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In the News

CO:  Is it a lack of ‘training & accountability / clear lines of responsibility’, or just ‘laziness & incompetence’ that results in £bns STILL being wasted? - The Government has consistently failed to make the most of its scale, buying power and credit rating.  That is the key finding of Sir Philip Green’s review into Government efficiency, which focused on the procurement of goods & services like IT, travel, print & office supplies, and the management of the Government’s property portfolio.
For the review, Sir Philip and his team were given access to departments’ resource accounts & information on government contracts and leases.  Their work has revealed the poor quality of much of the data relating to where & how Government spends its money.  In addition, a lack of a centralised approach to buying goods & services has allowed departments to pay hugely different prices for the same items.
Press release ~ The Sir Philip Green Review ~ NAO: Improving the efficiency of central government's office property ~ HM Revenue & Customs’ estate private finance deal eight years on ~ NSG: Property Asset Management Training and Development Programme ~ OGC - High Performing Property ~ The PAM Maturity Matrix ~ 2004 Lyons report ‘Towards Better Management of Public Sector Assets’ ~ RICS publication ‘Public Sector Property Asset Management Guidance’ ~ OGC - Electronic Property Information Mapping Service (e-PIMS) ~ Occupiers Property Databank ~ Better Measurement, Better Management: Effective management of the Government estate ~ NAO: Commercial skills for complex government projects ~ OGC’s skills strategy ‘Building the procurement profession in government’ ~ Senior Responsible Owners ~ Project management framework agreement ~ Improvement and Efficiency South East (IESE) ~ Operational Efficiency Programme ~ OGC Gateway Review Process ~ OGC: Demand management ~ OGC: Managing Demand for Professional Services ~ OGC: Demand Management Process ~ Value For Money in public sector corporate services - A joint project by the UK Public Sector Audit Agencies ~ Public Sector Performance: Efficiency or Quality? ~ Public service reform in Scotland ~ Capability review website ~ NAO: Innovation across central government ~ Achieving Innovation in Central Government Organisations (2006) ~ CLG – Pooling Resources across a sector ~ Reporting on progress: Central Government websites 2009-10 ~ Measuring website costs ~ Review of Arrangements for Efficiencies from Smarter Procurement in Local Government ~ North West Centre of Excellence ~ NAO - Assurance for high risk projects ~ Major Project Review Group ~ OGC’s Construction Policy on High Performing Property ~ 'Valuable lessons' ~ Audit Commission Managing School Resources tool ~ How Civil Servants make policy ~ MINDSPACE - influencing behaviour through public policy~ ESRC: Leadership Change and public services: Reinvigorating Performance or Reinforcing Decline? ~ WAG - Improving public services ~ NAO Efficiency Toolkit ~ National Improvement and Efficiency Strategy (NIES) ~ Committee of Public Accounts - The Efficiency Programme: A Second Review of Progress ~ NAO - The Efficiency Programme: A Second Review of Progress ~ OGC - The Efficiency Team and What We Do ~ ESRC – The Management of Second Best ~ NHS Scotland's Efficiency and Productivity Programme ~ ScotGov - Efficient Government ~ Improvement service ~ Simplification Programme ~ Public Contracts Scotland ~ eProcurement Scotland ~ Could do better? Knowledge, learning and improvement in public services

BRUnfortunately we cannot afford the same financing model as when only 10% of the population went to University - Lord Browne of Madingley has published his Independent Review into Higher Education Funding and Student Finance.  Under a new system, to be called the Student Finance Plan, no student will pay anything until they graduate and are in work. 

After leaving university, graduates will only begin repaying when they reach annual earnings of over £21,000 a year, up from £15,000 under the current system.  The other key recommendations from Lord Browne’s report include:
* The current cap on fees of £3,290 p.a. will be removed
* A 10% increase in student places will be factored into the system over the next 4 years
* Those who wish to pursue part-time study should have equal entitlement to tuition support
* Any balance remaining after 30 years is written off
* Support for living costs available to all through an annual loan of £3,750, with no means testing
JRFPart of the problem is that the ‘less capable’ inexperienced jobseekers are now competing with ‘newly unemployed’ experienced workers - To help inform the debate on public spending cuts in the lead up to the Comprehensive Spending Review, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation has published a briefing about the 5 main benefits that make up, or add to, the income of the approximately 5m out-of-work working-age adults: Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA), Income Support (IS), Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), Incapacity Benefit (IB) and Disability Living Allowance (DLA).

