You are viewing our public content
You can sign in or register for additional services

WGPlus provides an in-depth weekly briefing from the UK Government and Public Sector. To save your time, we research & validate the links to websites, documents and further background information. Click here for more about WGPlus

In the News

CO/FDA/PCSSurely all the easy savings have already been made? - The PM last week published a ‘radical programme to put the frontline first by streamlining government’ - Putting the Frontline First: smarter government – which was launched in a major speech to the Institute for Government.
He explained how the proposals built on the Government’s already promised savings of ‘£35bn a year by 2011’, which was on top of the £26.5bn a year already ‘delivered’ through the Gershon review.  He promised another £12bn+ in efficiency savings over the next 4 years.  This includes £3bn of new efficiency savings identified since the budget - of which over £1.3bn will come from ‘streamlining central government’.

The FDA (the senior public servants' union) described as ‘irresponsible’ the Government's proposal for a cut of up to 20% in the size of the Senior Civil Service (SCS), with FDA General Secretary Jonathan Baume saying: "It is irresponsible to propose cuts of up to 20% to the Senior Civil Service (SCS) only 22 weeks before the General Election.  The new government in May needs first to explain how it intends to curtail the functions of central government.  If it does so then staffing levels are likely to fall as a consequence”.

The FDA is also sceptical about proposals to relocate thousands of civil servants from south east England, with J. Baume saying: "If the Government genuinely intends to devolve power from Ministers and central government to local communities then not only will the civil service contract but more work and employment will be located away from London.  However, a mechanistic exercise to move staff but still leave power with London-based Ministers is just sleight of hand”.

The PCS union accused the government of beginning a bidding war on who can cut the most, warning that the delivery of public services could suffer as a result of plans outlined in the report that comes days after unilateral changes to the civil service compensation scheme (CSCS) which are aimed at cutting civil & public service jobs on the cheap.

The plans run contrary to the advice of Sir Peter Gershon’s 2004 report which led to 100,000 civil & public service jobs being cut.  Gershon said that going further than the ‘efficiencies’ he outlined in his efficiency review, would damage the delivery of frontline services.

Latest news is that PCS have decided to launch legal action with other unions against the government over unilateral changes to the CSCS and hold a strike ballot amongst 270,000 PCS members working for the civil service and its related bodies.

A 2007 National Audit Office report on the government ‘efficiency savings’ said: ‘As a result of our most recent examination we conclude that of the £13.3 billion now reported:
* £3.5 billion (26%) fairly represent efficiencies made;
* £6.7 billion (51%) represent efficiency but carry some measurement issues and uncertainties; and
* £3.1 billion (23%) may represent efficiency, but the measures used either do not yet demonstrate it or the reported gains may be substantially incorrect
CO press release ~ FDA press release ~ PCS Press release ~ PCS to take legal action - press release ~ Putting the Frontline First: smarter government ~ Institute for Government ~ Fairness for All ~ Cabinet Office response to the ‘Fairness for All’ consultation ~ Operation Efficiency Programme prospectus ~ NAO - The Efficiency Programme: A Second Review of Progress ~ Treasury Cttee.: Evaluating the Efficiency Programme ~ PCS ~ FDA ~ Gershon Review ~ CPA previous press release ~ Committee of Public Accounts - The Efficiency Programme: A Second Review of ProgressPCS previous press release ~ OGC - The Efficiency Team and What We Do ~ Value For Money in public sector corporate services - A joint project by the UK Public Sector Audit Agencies ~ Audit Commission ~ Audit Scotland ~ Northern Ireland Audit Office ~ Wales Audit Office ~ ESRC – The Management of Second Best ~ Public Sector Performance: Efficiency or Quality? ~ Public service reform in Scotland ~ NHS Better care, better value indicators ~ NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement ~ NHS Institute – Service Transformation

DWPUnfortunately the next few years will see an increase in stress at work - New specialist coordinators and dedicated advice lines for small businesses are part of an overhaul of support for people with mental health conditions.  Increasing job opportunities for people with mental health conditions and improving the wellbeing of workers is part of a new Government vision to enhance mental health services and boost the wellbeing of the whole population.

The government claims that people with mental health conditions can rely on new support to help them manage their conditions, so they can stay in work or get back to work as quickly as possible if they lose their job or have never worked.

New Horizons:  A Shared Vision for Mental Health is the Government’s new over-arching vision for mental health in England to improve services and help prevent people developing mental health illness.  It will tackle depression for people of all ages; work to reduce suicides, improve outreach to help excluded groups access support; and tackle the stigma around mental illness.

The DWP has also commissioned a review, led by Dr Rachel Perkins, to offer advice on improving support for people who are out of work and have mental health conditions.  The human, social and economic cost of mental illness is immense. One in six people have a mental health problem and it is the second most common cause of death in men ages 14-44.
CO:  But Public sector organisations are just about to make staffing cuts! - More people with severe mental health conditions should be in work, according to a new Government report published last week.  The report - Work, Recovery and Inclusion - outlines that not only can people with the most severe mental health conditions work, but that working positively benefits their mental health and can support their recovery.

The report sets out a vision for a radical increase in the number of people from this group in employment by 2025, with clear steps to making this achievable.  It calls for public services to work together, for more targeted support for those who have jobs to keep them and for public services to employ more people with severe mental health conditions.
DHBut they knew about this link years ago! - A cross-government strategy specifically designed to break the link between poor health & youth crime has been launched.  The strategy - Healthy Children, Safer Communities - focuses on early intervention to address health problems to ensure the underlying causes of poor behaviour are tackled before problems become serious or entrenched.  It will also help ensure that young people already in the system have their health problems dealt with more effectively.

Evidence suggests that health is a key risk factor in youth crime.  Of children & young people in contact with the youth justice system, evidence shows that:
* half have difficulties with speech & communication
* a third have diagnosed mental health issues and/or is treated for substance abuse
* a quarter has a long-term physical complaint and/or learning difficulties.

Industry News:   Effective integrated search strategies – The government claims that it is educating us so that we can ‘discover’ knowledge & information when and where we need it to live, work and function in the modern world.  However, the problem facing IT mangers is that they are being asked to maintain & provide access to an ever increasing number of databases, both within their organisation and those provided by third parties, so that their organisation can work & function effectively.
The big question is; ‘How long does it take users to find information when they don’t know where to start looking?’  The content they require may be in a Document Management System, a specific database, the library system, or within an online subscription, or a free resource. The information may even be available from multiple systems and be presented in multiple formats.
The ideal is to provide a ‘Google-like’ search facility for a one stop search solution configuring a range of connectors to the required content resources, including internal databases, intranets and online information services.
The bottom line for justifying the implementation of such a system is that; ‘Unless you can find the information you need quickly & easily, then you might as well not keep it’.  It is not just the amount of frustration that such a situation creates, but also the waste of time and the resources needed to train staff in how to search all the possible locations and even then one cannot be sure they have checked every related resource.


