Jan inclusive).
The MoD minutes will be added to the Paradigm account cards on Sunday 20 December 2009 and the Paradigm minutes will be added on Sunday 27 December 2009.
ScotGov: Robert Burns' Cottage was re-opened yesterday following a £1m renovation of the historic site, which features a new Education Pavillion where people can learn more about the National Bard. The cottage is a key part of the National Trust for Scotland's £21m Robert Burns Birthplace Museum Project, which is due for completion in 2010 and was the starting point for this year's Homecoming celebrations.
Burns Cottage was built in 1757 by Robert Burns' father, William Burnes. Scotland's national bard was born in the Alloway cottage on January 25, 1759. The 250th anniversary of Robert Burns' birth inspired Scotland's Homecoming 2009 celebrations, which concluded on St Andrew's Day.
OFT: The Office of Fair Trading is warning the public to beware of fake lottery scams. With a promise of cash winnings and visions of a millionaire lifestyle, receiving a letter, email or telephone call about a supposed lottery win can seem like a dream come true. But for many it can be the start of a scam nightmare, leaving people out of pocket or at risk of identity theft. 1 in 3 people has received a fake lottery win notification, research shows and lottery scams cost the British public an estimated £260m a year.
Often masquerading as legitimate lottery operators such as the Spanish El Gordo or our own National Lottery, people receive information about their win out of the blue, telling them that they have won a major cash prize in a lottery or sweepstake. The scam unfolds as the company asks for 'administration fees' to handle the win, or for the 'winner' to send personal details to confirm their identity to receive the prize. The winnings do not exist and are never received.
NE: We all love the feasts & open fires, but winter can also be a great time to get out & about in the countryside and enjoy an exhilarating breath of fresh air. One of the best ways of experiencing England’s fantastic countryside in winter is along England’s network of National Trails. Enjoyed by walkers, cyclists, runners & riders alike, they provide memorable routes for anyone who loves the outdoors.
Everyone in England lives within 50 miles of a National Trail and the NT website is packed with information to help you plan your trip. But as well as being a great way of taking exercise and enjoying beautiful scenery, NT give access to some of England’s finest wildlife.
National Trails are as good for short walks & gentle strolls as they are for long-distance walking and NE have identified walks across the country. Most are perfect for a half-day walk with family & friends followed by a picnic or pub lunch, but if you are looking for longer walks NT has these too.
VOA: A telephone scam that targets council tax payers, falsely claiming they have won a council tax rebate, has been exposed by the Valuation Office Agency. Many households across the country have received calls from crooks claiming to be VOA or council officials who tell their victims that they are eligible for thousands of pounds in council tax rebate. The ‘lucky’ people are asked to send the caller their credit card or bank account details so the money can be refunded. Other scams ask for a one-off administration fee to process the refund.
ScotGov: A volunteer team of Scottish doctors, nurses and other NHS clinicians are heading to Afghanistan to treat wounded service personnel. The 205 (Scottish) Field Hospital (Volunteers) (based in Glasgow) will be deployed to Afghanistan in the New Year. The team are all Territorial Army volunteers whose main jobs are or were in the NHS in Scotland. Using their skills & experience from Scottish hospitals & health centres, the team will treat wounded service personnel and local people in Afghanistan during a 3-month tour.
DWP: Top Premier League clubs are set to provide hundreds of unique training opportunities to boost the confidence of jobseekers and prepare them for the workplace. Premier League into Work is being delivered at Chelsea, Everton, Sunderland and Portsmouth football clubs. They are working with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and local employers to give jobseekers the skills & abilities they need to find work, while improving their fitness levels and football skills.
The courses will help develop interviewing skills, job search techniques, CV preparation, health & fitness and football training, led by award-winning coaches. Each course will last 10 weeks and each participant will undertake a 2-week work placement.
SE: A group which has brought new sporting opportunities to over 6,000 young people in the South West has been awarded the 2009 BBC Power of Sport Award, supported by Sport England. Fence Cornwall (developed by Truro Fencing Club) is using the power of sport to improve the lives of young people in the South West and engage them in new, non-mainstream sports by bringing free fencing taster session to clubs & schools. Thanks to the project, thousands of children have experienced the fun of fencing.
In addition, a group which has brought sport to over 3,500 disadvantaged people in the North East was also awarded a 2009 BBC Power of Sport Award. Sport Universities of North East England (SUNEE) is using the power of sport to improve the lives of homeless people, vulnerable women, looked after children and those suffering from drug & alcohol addictions. Thanks to the project, thousands of people now have sport as a part of their daily lives.
SUNEE offers a range of sports, including football, badminton & both codes of rugby, to disadvantaged groups across the North East. It uses university students as coaches & volunteers to offer open sports sessions & match days for over 16s who are not in education, employment or training (NEETS). It also offers closed sessions specifically targeted at people referred by agencies such as the Princes Trust and the probation service.
Newswire – TSA: Ever wondered if you are getting a fair deal from your landlord or how your landlord compares to others in the area? Well, help is at hand, as the national social housing regulator, the Tenant Services Authority (TSA), has released a new free web portal, which will enable all tenants, by simply entering their postcode, to compare the performance of housing associations in their area. The portal will be a valuable source of information for tenants & prospective tenants, LAs, housing associations, councillors & MPs.
EHRC: The Equality and Human Rights Commission has announced that it intends to conduct a formal inquiry into disability related harassment in England & Wales and how public authorities are protecting disabled people’s human rights to live free from violence & abuse. The Commission plans to use its legal powers to investigate the extent of disability-related harassment and take appropriate action based on the evidence uncovered.
The announcement came on the United Nations ‘International Day of Persons with Disabilities’. The Commission is the UN accredited human rights body for Great Britain with specific responsibilities to promote & monitor implementation of the recently ratified Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
A report on the safety & security of disabled people published by the Commission earlier in 2009 found that disabled people are 4 times more likely to be the victim of a crime than other people and are twice as likely to be the victim of a violent attack.
NICE: The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has launched a new database that will help with the identification & prioritisation of future cancer research across Europe. The Database of Cancer Uncertainties (DoCU) has been developed through the Coordination of Cancer Clinical Practice Guidelines in Europe (CoCanCPG) initiative, which is a consortium of 16 institutional partners from 11 countries and is funded by the European Commission.
MoD: HMS Dauntless - the second of 6 new air defence warships - was handed over to the Ministry Of Defence at a ceremony in Portsmouth last week. She follows HMS Daring – the Royal Navy’s first Type 45 destroyer – which arrived in Portsmouth in January 2009. The prime role of the Type 45 destroyer will be air defence – protecting UK national and allied & coalition forces against enemy aircraft & missiles.
HMRC: As many full-time students prepare to find temporary work over the Christmas period, they may find that they are in line for tax free income. HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) is reminding them that they may not need to pay income tax on their earnings, if these are below their Personal Allowance for the year.
The good news for many full-time students who are intending to work over the festive season is that - providing they expect to earn less than £6,475 in the tax year to 5 April 2010 and complete a form P38(S) at the beginning of employment - they will be entitled to receive their money tax free.
MoD: Two Royal Engineers, who walked away unscathed when their armoured diggers hit roadside bombs in Afghanistan, met the people who built the vehicles last week. Army Sappers Craig Cook and Daniel Boden were both operating Caterpillar armoured diggers when they drove over improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in two separate incidents while performing construction roles on the frontline during 2009.
Defra: A new interactive microsite to teach children about the importance of hedgerows has been launched by Hedgelink UK on their website, funded by Defra, Natural England and the National Hedgelaying Society. Hedgerows can be found in all areas of our countryside & towns and 112 rare species of birds, insects & animals call them home or use hedgerows for food.
