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In the News

DCSFOnly a small minority are ‘hoodies’ - For most teenagers, volunteering to go into class during an evening would be unthinkable.  But for a group of young people in Cleethorpes, it’s not only a welcome highlight of their week, but is one of a series they’ve organised themselves to learn new skills.

There is a special bond between the 12 young people in the group and some special reasons why being in a classroom means more than just learning.  Each of them is a ‘young carer’ with a responsibility for looking after a parent or other family member who is ill or disabled.

Because of the extra demands on their time – at least 20 hours a week outside of school - the teenagers, from Grimsby & Cleethorpes, often miss out on gaining qualifications and on mixing with peer groups outside the school gates.  Their answer was to look for an education course to suit their needs and then apply to North East Lincolnshire Council for a grant from the government’s Youth Opportunity Fund (YOF), specially set up to provide positive activities for young people

Last week, the Clee Young Carers Group started the first of a series of Monday evening classes after winning a bid for £600.  The training is one of many projects across North East Lincolnshire funded by money from the YOF, which aims to enable young people to make decisions about positive things to do and places to meet. It is part of the Government’s Aiming High strategy to ensure there are things to do and places to go for young people, particularly on Friday & Saturday nights. 
MoDWhile politicians try to justify their past actions, let us remember the real ‘cost’ of Iraq - A service to re-dedicate the Basra Memorial Wall, the monument to the 178 UK service personnel and one MOD civilian who lost their lives serving on Operation TELIC, will take place on 11 March 2010 at the National Memorial Arboretum (NMA) in Staffordshire.

As well as listing the 179 UK lives, the wall also lists members of coalition forces who were killed whilst under UK command during 6 years of conflict.  The wall was built & eventually dismantled by British soldiers from 37 Armoured Engineer Squadron, a personal gesture to commemorate their fallen comrades.  It is currently being re-erected at the arboretum, close to the Armed Forces Memorial.

The NMA is Britain’s year-round centre of remembrance; a spiritually uplifting place which honours the fallen and recognises suffering & sacrifice.  Part of the Royal British Legion family of charities, the NMA contains 50,000 maturing trees & 160 memorials - attracting around 300,000 visitors per year.
Press release ~ Basra Memorial Wall ~ Operations in Iraq: British Fatalities ~ National Memorial Arboretum

A perennial problem for parents of young children - Parents across the country will be able to search for childcare providers in their region through one convenient website.  The Family Information Directory will include the details of all childcare available to families across England.
It will show parents the range of providers, from nurseries to childminders and after-school clubs to children’s centres, available in their area.  It will also offer mums, dads, grandparents and other carers information on services & support available to them at every stage in a child’s life.

The Directory is part of the Government’s flagship information service for parents, the Family Information Direct programme, formerly Parent Know How.  The service incorporates independent advice from 18 organisations, charities & voluntary groups.
EHRCGrey Equality rather than Grey Years - The Equality and Human Rights Commission has launched a set of proposals for fundamental changes to employment policies to open up more work opportunities for older Britons & address the challenges of an ageing workforce

The policy, part of the Commission’s Working Better initiative, aims to address the chronic under employment, low-paid employment and low income experienced by older Britons.

The proposals include abolishing the default retirement age, the extension of the right to request flexible working to all, overhauling employer recruitment practices to prevent discrimination and improved training & development.

The initiative coincides with the release of a new survey carried out for the Commission into older workers’ aspirations, barriers they face and potential solutions to these.  The results show that the majority of this group believes major changes are needed to attitudes & policies if they are to reach their goals.
COFuture government ICT: Cloud Computing or Cloud Cuckoo Land - Savings to the public purse of £3.2bn annually from 2013/14 are claimed to be possible through transformations in public sector information technology.  The government will ‘create one secure, resilient & flexible network which will enable every area of government to adapt their ICT to best deliver for the public’.

Other changes include ‘bringing together Government departments, local government and wider public sector organisations to remove unnecessary overlaps between departments and avoid costly duplication of technology’.

Establishing a Government Cloud or 'G-Cloud' - The government cloud infrastructure will ‘enable public sector bodies to select and host ICT services from one secure shared network.  Multiple services will be available from multiple suppliers on the network making it quicker and cheaper to switch suppliers and ensure systems are best suited to need’.

Creating a Government Applications store - The Application Store will be a marketplace for sharing and reusing online computer programmes on a pay by use basis.

Implementing a common desktop strategy - A new set of ‘common designs’ for desktop computers across the public sector. According to the government ‘Historically each organisation has separately specified, built & designed its desktop computers’.
FSAAll on one ‘plate’ - The Food Standards Agency is to expand its eatwell website to bring together all government information on food aimed at consumers.  Advice on food safety & healthy eating will be integrated with information on a wide range of other topics relevant to consumers' food choices, with a particular focus on environmental and wider sustainability issues. 

The Agency will work closely with other government departments and bodies over the coming year to gather up-to-date information and it plans to launch the remodelled website in spring 2011.

The decision to expand eatwell follows the completion of the first stage of the Integrated Advice for Consumers (IAC) project that set out to explore the potential scope of this integrated advice website. The report of this scoping exercise - Integrated advice for consumers: discussion and analysis of options - provides a snapshot of existing information on government websites, identifies gaps in consumer advice and recommends options for implementing the new integrated site.
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For information on other forthcoming public sector events please click HERE to visit the WGPlus Events Calendar

