In the News
MoD: Can the ‘political / financial crystal ball’ truly foresee what future ‘battles’ will actually need to be fought? - The outcome of the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR), which sets out how the government will deliver the priorities identified in the National Security Strategy, was published on 19 October 2010.
Securing Britain in an Age of Uncertainty: The Strategic Defence and Security Review, details how our Armed Forces will be reshaped to tackle emerging and future threats. There are 2 main priorities in the review:
* to ensure that our mission in Afghanistan is protected
* to make sure we emerge with a coherent Defence capability in 2020
A study will be undertaken by the leadership of the regular & Reserves into the future role & structure of the Reserves. The MoD expect this study to take about 6 months.
Much effort will now be required to work through the detailed implications of the various SDSR decisions and their implementation. Part of this will be the work of the Defence Reform Unit, which is looking at the organisation of MOD and will report in July 2011. This will ‘help ensure Defence is delivered as effectively & efficiently as possible. Reforms will be implemented as the review progresses’.
No.10: UK Security is much more than just ‘spooks’ - The Government has published its National Security Strategy: A Strong Britain in an Age of Uncertainty which outlines the coalition’s reappraisal of 'Britain’s role in the world, the risks to our security and their implication for the UK'. The strategy has been drawn up by the new National Security Council (NSC) as part of an assessment of Britain’s defence needs and the NSC will oversee its implementation.
This Strategy describes how we need the structures in place to allow us to react quickly & effectively to new and evolving threats to our security. It highlights clear national security priorities:
* counter terrorism
* cyber security
* international military crisis
* national disasters such as floods & pandemics
EU News: If SMEs get paid on time perhaps they will be able to employ more people! - The standard deadline for paying bills will be 30 days under a deal with the Council endorsed by EU Parliament in plenary session last Wednesday. The new rules are meant to ensure that small firms no longer face financial problems due to the late payment of bills by public authorities or companies and bolster solvency, innovation & jobs.
As a general rule, the deadline for both public & private sectors to pay a bill for goods or services will now be 30 days. For over a year the Parliament has pushed to secure more stringent & clear-cut rules on payment periods. Parliament's negotiators aimed to avoid loopholes and to ensure that any exceptions to the general deadline are restricted to special circumstances.
The agreement, presented to Parliament as a ‘consolidated amendment’ to the report by Parliament's rapporteur Barbara Weiler (S&D, DE), received broad backing from all political groups. Sahe stressed that Member States should not wait up to 2 years to put the new rules into effect, but begin transposing them into their national laws as of January 2011.
For business-to-business payments the general deadline is 30 days unless otherwise stated in the contract. If both parties agree, it is possible to go up to 60 days. The payment period may be extended beyond 60 days only if ‘expressly agreed’ by the creditor and the debtor in the contract and provided that it is not ‘grossly unfair’ to the creditor. Parliament fought hard to ensure that under no circumstances may the deadline for public authorities to pay a bill exceed 60 days.
DH: But it will take anywhere between 1 (F/T) and 3 (P/T) years for them to be trained - A national recruitment drive to create 4,200 new health visitors and build a rejuvenated profession is has been announced. This means the numbers of health visitors working closely with families in the community will increase by almost 50%. The level of funding will be announced in due course.
To ensure the process of referrals is as easy & smooth as possible a new SAFER referral tool has been developed and was launched at the Unite Community Practitioners and Health Visitors Association conference.
(Editor’s Note) Unite/CPHVA recommends that each health visitor has a maximum caseload of 250 children each – but many are having to cope with caseloads of more than 600. Unite/CPHVA is also campaigning for the implementation of the 2004 promise that each one of England’s 3,300 secondary schools and their cluster of primary schools should have a specialist school nurse.
Recent White Paper: Demonstrate that public spending is transparent, trackable and controlled - As public spending is facing an intensity of scrutiny not seen for a generation, the Comprehensive Spending Review brings a world where savings and efficiency are pivotal.
This is why public sector organisations need to review the quality of management
info rmation they have access to.