Aimed at children aged 7- 11, the microsite gives children the chance to explore online the importance of hedgerows and includes fun interactive games to help them learn about hedgerows & the wildlife they support. There’s also a chance for children to get outside and take part in a hedgerow survey which will contribute to building a picture of the state of hedgerows.
DH: Health Ministers from around the world met last week to discuss the ongoing threat to public health from the current H1N1 pandemic, maintaining effective responses globally and looking ahead to how the pandemic could develop. The 10th ministerial meeting of the Global Health Security Initiative (GHSI), hosted in London by the Department of Health, was attended by representatives from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, UK, the US, the European Commission, and the World Health Organization.
The Initiative, formed in 2001, aims to protect health on a global scale & enhance our ability to deal with international chemical, biological and radio-nuclear threats to health, as well as pandemic influenza.
FSA: Boutinot has recalled the NOVAS Winemaker's Selection White 2006 brand of Chardonnay Marsanne Viognier wine, because it contains the preservative sulphur dioxide, which is not mentioned on the product label. The Food Standards Agency has issued an Allergy Alert advising anyone with a sensitivity to sulphites not to drink this wine. No other Boutinot or NOVAS Winemaker's Selection products are known to be affected.
Policy Statements and Initiatives
CO: The government claims that substantial reforms to the Civil Service Compensation Scheme (CSCS) will save up to £500m over the next 3 years without impacting on the very lowest-paid civil servants. The scheme sets out how much compensation should be given to staff who are made redundant or who volunteer to leave under an early exit programme from 1 April 2010.
Under the new rules announced by Minister for the Cabinet Office, Tessa Jowell, a new maximum severance payment limit will be imposed for all Civil Servants and all departments will be required to follow the same rules on redundancy payments (with some flexibility to set compensation payable in other circumstances) and the minimum qualifying period for redundancy payments will be increased.
DH: A new campaign will help young people to make more informed choices about contraception, look after their sexual health and avoid unwanted pregnancies. The campaign aims to promote more open & honest discussions about sex, relationships and contraception among 16 to 24 year olds & their parents. Research shows that a lack of knowledge & misinformation (coupled with poor attitudes & communication) is currently hindering their safer sexual behaviour.
The first phase of the campaign – Contraception, Worth Talking About – is intended to increase young people’s awareness of the different types of contraception and remind them that they won't be protected against STIs unless they use a condom.
CLG: A pioneering agreement has devolved new powers to Leeds City Region to take control of its economic recovery, Local Government Minister, Rosie Winterton, announced recently. Leeds is one of the first city regions in the country to have devolved local powers from central government. Greater decision making on funding for housing, regeneration transport, employment & skills will be localised now the agreement has been ratified & signed in Harrogate by Rosie Winterton and Councillor Carter, Chair of the LeedsCity Region Leaders Board.
WAG: A 5-year programme to study the impact of climate change on the land, sea & atmosphere has been given the go-ahead by the Welsh Assembly Government. The Climate Change Consortium, comprising Aberystwyth, Bangor, Cardiff and Swansea Universities, will also consider the effects of climate change on the planet’s ice & glaciers and its social consequences.
Additionally, the Consortium, known as C3W (and funded by the WAG via HEFCW) will provide information for schools, universities, businesses & the public and will organise activities including road-shows, briefings and a display at the National Museum of Wales.
ScotGov: The Scottish Government is to hold talks with leaders of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) to find a new way forward on the issues of class sizes & teacher numbers. A fall in teacher numbers shown in the latest statistics has been branded 'unacceptable' by Education Secretary Fiona Hyslop, who now wants to examine whether current arrangements in schools are capable of successfully implementing national education policy.
Half of Scotland's councils have reduced primary class sizes and the COSLA talks will focus on ways in which this progress can be achieved across all councils.
MoJ: More communities affected by youth crime & anti-social behaviour will have their say in how young offenders are punished & forced to make amends to their local neighbourhood, Justice Secretary, Jack Straw, has claimed. Youth Offending Teams across North West England will take part in the first official programme - 'Making Good' - allowing members of the public to propose local work for young offenders (10-17 years old).
If the scheme -developed by the Youth Justice Board (YJB) - proves to be successful it will be rolled-out across the country from early 2010. The type of projects expected to be put forward could range from cleaning graffiti and repairing vandalised public furniture, to work in local libraries and charity work.
'Making Good' will form part of the government's new youth sentencing system - the Youth Rehabilitation Order (YRO) – which came into effect last week, to ‘further tackle the underlying causes of youth crime and make our neighbourhoods safer and better places to live’.
Newswire – HCA: 2 of the key agencies charged with improving the economic prosperity of English regions & the places where people live, have signed up to work closely together, focusing on specific areas of activity.
In a statement of joint working, the Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) and the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) have pledged to develop:
* Regional Governance suitable to each region’s context
* Regional Strategy including the regional vision, aims and objectives
* Regional investment planning
* Investment Planning
* Capacity & Capability
* Regional Best Practice & Learning Networks
* National Level arrangements
DFID: Tariffs should be scrapped for 'green goods' like solar powered stoves, water saving showers and wind turbine parts, Gareth Thomas argued last week. Speaking at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in Geneva, the Minister for Trade & Development said the move would encourage the widespread use of environmentally-friendly low-carbon products. At present, applied tariffs on these products can be as high as 27%.
The move is not without precedent. In 1997, after the Uruguay Round on trade, tariffs on IT goods were abolished in order to get the sector moving. As a result of this, by 2005, members of the agreement made up 97% of the world trade in IT products. A similar strategy on green goods could make a crucial difference to the distribution of products like wind turbine parts & solar powered cookers.
Defra: Support for coastal communities in adapting to coastal change was announced when the government awarded £11m in grants to 15 local authorities who had come up with the best & most innovative ideas for dealing with & adapting to coastal change. Each has come up with their own ‘pathfinder’ scheme to work with communities and find ways of dealing with a changing coastline.
Projects range from creating new sand dunes & building boardwalks to (where properties are at risk) developing of ‘buy to let’ schemes and the purchase of land to rebuild properties at risk. Erosion already affects 30% of the English coastline and other areas are at risk of flooding – risks that can only be exacerbated by the threat of climate change.
WAG: Social Justice Minister, Dr Brian Gibbons, has announced the 19 credit unions that will share £1m of capital funding. The money is intended to help them purchase their own properties and carry out other capital works such as refurbishment.
LDA: Children from 1,600 lower income London families will benefit from the London Development Agency’s new childcare initiatives which are being rolled out across 8 London boroughs. Details of the Childcare Affordability Programme were announced last week at the European Cities Against Child Poverty Conference, following an earlier Mayoral announcement in August 2009. The programme will see up to £1m invested in each of the 8 participating boroughs.
3 out of 5 children living in poverty in the capital are living in households where no one is in work. The Programme is linked to a national commitment to eradicate child poverty in the UK by 2020. It will run for 2 years from December 2009 to December 2011 and will be managed by the London Development Agency.
DfT: An independent expert has been appointed to examine possible changes to the law on drink & drug driving, Transport Secretary, Andrew Adonis, announced when as he launched the Government’s Christmas drink drive campaign. Sir Peter North will advise on the case for changes to the drink driving limit, as well as on whether there is a need to tighten the law on drug driving. For both drink & drugs, the study will also consider the likely impacts of any changes on driver behaviour and the practical steps needed to support the introduction of any new or revised offence.
