In the News
DH: For some the real problems start after the ‘safe’ return home - Government Ministers have pledged to further improve mental health services for the Armed Forces through a programme of joint working. The Ministry of Defence and Department for Health have announced that, along with Armed Forces charity Combat Stress, they would continue to work together to move forward recommendations from the Fighting Fit report into military mental health.
The MoD operates a range of measures to tackle mental health issues among the Armed Forces. In Afghanistan, Community Psychiatric Nurses are on hand to provide any care & treatment needed; they are supported by visiting consultant psychiatrists. In addition, two UK-based teams of psychiatrists & mental health nurses are available to deploy to Afghanistan at short notice, if required.
There are 15 military Departments of Community Mental Health across the UK, which provide out-patient mental healthcare. These teams are made up of psychiatrists & mental health nurses, with support from clinical psychologists & mental health social workers.
nef: Will all Be Well again in the future? - A week on from the news that David Cameron will ask the Office of National Statistics to start measuring the UK’s wellbeing, a new report says that local authorities should take a proactive role in improving the wellbeing of residents.
The report, The Role of Local Government in Promoting Wellbeing, is being published by Local Government Improvement and Development (LGID) & the National Mental Health Development Unit (NMHDU) and is written by nef (the new economics foundation).
It argues that focusing on wellbeing can help local government respond to significant reductions in its finances, by preventing long-term problems and ensuring that positive outcomes are achieved efficiently. This will make the most of the unprecedented ‘opportunity’ councils are experiencing to reshape their role. It highlights numerous examples of councils who are doing pioneering work in this area, from all parts of the UK.
CLG: Aid to living or only useful for pub quizzes? - Recently South Ribble Borough Council became the 100th local authority to put its spending data over £500 online for armchair auditors to scrutinise. The milestone comes on the day Whitehall met its own promise to publish the first of its spending data above £25,000 online. CLG has already started publishing all its spending over £500.
Greater transparency is ‘at the heart’ of the Government's shared commitment to enable the public to not only hold politicians and public bodies to account, but allow Web developers & app designers to transform Government data into ingenious mobile phone or home computer applications, to help people move house, choose a school or care home or even find their nearest postbox - making everyday local life that little bit easier. See links below for some of the best sites & apps out there for budding Armchair Auditors.
JRF: Often beautiful, but usually a long walk (little public transport) to anywhere or any service - New research released last week shows people living in rural areas typically need to spend 10-20% more than people in urban areas to reach a 'minimum acceptable living standard'. These higher costs mean a single person living in a village needs to earn at least 50% above the minimum wage (£5.93 per hour) to make ends meet, but the higher costs of living in rural areas contrast with widespread low rural pay so many rural workers fall well short of being able to afford their essential needs.
The findings illustrate that the more remote the area, the greater the extra expense. To afford a minimum standard of living, a single person needs to earn at least:
* £15,600 a year in a rural town
* £17,900 a year in a village
*£18,600 in a hamlet or the remote countryside
In comparison, urban dwellers need £14,400, to meet the specified minimum.
An online calculator allows individuals to work out their minimum earnings requirement adjusted for the number & ages of people in their household and whether they live in a city, town, village or hamlet.
Newswire – CSJ: Often ‘out of site & rarely protesting’ and therefore ‘out of the political mind’ - The new coalition Government has been urged to tackle shocking levels of poverty & social exclusion in older age in a new report from the independent Centre for Social Justice (CSJ). Its landmark 250-page interim review - The Forgotten Age - outlines how loneliness, isolation & social breakdown have fuelled poverty in later life for millions of Britain's pensioners for too long.
Although the report celebrates the fact people are living longer and that many older citizens are ‘the heartbeat of volunteering and civic participation’ in communities, it also exposes how too many face extreme challenges in terms of money, health, lifestyle, communities, housing and care. As a result it says there is an unacceptably large group of older people that has been left behind, and is in danger of being forgotten, by the rest of society.
DfE: ‘Education, Education, Education’, replaced by ‘Back to locally based basics’? - A reform programme that ‘puts teachers at the heart of school improvement and frees schools from central government direction’ was published last week by Education Secretary Michael Gove. The schools White Paper - The Importance of Teaching - explains that ‘schools will be freed from centralised bureaucracy and endless government interference, in return for greater accountability to parents and local communities’.