Organisations are seeking to answer fundamental questions - who is spending money, where are they spending it and are they getting the best possible deal from a procurement perspective.
Essential to managing the challenge is showing that public spending is transparent, trackable and controlled. Public sector organisations are taking advantage of the commercial payment products and services offered by MasterCard.
The Government Procurement Card addresses many of these issues including cashable and efficiency savings, transparency of spend, tight controls, the prompt payment initiative and cheque replacement.
Click here if you would like to receive a copy of the recent White paper entitled ‘Delivering the Benefits of Procurement Cards in the
HSE: A new national register of occupational safety consultants will be set up to help employers access good quality, proportionate advice, the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) has confirmed. The Occupational Safety Consultants Register (OSCR) will go live in January 2011.
It will provide firms with details of consultants who have met the highest qualification standard of recognised professional bodies and who are bound by a code of conduct that requires them to only give advice which is sensible & proportionate. To be eligible to join the register, individual consultants will need to be either Chartered members of the safety bodies IOSH, CIEH or REHIS or a Fellow of the IIRSM.
BS: As an interim measure until the Government Hotel Programme launches in January 2011, reduced rates have been negotiated in a number of key locations.
These rates are available now until the programme goes live and can be accessed through the travel management companies (TMCs) on Buying Solutions framework agreements. It is estimated that adherence to this preferred hotel list collectively could save public sector organisations over £0.5m between now & the end of the year.
For further details about the Q4 rates please contact your TMC. If you are not yet using a Buying Solutions travel framework agreement click here to find out more or contact BS: Travel on 0345 410 2222
ScotGov: A £400,000 software package to help farmers go greener & save money has been launched. Available free of charge, the PLANET Scotland software will enable farmers to input information about their fields & soils to generate information on recommended fertiliser levels.
PLANET (PlanningLand Application of Nutrients for Efficiency and the Environment) Scotland will help farmers produce individualised nutrient management plans and save money through more efficient fertiliser use. The software will also provide compliant record keeping for those farming in Nitrate Vulnerable Zones.
UNICEF: More than half of the West African state of Benin is now underwater following some of the worst flooding in history. UNICEF is responding to prevent malnutrition and the spread of water-related diseases.
The UN is appealing for £5.5m to help Benin in the areas of emergency water, hygiene & sanitation, nutrition, health and education. It will soon be issuing a Flash Appeal detailing the needs of each sector. Please donate to their Children's Emergency Fund to help children affected by natural disasters around the world.
HCA: The Cabinet Office has officially confirmed that the HCA will be retained as a smaller enabling & investment agency working for local communities, with a new regulatory role. CLG has also confirmed that the Tenants’ Services Authority will be wound down and that the HCA will take on the economic regulation of social housing.
FSA: Some Sokolów Home Black Pudding Sausage with a ‘use by’ date of 30 October 2010 has been recalled, because the product is contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. The product is also sold under the name Grill Black Pudding Sausage. Listeria is a food bug that causes food poisoning.
The Food Standards Agency has issued a Product Recall Information Notice advising that 3 wholesalers in the Doncaster area are recalling the affected products.
Policy Statements and Initiatives
CLG: Housing Minister Grant, Shapps, has set out how a ‘new era of regulating social housing at the local level will deliver better homes for tenants, whilst at the same time ensuring lenders continue to invest in the sector’.
Following the announcement last week that the Tenant Services Authority (TSA) would be abolished, a new report explains ‘how stronger powers for tenants will drive up the quality of their homes’.
Tenants can now expect local solutions to local problems - they will be able to set up local panels and call on their councillors & MPs to hold landlords to account to help resolve disputes.
CLG: Councils should look to amend their existing planning policies to make it easier for disused farm buildings to be converted into affordable homes Communities Minister, Andrew Stunell, said last week. The average house price in rural England has more than doubled over the past decade to over £250,000, but the average salary is still £21,000. The numbers of people on social housing waiting lists in rural areas has risen to 750,000.