The DfT has also launched its £1.2mTHINK! Christmas drink drive campaign, including a new Driver Friendly initiative which will see designated drivers at thousands of pubs across the country receiving free or discounted soft drinks.
WAG: New proposals aimed at driving forward improvements to health & social care provision in Wales’s rural areas have been announced by Health Minister, Edwina Hart, delivering on a key One Wales commitment. The plan outlines how the NHS can fully utilise the skills of staff & resources to deliver better care for patients in rural localities. It looks at how a range of services including hospitals, GP practices, dental services, district and community nursing, occupational health, physiotherapy services and community mental health support can be delivered most effectively within rural communities.
The Health Minister also announced the establishment of an expert group to advise on the delivery of the plan and to consider how access to GPs in rural areas could be improved, plus alternative models of patient transport for emergency & non-emergency needs in rural areas.
BIS: Business Secretary, Lord Mandelson, provided a boost for the UK’s civil nuclear industry last week by outlining a package of announcements to provide help to enable British businesses to seize the opportunities this rapidly expanding sector presents.
HO: A new programme of measures to help the police work smarter to fight crime, tackle anti-social behaviour and further increase public confidence has been launched by the Home Secretary. Plans set out in the government’s policing white paper - Protecting the public: supporting the police to succeed - are intended to ‘make the police more accountable to the public & deliver significant cost savings by working better in partnership, improving efficiency and standardising procurement’.
In addition, the ‘reducing bureaucracy in policing advocate’, Jan Berry has released her first year report. The document - Reducing bureaucracy in policing - presents the findings of her examination of ‘how the police service can build on the progress of the last year and remove even more unnecessary red-tape, freeing up police time and strengthening front line discretion to serve the public better’. The government has accepted 13 of the report’s recommendations and will consider the other 22.
WAG: Local partnerships will take the lead in ‘developing strong, resilient & harmonious communities fit to meet the challenges of the 21st Century’ Social Justice & Local Government Minister, Dr Brian Gibbons, told community groups in Wrexham last week.
Launching ‘Getting On Together – a Community Cohesion Strategy for Wales’ the Minister said the strategy is part of the Welsh Assembly Government’s One Wales commitment to achieve a fair & just society, where all citizens can shape their own lives & communities in which they live.
The Strategy focuses on those policy & service delivery areas that research has shown can have a significant impact on how well a community gets on together - housing; learning; communication; promoting equality & social inclusion and preventing violent extremism & strengthening community cohesion.
ScotGov: Options for the future of the crofters' Bull Hire Scheme have been presented to Scottish Ministers for consideration. A final decision on the future of the 100-year-old scheme, which provides crofters with access to bulls to ensure the quality of cattle, will be announced early in 2010.
NICE: The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has launched a consultation (closes on 15 January 2010) on its draft quality standards for the treatment of dementia & stroke; once published the new standards will represent a benchmark to inform aspirations for high quality care across the NHS.
The consultation is part of a pilot programme of work, which will include further topics on venous thromboembolism prevention & specialist neonatal care, which are due to be released as drafts in the New Year.
Newswire – EA: The Environment Agency has extended the deadline for responses to its Lower Thames Strategy consultation until 18 December 2009. More than 2,000 people have attended the public exhibitions held across the Lower Thames area since October to find out what the flood plans mean to them and to make comments. Residents, groups & business owners are still being urged to register their opinions on the website.
Currently 15,000 residential properties within the Lower Thames floodplain from Datchet to Teddington are at risk of flooding from the River Thames in a 1% annual chance event. The Strategy will tackle the risk of flooding to these properties within this area - one of the areas of highest flood risk in England.
BIS: The Business Secretary, Lord Mandelson, has opened a public consultation (closes on 24 February 2010) on new financial products & services that could be offered by the Post Office, including:
* PO Current Account
* PO Children’s Savings Account
* PO Business Bank Accounts
* weekly budgeting account
* closer link between the Post Office & credit unions
* working to ensure all banks’ current accounts can be accessed at a PO
FSA: The Food Standards Agency is consulting (closes on 9 March 2010) on its proposed recommendations to the food industry to reduce saturated fat and to increase the availability of healthier options & smaller portion sizes in savoury snacks. Many savoury snacks have been reformulated to reduce saturated fat recently, but they remain a focus because they are often high in fat & calories.
The consultation also covers the scope to amend the legislation on ice cream & Cheddar cheese. The current Food Labelling Regulations do not allow lower-fat versions of these products (below a specified fat content level) to be labelled as ice cream or Cheddar cheese.
This is the second of 2 consultations proposing voluntary action to reduce saturated fat & calories in foods. The first, which was launched in July 2009 and closed on 3 November 2009, covered soft drinks with added sugar, chocolate confectionery & biscuits, cakes, pastries & buns. The final recommendations from both consultations will be published next year.
ScotGov: A pilot project which will help shape Scotland's first Marine Bill has been conducted in the Sound of Mull. A public consultation, together with drop-in sessions about the Sound of Mull Scottish Sustainable Marine Environment Initiative (SSMEI), will last until Sunday 28 February 2010 and comments received will be used to help finalise the planahead of its publication in mid 2010.
30 months in production, the draft Sound of Mull Marine Spatial Plan tackles issues such as the regulation, management & protection of the marine environment of Sound of Mull and will provide valuable information informing the design of legislation in the Scottish Marine Bill, which is currently being debated in the Scottish Parliament.
HEFCE: Students are to take a central role in new arrangements to assure the quality of higher education (HE) in universities & colleges in England & NI. A consultation (closes on Friday 5 March 2010) has been launched to inform improvements in how the education of students in HE is assured and to help address concerns about quality & standards. It is being undertaken by Universities UK, GuildHE and the HE funding bodies for England & NI.
The proposals also ask the QAA to look closely at how standards at universities & colleges can be compared, and consider the language it uses in reporting on audit outcomes to ensure they are easily understood. The consultation proposes a higher profile for the information that is made available to prospective students, students, parents & employers. There will be a further consultation on this information set in 2010 when the results of the research will be known.
DCMS: The public library service in England needs radical transformation & modernisation if it is to remain as relevant & popular in the 21st century as it was in the 19th & 20th centuries, Culture Minister, Margaret Hodge, claimed when publishing a consultation paper (closes on 26 January 2010) that pinpoints the big challenges facing the service.
The consultation paper includes 30 essays offering different views of what the important issues are. It also poses a series of questions upon which the DCMS seeks views from as wide a range of people as possible, including the library & publishing community.
BIS: Consumer Minister, Kevin Brennan, has launched a public consultation (closes on 5 March 2010) on the role & powers that will be given to a new champion of consumer rights, the ‘Consumer Advocate’, who will be tasked with ensuring UK consumers get a fairer deal in the future.
The Government announced plans to appoint a Consumer Advocate earlier this year as part of the White Paper - A Better Deal for Consumers: Delivering Real Help Now and Change for the Future – which set out a package of measures designed to get consumers a better deal in the downturn and strengthen their consumer rights. The Government wants the first Consumer Advocate to also act as Chair of Consumer Focus.
WAG: Regarding the launch of a consultation on charging for inter-country adoption, Children’s Minister Delyth Morgan said: “We’ve been working hard to improve the adoption service we offer families to make sure it is as straightforward and easy to use as possible. We are now in a position to guarantee cases will be dealt with in 14 weeks.
To ensure we continue to provide a high quality service, we think it is fair to begin charging, on a means-tested basis, for parents wanting to adopt a child from abroad. I look forward to hearing the views of our key stakeholders on this issue as part of the consultation process”.