General News

FSADivine Chocolate has withdrawn some of its Divine Dark Chocolate because the product contains milk, which is not an intended ingredient.  Although the allergy advice on the product label mentions that the product ‘may contain traces of milk’, the amount of milk is above what might be described as 'trace levels'.  The Food Standards Agency has issued an Allergy Alert.  The product is a possible health risk for anyone who is allergic to or intolerant of milk.  
FSAMorrisons has recalled its Value Seedless Raisins (500g) with 'best before' dates of October 2010, November 2010 and December 2010, because the product might contain small pieces of green plastic.  The Food Standards Agency has issued a Food Alert for Information. Morrisons has recalled the affected product and has issued point-of-sale notices in stores.  These notices tell customers why the product has been recalled. If you have bought these raisins, you can return it to the store for a full refund.
DH: Statistics show people in England will use the NHS an average of 2,153 times during their lifetime, the equivalent of once a fortnight.  And with individuals having so many NHS experiences, the 150 Local Involvement Networks (LINks) around England are urging people to have their say in shaping existing & future health & social care services.
LINks aim to give people a stronger voice on how their health & social care services are delivered.  Run by individuals & community groups and independently supported, the role of a LINk is to find out what people want, monitor local services and to use their powers to hold them to account.  A LINk exists in every local authority area.
ScotGov: Scotland's largest brewer, Tennent's, has backed the Scottish Government's proposal for minimum pricing for alcohol. The support from Tennent's adds to a 'growing consensus' of opinion in favour of minimum pricing, including the 4 Chief Medical Officers of the UK, the BMA, the Royal Colleges, all 17 directors of public health in NHS Scotland, the House of Commons Health Select Committee, the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland (ACPOS) and the Scottish Licensed Trade Association.
Recent alcohol industry sales figures suggest Scots are drinking an average 25% more alcohol per head of population that the English & Welsh.  The 50.5m litres of pure alcohol sold in 2009 were enough for every person over the age of 18 to exceed the weekly alcohol guidelines for men, every week of the year.
A survey of supermarket alcohol prices shows that minimum pricing would target cheap, high strength white ciders, lagers and low-grade spirits, while leaving responsibly-priced products untouched.
HO: Young people aged 16 to 24 who live in London will be able to apply for a National Identity Card from 8 February 2010, it has been announced. The £30 identity card is claimed to provide a secure & convenient way for people to prove their identity whether they are travelling in Europe - the cards can also be used in place of a passport for travel throughout Europe - or buying age-restricted goods.
Research by the Identity & Passport Service shows that over half of lost & stolen passports belong to people under 30 and 10% of those are lost by people using them as ID on a night out.  As an ID card fits snugly into a wallet, it should help avoid the card becoming lost.
Also from next month until 30 June 2010, people across the UK who have registered an interest through the Directgov website will be able to apply for a card.  More than 16,000 people have already registered an interest in getting an identity card in this way.
Newswire – AC: The Audit Commission has informed the Mayor and Acting Chief Executive of Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council that they will carry out a corporate governance inspection of the council.  This decision has been taken in the light of serious concerns about the Council’s performance in the last 2 years and the threat to public confidence caused by recent events. The Audit Commission will not be making any further statements on this work until the inspection report is published.
ACEArts Council England has announced the appointment of 152 people to write assessments on the artistic work of its regularly funded organisations. The new assessors will report on the full range of artforms – music, literature, dance, visual arts, theatre & combined arts – including specialisms such as work for children & young people, culturally specific arts and disability-led arts.  They will begin reporting from February 2010.
Artistic assessments will feed into the Arts Council’s ongoing artistic evaluation of regularly funded organisations, providing a basis for discussions about artistic quality and a broad evidence base to inform the Arts Council's funding decisions.  The assessments will be shared with the arts organisations and may provide a useful context for organisations’ own conversations about artistic quality.
MoDMembers of the Armed Forces looking to buy their own home could benefit from a new home ownership scheme launched by the MOD and DCLG. Under the pilot scheme, the Government will provide members of the Armed Forces with up to 50% of a property’s value.  Unlike similar schemes, personnel will be allowed to purchase properties anywhere in England through a single service provider, in order to meet the needs of the Armed Forces’ mobile workforce.
In addition, applicants can sub-let their properties and will not normally pay any fees on the equity while they remain serving members of the Armed Forces.  Regular members of the Armed Forces who have served between 4 to 6 years and could not otherwise afford to get their foot on the ladder will be eligible to apply.  Swaythling Housing Society has set up a new website for the scheme, which includes further information and details of how to apply.
DH: Over 3,000 doctors will test out a new system of strengthened appraisal that will hopefully improve the quality & safety of patient care, Health Secretary Andy Burnham has announced. The doctors will take part in 10 revalidation pilot studies across England and will be the first to try out a process, which will provide assurance on whether they are up to date with medical advances and fit to practice.
The pilot studies are a key stage towards the introduction of a new system in which all doctors practicing in the UK will need to have their licences revalidated by the General Medical Council every 5 years. The pilots will begin in January 2010 and run through to 31 March 2011.  There will then be the first testing of the full process some time in late 2011 / early 2012.

In Spring 2010, the GMC will be launching a public consultation on a range of revalidation issues including the standards that doctors will be expected to meet.  These standards have been drawn up by the Medical Royal Colleges and relate to the separate specialties that doctors work in, as well as to general practice.
MoJ: Plans for a new prison on the site of the former RunwellHospital (taking a mixture of both Category B & Category C prisoners) have been submitted to Chelmsford Borough Council by the Ministry of Justice. The proposed 1,500-place prison (run by a private sector company) at Runwell should create more than 800 new jobs and generate approximately £17.1m in annual revenue for the local economy if it gets the go-ahead.  
Now the outline application has been submitted, once the council has validated it, the application & supporting documents will be made available for the public to see at the CBC website and the MoJ will provide a link to this information on their website. There is a statutory 16-week determination period, during which, CBC will consult residents and other interested parties on the prison proposal.
LR: Farmers can find out how straightforward it is to secure their land ownership when they visit the Agricultural Machinery and Equipment Show (Showering Pavilion) at the Royal Bath and West Showground on 3 February 2010. As part of Land Registry's 2010 campaign, representatives from Land Registry's specialist team will attend the Show to discuss the benefits of voluntary land registration and how they can help farmers through the process, which in most cases is quite straightforward.
Land Registry is encouraging landowners to voluntarily register their land, to help secure & protect what they own.  There is currently a discount of up to 25% on the full cost of first registration for applications lodged voluntarily.
MLA: The Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) and the National Literacy Trust are launching a commission to examine the future of school library provision in England, which will assess the role of the school library in the 21st century school.  The final report (due June 2010) will provide ‘an informed & proactive vision for the future of school libraries and their role in supporting learning outcomes’.
Between 1997 & 2007 pupils supported by schools library service provision dropped from 82% to 66%.  An evidence-based examination of the role of the school library in the new education landscape is urgently required, as is a fresh & imaginative approach to redefining the role of the school library.
DWP: The UK will officially recognise Workers Memorial Day to commemorate thousands of people who have died, been seriously injured or made ill through their work. This follows the Government’s consultation in July to explore options for official recognition of the day, which gained widespread support.
This year, the UK will join the many other countries around the world that officially recognise the Day on 28 April 2010, the International Day of Action for Safety and Health at Work.  Formal recognition will hopefully reinforce the significance of the Day and raise awareness of the number of people who are killed, disabled, injured or made unwell through their work.

