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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

 The Wired-Gov Team welcomes everyone back to what looks to be a very challenging New Year, with a newsletter that covers press releases over the Christmas holiday period
CLGWhat about doing the same for central government spending? - £bns of public money will be subject to increased scrutiny by citizens & councils, Communities Secretary John Denham has claimed.

Local Spending Reports provide information about how public money is being spent in local areas including money going to police & fire services, transport and health.  But at the moment if people want to see not only what is being spent, but also what that money is delivering they would need to trawl through an array of different data, reports & statistics.

Changes are being proposed to improve the way that local spending reports are produced & presented.  At the moment they exist as a series of ‘excel’ spreadsheets.  From summer 2010 they will be published online in a clear & user friendly format that will enable the data to be easily interrogated.

Greater transparency will make it easier to look right across all the local services in an area and spot evidence of duplication or waste.  It will help all local authorities to ‘health check’ whether public money going into the area is delivering value for money and delivering the very best services.  It will help more councils to follow the lead of the 13 local authorities currently involved in Total Place pilots.

The Places database already holds data for over 600 indicators at a number of spatial levels.  By March 2010 an improved mapping facility will allow users to look at spending in an area by clicking on & scrolling over high quality maps.
Defra/BISYet another problem for the next government - Ensuring food security is just as important to Britain’s future as energy supply, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Hilary Benn, told delegates at the recent Oxford Farming Conference, where he unveiled the Government’s food strategy - Food 2030.

Farming & food businesses contribute more than £80bn to the economy & represent the UK’s largest manufacturing sector, employing 3.6m people.  The Strategy sets out the challenges facing Britain in maintaining a secure food supply at a time of rapid population growth & climate change and following the big price increases seen in 2008 caused by droughts & the rise in the price of oil.

He also said that government & food businesses needed to support consumers by providing more accurate information about the origin & nutritional content of the food they buy and called on all retailers to sign up to the Pigmeat Labelling Code of Practice, due to be published in February 2010.

Also announced elsewhere by BIS, was the launch of a new science strategy (to help improve the security & sustainability of our food system) by the Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser Professor John Beddington.  The UK Cross-Government Strategy for Food Research and Innovation aims to provide the evidence to support effective, joined-up policies and ensure the development & dissemination of new knowledge, technologies & skills.

Delivering safe, affordable & nutritious food for a growing global population, whilst ensuring sustainability and coping with climate change will require a multi-disciplinary research approach.  The strategy sets out current & future programmes and highlights some past successes, good practice and where joint working is already strong, both on research projects & cross-cutting issues.
Defra press release ~ BIS press release ~ Food 2030 ~ Pigmeat Labelling Code of Practice ~ UK food security ~ BIS: Food ~ Foresight: Gobal Food and Farming Futures ~ Foresight: Land Use Futures ~ UK Cross-Government Strategy for Food Research and Innovation ~ EFRA Committee report on securing food supplies up to 2050 ~ International drivers of sustainable and secure food ~ Ensuring UK food security in a changing world ~ Council of Food Policy Advisors ~ United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation ~ Chatham House - UK Food Supply in the 21st Century: The New Dynamic ~ Strategy Unit report: ‘Food Matters: Towards a strategy for the 21st Century’ ~ Eldis – Food Security ~ FAO - Special programme for food security ~ Oxfam: Rethinking Food Security in Humanitarian Response ~ Global Food Trends - Overview ~ FIVIMS - Food Insecurity and Vulnerability Information and Mapping ~ Christian Aid: Fighting food shortages – Hungry for Change ~ Action Aid: Failing the Rural Poor ~ Mapping and Analysis of the Resilience of the Food Supply Chain in Scotland ~ ScotGov: Food and Drink information ~ ScotGov: Key Food Facts for Scotland 2009 ~ Scotland's new national food and drink policy ~ Food Security: The Role for the Scottish Government in Ensuring Continuity of Food Supply to And Within Scotland and Access to Affordable Food ~ ESRC funded: New Security Challenges ~ One World – Food Security

DH1 can only hope 1 gets the service 1 needs - A new FREE 3-digit number111 - making it ‘easier’ for patients to access non-emergency healthcare wherever they are, 24 hours a day, has been given the go ahead by Telecoms regulator Ofcom.  The new 111 service is intended to assess callers’ needs to ensure they receive the right service, first time.  It will route patients to a locally available service or provide appropriate advice & information.

When someone calls 111, they will be assessed straight away.  If it is an emergency, their call will be immediately passed to the ambulance service who will despatch an ambulance without the need for any further assessment.  For minor illnesses & injuries the 111 service will be able to provide immediate clinical advice. Should the caller need to see a GP, they will be referred to the nearest local centre.

The 111 service will be piloted by the local NHS in England in the North East, the East of England and the East Midlands from 2010 to evaluate the benefits to the public & the NHS, before potentially rolling it out nationally.  Health authorities in Scotland, Northern Ireland & Wales may consider whether to introduce the 111 service, following the outcome of the pilots in England.
HMRC:  Typical, they raise the allowance when only bankers can afford to buy anything! - The value of goods that travellers can now personally bring into the UK from a non-EU country, or receive through the post without needing to pay customs duty, has increased.
Travellers arriving in the UK by commercial sea or air transport from a non-EU country can now bring in up to £390 worth of goods for personal use (excluding tobacco & alcohol - which have separate allowances - and fuel) without paying customs duty or VAT.  Those arriving by other means, including by private plane or boat for pleasure purposes, can bring in goods up to the value of £270.

Individuals who buy goods over the internet or by mail order from outside the EU will now only be charged customs duty if the value of the package is above £135 and the actual amount of duty due is over £9.  Although the duty limits have changed, import VAT is still due on packages valued at over £18.  However, if a package is received as a ‘gift’, VAT will only now be charged if its value exceeds £40.
ScotGovWhen some supermarket alcoholic drinks are cheaper than bottled water - A group of Westminster MPs has followed the Scottish Government's lead and backed minimum pricing as a key weapon to tackle alcohol misuse.  The House of Commons' Health Select Committee's report on alcohol follows an investigation, which featured evidence sessions from contributors ranging from health experts to representatives from the alcohol industry & supermarkets.

Their recommendations call on the UK Government to introduce minimum pricing and new licensing rules modelled on ones already introduced in Scotland.  The Committee expressed 'concern' that UK Government policy was 'much closer to, and too influenced by, the drinks industry and the supermarkets than those of expert health professionals'.  

The report also rejects allegations by the alcohol industry & retailers that minimum pricing would harm moderate drinkers as 'not a serious argument' and dismisses claims that consumption levels are not affected by price as 'economic illiteracy'.
Newswire – HCTCIf the Treasury does not publish the facts, then the market will make up its own - The House of Commons Treasury Committee recently released its Report on the 2009 Pre-Budget Report (The Treasury’s Pre Budget Report was published on 9 December 2009).  The Report emphasises that a plan to restore the health of the public finances must deal with the structural deficit.