An example of one recent initiative is Wastenet, supported by DEFRA, a free online resource for the research community providing easy and centralised access to relevant and up-to-date information about waste and resources research.

Click here to find out more and receive your free white paper on Effective Integrated Search Strategies.
For information on forthcoming public sector events please click HERE to visit the WGPlus Events Calendar

General News

MO: The Met Office has released station temperature records for over 1,500 of the stations that make up the global land surface temperature record. This data is a subset of the full HadCRUT record of global temperatures, which is one of the global temperature records that have underpinned IPCC assessment reports and numerous scientific studies.
The data subset consists of a network of individual stations that has been designated by the World Meteorological Organisation for use in climate monitoring.  The subset of stations is evenly distributed across the globe and provides a fair representation of changes in mean temperature on a global scale over land.
MO: As world leaders gathered in Copenhagen for the UN Climate Change Conference, a new map was launched that highlights the importance of limiting mean global temperature rise to no more than 2 °C above those prior to the industrial revolution.
The Met Office map called ‘The impacts of a global temperature rise of 2 °C’ has been produced to complement a similar map that explored the impacts on a world if the mean temperature was allowed to climb to 4 °C above the pre-industrial climate average.  The differences between the impacts of a global mean temperature rise of 2 °C and 4 °C are stark.  
A rise of 4 ºC could result in a decrease in yields of all major cereal crops across most major regions of production.  However, by limiting temperature rises to 2 ºC the production of some cereal crops could actually increase at mid-to-high latitudes, with negative impacts limited to regions where farming is already under threat, especially in semi-arid and tropical regions.
CRC: More & more rural communities are playing a strong role in tackling climate change − 129 communities across England are involved in the Transition Towns and Villages process to decrease their dependency on fossil fuels and invest in renewable energy.

The Commission for Rural Communities are developing a work programme to ensure that the needs of rural communities are taken into account in national climate change policy and that the opportunities for rural areas are realised. 
ScotGov: Law enforcement agencies across Scotland are to get tougher with drink drivers this festive season and offenders face losing their cars as well as losing their licences. This year the campaign aims to highlight the risks & consequences of drink-driving and the message that Scotland has just got tougher on drink-driving.
New enforcement in Scotland means drivers caught drink-driving for a second time can have their vehicle taken away for good.  Authorities have the power to seize & enforce forfeiture of the driver's vehicle under the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988.
MoD: Festive food was on the menu for wives & families from 3 RAF Regiment squadrons who took part in a Christmas-themed Ready Steady Cook-style competition3 teams of forces families, helped by a military chef, were challenged to prepare & cook a 2-course meal fit for our troops using the 10-Man Operational Ration packs that are used by military chefs in Afghanistan.
It was organised to show families of troops serving in the RAF Regiment’s 2 Squadron, 15 Squadron and 27 Squadron the ingredients used by skilled military chefs and to get a flavour of the food that troops eat in Afghanistan.  The winning team was lead by SAC Nathan Spin, who has recently returned from Afghanistan. His team produced a delicious chicken dish and made an apple & pineapple crumble.
Newswire – EA: Water metering must form the basis of charging for water in England to help avoid future water shortages due to population growth and the effects of climate change the Environment Agency has said. Commenting on the publication of Anna Walker’s independent review of water charging & metering, the government’s environmental watchdog has agreed that the majority of consumers & businesses in England should pay for water based on the volume used.
Research has shown that households with a water meter use between 10 & 15% less water than those without.  The UK is one of the few developed countries that have low levels of metering; currently only one third of households in England & Wales are metered.  The average Briton currently uses 148 litres – some 260 pints – every day and the Government has an aim to reduce this to 130 litres by 2030 in England.
CQC: The Care Quality Commission has highlighted Oneplace, as the reporting website for Comprehensive Area Assessment, for those who pay for local services, those who provide them, and those who use them. It is intended to give an independent, expert assessment, of how well local public services are tackling the important issues in every area in England.
You can use the website to understand more about where your public services are doing well, and where they aren't, providing you with information to hold local services to account. It has been jointly developed by the Audit Commission, Care Quality Commission, HM Inspectorates of Constabulary, Prisons & Probation and Ofsted.
ScotGov: As Scottish Swimming launched its updated Corporate Plan, sportscotland demonstrated its own commitment to the future development of the sport by announcing an annual investment of over £1.3m for 2009-10. Scottish Swimming has adopted a regional approach to deliver swimming through its key partners, including local authorities & schools, to provide more opportunities for people to enjoy lifelong participation.
This complements sportscotland's move towards a regional & community focus, building on existing networks, facilities & expertise to create more & better access to sport at a local level across Scotland.
Newswire – NOMS: The National Offender Management Service (NOMS) has launched 2 new recruitment campaigns– the Senior Prison Manager Programme and the NOMS Graduate Programme.
ACE: A new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) has been signed between the British Council and Arts Council EnglandThe MOU defines areas in which ACE and the BC can work more closely to help artists build links internationally.  It establishes a framework within which the 2 agencies can jointly develop & create programmes that are strategic, coherent and serve the interests of artists & audiences.

Over the next few months, ACE and the BC will work together on a number of programmes including Unlimited, Music Showcases, Cultural Leadership, Cultural Diplomacy Group, Points of Culture and the London International Festival Symposium (2012).  The 2 organisations are also looking at previous artists development programmes, such as Artists Links and ACE’s International Fellowship programme, to see what lessons can be learned when creating future schemes.

Policy Statements and Initiatives

ScotGov: Hundreds of crofters will have their interest payments on house loans halved easing the financial burden on them during the current economic climate. The option of moving from a fixed interest rate (as high as 7%), to a new variable rate of 3.5% will ease the financial burden on as many as 1,700 crofters.
The offer of reduced interest rates is extended to all crofters making regular payments under the Crofters Building Grants and Loans Scheme (CBGLS).  The small minority of individuals currently in arrears will be able to take advantage of this once their repayments are brought up to date. 