So Mr Stunell has called on farmers to identify disused farm buildings that could be converted into new affordable homes for local people and for councils to look favourably on their planning applications.
DH: A new initiative to empower pioneering GPs who want to press ahead with commissioning care for patients has been announced by Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley. The new pathfinder programme will identify & support groups of practices who are keen to make faster progress in taking on the new roles set out in the NHS White Paper 'Equity and excellence: Liberating the NHS' earlier this year.
It will enable GPs to test different design concepts of GP Consortia and identify any issues & areas of learning early on so that these can be shared across the GP community.
To kick-start the programme the Department has made £1m available from central funding to support regional learning programmes across England. GP practices keen to participate in the pathfinder programme will need to put themselves forward to their PCT & SHA from the end of October 2010.
ScotGov: The Scottish Government has expressed its ambitions for Scotland's digital future, aiming for availability of superfast broadband throughout the whole of Scotland by 2020.
Its position paper - 'A Digital Ambition for Scotland' - also sets out an ambition that the rate of broadband uptake in Scotland should at least match the UK average by 2013 and should be the highest among the UK nations by 2015.
DH: Patients will have more choice and a louder voice under major proposals set out by Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley. The White Paper, 'Equity and excellence: Liberating the NHS', set out the Government's ambition to give people more control over their own care, from choice of GP to which consultant-led team they are treated by.
Two consultations (closing on 14 January 2011) - on Patient Choice and on Information - set out proposals to meet that ambition.
EU News: The European Commission has launched a consultation on e-procurement (closes on31 January 2011). Taking the form of a Green Paper, the consultation will seek the views of interested parties on ‘how the EU can help Member States to speed up & facilitate the procurement process’.
The Paper identifies obstacles to faster take-up of e-procurement as well as the risks that divergent national approaches present for cross-border participation in on-line procurement. It sets out options for overcoming these challenges including, for example, regulatory incentives, standardisation and inter-operability solutions.
At the same time, the Commission is also unveiling its new e-CERTIS data base which is a FREE, web-based tool to help companies & contracting organisations cope with the documentation demands encountered when tendering for public contracts in the EU.
OFT: The Office of Fair Trading is consulting on 2 guidance documents (both closing on 21 January 2011) that aim to help businesses and company directors comply with competition law:
* The other is intended to explain the level of understanding of competition law that company directors are expected to have and steps they should be taking to detect & prevent breaches of the law - Company Directors and Competition Law
DECC: The Government has launched a consultation (closes on 24 January 2011) on the coalition’s revised draft national policy statements on energy. They show that we expect over half the new energy generating capacity built in the UK by 2025 to come from renewable sources. A significant proportion of the remainder will come from low carbon sources such as nuclear & fossil fuels with carbon capture & storage.
The statements confirmed 8 sites as potentially suitable for new nuclear power stations and ruled out 3 sites for the development of new nuclear power by 2025. This came alongside the publication of the feasibility study into a tidal energy project in the Severn estuary.
Newswire – PEC: The Parliamentary Education Committee has launched an inquiry into the provision of services beyond the school/college day for young people, primarily those aged 13-25. The inquiry will consider both universal services (ex. youth clubs, or sporting, musical & cultural activities) and targeted services for vulnerable groups. NB: This inquiry will not examine formal careers guidance services, including those provided by Connexions. The Committee asks for written submissions by noon on Wednesday 15 December 2010.
WAG: Wales’ Rural Affairs Minister, Elin Jones, has unveiled proposed legislation to tackle bad practice among some dog breeding establishments, commonly known as puppy farms, in Wales.
The proposed Animal Welfare (Breeding of Dogs) (Wales) Regulations 2011, which will replace the Breeding of Dogs Act 1973, will introduce major changes to the dog breeding & licensing regimes in Wales by putting animal welfare at the heart of this practice. The consultation will close on 13 January 2011.
Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides
HSE: The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has produced the web tool to help employers to consider relevant hazards in their office and think about how they control them to keep staff safe.
The new online risk assessment will help cut back the time it takes to weigh up the hazards in offices to just 20 minutes. It works by prompting employers to answer a series of questions about their workplace and then generates a unique risk assessment with actions required.
