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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

Newswire – AC:  Does this invalidate ring-fencing of some Health Service budgets? - Government policies & programmes have not significantly improved the health of the under-5s in the past decade, according to the Audit Commission.

Its report - Giving children a healthy start - says more than £10bn has been spent (directly or indirectly) on improving the health of under-5s in England since 1998.  However, results are disappointing considering the level of investment.

The report recommends how to achieve better value for the money being spent on young children's health. Acting now could cut diabetes, heart disease & hypertension and ease a future strain on NHS resources.  Councils & health organisations are aware of health issues facing young children, such as a decline in immunisation rates for mumps, measles & rubella.  

However, the number of health visitors in England has dropped by 10%.  In addition, some parents from vulnerable groups are not using Sure Start children’s centres because they are unaware of the service, or they say they dislike the 'judgemental nature of health professionals'.
MoD:  It’s not so much the basic cost of the Armed forces that is the issue, but rather the continuing additional cost of fighting actual ‘wars’ - A Green Paper posing ‘fundamental questions’ for the future of Defence has been published by the MoD, paving the way for a post-election Strategic Defence Review (SDR).  This Green Paper on the SDR is itself the product of consultation within the Defence community. 
It has been informed by members of the Defence Advisory Forum, including opposition politicians, former military personnel & academics and identifies key questions that the SDR must address, including:
* What contribution should the Armed Forces make in ensuring security within the UK?
* How could we more effectively employ the Armed Forces in support of wider efforts to prevent conflict and strengthen international stability?
* Do our current international defence & security relationships require rebalancing in the longer term?
* Should we integrate our forces with those of key allies & partners?
CSPL:  Raising Parliamentary Standards appears as hard as trying to eradicate Bindweed in a garden - The Committee on Standards in Public Life (CSPL) has published its annual report for 2008-09 and its response to the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority’s consultation on MPs’ expenses.
Sir Christopher Kelly, Chair of the CSPL, said:
"The Committee’s work over the past year has been dominated by the issue of MPs’ expenses. …….. In particular we wish to highlight three issues:
* continued payment of mortgage interest during the 5 year transitional period should be conditional on the surrender of any capital gain attributable to that support
* to ensure a system which is free from any suspicion of abuse, the employment of family members should cease
* that the definition of what constitutes a reasonable commuting distance for MPs should be decided by an evidence based process”
HOIf you see something, report it - The public will be able to report suspected terror-related & violent extremist websites to the police in a new online scheme launched by the Home Office last week.  A dedicated DirectGov webpage will be linked to a new national police team within the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) Prevent Delivery Unit, who can investigate offensive & extremist sites.

The pilot scheme aims to make the internet a more hostile environment for terrorists & violent extremists who seek to exploit modern technology.  If a website meets the threshold for illegal content, officers can exercise powers under section 3 of the Terrorism Act 2006 to take it down.

The webpage will also advise people how they can protect themselves from offensive material, for example by reporting it to the website administrator or the hosting company, or using filtering software.
Newswire – CWDCFaster access to disability awareness training - The Children's Workforce Development Council (CWDC) is calling for all trainers in England who provide disability awareness training to register their details (from 1 February 2010) on a new secure website, which will benefit training providers by making it easier for employers from social care, social work, early years & young people's workforce to access disability awareness training locally for their staff.

After registering an account & completing a simple online form, training providers can then keep their details up-to-date for customers by editing their information securely online.  The FREE online database will launch to employers in the children & young people's workforce in March 2010 as part of CWDC's aim to increase the skills & knowledge of practitioners working with disabled children & young people.
FSAAre you listed as a potential ‘sucker’ - The Financial Services Authority (FSA) and City of London Police have written to 6,500 homes across the UK to warn people that their details are on a ‘master’ list being used by share fraudsters to target people and sell them worthless shares.  The master list contains the names of about 10,000 people, some with addresses & phone numbers.
The list was discovered by the FSA and City of London Police who launched Operation WARN because of serious concerns that it was currently being circulated among fraudsters.  The letter, which is the first stage of Operation WARN, explains what people on the list can do to protect themselves from the fraud.  

As well as acting quickly to alert those on the list, the FSA and City of London Police have launched a new secure consumer helpline 0845 602 2185 so people who have received the letter can call in for further information.

Shareholders and other consumers can avoid becoming victims of share fraud by:
* Hanging up the telephone if they get an ‘out of the blue’ call offering them shares
* Checking that anyone offering to sell them shares is registered with the FSA
* Calling the company back using the details in the FSA register to verify their authorisation
* Reporting any company that cold calls them to sell shares, to the FSA or the Police
DefraEssential, considering seas & oceans cover 70% of the planet - The Government has published a 15 year strategy to deliver world class marine science, which will inform decisions on food & energy security, managing the seas sustainably and climate change. 

The new strategy (a recommendation from the House of Commons Select Committee Report: Investigating the Oceans) has been developed in partnership with the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales & Northern Ireland and with significant input from organisations & individuals with marine science interests.

It provides a direction for future marine science by identifying 3 high level priority areas:
* Understanding how the marine ecosystem functions
* Responding to climate change and its interaction with the marine environment
* Sustaining and increasing ecosystem benefits
Press release ~ UK Marine Science Strategy (VLF 3Mb) ~ Marine Science Co-ordination Committee (MSCC) ~ House of Commons Select Committee Report: Investigating the Oceans~ 50 key facts about seas and oceans ~ NE – Marine Protected areas ~ Google Earth (free) ~ Ocean in Google Earth ~ Protect Planet Ocean ~  International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) ~ Coral Triangle and Climate Change: Ecosystems, People and Societies at Risk (VLF 4.5Mb) ~ WWF: Marine Act ~ Coral Reefs Status reports ~ Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network ~ International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI) ~ UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre ~ World Atlas of Coral Reefs ~ Natural Environment Research Councils (NERC) - Ocean Acidification Programme ~ Marine Climate Change Impacts Partnership report ~ Defra – Marine Environment ~ The Management of Natural Coastal Carbon Sinks