The consultation is a limited one and finishes on 15 January 2010. A stakeholder workshop will be held on 11 January 2010 at DCSF, Sanctuary Buildings in London. DCSF are keen to hear your views and if you are interested in participating, please contact Nayeer Afzal & send completed forms to: firstname.lastname@example.org
LBRO: Last week saw the launch of a consultation paper (closes on 23 February 2010) on the first set of national enforcement priorities (NEPs) for Wales, prepared by the Local Better Regulation Office (LBRO) for the Welsh Assembly Government. This consultation paper presents 4 draft NEPs for Welsh local regulatory services (environmental health, trading standards, licensing and fire safety):
* reducing harm to individuals by promoting health improvement
* ensuring the safety and quality of the food chain to minimise risk to human & animal health
* promoting a fair and just trading environment for citizens & business
* improving the local environment to positively influence quality of life & promote sustainability
The draft national enforcement priorities are intended to reflect the fundamental principles of One Wales - accountable, citizen-centred public services. They seek to address the regulatory risks & threats faced by citizens in Wales, by setting out the outcomes that local authorities strive to deliver, working with other councils, partner agencies, citizens and business.
ECGD: ECGD (Export Credits Guarantee Department), the UK export credit agency, has launched a public consultation (closes on 3 March 2010) on proposals to revise its Business Principles. Developments since the Business Principles were introduced in 2000 have made them increasingly outdated.
These include the adoption by the OECD of agreements which cover anti-bribery measures, sustainable lending and the environmental & social impacts of exports supported by member export credit agencies, as well as the introduction of information legislation (Freedom of Information Act & Environmental Information Regulations) and the Government code of conduct on public consultations.
The proposed Principles are focussed on three key areas: serving exporters, ethical considerations and disclosure & consultation. The Government also proposes that, in future, ECGD will only operate ethical policies which are consistent with the relevant OECD agreements, which have been agreed multilaterally in the OECD. New guidelines will be published (following the consultation) that will assist exporters to explain how ECGD decides to support exports.
DCSF: Children’s Minister, Dawn Primarolo, has moved closer to a complete ban on regulation for childcare arrangements between friends where no money changes hands. A consultation (closes on 31 January 2010) on the planned changes to the Childcare Order 2008 has been put to early years professionals, charities & families. The amendment aims to strike a balance between informal arrangements and professional childminders, to give families the freedom to choose from the range of childcare options available to them.
WAG: New plans to improve care to adults that have suffered sexual assault or abuse have been announced for consultation (closes on 24 February 2010) by Health Minister, Edwina Hart. Care for victims will be rolled out through Sexual Assault Referral Centres (SARCs) – where specialist staff are trained to counsel victims and where police & other health practitioners can refer victims for examination, screening & treatment. The proposals aim to provide more timely, appropriate and co-ordinated care.
FSA: The Food Standards Agency is seeking views (by 11 March 2010) on how a voluntary scheme to display calorie information on menus would work best in practice. A calorie labelling scheme would help people make healthier choices when they are eating out, by letting them see the number of calories in the food & drink they order – whether they are in restaurants, coffee & sandwich shops, pubs, leisure attractions or staff restaurants. The Agency will collate responses & publish details of a final scheme in spring 2010.
The consultation is based on an evaluation of calorie information that was introduced in 21 food companies during the summer. The evaluation looked at the cost for businesses and practical issues of providing calorie labelling. It also considered how consumers use & understand this information. Any problems encountered by the food businesses when setting up the schemes were overcome relatively easily.
CLG: Local people will be able to demand their councils to take action on under-performing schools & hospitals, alcohol disorder, anti-social behaviour and other concerns under new proposals to give ‘real teeth’ to local petitions, Communities Secretary, John Denham, has claimed.
Councils will be expected to respond to petitions and tell residents what action is going to be taken to address their concerns. No council will be able to ignore a petition or leave it on the shelf because it raises a difficult or challenging issue in the local area. New guidance (published for consultation - closes on 24 February 2010) sets out how councils should respond to all petitions.
Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides
HCA: People responsible for organising place-making training workshops have access to a new FREE flexible electronic toolkit – Train&Sustain - which provides trainers with all the materials they need to give their audiences a good understanding of place-making & practical examples of how to make communities more sustainable.
The resource enables trainers to construct a variety of learning activities, lasting from just a few minutes up to a comprehensive full-day workshop and tailor the contents & structure to suit different audiences. The material can easily be adapted to reflect different localities by adding local case studies, information about specific organisations or other relevant resources.
COI: A new 5 step process for behaviour change communications planning is at the heart of new guidance from the Central Office of Information (COI). It also recommends a practical behavioural model to be defined at the start of any new behaviour change initiative and refined throughout the life of the campaign. These measures will help maximise the effectiveness of - and define the role for - government marketing activity on integrated behaviour change campaigns.
COI is now in the process of setting up an approved suppliers list of behaviour change experts that Government can call upon to help solve behaviour change challenges. It is expected to be available for use by the end of 2009. COI is also currently developing a new best practice approach to the holistic evaluation of all government communications, which will take account of the findings made in this report.
Newswire – HCA: The HCA’s approach to co-ordinating investment decisions with planning policy obligations to help unlock many more developments across the country is set out in a Good Practice Note. The publication - HCA investment & planning obligations: responding to the downturn - has been produced for staff & partners of the national housing & regeneration agency.
Based on existing policy guidance, it suggests recommendations for maintaining more affordable housing from planning permissions & associated S106 obligations alongside HCA investment, in the current housing market downturn.
The purpose of the document is to set out the approach the HCA will take to help local authorities meet immediate housing need & ensure that, when the upturn begins, a recovering market is not hampered by a proliferation of lapsed consents, or delays due to a glut of re-applications.
Working with Local Planning Authorities through the HCA’s Single Conversation (a place-based approach to investment), the Agency will support housing & regeneration priorities for an area by investing in ways that unlock schemes that are currently unviable, using public investment alongside private investment, to help make best possible use of developer contributions through planning permissions and planning obligations.
DH: An extension of the Government’s Change4Life campaign, which helps families ‘eat well, move more and live longer’, has been announced by Health Secretary, Andy Burnham. The Start4Life campaign, will support front line staff to deliver the Healthy Child Programme, supporting pregnant women & parents of babies to establish good feeding & activity habits for their babies, to help them reduce the risk of becoming obese in later life. The campaign centres around 6 top tip topics for families, focusing on breastfeeding, active play and introducing of solid foods when the baby is ready.
LSIS: The Learning and Skills Improvement Service (LSIS) and The University and College Union (UCU) is launching the first guide for FE college staff governors. UCU sees the guide as a catalyst to boost the input & quality of staff governors on FE college governing boards.
Each further education college is required to have up to 3 staff governors on the governing board. The union hopes the new guide will help staff governors contribute more effectively at the top level of decision making. Staff governors are full members of the governing body and allowed to speak & vote on most issues - something the guide makes clear; although it also identifies when & where the role is restricted.
Defra: Pigs on a farm in Norfolk have been confirmed as having a strain of influenza commonly known as ‘swine flu’ in people. This follows earlier cases in Northern Ireland. Routine scanning surveillance has confirmed that the strain of the virus found is virtually identical to strains currently circulating in humans. It is not uncommon for pigs to be affected by influenza. Influenza in pigs is not a notifiable disease.
Voluntary measures set out in a new Code of Practice on influenza in pigs drawn up by the pig industry, Defra, Devolved Administrations and other government bodies, are in place on the farm. There is no food safety risk, pandemic H1N1 2009 has not been shown to be transmissible to people through eating properly handled and cooked pork or pork products.