Working-Age Welfare: Who Gets It, Why and What it Costs commissioned by JRF and written by Dr Peter Kenway (New Policy Institute), Professor Steve Fothergill (Sheffield Hallam University) and Goretti Horgan (University of Ulster) underlines the vulnerability of working-age benefit recipients.

The paper highlights:
* Low benefit levels for jobless adults
* The difficult & complex circumstances many jobless adults experience
* The challenges of finding work
* The growth of mental ill-health as an obstacle to paid employment
Press release ~ Working-Age Welfare: Who Gets It, Why and What it Costs (also see related documents) ~ Dedicated JRF microsite to help inform the debate on public spending ~ JRF quiz to test people's knowledge about poverty in the UK ~ The Minimum Income Standard ~ Now It’s Personal: The New Landscape of welfare-to-work ~ A longitudinal study of out of work Further Education leaners ~ ScotGov - More Choices, More Chances ~ Youthbuild ~ Liberation Welfare collection ~ Building Bridges to Work ~ Work Capability Assessment ~ Learning from the Past: Tackling worklessness and the social impacts of the recession ~ Cllr Houghton's report, Tackling Worklessness: A Review of the contribution and role of local authorities and partnerships - Final Report ~ Government response to the Houghton report ~ Future Jobs Fund ~ A step towards work or just stuck in a warehouse? ~ Depression: the treatment and management of depression in adults (update) ~ Workstep programme ~ Improving progression to unsupported employment: A review of strategies developed by Workstep providers ~ Rethink guide: ‘We Can Work it Out’ for line managers on how to make reasonable adjustments for mental ill-health ~ Delivering national employment and skills programmes to vulnerable groups in rural England: Needs, barriers and solutions ~ ‘Degrees of Success: The transition between VET and HE’ ~ Realising Ambitions: Better Employment Support for People with a Mental Health Condition (plus related reports) ~ Research Report No 513: Mental health and employment ~ EmployAbility ~ Employers' Forum on Disability ~ The State of the Nation: Poverty, worklessness and welfare dependency in the in the UK ~ PCS union press release in response ~ National Equality Panel ~ An Anatomy of Inequality in the UK ~ Working for Wellness ~ Older workers 'trapped in long-term unemployment' ~ Characteristics of the short-term and long-term unemployed ~ CfSJ:  Dynamic Benefits: towards welfare that works (scroll down) ~ Related DWP press release

CRC:  Part of the problem is that they are ‘unseen & unheard’ - Last week ‘Child in the countryside: challenging reality’ was published by the Commission for Rural Communities.  The information sheet is intended to extend & develop understanding of the picture for children & young people in rural England.  The statistics highlighted in the document are set in context and bought to life through evidence from service providers, parents & children.

The evidence will be of importance to a wide range of policy makers & organisations commissioning & delivering to children & young people in rural communities.  The information provided will prompt & assist decision-makers to engage positively with rural communities to ensure equitable access to important services.
BISThe danger is that ‘efficiently delivered online services’ don’t necessarily reach those who need them most - Plans to improve public websites, upgrade IT equipment and provide better online content to suit the needs of disabled people were unveiled by Communications Minister, Ed Vaizey last week.  Launching the eAccessibility Plan, the Minister announced a package of measures that will ‘contribute to a more inclusive digital economy for people with specific needs’.