HLSurely one a year is achievable?Homeless Link has launched its manifesto to end homelessness with support from the 3 main political parties. It sets out 10 practical steps to achieve this challenging ambition in the next 10 years
Forthcoming Event: - Data Governance Conference Europe 2010 and Master Data Management Summit Europe 2010 - 19-21 April 2010, London - IRM UK are co-locating two of their conferences - Data Governance Conference Europe 2010 and Master Data Management Summit Europe 2010. The 3rd Annual Data Governance Conference will focus on how to establish and implement data governance, what pitfalls and roadblocks to avoid and the success factors for implementing data governance. The 5th Annual Master Data Management Conference will focus on MDM justification, strategy and implementation.
  • Delegates can attend sessions from both conferences and choose from a total of 4 conference tracks and 7 tutorials
  • Case studies and contributors include Ministry of Defence, NHS Business Services, Information Commissioners Office , Forrester, ABN Amro, British Telecom, Detica, Alcatel – Lucent, Nokia, IBM, Ericsson, Norway Post, Logica, O’Neill Europe, NFU Mutual, ABB, Maybank, CPP

Click here to view the full conference programmes.

For information on other forthcoming public sector events please click HERE to visit the WGPlus Events Calendar

General News

Defra: The Department of Health, Defra and the Health & Safety Executive have advised that pregnant women who come into close contact with sheep during lambing may risk their own health (& that of their unborn child) from infections that can occur in some ewes.  Pregnant women should seek medical advice if they experience fever or influenza-like symptoms, or if concerned that they could have acquired infection from a farm environment.
Although these infections are uncommon, and the number of human pregnancies affected by contact with sheep is extremely small, it is important that pregnant women are aware of the potential risks and take appropriate precautions. Farmers have a responsibility to minimise the risks to pregnant women, including members of their family, the public & professional staff visiting farms.
ScotGov: Ministers have backed moves to give tenants a voice in deciding to transfer 16,000 Glasgow houses into community control. Glasgow Housing Association (GHA) and the Glasgow and West of Scotland Forum of Housing Associations (GWSF) will ask tenants to consider transfer proposals in the course of 2010 & 2011, before deciding on their future.
A blueprint for GHA's future direction, following a year-long strategic options review, has also been finalised.  Housing & Communities Minister, Alex Neil, attended the official Second Stage Transfer Concordat signing ceremony in Glasgow last week.
HEFCE: HEFCE has announced the main decisions made by the Board at its meeting on 28 January 2010 on the provisional distribution of funding to universities & colleges in 2010-11.  These decisions were taken in the light of the Secretary of State's grant letter of 22 December 2009.  The detailed approach taken by the Board and the decisions are contained in HEFCE Circular letter 02/2010.
The Board agreed the allocation of £7,356m for the 2010-11 academic year covering teaching, research, capital and related activities.  The grants to individual institutions will be decided by the Board at its meeting on 4 March 2010 and the full grant announcement will be published on 18 March 2010.
OFT: The Office of Fair Trading has launched its 2010 Scams Awareness Month by highlighting how scammers are targeting unsuspecting people using increasingly sophisticated & manipulative tactics. New research for the OFT reveals the scale of mass-marketed scams in Britain, which arrive by post, email, text, phone or the internet and aim to mislead people to part with their cash.
This year's Scams Awareness Month is seeking to raise awareness of the scale of the problem with a nationwide 'Scamnesty' run in partnership with 129 local authority Trading Standards Services.  The campaign calls on consumers to drop scam mailings they have received into designated 'Scamnesty' bins (or boxes at local libraries) and public areas across the country.
Consumers looking for their nearest bin can do a postcode search on the Consumer Direct scams website.  The site also features an online bin where people can send suspected scam websites & emails. The campaign is also highlighting the damaging emotional impact that scams can have on victims.
Newswire – TSA: Almost 100 young people from across London and as far away as Portsmouth & Nottingham turned out last week to have their say about their neighbourhoods, their communities and their social housing. Issues such as dangerous dogs, how younger people can have a greater say in their communities and youth centres were top of the agenda.
The My House, My Street, My Say! event, which was run by the Tenant Services Authority (TSA) (the socialhousing regulator) and housing association Poplar HARCA, also saw attendees talking about the TSA’s proposed new standards for social housing landlords and recording messages about what they want the next Prime Minster to do to bring about change in their communities.
Clips from the Big Brother-style diary room, where attendees participated in a ‘Dear Prime Minister’ initiative, will be posted on – a new independent discussion forum for young people set up by Ashram Housing Association and Social Media Partnership.  The messages will be delivered to the new PM in his first week in office.
MoD: British Engineer troops installing a bridge in Nad-e Ali had to dive into a ditch they had just dug as they laid the bridge foundation when they came under fire from Taliban insurgents. They were pinned down for an hour while Afghan National Army soldiers & British infantrymen engaged the enemy in a fierce ‘firefight’.
The next day they returned under the cover of darkness to finish work on the bridge, but as it got light the insurgents starting firing on them again, so they created a smoke screen with grenades to give themselves cover. When the smoke cleared the insurgents were confronted with the fully installed, new bridge.
The men from 10 Field Squadron (Air Support) attached to 28 Engineer Regiment Group risked their lives to build the bridge (which will carry vehicles weighing up to 100 tonnes) to replace the existing crossing which could only carry foot traffic & motorcycles. Projects like this are the vital first steps towards developing the local infrastructure after the military have secured an area.
FSA: The Food Standards Agency has received information relating to a possible scam to obtain UK travel visas through a UK-based food company. A food packing company based in Norfolk received a request, from a ‘Mr Henry Ezimoah’, to produce letters inviting 'inspectors' from the Nigerian National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control to visit the UK and inspect good manufacturing practice.  The letters of invitation were requested as part of the visa application process.
The FCO in Nigeria has advised us that there is no visit proposed to the UK food packing company from the Nigerian authorities and it does appear to be a scam to obtain visas.  The UK local authority is dealing with this information as a potential scam and has passed the relevant information onto the police & immigration officials.
If you are aware of, or receive, any information relating to this scam, please send details to the Agency by emailing  The Agency will pass on relevant information to the UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) Agency in Nigeria. You can also report any known or suspected food fraud by telephoning the food fraud hotline on 020 7276 8527.
FSA: The Food Standards Agency has officially launched SmallSteps4Life – an innovative approach to motivating young people to take simple steps towards improving their health & well-being, both inside & outside the classroom.  The programme also supports the Change4Life movement and is part of Get Set – the London 2012 education programme that will help deliver the lasting legacy of the Olympic & Paralympic Games.
SmallSteps4Life invites young people to set themselves challenges relating to the themes of eating well, getting active and feeling good, over a period of at least 4 weeks.  Examples include: eat a healthy breakfast every day, walk to & from school and get more sleep.
The website has been fully updated, so that all primary & secondary schools have access to the complete interactive site.  There is a variety of resources for young people on the site, such as areas where they can post their own challenge ideas, share their thoughts on how they are getting on, play games and take part in a quiz.  There are also opportunities for teachers share their schools’ successes and nominate individuals or groups who have done particularly well as SmallSteps4Life ‘champions’.
BIS: An extra month has been added to the deadline for the Government Scrappage Scheme, allowing manufacturers & dealers more time to prepare for & operate the exit phase of the scheme.  Previously due to complete in February, the Scheme, which is jointly run by the Government & car manufacturers, will now run until the end of March 2010 or until the money runs out, whichever is the sooner.
MoJ: The Independent Advisory Panel, part of the Ministerial Council on Deaths in Custody, has launched a new website. The Panel provides independent advice to ministers on ‘deaths in state custody’.  