It commits Government to cutting away unnecessary duties, processes, guidance & requirements and sets out:
* powers for teachers to improve discipline in the classroom
* a vision for a transformed school curriculum
* the reform of school performance tables
* a pupil premium to channel more money to the most deprived children, and
* plans to develop a fairer & more transparent funding system.
Press release ~ Schools White Paper ~ See what teachers, parents and children are saying about education ~ Education Secretary Michael Gove talking about the White Paper ~ CSJR response PR ~ Related ippr PR ~ CBI response PR ~ DfE PR with other organisation’s responsesIndustry News
: Performance Improvement Implementation Delivers Multi-Million Pound Savings and 30% Plus Increase in Productivity - Government organisations including HMRC, CLG and NICO have recently achieved exceptional levels of operational performance through the effective engagement of their employees.
Unipart Expert Practices(UEP) currently partner with a wide range of public sector clients to help them achieve more and better for less. We have deployed our expertise to deliver significant performance improvements across a variety of functions within Central & Local Government and in the NHS.
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Or it means working in partnership with NHS Trusts to create a culture of continuous improvement by engaging staff at all levels to provide excellent patient care at less cost.
Our programmes throughout central government and the public sector deliver outstanding results that include significant cost reductions and improvements in productivity, quality, service and cash flow whilst engaging employees and providing them with the skills and confidence to improve their performance for the long term.
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Newswire – TUC: As a delegation from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) began a 3-day visit last week to the site of the London Olympics, the TUC urged them to ensure that no workers involved in the delivery of the 2012 Games are exploited. The TUC has agreed principles of co-operation with the Olympic Delivery Authority and LOCOG - which set standards for the London Games workforce.
In addition the TUC & Labour Behind the Label are running Playfair 2012, a campaign to ensure fair treatment of and respect for the rights of workers in all the supply chains producing sportswear & Olympic merchandise.
OFT: The OFT announced recently it intends to launch a market study into mobility aids, examining matters such as whether consumers are well informed & treated fairly and whether the industry is competitive. Ahead of this, the OFT is engaging with interested parties to ask for their views and to discuss the proposed scope of the study, which will commence in early 2011.
The OFT will be contacting key parties directly. Other interested parties can submit written views by 10 January 2011. Comments can be submitted by email to email@example.com
CLG: Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles, last week kicked off national Inter Faith Week by urging everyone to get involved in inter faith activities and make connections with people of different faiths. Through the Faiths in Action grant scheme, the Government is supporting a number of innovative local projects. Many of these have an emphasis on people from different backgrounds coming together to address local problems such as improving green spaces, as well as promoting tolerance & respect.
MoD: Thousands of Afghans flocked to the city of Lashkar Gah in Helmand province recently for one of the biggest musical events Afghanistan has ever seen. As darkness fell on Lashkar Gah, the singer - dubbed the 'Afghan Elvis' - took to the stage to perform for thousands of his fans. Farhad Darya is a major celebrity in Afghanistan and across the Middle East. He has fans in every country in the region, as well as many in the West.
Newswire – HCA: 13 housing schemes currently in procurement & worth over £1.2bn will continue to be supported through the Private Finance Initiative during the next spending review period, the Department for Communities & Local Government (DCLG) and the Homes & Communities Agency (HCA) confirmed last week.
Newswire – TUC: Commenting on Professor Harrington's review of the fairness and effectiveness of work capability assessments (WCAs) published last week, TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: 'The full acceptance of Professor Harrington's review on improving WCAs by the government is a very positive move……. 'It is encouraging that the government has accepted the recommendation that research is undertaken to understand whether the assessments could and should incorporate more work-focused elements, considering the real-world chances that disabled people have of actually moving into work’.
WAG: Farmers should be aware of changes to the management of bovine TB aimed at preventing the spread of disease in Wales. There are three changes taking effect from 1 January 2011 that will affect all cattle keepers in Wales:
* a change to the terminology used in describing the TB status of a herd
* a move to a risk based approach for classifications of TB breakdowns across Wales
* the implementation of Veterinary Improvement Notices
TfL: The Mayor and Transport for London (TfL) last week announced that the Mayor's flagship cycle hire scheme will go live to casual users on Friday 3 December 2010, allowing everyone instant access to thousands of Barclays Cycle Hire bikes throughout central London.