The CBGLS was awarded on a part-grant, part-loan basis for building new or improving existing croft houses.  It was replaced in January 2005 by the grant-based Croft House Grants Scheme.
WAG: Another 75 Post Offices have been awarded a total of £1.5m from the WAG Post Office Diversification Fund.  The funding will lead to the equivalent of 57 full time jobs at post offices throughout Wales.  This is the second round of funding which is designed to help sub-postmasters & sub-postmistresses diversify & improve their Post Offices.
DCSF: A coalition of Government, industry & charities has launched an internet safety strategy, to help children & young people stay safe online.  ‘Click Clever Click Safe’, was drawn up by the UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS).  New research shows that 18% of young people said they had come across harmful or inappropriate content online, while 33% of children said their parents don’t really know what they do on the internet.
The strategy outlines how government, industry & charities are working together to keep children & young people safe online and implement the recommendations from Professor Tanya Byron’s review ’Safer Children in a Digital World’.  Tanya Byron will review the Council’s progress, beginning in January 2010.
WAG: The Welsh Assembly Government’s final Budget aimed at helping people, communities & businesses through the global recession - has been agreed by the Assembly in plenary. To complement his Budget speech, the Minister has also issued a policy paper - Better Outcomes for Tougher Times - which sets out how, in the next phase of its public service improvement programme, WAG will be working with public services & social partners to ‘continue transforming public service efficiency and driving innovation’.
DH: Health Secretary Andy Burnham has set out his strategy for the NHS to ‘put patients first and improve the quality of care as it enters an unprecedented era of reform’. The strategy - NHS 2010-2015: from good to great.  Preventative, people-centred, productive - explains the need to accelerate the pace of NHS reform to ‘make the system more productive and hasten improvements in quality of care – protecting patients, supporting staff, shifting resources to the frontline and slashing back office waste & bureaucracy’.

 In addition, NHS Chief Executive David Nicholson has outlined details of the NHS Operating Framework for 2010/11, due to be published this week, which will set out NHS priorities for the next year.  The Operating Framework will help the NHS make the changes necessary to embed quality and for it to drive all that the NHS does.
ScotGov: A new 2020 Delivery Group aims to ensure that all sectors of Scotland's economy & civic society contribute fully to achieving the Climate Change Delivery Plan, which includes the target of a 42% reduction in emissions over the next decade.
Scotland's Climate Change Adaptation Framework, published last week, is intended to drive action to make Scotland more resilient to climate change. In releasing the Framework, ScotGov is ‘taking a coordinated, strategic lead and is challenging all sectors to take action & play their part capitalising on the opportunities & adapting to the negative consequences of climate change’.
DFID: Over 60% of diseases that affect humans are of animal origin, including bird flu, swine flu & ebola, as well as more established diseases like rabies & tuberculosis.  Experts are predicting that the next global pandemic will be a disease of this type.
The Department for International Development (DFID) last week brought together vets, virologists, academics and other experts in animal-to-human diseases (known as zoonoses) in order to identify hotspots where the next global pandemic is most likely to come from and how best to prevent it emerging or spreading. 

They will make these findings available to decision makers in the international community, NGOs and country governments to help them decide where and how to focus their resources to minimise these risks.
ScotGov: Increased support for Scotland's Eco Schools Programme has been announced, with £425,000 provided to Keep Scotland Beautiful for the period 2010-11. Schools Minister Keith Brown announced the funding on a visit to Portobello High School, which is the first secondary school in Scotland to achieve permanent Green Flag status - the highest award under the international EcoSchool programme.
BIS: The government has set out a new role for regional development agencies & local authorities to back growing industries and support the country’s future economic success. A new national frameworkPartnerships for Growth – sets out plans to coordinate the work of RDAs & local authorities to promote the industries that will drive growth & pursue national priorities for skills, innovation, investment and enterprise.
DWP: The next steps for a shake-up of the way disabled people use state funding have been announced following a consultation.  The government claims that disabled adults will be able to take money with which to buy their own support services or equipment through the Right to Control.  From late 2010, the Right to Control will be tested in around 8 local authorities in England.  Local authorities can now apply to become a Right to Control Trailblazer, where the scheme will be tested
Disabled people said that it was important to have more choice over adult Community Care services.  As a result, the government changed the Welfare Reform Act to include adult Community Care in the Right to Control.
There will be no obligation on disabled people to buy their own support services or equipment through Right to Control.  Individuals could choose to continue receiving the services arranged on their behalf if they prefer, or perhaps have a combination of the two options.
ScotGovScotland and the Maldives (one of the countries most vulnerable to rising sea levels) are to sign a joint statement on co-operation at the UN Climate Change conference in Copenhagen.  The FM will sign the statement on Tuesday with President Mohamed Nasheed, who wants the Maldives to become the world's first carbon neutral country within the next decade.
The Maldives is made up of nearly 1,200 islands in the Indian Ocean.  None are more than 1.8 metres (6ft) above sea level, making the country vulnerable to a rise in sea levels associated with global warming.
HO: A new taskforce to look at ways to improve the response of agencies such as the police & local authorities to missing people and their families has been launched. The charity Missing People estimates there are more than 200,000 incidents of people reported missing each year in the UK – around two thirds of them children & young people.  Most return safely after a short time but a significant number do not, causing great anxiety to friends & family left behind.
The taskforce will take a fresh look at how councils, police & other bodies work together to handle cases of missing children and consider how this can be improved. It will make recommendations to the PM and Home Secretary in 2010.
WAG: First Minister Carwyn Jones has announced his new Cabinet after being sworn in to his new role.
DCSF: Parents of 4-year olds are set to get greater flexibility over choosing when they start primary school, under changes published by Children’s Secretary, Ed Balls.  Local authorities already have a legal duty to make sure all children have a place at a school at the compulsory school starting age of 5.  But ministers want to ensure that every parent has the option of starting reception class from the September after they turn four, in the proposed changes to the mandatory School Admissions Code laid before Parliament last week.
It means that all local authorities will now have a legal duty to give parents the same flexibility & choice over school starting dates.  Parents who do not want their child to start school will be entitled to free full-time early learning & childcare, in maintained nursery schools & classes or in private, voluntary & independent sector provision.  The Government will allocate up to £80m to fund these changes.
The revised School Admissions Code, published last week, following a public consultation, will come into force in February 2010 and apply to admission arrangements from September 2011.
BIS: A new executive agency will be created to take the UK’s space & satellite sector into a new space age.  It will replace the British National Space Centre, and bring together the 6 Government departments, 2 research councils, the Technology Strategy Board and the Met Office that currently oversee the organisation of UK space activities to enhance efficiencies.
The UK space & satellite sector has grown in real terms by around 9% a year since 1999/00 – more than 3 times faster than the economy as a whole.  It currently contributes £6.5bn a year to the UK economy and supports 68,000 jobs.  The UK is also currently second in the world only to the USA in space science.