This covers deaths which occur in prisons, in or following police custody, immigration detention, the deaths of residents of approved premises and the deaths of those detained under the Mental Health Act in hospital. The new website includes details about panel members, meetings, lessons learned from deaths in custody and guidance on preventing & reducing deaths.
FDA: The call by MPs for action to minimise pay differentials between external & internal candidates for senior posts in the civil service has been welcomed by the FDA (the union representing senior managers and professionals in the civil service).

FDA general Secretary Jonathan Baume said: It is clearly unfair that those appointed from outside should be paid often tens of thousands of pounds more than those promoted from within the civil service.  The evidence, as Public Administration Select Committee’s (PASC’s) found, is that on the whole, outside appointments do not perform better than career civil servants, and many leave the civil service relatively quickly”.
PCS: The PCS union has started a strike ballot of 270,000 PCS members working for the civil service and its related bodies over unilateral changes to the civil service compensation scheme’.  The ballot (to run between 4 - 25 February 2010) follows the insistence of the Cabinet Office to proceed with making unilateral changes to the redundancy terms of civil and public servants.
PCS claims that the changes will ‘see staff robbed of up to a third of their entitlements if they are forced out of their jobs’ and will lead to the government cutting jobs on the cheap. The government is looking to save £500m through these changes, based on the number of jobs it has axed over the last 3 years.  The union fears that the cuts to the scheme could lead to the government cutting up to 100,000 jobs on the cheap.
PCS also announced that it had lodged papers for a judicial review, arguing that the changes need to be implemented through agreement with the trade unions rather than imposed. The union also pointed to the mounting political pressure over the changes with a 131 MPs & former ministers signing an early day motion urging the government to re-examine the ‘disappointing and unfair proposals’.
However, the FDA union has announced that 5 civil service unions - including the FDA - have reached a deal on new civil service redundancy terms after 18 months of intensive negotiations.  The arrangements cover almost half a million civil servants from the most junior grades up to Permanent Secretaries, including industrial workers.  The FDA is the union representing senior managers and professionals in the civil service.
MLA: The Fab Four and more initiative (launched in November 2009 by British Pathé and the Museums, Libraries & Archives Council), which allows visitors to see historical moving footage in exhibits & displays, has been extended until 31 March 2010.  
British Pathé offer was simple - unlimited & instant online access to British Pathe’s 3,500 hours of historical & iconic newsreel footage & stills in instant, downloadable, broadcast quality for use in exhibitions, displays and public events – all for a monthly subscription of £60.  British Pathé and the MLA were keen to ensure that all footage & stills were completely accessible & affordable.
It is available to local regional museums that belong to MLA’s Accreditation Scheme, or are working towards Accreditation.  It is also available to individual public libraries & archives operated by local authorities.
RDPE: A local approach to delivering more than £105m of Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) funding will ensure the biggest positive difference for rural areas it was claimed last week. This message was delivered at the second national RDPE Network meeting for Local Action Groups (LAGs) held in the West Midlands, which also featured practice sharing, knowledge transfer and a series of interactive workshop sessions.
The Leader approach enables community-led delivery of RDPE funding in rural areas and is being implemented through LAGs, which represent public & private partners and community & voluntary groups.