HSE already provides example risk assessments for 34 workplaces, including charity shops, estate agents & hairdressers, which help businesses get to grips with the sort of risks they will need to manage.
OFT: The OFT has recently produced draft guidance for businesses about the types of land agreements that might fall foul of competition law. Until now, land agreements between businesses benefited from special treatment under UK competition law. However from 6 April 2011 land agreements that prevent, restrict or distort competition will be void & unenforceable.
Companies involved in such agreements can also face fines of up to 10% of their annual worldwide turnover. The guidance aims to help businesses respond to this change in the law. It provides a practical framework and hypothetical examples of how typical agreements may be assessed.
HSE: Following the recent revisions to the UK resuscitation guidelines, HSE are now informing all HSE approved training providers involved in the deliver of first aid at work, emergency first aid at work, offshore first aid or offshore medic training the timetable by which they should be compliant with the changes to UK Resuscitation protocols.
NICE: The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence has launched a database of NICE guidance recommendations covering the referral of patients from primary care to secondary care. The NICE ‘referral advice' recommendations database covers referral advice for patients with the range of conditions NICE has published guidance on such as suspected cancer, lower back pain and psoriasis.
NICE: Children & young people in care need better support if they are to reach their full potential & enjoy the same opportunities in life as their peers, according to new guidance published by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) and Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE).
Over 60,000 children & young people are under the care of local authorities in England at any one time. Generally they do worse than their peers in terms of their physical & mental health and also their education. Few leave school with GCSEs and only 1% of looked-after children go to university, compared with 50% of all young people.
DH: A new series of resources to support GP Consortia to design & commission services for patients was announced by Health Secretary Andrew Lansley at the National Association for Primary Care Annual Conference.
The commissioning packs will provide GPs with a set of tools & templates to use when designing & buying services for their patients. The first of these support packs is for cardiac rehabilitation services and aims to support GP commissioners to design services that are suited to local needs and cost effective.
NICE: NICE has published final draft guidance recommending the wider use of clopidogrel for the prevention of occlusive vascular events (ischaemic stroke , transient ischaemic attack TIA or heart attack) in people who have previously had an ischaemic stroke, or who have been diagnosed with a condition called peripheral arterial disease (PAD).
The draft guidance also applies to people who have cardiovascular disease in more than one vascular site (multivascular disease), which puts them at high risk of subsequent occlusive vascular events.
NICE: In draft guidance published last week NICE recommends prucalopride (Resolor, Movetis) as an option for the treatment of chronic constipation in women, in whom laxatives have failed to provide adequate relief.
NO: The Health Service Ombudsman, Ann Abraham, has published the first in an annual series of reports examining NHS complaint handling in England. The Ombudsman warns that the NHS is missing a rich source of free & readily available information about patients by failing to listen & learn from complaints.
Listening and Learning: the Ombudsman's review of complaint handling by the NHS in England 2009-10 covers the first full year of the new complaint handling system for the NHS. It presents a perspective not seen before: a national picture from the Ombudsman of what happens when mistakes occur and the NHS fails to put things right.
General Reports and Other Publications
Newswire – TUC: The TUC report - The Corporate Tax Gap - claims that, as well as benefiting from an £850bn bailout from taxpayers & the Bank of England during the recession, banks are able to offset their £19bn of tax losses between 2007 & 2009 against paying tax on future profits.
NAO: According to a National Audit Office report, not making realistic budgetary provision for all likely project outcomes & slowing down projects have resulted in a £3.3bn increase in a single year, 2009-10, in the total cost of the 15 largest defence equipment projects.
Civitas: In a report for Civitas, Professor Peter Saunders, the author of Social Mobility Myths, has challenged the fallacies in a report (How Fair is Britain?) by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC). Two Core EHRC Assumptions - Both False:
* The assumption that differences between groups prove their members enjoy unequal conditions & opportunities
* Unequal outcomes are always unfair
CRC: The Commission for Rural Communities are publishing the results of their analysis of over 70 submissions of evidence from civil society organisations & others on the economic aspects of the government’s Big Society agenda, in their new report; Economic conditions for organisations contributing to the Big Society in rural England.
