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In the News

The Wired-Gov Team would like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas Break and Best Wishes for the New Year.

News Alerts will continue to to be published during the Christmas Period and the next WGPlus Newsletter will be published on 11/12 January 2010.

Newswire – POIf ever there was a Department ‘Not fit for purpose’ - Parliamentary Ombudsman, Ann Abraham, has called on the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) to apologise and pay compensation for the maladministration of the Single Payments Scheme (SPS) in a report laid before Parliament entitled: Cold Comfort: the Administration of the 2005 Single Payment Scheme by the Rural Payments AgencyDefra have not accepted the Ombudsman's recommendations in full.

Problems with the 2005 SPS have been in the public domain for some time.  What the Ombudsman's report adds now are her findings of what happened to individuals who sustained an injustice due to RPA's mistakes.  The report sets out the results of the Ombudsman's investigation of 2 representative complaints about the administration of the 2005 SPS by the RPA, part of Defra.
These 2 complaints are representative of 22 other complaints made about the 2005 Single Payment Scheme in England.  In the report Ms Abraham says: 'These failures of the 2005 Single Payment Scheme took a direct personal and financial toll on the two farmers whose complaints I have investigated’………… Important principles are at stake here.  My view is that an appropriate remedy should be forthcoming where injustice has been suffered as a consequence of maladministration by a public body’.

The National Audit Office has issued 3 reports on the SPS (10/06, 12/07 and 10/09).  The first report included research that revealed, among other things, that delayed payments had been a source of increased stress for 20% of the farmers surveyed.  The management of the SPS was also reviewed by the House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee and the House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts (12/09).

Quotes from the latest PAC press release, by Edward Leigh MP, Chairman of the Committee of Public Accounts, include:  "It (Defra) has consistently failed to spot continuing problems with this scheme for paying EU grants to farmers and to get to grips with issues previously raised by this Committee. But this lack of attention has been compounded by poor leadership and management information in the Rural Payments Agency……It is an extremely serious charge from this Committee that negligible attention has been paid to taxpayers' interests. …….

The Department is still unable to come to terms with its failure, first having confirmed the validity of the National Audit Office calculation of some £1,700 for the average cost of administering each claim and then offering an alternative cost of £700. …….The truth is that the Department has either not grasped the seriousness of what has been happening or been reluctant to face up to problems".
DCSFBut will they be able to fund the extra help? - Parents of special educational needs (SEN) pupils will get more help to get the right educational support for their children, Ed Balls, Secretary of State for Children, Schools & Families, has announced.  Responding particularly to the recommendations on the SEN system in Brian Lamb’s final report on parental confidence, Ed Balls reasserted his commitment to listen to parents and provide them with the advice, information & support they need.

The Government agrees with Brian Lamb that more should be done to ensure all parents have access to services.  Ed Balls also agrees with Brian Lamb that the government needs to be more ambitious for children with SEN & disabilities.

He supports Brian Lamb’s call for a cultural shift in the way in which schools, local authorities and other professionals work with parents & children.  Brian Lamb said; ‘There needs to be a radical recasting of the relationship between parents, schools and local authorities to ensure a clearer focus on the outcomes and life chances for children with SEN and disability’.
EHRCThe trouble is that the short-term will see major cuts - The Equality and Human Rights Commission with the charity Age Concern & Help the Aged have presented a report to Government & shadow ministers outlining recommendations for tackling disadvantage in later life.

New findings from the organisations’ 'Just Ageing?' research indicate that inequality in old age is the result of disadvantages that have accumulated during people’s lifetimes.  These inequalities have an impact on people’s health, income, social support & employment throughout their lives.  Inequalities add up to create huge gaps in ‘life outcomes’ in later life.