Policy Statements and Initiatives

ScotGov: The way in which Scotland tackles animal disease outbreaks is being reviewed to ensure the country maintains its position as a quality meat producer at home & abroad. As part of a rolling process of assessment, the Scottish Government has commissioned a review of how information on disease spread is gathered & monitored.
In addition the Scottish Government has published its Exotic Animal Disease Contingency Framework Plan, consolidating previous plans for avian influenza and FMD. It has also separately published a template to help farmers produce site specific contingency plans for exotic animal diseases for pig & poultry businesses with associated advice to ensure the industry is fully prepared should an outbreak of disease occur.
BIS: The Government has announced plans for a new UK Life Sciences Super Cluster, supported by £1m of Government investment.  Bringing together industry, academia & the NHS, it will help deliver the next generation of medicines and technologies needed to support people suffering from chronic diseases.
At its heart will be the creation of Therapeutic Capability Clusters.  These will be one-stop-shops for the UK’s top research in specific fields.  They will bring together academic & NHS centres of excellence, which will work with industry to harness the UK’s expert capabilities and work on early stage clinical development and experimental medicine.
The new LSS Cluster will be kick-started later in 2010 with a pilot in immunology & inflammation focussing on disease areas such as asthma and rheumatoid arthritis.
DefraDefra’s new Evidence Investment Strategy (EIS), provides an agenda to prioritise & manage Defra’s investment in evidence from 2010 to 2013.  It highlights the need to focus efforts on climate change, protecting ecosystems and developing a sustainable food supply.  The strategy is intended to ensure that Defra has access to the best evidence when developing policies.
DCSF: Schools Minister, Iain Wright, has claimed that a new taskforce will ‘ensure skilled & motivated careers professionals give all young people high-quality advice'. The Careers Profession Taskforce, led by Dame Ruth Silver, chair of the Learning & Skills and Improvement Service, will report its findings to Government in summer 2010.
Iain Wright also announced that 3 regional roadshow ‘Big Conversation’ events will take place to encourage dozens more employers to offer more & better work experience placements.  They will be held in partnership with Business in the Community in Leeds on 12 February; in Nottinghamon 16 March; and in Manchester on 18 March 2010.
WAG: The Wales Assembly Government plans to provide more support for carers. This is the first time the WAG will have used its additional powers, following approval of the Carers LCO on 17 November 2009.  This proposed Measure seeks to provide accessible, relevant and up-to-date information to help carers in undertaking their caring role and for NHS & local authorities to consult carers before making decisions about the provision of services to carers and the people they care for.
The proposed Measure embraces all services provided by the NHS and local authorities such as social services, housing and education.  It also applies to directly provided services or contracted out services, such as GP services contracted to Health Boards.  
Whilst the proposed Measure covers young carers, it does not address the issue of young carers carrying an inappropriate burden of care.  This endorses the views received from the Carers Measure Stakeholder Advisory Group that young carers are children first and that their particular needs would be more appropriately addressed through the WAG’s Children and Families Measure and its policies to address child poverty and through the Children and Young Persons Strategies.
DHBritain’s Got Talent winners Diversity are joining forces with the Department of Health to launch a Government campaign to get kids boogying for a healthier future across the country. The ‘Let’s Dance with Change4Life’ campaign will ‘see the whole nation getting down with free taster dance classes across the country’.
Kids will have the chance to win a dance workshop with Diversity, as well as opening up free dance classes to everyone for the a national weekend of dance in March 2010, sponsored by Change4Life partner, the Fitness Industry Association.
Kids across the UK will be copying the group’s moves from an online guide.  To enter the competition they simply need to film and upload their dance routines.  Diversity will then choose their favourite entry who will join them for an exclusive dance workshop and win tickets to their tour.  Tickets & merchandise are also up for grabs for runners up.  The best videos will be showcased on the Change4Life YouTube channel,
DCSF: The Government has accepted the recommendations of the Zero Carbon Task Force (ZCTF), which last week published its report on what needs to be done to cut the carbon footprint of schools across England.
DH: A new campaign backed by major health charities will warn drinkers of the unseen health damage caused by regularly drinking more than the NHS advises. The £6m Government funded campaign shows the damage that is being done to drinkers’ organs while they are drinking in a pub or at home. A new website features interactive tools to arm people with the information they need to make healthier choices.
A new YouGov poll launched to coincide with the campaign shows that 55% of English drinkers misguidedly believe that alcohol only damages your health if you regularly get drunk or binge drink. Although 86% of drinkers surveyed knew that drinking alcohol is related to liver disease, far fewer realised it is also linked with breast cancer (7%), throat cancer (25%), mouth cancer (28%), stroke (37%) and heart disease (56%), along with other serious conditions.