The plan will be implemented by the eAccessibility Forum, a group of over 60 experts from Government, industry and the voluntary sector who will work to explore issues surrounding e-accessibility so that better & more inclusive services can be developed for both business and consumer benefit.  The aim is to reach a step-change in eAccessibility by the time of the Olympics & Paralympics in summer 2012.
Press release ~ eAccessibility Plan ~ eAccessibility Forum ~ Delivering inclusive websites ~ Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 ~ The Business Case for Web Accessibility ~ Essential Components of Web Accessibility ~ PAS 78: A guide to good practice in commissioning accessible websites ~ RNIB Web Access Centre ~ RNID: The Disability Discrimination Act - a guide for service providers ~ Usability Exchange ~ The Web: Access and Inclusion for Disabled People ~ The Usability Professionals’ Association ~ EU: eAccessibility – Opening up the Information Society ~ EU: Web Accessibility ~ Assessment of the Status of eAccessibility in Europe ~ European Disability Forum ~ Section 508 ~ Online basics ~ myguide courses ~ UK online centres ~ Digital Unite ~ ‘Get Digital' Programme ~ Silver Surfers Day ~ Community Voices
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The Summit will provide a unique mix of Gartner Research presentations, practitioner case studies, peer-to-peer roundtables, and hands-on workshops which closely engage Gartner analysts with the attendees.

Agenda Tracks
1. Evaluation — Services, Technology and Tools
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4. Emergence — Trends and Futures

Visit for further information and to register your place!

General News

PCS: Criminals will find it easier to produce fraudulent passports if the government presses ahead with office closures in the Identity & Passport Service, the PCS union has warned. The union was reacting to the recent announcement that the passport office in Newport (South Wales) and the majority of the agency's interview offices across the UK will close.
These offices - where first-time passport applicants go for interviews - were set up only a few years ago to prevent identity fraud and IPS has acknowledged they have successfully deterred fraudulent applications.
Directgov: To celebrate London 2012, the Royal Mint has made a collection of 50p coins depicting the sports of the Olympic & Paralympic Games.  For the first time in the 1,100-year history of the Royal Mint, this series of coins has been designed by members of the British public.  The first 8 coins are now available from the mint’s website - follow the link below for more information.  
CRUKCancer research UK scientists have shown that a protein in urine could be a powerful indicator of prostate cancer risk, according to a study published in PLoS ONE.  At the moment, there are too many uncertainties with the PSA test for doctors to use it in a national screening programme.
This latest research suggests that levels of MSMB protein in urine could form the basis for a new test to help identify men at greater risk of developing the disease.  It could also potentially be used alongside PSA testing to improve detection of prostate cancer and for monitoring progression of the disease.
EA: The Environment Agency has collected the world’s largest environmental prize after Britain’s most iconic river was been crowned the beauty queen of the planet’s waterways. The River Thames was selected out of hundreds of rivers across every continent as the winner of International TheissRiver Prize, which celebrates outstanding achievement in river management and restoration.
The EA has pledged that the $350,000 AUD prize money will go to the Thames Rivers Restoration Trust, with part being used by the Trust to establish a twinning project to help restore a river in the developing world.

Policy Statements and Initiatives

DH: Reviews commissioned by the Health Minister, Simon Burns, have concluded that a Summary Care Record containing core patient information will prove valuable for patients needing emergency care, the Department of Health has announced.
The SCR will only contain a patient's demographic details, medications, allergies & adverse reactions, information to ensure safe treatment when a patient needs emergency or unplanned care.
FCO: Foreign Office Minister Jeremy Browne, Mexican Ambassador Eduardo Medina-Mora and senior speakers from NGO Reprieve and the Commonwealth Secretariat spoke recently at the event marking World Day against the Death Penalty.
Launching the UK Government's strategy for Global Abolition of the Death Penalty, Minister Jeremy Browne outlined 3 main goals, to:
* increase the number of abolitionist countries or those with a moratorium
* reduce the numbers of executions & further restrict use of the death penalty
* ensure that where the death penalty remains, minimum standards are met
DefraDefra, the Scottish Government and Welsh Assembly Government last week launched the second phase of the Be Plant Wise campaign to raise awareness of the damage caused by invasive aquatic plants at a time when pond owners may be thinking about tidying their ponds ready for winter.
The release of just a tiny fragment of plant can establish a population that can choke an entire waterway, causing damage to the natural environment and costing the economy millions. 
BIS: The Government has put forward a proposal that could see Post Office Ltd turned into a mutual, giving power to staff, sub postmasters and communities’. Post Office Ltd is currently 100% owned by the Government and will not be for sale.