DCMS: A public consultation (closes on 5 March 2010) on free-to-air listed events has been published by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, which seeks views & evidence in relation to:
* the principles of retaining a list
* what constitutes a major event and how this should be assessed
* which sporting events pass the ‘Major Event Test’
* the economic & wider impact of listing and how this should be measured
* which events should be listed, taking all these factors into consideration
DCMS: Licensing Minister Gerry Sutcliffe has unveiled a range of proposals designed to cut licensing red tape, which could result in savings of up to £24m per year.  DCMS has launched a consultation (closes on 9 February 2009) on the measures, which would make it easier for people to put on temporary events if they are rescheduled at short notice.  The plans would also lighten the workload for councils and give relatives & business partners of licensees who have died more leeway in applying for an interim licence.
Under the plans, the police would be given a new power to accept a late Temporary Event Notice where there are no crime & disorder issues.  This would particularly benefit village halls, schools & voluntary organisations who may have to cancel & rearrange events at short notice due to unforeseen circumstances or bad weather. In addition, relatives & business partners would be given 28 days to apply for a licence to be reinstated if the licensee dies, is incapable or becomes insolvent.
ScotGov: Minister for Parliamentary Business Bruce Crawford has confirmed the Scottish Government will consult on whether to extend the Freedom of Information Act to cover a wider range of bodies who deliver public services in Scotland, such as contractors who build & maintain schools, hospitals and roads
The coverage of the Act can be extended to bodies which appear to the Scottish Ministers to be exercising functions of a public nature and to contractors who provide services that are a function of a public authority. This is done by an order made under powers in section 5 of the Act. Before making any such order Scottish Ministers must consult with the proposed bodies themselves. The consultation process will commence in spring 2010.
In addition, Mr Crawford announced the launch of a consultation (closes on 5 March 2010) on a Code of Practice which provides guidance to public authorities in meeting their duties under FOI. This specifies ScotGovt's clear expectations about disclosing contractual information and proactively publishing documents.
DCSF: Schools will receive extra help to crackdown on bullying, following the announcement of a new duty to record & report incidents of bullying. The new duty being consulted on (closes on 4 March 2010) will mean that schools will have to record & report serious or recurring incidents of bullying to their local authority.  This will include incidents of bullying & racism between pupils and abuse or bullying of school staff.  It will come into force in September 2010.
New guidance also announced on sexist, sexual and transphobic bullying is the final guidance in the ‘Safe to Learn’ set of guidance for schools.  The guidance provides advice on how schools can help prevent & respond to gender related bullying.
In addition, 2 consultations (also closing on 4 March 2010) were also announced to help support schools tackle bad behaviour head on:
* The consultation on alternative provision looks at new powers for governing bodies to use off-site alternative provision to tackle bad behaviour before it escalates to a point where exclusion is necessary
* A further consultation is on draft guidance to transform the quality of alternative provision
FSA: The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has strengthened its stress testing regime by requiring firms to improve their stress testing capability, enhance their capital planning stress testing and by introducing a reverse stress testing requirement for firms. 
Alongside its policy statement, the FSA published a short consultation paper (closes on 31 March 2010) clarifying its approach to capital planning buffers (CPB).  The CPB is the amount of capital that a firm should hold now so that it is available to absorb losses and meet higher capital requirements in adverse external circumstances such as an economic downturn.
DH: A consultation (closes on19 February 2010) on strengthening the existing arrangements for National Commissioning in England – which commissions services for extremely rare conditions on a national level – has been launched by the Department of Health.
The proposals also include adapting the scope to allow the National Commissioning system to consider a very small number of additional specialised technologies against strict criteria.  The changes to the system are intended to create a more robust process for nationally commissioned services and ensure consistency in accessing & prescribing services for very rare conditions across the country.
DfT: A consultation (closes on 19 March 2010) proposing the removal of a number of exemptions from the Heavy Goods Vehicle (HGV) roadworthiness testing scheme has been published by Transport Minister, Paul Clark.  The consultation proposes the removal of annual testing exemptions covering 10 categories of vehicle.
The DfT is reviewing the list of exemptions because the number of exempt vehicles is growing. This raises concerns about road safety as well as questions of fairness between operators.  The UK also has to ensure compatibility between the list of exempt vehicle classes and EU law on testing.

Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides

ScotGov: As winter begins to take hold across Scotland, the nation's climbers & hillwalkers are being urged to ‘take care’. Minister for Public Health and Sport Shona Robison has delivered the annual Winter Safety Message aimed at making sure people planning a trip into Scotland's mountains & countryside are well prepared before they set out.
The sportscotland Avalanche Information Service (SAIS) gives winter hill-goers, daily forecasts at 5 key locations in Scotland.  The service, which runs from December to April, receives £121,700 of Scottish Government funding through sportscotland.  SAIS also operates a text service allowing subscribers to receive daily text alerts of forecast avalanche hazards in their chosen area.
The Mountain Weather Information Service (MWIS) produces forecasts for eight UK mountain areas.  The MWIS receives £42,300 annual government funding through sportscotland, and covers Scotland's 5 main upland areas.  MWIS forecasts are also available on internet enabled mobile phones.
NICE: The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) recently launched a new guide at their annual Conference in Manchester.  ‘How to use NICE guidance to commission high quality services’ explains how NICE guidance supports the commissioning of high quality services and describes how the guidance can be used throughout the commissioning cycle.  It illustrates the support available from NICE, as well as the benefits using NICE guidance can bring for local populations. 
The guide is aimed at all those involved in commissioning health & social care services, as well as public health programmes within the NHS and partner organisations in England, but it may be a useful tool for all commissioners across the UK.  Seeking to support commissioners in developing systems & processes that entrench NICE guidance into commissioning, it also highlights sources of further information and practical help. 
LSC: The Legal Services Commission has published updated guidance on its position on the new rate of VAT applicable from 1 January 2010. Its General Principle remains the same -The VAT rate is driven by the date the case concluded. 
Defra: New codes of practice for dog, cat & horse owners with practical advice on how best to look after their pets’ health & wellbeing have been published. Animal welfare organisations & vets helped Defra draw up the codes, designed to give people information about pet care including diet & exercise and to explain owners’ & keepers’ legal duties to their animals.
Although it will not be an offence to fail to comply with the Codes of Practice they could be used as evidence in court to support a case of poor welfare brought under the Animal Welfare Act which may lead to a prosecution for animal cruelty.
DCSFNew guidance has been announced on sexist, sexual and transphobic bullying is the final guidance in the ‘Safe to Learn’ set of guidance for schools.  The guidance provides advice on how schools can help prevent & respond to gender related bullying – See ‘Consultations’ section for more information
Newswire – EA: After last month’s devastating Cumbria floods, the Environment Agency is urging owners of damaged properties to insist that insurers repair their homes and businesses to be more flood-resilient. Properties affected by flooding are often simply returned to their previous state, meaning that similar damage is likely if flooding occurs in future.
There are a variety of simple measures that can be taken whilst repairing a property that make it easier & cheaper to clean up after flooding, including:
* Laying ceramic tiles on the ground floor & using rugs instead of fitted carpets
* Raising the height of electrical sockets to at least 1.5 metres above ground floor level
* Fitting non-return valves to all drains & water inlet pipes
ScotGov: A guide to make parents aware of their responsibilities when it comes to their child's attendance at school has been published. It comes as statistics show more pupils have a 100% attendance record - up to 47,400 this year from 35,000 in 2007-2008.
Press release ~ Attendance and Absence in Scottish Schools 2008-09 ~ A guide for parents about school attendance

