In the News
CLG: Local Taxpayers get to judge Value for Money - Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles and Local Government Association Chair, Baroness Eaton, joined forces recently to urge all councils to publish details of all spending over £500 in full & online as part of wider action to bring about a revolution in town hall openness & accountability.
The call for greater disclosure on spending is just one of a series of measures detailed in a letter being sent to councils by the Secretary of State last week. He makes clear that transparency & openness should be the default setting for the way councils do business and calls on local government to ‘move at speed to adopt this new approach’.
Some of this information is already in the public domain, but not always in a format that makes it easy to be republished, re-used or mashed up by outside groups, without charge or copyright hindrance. A key part of the change will be getting information in the public domain in a standardised format. The Government is looking to progress this agenda quickly and has set out a timetable for change (see press release).
CLG: First nibbles from LG funding cake - The Government have published details of the £1.166bn Local Government contribution to the £6.2bn cross government savings in 2010/11. Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles, has claimed that no local authority will face reductions in their revenue grant of more than 2%.
Communities & Local Government has been asked to find £780m savings in 2010/11. Departmental & Arms Length Body running costs are therefore being reduced by 10%. The £29bn general grant, the main source of funding that local government receives every year, is not being reduced, to ‘ensure that key frontline services can be protected and prevent council tax rises’.
ScotGov: Less re-inventing of ‘Health Knowledge Wheel’ - A new database set to provide NHS staff with online information on areas such as patient care, clinical practice & research was unveiled last week. Cabinet Secretary for Health & Wellbeing, Nicola Sturgeon, launched the Knowledge Network during the opening address at the recent NHS Scotland Event in Edinburgh.
Managed by NHS Education for Scotland the online resource will include a ‘Google-style’ search engine giving instant access to 11m learning & information resources from over 100 providers, as well as personal space for employees to gather information.
It provides communities, teams & partner organizations with a suite of technology tools & shared content, which they can use to create online knowledge services to meet their own needs. Examples of websites built using these tools include; Health Management Online, the Children’s Services Network and, most recently, the national knowledge service for the social care sector – Social Services Knowledge Scotland.
Ofsted: How will they learn about core Christian values, let alone beliefs? - Ofsted’s latest survey on religious education finds that in many of the schools visited RE was no better than satisfactory and, in some cases, inadequate, because teachers are unsure about what they are trying to achieve in the subject.
There were a number of specific concerns about the teaching of religious belief and many schools visited did not pay sufficient attention to teaching the core beliefs of Christianity.
EH: Record it now or risk local historical knowledge loss - Small & medium-sized towns, suburbs, villages & hamlets, historic town centres and other local areas will benefit from undertaking historic area assessments in the face of increasing pace of change, says English Heritage, which has published guidance to help local authorities & others to conduct such assessments.
Understanding Place: Historic Area Assessment - Principles and Practice sets out in detail a systematic method of understanding, within a short space of time, the heritage interest of a fairly small area or neighbourhood.
This type of assessment will identify the features that contribute to the historic character of an area, as well as issues that may threaten to change that character, such as infilling of vacant sites, new developments, ‘garden-grabbing' in residential suburbs, or redundant & derelict buildings.
DfE: School Meals still on the ‘curriculum’ - Regarding stories concerning free school meals, a DfE spokesperson said:
“As the Education Secretary made clear in his letter to Ed Balls dated 7 June 2010, we are not stopping free school meals. All pupils who are already eligible will continue to receive them. We are, however, ending the expansion of eligibility this year.
This decision was made because the cost of extending eligibility was significantly higher than anticipated by the previous Government. Money saved this year will be invested in projects to boost the attainment of children from disadvantaged families”.
Newswire – Which?: Never again - Read; The Future of Banking Commission's report, courtesy of Which?
Recent paper: G-force puts the citizen centre stage - Making government work better - Government’s ambitious strategy for public sector ICT has raised expectations sky high. Greening government ICT set the scene for the next decade with shared and multi-service networks, G-Cloud-based applications and rationalised data-centre management. These technologies will become increasingly important for delivering savings of £3.2bn per year in public spending by 2014, while making its various departments greener in their use of technology and uniting them on a common infrastructure.