The Postal Services Bill, which will be scrutinised & debated by Parliament in the coming months, proposes powers to transfer ownership to a mutual.  Co-operatives UK has been asked to explore options for creating a ‘mutualised’ Post Office, reporting back to BIS Ministers next spring.  Before any move to a mutual structure there would also be a full public consultation.
SocitmLondon Borough of Redbridge's Ilford Blueprint Online project and Hertfordshire County Council's Online Free School Meals project are winners of the 2010 IT Excellence Awards.
In other results announced at the Socitm 2010 conference in Brighton on 11 October, the Metropolitan Police received a special prize for innovation for their Focus Court Presentation System, while Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council was highly commended for its e-buy procurement system.
WAG: Social Justice & Local Government Minister, Carl Sargeant, last week launched the Wales Interpretation and Translation Service (WITS) which will help people, who experience communication difficulties, to access public services
People arriving in Wales from other countries often face difficulties when trying to access information as a limited ability to speak & understand English or Welsh can restrict a person’s capability to ask for information, and can cause confusion about public services and how to access them. Helping people to over come language barriers increases understanding, reduces isolation and improves community cohesion.
10DS: Minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude, has summarised plans to ‘substantially reform a large number of Public Bodies across government’.  The review is part of the Government’s commitment to ‘radically increase the transparency and accountability of all public services’.
The Government proposes to reform 481 bodies.  Of these, 192 will cease to be public bodies and their functions will either be brought back into Government, devolved to local government, moved out of Government or abolished altogether.
DH: The Government has decided not to progress with plans for the generic substitution of medicines in primary care, Health Minister, Lord Howe, announced last week. 

Following a full public consultation the Government has published its response which outlines the reasons why proposals (which would have allowed dispensers to replace branded drugs for generic versions when dispensing a prescription) will now not be implemented in England.
CO:  More than £7bn will be provided to give the poorest children a better start in life, Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, has announced. There will be 3 parts to the fairness premium, including a pledge to provide 15 hours a week of pre-school education to disadvantaged 2-year-olds, in addition to that already available to them at the ages of 3 & 4.
Schools will also receive additional funds to offer targeted help to pupils eligible for free school meals and help to ‘access university’ will be given to teenagers from deprived backgrounds.
DWPGrandparents who give up work to look after their grandchildren will no longer lose out on their basic State Pension thanks to Government action – See ‘Consultations’ section for more information.


BIS: Science Minister, David Willetts, has launched a consultation (closes on 4 January 2011) inviting the UK’s R&D community to have their say on the European Union’s Framework Programme. The UK’s performance has been strong in the current 2007-2013 iteration of the Framework Programme (known as FP7) – with researchers receiving €1.83bn (£ 1.64bn) of funding from the €12.7bn (£11.37bn) awarded to date.
You can join in an online discussion via the Technology Strategy Board _Connect platform HERE and register for the FP7 UK network and then the FP8 consultation group.
SGC: Last week the Sentencing Council launched a public consultation (closes on 5 January 2011), proposing changes to the guidelines that judges & magistrates use to sentence people for offences of assault. It also proposes key changes to the way that guidelines are structured, both to ensure a consistent approach to sentencing by judges & magistrates and to make them more easily understood by the public.
KF: With the NHS facing unprecedented financial pressures and about to undergo radical reform, The King’s Fund has launched a new commission to assess the leadership & management needs of the NHS. The Commission will evaluate national & international evidence about the current state of leadership & management in the NHS and outline the capabilities needed to meet the challenges of the future.

The Commission has launched an open call for evidence and have also commissioned analyses of trends in management and of the role of clinical & managerial leaders in improving performance.  The CfE will close at 5pm on 10 December 2010.  The final report will be launched in Spring 2011.
EU News: The European Commission has launched a consultation (closes on 8 December 2010) on the role of statutory audit as well the wider environment within which audits are conducted. Following the financial crisis, we need to ask the question whether the role of auditors can be enhanced to mitigate any new financial risk(s) in the future and explore certain weaknesses in the audit sector highlighted by the crisis.