Annual Reports

ScotGovNHS Scotland chief executive Kevin Woods has published his annual report for 2008-09 claiming that Scotland's NHS is ‘continuing to improve, giving people faster access to a wider range of treatment’. As well as assessing NHSScotland's performance, the report also explains the financial & policy context of the achievements made and challenges faced by the NHS in Scotland.
The report outlines the progress made on the Scottish Government's action plan for health - Better Health, Better Care - and assesses NHSScotland's performance against a range of HEAT targets.
WAG: The Welsh Assembly Government has published a state of the nation report on the well-being of older people in Wales. The Older People’s Wellbeing Monitor for Wales is a milestone research report that will guide the future work of the WAG and its partners in planning for the demographic changes in society. This is the first Wellbeing Monitor of older people in the UK and links into an international agenda, as it follows the values of the United Nations Principles for Older People.  
This will set a benchmark with the Monitor, updated every 3 years. The Monitor is a report that brings together all the relevant robust research written on older people in Wales and will help to steer future policy & pinpoint evidence gaps for further study.  The focus is on 5 broad aims of well-being which are derived from the UN Principles and the WAG Strategy for Older People and these will provide the mechanism to track progress over time.
WAG: Wales’ Chief Medical Officer has warned that preventing disease & illness is the key to a healthy future generation.  Dr Tony Jewell issued the warning as he published his 3rd annual report on the state of health in Wales.
Dr Jewell writes about ‘preventing the preventable’ in his 2008 report, which looks at different methods of prevention to ensure the long-term health of the nation, including immunisation, screening and education.  He said that more emphasis needed to be placed on preventing ill-health in the first place.
Ofsted: Ofsted has published the outcomes of the new annual children’s services ratings which look at performance in 152 local authorities in England for 2009. The rating provides a picture of services for children in a local area drawn from a wide range of local services & settings.  

It places an emphasis on the direct observation of professional practice – including inspection of child protection services & safeguarding, childcare, schools, children’s social care and provision in the learning and skills sector.
DH: New statistics published from the National Child Measurement Programme, support emerging evidence that the rapid rise in child obesity has levelled off.  More families are benefiting from knowing the facts about their child’s weight.  Record numbers of children took part this year, with more than 1m children in reception year (4-5 year olds) and Year 6 (10-11 year olds) being weighed & measured.
However, the levels of childhood obesity are still too high, with 22.8% of Reception children and 32.6% of Year 6 children being overweight, or obese.  This compares with 22.6% & 32.6% the previous year. Parents are now sent letters informing them about their child’s weight. The letter is accompanied by advice & sources of further information on how to help their child maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle. 
ScotGovNHS Scotland will continue to rise to the challenge of providing top quality healthcare while making best use of public money, Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon claimed last week. Responding to the latest Audit Scotland report into NHS Scotland's performance in 2008-9, Ms Sturgeon said that while the entire public sector faced financial challenges, NHS Scotland was managing its budget effectively and meeting key targets to improve healthcare for the people of Scotland.
Key healthcare achievements in 2008-9 included a target to treat 95% of urgently-referred cancer patients within 62 days.  While death rates from heart disease, stroke & cancer - the 3 biggest causes of premature death - have continued to decline.

General Reports and Other Publications

ScotGov: An independent review of Scotland's water rescue capability has concluded that there is no requirement for new legislation or wholesale change in current statutory arrangements & protocols.
It makes a total of 15 recommendations as to how local & national government and the emergency services can improve their collective response to flood & inland water rescue. The Scottish Government will issue a formal response to the findings in the first quarter of 2010.
LBRO: Local regulatory services across England & Wales are spending around £6m a year dealing with central Government requests for data – roughly half the salary of an extra environmental health or trading standards officer for every council – according to a new report.
The administrative burden placed on local authority environmental health services, licensing & trading standards has been identified by The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA), commissioned by the Local Better Regulation Office (LBRO) to review data collections in regulatory services.
The CIPFA report - Data Collections from Local Authority Regulatory Services - found councils had to return 139 forms – sometimes the same form more than once - asking for more than 15,000 pieces of mostly activity related information, to a total of 22 central bodies. CIPFA also found a considerable amount of duplication in the questions asked.
Defra: Anna Walker, who was asked to conduct an independent Review of Charging for Household Water and Sewerage Services by the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food & Rural Affairs and by Welsh Assembly Ministers in August 2008, has published her final report.
The report is based on responses to an initial call for evidence in 2008 and an interim report in July 2009, 8 workshops across the country (including 2 in Plymouth), analysis of existing data and significant fresh analysis.
ESRC: Computer screen pop-ups may slow down your work more than you think, according to new research funded by the Economic and Social Research Council. Although the actual interruption may only last a few moments, the study shows that we then lose more time when we try to find our place & resume the task that was interrupted.
The research, led by Dr Helen Hodgetts and Professor Dylan Jones at Cardiff University, examined the cost of on-screen interruptions in terms of the time taken to complete a simple 7-step computer task.
The researchers found that, even after only a 5 second interruption, people take longer than normal to complete the next step in the task they are working on. In a more realistic work environment, where there is more information to retrieve after the interruption, the loss of concentration could have a greater impact on work performance.
NEOcean acidity has increased by 30% since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution and the rate of acidification will accelerate in the coming decades, according to a new guide launched at the UN Copenhagen Climate Change summit.  The results could spell disaster for critical parts of the marine food chain, with knock-on consequences for fishing communities & the global fishing industry and wide-scale destruction of marine reefs.
Sponsored by Natural England, the European Project on Ocean Acidification’s (EPOCA) guide called ‘Ocean Acidification: The Facts’ highlights the severity of an underwater time-bomb that could have massive implications for marine wildlife and the health of the marine environment.
Acidic sea water may be corrosive enough to kill oyster larvae in hatcheries and other shallower marine habitats and species closer to the coast. Economic interests and food security are at risk, particularly in regions especially dependent on seafood protein.
ScotGov: Renewable & clean energy enjoys a 'significant comparative advantage' in Scotland according to an independent report published last week. A study carried out for the Scottish Government highlights Scotland's location, natural resources, research & development and manufacturing bases as key advantages for developing Scotland's clean energy resource. 