The report concludes with 8 key insights for tackling inequalities over people’s life-course, including: calling for policy makers to better consider the impact of increasing longevity on increasing inequality in society; moving away from policies that set different generations against each other; and long-term planning rather than playing to a short term agenda.
Press release ~ EHRC: Just Ageing? ~ Age Concern and Help the Aged (Age UK from Spring 2010) ~ Guidance for Occupational therapy and physical activity interventions to promote the mental wellbeing of older people in primary care and residential care ~ Inequalities in health in an ageing population, patterns, causes and consequences ~ Health, Work and Wellbeing website ~ Carol Black's review ~ Foresight Project on Mental Capital and Wellbeing (July 2006 - October 2008) ~ Full of Life government campaign ~  National Evaluation of Partnerships for Older People Projects: Interim report of progress ~  Guide to making a strategic shift to prevention and early intervention ~  DH - Partnerships for Older People Projects (POPPs) ~ CSIP – POPPs

NAO:  Casting further doubt on the PBR projections - The National Audit Office has published independent reviews of value for money savings reported by the Department for Transport and the Home Office as part of their 2008-09 Annual Reports.  The DfT reported savings of £892m, of which the NAO found that (only) 43% fairly represent realised cash savings, 22% may represent realised cash savings, but with some uncertainty and (as much as) 35% may be overstated

At the Home Office, the NAO sampled £338m of £544m reported savings and found 59% of these fairly represent realised cash savings, 24% may represent realised cash savings but with some uncertainty, and the NAO has significant concerns over 17%.

These independent reviews are two of a series of reports the NAO will be producing into savings reported by departments as part of the targets set by the 2007 Comprehensive Spending Review.  Overall, the Government has set a target to generate annually cash-releasing savings of £35bn by 2010-11. 

The savings programme is based on the principle that the planned savings have already been removed from departments' budgets.  Departments therefore have to deliver savings to release enough cash to meet their spending plans, or reduce activity compared with the planned level. 

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

MCA: The latest video Podcast produced by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency features true life experiences from Jane Dolby from Essex (a widow who lost her husband to the sea), Tom Smith from Fife (a fisherman who survived his boat sinking) and Neil Murray (a fisherman from Looe in Cornwall).
112 fishermen have been lost at sea since the year 2000, and if they had been wearing a lifejacket their chances of survival would have been far greater.  In 2009 alone there has been a further 9 fatalities involving fishermen and several of these may have been prevented had they been wearing lifejackets.

MoD: The Ministry of Defence will give a major boost to the military helicopter fleet with 22 new Chinook helicopters, the Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth has announced. However, the first 10 new Chinooks will not start to roll off the production line until 2012 and be completed in 2013, only then increasing air support on the front-line in Afghanistan.
This announcement is part of a new Future Helicopter Strategy that is promised to deliver a 40% increase in the number of lift helicopters available for use on operations in extreme conditions, such as those in Afghanistan.  The RAF will fly the new Chinook alongside the Merlins which arrived in Afghanistan last month.
The new strategy will see the ageing Sea Kings, which the Royal Navy & RAF currently use, being taken out of service early.  The Navy’s future helicopter requirements would be met by a combination of the Merlin fleet and new Wildcat.  The Army will also operate Wildcat alongside the successful Apache.  It will mean that following the retirement of Puma from 2022, the UK’s Armed Forces will operate 4 core helicopter fleets of Chinook, Apache, Wildcat and Merlin – each of around 65-75 aircraft.
DCMS: Culture Minister Margaret Hodge has announced the final list of bidders vying to become the UK’s first City of Culture in 2013.  The full line-up of the judging panel that will make the final recommendation on which bid will win has also been announced. Bids have come in from 14 places, made up from single cities or towns, closely linked cities and, in one case, a whole county.
FSAAsda is withdrawing its own-brand ready-to-eat Southern Fried Popcorn Chicken with a 'use by' date of 18 December 2009, because the product contains wheat (gluten), which is not mentioned on the product label.  The Food Standards Agency has issued an Allergy Alert advising anyone with an allergy or intolerance to wheat or gluten not to eat this product.
DFID: Some of the world’s poorest nations will be ‘thrust to the forefront of the global green energy revolution’ with the help of a £50m commitment from the UK Government. The funding, part of the UK commitment to provide ‘fast start’ climate finance before 2012, will see the UK become the largest contributor to a £160m global initiative to help boost the renewable energy sector in at least 5 low-income countries.
The new programme - Scaling-up Renewable Energy Programme (SREP) - which has become operational this week, will not only help countries lower their carbon emissions but also bring new sources of energy to populations with little access to electricity.  In Africa just 23% of people have access to regular electricity, and in many countries the figure is below 10%.