In particular, the Commission is keen to discuss whether audits provide the right information to all financial actors, whether there are issues around the independence of audit firms, whether there are risks linked to a concentrated market, whether supervision at a European level might be useful and how best the specific needs of SMEs may be met.
DWPGrandparents who give up work to look after their grandchildren will no longer lose out on their basic State Pension thanks to Government action. On average people become grandparents for the first time at age 49 - a contrast to the commonly held perception that all grandparents are pensioners – and often give up work to provide childcare to a grandchild.
Minister for Pensions, Steve Webb, has launched a consultation (closes on 26 November 2010) on changes to National Insurance credits including how they will be awarded to grandparents. The credits will be aimed at grandparents and anyone who is providing care for a young relative under the age of 12 from the 2011/12 tax year. It also asks for responses on changes to Starting Credits – to have effect from 6 April 2010.

Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides

EHRC: The Equality and Human Rights Commission recently launched a short, practical guide to help decision-makers put fairness & transparency at the heart of the difficult financial decisions ahead. It sets out what is expected of them & others to comply with the public sector equality duties.
The law requires that decisions are made in a fair, transparent & accountable way, considering the needs & the rights of different members of the community.  Where decisions are found to have a disproportionate impact on a particular group, authorities must consider what actions can be taken to avoid or mitigate the unfair impact.
NICE: NICE has launched a new quality standard on specialist neonatal care services.  These services are defined as high-dependency, surgical or intensive care.
Press release ~ Quality standard on specialist neonatal care ~ Department of Health (DH): Toolkit for high quality neonatal services (2009) ~ RCOG: Standards for Maternity Care: report of a working party (2008) ~ Transparency in outcomes - a framework for the NHS consultation (closed)

FSA:  It is autumn and many of our hedgerows are prime sites for the traditional pursuits of gathering wild berries and hunting for mushrooms.  This harvest can contribute to our daily diet, but the Food Standards Agency is warning that care needs to be taken to make sure it is safe to eat.
Newswire – LGA: Putting the National Land and Property Gazetteer (NLPG) at the heart of Council service delivery can save between £15m and £24m a recent local government report revealed.  The NLPG exemplifies one of a range of uses of geographic information that leads to productivity increases in local service provision.

The report coincides with the release of a new brochure 'Save money and deliver better services to citizens' sent out to every local authority, which outlines how the NLPG can help local authorities.
Newswire – RoSPA: With fireworks going on sale last week, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents is urging people to spare a thought for safety before November 5. It advises that the safest place to enjoy fireworks is at an organised public display, but recognises that not everyone can get to one of these.
RoSPA’s fireworks website – – contains all you need to know about planning a safe fireworks party.  It has details about the law across the UK, including the licensing arrangements in Northern Ireland (where fireworks are traditionally used to celebrate Halloween) and tips for setting up a display.
NICE: The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has published the outcome of an appeal hearing relating to its draft guidance on the use of lapatinib (Tyverb, GlaxoSmithKline) for certain breast cancer patients.

Annual Reports

EHRC:   A report released by the Equality and Human Rights Commission paints a picture of a largely tolerant & open-minded society, in which some equality gaps have closed over the past generation.  But ‘How fair Is Britain? also shows that other long-standing inequalities remain undiminished; and that new social & economic fault-lines are emerging as Britain becomes older and more ethnically & religiously diverse.

The Review also identifies recession, public service reform, management of migration & technological change as major risk factors in progress towards a fairer society.
The first in a series of reports laid before Parliament every 3 years, it draws on a range of major datasets & surveys, as well as the Commission's own research reports, to build a portrait of Britain in 2010. The 700-page report provides the independent evidence & benchmarks for reviewing the state of social justice.  
FSA: The level of radioactivity to which people are exposed to from food remained below the EU legal limit during 2009, says a report published by the Food Standards Agency. Radioactivity in Food and the Environment (RIFE) 2009 is the 8th annual report combining the FSA’s monitoring results with those of the Environment Agency, the Northern Ireland EA and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency.  
The survey measures radioactivity from different parts of the food chain, including for people who live close to nuclear sites and eat local food.  The report also assesses how much radioactivity people would absorb from authorised radioactive discharges in the environment, such as in the air.
NAO: The amount of money being spent by government on external consultants has fallen slightly since 2006-07, according to a National Audit Office report published last week.  