ACE: There is only one week left to submit applications to next year's decibel Performing Arts Showcase (13-16 September 2011). An Arts Council initiative, the showcase is a unique event that provides selected artists & companies with the opportunity to show work to an audience of national & international promoters, producers, programmers, artistic directors & venue managers. The application deadline for Showcase is Wednesday 1 December 2010, 5pm.
EHRC: The Equality and Human Rights Commission has launched a comprehensive report on childcare, which ‘assesses whether current provision helps or hinders parents’ wishes to combine work and caring’. It also highlights the importance of good quality childcare in closing the educational attainment gaps between rich & poor. The Commission’s report makes the link to opening 2 of the key ‘pillars of opportunity’ highlighted in its recent How Fair is Britain? report.
EHRC: The Equality and Human Rights Commission has started a process to carry out a formal, independent assessment of the extent to which the Treasury has met its legal obligations to consider the impact on protected groups of decisions contained in the Spending Review. The assessment is to be conducted under powers granted to the Commission under section 31 of the 2006 Equality Act. The Commission aims to publish its final report in Summer 2011.
MoD: The Royal Navy deep-water survey ship HMS Scott has deployed to the Antarctic 100 years after her eponym Captain Scott's final expedition to the area. During her deployment to the region earlier this year HMS Scott (based at Devonport Naval Base) surveyed 3,000 miles of uncharted ocean and provided information for the safety of navigation & entirely new seabed views of interest to scientists - including newly-discovered undersea volcanoes.
DH: Northern Ireland's Health Minister, Michael McGimpsey last week hosted an awards ceremony recognising outstanding achievements of military & civilian personnel in the health & care of the Armed Forces.
TfL: A new campaign has been launched as part of the Safer Travel at Night (STaN) initiative to warn Londoners about the dangers of getting into unbooked minicabs. The new STaN campaign includes the message; 'If your minicab's not booked, it's just a stranger's car' and will be running throughout London from late November to coincide with the Christmas party period.
Policy Statements and Initiatives
HMT: The Government has invited experts, public service managers & providers of public services to submit their ideas for public service reform. Their views will help shape the Government's Public Service Reform White Paper (announced in the Spending Review), which will be published in 2011. Respondents can submit their views until Wednesday 5 January 2011.
CLG: Housing Minister, Grant Shapps, last week announced that the Government will not introduce a new set of building standards that were proposed for many of the homes built with Government funding or on public sector land, which would have cost developers an extra £8,000 for every home.
Work will now begin on a new Local Standards Framework that will be developed & maintained by industry & councils. The new local framework will be implemented through the National Planning Policy Framework, which will be introduced by April 2012.
HO: The Home Secretary has allocated more than £28m for specialist services to tackle violence against women & girls until 2015, as part of cross-government plans published last week. Services which support victims of sexual & domestic violence will continue to receive central Home Office funding, including local domestic & sexual violence advisors, services for high-risk domestic violence victims, national helplines and work to prevent forced marriage.
DH: Each week 1,000 women are subjected to rape or attempted rape. 1 in 4 women have been affected by domestic violence. To help tackle the problem, Public Health Minister, Anne Milton, has launched an action plan to improve services for women & child victims of violence and announced up to £3.2m to improve & expand Sexual Assault Referral Centres.
ScotGov: First Minister, Alex Salmond, has responded to claims by Michael Moore, the Scottish Secretary, regarding arrangements with payments to Revenue & Customs in a letter sent on Friday 19th.
MoD: An initiative by MOD Police at HM Naval Base Clyde has led to a more than 80% reduction in anti-social behaviour amongst youngsters in the local area over the last year. For around the last 3 years, MDP officers have been running their highly successful Blue Light Discos, creating a safe, alcohol-free environment where kids can dance, listen to music and enjoy themselves without the threat of trouble.
Ministry of Defence Police (MDP) officers have recently gone one step further in looking after the welfare of local children, teaming up with the NHS and other agencies to produce credit-card-style USBs, full of essential information, which were handed out at the latest 'Blue Light Disco'.
ScotGov: First Minister Alex Salmond has launched the establishment of a high-level Commission to examine how Scotland's public services can be delivered in future to secure improved outcomes for communities across the country. The Commission is invited to report with recommendations by the end of June 2011.