Policy Statements and Initiatives

DH: A new government strategy is intended to halve the number of smokers, from 21% to 10% of the population by 2020. Secretary of State for Health, Andy Burnham, has announced. Research shows that 70% of smokers want to give up and this strategy is meant to ensure every smoker, no matter what level their addiction is or however many times they’ve tried to stop before, will be able to get help from the NHS.
It also acknowledges that some smokers need longer-term support & treatment, but that is better than continuing to smoke.  A review of the smokefree law will include, for example, whether to extend legislation from enclosed public places & workplaces to areas like entrances to buildings.
The MHRA is also encouraging the development and the wider availability of safer nicotine delivery medicines.  To create a level playing field, the MHRA is consulting (closes on 4 May 2010)on whether to regulate all nicotine containing products (with the exception of tobacco products, which are governed through specific legislation).
ScotGov: As new research has been published on public attitudes to broadcasting and the Scottish Government has held a summit (on Monday 8 February) to explore the direction of Scottish broadcasting

The summit was hosted jointly by the Saltire Society and Culture Minister Fiona Hyslop.  Participants were asked to outline their views & aspirations for broadcasting in Scotland and the Scottish Government sought to re-energise efforts to increase Scotland's share of UK network production.
Research on viewers' attitudes to broadcasting in Scotland shows that while overall satisfaction with how Scotland is portrayed on television has improved slightly, there has been no improvement in levels of satisfaction at Scottish reporting on UK-wide news programmes.
HO: A plan to support Police Service reform & improve value for money has been laid out by senior police figures. The joint report builds on the government’s Policing White Paper and provides further detail on how savings of at least £545m will be delivered. It sets out opportunities to improve value for money, including:
* reforming police shift patterns to better suit the public & cut back on overtime payments
* streamlining back-office support services
* developing smarter procurement policies & finding cheaper IT solutions
* increasing the efficiency of systems & processes
The document also includes calls for chief constables to consider how best they provide neighbourhood services, including forces reviewing whether their basic command units maximise delivery for the public. Policing Minister, David Hanson MP, will now write to all chief constables & police authorities urging them to assess how the report’s findings can help them improve their efforts to maximise value for money.
ScotGov: The Scottish Government has set out its spending plans for 2010 - 11 to the Scottish Parliament. Finance Secretary, John Swinney, said this will include more funding for training & educational places and further support for measures to tackle climate change and fuel poverty.
Mr Swinney also announced an Independent Budget Review will be established to consider the implications of forecasts of reductions in public spending in Scotland and that the Scottish Government will (on a monthly basis) publish online details of all items of expenditure above £25,000, beginning with payments processed in April 2010.
CLG: Housing Minister, John Healey, has announced new practical help & protection for tenants in privately rented homes.  The moves is intended to help tenants find safer & better homes for rent and offer extra support if they face problems with their landlords or accommodation.
A new housing hotline will open for business by summer 2010 to offer private tenants FREE practical advice when problems occur and a new ‘tripadvisor’ style feedback website could allow tenants to post views on their accommodation & landlord.  A new National Landlords Register will provide a track record of prospective landlords in how they keep their properties up to scratch or how quickly they fix any faults.
Plans laid in parliament last week to make written agreements a legal requirement for all tenancies will mean tenants are clear about their rights from the outset and tenancy rights will be extended to more people living in shared homes on short term lets – giving extra protection to around 150,000 more people including many students & seasonal workers.
ScotGov: The Scottish Government has launched a document which sets out planning policy on topics such as housing, wind farms, flooding and the natural & built environment. It replaces 17 separate policies with one single document which is easier for communities and developers to understand & interpret.
Also published was a circular updating guidance on the criteria & processes when developers are required to make a contribution to the provision of local infrastructure, where a development would create additional infrastructure demands.
WAG: More than £110m of Welsh Assembly Government funding has been set aside to transform the opportunities & prospects for young people, local residents & businesses in the Heads of the Valleys region.  There will be public consultation about the nature of the proposed changes over the coming months.


NICE: The Citizens Council of the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), which provides public input into the Institute’s work, has published a report on its meeting to discuss smoking & harm reduction.
The public is now invited to comment (by Wednesday 31 March 2010) on the Council members’ views on the theoretical strategy of harm reduction with regard to smoking – an approach not currently used in the UK.  This includes the pros & cons of promoting the switch to alternative products such as medicinal nicotine, alongside supporting smokers to quit.
NICE has not been asked to produce guidance on harm reduction in smoking.  However, should guidance be requested on this topic, the views of the Citizens Council on issues which should be taken into account will be helpful to inform NICE’s independent committees.
CQC: The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has launched a public consultation (closes on 27 April 2010) on proposals to promote high quality health & social care through a new approach to assessments in 2010/11. The assessments will apply to all 152 local councils, 392 NHS trusts and 24,000 adult social care providers.
Complementing its new registration process that focuses on meeting essential standards of care, the commission's further assessments of quality will promote improvement above those basic requirements by providing independent information about the quality of care. The proposals include regular scored assessments of care organisations as well as in-depth special reviews and national studies looking at selected areas of care requiring special attention.
DfT: Proposals to simplify motorway speed limits for buses, coaches & heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) have been published for consultation (closes on 27 April 2010) by the Department for Transport.  The changes are needed because of differences that have arisen between new vehicles (which are fitted with speed limiters) and older vehicles (which are not).
This means that while newer HGVs are limited to 56mph older vehicles are able to drive at up to 70 mph on the motorway.  Similarly, new passenger vehicles with over eight seats are limited to 62.5 mph on the motorway, but older vehicles are able to drive at 70 mph.
This can cause confusion for other drivers and creates a disincentive for companies to invest in safer & more fuel efficient vehicles.  In addition, vehicles with speed limiters are not allowed to use the right hand lane of three lane motorways, but those without speed limiters currently are.
HMT: The Government has published a consultation (closes on 28 April 2010) document on the role the Private Rented Sector should play in supporting the economic recovery and increasing supply in the housing market.  The Private Rented Sector represents around 14% of all households in England, or around 3 million homes.
This HM Treasury consultation is complemented by the Communities and Local Government policy statement - The Private Rented Sector: Professionalism and Quality: consultation responses and next steps – See CLG item in ‘Policy Statements and Initiatives’ section.
LLUK: Following on from the successful review of the National Occupational Standards for Learning and Development, draft Units of Assessment for the QCF and CQFW have been produced for new qualifications for Assessors and those with responsibility for Internal and External Quality Assurance.  These will shortly be made available to be consulted on and gather feedback, prior to being finalised.
This purely web based consultation will be open & available on the Lifelong Learning UK website from 15 - 26 February 2010. To make sure you receive an update as soon as the consultation goes live please email:
OFT: The Office of Fair Trading has launched a market study to examine when, how & why contracts may cause difficulties for consumers. The OFT intends to look at how well consumers understand typical contracts and how this varies when contracts are, for example, presented online, over the phone, or during a face-to-face sales pitch.
The OFT will also look at how firms approach consumer contracts and any practices which deliberately or unintentionally disadvantage consumers.  The results should be of benefit to firms who are trying to make important terms & conditions clear to consumers buying their products and services.
It will be contacting key parties directly, including Government departments & consumer bodies.  Others who wish to make a submission (by Wednesday 31 March 2010) should click HEREThe study is expected to be completed in Winter 2010.
BIS: Consumer minister, Kevin Brennan, has announced the next step in the Government’s plan to put in place a body to enforce compliance with the Groceries Supply Code of Practice (GSCOP).  