However, government is not getting value for money from its use of consultants because it often lacks the information, skills & strategies to manage them effectively – See also related Cabinet Office item in ‘In the News’ section.

General Reports and Other Publications

Demos: New research by Demos, funded by Scope and the Barrow Cadbury Trust, shows disabled people will be caught in the cross-fire of Government cuts. It claims that the Government’s proposed welfare reforms will see 3.5m disabled people lose over £9.2bn of critical support by 2015 pushing them further into poverty and closer to the fringes of society.  Plans to move disabled people onto Job Seekers Allowance will account for half (£4.87bn) of these losses.

The report, Destination Unknown, also questions Government claims that the proposals will result in more disabled people moving into work, arguing that, in fact, they are likely to result in more disabled people ending up trapped in long-term unemployment and a low pay no pay cycle – ultimately costing the tax-payer far more.
IfG: Senior Researcher, Michael Hallsworth, from the Institute for Government, spoke recently at the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) about how social marketing relates to the current government’s agenda. In a speech to the CIM's Social Marketing Interest Group, he argued that social marketing carried out by government faced challenging times.
Michael suggested 3 main ways that public sector social marketing could market itself:
* Make its theoretical basis clear - tap into the interest around ‘nudging’
* Link social marketing with the decentralisation agenda - many of the most effective campaigns take place at a local level
* Show how social marketing can help achieve the ‘Big Society’ - government can help community groups carry out their own campaigns.
Finally, he noted that that social marketing by private companies plays a big part in the government's agenda: business is seen as a key partner in the fight against obesity.  But how far can government hold companies to account for their promises?  Can this just be done by creating public expectations, or is something stronger needed?  Michael pointed out that the EU Platform on Diet, Physical Activity and Health may offer valuable lessons on the way forward.
CO: Lord Young of Graffham, the Prime Minister’s Adviser on Health & Safety Law and Practice, has published his report Common Sense, Common Safety, examining the country’s perceived compensation culture and the impact of health & safety regulations on businesses & personal freedom.
The PM and the Cabinet have accepted all of the recommendations put forward by Lord Young, who will continue to work across departments to ensure his recommendations are carried through.
Newswire – PWC: Almost half a million private sector jobs could be lost as a result of the upcoming public sector spending cuts and private sector gross output could be reduced by around £46bn p.a. by 2014/15 due to the impact on suppliers to the public sector, according to a new PwC report; Sectoral and regional impact of the fiscal squeeze.

When combined with OBR public sector job loss forecasts, nearly 1m could face unemployment due to public sector cuts.  However, the report also highlights the potential for job creation in the private sector resulting from more employment opportunities coming from increased activity in areas such as the outsourcing market and interest rates staying lower for longer due to the fiscal consolidation.
Newswire – NHSC: The NHS Confederation has called for action to reduce the risks associated with the design & implementation of the government’s healthcare reforms. It is publishing its response to the white paper (Equity and Excellence – Liberating the NHS) on behalf of 95% of organisations in all parts of the NHS - the result of a major consultation exercise.
The NHSC makes clear that its members support the government’s objectives of empowering patients and involving clinicians more closely in decision making.  But the NHSC also identifies ‘significant risks, worrying uncertainties and unexploited opportunities’ that need addressing if the plans are to work as intended.
NAOHM Revenue & Customs might be able to increase tax revenues by providing more support to professional tax agents (third parties paid by taxpayers to act on their behalf in their dealings with the Department).  The report suggests that a 3% reduction in the average amount of tax under-declared by represented taxpayers could lead to over £100m extra revenue each year.
Newswire – CBI: The CBI says opening up social housing to greater competition could lead to better quality homes for tenants and considerable savings for taxpayers, as well delivering other social & economic benefits.

Launching a new report (Improving homes, improving lives: using competition for better social housing) the CBI said that £1.5bn could be saved in England alone by allowing local councils & housing associations to choose the best provider of services, whether they are from the private, voluntary or charity sectors.