DCSF: The DCSF are consulting on the guidance schools will receive to help them deliver sex & relationship education (SRE).  The updated guidance will be given to schools to help them teach young people how to cope with the pressure they often face from peers & the media.  Secondary school pupils will be encouraged to discuss the myths around growing up, sex & relationships that they hear from friends, helping them to put media stories and images into context.
This SRE will be taught within lessons on personal, social and health education (PSHE).  Provisions to make PSHE statutory are included in the Children, Schools and Families Bill currently before parliament.  New guidance will then be issued to schools in 2011 to reflect the change in the law.  This will be based on & will strongly reflect the guidance now being consulted on (closes on Monday 19 April 2010).
HMT: The Government has published a discussion document (closes on 20 April 2010)on proposals for reforming the UK tax treatment of controlled foreign companies (CFCs). The proposals set out in the discussion document are intended to enhance the competitiveness of the UK, while providing adequate protection of the UK tax base – See ‘Business and other Briefings’ section for more information.

Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides

CRC: The Commission for Rural Communities has welcomed the government’s recent updating of PPS4: Planning for Sustainable Economic Growth.  The new Planning Policy Statement (PPS) contains some positive adjustments to encourage planning decisions and local policies to support sustainable economic development in rural areas, for example that allowing development even though it may not be readily accessible by public transport (EC12.1b).
In our earlier advice to the Department of Communities and Local Government, they expressed concern about the application of the policy presumption for protection of open countryside and they continue to be concerned by reference in the new PPS4 to protecting the countryside ‘for the sake of its intrinsic character and beauty....’. Similarly it is occasionally important for planning authorities to accept that sustainable rural communities and economies need development that is not small scale, which is the form favoured in the new PPS 4.
DfT: New guidance to help local authorities take on powers to tackle problem road works have been published by Transport Minister Sadiq Khan MP as Kent CC - the first council to apply for such powers - brings them into force.
Road works permit schemes give councils more power to coordinate road works and to take tough action when they overrun.  Once a scheme is in place companies must apply for a permit before they start road works and abide by conditions on timing, coordination or the amount of road space to be left available to road users during the works.  Anyone who breaks the terms of their permit or works without a permit could be prosecuted and face a fine of up to £5,000.
ScotGov: A toolkit with case studies, film clips, images and a bank of slides designed to help teachers talk confidently to parents about the new Curriculum for Excellence, has been launched. The toolkit is primarily an on-line resource for headteachers &teachers.  The elements in print are posters for school notice boards and leaflets for parents that explain each level - early years, primary & secondary.
NICE: Thousands of lives could be saved with the help of a new guideline on preventing blood clots in hospital patients, published by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE).  The guideline focuses on reducing the risk of deep vein thrombosis (blood clots blocking veins, also commonly known as DVT) in patients admitted to hospital.  If a blood clot breaks away it may travel to the lungs and cause a blockage - a potentially fatal pulmonary embolism.   
An estimated 25,000 people who are admitted to hospital die from preventable venous thromboembolism each year.  The NICE guideline, jointly developed with the National Clinical Guideline Centre for Acute and Chronic Conditions, recommends that all patients should be assessed for risk of developing blood clots on admission to hospital and then given preventative treatment that suits their individual needs.  Importantly, this advice covers all patients admitted to hospital - including those having day-case procedures - and not just those patients having surgery.
NICE: Following a legal challenge to the process used to produce the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence’s existing guidance on prevention of osteoporotic fractures, the original recommendations remain unchanged in the updated guidance documents just published.  
This means that postmenopausal women with osteoporosis at risk of fractures will continue to have access to a range of drugs to help either prevent them suffering a first fracture (primary prevention) or prevent further fractures after they have suffered one (secondary prevention).  The guidance documents have been updated to reflect the Appraisal Committee’s consideration of the additional stakeholder comments received following a further consultation in line with the court judgement. 
The treatments NICE recommends for primary and secondary prevention of osteoporotic fractures are not affected, and the range of options still stands. As the guidance recommendations published in October 2008 are unchanged, the original review date for this guidance is also unchanged, remaining scheduled for July 2010.
LDA: Businesses & organisations in London can learn how to cut carbon pollution from their buildings – with the help of a new toolkit published by the Better Buildings PartnershipGE Capital Real Estate recently installed Automated Meter Reading (AMR) technology at their London HQ allowing them to monitor energy and water consumption on a half hourly basis.  This resulted in savings of around £60,000 a year, paying back their installation costs within a month – See ‘Industry News’ section for more information.

Annual Reports

RFA: The Renewable Fuels Agency (RFA) has reported on the impacts of the biofuel supplied in the first year of the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO). This confirms the RFA as the first regulator in the world to monitor & report verified information on the carbon and sustainability performance of biofuels. Several fossil fuel suppliers are shown by the report to have failed to demonstrate the sustainability of their biofuels.  
Ofsted: The wider schools workforce, including teaching assistants & learning mentors, is making a difference to pupils’ learning, according to a report published by Ofsted, the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills.  However, the report also shows that these staff must be effectively deployed, well managed & properly trained.
The report - Workforce reform in schools: has it made a difference? - looked at the impact in 30 schools of recruiting a wider range of staff since 2003 to raise standards & tackle teacher workload.  It is the fifth report in a series by Ofsted evaluating the effectiveness of wider workforce reform since the 2003 National Workforce Agreement.  
This latest report shows some schools are now making much better use of their wider workforce than those visited soon after the reforms were introduced. However the report reveals there is still much to be done to ensure the wider workforce fully benefit pupils’ learning. Few of the schools in the survey tracked the effectiveness of such support, and problems could re-emerge when pupils who had been successfully supported at primary school moved on to secondary school or from Key Stage 3 to Key Stage 4.
Despite the recommendations of the four previous reports by Ofsted, only 3 of the schools knew about the Training and Development Agency’s (TDA) career development framework for the wider workforce. This was seen to have delayed the development of the wider workforce as a fully trained professional body.