The report shows:
* 1 additional gigawatt of onshore or offshore wind capacity could reduce Scotland's current total carbon emissions by around 3%
* electricity grid infrastructure will be a fundamental influence on Scotland's ability to accommodate growth in renewables
* if carbon capture & storage (CCS) is proven to be a commercial & technical success at full scale, a network in the Firth of Forth could capture around one third of Scotland's onshore carbon emissions
NAO: Venture capital funds injected by government into young companies can provide benefit to them, allowing them to raise finance not available through conventional means and to grow.  But so far the funds have not been managed as a programme and lack a robust framework of objectives to measure performance, according to a report published by the National Audit Office.
In the absence of baselines for measuring benefits, and with evidence of poor financial performance from some of the early funds, the programme cannot currently be said to demonstrate value for money.
Ofsted: Having an effective programme in place for gifted & talented pupils is not elitist.  Schools that ensure all pupils, including gifted & talented, are suitably challenged find that all pupils benefit, according to a report published by Ofsted, the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills. As one headteacher told inspectors; ‘in thinking more about the needs of gifted & talented pupils, it helped to add rigour to lesson planning & teaching for all pupils throughout the school’.
The report - Gifted and talented pupils in schools - reveals that although most of the 26 schools visited recognised that improving provision for gifted & talented pupils was important, it was not their highest priority.  All had a policy for gifted & talented pupils, but many of them were generic and these were not sufficiently effective in improving performance.

Legislation / Legal

Monitor: The Administrative Court has delivered its ruling on the judicial review of Monitor’s interpretation of legislation to limit NHS foundation trust income derived from private patient charges (the private patient income cap).  The judicial review was prompted by a legal challenge to Monitor’s interpretation of the cap by Unison.
Mr Justice Cranston has ruled that Monitor’s current interpretation of the legislation is not lawful and determined that the cap should apply to a wider range of income sources. Monitor accepts the Court’s decision and welcomes the clarification; the regulator will now amend its approach accordingly.
Monitor will now address & revise the definitions which apply to the cap as set out in the NHS foundation trust Financial Reporting Manual (the FReM) to reflect the Court’s judgment.  The regulator will communicate its intentions in this respect to all interested parties as soon as practically possible.
HMT: The Government has announced details of the Fiscal Responsibility Bill which is being introduced to Parliament alongside the 2009 Pre-Budget Report. The Bill requires the Government to set out, at all times, a legislative fiscal plan for delivering sound public finances (to be approved by Parliament) and places a binding duty on the Government to meet that plan.
The Government will also publish an updated Code for Fiscal Stability, setting out the requirements the Government must meet in the publication of its fiscal plans & projections, in the New Year.
MoJ: The Office for Legal Complaints has announced further moves to set up a new ombudsman scheme that will investigate & resolve complaints by consumers of legal services. The announcement came on the same day as an order was laid in Parliament to enable the Legal Services Board to begin work as overseeing regulator in January 2010.
MoJ: Justice Secretary Jack Straw has issued a 'veto' certificate under section 53 of the Freedom of Information Act, overruling the Information Tribunal's decision of 23 June 2009. This is only the second time this power (the 'veto') has been exercised since the Act came into force in 2005 and over that period of time central government has received approximately 160,000 non-routine requests for information.
DfT: Local authorities throughout England will be given new powers to determine routes, timetables, fares and other aspects of bus services, Transport Minister Sadiq Khan has claimed.  New legislation, which will come into force on 11 January 2010, gives local authorities greater freedom to put in place Quality Contracts Schemes (QCS).
QCS, which are the London-style model of bus franchising, could include performance targets for operators and make sanctions against contract operators who fail to meet those targets.  Those sanctions might include financial penalties or, in extreme situations, termination of the contract.
Press release ~ Quality Contracts Schemes (QCS) ~ DfT: Quality Contracts Scheme Board panel (closing date for applications is midday 29 January 2010)
ScotGov: The Crofting Reform Bill, published last week, is intended to tackle absenteeism, neglect & speculation and protect crofting for future generations.

EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.

DECC: 9 countries, including the UK, have signed up to develop an integrated offshore grid in the North and IrishSeas.  The idea of a grid spanning European waters should make supplies of electricity more secure for the participating countries by making it easier to optimise offshore wind electricity production .  It will also help the EU as a whole to meet its renewable energy target for 2020.
Energy & Climate Change Minister, Lord Hunt, also announced the next round of Low Carbon Energy demonstration capital grants for Vestas, Clipper & Mitsubishi,and also the appointment of Professor Bernard Bulkin as the expert chair of DECC’s Office for Renewable Energy Deployment (ORED).
ScotGov: 8 Scottish housing associations now have access to a new £70m lending facility offered by the European Investment Bank and the Housing Finance Corporation (a not-for-profit finance company that makes loans to over 120 regulated Housing Associations across the UK). This is an alternative private lending source helping to support new affordable home developments & jobs in the house building sector.
The EIB funds projects in tune with EU economic objectives, including infrastructure, improvement of international links, combating climate change, hospitals, schools and universities.
WAG: Working with fishermen, the Scottish Government has been fighting to have West Coast vessels (that catch very little or no cod) exempt from EU restrictions.  If approved at December Council, this hoped for breakthrough means that 67 Scottish fishing boats that fish for prawns in the Minch and the Clyde will no longer be subjected to days at sea limits.
The ‘days at sea’ regime exists as part of the EU's cod recovery plan, which sets days at sea for fishing vessels that are involved in catching cod in the waters around Scotland.  There is also a provision in the EU Regulation that allows for vessels or groups of vessels, which do not impact on cod recovery and catch less than 1.5% cod, to be exempted completely from effort management (i.e. days at sea limits).
FSA: The Food Standards Agency is informing slaughterhouse operators & livestock keepers that they will soon have to ensure that Food Chain Information (FCI) is provided for all cattle, sheep & goats sent for slaughter. This new requirement under EU legislation comes into force from 1 January 2010 and will apply to all slaughter animals, whether sent directly to a slaughterhouse or sold through a livestock market.
FCI is information about the health of the animals being sent for slaughter and other information relevant to the safety of meat derived from them, including medicines the animals have been given.  The rules already apply to pigs & calves.
The new rules are an important part of 'farm-to-fork' food safety controls and highlight the food safety responsibilities of livestock keepers in the meat production chain.  The information about slaughter animals that is passed from the farm to the slaughterhouse can be used by operators and Official Veterinarians to make decisions about processing & inspection procedures.