ScotGov: The Youth Music Initiative, which offers young people opportunities to get involved in music projects, is to continue for another year with the Scottish Government investing a total of £10m in 2011/12. Delivered by Creative Scotland on behalf of ScotGov, it supports more than 300 projects each year covering all musical genres, age groups & teaching methods.
CLG: Housing Minister, Grant Shapps and Communities Minister, Andrew Stunell, last week announced plans for a radical reform of social housing, with a fundamental shift of power from Whitehall to councils & local housing associations. Ministers believe that the current rules to allocate social homes are unfair and, despite £17bn of spending on social housing over the last 13 years, have left nearly twice as many people on waiting lists. Details of the proposals, some of which will be subject to consultation (closes on 17 January 2011), are published in Local decisions: a fairer future for social housing.
WAG: Local Government Minister, Carl Sargeant, has pledged protection for schools & social services within the Assembly Government’s funding of local authorities across Wales. Announcing details of the Revenue Support Grant for the next 3 years, the Minister said that the funding of just over £4bn that local authorities will receive next year represents a decrease of 1.4% on what they received last year when transfers of grant are taken into account. However, the plans for 2012-13 and 2013-14 will mean increases of 0.2% and 1.3% respectively.
ScotGov: A 10-year strategy to give people more control over how social care & support is provided to them has been launched. The Self-directed Support (SDS) strategy aims to ensure as many people as possible can choose how their funding for social care support is spent. SDS, encompassing direct payments, provides individual budgets for people to buy or arrange their own support packages to meet their assessed personal, social and healthcare needs.
HO: A raft of new measures will ‘strictly’ control the numbers that can come to the UK and work from outside Europe, the Home Secretary announced last week. As well as limiting the number of skilled non-EU workers businesses can bring into the country, the Home Office is tightening the intra-company transfer route which will sit outside the annual limit, and restricting Tier One of the Points Based System (PBS) to all but entrepreneurs, investors and people of exceptional talent.
DWP: The organisations making the framework for the Government’s new Work Programme, which will see jobseekers given tailored support specific to their individual needs, have been announced by Employment Minister, Chris Grayling. The organisations will soon be invited to tender for the Work Programme contracts to deliver ‘back to work’ support from summer 2011.
DH: Up to £6m will be made available over the next 4 years to help GPs identify carers earlier, Care Services Minister, Paul Burstow has announced. Speaking at the Carers UK Summit, Mr Burstow outlined a series of measures to further support carers as he launched; 'Recognised, valued and supported: Next Steps for the Carers Strategy.'
The funding for GP practices to better identify carers will be part of a new training package for GPs. It follows the additional £400m (announced last week) that will be available via the NHS to support carers' breaks over the next 4 years.
Defra: Food & Farming Minister, Jim Paice, has welcomed news that will make British consumers the best informed in Europe. An agreement made amongst key organisations from the food industry will spread good practise throughout the industry when labelling food with the country of its origin.
Newswire – EAC: The Government has responded to the previous Environmental Audit Committee’s report on air quality (published in March 2010), which highlighted how air pollution could be contributing to 50,000 deaths in the UK every year. The Government response puts a figure on the harm pollution from vehicles & power stations is having on the average life-expectancy of people living in the UK – a reduction of 6 months.
CO: Minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude, has announced that he has commissioned Matt Tee, Permanent Secretary Government Communications, to undertake a review of the Central Office of Information (COI) and the coordination of cross-department marketing & communications. Matt Tee will deliver his recommendations to the Minister for the Cabinet Office in January 2011.
Ofgem: Ofgem last week published initial proposals for the price control of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) storage facilities run by National Grid Liquefied Natural Gas (NG LNG). NG LNG owns & operates 3 LNG storage facilities offering a combination of commercial & regulated services. The regulated services are subject to a price cap set by Ofgem that was last reviewed in 2008. Since then, there have been a number of significant changes in the marketplace which have led NG LNG to ask for a review.
Ofgem's initial proposals document considers the operating & capital expenditure submitted by NG LNG and will engage in further discussions with interested parties prior to issuing our final proposals. The deadline for responses to the consultation is 20 December 2010. Ofgem will publish Final Proposals for this control in January 2011.
ScotGov: Public views are being sought (by 18 February 2011) on how to define Scottish Marine Regions within the Government's Marine Act. Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment, Richard Lochhead said the designation of Scottish Marine Regions is a 'key element' of the implementation of the Marine (Scotland) Act. The options presented would result in 10-12 Scottish Marine Regions.