General Reports and Other Publications

CRC: The Commission for Rural Communities, as the Government's appointed expert rural adviser, has produced a briefing note to assist and support Responsible Regional Authorities (RRAs) and those concerned with rural policy in the regions to ensure that rural interests are fully recognised in forthcoming Regional Strategies.
The briefing is designed to build on much of the work that is already underway across regions, and is intended to provide RRAs and others with a reminder of the key mainstream & rural policies which will help to inform the drafting of Regional Strategies, as well as setting out various rural proofing measures.
EHRefurbishing old school buildings is often the best use of resources and the most sustainable way of modernising them, English Heritage claimed as it launched 2 new publications that highlight the value & potential of older schools.  A recent survey by English Heritage of 1,723 adults shows that two thirds think that refurbishing & extending old schools is more environmentally friendly than demolishing them and rebuilding new ones.
A new guidance document - Refurbishing Historic Schools Buildings (published by English Heritage with the support of the Department of Children, Schools and Families) demonstrates the huge potential & flexibility of traditional school buildings.  They can be adapted, made more energy efficient and expanded with new buildings alongside.
English Heritage has also published a new book - England’s Schools - by architectural historian Elain Harwood. It is a concise history of school buildings across England from medieval times to the 1980s, analysing how social attitudes have been expressed in their architecture and planning.
MLA: The MLA has welcomed the findings of two reports based on the views of more than 1,000 museum colleagues regarding the value, shortcomings & future of Accreditation and its development.
Newswire – UKBA: A report published by the Independent Chief Inspector of the UK Border Agency (UKBA) found that the Visa Section in Kuala Lumpur was well-managed, however there were considerable delays in dealing with administrative reviews of points-based applications.
The report - Inspection Report of the Visa Section in Kuala Lumpur - reviewed UKBA processes & procedures including the quality of decision-making & consistency of approach, customer service at the Kuala Lumpur and Singapore visa application centres as well as management & leadership within the Visa Section.
ScotGov: Justice Secretary, Kenny MacAskill has responded to the Chief Inspector of Prisons Report into Cornton Vale.
Newswire – GEO: The Government has welcomed a new report on inequality - An Anatomy of Inequality in the UK - the final report of the National Equality Panel. The report shows how inequality accumulates over an individual's lifetime and is carried from one generation to the next.  It shows the key stages in people's lives when public policy intervention is most important & most effective - during the pre-school years, at the transition from education to the workplace and when re-entering the labour market after having children.
The report also shows that the family you are born into and your parent's wealth make a profound & lasting difference to your life chances.
ESRC: Initial findings carried out under the ESRC’s World Economy and Finance research programme warns against privatising the recently nationalised banks too soon.  The research suggests that privatising government owned banks without having an effective system of regulation in place can result in a collapse of depositors’ confidence in banking.  This can not only undermine the ability of the banking system to finance economic growth, but it can also trigger bank runs & financial instability.
The researchers provide a novel political economy explanation for their findings.  They suggest that politicians may actually prefer banks not to be in the public sector.  When banks are in theory controlled by their shareholders, in practice they are more likely to be controlled by their top managers because shareholders are typically not well informed. 
Conditions of weak corporate governance in banks provide fertile ground for quick enrichment for both bankers and politicians - at the expense ultimately of the taxpayer.  In such circumstances politicians can offer bankers a system of weak regulation in exchange for party political contributions, positions on the boards of banks or lucrative consultancies
NE: The first major survey of the environmental state of Green Belt land and the benefits it provides for people & wildlife has been published in - Green Belts: a Greener Future - a joint report produced by Natural England and the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE).
30m people live in or next to Green Belts which cover 13% of the land surface of England.  The new research presented in this report indicates that Green Belts:
* Have been effective in protecting the countryside from urban sprawl
* Provide a valuable resource for people to exercise and enjoy peace & quiet
* Maintain a large area of distinctive, rural landscape within easy access of our largest towns & cities
* Have the potential to be an important source of locally-grown food
Newswire – GC: The Gambling Commission has published survey data on gambling participation and public perceptions of gambling.  The findings are based on questions in omnibus surveys conducted by ICM Research.
FSA: The Food Standards Agency has published the latest report of people's views on food labels and their awareness & understanding of front-of-pack nutrition labelling.  This is part of a nationwide series of 'citizens' forums' set up to establish a dialogue with the public on food.
The findings will add to the body of evidence on the awareness & effectiveness of front-of-pack nutrition labelling in the UK and help inform the Agency's deliberations on the issue, which is due to be discussed by the Food Standard Agency's Board in March 2010.
NAO: The BBC Trust has published a report commissioned from the National Audit Office on the BBC's management of its coverage of major sporting & music events. The NAO review looked at the effectiveness of the BBC's management of its coverage of major sporting & music events, once the decision to cover an event had been taken.  It considered how the BBC initiates, plans, delivers & reviews this coverage.
HEFCE: A new strategy published last week demonstrates higher education's commitment to reducing carbon emissions. The agreed strategy sets out ambitious sector-level targets to reduce scope 1 and 2 emissions by 80% by 2050 and by at least 34% by 2020, against a 1990 baseline.  
Published by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), Universities UK and GuildHE the strategy secured strong support through consultation and sets our areas where HEFCE will work with higher education institutions (HEIs) and other partners to achieve carbon reductions.  It aims to focus efforts in areas that offer the greatest carbon reduction return and identify issues that need further action.
HEIs are required to have carbon management plans (CMPs) and HEFCE will link future capital funding to carbon performance.  To assist institutions they have also published good practice guidance on developing CMPs.  This complements existing guidance and sets out what HEFCE's requirements are in this area.
Newswire – CWDC: The country's young people are being supported through the complex challenges of their teens by an estimated workforce of about 6m paid staff & volunteers, a new report reveals.  The report - A picture worth millions - is the first to shed light on those who work with young people to support their personal & social development, helping them to reach their full potential and negotiate their transition to adulthood.
Commissioned by the Children's Workforce Development Council (CWDC), it finds these millions of people work in more than 55 different occupations in 12 separate sectors, representing public sector, private sector, charity, community and faith organisations.  Positions range from arts & dance workers in the cultural sector to education welfare officers, youth workers & learning mentors in the education sector to coaches & match officials in the sports and recreation sector.
Dedicated volunteers are playing a central role, with more than 5.25m people (87% of the workforce) giving up their time for free to help the nation's young.  25% of sports & recreation groups are run purely on a voluntary basis, with workers giving up their weekends & evenings.
Newswire – CWDC: Following the publication of the Every Professional Matters report by the Children's Services Professional Network, the Children's Workforce Development Council (CWDC) counters the suggestion that specialist disciplines will become marginalised through integration.  
CWDC believes that integrated working is vital to ensure that children and young people will gain access to the full range of services they need.  Aiming to encourage & support people working with children & young people in England to work together more effectively, the CWDC has a range of resources available to make it much easier for practitioners to work together.
LLUKLifelong Learning UK Scotland has published a new report on the seminar which took place at the Scottish Parliament in November 2009.  The event brought together employers from all 6 sub-sectors of lifelong learning and discussions focussed on how the lifelong learning sector can work better as 'one system' in accordance with Skills for Scotland: a Lifelong Skills Strategy.
This new publication provides key recommendations on improving collaborative working throughout the sector to create a simpler, more accessible learning system which will benefit everyone living and working in Scotland.  The report includes practical recommendations on how this agenda can be progressed.
BIS: The UK’s regulatory framework is making good progress putting better regulation principles into practice, according to a set of new reports published by the Better Regulation Executive