Their analysis shows that the principles of the Big Society approach are already well embedded & supported in much of rural England, but many civil society organisations have real fears that the current funding climate will significantly damage further progress in delivering Big Society objectives. Moreover demand for many of their services is growing at a time when resources are reducing.
CLG: London is breaking new ground in preparing for the legacy of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games according to a new report published last week. The OECD report - part of the LEED (Local Economic and Employment Development) Programme - hailed the range of activities that are going ahead to build a lasting Olympic legacy for the communities of East London, highlighting the huge range of local benefits that will result from large-scale regeneration activity.
The OECD's study was informed by a think piece report undertaken in 2009 by the University of East London (UEL). The report, which looked at the socio-economic conditions in the Olympic Host Boroughs and the possible opportunities for creating a lasting legacy, was also published last week.
DH: A detailed review into how & why errors were made in recording the donation wishes of new would-be organ donors has been published. It praises NHS Blood and Transplant for its sensitive handling of the incident, but concludes that errors could have been avoided if more robust procedures had been in place in 1999 when the error was made.
Newswire – HPA: Health Protection Agency (HPA) scientists have shown that specific antibodies, which are produced by a patient's own immune system, are a more common cause of encephalitis than previously recognised. T
his new finding was revealed in a study published in the Lancet Infectious Diseases last week. Around 700 people in England develop acute encephalitis every year and about 7% of these cases are fatal.
FSA: The Food Standards Agency has published a report looking at possible implications of climate change on food policy in the UK. The review, carried out by the University of East Anglia for the FSA, examines the impact of climate change on areas including food safety & nutrition.
The review suggests food risks will be increasingly unpredictable as agricultural methods adapt to climate change and food is sourced from alternative producers. The incidence of foodborne infections may alter.
Legislation / Legal
Newswire – JCHR: The Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) has published its Second report and welcomes the Identity Documents Bill.
The Committee says the Bill will significantly enhance human rights by addressing concerns that ID cards and the National Identity Register would interfere with the rights to privacy & non-discrimination. However, the Committee raises several human rights concerns.
WO: Secretary of State for Wales, Cheryl Gillan, has laid before Parliament the Welsh Referendum Order to take forward arrangements to hold the referendum on further powers for the National Assembly for Wales on 3 March 2011.
The WRO will now also be laid before the National Assembly for Wales. Subject to approval by both Houses of Parliament & the Assembly, the Secretary of State will submit the Order to be made by Her Majesty in Council. The aim is to complete this process before Christmas.
EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.
EU – News: EU Ministers last week voted in favour of new EU rules to allow Member States to charge heavy lorries, not only for the costs of the infrastructure which is currently the case, but also to levy an additional charge to cover the cost of air & noise pollution.
The proposal to revise the current 'Eurovignette Directive' will enable Member States to better manage problems of congestion, with a new flexibility to differentiate the charges applied to heavy lorries at different periods of the day. The text agreed by Transport Ministers will be submitted to the European Parliament and must be voted on by MEPs before becoming law.
EU – News: The European Commission has adopted a strategy to ensure that the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights (legally binding since the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty) is effectively implemented.
The Commission will verify that all EU laws are in compliance with the Charter at each stage of the legislative process – from the early preparatory work in the Commission to the adoption of draft laws by the European Parliament & the Council - and then in their application by EU Member States.
Citizens should know where they can turn for assistance in cases of violations of fundamental rights. They will have access to information about legal remedies in all Member States through the Commission’s new e-Justice portal in 2011.
EU – News: The European Commission is investing in a research project to develop new systemic risk indicators for ‘early warning systems’ that could alert governments & bankers to impending financial crises in the earliest stages and take early action to stop them from spreading. Research work started in September 2010 and will end in 2013 with a total cost of €2.48m.