Policy Statements and Initiatives

ScotGov: The latest Scottish Government economic assessment demonstrates the UK Government was wrong to withdraw its stimulus package and ignore cross party pleas for accelerated expenditure, Finance Secretary John Swinney has claimed.
DH: Health Minister, Ann Keen, has claimed that the NHS is ‘on track’ to virtually eliminate mixed-sex accommodation from hospitals across England. The announcement follows the publication of a Taskforce report - Delivering same-sex accommodation – the story so far – which highlights that trust improvement schemes supported by the Department of Health’s £100m ‘Privacy and Dignity Fund’ will be completed by June 2010.  

All trusts are expected to provide same-sex accommodation and, by 2010, any trust that fails will be subject to financial sanctions.
MoJ: Justice Minister, Maria Eagle, recently announced a commitment to reduce women's prison places by 400 before March 2012, so funding can be diverted for specialist services in the community.  She claimed that the majority of women offenders have multiple & complex needs that commonly include mental health problems, drug & alcohol misuse, sexual & domestic abuse and concerns about their children's welfare and that these needs can be better met in the community to address their offending behaviour and divert them from crime.
In the last couple of years, since Baroness Corston's report was published on women in the criminal justice system, there has already been a reduction in the number of women in prison and an increase in the use of community orders for female offenders.
DCSF: Children’s Secretary Ed Balls has accepted all of Sir Roger Singleton’s recommendations to make sure that the Government’s Vetting and Barring scheme draws the line in the right place and protects children without getting involved in private arrangements between parents & friends. It is estimated that once these adjustments have been put in place, the number of people who will be required to register will fall from 11m to 9m.
In Sir Roger Singleton’s report, Drawing the Line, he recommends that private arrangements between parents & friends should continue to remain outside the scheme.  But where an organisation makes the decisions on which adults should work with their children then the requirement to register will apply.
DfT: Within the next 5 years passengers on public transport in England's major urban areas will be able to travel without a paper ticket, Transport Secretary Andrew Adonis has claimed. England's 9 largest urban areas will receive £20m to bring smart & integrated ticketing to the greatest number of people most quickly, through the recently launched Smart and Integrated Ticketing Strategy.
The strategy also sets out the Government's goal for every area of England to have access to smart ticketing by 2020 and contains nearly 30 Government commitments to help make this happen. To incentivise bus operators to install smart ticketing systems, the Government has also announced an 8% increase in the Bus Service Operator Grant (BSOG) if they have ITSO smartcard infrastructure on their buses.
DCSF: On the second anniversary of the Children’s Plan, Children’s Secretary Ed Balls and Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw announced that Sarah Thane (former chair of the Royal Television Society and former advisor to Ofcom) will review the 40 year old rules governing child performance.
The review comes after informal discussions with a wide range of interested parties, including children’s organisations, broadcasters, producers and local authorities, found that existing regulations are clearly outdated and that there is also a case for conducting a broader review of the overall framework.
DfT: New proposals to allow councils to put in place 20 mph schemes over groups of streets without the need for traffic calming measures (such as speed humps) have been announced by Road Safety Minister Paul Clark. In the past, councils wanting to implement 20 mph schemes on groups of roads have had to do so in ‘zones’, which require traffic calming measures such as speed humps.  20 mph limits without traffic calming were only recommended on individual roads.
However, following a successful city-wide trial in Portsmouth which suggested it is possible to significantly reduce speeds on residential streets without speed humps or other traffic calming measures, the Department for Transport plans to allow 20mph limits to be used across more streets where traffic speeds are already low without the need for such measures.
The Government is also reiterating its call for councils to carry out speed limit reviews of their rural roads by 2011, focussing on National Speed Limit single carriageway ‘A’ and ‘B’ roads where 41% of fatalities occur.
BIS: The Government response to the Risk and Regulation Advisory Council (RRAC) report: Response with Responsibility: Policy-making for public risk in the 21st century has been published by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. The Government accepted in part the RRAC’s 3 main recommendations and agreed to build on the RRAC’s work, aiming to embed its approach within the culture of policy making.
MoD: Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth has announced the creation of a new military airworthiness authority to ensure aviation safety standards are of the highest order at all times. The Military Aviation Authority (MAA) has been created as part of the MOD's full response to the Nimrod Review by Charles Haddon-Cave QC, following the deaths of 14 service personnel onboard Nimrod XV230 on 2 September 2006.  The MAA (which will be in place by 5 April 2010) will include an independent body to audit & scrutinize air safety activity.  
WAG: A new strategy to improve access to high quality services for patients with lymphoedema has been announced by Health Minister, Edwina Hart.  Lymphoedema – the chronic swelling of the limbs – is a chronic debilitating condition and affects individuals physically, psychologically & socially. It is estimated that around 6,000 people in Wales have lymphoedema.  
Currently there is a wide variation in the organisation & delivery of services across Wales, with many sufferers unable to access appropriate diagnosis & treatment and some only being able to access services as a result of having cancer.  The new strategy calls for a collaborative approach, with Wales’ 7 Health Boards working together to ensure a consistent service is provided to patients.