While the Treasury aims to cut the deficit from 9% of GDP to 3.6% of GDP in 4 years, the Committee notes that despite the Treasury's belief that the Pre-Budget Report contains sufficient detail about the way in which the structural deficit would be reduced, the expert witnesses it examined all criticised the document for not providing enough information about how this will be achieved.  In particular, the Committee sees no good reason for the Treasury failing to produce more detailed illustrative figures for future expenditure.  
For information on forthcoming public sector events please click HERE to visit the WGPlus Events Calendar

General News

HCA: The Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) has shortlisted 265 bids totalling nearly £550m in Round 2 of its Kickstart housing delivery programme.  Bidders include a mix of Registered Social Landlords (RSLs) along with national & local developers, aiming to unlock up to 22,000 homes across the country.
In contrast to Round 1 shortlisted bids, the profile of spend for Round 2 shows a shift towards HomeBuy Direct (HBD) which (according to the HCA) reflects an improved liquidity position for the major house builders, but also a continuing need to support first time buyers who face constraints on accessing mortgages.  
CABECABE has awarded £900,000 to support & strengthen 21 architecture & built environment centres in the next financial year. Applicants had to demonstrate that their proposal would increase public understanding & involvement in architecture & the built environment and help create better designed buildings, spaces & places.
DH: An innovative FREE Quit Kit which gives smokers the right tools to successfully stop smoking has been launche,d as new research shows that 44% of smokers in England have resolved to quit this New Year. It contains calming audio downloads, a stress toy and a tool to help smokers work out how much money they are saving by quitting.
FDA: The FDA has given a cautious welcome to the recent report from the Public Administration Select Committee (PASC) that a 'Top Pay Commission' be established to set clear principles & benchmarks for those determining pay for senior public sector officials.  The FDA is the union representing senior public sector managers & professionals.
ScotGov: The Scottish Government has approved plans for increasing levy charges collected by Quality Meat Scotland (QMS). The increases which come into effect from April 2010 are:
* Cattle 93p
* Sheep 13p
* Pigs 21p
Levy rates have remained unchanged since 2001 for cattle & sheep and since 1999 for pigs.  During that period, inflationary erosion (coupled with reducing numbers of livestock produced in Scotland) has impacted on QMS's spending power from levy.
Dstl: The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), the Ministry of Defence civilian scientists, working with the MOD Defence Clothing Project Team, has tested & trialled new multi-terrain camouflage clothing that has been proven to improve mission effectiveness across a range of different backgrounds.  It is the first time in 40 years the Armed Forces have changed the camouflage pattern.
Troops in Helmand, Afghanistan, operate in a mixed landscape: desert, woodland, mountainous, urban etc.  Dstl assessed whether a multi-terrain camouflage was better than the standard army woodland camouflage disruptive pattern material (DPM) or the desert DPM and if so what is the best pattern, or balance of colours.
The 2 current camouflage schemes were tested alongside an existing off-the-shelf multi-terrain camouflage to see which performed best across various backgrounds that soldiers are likely to encounter across the landscape in Afghanistan.  The results showed the Crye Precision Multicam performed the best, on average, across all the trials.
DH: People drinking spirits at home in England are giving themselves more than double (128% extra) what they would get in a pub if they ordered a single shot according to new figures revealed by the Know Your Limits campaign.  A series of experiments across England found that the average ‘home barman’ pours themselves 57ml when they drink a spirit such as vodka, gin or whisky – 32ml more than a standard single 25ml measure.
If that average English drinker knocked back 8 spirits drinks over a week at home, they would be drinking nearly half a litre (456ml) of vodka, gin or whisky, compared to 200ml if they’d ordered the same number of single measures in a pub or bar. These extra sips equate to 17 units instead of 7.5 units over a week – which can make all the difference for people who might wrongly think they are drinking within the NHS recommended limits of 2-3 units a day for women and 3-4 units a day for men.
The experiments also suggested that the size of your wine glass really does matter.  When asked to pour the equivalent of one unit into a large wine glass (250ml), the average amount poured was 157ml, compared to the correct amount at 13% ABV of 76.25ml.  In a smaller wine glass (175ml), it was 131ml, which is still 55ml over the correct amount at 13% ABV.
DFID: A pioneering new vaccine that provides more effective protection against the 2 remaining strains of polio is being used for the first time in the world in Southern Afghanistan. The new 'Bivalent' OPV vaccine (bOPV) has been developed over the last 12 months by the World Health Organisation, with the support of funding from the UK's Department for International Development.
A clinical trial that compared bOPV with the traditional oral poliovirus vaccine found that for both types 1 & 3 polio, bOPV was at least 30% more effective.  The new bOPV vaccine delivers the benefits of both in one package. This will vastly simplify and potentially accelerate vaccination & eradication efforts in war-ravaged countries like Afghanistan as well as in countries with weak health systems, such as in sub-Saharan Africa. The roll-out of the bOPV is part of DFID's new £100m drive to tackle polio over the next 5 years.
DH: People who are worried about debt, housing & employment can get practical & emotional support from a new NHS helplineNHS Stresslinecallers will receive practical information & advice from trained health advisors.  If they are suffering from stress, anxiety or depression, they will be directed to a wider package of financial & mental health support.  The Stressline number is 0300 123 2000 and it is open daily from 8am-10pm
The helpline, which has been successfully piloted, is linked to the Government’s flagship Talking Therapies programme and will be the focus of a new public awareness campaign in early 2010.
BIS: An extra bank holiday will be part of the celebrations to mark Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012. The holiday will involve moving the late May Bank Holiday to Monday 4 June and adding an extra bank holiday on Tuesday 5 June to form a long weekend of celebration.  In keeping with the Queen’s Silver & Golden Jubilees, a Diamond Jubilee medal will be issued to mark the occasion (further details to be announced).  
A UK-wide competition for towns to bid for city status will be launched in Spring 2010.  In addition, the Queen has agreed to confer Royal Borough status on the London Borough of Greenwich to mark the Jubilee.  This rare honour is to be bestowed in recognition of the close links between Greenwich & Royalty, from the Middle Ages to the present day.  It also acknowledges the Borough’s global significance as the home of the Prime Meridian, Greenwich Mean Time and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
ScotGov: After 3 weeks of sub-zero temperatures, people are being asked to spare a thought for the birds that need help to survive the wintry weather. Finding food and ensuring they eat enough of it to build (& maintain) adequate fat supplies to store on the body and 'burn' for energy is the greatest test for wild birds in winter.  And the food & water that people provide can mean the difference between life & death for many. 
RSPB Scotland is asking people to follow a simple six-point 'wild bird winter survival plan' that will help wildlife during the harshest weather (see press release for details). The plea came as the Scottish Government introduced a temporary statutory suspension on wildfowling to help certain species of ducks, geese & waders get through the persistent freezing conditions.
MoD: The MoD and the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) have completed the most comprehensive study to date of Armed Forces veterans in prison. The study, carried out by the Defence Analytical Services and Advice (DASA) arm of the MOD, compared records on approximately 1.3m Service leavers with a database of all remand & sentenced prisoners in England & Wales aged 18 & over.  It found that ex-Service personnel make up just under 3% of offenders in prison.
The next stage in this project will be to evaluate the ex-Service prison population in terms of age, gender, Service branch, length of service, rank, deployment history, time since discharge, and offence type. This qualitative analysis will ensure that resources & support can be better targeted at those who need them.
The MoD will share the findings of this study with the Howard League for Penal Reform and work closely with Sir John Nutting QC and his team to inform the independent inquiry into former Armed Forces personnel in prison which was launched in November 2009. The final report will be published on Armistice Day in 2010.
LLUKLifelong Learning UK is supporting the development of a qualification for educational communication support workers. The DCSF have funded a consortium, I-Sign, to support the development of educational services for deaf children, young people & their families.  
Working together with LLUK and educational communication support worker organisations, the National Association for Tertiary Education for Deaf people and The Association of Communication Support Workers, Signature is supporting the development of a pathway within the Level 3 Certificate in Learning Support qualification.  An online consultation & regional events will take place in January 2010.
OFT: The Office of Fair Trading has referred UK local bus services, excluding London & Northern Ireland, to the Competition Commission (CC).  This decision follows consultation on the results of an OFT market study into the industry, which found evidence that limited competition between bus operators tends to result in higher prices & lower quality for bus users and may represent poor value for money for taxpayers.
The study identified a number of features of local bus markets that could prevent, restrict or distort competition.
The study also found evidence that fares are higher in those areas where operators with a strong market position are not challenged by a large, well-resourced rival. The CC will now conduct a detailed public investigation and reach its own conclusions. 
Newswire – RSA: Plans for a national register of social housing tower blocks in England have been outlined by the Tenant Services Authority (TSA). It will hold details on ownership, the number of properties and the age of the tower block.  It will also list the date of the last fire risk assessment and the date of the next assessment. The TSA will begin collecting data from housing associations in February 2010.
DfTDrivers will be warned about the potential effects of medicines in a new THINK! campaign - studies in the UK suggest that the presence of medicines in drivers killed in road accidents is around 6%. 1m leaflets will be distributed through 2,600 Boots stores, while medicine bags will be labelled with stickers prompting drivers to check with their doctor or pharmacist that they are safe to drive while taking their medicines.  If this campaign is successful it will then be rolled out to other pharmacies nationwide.