The new reports, on the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA), the Forestry Commission (FC) and the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Division and Inspectorate (ASPI) are part of a series of reviews of national regulators, and examined how the regulators matched up to the principles of effective regulation set out by Philip Hampton in 2005.

Legislation / Legal

Defra: A new body to take responsibility for animal health is among major changes proposed by Environment Secretary Hilary Benn in a new Bill on Animal Health. Other measures in the draft Animal Health Bill include:
* Making statutory the role of Chief Veterinary Officer (UK), based at Defra
* A new Chief Veterinary Officer for England
* Widening existing powers in England & Wales to collect & test veterinary samples & to vaccinate animals
* Simplifying payments for slaughtered animals or property seized or destroyed for disease control purposes in England & Wales
DfT: As a result of an agreement between the British, Irish & Northern Ireland Ministers, UK drivers disqualified for serious motoring offences in Ireland will no longer escape punishment when they return home.  Similarly, disqualifications earned by Irish drivers while in the UK will be recognised & enforced when they return to Ireland.
The new law is the first practical step to recognise driving disqualifications in Europe under the terms of the 1998 European Convention on driving disqualifications.
MoJ: Justice Secretary Jack Straw has made a written ministerial statement on the working group on libel (see press release).
HO: New powers to tackle underage drinking, including making it easier for police to confiscate alcohol, move on groups of teenagers causing trouble & stop retailers selling to underage children came into effect last week in England & Wales. The powers were introduced through the Policing and Crime Act 2009 andnew guidance has been published for police forces setting out exactly how the powers should be used.
The powers include:
* confiscating alcohol from young people
* making it easier to move on groups of young people
* greater power to tackle persistent underage drinkers
* changing the offence of persistently selling alcohol to under 18s
Also coming into effect were new powers for local councillors to tackle problem premises.  In addition to the police & members of the public, local councillors will now also be able to call for a review to restrict or remove an alcohol retailer’s licence.
MoJ: Legal Aid Minister, Willy Bach has claimed to have ‘strengthened the government's commitment to ensuring a sustainable future for social welfare law’. The Minister was launching a new project with the South West London Law Centre (SWLLC) to test a new business model for law centres.
The project is intended to strengthen law centres' infrastructure and aims to identify new, more efficient ways of working and potential sources of funding for different aspects of law centres' work, including the range of central government departments, local authorities, charities, independent trusts and law firms.
BIS: Legislation to ‘give parents more choice & flexibility in how they use maternity & paternity leave’ could be introduced under Government plans outlined last week. New fathers could be able to take advantage of additional paternity leave & pay during the second 6 months of the child’s life, if the mother wishes to return to work with maternity leave outstanding.  The move comes as the Government publishes its response to a consultation on the subject, held at the end of 2009.
The Government has tabled the regulations for Parliament to (as soon as possible) debate & approve (by both Houses) before they can be implemented.  Subject to this, the Government intends that the law be in force by April 2010 and have effect for parents of children due on or after 3 April 2011.
ScotGov: Moves to make smoking less attractive to children have been approved by the Scottish Parliament. MSPs voted to approve the Tobacco and Primary Medical Services (Scotland) Bill which will bring an end to the display of cigarettes & tobacco products in shops as well as banning sales from vending machines.
The bill also makes it a legal requirement that anyone running a GP practice must have a direct involvement in patient care.
The display ban will come into force for large retailers in 2011 while small retailers will have until 2013 to implement the display ban.  On October 1, 2007, the minimum age for buying cigarettes was raised to 18.
MoJ: Justice Minister Claire Ward and a group of Nottingham students have taken part in a mock court hearing at the Galleries of Justice Museum. Students from the Nottingham University Samworth Academy were invited to play the part of judge & jury and decide a defendant’s fate in a You be the Judge event organised by the local court.  They discovered that the justice system is fairer and can be tougher than many people believe, after they gave the defendant a more lenient sentence than the courts did in reality.
The mock trial was one of many that have been taking place across the country in a move to inform the public of how sentencing decisions are made.  It coincided with the publication of national sentencing statistics, and revealed the story that the figures do not tell.

EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.