The strategy also contributes to the transforming Government agenda which puts the citizen and business at the centre of service delivery.
Cable&Wireless Worldwide has been part of this dynamic programme and their latest paper on Citizen-Centred Networks is now available. Click here to receive your free copy.
For information on forthcoming public sector events please click HERE to visit the WGPlus Events Calendar
SE: Voting has opened for the2010 National Lottery Awards - your chance to get behind your favourite Lottery-funded projects. Sport England funded 7 projects which have made it into the final 70 going before the public vote. Voting in the semi-finals round closes at 12pm on 18 June 2010.
SE are impartial - but this is your chance to get behind the project that you think made the most impact in the local community, has changed lives for the better or has opened doors for people who might not otherwise get the chance to take part.
FSA: Tree of Life Dried Apricots contain the allergen sulphur dioxide, which is not mentioned on the product label. This makes this product a possible risk to anyone who is sensitive to sulphites. The Food Standards Agency has issued an Allergy Alert.
Anyone who is sensitive to sulphites is advised not to eat this product. Some people with asthma are sensitive to sulphites and relatively small amounts may trigger an asthma attack. No other Tree of Life products are known to be affected.
FSA: The Co-operative has recalled some 75cl bottles of wine from customers because the products might contain small pieces of glass. The Food Standards Agency has issued a Product Recall Information Notice.
NIA: The Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly last week launched ‘A Snapshot of Democracy’ - a new educational DVD for post-primary school pupils to encourage them to get involved in politics & local government. Devised & created by the Assembly’s Education Service, the DVD was presented to a selection of teachers from across Northern Ireland.
As well as encouraging engagement between the Assembly and young people, the DVD will support the Northern Ireland Curriculum, particularly in the area of Learning for Life & Work. The DVD will be sent to all post-primary schools in September 2010.
Newswire - CABE: CABE is calling for primary & secondary schools across the country to ‘love your caretaker’. The call is being made at the launch of Green Day 2010, Britain’s biggest education initiative helping teachers & pupils understand and tackle climate change organised by CABE.
Caretakers don’t often get much credit or attention in a school. But they are crucial when it comes to tackling climate change. It’s the caretaker who has responsibility for climate actions like creating an allotment, choosing the most eco hand-dryers or installing bike racks. And who else is going to label light switches and power down the school at the end of the day?
DSA: Independent driving will become part of the practical driving test in Great Britain in October 2010. It's tasking the candidate to drive for about 10 minutes, either following a series of directions, following traffic signs, or a combination of both. To help the candidate be clear about where they’re going, the examiner can show them a diagram too.
MLA: The Museums, Libraries and Archives’ (MLA) Designation scheme is being extended to include collections of national & international importance held in England’s non-national museums, libraries & archives. Holders of these significant collections must submit their applications for grants by 13 July 2010.
A Designation Development Fund for libraries and archives is now open. This will be the first opportunity for holders of ‘Designated collections’ outside the museum sector to apply for Designation funding from the MLA.
SE: Sport England has welcomed the launch of UK Anti-Doping’s new ‘Report Doping in Sport’ hotline, which is for athletes, support personnel or concerned family & friends to pass on information about the use, supply or trafficking of doping substances. The line gives the sporting community a simple mechanism by which they can lodge any suspicions or evidence they may have, safe in the knowledge there is nothing to fear by doing so.
By dialling 0800 032 2332, callers will be able to speak to someone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Callers can remain anonymous and can rest assured that any information they share will not only be treated in confidence, but also be researched & investigated.
PCS: Final judgement has been reserved in the PCS union legal challenge to the way the government tried to cut civil service redundancy pay. Following a hearing at the High Court last week, Mr Justice Sales will make a final order in due course. More information will be published as soon as it is available.
Policy Statements and Initiatives
DCMS: The Government's Culture, Olympics, media and sport programme is online & ‘commentable’. The Coalition: our programme for government sets out a programme for partnership government over the next 5 years.