Policy Statements and Initiatives

MoD: The Defence Secretary, Bob Ainsworth, has announced a new initiative which will help families who have lost loved ones in the Armed Forces. The Royal British Legion (TRBL) will offer a free Independent Legal Advice Service to bereaved Service families. TRBL’s legal advisers will be available to give information & guidance (in particular about the inquest process) to ensure that families are fully prepared. It will be in place in the late Spring/early Summer of 2010, once the necessary staff are recruited & trained.
The initiative was conceived after TRBL and the War Widows Association of Great Britain organised a forum for Service families to talk about their experiences. Feedback from this forum showed that families felt there was an absence of independent expert legal advice. Partially funded by the MOD, it will initially be available for a 2-year trial period and will be carefully evaluated during this time to check that it is successfully meeting the needs of families.
DH: Details of a £20m 3-year pilot scheme from April 2010 to explore a more personalised way of meeting the health needs of Thalidomide survivors have been announced. Under the scheme, the Department of Health will provide the Thalidomide Trust with grant funding which will be distributed amongst survivors to help meet their health needs and minimise any further deterioration of their condition.
The Trust will use its extensive expertise & knowledge of the needs of its members to inform the 3-year pilot that is likely to give ‘thalidomiders’ more control over their long-term health needs.  The pilot proposal sets out clear principles for use of the money and the scheme will be evaluated to explore how the health needs of thalidomiders can be best met in the longer term.  The funding has been found from existing health budgets.
DefraDefra, the Environment Agency and Welsh Assembly Government have published River Basin Management Plans (RBMP) for 10 river basin districts in England & Wales.  The plans set out how good water status will be achieved for each lake, stretch of a river, estuary or coastline.
Currently the most common causes of water pollution are run off from rural & urban land and discharge of waste water from industry & sewage overflows.  The Government / Environment Agency is working closely with farmers, businesses & water companies to reduce pollution and improve water quality.
ScotGov: In a detailed response to the European Commission's Green Paper on reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), the Scottish Government has set out its vision to deliver improvements now (& in the future) for Scotland's fishing fleets and fish stocks. 
The Green Paper offers countries the opportunity to set out their principles on European fisheries policy, with detailed negotiations on the future of the CFP set for 2010 & 2011. In their submission, Ministers reiterated their belief that the CFP should be scrapped rather than reformed.  They stated that even if Scotland remains part of the CFP then powers must be returned to Member States to allow them to co-operate on a regional basis to help bring an end to the damage inflicted by Europe's most unpopular policy.
DfT: Transport Secretary Andrew Adonis predicted ‘2010 will be the year of high-speed rail in the UK’ on the day he received what could prove to be a landmark report for the future of transport in this country, from High Speed Two (HS2) (the company set up to advise the Government on the development of high-speed rail services between London & Scotland).
The report from HS2 presents a detailed route plan for the first stage of a north-south high-speed line, from London to the West Midlands, as well as options for extending high-speed services (& high speed lines) to destinations further north, including the North West, the East Midlands, Yorkshire, the North East and Scotland.
If the Government decides to pursue proposals for high-speed rail, it will publish a white paper by the end of March 2010, which will set out detailed plans for new high-speed rail lines & services, including route proposals, timescales and associated financial, economic & environmental assessments.  This would be followed by a full public consultation starting in the Autumn of 2010.
The Government will not publish the HS2 report in advance of its own response, as to do so would cause unnecessary blight in respect of options identified but not taken forward.  The HS2 reportwill be published alongside the Government response.
DCSF: Ed Balls last week joined forces with Sarah Brown, Henry Winkler (aka The Fonz), First News and Pritt at No.10 Downing Street to launch a campaign focused on improving attitudes towards children with SEN and building their self-esteem.  The campaign is funded jointly by First News, the Department for Children Schools and Families and Pritt (Henkel UK), together with Walker Books and supported by The Teaching Awards.
The First News My Way! campaign will run in First News, the children’s weekly newspaper and will be fronted by Henry Winkler.  Henry’s dyslexia wasn’t picked up until he was 30 and this has motivated him to change perceptions of SEN and inspire young people. 
The campaign will feature in First News from 22 January 2010 in a special edition sent to all schools throughout the UK, and run throughout this academic year concluding with a schools tour with Henry Winkler and First News editor Nicky Cox.
Newswire - 10 DS: The Government has published its strategy for ‘how to return the economy to strong, sustainable, long-term growth’.
DH: 20% of people don’t realise catching chlamydia can affect a woman’s fertility, according to a survey out last week.  The Populus survey of 2,000 young adults & parents shows that superficial knowledge and a casual attitude to the most prevalent STI in England could be risking the nation’s sexual health.  Last year alone nearly 60,000 15 - 24 year olds tested positive for the infection.
The study, conducted on behalf of the Department of Health and the Department for Children, Schools and Families marks the launch of a new advertising campaign – Chlamydia, Worth Talking About.  Supported by the National Chlamydia Screening Programme (NCSP), the campaign encourages greater acceptance of chlamydia screening among 15 - 24 year olds.
DCSF: Children’s Minister, Delyth Morgan, and Care Services Minister, Phil Hope, have reinforced the clear expectation for all local areas to deliver good quality mental health services for all children, including 24-hour cover for urgent mental health problems and child-only facilities for under-16s.
The Government is calling on all local areas to support children’s emotional wellbeing & mental health, as it publishes its response to the 20 recommendations in last-year’s independent review of Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).
DCMS: Sports Minister Gerry Sutcliffe has announced proposals to bring in new licence requirements for overseas-based online gambling firms who want to have a customer base in Britain. The plans, which will be subject to a consultation period, would mean that online operators currently licensed outside Britain will have to apply for a licence from the Gambling Commission if they want to advertise or provide their gambling services to British consumers.
The Government is considering what the plans mean for operators based in countries outside Europe – specifically in terms of the Government’s approved ‘whitelist’ of countries whose operators are able to advertise in the UK.  The Government intends to keep the ‘whitelist’ in some form and it will remain a fundamental part of any future regulatory system.  Proposals for any changes to the system will be included in the consultation.
Newswire – GEO: The Government Equalities Office has published details about how the socio-economic duty - a key part of the Equality Bill - will ‘transform the way public bodies work to narrow the gaps between rich & poor and make society fairer’.
The socio-economic duty - clause one of the Equality Bill - sets out a new legal duty on key public bodies, including central government & local authorities, to ensure they consider the impact that their strategic decisions will have on narrowing socio-economic inequalities.  
With the average life expectancy in the poorest areas of the country up to 13 years shorter than in the most affluent areas, the new socio-economic duty will require public bodies to consider how they will reduce the barriers that hold people back, block aspirations and prevent people fulfilling their potential.
WAG: Plans to ‘revolutionise’ the Wales NHS’ computer systems, enabling health professionals to access important patient information quickly & securely, have been approved by Health Minister Edwina Hart. Backed by £2.5m of Welsh Assembly Government funding, the new system - known as The Welsh Clinical Portal - will give one view of the information held about the patient, making it easier for healthcare staff to provide better care.
The first phase of the portal, which has been successfully piloted at some hospitals, gives faster secure access to existing information. Healthcare professionals at these sites are now able to request tests and view results electronically.  Other systems recently approved as part of this programme include the patient’s website My Health Online announced earlier this week.
ScotGov: The Scottish Government has published its response to the Spencer Report into the circumstances surrounding Brian Martin's abscond from the Open Estate in May 2009. The response shows that, of the 9 recommendations for change made by Professor Spencer, the Scottish Prison Service has accepted 7 - with 2 already implemented.
The remaining 2, longer term, recommendations will be considered alongside the findings of research currently being carried out into the rehabilitative effects of temporary and early release. Recommendations to further tighten the assessment process for moving prisoners to open conditions are already being put in place by the Scottish Prison Service.