HO: Plans to raise standards by introducing additional training for UK Door Supervisors form part of a Home Office consultation launched recently (closes on 23 March 2010). The aim of the new proposals is to protect the public by raising standards.  Additional training will include physical intervention, first aid, special considerations when dealing with young people and awareness of the threat of terrorism.

The Security Industry Authority (SIA) has already included the additional training elements as part of the new qualifications being introduced from June 2010. The consultation proposes making the additional skills a requirement for existing door supervisors in the form of top-up training that must be taken before renewing their licence.  This would also apply to those who have an existing qualification and want to apply for a licence for the first time.
If the decision is made to implement the proposals, top-up training will be compulsory for all door supervisors from May 2011. The SIA will work with awarding bodies to ensure training is available from October 2010.
Newswire – HSO: The Health Service Ombudsman, Ann Abraham, has published a consultation document - Sharing and Publishing Information about Complaints - with the purpose of seeking views on sharing & publishing information about complaints handled by the Ombudsman.
This consultation (closes on 10 March 2010) is taking place now because of the increased focus on the importance of information about complaints following recent events in the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust & elsewhere.  The significant changes in the NHS complaints system, and the abolition of the Healthcare Commission as a second stage complaint handler, have given rise to some unrealistic expectations of the volume & scope of information that the Ombudsman can & will make available.
HMT: The Treasury has published proposals to strengthen the UK's ability to deal with any future failure of an investment bank.  The proposals are intended to enhance the UK's reputation as one of the world's leading centres for conducting investment business. They look at introducing processes that will allow for the managed wind-down of a future failed investment firm, including resolution plans and a new insolvency regime for investment banks, with special administration objectives.
The consultation (closes 16 March 2010) paper looks at proposals that will help client assets & money (held on trust by an investment firm) be returned as quickly as possible, as well as proposals to allow the trades that the failed firm has entered into to be resolved effectively to ensure clarity for affected counterparties & creditors. A final report will be published in 2010, setting out concrete proposals and a timetable for action.
FSA: The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has published proposals for enhancing the professionalism of investment advisers under the Retail Distribution Review (RDR) - consultation closes on16 March 2010. The RDR is seeking to rebuild people’s trust & confidence in the retail investment market by raising standards of professionalism. 
A key element of the FSA’s wide-ranging reforms is that (by the end of 2012) advisers, whether independent or restricted, will need to demonstrate greater knowledge & skills and meet enhanced standards in dealing with clients.
The FSA has also clarified a number of important issues about the new level of qualification investment advisers will need to meet by the end of 2012.  In particular, it has published a list of qualifications that advisers may already hold or be studying towards, with the guarantee that, should they hold one of these qualifications, they will not need to take further exams once the content for meeting the new qualification standard is confirmed.  Instead, advisers are able to meet any gaps through on-the-job continuing professional development.
Newswire – CABE: As the housing market begins to stabilise after a traumatic period of decline, a new report called Who should build our homes? challenges any presumption that housebuilding should just continue from where it left off.  Earlier this year, Richard Simmons, CABE chief executive argued in No more toxic assets that more of the same is simply not good enough.
CABE is launching a debate about who should build our homes.  Six housing experts have contributed their own strong views through a collection of essays.  They put the case for new models – for much less reliance on build-to-sell; and for renting to become the norm once again.  They also argue for self-build & community commissioned housing to enter the mainstream instead of being marginalised at the periphery. CABE will continue the debate with an expert workshop in January 2010.

Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides

Newswire – GC: The Gambling Commission (the Commission) has published updated advice for organisers of prize competitions and free draws. The revised advice benefits from the experience gained in the 2 years since the Gambling Act 2005 (the Act) came into effect in September 2007.  It reflects changes to the Commission’s general understanding of how the Act applies.
FSA: The Food Standards Agency is making available a support package for local authorities that adopt the Agency’s national 'Scores on the doors' scheme. As part of the package, the Agency has secured funding of £0.5m to assist early adopters of the scheme in England, Wales & Northern Ireland with the start up activities needed in preparation for launching & running the scheme. The Agency is inviting local authorities to apply for grant funding.
In addition to this, the Agency will be supporting authorities by providing:
* guidance on the implementation & operation of the national 6-tier scheme
* briefing material that can be used to help inform elected members about the national scheme
* promotional & marketing materials
* training & training materials for local authorities
* IT assistance for linking to the national IT platform & associated IT training

Annual Reports

CO: The Civil Service has shown it continues to improve its capability, as it prepares to tackle the challenges of the coming decade, Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O'Donnell has claimed. He was speaking as the Cabinet Office published an overview of the Capability Review programme, which was introduced in 2005 to assess departments' ability to meet current & future challenges. 
The fifth tranche of reviews & re-reviews has also been published.  The Treasury and HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) were both re-reviewed, while the year-old Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) underwent a baseline assessment.  The Serious Fraud Office was also reviewed after its managers saw how the review process had helped central government departments improve.
BIS: According to the latest report published, businesses are saving £bns a year due to the Government’s Simplification programme, which aims to get rid of unnecessary paperwork - saving firms time, money & hassle. The summary report, published by the Better Regulation Executive, detailes how more than 280 changes to regulations have helped save UK businesses around £2.9bn a year so far.  
An independent panel including representatives from the business community has tested whether simplification measures were effectively communicated to businesses.  In May this year, this Panel again scrutinised the Government’s delivery and validates 77.5% of the Programme’s gross savings.  The Government claims to be on track to meet its target of cutting the administrative burden on businesses by 25% by May 2010 that will deliver an expected £3.3bn in annual net savings.
DH: The Department of Health has published an update on progress made in kidney care since the National Service Framework was developed 5 years ago.  It shows that the NHS has significantly improved diagnosis of kidney disease and treatment for those living with it.
It is estimated that 1 in 8 people in England are living with kidney disease with an increasing number of people being diagnosed each year.  With early diagnosis & good management, the lives of people living with kidney disease can be significantly improved.  
FSA: Since 2005, the Food Standards Agency has delivered annual savings of up to £380m to businesses & the public sector.  Details of which are published in the 2009/10 Simplification Report and Plan.  This is the fourth, and penultimate, report & plan in the current 5 year programme.
The Agency is on track to deliver a further £45m in administrative burden reductions by May 2010, from new record keeping guidance for farmers (£35m) and decision-making guidance to accompany the Meat Products Regulations (£9m).  This will bring total administrative burden reduction to £89m by the end of the current programme in May 2010.
DCSF: The DCSF's Better Regulation Unit has published its annual plan setting out how the Department is working to reduce bureaucracy.  The plan summarises current & forthcoming measures, as well as those carried out from May 2005 to December 2009.
DCSF: Children’s Minister Dawn Primarolo and Public Health Minister, Gillian Merron have welcomed the publication of the Teenage Pregnancy Independent Advisory Group’s sixth annual report and will be responding to all the recommendations next year.
OGC: The Office of Government Commerce (OGC) has published its Annual Statement - Working together: delivering value.  Around £220bn is spent by the public sector on third party goods & services each year and the OGC's collaborative procurement programme supports both central Whitehall departments and the wider public sector in maximising the value it achieves from this spend through a variety of approaches.
This includes championing & facilitating collaboration across the major areas of third party spend (such as energy & travel) and making the procurement process more efficient through the use of frameworks and e-procurement tools.