Newswire – EC: Those who run & police elections need to do all they can to ensure they are well prepared to prevent electoral fraud at the UK Parliamentary general election in 2010, according to the independent elections watchdog, the Electoral Commission.
At a seminar on preventing & detecting electoral fraud organised by the EC and Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), Commission Chief Executive Peter Wardle launched joint EC & ACPO guidance on tackling electoral fraud, setting out what everyone involved in elections needs to do, to ensure voters can be confident their vote is safe.
The law requires returning officers to check at least 20% of postal vote identifiers, but most returning officers follow the Commission’s guidance & check 100%. The EC has called on the Government to make 100% checking mandatory.
CLG: Housing Minister, John Healey, claims to have given councils more flexibility in how they manage their housing waiting lists. He has also called on councils to do more to tackle the myths & misunderstandings about housing waiting lists, so local people can have confidence that the system is fair.
Published last week, new statutory guidance makes clear that those in greatest housing need must be given priority, but it also gives councils more freedom to allocate their homes according to needs specific to their local area. Councils have said they will use this extra flexibility to prioritise:
* families with local connections
* those seeking local employment
* overcrowding & under-occupation in their communities
See also ‘In the News’ section for related CLG Tenancy item
HO: Justice Secretary, Jack Straw, announced last week that offenders’ crimes & their punishments will be shared more frequently with local communities under new government guidelines, which encourage the police and other criminal justice agencies to make this information more widely available. It follows a government poll that showed more than two thirds of people think it is important for the public to be told about the sentences handed out to offenders, but only a quarter currently feel well informed.
The announcement included publication of guidance for public authorities on publicising information (including via the internet) about individual sentencing outcomes within the current legal framework. The government’s crime & justice advisor, Louise Casey, has also published a report outlining why this information should be shared with communities.
DCSF: Schools Minister Iain Wright launched revised statutory guidance to local authorities on assessments relating to people with learning difficulties. This follows a public consultation on the draft guidance earlier this year and a commitment made in the IAG Strategy - See ‘Charities / Voluntary Organisations / Third Sector’ section for more information.
BIS: Sustained progress has been made by the Government in implementing a 10-year vision for science & innovation, a new report has revealed. The 5th annual Science & Innovation Investment Framework 2004-2014 report for 2009, published by the Department for Business, Innovations and Skills (BIS, ) sets out the department’s progress to date against the framework’s six aspirations contained within the framework and the proposals set out in the framework ‘Next Steps’ document published at Budget 2006.
DH: The NHS has been challenged to improve cancer services by publishing local data on survival & mortality rates, Health Secretary Andy Burnham has announced. The figures are published as part of the 2nd annual report for the Cancer Reform Strategy - the vision document published in December 2007 setting out all the improvements that should be implemented over the next 5 years.
Last year the Cancer Reform Strategy Advisory Board accepted that falling mortality rates indicated good progress had been made at a national level, but recommended that this year’s annual report focus primarily on local progress. As a result this year’s report will include local information, so the NHS can identify priorities for action.
DCSF: Schools Minister, Diana Johnson, has published the final Key Stage 2 results for 11-year-olds in England in 2009. The Government’s next steps on primary improvement and its plans to implement key features of the 21st Century Schools White Paper – like 1 - 1 tuition, pupil & parent guarantees & partnership working - will be published shortly.
Ofsted: A year on from the first national annual survey of children’s views of being in care or living in residential education, the picture is a mixed one. 92% feel safe in the home they live in and 90% thought their care was good. However, 76% have been separated from brothers & sisters who live in different care placements and 20% continue to be bullied for being in care.
The report, Children’s care monitor 2009, produced by the Children’s Rights Director for England, Dr Roger Morgan, is the second annual survey of its kind, taking first-hand account of 1,195 children’s experiences in care or otherwise living away from home and provides an up-to-date position of what children & young people are saying.
CQC: The Care Quality Commission has praised improvements in adult social care, but called for a renewed effort to eliminate poor quality services in its first major statement on the quality of adult social care, drawing on 4 documents.
BIS: The Employment Relations Minister, Lord Young, has welcomed the publication of the latest Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate (EAS) Annual Report which shows the regulator has continued to provide a valuable service for vulnerable agency workers. This year has also seen EAS working more closely with other enforcement bodies, including the Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA).
BIS: New reports into the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA), Food & Environment Research Agency (FERA) and the Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority (HFEA) published last week by the Better Regulation Executive found that they have made, or are taking, positive steps to put better regulation principles into practice. The reports examined how they matched up to the principles of effective regulation set out by Philip Hampton in 2005.
ScotGov: The Scottish Court Service has published the latest quarterly fines collection figures. In July 2009 the SCS announced new measures to improve the efficiency of fines collection - reinforcing the message that fines must be paid. SCS will use all enforcement sanctions to ensure that fines are paid, include seizing wages, arresting bank accounts or deducting payments from benefits.
General Reports and Other Publications
ESRC: Working for the public sector is good for fertility, according to new Economic and Social Research Council funded research at the University of Oxford. The study, which examined patterns of employment & childbearing decisions for couples over a number of years, found that the decision to have one or more children was intricately bound up with the working patterns of parents. Contrary to expectations, the research revealed that temporary employment contracts, which are increasingly common for both men & women, do not put couples off parenthood.
The relative security of employment in the public sector, together with a more ‘family friendly’ ethos in the private sector (in both the UK & Italy), is thought to foster fertility. ‘The public sector tends to offer a guaranteed job to return to, a career progression more linked to seniority and more flexible hours and time off to care for sick children’, Dr Nazio explains.
HEFCE: The HEFCE Board has considered a review of modern foreign languages in English higher education (HE). The review, commissioned by HEFCE and undertaken by Professor Michael Worton, Vice-Provost of University College London, drew on a range of data to make recommendations that aim to assure the long-term sustainability & vitality of modern foreign languages (MFL) provision in HE.
The majority of the recommendations are addressed to HE institutions and the languages community, but there are specific recommendations for HEFCE & Government. The report argues that now is the moment to develop a clear & compelling identity for MFL in an increasingly competitive HE context. HEFCE will evaluate the success of existing investments in languages - 'Routes into Languages' & 'Language-based Area Studies' - before considering further funding.
Gibson Review: The UK’s engineering construction industry has great opportunities if it can improve its productivity & industrial relations according to an independent review report entitled Changing to Compete. Mark Gibson, Chief Executive of the Whitehall and Industry Group (WIG) and his Review team described the opportunities for the engineering construction industry to grow over the next 10-15 years.
These will stem from the anticipated increased investment in nuclear & other power generation, carbon capture & storage, biofuels and other low carbon technologies in the UK. The current stock of plant in these sectors and in oil & gas and chemicals will also continue to need investment for repair, maintenance and upgrading.
EH: England's cathedrals are the great heritage success story of our era. They are the country's largest, most historic & most complex buildings, yet they are generally in good repair and continuing to add to their glories, by commissioning new works from fonts to fire doors and from choir schools to cafés, English Heritage has claimed.
Defra: New research shows that some of the top selling household appliances may not be performing in accordance with claimed standards printed on the labels. Many domestic appliances are required to be labelled showing their energy use, energy efficiency and other characteristics. Defra tested 24 of the best selling washing machines, 24 ovens and 265 different light bulbs.