ScotGov: The Scottish Government is consulting (closes on 12 February 2010) on changing the law to allow public notices to be advertised online in place of newspapers. The move will allow councils to use a new public information notices portal, saving £ms and enhancing local information services about the area. Public Information Notices (PIN) are announcements that local authorities are legally required to publish.  There are 2 types of Public Information Notices:
* Statutory Notices give required notice of an intended action, such as road closures, construction, licensing and planning developments
* Public Notices inform people of changes to services, such as refuse collection
The portal will publish PINs across Scotland on a single website.  Users will be able to click on a map of Scotland to see listings of public notices in any area, satellite imagery of the location and information on the issues involved.
Defra: A new scheme to reduce the amount of non-packaging agricultural plastics (NPAP) such as silage wrap & crop covers going to landfill has been proposed by Defra, the Scottish Government and the Welsh Assembly Government in a consultation (closes on 25 February 2010).
Every year around 83,000 tonnes of waste NPAP is generated on farms in Britain.  Until legislation was introduced in 2006 around 80% of this waste was disposed of by uncontrolled burning or burying on farmland, which created environmental hazards.  As the majority of waste NPAP from farms now ends up in landfill, Government has been working with affected industries looking at ways of dealing with these materials in a more sustainable way.
NICE: The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) is currently appraising the use of pemetrexed for the maintenance treatment of non-small-cell lung cancer. In its draft guidance does not recommend pemetrexed, however it has been issued for consultation (closes on 19 January 2010) and the manufacturer now has an opportunity to consider & respond to comments made by the independent Appraisal Committee.
CLG: New measures to help people get fairer treatment when building work goes wrong have been published as part of a consultation (closes on 19 March 2010) on boosting the professional standards for builders & tradesmen in approved competent person schemes.
There are 12 competent person scheme operators, including on glazing, heating, hot water, plumbing systems and electrical installations in homes.  Members of these schemes carry out over 2.5m jobs each year, freeing up consumers from having to pay building control bodies' fees to get work approved.
NE: A formal consultation on 4 proposed extensions to the Lake District and YorkshireDalesNational Parks is now underway (closes on 17 March 2010). It seeks views on whether the 4 proposed extensions (which lie between the current borders of the two National Parks) have the qualities necessary to be in a National Park.
In addition, the consultation seeks views on whether the Orton Fells, if designated, should be included within the Lake District National Park, or the Yorkshire Dales National Park. A series of events & meetings will be held across the area during January & February 2010, details of which are available on the website.
BIS: Consumer Minister Kevin Brennan has announced plans (consultation closes on 15 March 2010) to ban the use of an outdated law used to sell high-cost loansBills of sale are typically used for ‘logbook’ loans, which are secured against the value of the consumer’s car.
The number of registered bills of sale has risen over the years with nearly 40,000 being made between April 2008 and March 2009.  This equates to around £30m in loans to consumers. The Office of Fair Trading reports that more than 1,000 consumers have complained about problems with these loans and claims of losses total £1.47m in the last 4 years.
Complaints relate to the lack of protections available to people if they fall into arrears, unfair collection practices, the complex & confusing nature of the language used in the agreements and the excessively high cost of the loans.
WAG: Jocelyn Davies AM, Deputy Minister for Housing & Regeneration, has encouraged housing professionals & tenants to have their say on proposed new performance standards for Housing Associations in Wales.  A consultation (closes on 1 February 2010) on the governance & financial management of Housing Associations is available for comment on the Welsh Assembly Government website.
DCMSLive music performances for 100 people or less will no longer need to be licensed, under proposals (consultation closes on 26 March 2010) announced by licensing Minister Gerry Sutcliffe. Currently anyone wanting to put on live music must have a premises licence, a club premises certificate or a temporary event notice, although there are some exceptions for incidental, background music.
An exemption would ensure that all licensed premises such as pubs & clubs would be able to put on small scale live music, regardless of whether or not their existing licence included a provision for staging entertainment events. Unlicensed premises such as cafes, restaurants, village halls & record shops would also be able to host events without the need of for a licence.
However, to ensure that any concerns of people living close to venues are taken into account, the exemption would only apply to performances that are indoors and take place between 8am & 11pm. Residents and responsible authorities (such as the police) would have the power to call for an exemption to be revoked at a specific venue if there was cause for concern.
DH: A consultation (closes on 23 February 2010) to provide ‘fairer’ hospital car parking to patients has been launched by the Department of Health. The consultation outlines a range of options, including:
* giving all inpatients free hospital car parking for their visitors, or only after a long stay
* giving access to free parking for outpatients who need to attend a series of appointments
* placing a cap on charges for priority outpatient groups who attend regular hospital appointments
Options looking at providing better subsidised charges for priority outpatient groups, such as cancer patients and those attending multiple outpatient appointments, would also be phased in over the next 3 years, as efficiency savings from back-office costs & reducing bureaucracy allow.
DfT: Rail passengers will be given a chance to have their say on proposals to introduce a new tram offering a regular service between Watford & St Albans with the launch of a consultation (closes on 30 March 2010). 
The plans would enable passengers to travel on a regular half-hourly tram and allow for the possibility of an even greater frequency of 3 trams per hour, providing a better service for the 450,000 passengers a year who use the line, which currently operates on an irregular schedule, with just 1 train every 45 minutes.
Depending on the outcome of the consultation and the completion of legal & contractual issues, the new service could be up and running in late 2011. The new service is also dependent on Network Rail agreeing to transfer control of the line & stations to Hertfordshire County Council on a long-term lease.
DfT: A consultation on the use of small electric personal vehicles has been launched by Transport Secretary, Andrew Adonis. It seeks views on the principle of changing the law to permit the use of small electric personal vehicles (EPVs) on public roads & cycle tracks.  It does not include consideration of their use on pedestrian footways or footpaths.
The Department for Transport has also launched a consultation on electrically-assisted pedal cycles.  The proposals in this consultation will provide greater clarity for consumers on whether a product is considered to be an electrically-assisted pedal cycle or a motor vehicle.  It also addresses harmonising our regulations with European standards. Both consultations close on Tuesday 30 March 2010.
DH: Proposals that would allow the dispensing of generic medicines instead of branded medicines in primary care, hopefully resulting in long term savings for the NHS, have been set out by the Department of Health for consultation (closes on 30 March 2010). These proposals would mean in some cases, a patient’s medicine might look slightly different to the one they were previously used to.  However, the drug itself would be the same.
Doctors are free to prescribe branded or generic medicines, which pharmacists dispense to patients.  Pharmacists will be able to dispense generic medicines instead of branded products unless otherwise stated on the prescription form.  There will be consultation events and details of these will be published on the NHS Primary Care Commissioning website.
CRC: As part of the Digital Britain agenda, the Department for Business Innovation and Skills has launched a consultation (closes on 1 April 2010) on how the funds raised by the proposed landline duty should be allocated.
The consultation is aimed at seeking feedback on a number of specific questions regarding the proposed Next Generation Fund, including the approach to the procurement processes and the technology solutions that will be eligible.  The Commission for Rural Communities is encouraging all rural stakeholders to respond to the consultation.

Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides

DH: Parents have backed the Chief Medical Officer’s (CMO) advice that children should avoid alcohol completely before the age of 15. The CMO’s guidance for parents, children & young people is based on the most comprehensive ever review of the scientific evidence and follows an extensive public consultation.
The final guidance is the first time advice on children & alcohol has been set out for parents and will be the basis of a new national campaign on alcohol & children to be launched by the Department for Children School’s and Families.  The campaign will provide support & advice to parents & young people on the effects & harms of alcohol.
NICE: A new treatment which could extend the lives of a specific group of cancer patients will be available on the NHS.  In the final draft of guidance National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), the drug, trabectedin is recommended as a treatment for certain patients with advanced soft tissue sarcoma.
This draft recommendation has been made possible after the drug manufacturer, PharmaMar, agreed to meet the costs of the drug if it is needed beyond the fifth cycle of treatment.  The independent appraisal committee also applied NICE’s criteria for evaluating life-extending, end of life treatments.
In line with the NICE technology appraisals process this final draft of the guidance is now with consultees who have the opportunity to appeal against the proposed recommendation. NICE has not yet issued final guidance to the NHS.  Final guidance will be published in 2010.
DH: Over 300 of the 1,500 babies born this New Year’s Day could be overweight or obese by the time they start school unless action is taken.  The revelation comes as Start4Life - a new campaign to support pregnant women & parents of babies to give their baby a healthier start in life – was launched.
The campaign is part of Change4Life, the mass movement which launched a year ago and which is helping families ‘eat well, move more and live longer’. Start4Life centres around 6 ‘building blocks’, based on the latest infant health research, to help parents know what’s right for their baby. A short film showing one of the famous Change4Life plasticine characters being moulded by a mum will be screened in antenatal clinics and on Baby TV to raise awareness of the campaign.
BIS: A new guide for parents of recent graduates (written by award winning career coach Denise Taylor) has been launched by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.  The guide aims to help parents support graduates in their search for work and understand the support available.
HL: If you are sleeping rough or someone contacts you asking for advice on where they can spend the night, please contact the local street outreach team. The list of which Outreach Team covers which area can be found on Homeless London. There are also some Winter Shelters open. 
ScotGov: Scotland's Rural Affairs Secretary, Mr Lochhead, has praised farmers throughout Scotland in battling the worst weather conditions experienced in decades. Problems being experienced include frozen water in buildings & outside drinking troughs, frozen diesel, difficulties in delivering food to animals and collecting milk. Shed roofs have collapsed under the weight of snow and slurry tanks are apparently nearing capacity as farmers are unable to spread their contents.
He said: "Throughout rural Scotland farmers and land managers have been putting aside their own comfort to help neighbours and communities.  Examples abound of farmers clearing roads, getting in vital supplies for neighbours and ensuring the elderly are cared for”.
Newswire – RAFC: Broken your New Year fitness regime already?  New trainers made their way to the back of the cupboard? Then why not take a few tips from those in the know at RAF Careers.  This week, their top fitness experts have launched a fitness guide to help you get 'fit for life' in 2010.

The exclusive guide is based on training techniques used by RAF personnel, and is designed to be a long-term solution to fitness & wellbeing, rather than a quick-fix or fad. Fit for Life, which is downloadable from the RAF website, has been supplemented by a range of fitness information, including a short video with two of the RAF’s Physical Training Instructors.

Annual Reports

ScotGov: Launching his 4th annual report, Scotland’s CMO, Dr Harry Burns, highlighted for the first time mental health & wellbeing and its relationship to physical health - and how a healthy childhood is the foundation of both. Stressing the importance of consistent parenting, Dr Burns' report cites evidence that a healthy start equips children with the tools to live a healthier life, both physically & mentally.
The report examines some of the mental health issues that can contribute to chronic stress, hampering people's ability to make healthier choices. It goes on to consider why Scotland appears to be less healthy than other countries with similar levels of deprivation and asks why more Scots are not motivated to adopt healthy habits.
HSE: The Pesticide Residues Committee (PRC) has published findings from the Department of Health's School Fruit and Vegetable Scheme for Summer Term 2009. The third & final report for the school year 2008/9 found that the fruit & vegetables supplied to schools met legal standards with regard to pesticide residues levels and that the presence of residues would be unlikely to have any effect on those who ate the food.
IfL: The Institute for Learning (IfL) has published its first report into the continuing professional development (CPD) undertaken by teachers & trainers throughout the further education & skills sector.  Following the end of the first full year in which IfL members were asked to share details of their CPD with their professional body, IfL and a team of expert reviewers from the sector carried out a review process, the findings of which form the basis of the report.
In addition to providing high-level information & data from more than 116,000 CPD declarations received, the report offers in-depth analysis of the evidence provided by a representative sample of members.  Nearly 600 members were asked to send IfL their CPD evidence portfolios, which were analysed in detail by a team of expert peer reviewers, all IfL members.