Defra: New proposals to give local communities a greater say in what is done to protect them from the risks of flooding & coastal erosion have been announced. Defra and the Environment Agency have published a consultation (closes on 16 February 2011) on a new national flood & coastal erosion risk management strategy for England, which aims to allow greater local involvement in planning and prioritising flood defences.
At the same time proposals to change the system for allocating money for flood defences are also being published, so that more schemes can get the go ahead. The proposed new funding criteria would mean that more flood defence schemes benefit from some level of Government funding. Those who will directly benefit from the schemes, such as local businesses & community groups, will have the opportunity for further voluntary investment.
NICE: NICE is issuing a second consultation document as part of its appraisal of erlotinib (Tarceva, Roche Products) as a maintenance treatment for people with non-small-cell lung cancer who have had first line treatment and their disease has remained stable.
Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides
DfT: An innovative new partnership between the THINK! child road safety campaign and 4 football clubs has been launched by Road Safety Minister, Mike Penning. Blackburn Rovers, Sunderland, West Bromwich Albion and Leeds United will use their after-school clubs and activities in schools & on match days to help youngsters learn about road safety with THINK!'s Tales of the Road materials. The new initiative will focus on helping 6 to 11-year-olds learn how to find safe places to cross the road after evidence showed that this is a key factor in helping children stay safe on the roads.
CLG: A report into the drying out of houses to help people get back in to their homes more quickly has been published. The research was carried out for the Government by a consortium of the Construction Industry Research and Information Association, the University of Wolverhampton, and HR Wallingford researchers. The report was commissioned following summer floods of 2007 and subsequent Pitt Review.
HSE: Employees contemplating 'hot work' on used containers (& managers overseeing it) are being urged to check that the correct working procedures are followed after 2 people were killed in separate incidents in North East Scotland whilst cutting up drums.
HSE is issuing a Safety Alert to remind duty holders of the risk of explosion when undertaking 'hot work' on containers that contain, or have contained, flammable or combustible substances like waste thinners, new or used engine oil, anti-freeze, solvents, petrol or diesel fuel.
ScotGov: Housing associations can make savings by clubbing together to buy in bulk, according to an Investment Working Group report, which found good examples of collaborative working across Scotland from the Borders to the Highlands and from Renfrewshire to Fife. The Scottish Government has now commissioned a more detailed study of collaborative procurement by Scotland's social landlords.
DH: As the weather gets colder, it is important to remember the needs of friends, elderly relatives and neighbours who could be at risk, the Department of Health warned last week. Official figures from the Office of National Statistics demonstrate the deadly impact that cold weather can have, especially on older people during winter. They show that, last year, there were an estimated 25,400 excess deaths mostly linked to circulatory and respiratory diseases.
Newswire – CIPD: The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), in partnership with Adecco, has published a guide to help employers prepare for the impact of the Agency Workers Regulations 2010. The Regulations, which come into effect on 1 October 2011, implement an EU Directive requiring the basic employment terms & conditions of agency workers after a qualifying period of 12 weeks to be no less favourable than those that would apply if they had been recruited directly.
NICE: Taking simple steps to make the home safer (such as fitting smoke alarms & window restrictors) could help to reduce the number of children who die or are seriously injured from unintentional injuries every year, says NICE. NICE has published three pieces of complementary guidance which aim to keep children & young people safe from serious harm. These consider strategies to prevent unintentional injuries; home safety assessments and the provision of safety equipment; and road design.
DH: A tool to help the NHS identify unwarranted variation in healthcare services across England was published last week by the Department of Health. The NHS Atlas of Variation highlights the amount each Primary Care Trust (PCT) spends on clinical services and links this with the health outcomes patients see.
Consisting of 34 maps, the Atlas will help commissioners learn from one another, consider the appropriateness of a service, and investigate when clinical health outcomes are not reflecting the financial investment that has been made.
DUK: One care home resident with diabetes is admitted to hospital every 25 minutes due to failings in screening & training, according to a new report launched recently by Diabetes UK. The report - Diabetes in care homes – Awareness, screening, training - found 60% of care homes in England (which have residents with diabetes) fail to provide any training to their staff about the condition. The report also revealed that 23% of care homes screen residents for diabetes on admission and that just 28% screen on an annual basis.