Charity and Voluntary Sector

MoD: Minister for Veterans, Kevan Jones, praised the work of charities and other key stakeholders during a symposium jointly organised by the charity Deafness Research UK and the MoD at the UCL Ear Institute last week.
‘A Modern Approach to Noise-Induced Hearing Loss from Military Operations’ brought together interested parties from the Armed Forces, the NHS, academic research and the voluntary sector to share & update knowledge of the science relevant to noise induced hearing loss.
The Minister also acknowledged the achievements of the Defence Hearing Working Group (DHWG), whose members include representatives from the Royal National Institute for Deaf People and Deafness Research UK.
He told the conference that in the past 12 months the DHWG had commenced a hearing study on Royal Marine Units and had introduced an education package to warn deploying infantry of the dangers of exposure to noise.
DCSF: Secretary of State for Children, Schools & Families Ed Balls has announced £165,000 extra funding to enable the Anthony Nolan Trust to roll out their campaign to educate young people about bone marrow donation.
The Register & Be a Lifesaver campaign is the legacy of Yorkshire journalist Adrian Sudbury, who died in August 2008 at the age of 27 following his own battle with leukaemia.  The campaign was first trialled in South Yorkshire & Bristol to encourage 16-18 year olds to sign up to become donors and to build a volunteer force to help educate their peers.
Independent evaluation of the pilots concluded that they were good value for money; the training of volunteers was successful; the standard of presentations to schools & colleges was high; and the pilots met their objectives to raise awareness in schools & with young people.
VSOVSO was voted Charity of the Year last week at Dod’s Charity Champion awards.  Nominated & voted for exclusively by British Parliamentarians, VSO was hailed most effective charity of 2009. The annual awards are designed to highlight the impact MPs & Peers can have on charitable causes, but also give recognition to charities that have made a significant impact this year.  Over 100 MPs voted in the awards, with VSO gaining the overwhelming majority.
Baroness Warwick nominated VSO after spending 2 weeks volunteering with VSO in Nigeria as part of VSO’s Parliamentarian Volunteering Programme.  VSO covers the costs of flights, accommodation and health insurance for all volunteers.  Parliamentarians receive the standard VSO volunteer allowance, which is a modest amount to cover daily needs.  This differs by country, but is generally around £25-£50 per week.
VSO recruits volunteers from a wide range of professional backgrounds.  The strongest need is for experienced managers, professionals with experience of working in primary education and doctors & midwives.  VSO can use financial professionals where they have strong planning, or management expertise.
NENatural England has announced a series of new projects as part of its £25m Lottery-funded grants programme ‘Access to Nature’, which will see water-based activities, community woodlands & farms opened up and support for groups widened. 12 new projects are benefiting from over £2.5m from the programme, which is funded through the Big Lottery Fund’s Changing Spaces Programme.  Access to Nature aims to create opportunities for people from all backgrounds to have greater access to our natural environment.
CO: Last week, the Office of the Third Sector published Social Investment Wholesale Bank - Summary of responses (including next steps).  To fund the SIWB’s initial capitalisation, Government also announced in the Pre-Budget Report, its intention to commit up to £75m of the funds expected to be released through the Dormant Accounts Scheme in England, subject to the final volume of funds and alongside funding other priorities.
In the coming months, the Government will finalise the model for the SIWB and aim to begin the process of engaging with potential providers of this financial institution by Budget 2010.

Business and Other Briefings

HMT: The Treasury has published its final agreement with the Royal Bank of Scotland on the bank’s participation in the Asset Protection Scheme, along with further detail of the scheme’s operation and the assets it covers.  The Treasury has also announced the launch of the Asset Protection Agency that will administer the scheme in order to protect the taxpayer’s interest.
BIS: The government’s programme to simplify & streamline publicly-funded business support is claiming that it has almost reached its March 2010 target. The ‘Solutions for Business: a Foundation for the future’ report published last week sets out how the Government is delivering on its 2006 Budget commitment to reduce the number of business support schemes from 3,000 to no more than 100 by March 2010.
The most recent information shows that less than 200 schemes remain to be aligned to the Solutions for Business portfolio in order to reach the target of less than 100 schemes.  The report also sets out plans to ensure the March 2010 target is met.
FSA: The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has published the summarised feedback it received on whether to extend its code on remuneration policies to other FSA-authorised firms.  The FSA’s remuneration code comes into force for large banks, building societies & broker dealers on 1 January 2010.  It will apply to any remuneration awards made by these firms for the 2009 performance year.
Chapter 6 of the March consultation paper invited general discussion on whether the code should be extended to other FSA-authorised firms.  At this stage the FSA has decided not to introduce any new rules and will not extend the rules to other sectors.  The FSA’s supervisory focus is on ensuring that the firms which are within the initial scope of the remuneration code are fully compliant from 1 January 2010.  The FSA has already committed to a review of the effectiveness of the remuneration code in mid 2010.
HMT: The restructure of Northern Rock will take place on 1 January 2010, the Treasury has confirmed.  The Northern Rock plc Transfer Order 2009 was made by the Treasury and laid before Parliament last week.  Under the restructuring, NR’s business will be split between 2 companies with the back book of mortgages managed separately to NR’s other business.
HMT: The Treasury has published a discussion document on possible international options to reduce the cost to taxpayers of financial sector failures.  Risk, reward and responsibility: the financial sector and society is a contribution to the international debate on the future of the global financial sector.
The document highlights the importance of the financial sector to the UK economy, alongside the risks it poses to society.  The document considers ways in which the financial sector might contribute to the potential costs of any residual risks it poses to taxpayers and to broader social objectives.
FSA: The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has strengthened its stress testing regime by requiring firms to improve their stress testing capability, enhance their capital planning stress testing and by introducing a reverse stress testing requirement for firms. Alongside its policy statement, the FSA has published a short consultation paper (closes on 31 March 2010) clarifying its approach to capital planning buffers (CPB) – see ‘Consultations’ section for more information.
This Revenue & Customs Brief was issued on 8 December 2009 following the High Court decision in the case of Rank.  This confirmed that participation fees for playing mechanised cash bingo (MCB) should have been exempt from VAT following the High Court’s decision that there had been a breach of fiscal neutrality in the VAT treatment of this type of bingo.
This Revenue & Customs Brief is of interest to all businesses that buy or lease cars or that sell or lease cars to other businesses.