The report features in-depth case studies of where the private sector is already providing high-quality social housing and shows the benefits of their involvement, which include better property maintenance and related social & economic improvements such as higher GCSE pass rates.
PXPolicy Exchange last week published 2 new research notes on the Alternative Vote and proposed changes to constituency boundaries. The author of Local Seats for Local People, Dr Robert McIlveen, finds that proposed reforms of constituencies should go further, deeper and faster.  

The note also calls for public representations to be limited to a 30-day window, instead of the current 12-week period.  The latest boundary review took 7 years, whereas in New Zealand & Australia the process took 6 months.  Dr McIlveen says the review process should be cut down to one year.
NO: Ann Abraham, the Health Service Ombudsman and Tony Redmond, the Local Government Ombudsman, have welcomed the publication of the ‘Six Lives’ Progress Report. Speaking about the report Ms Abraham said: “This open and honest report makes clear the extent of the work which remains to be done and identifies ways of doing this.  There is still a long way to go.  It is disappointing particularly that local authorities have not focused as closely on the issues as the NHS, given the importance of joint work”.
Ofsted: More apprentices are completing their training programmes (and finishing them more quickly) when they have been carefully screened & tested for selection and given taster courses at school, according to an Ofsted report.
HEFCE: A study highlights the need for universities & colleges to improve information available to students about online courses.  The report, 'Study of UK Online Learning', was carried out by the technology-assisted lifelong learning team at the University of Oxford.  It provides an up-to-date overview of UK provision of online distance learning that is at higher education (HE) level.
Newswire – ACFinancial performance across the NHS was mostly encouraging over the last financial year and health service bodies are in good shape to face the leaner years to come. A new report from the Audit Commission - Auditors' Local Evaluation and Use of Resources: Summary Results for NHS Trusts and Primary Care Trusts 2009/10 - shows that an overall surplus of £1.5bn was recorded by NHS trusts, primary care trusts (PCTs) and strategic health authorities.
Problems persist at a small percentage of NHS bodies: out of 260 bodies assessed, 6 trusts and 4 PCTs failed to achieve financial balance in 2009/10.  No organisation had its accounts qualified on grounds of truth & fairness and there was no difference overall between draft and final accounts.
ESRC: There is a great deal of uncertainty & speculation about the direction of the housing market in the UK & the USA - both for home-owners and renters.  Social Scientists funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) have devised a mathematical model to provide some foresight into changes into the housing market.  The model could be beneficial to central banks & ministries of finance that have an interest in the effects of the housing market on their economies.

Legislation / Legal

FSA: The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has last week been granted a new power to deliver prompt & effective redress for consumers. The new power was part of April’s Financial Services Act 2010 and has been activated (along with other changes) by a Commencement Order laid in Parliament by HM Treasury.
The new power would be used in instances when there is evidence of widespread or regular failings that have caused consumer detriment.  It is a rule making power, so the FSA must undertake cost-benefit analysis and consult each time it wants to establish a redress scheme.
HO: The Rt Hon Sir Scott Baker will lead an independent panel to conduct a review into the UK's extradition arrangements, the Home Office has announced. The review will look in detail at the following 5 key areas of extradition legislation:
* the breadth of Home Secretary discretion in an extradition case
* the operation of the European Arrest Warrant
* whether the forum bar to extradition should be commenced
* whether the US-UK Extradition Treaty is unbalanced
* whether requesting states should be required to provide prima facie evidence

EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.

EU News: A report published recently confirms that the EU has missed its target of halting the loss of biodiversity by 2010.  The assessment of implementing the Commission's Biodiversity Action Plan shows that Europe's biodiversity remains under severe threat from the excessive demands we are making on our environment, such as changes in land use, pollution, invasive species and climate change.

Nevertheless, the assessment reveals that significant progress has been made over the last 2 years.  Important lessons learned from implementing the action plan will underpin the EU's post-2010 strategy.
EU News: A new set of implementing rules on animal by-products, endorsed last week by the Member States in the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health (SCoFCAH), is expected to simplify controls & reduce administrative burden, while maintaining the existing high levels of human & animal health protection.
The new rules, which will apply as from 4 March 2011, will exempt packaged pet-food, biodiesel, tanned hides & skins and some other products from veterinary controls, since potential health risks from those products are mitigated by appropriate treatments.  This should allow focusing on major health risks, while maintaining the current high level of protection of public & animal health.
EU News: Real time maps of air, ground & water pollution can now be made available to everyone thanks to an EU-funded research project called INTAMAP.  The project has developed open specifications software to draw up contour maps that not only show the exact location of polluted areas, but also illustrate where pollution is coming from and where it is headed.