The launch of a consultation (closes on 30 April 2010)on the powers & operation of the body came the day after the new Code of Practice came into force, meaning that the body can be established as soon as possible – See also related ScotGov item in ‘Legislation / Legal’ section.
ScotGov: More people will be able to generate their own green energy under new Scottish Government proposals. At present, many homeowners are able to install equipment including solar panels and ground & water source heat pumps without planning permission.
But, under fresh proposals set out in a consultation (closes on 30 April 2010), there would also be scope to install wind turbines or air source heat pumps without a requirement for planning consent.
DECC: The Department of Energy and Climate Change has published plans (consultation closes on 26 April 2010) for a scheme to incentivise renewable heat generation at all scales.  This will come into effect in April 2011 and guarantee payments for those who install technologies such as ground source heat pumps, biomass boilers and air source heat pumps – See ‘Public Sector Trade News’ section for more information.
DH: A new government strategy is intended to halve the number of smokers, from 21% to 10% of the population by 2020.  To create a level playing field, the MHRA is consulting (closes on 4 May 2010)on whether to regulate all nicotine containing products (with the exception of tobacco products, which are governed through specific legislation) – See ‘Policy Statements and Initiatives’ section for more information.

Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides

QCDA: The countdown to the new primary curriculum has begun with support & guidance for schools & teachers available online - The Qualifications & Curriculum Development Agency (QCDA) has launched its new National Curriculum website.
Visitors to the site will see the new primary curriculum, alongside the recently revised secondary curriculum. Schools will use the site to access the curriculum, guidance & tools including design tools to assist in medium and long term planning.
It contains an interactive guide to the curriculum, plus a video tour of the key features of the website.  More information, including professional development material, will be added to the website throughout 2010
FSA: The Agency has updated its list of product ranges that do not contain the 6 food colours associated with possible hyperactivity in young children.  A further 2 manufacturers producing product lines free of the colours have been added to the list.  The manufacturers are Dartmoor Kitchen and Sargents Bakeries
Consumers who are particularly concerned about the presence of the colours should continue to check labels, especially in the case of products with a long shelf-life, where the availability of reformulated products may vary.
HSEMental Health Matters Ltd (MHM), a North East-based registered charity has been fined £30,000 with costs of £20,000 after one of their employees was killed by a service user. Ashleigh Ewing, a 22-year-old support worker employed by MHM, was attacked & killed by service user Ronald Dixon, who pleaded guilty in October 2007 to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility and is detained indefinitely at Rampton Secure Hospital.
Working alone is not in itself against the law and it will often be safe to do so.  However, the law requires employers & others to think about and deal with any health & safety risks before people should be allowed to work alone.  

Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 states: it shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employee.
ScotGov: A website, to support unemployed teachers to access Continuing Professional Development (CPD), has been launched. The CPD Step-In will be available to any trained teacher and provides a range of services - including links to online training, discussion forums & professional advice - at a time when employment opportunities may be more difficult to find.
Furthermore, new guidance has also been issued to all local authorities which emphasises the CPD support that needs to be available to teachers on supply lists to ensure their skills & knowledge can be refreshed.

Annual Reports

ScotGov: The first report of the Scottish Antimicrobial Prescribing Group has been published.  It is designed to provide a baseline to monitor trends in prescribing and antimicrobial resistance. In addition, Health Secretary, Nicola Sturgeon, has as outlined the next steps for the Scottish HAI Task Force, which is currently midway through a 3-year action plan
These include:
* Agreeing priorities for HAI and antimicrobial resistance over the next three years
* Monitoring emerging resistant infections and working with the Scottish Antimicrobial Prescribing Group to ensure Scotland's antibiotic prescribing policy remains appropriate
* Assessing the potential for minimising patient movement within hospitals, in light of findings from bed management pilots.

General Reports and Other Publications

DCMS: Former Liverpool Football Club chief executive Rick Parry has recommended that a national cross-sports integrity unit be established to best tackle the threat of betting corruption in sport

The proposal is one of the key recommendations in a report from Parry (& a panel of sports betting integrity experts) that was commissioned by Sports Minister, Gerry Sutcliffe, in June 2009, which was prompted by Sutcliffe’s concern with the number of suspicious betting cases being reported to the Gambling Commission.
ScotGov: Young Scots seeking to improve their skills in traditional music or dance may get the opportunity to be mentored by a master exponent of the art. That is one of the recommendations of the Traditional Arts Working Group report, published last week that explores the cultural legacy of Scotland's past, as reflected in traditional art forms.
IfL: The Institute for Learning (IfL) has welcomed the introduction of an assessment-only route to Qualified Teacher Status (QTS), the accreditation for qualified teachers in state-maintained & special schools.  This will offer further education teachers who have a degree and Qualified Teacher Learning and Skills (QTLS) status a fast & flexible route to QTS accreditation, so that they can work as qualified teachers in schools.
The Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA) recently published a report on the outcome of its consultation regarding the assessment-only route to QTS.  IfL had responded to the consultation in autumn 2009 and the TDA's report specifically mentions IfL's recommendation that those carrying out assessments for further education teachers should be sufficiently knowledgeable about the vocational or subject area and the further education context to make judgements.
IfL had also suggested that the degree requirement should be extended to include recognition of vocational qualifications & relevant experience, for example, for those in the FE sector who had been successfully teaching for many years without having gained an undergraduate degree or equivalent qualification.  In its consultation report, however, the TDA reiterated that teaching was a graduate profession.
CRC: Over the last 6 months the environment in which housing & planning operates has changed significantly.  The current challenging economic climate has contributed to a slower rate of housing supply which, when set alongside strong housing demand, is creating some significant pressure on the supply of affordable and market housing developments