WAG: The Minister for Heritage, Alun Ffred Jones, has welcomed a new Sport Wales campaign to inspire more people in Wales to take up coaching. From gold medal-winning Olympians & Paralympians to Welsh rugby & football stars; 11 of Wales’ sporting heroes of the moment have thrown their weight behind Sport Wales’ latest campaign, Behind Every Star.
Last month, Mr Jones announced that the Welsh Assembly Government would be providing Sport Wales with an extra £1m a year to boost sports coaching in Wales. The money will help provide 1,500 extra coaches and to increase the standard of coaching across Wales in communities, clubs & elite sport.
WAG: Updated national planning policy with an increased focus on tackling climate change has been unveiled by Environment Minister, Jane Davidson, at the Royal Town Planning Institute conference in City Hall, Cardiff.
The Minister launched the second edition of Planning Policy Wales, which highlights the important role the planning system has to play in ensuring a sustainable future for Wales. It includes all the policy updates that have been issued since 2002 in the form of Ministerial Interim Planning Policy Statements (MIPPS).
It also reflects changes to facts, law, policies and other documents referred to in the original Planning Policy Wales and in the various MIPPS.
HMT: The Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, and Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, last week announced details of how the next Spending Review (SR) will be conducted. The SR, due to conclude in Autumn 2010, will set spending limits for every Government department for the period 2011-12 to 2014-15.
WAG: Minister for Heritage, Alun Ffred Jones has announced changes to the popular free swimming scheme to make it more widely available. A change to the minimum criteria of the current scheme, means that local authorities will now offer free swimming sessions or other leisure centre activities for children aged 16 & under on weekends as well as school holidays.
The new agreement with local authorities also places more emphasis on delivery of structured sessions, which have greater participation and will help deliver the Assembly Government’s aim of every child learning to swim by the age of 11. Some local authorities in Wales have already started offering the new sessions and all are expected to be up and running by September 2010.
DfE: The Government has lifted restrictions that stopped state schools offering iGCSE qualifications in key subjects. It has also announced its intention to include iGCSE results in school performance tables as soon as possible.
Schools Minister, Nick Gibb, has also announced that development of the new Diplomas in science, humanities & languages (due to be introduced from September 2011) will cease immediately. This means instant savings of around £1.77m, plus further savings in future years.
ScotGov: Scotland's first Zero Waste Plan was published last week. The plan sets out key actions, including new targets, to tackle the near 20m tonnes of waste produced by Scotland every year. It aims to drive change & inspire households, businesses, community groups, local authorities and the wider public sector to change the way they view and deal with waste. It contains a broader approach to tackle all waste, not just waste collected by councils.
CLG: Councils & communities are being given immediate powers to prevent the destructive practice of 'garden grabbing' and decide what types of homes are suitable for their area, Decentralisation Minister, Greg Clark, announced last week.
Recently published Government figures show that the proportion of new houses built on previously residential land such as gardens has risen dramatically, from 1 in 10 to 1 in 4 between 1997 & 2008 - robbing communities of green breathing space, safe places for children to play and havens for urban wildlife. This is because planning guidance has classified gardens as 'previously residential land', in the same Brownfield category as derelict factories & disused railway sidings.
Mr Clark has also scrapped the minimum density target so town halls can work with the local community to decide what new homes are best for their area. The target has contributed to the lack of family sized homes & flats that local people need.
ScotGov: A review of ferry services in Scotland has been published by the Scottish Government. The Scottish Ferries Review examines current provision of ferry services. It invites respondents to consider a range of changes & improvements suggested by people & communities across Scotland that could be made to meet future customer needs.
The review was a commitment within the 2006 National Transport Strategy (NTS) and will inform the preparation of a long-term ferries plan for lifeline services to 2022.
HEFCE: HEFCE has asked all higher education institutions and HEFCE- funded further education colleges to publish employability statements on the help they provide to students to improve their employability & transition into work.
The information will be published on the commentary section of the Unistats web-site by 31 August and institutions' own channels in time to help prospective students make informed choices about entry to higher education in 2011-12.