Test results included:
* 16 of the 24 washer driers tested did not perform in accordance with all the declarations on their labels
* 4 of the washer driers tested were unable to dry to the required level
* 23 of the 24 ovens tested performed in accordance with their energy efficiency label
* Some light bulbs tested had no labels at all despite this being mandatory
Newswire – IDeA: There is concern about the impact of the recession on councils’ abilities to improve health in their local communities. More than 80% say that the recession has forced local authorities to economise. The greatest challenge in the future is thought to be reduced resources and the majority expect the priority their council gives to health inequalities to increase in the next 5 years. These are the findings of a new survey of chief executives & senior officers of local authorities and Primary Care Trusts (PCTs).
Obesity, smoking and the gap between the wealthiest & poorest still remain the main health issues for both local councils & PCTs, which was also found in last year’s report. The report was commissioned by the Improvement and Development Agency (IDeA) and Healthy Communities programme from Ipos MORI.
NE: Natural England has teamed up with celebrity chef & writer, Prue Leith, to produce The Nature of Food, which looks at the links between our favourite dishes and the health of our countryside & wildlife and shows that good food doesn’t have to cost the earth.
The report provides an illustrated food journey ‘from farm to fork’, showcasing the individual stories of farmers & food producers who, with the help of Natural England’s Environmental Stewardship schemes, are producing high quality, distinctive food and helping to look after the natural environment. Prue Leith has donated a series of recipes, aim to help people make informed choices about their Christmas ingredients and celebrate British food produced with nature in mind.
DCMS: The London 2012 Paralympic Games are a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to challenge perceptions of disability and transform the lives of 10m disabled people across the UK, delegates at the Office for Disability Issues annual event were told last week.
In spring 2010, the Government will publish the Disability Legacy promise which will focus on three areas: increased sports participation, improved business services for disabled people and changing attitudes particularly through inclusion.
New research published ahead of the event by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and ODI claims that this approach is supported by 90% of disabled people who feel that it is important the Games yielded long-term benefits for disabled people.
HO: The first review by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) of the highly skilled migration routes (Tier 1) of the Government’s Points Based System for managed migration recommends that the routes should be maintained. In the best interests of the UK economy & labour market, the MAC has produced a package of recommendations on key areas of Tier 1. These recommendations aim to maintain well designed immigration routes to attract the ‘brightest and best’ to come to the UK to work in the top 10% of graduate jobs.
Newswire – HCA: A new report has recommended that the design & development of new homes for older people must become a national priority if the UK is to avoid a future housing crisis. Launched by the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA), in partnership with Communities and Local Government (CLG) and the Department of Health, the HAPPI (Housing our Ageing Population: Panel for Innovation) report calls for positive action in response to the UK’s ageing population.
With the number of over 60 year-olds projected to increase by 7m over the next 25 years and much of the UK’s existing housing stock inaccessible (or unsuitable), the lack of good quality homes for older people is a real concern.
ScotGov: Minister for Children and Early Years, Adam Ingram, has welcomed recommendations from the Scottish Institute for Residential Child Care (SIRCC), aimed at improving residential care for Scotland's young people and announced plans to create a high-level group to help drive them forward.
NAO: By transferring ownership or leases of around 60% of its estate (591 properties) to a private contractor, Mapeley, in 2001, the Inland Revenue and HM Customs & Excise planned to reduce their running costs by reducing the size of the estate. However, the National Audit Office has concluded in a recent report, that the merged HMRChas not achieved value for money on the contract, as it had no long-term plan and has not obtained all available savings.
The existence of the contract allowed for a smooth estates merger, following the merger of the two departments in 2005. HMRC has the flexibility to vacate up to 60% of its estate over the 20 year contract, allowing it to save up to £1.2bn. But it has not recognised the contract as a major strategic asset, nor committed appropriate commercial skills to managing it. As a result, the total possible savings available now amount to £900m.
LBRO: A new report highlights the claimed economic benefit to the UK from local regulatory enforcement action to protect business & the public from threats to the nation as a whole. Addressing National Threats Through National Service Delivery, published by the Local Better Regulation Office, considered areas where local enforcement officers carry out work that provides protection for the whole nation: imported consumer goods; mobile rogue trading; food safety and animal health.
The report includes a case study on the Port of Felixstowe in Suffolk that underpinned the Consumer White Paper published by the Department for Business Innovation & Skills. By providing this evidence, LBRO advised Government to fund a pilot project to increase product safety testing of imported goods at major ports.
NAO: The National Audit Office has concluded that the public support provided to UK banks by the Treasury was justified, given the scale of the economic & social costs if one or more major banks had collapsed. In providing that support, moreover, the Treasury met 2 of the government’s principal objectives: protecting depositors’ money in banks and maintaining the stability of the financial system. The final cost to the taxpayer will not, however, be known for a number of years.
The overview of the government’s response to the crisis shows that the purchases of shares by the public sector together with offers of guarantees, insurance and loans made to banks reached £850bn and the scale of the loss to the taxpayer will not be known for years to come. In addition, in 2009-2010, lending to businesses is not likely to meet targets.
Legislation / Legal
WAG: The Deputy Minister for Housing, Jocelyn Davies, has introduced the proposed Sustainable Homes Legislative Competence Order (LCO) which would give the National Assembly powers to legislate on housing for the first time. The proposed LCO has been agreed by UK Cabinet and is now introduced in the National Assembly for Wales for scrutiny. The competence within the LCO includes:
* Regulation of social landlords
* Housing allocations
* The provision of Gypsy and Traveller sites
EHRC: The forthcoming Equality Bill includes provisions on positive action which should help employers recruit a more representative range of people to their staff, delegates were told at a recent conference organised by the Equality and Human Rights Commission. The Bill is set to change the law on positive action and give employers the voluntary ability to choose between 2 equally qualified candidates if they need to recruit people who are currently under-represented in their organisation.
For example, a primary school head teacher choosing between equally capable male & female applicants to a teaching post would be able to select the male candidate on the basis that overwhelming numbers of primary school teachers are female.
EHRC: The Equality and Human Rights Commission has issued compliance notices to 3 local authorities warning that they need to take steps immediately to address gender inequality in their community or face legal action for failing to comply with the Sex Discrimination Act. The Commission has written to a further 14 councils also warning they may also be in breach, outlining that they too need to make changes within 3 months.
The Commission believes Arun District Council, Chiltern District Council and East Cambridgeshire District Council are in breach of the Act’s Gender Equality Duty. This duty requires public authorities to address gender inequality in their communities, for example by providing specialist services such as domestic violence & rape crisis centres for women who have experienced violence.
The local authorities have not yet published their plan for addressing gender inequality - a legal requirement since April 2007. They also appear to have not fulfilled their duty to gather information or considered the need for services to support women who have experienced violence. They have also failed to consult their communities or gathered any information to assess what women in their area need, as they are compelled to do by the Duty.
BIS: It will be unlawful for trade union members to be denied employment through blacklists under plans outlined by Employment Relations Minister, Lord Young. The move comes as the Government publishes its response to a public consultation on the subject held over the summer and follows evidence that a number of employers in the construction sector had been unlawfully vetting workers.
The Government plans to table the regulations for Parliament to consider as soon as possible. They will need to be debated & approved by each House before they can be implemented. Provided Parliament gives its approval, the regulations could be brought into effect early next year.
ScotGov: The Scottish Law Commission has published its report on double jeopardy laws in Scotland. This follows a request by the Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill in November 2007 for a detailed investigation by the SLC into whether there should be exceptions to the principle of double jeopardy in Scotland.
EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.