NENatural England is pleased to announce that farmers can now resume applying to join Entry Level Stewardship (ELS) after the applications system was successfully upgraded ahead of schedule. Both ELS Online - the quickest & most efficient way of applying - and ELS application packs are now available following the recent suspension to carry out updates & improvements to the on-line application system.  Farmers are encouraged to apply once they receive their updated RLR maps.
In addition to upgrading the on-line application system, NE has significantly stepped up the level of ELS training & information in order to help farmers apply for ELS and choose the best options for their farm.  Workshops, events & one-to-one farm visits are all now available.
Farmers who submit a valid, accurate application before 17 February 2010 will be given a start date of 1 March 2010.  Some are not due to receive their confirmatory maps from RPA until February and they are advised to wait until these have arrived before applying.  During February, RPA aims to send the remaining confirmatory maps to all farmers who requested changes to their maps before mid-January.
ScotGov: Agreement on the 2010 harvest of fish stocks jointly managed between the EU & Norway has been reached in Brussels, along with a long-term deal on the future management of mackerel, Scotland's most valuable stock.
At the fourth time of asking, 2010 Total Allowable Catches (TACs) for valuable species including North Sea Cod and Haddock were finalised. The EU and Norway also came up with a deal on how they should best tackle Iceland over its mackerel overfish.

Charity and Voluntary Sector

DH: A scheme that encourages families to ditch the car and walk their children to school at least once a week will receive an £800,000 boost from the Government, Public Health Minister Gillian Merron has announced. The ‘Walk Once a Week’ scheme run by the Living Streets charity, rewards children who walk to school one day a week with a collectable metal badge for each month they take part. 
The funding will be used to expand the scheme to at least 900 more schools with a focus on the West Midlands, Greater Manchester, Merseyside, and Tyne and Wear, where there are higher numbers of overweight and obese children. The scheme has been running for 6 years and operates in every London borough.  59% of girls & 60% of boys in participating schools take part in the scheme and walk to school at least one day a week.
WAG: Education Minister Leighton Andrews has announced that the Welsh Assembly Government has committed £17,591 to the National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS) Cymru to fund 3 regional events aimed at delivering deaf awareness training to education professionals across Wales.
The events to be held in Cardiff, Carmarthenshire and Wrexham will help raise awareness of the specific needs of deaf children and young people amongst teaching staff and others in the education profession, and will give them a basic understanding of the causes and effects of childhood deafness.
MoJ: Government funding for voluntary agencies that provide support to victims of sexual violence will be streamlined with the establishment of a one-year combined fund for 2010/11. The fund has been created by merging the Office for Criminal Justice Reform Victims Fund and the Government Equalities Office Special Fund, in order to simplify the application and administration process for voluntary organisations in the sector.  
This move to simplify application and administration processes for voluntary organisations follows publication of the cross-government strategy - Together We Can End Violence Against Women and Girls - which signalled a new approach to working with the voluntary sector.  As part of this process, the Home Office is also inviting organisations working in the sector to apply for grants to fund Independent Sexual Violence Advisers.
Agencies can make applications for both sets of funding from 27 January until 22 February 2010 and grant awards will be announced in March, meaning that successful applicants will know what they can expect to receive ahead of the new financial year.

Business and Other Briefings

HMT: The Government has published a discussion document (closes on 20 April 2010)on proposals for reforming the UK tax treatment of controlled foreign companies (CFCs). The proposals set out in the discussion document are intended to enhance the competitiveness of the UK, while providing adequate protection of the UK tax base.
The document sets out the overarching framework of the new rules & proposals for how monetary assets and intellectual property could be treated.  The controlled foreign company rules exist to protect the UK corporation tax base and apply in situations where UK groups move profits into low tax jurisdictions to avoid UK tax.
FSA: The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has set out a package of measures that will help to ensure that mortgage holders in arrears are treated fairly and which reinforces the FSA’s stance in its battle against mortgage fraud.  The proposals strengthen existing rules on arrears handling - one of the urgent issues flagged in the Mortgage Market Review discussion paper last October.
Approved Persons: The FSA proposes creating a new category of approved person (customer function CF31), which will be for all individuals who advise or bring about home finance business now & in the future.  This is whether on behalf of an intermediary firm or a home finance provider. Consultation closes on 30 April 2010.
Newswire – EA: A new flood warning service for infrastructure owners & operators has been unveiled by the Environment Agency. The Flood Warnings for Infrastructure (FWFI) service will provide infrastructure operators (such as utility companies & transport) with individually tailored warnings allowing organisations to take actions earlier to protect crucial assets.   
55% of water treatment works & pumping stations and 14% of electricity infrastructure in England are situated in flood risk areas, along with some 4,000 km of roads and 2,500 km of railway. FWFI is a new way of delivering flood warnings and the service is suitable for any type of equipment, development or network, including sewage treatment works, telephone exchanges, offices or depots, motorways and railways.  Any organisation which owns or operates fixed assets or networks is eligible to adopt the service. 
ScotGov: The First Minister has hailed as ‘inspirational’ the publication of a new report, which puts Scotland's science & research base as among the best in the world. The report examines the research base in universities, research institutes, industry, the NHS and compares publication rates and impacts with competitor countries.
Many of the measures in the report are scaled to allow for the size and relative investment in research in different countries, so that fairer comparisons can be made. A similar report, also by Evidence Ltd, on the whole of the UK has been published by the UK Government annually for several years, with the report for Scotland closely following the methodology & presentation used.