Newswire – LC: The Law Commission (LC) regularly consult on projects to be included in their programmes of law reform. They are now looking for suggestions for their Eleventh Programme (by Friday 15 October 2010). Anyone can propose any area of the law in need of reform for them to consider for the Programme. Projects they might consider will, of course, relate to the law and are likely to focus on issues that:
* are systemic
* are caused by laws or policies that are complex or hard to understand
* have widespread discriminatory impact or cause disproportionate costs, or
* arise from laws or policies that are inconsistent with modern standards
In view of the current economic situation, they would be particularly interested in projects that support the drive to reduce waste & inefficiency.
CQC: The Care Quality Commission have revised their current enforcement policy because some of their enforcement powers are different to those they anticipated when they published their first policy in March 2009.
There are changes to Warning Notice arrangements and they have added ‘Compliance Actions’ and ‘Improvement Actions’ to their possible regulatory responses.
Their basic approach and the principles they will follow when responding to failure to comply with the essential standards remains unchanged from their existing policy, but they are consulting (closes on Tuesday 31 August 2010) on the changes prior to publishing their final enforcement policy on 1 October 2010.
CLG: Housing Minister, Grant Shapps, has said that the Government is committed to giving councils more financial freedom to deliver a better deal for the 4m people living in council housing. Describing the current system of council house finance as ‘a mess’, Mr Shapps said the Coalition Government would review the unfair Housing Revenue Account subsidy system.
As a first step he pledged to continue the consultation (closes on 6 July 2010) on changes to a self-financing system already under way and urged councils & other partners to respond to this, so he could get a comprehensive assessment of the options currently on the table.
FSA: Working with the UK food industry to tackle campylobacter has been identified by the Food Standards Agency as its key food safety priority for the next 5 years in proposals published for consultation (closes on 2 September 2010). The draft Foodborne Disease Strategy, a roadmap for reducing all types of food poisoning in the UK by 2015, says that the increased prevalence of the bug campylobacter — found on raw chicken — is the biggest challenge for food safety in the UK.
The most recent study by the Agency showed that 65% of raw shop-bought chicken was contaminated with campylobacter. An estimated 300,000 cases of food poisoning are attributed to the bug every year in England & Wales alone.
CRC: The Commission for Rural Communities and Durham County Council have collaborated to introduce a new guide - Targeting Fuel Poverty - setting out how local authorities can tackle fuel poverty, reduce carbon emissions and improve health & well-being at the local level.
Using the database to target resources has led to an improvement of 86% in the average energy performance rating of housing in East Durham between 1997 & 2009, reduced carbon emissions by 162,183 tonnes and improved take-up of energy efficiency measures by householders by 40%. It also helped Durham lever in £6.75m external energy efficiency funding in 2009/10.
Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides
WAG: Guidance for local planning authorities & developers to deliver sustainable buildings through the planning system has been announced by Environment Minister, Jane Davidson. The Technical Advice Note 22 (TAN 22) Planning for Sustainable Buildings sets out the Assembly Government’s planning guidance to support the planning policy published in 2009, which set a minimum standard for sustainability for most new buildings proposed in Wales.
HMRC: HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) has launched a series of new online videos to help tax credit claimants through the annual renewal process. Every year, claimants must renew their tax credit awards by 31 July, or their payments stop.
HSE: Farmers are being warned not to use semi-automatic quick hitches if they are missing a retaining pin, following a spate of fatal accidents in other industries. The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) has previously issued a warning to the construction industry after 5 deaths in less than 5 years. It is now urging all of those working with or alongside excavators to check their equipment regularly to avoid serious injury.
HFEA: It is estimated that around 1 in 6 couples (approximately 3.5m people) experience some form of fertility problems at some point in their lives. To help anyone considering treatment, and those going through treatment, the UK fertility regulator (HFEA) has published a new Getting Started guide.
CRC: The Improvement and Development Agency (IDeA) have published ‘How to help people into employment in rural areas’ as part of their ‘How to’ guides for local authorities & their partners. Part of their series of guides for tackling worklessness, it draws extensively on 2 reports produced for the CRC – Rural Financial Poverty: priorities for action and Working in 21st Century Rural England.