General Reports and Other Publications

DCSF: The Children’s Secretary has launched a revamped version of the successful Real Meals cookbook, ‘bursting’ with delicious & nutritious recipes, which has been sent to over 500,000 11-12 year olds in the last year alone.
The new cookbook is FREE to all year seven pupils as part of the Government's wider fight against childhood obesity. The Government's Healthy Weight, Healthy Lives strategy, published in January 2008, aims to reduce the proportion of overweight & obese children by 2020.  School Food offered in primary, secondary and special schools has to meet mandatory nutrient-based standards.
NAO: Whitehall initiatives to revive former coalfield communities have helped to make them more attractive places to live & work, but many remain among the most deprived areas in England and opportunities to help train local people & promote local businesses have been missed, the National Audit Office has reported.
The regeneration effort has 3 strands, the:
* National Coalfields Programme - to decontaminate & find uses for former coalfield sites
* Coalfield Regeneration Trust - to provide grants to community projects
* Enterprise fund - to support businesses
The NAO found there is no overall strategy to coordinate the 3 initiatives and each reports & accounts for its work in isolation.  A forum established in 2007 to co-ordinate efforts across Whitehall has met only 6 times, is poorly attended and has no substantive actions to date.
Ofsted: The longer children stay in care the more likely that all contacts with their parents, siblings, grandparents & friends are lost.  Once children have been in care for over 2 years, they have much less contact with their birth family and for those who have been in care for over 6 years all contact is most likely to be lost.
The report - Keeping in touch - published by Children’s Rights Director, Roger Morgan, surveyed the views of nearly 400 children & young people about keeping in touch & losing contact with their families & friends whilst in care.
HO: Following the commitment made on 22 October 2009, the Home Secretary has published his more detailed response to the HM Inspectorate of Constabulary crime counts review. The response was agreed with the Justice Secretary and the president of ACPO, chief constable Sir Hugh Orde.
CQC: The Care Quality Commission has published a 5-year plan outlining how it will drive up standards on behalf of people with learning disabilities.  This is in direct response to the inpatient follow up review which was also published in December 2009.
Key to driving improvement will be building intelligence networks, within services, representative groups and other relevant organisations.  This will feed into the regulator's picture of services and direct where inspections should take place.
BISSkills accounts (which are currently being piloted by the Government) will be rolled out in autumn 2010, and have been assessed in a recent report, which also shows that this kind of support is benefiting learners by providing information about courses & Government funding for training, and access to information, advice & guidance.
ESRC: The police service faces a host of new challenges, but also opportunities in the wake of the 9/11 and 7/7 terrorism attacks and the global economic downturn. The issues are raised in a new Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) publication: What is policing for? Examining the impact and implications of contemporary policing intervention, which highlights the views of experts presented during a Public Policy Seminar series organised by the ESRC in collaboration with the Scottish Institute for Policing Research, The Police Foundation, and the Universities' Police Science Institute.
In the booklet, seminar speakers draw on latest research findings to offer their answers to crucial questions such as:
* How responsive should policing be to community priorities & concerns?
* Can & should the police solve more crime?
* What is the role for policing in securing economic & social well-being?
CQCMid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust is making progress, but the pace of change needs to increase, the Care Quality Commission has said in a recent report. CQC's predecessor, the Healthcare Commission published a report following an investigation into mortality rates in emergency care at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust in March 2009.

In September 2009 CQC made a number of unannounced visits to carry out the second of its three formal progress checks at the trust at 3, 6 and 12 month intervals.
HO: The UK Border Agency has published 'Working in Partnership with Stakeholders', a document outlining some principles to help them, their stakeholders and other partners work together effectively. It updates & revises the joint statement 'Our Relationship with External Stakeholders', which was published in 2006 to provide a general framework for nurturing productive relationships.
The joint statement was published following the 2006 review of the Immigration and Nationality Directorate (the agency's predecessor), which highlighted the need to improve stakeholder relationships. The core principles are based on their experience of what has & has not been working well, and on feedback from their stakeholders.
NAO: The Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) has increased the number of dangerous commercial vehicles that it removes from the roads from 28,900 in 2007-08 to 36,500 in 2008-09, but the Agency could make better use of its resources and the effectiveness of its roadside checks is constrained according to a new National Audit Office report.
Newswire – CSFC: The Government should step back and allow schools the freedom to take ownership of their improvement, concludes the Children, Schools and Families Committee in a report published last week.  Schools feel ‘coerced and constrained’ and the Committee warns against the complexity which results from serial policy initiatives and overlapping accountability structures.
Ofsted has grown enormously, and the Committee questions whether its remit is sustainable for a single organisation in the long term.  It recommends that Ofsted's inspection framework should place less weight on test results and more on the quality of teaching & learning observed in the classroom. HMI inspectors are well respected & highly rated, and the Committee believes that Ofsted should plan to have HMI inspectors lead all inspections.  All inspectors should be rigorously trained to the highest standard.
WAG: The Minister for Heritage, Alun Ffred Jones, has welcomed the positive findings of the latest Wales tourism survey. The majority of visitors questioned went away with a very positive impression, with 92% rating their stay either very good or excellent and the average rating for a trip was 4.5 out of 5.

Legislation / Legal

ScotGov: The Scottish Government has dropped plans to bring in new legislation which could have led to charities acting as 'market operators' having to apply for a licence. The provisions were contained within the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Bill currently going through Parliament, based on recommendations from a Task Group set up by the previous administration which reported in 2004.
However, after concerns were raised by charities & community groups, Ministers have agreed that the plans should now not go ahead. Section 125 contains the element of the Bill concerning the removal of the exemptions from the requirement for market operators licences for churches, charitable & similar organisations.  The Government will lodge amendments to remove this proposal at Stage 2 of the Parliamentary process, expected to begin in February/March 2010.
MoJ: The Ministry of Justice has published a set of reforms that ‘aim to rebalance the legal aid budget to ensure that the £2.1bn currently spent every year goes as far as possible in favour of civil help for those who need it most’. The reforms intend to make better use of the criminal legal aid budget and include changes that rationalise payment structures.
In addition to these reforms, the MoJ will pursue a 2nd round consultation to explore reforms to Crown Court advocates fees.  On average, advocates acting for the prosecution receive 18% less pay than if they were acting for the defence, which could be creating an incentive for barristers to favour defence work over prosecution work.  A separate response to the proposals on experts' fees will be published in January 2009.
HO: A range of former so called ‘legal highs’ including GBL, BZP and man-made chemicals sprayed on herbal smoking products such as ‘Spice’ are now illegal. In addition, 15 anabolic steroids, testosterone-like products often used by sports people and increasingly being used by the general public for their growth promoting properties, are to be controlled as Class C drugs, alongside two growth promoters, following advice from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD).
WAG: New regulations governing the electronic tagging of sheep came into force on 31 December 2009.  While the UK’s campaign to make sheep tagging voluntary was ultimately unsuccessful, Rural Affairs Minister, Elin Jones has taken every opportunity to minimise the impact of sheep tagging regulations on Welsh farmers and has secured a number of key concessions from the full regulations.
This means that Welsh lambs under 12 months old that are intended for slaughter in the UK will be allowed to be tagged with a single non-electronic identifier.  This differs from the full EID which requires one visual & one electronic identifier and carries an individual number which must be recorded in flock records and (from 2011) on movement documents. Farmers can contact the central WAG helpline on 01267 245022 or email: for further advice.
DfTUtility companies who do not finish their road works on time will face increased charges under new plans announced by Transport Minister, Sadiq Khan MP. The current maximum daily charge is £2,500, but to encourage companies to complete works on time, increases to as much as £25,000 may be justified.
Also proposed are ‘lane rental schemes’ for those companies wanting to carry out works on the busiest roads and good practice guidance for councils & utility companies.  This guidance will outline how to make sure that those affected most by street works disruption are informed properly, for example, through working with bus companies to ensure that they can plan alternative routes and by text messaging residents & commuters affected by road works.
DefraDefra and the Welsh Assembly Government have added additional invasive non-native species to the list of those that cannot be introduced into the wild.  A total of 63 species will be added to the list, including wild boar, floating pennywort, the European Eagle owl and the Monk Parakeet.  