EU – News: A 3-year study project examining the benefits the world gets for free from nature has published its final report. TEEB – The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity – has gathered the best available economic evidence showing that the costs brought by the degradation of ecosystems and the loss of biodiversity are nothing short of unaffordable for our societies.
It has synthesised thousands of studies, examined valuation methods, policy instruments and examples of action from around the world. Referring to numerous case studies, the report concludes with ten recommendations to help citizens & policymakers factor biodiversity into everyday decisions.
EU News: The European Commission has launched a consultation on e-procurement (closes on 31 January 2011). Taking the form of a Green Paper, the consultation will seek the views of interested parties on how the EU can help Member States to speed up & facilitate the procurement process – See ‘Consultations’ section for more information.
EU News: The standard deadline for paying bills will be 30 days under a deal with the Council endorsed by Parliament in plenary session last Wednesday. The new rules should ensure that small firms no longer face financial problems due to the late payment of bills by public authorities or companies and bolster solvency, innovation and jobs process – See ‘In the News’ section for more information.
Business and Other Briefings
BIS: A simpler way of pre-qualifying for construction contracts is to be introduced Business Minister, Mark Prisk, has announced. Currently businesses may have to answer a different set of questions every time they bid for new government contracts.
In future, a standard prequalification questionnaire is available as a free download, streamlining this process, saving both time & money (est. £250m p.a.) for construction firms.
LBRO: The first ever comprehensive report of business attitudes to regulation & its burdens, involving consensus from an unprecedented range of leading representative bodies & companies, has been published. From The Business End of the Telescope - Perspectives on Local Regulation and Enforcement explores the views of businesses and depth of their feeling regarding regulatory burdens.
It says a culture change in local regulation in which business & regulators work in partnership to achieve prosperity & protection is needed before any real difference will be felt and argues fewer resources for regulation should mean more focus and better outcomes.
ECGD: ECGD, the UK export credit agency, has announced that its fixed-rate export finance (FREF) scheme will close on 31 March 2011unless its budget is used up before that date. The decision to close the scheme follows a public consultation.
OFT: The OFT has recently produced draft guidance for businesses about the types of land agreements that might fall foul of competition law. Until now, land agreements between businesses benefited from special treatment under UK competition law. However from 6 April 2011 land agreements that prevent, restrict or distort competition will be void & unenforceable – See ‘Guidance Notes & Best Practice Guides’ section for more information.
ScotGov: 650 new training places for employers working to support a low carbon economy have been announced. The new places (to be delivered through Skills Development Scotland) are being funded with the support of the European Social Fund to enable employers to upskill & reskill employees in low carbon technologies as part of the Scottish Government's drive to maximise the economic benefits of greener business.
The fund will be open to all private sector, voluntary & community-not-for-profit organisations, employing less than 250 staff, whose current or intended business activity is in renewable energy, energy efficiency, and/or carbon reduction. The initial focus will be on skill needs within the built environment, including microgeneration and energy efficiency.
OS: Vanessa Lawrence CB, Director General and Chief Executive of Ordnance Survey, Great Britain’s national mapping agency, visited St Marks CE Primary School, Southampton on 19 October to see how the organisation can help young people develop their real-world skills & aspirations.
Ordnance Survey was taking part in the first national Visit our Schools and Colleges campaign, where schools are inviting business leaders to visit & discuss how they can be more actively involved in the education, employability & motivation of young people aged 5–19. The campaign has a practical focus on things such as; mentoring, careers advice, work experience and becoming a school governor.
So far 650 schools & colleges, of all types, are taking part and 650 employers of all sizes & sectors. Of the hundreds of employers there are 90 chief executives and chairmen from many of the UK’s leading and FTSE 100 companies.
CRC: An important conference on next generation broadband (including the needs of rural communities) is taking place at the ICC in Birmingham on 22 & 23 November 2010. The ‘NextGen 10’ conference will address key issues including:
* The Business Case for National Superfast Broadband
*The Critical Role of Local Government
* Big Society Broadband
* Digital inclusion
* The Final Third
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