Such information enables public authorities to decide more quickly on appropriate action to tackle the source of the pollution and allows individuals to avoid it.  Applying ICT research to benefit Europe's citizens and businesses is a key element of the Digital Agenda for Europe adopted by the Commission in May 2010 (see IP/10/581, MEMO/10/199 and MEMO/10/200).
EU News: The European Commission has launched a consultation (closes on 8 December 2010) on the role of statutory audit, as well the wider environment within which audits are conducted – See ‘Consultations’ section for more information.

Business and Other Briefings

FSA: The Food Standards Agency is asking food businesses for comments on new EU proposals to reduce levels of three colours in food & drinks.  The colours are quinoline yellow, sunset yellow and ponceau 4R. 
Please send comments to the Agency’s food additives team by email:  To take account of your comments in European discussions they need to hear from you by 29 October 2010.
This Brief outlines HM Revenue and Customs' (HMRC) policy in relation to VAT: "Italian Republic" claims for overpaid VAT - partial exemption implications of the ECJ decision in Nordania Finans.
 This brief announces a change of practice by HMRC that extends share loss relief to subscriptions by joint owners and nominees.

Industry News

STFC: More brilliant X-rays, more cost-effective methods for developing new energy sources and advanced manufacturing processes are just some of the benefits which may come from a novel technology, proven at the theoretical level by a consortium of British & European laser scientists.  
A groundbreaking method called Raman amplification can take long laser pulses and compress them to 1,000 times shorter, but with intensities 300 times greater.  This means that current very expensive & complex laser set-ups could eventually be replaced with smaller & more cost-effective systems.  

This latest development is another step in laser scientists’ quest to develop ever more powerful lasers, increasingly demanded by new technologies since the invention of the laser 50 years ago.
OfcomOfcom has recently set out decisions designed to promote competition & investment in super-fast broadband services across the UK. Ofcom believes that competition & investment in super-fast broadband can be delivered in both urban and rural areas. 
This statement is designed to provide a further spur to investment by confirming the regulatory framework for these services. It covers two principle interventions:
* Providing competing services over BT’s fibre lines
* Giving access to underground ducts and telegraph poles
OSLeicestershire Fire and Rescue Service (FRS) will be using OS MasterMap Imagery Layer in their command support vehicles to support major county incidents, enabling the Leicestershire FRS team to have up-to-date and reliable imagery at their fingertips in emergency situations.
To date, 95% of the layer is 5 years old or less and for Leicestershire, 95% has been flown in 2009 & 2010.  This year’s flying season has already obtained 64,000 square kilometres of imagery (almost 30% of the Great Britain Imagery Layer) which has been used to further refresh the Imagery Layer from June 2010.
‘WAG: ‘Economic Renewal: a new direction’ last week made its first major appointment as Ron Jones was announced Chair of the newly formed Economic Renewal Creative Industries Sector Panel. The Executive Chairman of Tinopolis will lead a panel made up of 4 business people with an established reputation in the creative industries, whose job it will be to provide advice to Ministers on the opportunities & needs of the sector.
Launched in July 2010, Economic Renewal: a new direction sets out the new role the Assembly Government will play in providing the best conditions to support the private sector and the economy of Wales.

Forthcoming Event

LLUK: In 2007 new teaching qualifications were introduced to the further education sector in England with great success.  This year government have asked LLUK to work with the sector to review & update these, and ensure they are delivering the skill-set required for the future.
The review will take place in two phases.  The first phase (finishes 9 November) will take a broad overview approach to the review with opportunities to feedback.  The second phase, taking place in 2011, will see more detailed proposals being put forward for change, based on the feedback received from the first phase.
LLUK want you to have your say on these developments and you can contribute through their online survey, by holding a self facilitated group, or attendance at one of their events.

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