These are species that have the ability to spread in the wild, causing damage to the environment, economy, public health and the way we live. Changes to Schedule 9 will take effect from 6 April 2010.
HOSkilled migrants seeking to renew their visas will now be required to apply for a compulsory ID card, Border & Immigration Minister, Phil Woolas, has announced. Since the scheme was introduced in November 2008 for students renewing their visa under Tier 4 of the Points Based System (PBS) and people seeking to renew marriage visas, more than 130,000 cards have been issued.

From now on, the scheme will be extended to incorporate skilled foreign workers under Tier 2 of the PBS.  This brings the roll out forward from April 2010 and adds around 40,000 foreign nationals a year to those currently being issued with the cards.
ScotGov: New regulations laid in the Scottish Parliament last week will hopefully allow greater use of the private rented sector for rehousing those made unintentionally homeless. Local authorities will have the option to negotiate short assured tenancies with private landlords; ensuring stringent conditions are met in terms of informed consent, housing support and whether it is affordable to the tenant.
At the conclusion of a tenancy between 6 & 12 months, should the landlord & tenant agree to a renewal of the tenancy for a period of no less than 12 months, then this would constitute a discharge of duty by councils.
NESpecies re-introductions are widely regarded as an essential conservation technique and are employed worldwide with increasing frequency. A large number of governments – including those in Britain - are now legally obliged (under the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Habitats and Birds Directive), to consider the restoration of native species to their former range. In addition, well organised re-introduction projects can have a range of wider conservation benefits, which help to justify the substantial resources required to implement them.
Natural England has a regulatory role in species re-introductions in England.  They are responsible for licensing the taking of protected species from the wild for release elsewhere, consenting the collection of donor stock & releases on SSSIs, and, for certain listed species, licensing the release of animals into the wild.
In the last 20 years, 6 animals which had previously become extinct in England have been re-introduced: the red kite, corncrake, pool frog, large blue butterfly (all projects in which Natural England and its predecessors have been involved in), the osprey and great bustard. Natural England is currently considering the re-introduction of three species: white-tailed eagle, hen harrier and short-haired bumblebee.

EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.

DCMS: Better consumer protection and a formal industry-led co-regulatory system will be introduced for the first time as common standards for video-on-demand services are adopted across Europe. The new measures are part of the European Union Audio Visual Media Services (AVMS) Directive which was implemented on 19 December 2009.
Under the Directive, the UK has an obligation to make sure video-on-demand services meet new cross-EU standards, with Member States encouraged to adopt a co-regulatory solution. This means the system of regulation is owned & run by the video-on-demand industry, but with backup powers for the Government or a national authority to intervene if need be.
A further compulsory element of the AVMS Directive is to prohibit product placement, which is already the case in the UK.  However the Directive allows Member States to bring in certain exceptions in certain types of TV programme (DCMS recently held a public consultation on this issue).  In addition, under the Directive television channels based in the UK, which broadcast solely across the internet, are now required to get a license from Ofcom, making the regulations standard across all platforms.
BIS: New powers preserving the pint & the mile came into force on 1 January 2010 and the new legislation ensures that any business that uses imperial units alongside metric can continue with business as usual. In 2009, Britain successfully negotiated an indefinite exemption from EU laws which would otherwise have meant British businesses having to produce separate metric & imperial labels for different markets.
The change also means the UK alone can decide on the future of the pint of beer, cider & milk, the mile on road signs and the troy ounce for precious metals.
BIS: New legislation, designed to ensure that all waste industrial & automotive batteries are recycled in the future, came into effect on 1 January 2010. Producers of industrial & automotive batteries are required to arrange the collection, treatment & recycling of such batteries, free of charge, if requested by business end-users and final holders.
The regulations also introduce targets for the collection & recycling of portable (mainly household) batteries of 25% by 2012, and at least 45% by 2016. Producers who place more than 1 tonne of portable batteries on the market in a year must join a Battery Compliance Scheme (BCS) which will arrange for the collection & recycling of waste portable batteries on their behalf.
BIS: UK consumers will be able to shop for services in Europe with renewed confidence following Consumer Minister, Kevin Brennan’s, launch of a new free service informing them of their rights. The European Consumer Centre for Services (ECCS) is a website & telephone service which provides general information on consumer laws & rights when buying a service in other European countries.  The portal will also have contact details of organisations that could provide practical assistance in the case of dispute.
The services that UK consumers can get advice on include:
* Tourism services such as hotels, timeshares & car hire
* Construction services such as architects, builders, electricians & plumbers
* Estate agents & letting agents
* Private education providers such as language schools
* Accountancy services & lawyers
The ECCS will be linked to the existing European Consumer Centre (ECC) which deals with consumers that have bought goods or services in Europe and have a problem with that contract.  Both offer advice on rights when buying from another country in the European Economic Area – the European Union, plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.

Charity and Voluntary Sector

CO: A refreshed Compact has been launched by the Compact partnership consisting of the Office of the Third Sector, Compact Voice and the Commission for the Compact. It retains the key commitments of the original but takes into account recent developments in law, policy & practice.  It is divided into 3 key areas covering involvement in policy development, allocating resources and advancing equality.  It consists of 95 commitments: 62 for government and 33 for the third sector. 
The new structure in the Compact is based on an overall set of undertakings and this will be backed up by a series of implementation guidance for specific audiences, sectors or types of relationship.  It therefore sets the overall framework for partnership working between government and third sector while the implementation guidance will be more specific in terms of addressing how the Compact can be implemented effectively at a local or grassroots level.
DH: With many older people living alone and more than 180,000 saying they have gone for a whole week without speaking to friends, family or neighbours, Care Service Minister Phil Hope is asking the public to make a New Year’s resolution to visit older neighbours more often. Social interaction can protect older people’s mental health, helping to do their shopping will prevent falls & injury and keeping an eye on their health will stop them developing serious health problems and ending up in hospital.

Business and Other Briefings

This Brief provides clarification of what HMRC mean by 'sole agent' in the context of the Marine Voyages Relief scheme (MVR).
New guidance on changes to the Income Tax credit for foreign dividends.