ScotGov: Almost 14,000 farmers received their Single Farm Payments last week, injecting over £400m into the Scottish rural economy. By the end of the year, around 20,000 will have received payments totalling £460m - up £88m on last year because of the Euro exchange rate. Farmers who have yet to complete eligibility checks or provide up-to-date bank details are urged to do so as quickly as possible.
The Single Farm Payment Scheme is the replacement for historic arable & livestock direct support schemes in Scotland and this is the third year of operation. Farmers applied for the Scheme in May 2009.
ScotGov: Newly appointed External Affairs Minister, Fiona Hyslop and the First Minister have met with the President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso and President of the European Parliament Jerzy Buzek to promote & strengthen Scotland's voice in Europe.
Ms Hyslop also hosted the 'European Festivals: Driving Success Through Culture' seminar at Scotland House, engaging with key cultural figures from Scotland & the EU and contributing to European thinking on culture. Ms Hyslop and the FM were taking part in Scotland Week in Brussels, which aims to strengthen economic & cultural ties with Europe.
Charity and Voluntary Sector
DCSF: Schools Minister Iain Wright has invited Third Sector organisations to bid for a share of up to £10m to raise the aspirations of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. The 4th round of the Youth Sector Development Fund (YSDF) will focus on supporting the aims of the Government’s recently published Information, Advice and Guidance (IAG) Strategy.
Bids should demonstrate how young people would be imaginatively shown the full range of options open to them in education & work, such as through ‘taster sessions’ at universities or real experience of different careers. Around 25 third-sector organisations are expected to benefit from the fund, through a mixture of grants and business support, from April 2010 to March 2011.
Iain Wright also launched revised statutory guidance to local authorities on assessments relating to people with learning difficulties. This follows a public consultation on the draft guidance earlier this year and a commitment made in the IAG Strategy.
WAG: Social Justice Minister, Dr Brian Gibbons, has announced further funding of more than £350,000 for the Third Sector, some of which will be spent on helping to deal with the increased response to the Welsh Assembly Government’s campaign to promote volunteering.
Since the ‘Give a Little - Gain a Lot’ radio & newspaper advertising campaign was launched, the number of website enquiries has soared and volunteer centres are struggling to cope with the demand. So £240,000 of the funding will cover the costs of employing members of staff in 20 volunteer centres to assist with the increased number of queries they are receiving.
CO: Over £33 million in grants have been given to over 13,000 charities & voluntary organisations in the first full year of the Government's Grassroots Grants scheme, statistics reveal. The £130m scheme, launched in September 2008, is aimed at helping small voluntary & community organisations provide much needed help in their communities and reach out to the most vulnerable people.
Grants have been spent on a range of community activity from healthy food parcels for deprived communities to social activity for carers - helping communities to thrive & deal with the individual challenges that face each local community.
Business and Other Briefings
ECGD: The Export Credits Guarantee Department, the UK export credit agency, has announced that it will be extending its Fixed Rate Export Finance (FREF) scheme to 31 March 2011. During 2010 ECGD will discuss with banks & exporters how to take forward the decisions set out in the interim response to ECGD’s 2008 consultation on the future of FREF. Access to the FREF scheme is subject to its existing budget, of which £4m currently remains available for new business.
FSCS: The Administrators of Kaupthing Singer & Friedlander Limited (in Administration) ("KSF") recently issued a notice to creditors advising that they intend to make a second interim distribution to unsecured creditors. FSCS understand that the distribution is expected to be paid in or around December 2009 and creditors must submit their claims to the Administrators by the date specified in the notice.
KSF customers who submit a claim in the administration will still be able to make a claim for compensation to the FSCS (assuming they have not already done so). However, the FSCS will take into account any dividend received by KSF customers from the administration when calculating the amount of compensation (including any element representing interest) payable to customers that are eligible under FSCS rules.
HMRC: HM Revenue & Customs is issuing a reminder to anyone who hasn’t yet submitted their 2008-09 Self Assessment tax return – don’t forget, your return must be both on time & online. The 31 October deadline for paper returns has now passed, which means you must file your return online by the 31 January deadline. If you submit a paper return after 31 October, or you file online after 31 January, you could receive a £100 penalty.
Newswire – GC: With less than one month to go before the change in law 1 January 2010, section 19 certificate holders are being asked to contact the Gambling Commission urgently if they have yet to make an application for a personal licence. The GC has consistently reminded employees in the bingo & casino industry who still hold certificates of approval, issued under section 19 of the Gaming Act 1968 (section 19 certificates), to apply for their new personal licence. Existing section 19 certificates will cease to have effect at midnight on 31 December 2009.
Section 19 certificates, such as red, white & pink certificates, were issued to employees in specified roles within the bingo & casino industries. Personal Functional Licence applications cost £185 and Personal Management Licence applications £370.The need for criminal record checks means that personal licence applications made after 1 December 2009, are unlikely to be determined in time for 1 January 2010.
HMRC: VAT-registered businesses are being urged to get ready now for major changes to VAT return filing & payment. HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) has sent a leaflet to all 1.9m VAT-registered businesses to alert them to the fact that, from 1 April 2010, those with an annual turnover of £100,000 or more (excluding VAT) will have to file their VAT returns online and pay their VAT electronically.
Under the changes, businesses registering for VAT on or after 1 April 2010 will also have to file their return online and pay electronically, whatever their turnover. To file a VAT return online, businesses new to HMRC’s online services need to register for the VAT Online service. Current HMRC online service users can add VAT. Further help & advice, including an online demonstrator and a step-by-step guide to filing online, is available on HMRC’s website.
The HMRC mailing also carries a reminder of 2 other changes coming into effect on 1 January 2010 – the reversion of the standard rate of VAT on 1 January 2010 to 17.5% and changes to EU cross-border VAT rules.
This Revenue & Customs Brief 74/09 sets out transitional provisions which apply to supplied affected by the changes to the Tour Operators' Margin Scheme, which are due to come into effect on 1 January 2010.
New guidance on the eligibility of Finnish, Greek and Irish dividends to dividend tax credits.
BIS: Business Minister, Ian Lucas, had a taste of the future of motoring in the UK when he was one of the first people to get the chance to drive GM's new electric car last week. Driving the Ampera around GM’s testing facilities at Millbrook, Ian Lucas got a chance to experience the motoring power that the next generation of electric vehicles is delivering.
The Ampera’s electric battery can keep going for 300 miles with the aid of a small petrol engine after the first 40 miles of pure electrical range. The car is expected to be available in the UK in 2012 and the Government remains keen to secure its production at the Ellesmere Port plant in Merseyside.
WAG: Rural Affairs Minister Elin Jones has announced the application window dates for the forthcoming Young Entrants Support Scheme (YESS). The YESS scheme application window for the 2010/11 scheme year will open for applications on 4 January 2010 and close on 28 February 2010.
The YESS scheme provides assistance to facilitate the establishment of young farmers (under 40) who possess adequate skills & competence and are setting-up as head of the holding for the first time or have set-up as head of holding for the first time within the previous 12 months.
OS: Geographic information has played a key role in the success of an environmental project that has received a top national award and will now be showcased worldwide. Daventry District Council’s Walking Bus and Taxi Scheme for Schools has received the National Gold Award for Environmental Best Practice at the Green Apple Environment Awards at the House of Commons. The project will now be featured in the next Green Book, the world’s only work of reference on environmental best practice.
The project, underpinned by Ordnance Survey data, has enabled several schools in the district to set up their own walking bus or taxi scheme to help youngsters get to & from school more safely. Pupils draw their journeys to & from school and the District Council then maps them electronically using geographic information technology, to help schools determine the best walking bus & taxi routes for pupils & parents. The council used a combination of Ordnance Survey’s OS MasterMap Topography and Integrated Transport Network Layers to carry out the analysis.