General Reports and Other Publications

NAO/MoD: The current defence programme is unaffordable, according to a report from the National Audit Office.  The Ministry of Defence has already reduced the deficit between the defence budget and planned expenditure by £15bn, but a shortfall of between £6bn and £36bn remains.  The financial crisis means a substantial increase in funding is unlikely and closing the gap will require bold action as part of the Strategic Defence Review, which is expected after the General Election.
To address the deficit the Ministry of Defence has reduced equipment numbers being bought on some projects and taken short-term decisions to slip other projects.  This short-term approach to savings will lead to long-term cost increases.
As part of its annual review of major defence projects, the NAO has found that the current cost of 15 major military projects has risen by £3.6bn, compared with the expected costs when the investment decisions were taken.  The total slippage, averaged over the 14 major projects with in service dates, is over two years per project.
DCSF: As part of the National Year of Reading last year, the Government launched 2 programmes aimed at encouraging more young people into reading for pleasure, targeted at boys aged 5 - 11 and all children aged 3 - 5. It also aimed to strengthen the partnership between primary schools, Early Years settings and public library services in England, with almost a million new books purchased as part of the £10m investment.
The evaluation, carried out by the Museums and Libraries Association (MLA), shows that:
* around 330,000 boys aged 5 - 11 were involved in activities as part of the Boys into Books campaign including reading groups, storytelling sessions and library visits
* over 1,100 primary schools and 2,600 Early Years centres have established new links with their local library for the first time, leading to a sharp increase in visits to libraries outside school hours
* as part of the Book Ahead programme, children aged 3-5 took part in over 4,500 storytelling session, 5,400 nursery rhyme time sessions and 1,600 book talks
BISHigh-level Principles on scientific advice to Government to ensure effective engagement between the Government and those who provide independent science & engineering advice have been published by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.  The Principles cover trust, respect, independence, transparency & openness and aim to clarify the relationship between advice & policy, as well as strengthen public trust in the process (see press release for details).
The Government welcomes views on these Principles and on wider issues relating to the use of science and engineering advice by Government, as part of the consultation on the GCSA’s Guidelines for the Use of Scientific Analysis in Policy Making (which runs until 9 February 2010).
CO: A new report from the Social Exclusion Task Force - Learning from the Past: Tackling worklessness and the social impacts of the recession - argues that beating the social impacts of recession is crucial in preventing the downward spiral into long-term worklessness that the country has seen in the past.
The report outlines how previous recessions have resulted in not just rising unemployment, but also increases in crime, mental health problems and family & relationship breakdown.  It highlights the social impacts of previous recessions and how this time round (despite steeper falls in GDP) labour market effects have been less severe than in the past.  It also sets out what a 'Total Place' approach to worklessness and the social impacts of the recession would look like.
MoJ: The report of an inquiry into the death of Bernard Lodge, who died at HMP Manchester on 28 August 1998 has been published by Claire Ward.  Bernard Lodge (who was also known as Sonny Lodge) died at Manchester Prison on 28 August 1998. The inquest into his death was held in 2001.  The verdict was that Mr Lodge killed himself.
Mr Lodge's family argued that the inquest was insufficient to meet the requirements of the European Convention on Human Rights and the Ministry of Justice commissioned an independent investigation to examine the circumstances in which Mr Lodge took his own life and to see whether there are lessons to be learned that might contribute to the care of prisoners at risk of suicide & self-harm.
Ofsted: Ofsted has released the findings of a 3-year inspection programme looking at improvement in education for sustainable development in a selection of schools. The small-scale survey, which followed a group of schools over a 3-year period, reveals that a focus on sustainable development is not only having a direct impact on the actions of pupils and their families, but on the wider community as well.  It also shows that schools themselves are reaping benefits from improved provision through cost savings and better behaviour.
The report - Education for sustainable development: improving schools – improving lives - showcases examples of effective teaching & learning and the positive impact it is having on pupils’ increasingly responsible attitude to sustainable development in the sample of schools. The report recommends that to meet the Government’s target for all schools to be sustainable schools by 2020, sustainability has to be a priority in all schools’ improvement plans.
Defra: Environment Secretary, Hilary Benn, has published the latest report on the progress the Government has made in implementing the recommendations of the Pitt Review on the 2007 floods.  The Flood and Water Management Bill, which will enable Pitt recommendations that require legislation to be implemented, has been introduced in the House of Commons.
Newswire – Chadwick: Sir John Chadwick has issued a second interim report that sets out:
* The scope of the work that will be required following his Revised Terms of Reference
* The case for adopting a 'flexible' approach to calculating policyholders' relative loss
* The list of questions that he will need to address in his final advice
Those wishing to make representations on Sir John's approach or to answer the questions he feels he may need to answer should send written comments to him by 29 January 2010.