In the Commission for Rural Communities’ latest State of the Countryside Update: Housing demand & supply report on housing supply & demand, they have are highlighted how these pressures are likely to become more acute over the coming decades.
NAO: The Department of Health's strategy for stroke care has increased the priority & awareness of the condition and started to improve patients' care & outcomes, concludes a report by the National Audit Office.  

Actions taken since 2006 have improved the value for money of stroke care; but improvements have not been universal andimprovements in follow-up care have not matched those of acute care services.
CRC: The Commission for Rural Communities’ Commissioners recently considered the ways in which public resources are allocated between different places.  They agreed that it is important that resources are allocated in ways that are fair between different places, but they also raised a number of questions & rural proofing approaches for making sure that this is the case for rural places.
This focus on fairness is timely, with public sector retrenchment and with various reviews of resource allocation systems in the pipeline (for example of the Dedicated Schools Grant) and with keen interest in this subject from rural bodies (such as in the rural manifesto recently published by the Rural Service Network).
DH: A report into GP Out-Of-Hours care that makes a number of recommendations for improving the system has been published by the Department of Health. The report - General Practice Out of Hours Services - follows a review by Dr David Colin-Thome, National Clinical Director for Primary Care at the Department of Health and Professor Steve Field, Chairman of Council, Royal College of General Practitioners.  The DH has accepted all the recommendations in the report.
Ofsted: The best providers of the Workstep programme have displayed a marked shift in the support given to disabled people to overcome mental, physical & personal barriers to get & keep a job, according to a report published by Ofsted, the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills.
Improving progression to unsupported employment: A review of strategies developed by Workstep providers highlights the variety of approaches which a range of organisations have developed to help disabled people gain employment.  

The report finds the most effective Workstep providers actively promote the valuable skills disabled people can bring to the workplace, helping to break down myths about the roles disabled people can perform.
NAO: The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills’ (BIS’s) free face-to-face advice for people struggling with debt has helped more people than planned, at slightly less than the planned cost per person, and is highly regarded by those that use it.  However, demand is now outstripping capacity and support could be provided to more people through further efficiencies, the National Audit Office has reported.  
An NAO survey found that 81% of people who received the advice said it helped compared to 69% for advice received from a fee charging professional and 59% for advice received from a bank. Between July 2008 & July 2009 there was a 28% increase in the number of people contacting advice providers and, in some instances, there is not the capacity to cope.  A quarter of advice agencies are either refusing new clients or have a waiting period of over a month.

Legislation / Legal

HO: The draft order to renew control orders legislation has been laid before Parliament by the Home Secretary.  Control orders are an important tool to deal with suspected terrorists who cannot be prosecuted or deported.
The annual report on the operation of control orders legislation by independent reviewer of terrorism legislation Lord Carlile has also been published.  This includes his analysis of the viability of the control orders regime in light of the House of Lords' judgment in June 2009, as requested by the Home Secretary.

In addition, a post-legislative assessment memorandum on the 2005 Prevention of Terrorism Act was laid before Parliament.  This is part of the Government's commitment to give post-legislative scrutiny to all Acts after 2005.  The document reiterates the Home Secretary's commitment to the control orders regime in order to protect the public.
MoJ: The government has set out the next steps to reforming the coroners' system, including plans to appoint the first ever Chief Coroner. As well as the appointment of the Chief Coroner in spring 2010, the Ministry of Justice will release a consultation in March 2010, asking for views on the policy details of the new system.
This will be followed in the autumn by the appointments of a National Medical Adviser to the Chief Coroner, and a National Medical Examiner.  The new system is expected to go live in April 2012.
Defra: The Environment Agency and Natural England have become the first regulators to be given new civil powers that are intended to give them greater flexibility to enforce environmental law, hopefully making the system more efficient & effective for both regulators & businesses.
The range of new civil powers (which have been welcomed by the NFU and EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation) given under the Regulatory Enforcement and Sanctions Act 2008, will increase the options available to regulators and include fixed & variable monetary penalties and compliance notices.
The sanctions will provide an alternative to criminal prosecutions for Regulators that is more proportionate and reflects the fact that the majority of non-compliance by businesses is unintentional.  The existing system was considered to be too reliant on costly & time consuming criminal prosecutions.  