Industry News

OS: Budding developers, entrepreneurs & community groups now have less than a month to enter their ideas into the GeoVation Awards Programme for the chance to win part of a £21,000 development fund. GeoVation, the Ordnance Survey supported community aiming to promote innovative uses of geography, launched its competition in October 2009 by asking people to think of how mapping could help address some of the world’s big challenges.  
Since then over 300 people have joined, more than 100 individual ideas have been posted and 33 ventures launched. Among those already submitted are an interactive map of how Britain could look in 2050 based on current climate change models, an application that would help wheelchair users plot safe routes and a map of regional dialects.
The cash will be awarded to 4 winning entries, with £10,000 to the outright winner and two prizes of £5,000 for the runners-up.  A community award, as voted by the audience, will receive £1,000.  All the money will go towards developing the ideas.
WAG: An innovative, cost-effective access solution for small rural stations was unveiled at Aberdyfi station recently and could soon be seen across Wales.  The custom built hump, designed by Network Rail and funded by the Welsh Assembly Government, solves access problems at the small rural station without requiring the re-building of the platform.
For the first time at Aberdyfi people with mobility impairments will be able to board trains with the use of on-train ramps - installed on all Arriva Trains Wales trains.  It will also make life easier for all users, including mothers with children & buggies. Previously people with mobility impairments had to be taken by taxi to the nearest station where the platform had the right gradient for the ramp.
Mr Jones said a bid had also been put in for funding under the Department for Transport Access for All Scheme, which would allow them to make the approach to stations wheelchair accessible at the same time as the hump is installed. One example is Llwyngwril station further along the Cambrian Coast where the combination of surface improvements to the approach and a hump would together provide a solution.
The hump solution, which cost £70,000 at Aberdyfi, involves installing a graded hump made of glass reinforced plastic.  Its height can be adjusted in the factory to suit the features of the particular station.  And as it comes in sections that join together, it can be made to any length required. It is known as a ‘Harrington Hump’ after the station in Cumbria, where it made its debut last year.  Normally, it would cost £250,000+ to rebuild one basic platform to bring it up to modern standards.
DECC: Homeowners in Birmingham, Sunderland, Stroud and the London Borough of Sutton will test out new ways to finance whole house energy makeovers under the Government's £4m Pay As You Save scheme. The pilots will give households the opportunity to invest in energy efficiency and micro-generation technologies in their homes with no upfront cost
Householders will make repayments spread over a long enough period so that repayments are lower than their predicted energy bill savings, meaning financial & carbon savings are made from day one. A total of around 500 homes across England will take part in the trial which will provide evidence of how to foot the bill for the Great British Refurb - the Government's plan to make the 22 million existing homes in the UK more energy efficient.
HEFCE: An Online Learning Task Force has been set up to help the UK higher education (HE) sector maintain & extend its position as a world leader in online learning. The task force, chaired by Dame Lynne Brindley, Chief Executive of the British Library, will make recommendations to HEFCE and other relevant government agencies & institutions regarding the development of excellence in online learning.
It will begin by looking at 4 key areas:
* current levels of online provision in the UK
* international market for online learning
* levels of demand from new & prospective, students
* perceptions of online learning in UK HE
The task force will also investigate different business models for delivering online learning.  This will help higher education institutions in planning this form of provision.  It will meet over the next year, and will provide an interim report in the spring and a final report in October 2010.
BIS: Ensuring the UK remains a world-leader in the high-growth plastic electronics sector is at the heart of a new government strategyPlastic electronics technology makes it possible to produce a wide range of innovative products more cheaply and in a more environmentally-friendly way than previously viable. The global market for these technologies is forecasted to grow at an astonishing rate over the next decade, exceeding $120bn by 2020.  
This rapid expansion could create up to 20,000 jobs and generate a wealth of economic opportunities for the UK. For example, the recently announced £20m expansion of the Printable Electronic Technology Centre (PETEC) in Sedgefield will also significantly boost product plastic electronics development facilities and create 1,500 jobs over the next 4 years.
The Government has announced that the first stage in the centre’s expansion will be the development of production facilities for prototype flexible lighting panels and low-cost, long-life solar cells.  This will be operational by September 2010.  Following that, a manufacturing line for plastic electronic displays and integrated smart systems will be installed in the centre in early 2011
CRC: The Commission for Rural Communities has launched a major national initiative to tackle rural fuel poverty.  Three areas of the country − County Durham, East Riding and Shropshire − have been chosen for the project, based on statistical data that shows high levels of fuel poverty, properties off the gas network and ‘hard to heat’ houses, all of which can result in people living in cold, damp homes.
The project known as ‘Hands Up’ aims to ensure a better understanding of the effect high fuel costs is having on the health, financial & overall wellbeing of people living in rural areas.  It will also seek to understand what impact this is having on service providers such as the NHS, and the local economy.
‘Hands Up’ will involve around 7,500 households being asked to provide information about their health & financial wellbeing, what type of fuel they use to heat their home and what concerns they have in relation to affordability or health issues.  Based on responses and working with local partners the project will look at what solutions on a ‘house-by house’ basis can be put in place to reduce fuel bills, save people money and make homes warmer & healthier to live in.
The link between poor health and people living in cold, damp & poorly ventilated homes should not be ignored. Cardiovascular & respiratory illnesses (such as asthma) are known to be exacerbated when people are living in such conditions.  The average length of stay for people in an NHS hospital with hypothermia is 18.9 days – an average treatment cost to the NHS of £13,230.
ScotGov: A new contract to supply gas for the whole of Scotland's public sector, worth around £80m a year from April 2010, has been awarded to Total Gas and Power (Total GP) after a competitive tender. The public sector will benefit by around £5m a year through flexible bulk buying on the wholesale market.  The contract also provides access to energy management measures to improve energy efficiency and cut demand.
As part of a competitive tendering process under EU procurement rules, suppliers were invited to tender for large & small scale sites across the public sector.  Public body sign up to the gas deal will be via an addendum to the agency agreement already in place for electricity, managed by Procurement Scotland.
ScotGov: Householders & businesses across rural Scotland will benefit from a project to provide improved access to broadband. Following talks with the Scottish Government to identify rural areas needing improvements, BT Scotland has already started work on upgrading 71 telephone exchanges.  The first upgrades will be complete from March 2010 and cover exchanges that are all operating at or approaching full capacity for broadband provision.

Editorial Content Statement

WGPlus would like to make it clear that the commentary & links provided, in respect of any particular item, are published in its capacity as an independent non-government funded organisation and reflect the editorial team’s need to both précis & re‑format the content of news releases
Any views expressed are therefore entirely those of the WGPlus editorial team and independent of any sponsor, government organisation or political party.
For the official view of a source organisation, readers should click on the ‘press release’ that is the first link attached to each item.
Speed of download - Readers are reminded that some documents linked to can be large (VL) and may take some time to download, even with a broadband link. Readers are encouraged to be patient.
While every care is taken to ensure that all links ’work’ in the newsletter (including checking just before publication), WGPlus cannot guarantee that websites will not make changes that will nullify individual links, especially over a period of time.
WGPlus is not responsible for the content of external websites
Business IT Support by: Trusted IT