Industry News

BIS: A FREE online public procurement course designed to help smaller firms bid for the £220bn of public sector contracts awarded each year has been launched. The course - Winning the Contract - shows participants how to identify business opportunities to supply goods & services to the public sector, explains the public procurement process and demonstrates how to submit tenders.  It has helpful hints & tips to guide & inform businesses on the bidding process, and where to find public sector contract opportunities.
It is a nationally available online training course which all businesses, regardless of size & sector, can access free of charge.  It is part of a series of joint initiatives by the Office of Government Commerce and Department for Business, Innovation and Skills aimed at making the procurement market clearer & simpler.
DH: Employers across Britain will get £1,000 for taking on a young person who is struggling to find work. Additional free pre-employment training packages will also get young recruits off to a flying start through the Care First Careers initiative.
To support the introduction of Care First Careers, a series of 11 regional launch events will take place in February 2010 throughout England, Scotland & Wales.  These will involve inviting adult social care employers from each region to learn more about the scheme and employing young people in general.
Defra: Ultra energy efficient lighting could transform Britain’s homes and energy use with a new Government initiative to encourage innovation & research in the lighting industry. A £1.2m research fund from the Technology Strategy Board and the Defra aims to help companies become market leaders in the best ultra energy-efficient lighting, while contributing to reduced energy consumption in our homes.
Businesses will be invited to compete for contracts through a Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) competition, which will be run in two phases:
* In the first phase, companies will be awarded up to £40,000 to carry out technical feasibility studies, lasting up to 3 months - Opens on 22 February 2010 and the deadline for applications is 19 April 2010
* In the second phase, proposals with the most promising technologies will receive up to £450,000 to develop & evaluate prototypes or demonstration units, which will then be subjected to a vigorous 6-month field trial.
Press release ~ SBRI competitions (Ultra Efficient Lighting (UEL) competition for development contracts not listed yet as at publication of newsletter)
 WAG: Research carried out by Tesco shows that more of its customers want to buy locally sourced food & drink and need more assistance when it comes to locating them.  In order to help its customers locate quality Welsh produce, Tesco has launched new signage in 29 superstores and 15 Tesco Extra stores right across Wales.  
6 award-winning True Taste producers, a Welsh Assembly Government brand, have been selected to feature on the new signage which will feature on shelves up and down the country.  They include Edwards of Conwy, Brains Brewery, Cadog, First Milk, Tomos Watkin and South Caernarfon Creameries.  The signage, which is of post-card size, will include some background information and a photograph of each producer along with the True Taste logo.
LDA: Businesses & organisations in London can learn how to cut carbon pollution from their buildings – with the help of a new toolkit published by the Better Buildings Partnership. Many commercial buildings have multiple tenants who all use energy, but have no idea of how much they use.  This makes it difficult for owners & occupiers to work out where to make savings & improvements.
Measuring how much energy a building uses – hour by hour, floor by floor – is essential to understanding how energy is consumed and to working out what changes need to be made. The BBP toolkit provides simple, step-by-step guidance to businesses on what they need to do to measure the energy performance of their buildings.

GE Capital Real Estate recently installed Automated Meter Reading (AMR) technology at their London HQ allowing them to monitor energy and water consumption on a half hourly basis.  By making adjustments to the building management system and installing a waterless urinal system, they reduced electricity consumption by 17%, gas by 42% and water by a staggering 74%.  This resulted in savings of around £60,000 a year, paying back their installation costs within a month.
OS: An easy to use tool is to be introduced for Ordnance Survey’s online mapping API, OS OpenSpace, making it easy to create mash-ups without the need for technical know-howOS OpenSpace Web Map Builder is a simple set of tools that will allow users to add markers, routes & search functionality to their web map without having to write a single line of code.
The move comes as the mapping agency seeks to remove the technical barriers that it believes stop many potential users from making the most of online maps.  Among the OS OpenSpace mash-ups already created by developers is the Big Lottery Fund supported project looking into the benefits of fishing.  The Assynt Angling Research website gathers information on anglers visiting the north-west of Scotland.
 Users can add markers, post information about which lochs they used, what they caught and how good the location was.  Web Map Builder should now bring this kind of project within reach of anyone regardless of training or expertise.

Forthcoming Event

LDA: The London Development Agency (LDA) is helping leaders of social enterprises in the capital to build their organisations through a series of interactive workshops which are being held in conjunction with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) and Social Enterprise London (SEL). 

Ensuring social enterprises are able to access the knowledge & expertise in commercial organisations in London is an important way of building the capacity of these organisations.  Dates for these workshops will be available via the LDA and SEL websites shortly. An online toolkit to help social enterprises set up & grow will be available through Business Link in London in March 2010.
Future workshops are expected to address the following issues:
* Social Accounting
* Social Return on Investment
* Risk Management & Governance
* Getting involved with Government & commissioning
* The role of the Chairman, Chief Executive & Board
* Commissioning & managing a commissioning bid
* Governance implications of scaling up
* Finance for non-financial Board members
WO: Secretary of State for Wales, Peter Hain, has welcomed the chance for people in Wales to have their say on the future of local news broadcasting in Wales.  The Independently Funded News Consortia (IFNC) Pilots Selection Panel have announced that they will be visiting Cardiff on Wednesday 3 February 2010 to hold a public meeting (3-4pm at the Wales Millennium Centre, Bute Place, Cardiff Bay, CF10 5AL) with the 3 bidders for the Wales pilot
Richard Hooper, Chair of the IFNC Selection Panel has said that this meeting will be an opportunity for local people to have their say about local news on television, radio, local newspapers and the web.  He also wants local people to be able to question the bidders about their proposals to deliver a new innovative local and regional news service across multiple platforms in Wales.  
To attend the public meeting in Cardiff please RSVP to: by midday on 2 February.  The Panel is keen to canvas views from as many people as possible, so if you are not able to make this date and would like to feed in your comments about the IFNC pilot in Wales or about the IFNC pilots more generally, then please send them to the same email address:
LLUK: Are you a union learning representative?  What would you give to find out everything you need to know about Diplomas and 14-19 learning? How about one day of your time, to join a FREE 14-19 briefing workshop where you will receive an up-to-date electronic toolkit of information, strategies & support resources to use in your work with further education colleagues?
The workshop will provide updates on the main strands of 14-19 learning so that you'll be aware of all the key roles involved in effective delivery.  With a maximum of 35 participants at each workshop, you'll have plenty of time to network and build relationships with colleagues carrying out a similar role. Places are limited and will be offered on a first-come first-served basis

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