The new powers will not replace existing informal methods such as advice & guidance.  Businesses & individuals will have access to an appeals process through an independent and impartial tribunal.
Ofgem: Energy regulator Ofgem has announced the suspension of its energy network merger policy following a consultation.  The suspension is effective immediately and it will be in place until a review of the policy is completed.
Ofgem will consult on proposals for a revised merger policy in spring 2010 before publishing the new policy in summer 2010.  Any mergers that are proposed in the interim period will be considered by Ofgem on a case-by-case basis.
Newswire – HCA: A new model shared ownership lease aimed at creating more certainty for lenders and more clarity for purchasers of New Build HomeBuy property has been created by the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA). The revised model lease (which will be adopted by all lenders & housing providers) will come into force from 6 April 2010.
The HCA believes the lease will not only simplify & speed up the home buying process but, at a time of financial caution, will assure existing lenders of shared-ownership mortgages.  As economic conditions improve the revised lease should help to encourage new lenders into the shared ownership market.
CLG: A new Private Members Bill published last week (with essential government backing) will ‘give every resident the right to hold local service providers to account through their elected representatives on all issues of local concern: like dug up roads, poor facilities at train stations, or threatened local bus routes’.
The proposed new powers mean councils could legally compel organisations to attend public scrutiny hearings to justify their actions and respond in full to recommendations made by the councils to resolve the problem.  This sweeps away the need to rely solely on the voluntary co-operation of organisations when addressing local concerns.
ScotGov: Commenting on the new UK Groceries Code of Practice, which came into force last week, Rural Affairs Secretary, Richard Lochhead, said: "Supermarkets account for the vast majority of grocery retail sales in Scotland and are often the main link between consumers and the rest of the food supply chain.  In Scotland we are already reaping the rewards of a more productive partnership through our Retailers' Charter and Retailers' Forum.
This Code of Practice is a welcome step in ensuring our suppliers are treated fairly by our top ten supermarkets, having been extended to cover all supermarkets with a turnover of more than £1 billion, but it needs some teeth in the form of an ombudsman………………
As the UK Government prepares to consult on the role of the enforcement body I have written to them reiterating Scotland's support for an Ombudsman to oversee a Code which can then deliver results for our farmers, producers and suppliers".   See also related BIS item in ‘Consultations’ section.
MoJ: Legal Aid Minister, Willy Bach, has announced the government will tighten the rules for civil legal aid so that fraudsters are uncovered at an early stage, and funding is better targeted. The changes, which were consulted on from July to October last year in the Legal Aid: Refocusing on Priority Cases consultation, will tighten rules so legal aid is not wasted on funding low value damages claims against public bodies, or on hopeless judicial reviews.
The changes will also mean that before legal aid is granted in a divorce or child contact dispute, the other side will be given an opportunity to provide evidence if the applicant is financially ineligible for legal aid.  

The changes will also restrict access to domestic civil legal aid for non-residents and restructure the LSC's committee dealing with cases of wider public interest. The changes are expected to deliver savings in terms of preventing unmeritorious claims from being made.  The new measures will be introduced in April 2010.

Charity and Voluntary Sector

MoJ: The Ministry of Justice and the Corston Independent Funders’ Coalition have established a joint grant fund (each contributing £1m) to help transform the way women are treated by the criminal justice system

The Women’s Diversionary Fund will be used to provide grants to third sector organisations to support further growth in community services for women and contribute to building the confidence of courts in alternatives to custody.
MoD: The MoD and Hampshire County Council have joined forces to launch the Armed Forces Community (AFC) Welfare Pathway initiative in Hampshire to enable serving personnel, their families & veterans to receive the help, advice & support they need from the people best-placed to provide it.
Members of the AFC will be able to access advice on their entitlements by calling Hantsdirect, the County Council’s contact centre, on 0845 603 5630.  They will be able to get advice on everything from priority healthcare to housing & education, as well as link with Service & veterans’ charities and the Citizens Advice Bureau.
This is all supported by a single free national telephone number – 08000 223366 – that provides automated options for both in-Service and ex-Service personnel, their families & widows to use as an initial port of call, if uncertain of who to contact.  It’s not intended to replace existing sources of advice, but it provides a safety net for those who are completely unaware of what is available.
VSO: Kathy Lette, best-selling author of Mad Cows and Foetal Attraction, has joined forces with VSO to launch Walk for Tabita, a series of UK walks designed to raise over £50,000 for women’s health care in developing countries.  The Walk happens on Sunday 7 March 2010 - just before International Women’s Day - and honours Tabita, a Sierra Leonean women who lost her baby because she did not have access to a trained midwife.  

Tabita is just one of thousands of women that VSO health workers see each year.  Like Tabita, many are forced to walk for days to reach a trained midwife - often without medication or assistance - and sadly often too late to save the unborn child. 
Willing participants can either join 1 of 15 organised walks, beginning at a gentle 5km, or organise one of their own with friends, families & colleagues.  The walks are designed to be a social, fun day out.  Participants are asked to fundraise & raise awareness of Tabita’s story.
BIG: The Government has completed the roll-out of grants from its Community Assets scheme with £1m awarded to Herefordshire Council to transform Leominster’s historic Grange Court into a new facility for local charities & community groups.  The award will see the carved black & white timber building (built in 1633 by the King's carpenter John Abel) continue to be used by & for the community.
This final Community Assets grant sees a total investment of close to £30m from the Office of the Third Sector in the Cabinet Office’s initiative to create, refurbish & expand local facilities for VCS organisations. Herefordshire Council will transfer the freehold of the building to Leominster Area Regeneration Company Limited (LARC) leaving it in the hands of the local community.

Business and Other Briefings

BISLimits on awards & payment made to workers in certain employment rights cases will be revised as from 1 February 2010 under the annual index-linked formula. The revised limits affect the:
* maximum amount of compensatory awards for unfair dismissal
* limit on guarantee payments made when employees are not provided with work
* minimum amount of compensation for exclusion or expulsion from a trade union
Newswire – EA: Walk down your local high street this evening and you’d be forgiven for thinking that everything was still open.  From shoe shops to supermarkets, the lights are on - as are the flat screens and the illuminated signs - but no-one’s home. 
But this year that could change, thanks to a new government scheme which will require businesses to record their energy use and, from 2011, pay by the tonne for the carbon that they emit. Businesses using more than 6000MWh electricity per year, equivalent to about £500,000 worth, must register for the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme between April & September 2010, driving energy efficiency to the top of the corporate agenda for some 5,000 UK businesses. 