Legislation / Legal

DCMS: A fast track Bill to restore public protections around the supply & classification of age-rated films and video games has been published. The Video Recordings Bill is designed to correct an anomaly that means the Video Recordings Act 1984 is not currently enforceable in UK courts.  The problem came to light in August 2009 when it was discovered there had been a failure to make a necessary technical notification to the European Commission before the 1984 Act became law.

EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.

ScotGov: European fishing nations have been urged to protect fish stocks by taking a leaf out of Scotland's book and to adopt similar practices to those set out in the pioneering Scottish Conservation Credits Scheme
At an event in Brussels, Ministers, government & EU officials, key European decision makers & fishing industry representatives heard from WWF Scotland fisheries experts about measures that included real time closures, gear regulations and trialling CCTV on board fishing boats.  The presentation was based on a new findings paper launched by WWF Scotland.
Defra: Some of Britain’s tastiest treats were on offer when Defra held a Christmas market to celebrate the best regional & speciality food this country has to offer and also highlight the benefits to food producers of applying for the EU’s Protected Food Name status. Defra ministers gathered with the producers & industry stakeholders to sample some of the best of regional & speciality foods – from Cornish pasties to Herefordshire Perry Cider – with a festive accompaniment from Defra’s choir.
There was good news on British pig meat too – the Pig Meat Supply Chain Task Force  has agreed to draw up a new code of practice for labelling pork & pork products, which will bring an end to ambiguous terms like ‘produced in the UK’, while pork labelled ‘British’ will mean that the animal was born, reared & slaughtered in Britain.

Charity and Voluntary Sector

DH: A new funding model designed to broaden & strengthen investment in volunteering in health & social care has been unveiled by Care Services Minister, Phil Hope. The Health and Social Care Volunteering Fund is intended to pave the way for a renewed focus on volunteering projects in the NHS & social care by managing the grants system centrally.
It replaces the Opportunities for Volunteering (OFV) scheme, which has been running since 1982.  The new scheme will continue to support local volunteering projects in health & social care and open up the floor to national projects to improve health & wellbeing. The scheme will be managed by a partnership including third sector bodies; Attend, Community Service Volunteers (CSV) and Prime Timers working with ECOTEC.
Applications for grants under the new Fund will open in January 2010.  The first round will be for local projects followed by a second round later in the year which will support national schemes.  Any third sector organisation wishing to run volunteering projects in the health or social care will be able to apply for funding.
ESRC: Greater government aid to overseas development charities does not discourage individual giving, according to new research funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).  Fears that increasing government grants would serve to ‘crowd out’ donations from individuals are unwarranted.  If anything, say researchers, the opposite is the case, with greater government grants to development charities appearing to encourage individual donors to give more.
Overseas development charities are highly dependent on donations from individuals.  In this new study, researchers from the Universities of Southampton, Oxford and Cass Business School examined how the level of donations to overseas development charities has changed over time, what kind of people give money to such charities & their reasons for giving, and how government policy affects people’s willingness to donate.
Findings show that donations to overseas development charities (excluding legacies) have grown at an average rate of 7.4% p.a. in real terms since 1978.  Government grants to overseas development charities increased tenfold between 1978 and 1994.
ESRC: With rising unemployment and fewer job vacancies, the current financial crisis has seen renewed policy emphasis in both Europe & the UK on volunteering as a route to employment, according to a new report from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).
‘The Value of Volunteering’ – which features contributions from academics, representatives from the UK government, third sector organisations & volunteers themselves – outlines fresh UK government initiatives to use volunteering to help people into jobs, and offers powerful examples of how volunteering can change people’s lives for the better. It also calls for more effective use of European Social Fund to incentivise providers to offer voluntary activity as a pathway to integration especially for groups furthest from the labour market.