Industry News

Newswire – CABE: Rural communities are being encouraged to apply for funds to masterplan their growth in a sustainable way (closing date for bids - 15 January 2010). The new £1m competition is being run by Communities and Local Government and Defra.  The Rural Masterplanning Fund is a competition aimed at assisting local planning authorities to prepare sustainable masterplans for community extensions to rural market towns & villages.
It was announced by government as a response to the Taylor Review on rural communities in 2008, which recommended new policies for market towns at risk from unsympathetic development & homogenous housing estates.  Successful councils will receive advice from CABE and the Homes and Communities Agency to help their communities develop in an intelligent way, supporting a sustainable economy & transport system that enables more people to work locally and use local services.
DECC: Up to 125,000 households in England with working ‘G-rated’ boilers can now apply through the Energy Saving Trust for a voucher which will entitle them to £400 off the price of a new, modern ‘A-rated’ boiler, or a renewable heating system like a biomass boiler or a heat pump.
The Government’s Boiler Scrappage Scheme has already triggered some companies to complement (& in some cases match) the offer and it is expected others will follow suit.  People are advised to shop around to find the best deal which suits them before applying to the Scheme.  According to the HHIC, the average cost of a boiler and installation is around £2,500.
Newswire – IDeAIDeA,through the Healthy Communities programme (HCP), plans to support the preventative public health sector to understand where efficiency savings can be achieved and how to realise them.  It is currently asking local authorities & partnerships to work with them to trial this theory in practice.
The business case for health improvement rests on the distinction between prevention & cure.  For example, working with older people to maintain their independence and stay healthy will help reduce social services costs, as well as improve outcomes for residents.
The HCP has published a review - Valuing health: developing a business case for health improvement - which looks at the evidence & research on the financial & non-financial impact of health improvement. HCP are now seeking local authorities & partnerships to work with to test out this theory in practice.  Expressions of interest should be submitted by 19 February 2010.
LR: From 3 January 2010 Land Registry has withdrawn one of the methods used by lenders to discharge registered charges (mortgages).  The ENDs method (Electronic Notification of Discharge) has been in place for about 10 years, but it has been superseded by the more efficient & 100% electronic e-DS1 method which is available via the new Land Registry portal.  This change is in advance of the withdrawal of Land Registry Direct in Spring 2010.
Land Registry has informed affected lenders - most of whom are signing up for the new portal.  This means they'll be able to continue to discharge mortgages electronically via e-DS1.  Most e-DS1s are processed automatically by Land Registry systems and will provide an instantaneous completion of the discharge application.  
ScotGov: The Beauly - Denny power line upgrade has been approved on the basis that the upgrade will boost grid capacity along the line and help unlock Scotland's onshore & offshore renewables potential. There are over 50 potential projects totalling around 4.2 Gigawatts (GW) in the north of Scotland (66% of peak Scottish demand), that will further secure Scotland’s supply, while allowing it to continue to export the surplus. 
The overhead line will be 137 miles / 220 kilometres long and will replace the existing single circuit 132kV overhead transmission line with a 400kV double circuit overhead line providing more reliable capacity. It will comprise approximately 600 towers.  The average height will be 53m, compared to the current 815 towers of an average height of 33m. The upgraded line must be in place within 10 years.  

The consent states that construction of the line must begin within 4 years, and that electricity transmission should begin within 6 years of the start of construction.
WAG: Jane Hutt, Minister for Business & Budget, has announced details of a second tranche of Invest-to-Save funded projects that are intended to deliver more effective & efficient public services. The Fund is available for projects that
improve the way public services procure goods & services
* streamline business processes
* introduce ICT to improve delivery
* make better use of the public estate
* reduce the costs of corporate functions & routine business through shared services and other collaborative approaches
BIS: An EU Galileo contract has been won by consortium involving British satellite manufacturers SSTLLord Drayson, Science & Innovation Minister, said:  "This is great news for Surrey-based satellite manufacturer SSTL and the British space industry.  The contract for 14 satellites will provide approximately €236m (£212m) of work for SSTL and cement their position as key player in this booming industry."
MoD: The Ministry of Defence’s very own ‘Dragon’s Den’ has received its 1,000th equipment proposal as defence researchers share their ideas to help frontline troops. The Centre for Defence Enterprise (CDE) was set up 18 months ago to harness & fund cutting-edge ideas that could be used in defence and so far over 150 proposals have been given research funding from the CDE, with more than 60% of those funded coming from SMEs.
Projects that have benefited from CDE funding include D30 Labs, based in Hove – awarded £96,000 to develop its shock absorbing material for troops’ helmet lining.
ScotGov: Funding of £96.6m has been awarded to more than 1,000 projects across rural Scotland. The cash investment comes from the Rural Priorities scheme within the Scotland Rural Development Programme (SRDP).  Projects approved from this round alone will create or sustain more than 200 jobs and brings the total investment approved to £257.8m.
Projects funded from Rural Priorities range from tiny grants for small farm-based projects up to sizeable awards for developments which will completely transform communities across Scotland.  Rural Secretary, Richard Lochhead, claimed that the funding will ‘boost Scotland's economic recovery, tackle climate change and position rural Scotland to deliver for the twenty-first century’.
ScotGov: Scotland's world-leading renewables industry has taken a huge step forward First Minister, Alex Salmond, claimed last week, as The Crown Estate unveiled plans to develop almost 5GW of offshore wind energy off the country's east coast.
EDP Renováveis and SeaEnergy (EDP-SER) will be development partners for the Moray Firth zone, while SeaGreen Wind Energy Ltd - equally owned by SSE Renewables and Fluor - has secured the exclusivity zone agreement for the Firth of Forth.  Elsewhere, ScottishPower Renewables and SSE Renewables were each part of consortia successful in securing exclusivity agreements in two of the remaining 7 zones south of the border.
Mr Salmond also announced plans for talks involving Ofgem, National Grid and energy firms in Glasgow next week to help to resolve on-going concerns over the higher Grid connection charges levied on renewable energy producers north of the border.

Forthcoming Event

DCSF: The UK’s second National Family Week takes place from 31 May - 6 June 2010, and is an opportunity for practitioners working with children & young people to raise the profile of their work through a range of activities & events.  Support for those running events – including events packs – is available from the National Family Week website. The aim of the week is to highlight the important role families play in society, and to encourage healthy active lifestyles and quality family time.  
DCSF: The first national Well-being and the whole child conference takes place on 22-23 February 2010 at the Hilton Metropole, Birmingham.  It will bring together leaders & practitioners from education, health, social care and other sectors to address the pressing issue of the well-being of children, young people and their families in the early 21st century. The event is hosted by the National College in partnership with the Children’s Workforce Development Council (CWDC).
CLG: The Planning Portal is starting 2010 with a series of FREE events aimed at planning agents & applicants to promote the benefits of submitting planning applications online. The events will take place during January and February 2010.
At the workshops The Planning Portal will demonstrate the online process and the other free tools available on the site.  The agenda for the workshop will cover:
* Demonstrating the key principles involved in using the online service
* How to attach plans & other documents to support your application
* Using the online tools such as mapping and volume & fee calculators
Places can be booked by contacting the Planning Portal Events Team on  or 0117 372 8232.  Simply specify the preferred location of the workshop and number of colleagues you wish to attend (between 1 and 3).
LLUK: The University of Hertfordshire's Blended Learning Unit and the UK Higher Education Academy, in association with the University of Calgary and the University of Queensland, have announced that the Fifth International Blended Learning Conference ‘Developing Blended Learning Communities’ will be held on 16-17 June 2010 at The Fielder Centre, University of Hertfordshire.
This 2-day conference attracts delegates from across the globe who want to discover & share the innovations in blended learning, which are happening in the UK and at higher education institutions around the world.  The conference committee is seeking contributions on a range of topics around developing blended learning communities.  The deadline for submissions is Monday 18 January 2010.
Press release ~ Conference website ~ University of Hertfordshire's Blended Learning Unit ~ UK Higher Education Academy

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