The Green Apples Awards were established 15 years ago by The Green Organisation, an independent, non-political, non-profit organisation that recognises, rewards & promotes environmental best practice around the world.
Newswire – HCA: Details of the successful schemes for the second round of funding from the Homes and Communities Agency’s (HCA) low carbon infrastructure initiative, totalling £8.80m, were announced last week. The initiative, a partnership with the DECC and CLG, will provide funding for schemes across the country to benefit from new & existing low carbon energy plants by creating the infrastructure needed to link them up.
ScotGov: Nathan's Wastesavers have officially opened their new £2.5m extension in Denny, adding to their 230 strong workforce. Over 1m garments are recycled every week at the sorting plant, the largest single employers in the area. Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham said: "As well as the benefits to charities, recycling textiles means one more waste material being dealt with constructively, rather than landfilled 'out of sight, out of mind. …… We will publish the national waste management plan next year and I look forward to working with service providers, like Nathan's, to make Scotland a zero waste society”.
Roberto Cocozza, Business Development Director at Nathan's said: "Last year, the collection of unwanted textiles raised £4.5 million for charities and the projection for this year is close to £6 million. As well as partnership with the UK-wide charities, we also work closely with schools through our Rag Bag Education and fundraising program, helping schools achieve ECOSchool awards".
ScotGov: The Scottish Government have confirmed £120,000 funding to develop & grow farmers markets around the country with an extra £97,000 to help individual markets. It is hoped that the support will increase the number of farmers involved in markets, boost sales of local produce and expand the number of venues across the country, including making markets a more permanent shopping fixture.
The additional support will be taken forward by a new partnership managed by the Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society (SAOS), Scottish Food Quality Certification (SFQC) and Scottish Agricultural College (SAC), with other key groups being closely involved. The Farmers Markets Development Partnership will be chaired by Sally Crystal, Chair of the Scottish Association of Farmers Markets (SAFM).
Dstl: The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory’s (Dstl) new explosion debris processing facility will enable faster & safer sifting of wreckage to identify crucial forensic evidence, which could help solve terrorist crimes. It has 2 separate process lines, each with a mechanised drying & screening process, force ventilated search cabinets and the means for capturing waste material that could have an effect on the environment.
While going through the debris, technicians look for items that appear to be alien to the environment from which they have been recovered and that therefore could be of forensic interest. The final decision on which items to further examine is taken by the lead Forensic Explosives Laboratory (FEL) case officer.
Dstl staff specified the outline requirements of the new facility with an emphasis on operator health and safety and the environment. The new debris processing facility is made up of commercially available equipment, saving both on cost & maintenance.
ScotGov: A new programme agreed by ScotGov’s Public Procurement Advisory Group will target better guidance & assistance for SMEs to make it easier to access to government contracts. Other measures include the ongoing simplification of public procurement processes, better guidance for buyers & suppliers and easier access to low value contracts.
LDA: Hospitals, colleges & councils will be helped to cut energy use & save £ms off their fuel bills under a major expansion of a climate change programme announced by the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson. The Mayor recently visited a London fire station in Ilford, 1 of 42 buildings in the GLA family to have benefited from a green makeover, which has enabled it to slash more than 40% of its carbon emissions.
A further 9 fire stations, 10 Met Police Service & 22 TfL buildings have between them achieved on average a 27% reduction in carbon emissions and have saved £1m off the annual fuel bills of London. The Mayor has pledged another 58 Greater London Authority Group buildings will follow.
With the support of the Clinton Climate Initiative (CCI) - part of the William J Clinton Foundation - London is the first city in the world to have launched a framework of approved energy service companies, which cuts through red tape by creating a clever financial model, enabling public sector organisations to retrofit their buildings with energy efficiency measures more easily. It is estimated if all the PS buildings in London used this model, they could save around £500m off bills and the model can be replicated across the UK.
DfT: Up to 1,000 jobs will be secured and up to 10,000 tonnes of CO2 saved thanks to a grant of £30m to bus operators and local authorities. The winners of the Green Bus Fund - which aims to encourage & help bus operators and local authorities to buy new low carbon buses - will now be able to purchase 349 vehicles which will operate in most of our main cities (& some rural areas) by March 2012.
As more low carbon buses are produced & sold, it is hoped that costs will reduce, which should encourage bus technology and stimulate the market for low carbon buses. Low carbon buses use at least 30% less fuel and emit nearly a third less carbon than an equivalent conventional bus. Most of the buses are hybrids, but the Fund will also support the purchase of at least 55 new electric buses.
ScotGov: A Scottish Government funded research institute has helped create a new diet range that is said to help 'control hunger'. The Rowett Institute of Nutrition & Health in Aberdeen has been working with retailer M&S to develop the 'Simply Fuller Longer' range of products.
Dr Alexandra Johnstone from the Rowett Insitute said: "My published studies have indicated that meals rich in protein help to satisfy volunteers' appetites to allow them to lose weight and not feel hungry. These new meals are based on this principle and therefore should help to satisfy hunger”.
The aim of the research is to provide a sound basis for improved dietary advice to consumers and also to provide science which can be translated into ways to improve the healthiness of primary & secondary food products for the benefit of both the rural & food industry sectors in Scotland and the UK and so make a significant contribution to Scotland's Food and Drink Policy.
MLA: The Museums, Libraries and Archive Council (MLA) is working with JISC and JANET(UK), who respectively fund & operate the JANET education and research network, to give public libraries access to a wider range of high quality online learning resources and the option of a faster internet service.
To give some idea of the potential improvement, JANET connection speeds are 1 gigabit per second (1Gbit/s) – up to 10 times more than existing typical bandwidths at central libraries in England, which in turn can be 10 times more than home connections.
Case Study: Shropshire Libraries connect to JANET - During 2008, Shropshire’s ICT Department monitored usage of the entire county network and discovered that it was using almost all of its bandwidth capacity. Options for bandwidth improvement were considered and one of those options was JANET.
Shropshire held meetings with JANET representatives and discovered some surprising facts. Remarkably, the costs of increasing bandwidth by around 20 times would come out at less than Shropshire’s previous ISP service arrangements. This meant that the quality of its People's Network could be dramatically improved & at a reduced cost.
WAG: Do you want to play a part in shaping a new Welsh language strategy? The Welsh Assembly Government is reviewing its existing strategy, 'Iaith Pawb', which was published in 2003. Heritage Minister Alun Ffred Jones will be visiting different parts of Wales during December & January to discuss what should be in the new strategy - and the future of the Welsh language.
The events will be held on:
* Monday 14 December in Theatr Clwyd, Mold at 7pm
* Tuesday 15 December in the Welsh Assembly Government offices, Aberystwyth at 6.30pm for 7.00pm
* Tuesday 12 January in the Swalec Stadium, Cardiff at 7pm
This is an opportunity for everyone with an interest in the Welsh language to learn more about the strategy, share their views and provide suggestions on its development. The events are open to all so it doesn’t matter if you are fluent, a learner or simply have an interest in the language. Simultaneous translation will be provided.
ACE: The Royal Society for the Encouragement of the Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) and Arts Council England are hosting a major conference for the arts. Taking place on 14 January 2010, the conference will feature keynote speeches from Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Ben Bradshaw MP, and Shadow Culture Minister Jeremy Hunt MP.
With over 300 practitioners & cultural leaders attending, State of the Arts will examine current & future challenges and opportunities around domestic arts policy, strategy & funding and Britain's position within the global cultural landscape.
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