Business and Other Briefings

BIS: A new review and a call for evidence to identify & address barriers to investment created by consents for development, other than planning permission, has been announced by Business Minister, Ian Lucas.
The independent review, which will look at consents for development made alongside or after planning permission for all sizes of projects, will be headed up by Adrian Penfold, and is part of the Government’s wider programme to improve the planning system and development process.  It is intended that it will report as part of the Budget in 2010, making recommendations on areas such as improving co-operation between agencies, removing bottlenecks in the process and improving the experience for the investor.
The call for evidence is aimed at all those with an interest in improving the operation of consents.  It offers the opportunity for all with an interest in this area to air their views.  The responses will provide evidence to enable the review team to gain a full & representative understanding of the consents environment, highlight key issues and to develop its overall analysis.
Defra: The new Automatic Licence Verification System (ALVS) which will reduce customs clearance times & paperwork for all companies who import flowers, plants, fruit & vegetables into England & Wales from outside the EU, will be launched on Tuesday 16 February 2010, Defra & HMRC have announced.  Final briefing sessions will take place at the Premier Inn Heathrow, Hounslow, Middlesex on Wednesday 6 January 2010 and Wednesday 10 February 2010.
Customs clearance times will now be reduced from 2 hours down to approximately 10 minutes as ALVS will electronically link HMRC’s ‘CHIEF’ and RPA & FERA’s ‘PEACH’ systems.  The introduction of ALVS also means that companies will no longer need to fax Conformity and Quarantine Release Certificates to HMRC’s National Clearance Hub for physical checks.
This brief explains how the Enterprise Investment Scheme rules apply where a company is carrying on the relevant trade, preparatory work or research and development in partnership.

Industry News

WAG: A pioneering new public transport service for rural Wales is now up & running thanks to funding from the Welsh Assembly Government.  The Bwcabus scheme, which operates between communities in north Carmarthenshire, the Teifi Valley and South Ceredigion, enables passengers to book bus rides from home (via the phone or internet) to link up with conventional bus & train services.
The project had been awarded almost £440,000 of European Convergence Funding from the Welsh European Funding Office.  WAG revenue support funding of £350,000 is being provided over 3 years, plus £159,000 in the form of a Transport Grant.  In addition, Carmarthenshire County Council is providing around £83,000.
DHStem cell researchers in the UK can now benefit from a new online resource that will allow them to plan a regulatory route for their research. The Medical Research Council’s mini-website known as the ‘UK Stem Cell Tool Kit’, will allow researchers to build a customised ‘map’ outlining all of the regulatory steps to take their ideas for a new treatment from the laboratory to patients.
Researchers will be asked 7 key questions.  Depending on their answers, a unique ’route’ generates on-screen, which provides them with all the regulatory requirements, information & points of contact within the relevant organisations to enable them to take their projects forward.  Welcoming the launch Dr Sandy Mather, Director of Regulation at the Human Tissue Authority (HTA), said: "For the first time scientists have access to a single resource that will help them navigate regulation from the bench to the clinic”.
ScotGov: First Minister Alex Salmond has welcomed the announcement of a joint-venture by Pelamis Wave Power, the Edinburgh technology developer, and Vattenfall, one of the largest utilities in Europe. The new venture, called Aegir, aims to develop the first wave power project off the Shetland Islands.

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