EH: Small & medium-sized towns, suburbs, villages & hamlets, historic town centres, and other local areas will benefit from undertaking historic area assessments in the face of increasing pace of change, says English Heritage, which has published guidance (Understanding Place: Historic Area Assessment - Principles and Practice) to help local authorities & others to conduct such assessments – See ‘In the News’ section for more information.
EHRC: The Equality & Human RightsCommission confirmed last week that it has written to 5 police forces requesting more information about their use of stop & search powers. The Commission’s action follows its Stop and Think report, published on 15 March 2010, which concluded that a number of forces were using the stop & search tactic in a way that is disproportionate and possibly discriminatory.
General Reports and Other Publications
Newswire – IfG: The Institute for Government's Executive Director has written about the challenges facing the coalition in securing fiscal consolidation. In an article entitled Shaping the Future, Lord Bichard talks about challenge to cut budgets dramatically, while preserving the many strengths of our system of government - and tackling some of its deeply entrenched weaknesses.
Lord Bichard discusses the lessons from abroad, how to guard against falling service standards and how tackling some of Whitehall's inefficiencies could help.
Newswire - MEE: Professor Sir John Temple has launched his report ‘Time for Training’, an independent review of the impact of the European Working Time Directive (EWTD) on the quality of training for doctors, dentists, pharmacists & healthcare scientists.
The report was commissioned by Medical Education England (MEE) at the request of the former Secretary of State for Health, Alan Johnson. Sir John’s report concludes that high quality training can be delivered within the reduced number of hours available, but fails if trainees:
* have the major role in providing out of hours service
* are poorly supervised or
* have limited access to learning
Newswire – CABE: There should be a new simpler standards framework for housing, in return for a set of minimum national design standards for all new homes, according to a report from CABE. Simpler and better: housing design in everyone’s interest argues that smarter regulation would give consumers a guarantee that homes and neighbourhoods are well designed everywhere.
The current mix of standards required by building regulations, planning policy and funders desperately needs rationalisation. CABE is proposing replacing this with a single set of clear requirements by which developments are designed, judged & developed through the planning system, and specifically identifying those that should be delivered through the building regulations.
TfL: A new, 30-strong Police Cycle Task Force hit the streets of London last week, as the Mayor, Transport for London (TfL) and London's police forces published (for consultation – closes on 3 August 2010) a draft plan for tackling cycle theft & vandalism in the Capital.
They will patrol London's streets by bike, investigating & tackling cycle theft and criminal damage to bicycles.
Alongside local Safer Transport Teams, the new team will also run sessions on bike marking & registration and give London's cyclists advice on how to lock up their bikes securely in order to deter theft.
Newswire – HMCIP: Prisons have come a considerable distance in meeting the religious needs of Muslims, but are not yet effectively managing a complex & multi-dimensional population, said Dame Anne Owers, Chief Inspector of Prisons, publishing a thematic report - Muslim prisoners’ experiences.
A pervasive theme was the lack of support & training available to staff, outside briefings relating to violent extremism & radicalisation. This meant staff could either back off from confronting challenging behaviour or challenge inappropriately.
MoJ: The Guardian newspaper last week highlighted the work of the Shannon Trust to help prisoners who can read to teach those who cannot. Tuition from other prisoners who do have reading skills makes offenders better equipped to find work at the end of their sentences. The Toe by Toe peer mentoring programme is supported by a network of 160 volunteers in the community and a similar number of prison officer facilitators.
Newswire – ASI: A new report from the Adam Smith Institute (ASI) has called on the government to implement £91bn of cuts by 2015 to eliminate the deficit. This equates to a reduction in public spending across all departments of 3% a year for the next 5 years.
Nigel Hawkins’ report - The Party Is Over – A Blueprint for Fiscal Stability - claims that no budget should be ring-fenced and says that even the Health budget should be subject to an annual reduction of 2% a year.
Further cuts also need to be made in the current financial year if the deficit is to be eliminated within the course of this government. In addition, Secretaries of State should expect to lose their jobs if they are unable to deliver the necessary savings – such is the economic importance of bringing spending under control.