Industry News

DECC: From 1 April 2010 householders & communities who install low carbon electricity technology (such as solar photovoltaic (pv) panels & wind turbines up to 5Mws) will be paid for the electricity they generate, even if they use it themselves.  The level of payment depends on the technology and is linked to inflation.
They will get a further payment for any electricity they feed into the grid in addition to benefiting from reduced bills, as they reduce the need to buy electricity.  The scheme will also apply to installations commissioned since July 2008 when the policy was announced. A typical 2.5kW well sited solar pv installation could offer a homeowner a reward of up to £900 and save them £140 p.a. on their electricity bill.
The Department of Energy and Climate Change has also published plans (consultation closes on 26 April 2010) for a scheme to incentivise renewable heat generation at all scales.  This will come into effect in April 2011 and guarantee payments for those who install technologies such as ground source heat pumps, biomass boilers and air source heat pumps.
The heat incentive could help thousands of consumers who are off the gas network lower their fuel bills and gain a cash reward for greening their heating supply.  Details of funding for the scheme will be published in the Budget 2010.  Ofgem will administer the feed-in tariff scheme and suppliers will be responsible to paying the reward to their customers.
Newswire – EEPHEnergy Efficiency Partnership for Homes has appointed Professor David Strong as its new Chair. The Partnership is an independent, collaborative network of more than 575 supply chain organisations involved in the delivery of energy efficiency products & services to consumers.  It acts as a neutral space for members to work together to inform the practicality of government initiatives on domestic energy efficiency, carbon savings, energy security and the eradication of fuel poverty.

The Partnership has been particularly successful in recent months in providing the Government with practical insights into the forthcoming Household Energy Management strategy, as well as the extension of CERT (Carbon Emissions Reduction Target) and the introduction of CSEP (Community Energy Saving Programme).
It has some 75 different streams of work covering topics as diverse as consumer electronics & white goods, local authority engagement, fuel poverty, glazing, heating, insulation & lighting, and newbuild & 'hard to treat' homes.
WAGWelsh Assembly Government Minister Leighton Andrews has launched the Welsh Social Enterprise Coalition (WSEC) - a new organisation to champion & support the social enterprise sector in Wales - at the UK’s largest social enterprise conference, Voice 10, in Cardiff.
The WSEC will be made up of representatives of the social enterprise sector.  Its remit will be to champion the sector’s values, promote social enterprise as an alternative business model and to help the overall number of social enterprises in Wales to grow. The WAG has provided start up funding of £700,000 over 4 years to give the coalition time to focus its energies on creating revenue streams to ensure long-term sustainability.
Newswire – EA: A cutting-edge simulator that recreates the devastating effects of a flood has been created to test products designed to defend homes, businesses and people from flooding. The new test facility in Oxfordshire has been developed by the Environment Agency and HR Wallingford to test flood defence products against a new industry standard - PAS 1188.  It features a replica living room inside a massive tank, about half the size of a football pitch.
During the simulation, the replica building is fitted with the flood products and the tank is then flooded with thousands of gallons of water to simulate a severe flood.  If successful, the products will be awarded the BSI Kitemark, giving householders, organisations & businesses greater confidence in the flood products they use to protect their property.
DECC: 12 communities from across the UK are celebrating after winning up to £500,000 each to help install new green technologies such as solar panels, hydro turbines and energy saving insulation. The grant money, awarded through the Government’s Low Carbon Community Challenge, will be spent on a range of green measures which will cut carbon, save money on energy bills, and could even see some communities make cash from generating their own energy – thanks to the Government’s new clean energy scheme.
In total, 22 communities will benefit from the £10m challenge fund, the aim of which is to inform government of what works at a community level to cut emissions.  The first 10 winners were announced in December 2009. For contact details of winners see press release.
DH: A sensor that switches on the lights when you get out of bed, a temperature detector to stop your house getting too hot or too cold and a flood detector are just some of the assistive technologies on display at a state of the art ‘wise home’ that Phil Hope, Care Services Minister, visited in Harrogate recently.
Telecare could prevent 160,000 people from entering residential care per year, with potential cost savings of £2.0bn per year, according to Department of Health estimates.  However, 98% of UK adults are unaware that assistive technologies are an important part of social care, new research commissioned by the DH has revealed.
The DH has selected North Yorkshire County Council as an exemplar provider of innovative prevention services.  The Council has saved over £1m through telecare over the last year that would otherwise have been spent on domiciliary or residential care.  This cut the average person’s care costs by 38%, which is an average saving of £3,600 per person.
HO: Two revolutionary prototype pint glasses designed to reduce the terrible injuries caused by nearly 87,000 glass attacks each year (costing the NHS an estimated £2.7bn p.a.) were unveiled at the Design Council last week by the Home Secretary, Alan Johnson.
The safer pint glasses, designed not to shatter into & and dangerous shards, have been produced under the Design Out Crime programme, an initiative from the Home Office’s Design & Technology Alliance Against Crime and the Design Council. Designed to be safer, but also a more popular alternative to plastic, the 2 new designs are the first major advance in glassware for pubs since the 1960s:
* Glass Plus - looks just like a regular pint glass but has a thin transparent coating of bio-resin on the inside.  This makes it stronger and if the glass is broken it binds together dangerous shards - drastically reducing the likelihood of injury to customers and staff
* Twin Wall - a revolutionary design, made by bonding two ultra-thin layers of glass together in a concept similar to laminated car windscreens.  It makes the pint glass extremely difficult to break, but in the event that it does smash, any dangerous shards would be safely held together by a layer of resin
Specialist design consultancy DesignBridge used early research results from InnovationRCA, the business network of the Royal College of Art, to help create dozens of initial concepts.  These were assessed by leading glass manufacturers, materials experts, drinks producers and pub owners before the 2 final solutions were chosen.
Talks with major pub chains about trialling the Glass Plus glasses are proceeding, which it is hoped will go ahead within 12 months.  The Twin Wall designs will be further refined in consultation with manufacturers to investigate possible large scale production processes.

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