NAO: Government funding for developing renewable energy technologies has delivered technology innovation and increased the supply of renewable energy, according to a report published by the National Audit Office. However, co-ordination has historically been limited and the absence of a consistent approach to measuring & reporting on the impact of this support means the overall value for money of spending to date cannot be demonstrated.
NICE: Doctors should focus on tackling health inequalities as part of their everyday practice, a report by the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) concludes. Despite an increase in rates of life expectancy in recent years, there is evidence to suggest that health inequalities are still rife across the UK. In Canning Town, a deprived district in the East End of London, the average male life expectancy is 73 years, compared with 79 years in the affluent London borough of Westminster.
The report, published last week and developed in partnership with other Royal Colleges, as well as with the NHS, identifies how doctors can take account of social inequalities in every area of their work. NICE has published guidance to help doctors achieve a number of the recommendations set out in the report, and is committed to helping drive down health inequalities across Britain.
Legislation / Legal
ScotGov: New laws to protect wildlife and better regulate the management of Scotland's natural environment have been presented to the Scottish Parliament. They are designed to update ancient gaming laws, introduce robust deer management policies, minimise confusion and prevent invasive non-native species gaining a foothold in Scotland's unique landscape.
ScotGov: An independent review of the procedures for sheriff & jury criminal court cases published its final report last week.
EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.
Newswire – EC: Self-employed workers and their partners will enjoy better social protection – including the right to maternity leave for the first time – under new legislation endorsed by EU governments last week.
The Directive on self-employed workers and assisting spouses repeals & replaces an earlier law (Directive 86/613/EEC) and ‘improves the social protection rights of millions of women in the labour market, boosting female entrepreneurship’. At present, women represent only 1 in 3 entrepreneurs.
As far as employees are concerned, the EU recently adopted a new Directive improving the right to parental leave (IP/09/1854) and the Commission's proposal for a revised Directive on maternity leave is currently in first reading by the European Parliament (see also IP/08/1450).
NAO: There has been a detectable improvement over recent years in the financial management of European funds across the European Union, the National Audit Office has reported. However, there remain seemingly intractable problems with reducing the high levels of error in some significant areas of EU spending.
Charity and Voluntary Sector
BIG: Communities across the UK are being encouraged to discover wildlife on their doorstep as the Big Lottery Fund prepares to plough £2m of good cause cash into improving the environment through protecting & creating wildlife habitats for everyone to enjoy.
Launching on BBC’s Springwatch show last week, BIG’s Community Wildlife funding programme will offer grants of between £300 - £10,000 to projects that bring communities together to improve or protect the natural environment by raising awareness of threatened wildlife or places.
Business and Other Briefings
OFT: The OFT last week announced plans to undertake a market study into equity underwriting & associated services. In 2009, companies raised an estimated £70bn of equity capital in the UK, paying an estimated £2bn in fees for equity underwriting and associated services. Initial discussions have confirmed that there is some dissatisfaction with these services among corporate users of the market. Any interested parties can submit their views on the scope of the study in writing by 9 July 2010.
HM Revenue & Customs Brief outlining the revised policy on the VAT treatment of pay-per-click (PPC) sponsored links appearing on search engine websites.
OS: Financial services companies can now access a wide range of Ordnance Survey mapping data for FREE to help identify patterns in fraud and aid intelligent decision making. OS OpenData (Ordnance Survey’s mapping & data portal) allows banks & insurance firms free access to key geographic datasets for the first time.
When used with an organisation’s own fraud intelligence, changes in the frequency or the location of patterns are then much clearer. As a result, faster & more intelligent decisions can be made based upon a more accurate picture of risk.
To demonstrate the potential, Ordnance Survey has created a series of ‘fraud maps’ that match statistics from a leading industry body to their geographic locations. The result is a striking & revealing representation of the peaks & troughs of the British ‘fraud landscape’.
To help banks & insurers to better understand the benefits of using OS OpenData, Ordnance Survey is also holding a series of FREE half‑day seminars across the country:
* Wednesday 16 June, Radisson Blu Hotel, Birmingham
* Tuesday 22 June, Leeds Marriott Hotel
* Tuesday 29 June, ABI, City of London
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