Diabetes UK is calling for care homes to implement the recommendations in its guidance document; Good Clinical Practice Guidelines for Care Home Residents with Diabetes. This includes:
* screening new residents for diabetes on admission and all residents at 2-yearly intervals
* for all people with diabetes in care homes to have an individualised care plan tailored to their needs
* for all care home managers to put in place appropriate diabetes-specific training for all staff
HL: Homeless Link has released a good practice guide on making arrangements to prevent rough sleeper deaths during extreme cold weather. Severe Weather Emergency Protocols (SWEP) for rough sleepers set out the types of arrangements that need to be made to ensure people are not at risk of dying on the streets during cold weather.
Ofcom: Around 11m people are now able to tune into community radio stations across the UK, according to a new report by Ofcom. This figure is up 17% year-on-year and an increase of more than 36% since 2008. The Community Radio Annual Report provides a snapshot of community radio in the UK and reveals that since the first station went live 5 years ago, a new station has launched, on average, every 10 days.
ScotGov: ‘Inspectors are putting Scotland's hospitals under unprecedented levels of independent scrutiny and helping to drive up standards across the country’. That was the view of Health Secretary, Nicola Sturgeon, as the Healthcare Environment Inspectorate (HEI) published its first annual report. It identified that most of the hospitals inspected were generally clean with good infection prevention & control practices in place.
Ofsted: Ofsted’s Annual Report 2009/10 shows that teaching is still no better than satisfactory in half of secondary schools, 43% of primaries and 43% of colleges that were inspected this year. Ofsted’s data also show that while a strong relationship remains between deprivation & weaker provision it is not a barrier to a school succeeding. 9% of schools serving the most disadvantaged communities are outstanding, compared with the overall figure of 13%.
ScotGov: Around 140,000 households in Scotland have become more energy efficient since 2008, according to figures published last week. It also shows that the average saved by households is £24 per year on fuel bills. 55% of households in Scotland now live in homes with a good energy rating - up 6% from 2008.
EA: A comprehensive review of industry’s environmental performance in England & Wales has been published by the Environment Agency. It shows that most of industry is improving, even during difficult economic time, but it also shows that some sectors still need to do better.
The new research also highlights that illegal waste activity is a serious risk to the environment. The EA has identified over 800 illegal waste sites, over 350 of which are operating within 50m of schools, homes or sensitive environmental sites. In fact, the analysis indicates that for every 10 legal waste sites, there is another operating illegally.
General Reports and Other Publications
Newswire – TC: The Treasury Committee has published its Report, Spending Review 2010, which provides cross-party commentary on the Government’s Spending Review, which will shape public policy for the coming Parliament.
PX: Britain’s faith schools – and other schools – are increasingly vulnerable to extremist influences, a new study from Policy Exchange has discovered. Current due diligence checks are piecemeal, partial & lack in-depth expertise. Vital work is contracted out to private companies.
KF: The opportunity provided by the NHS White Paper to encourage more integration of care and improve outcomes for patients should not be wasted, a new report from The King’s Fund says. Clinical & service integration should be at the heart of moves to reform the health service, but the changes must ensure that the new structures, funding & regulatory framework allow integrated services to grow, rather than stand in the way of their evolution.
NAO: A report by the NAO has highlighted that the Department for Work & Pensions has not reduced the mistakes made by its staff in processing benefits. In 2009-10, it overpaid its customers by an estimated £1.1bn and made underpayments of £500m.
However, the scale of the challenge faced by the Department should not be underestimated. The benefits system is large, encompassing over 27 different benefits and a total caseload of around 20m people. Mistakes occur when processing such a large volume of payments. To date there does not appear to any discernible deterioration in performance despite an increasing workload, which may represent progress.
WWF: Black markets along Myanmar, Thailand and China’s shared borders play a crucial role facilitating the deadly illicit trade in tigers and other endangered species, according to a report published by TRAFFIC and WWF recently.
NA: The National Archives has published online the official papers of one of Britain's most iconic political figures. The prime ministerial files of Margaret Thatcher's first year in power can now be searched for free.
MLA: Public libraries really do hold a special place in the nation's heart, according to a new research study published by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA). The research provides an up to date picture of what the public wants from library services, and provides a timely pointer to how councils, faced with difficult financial choices, should shape the service for the future.
FCO: In the FCO’s latest history podcast, Grant Hibberd, a Research Assistant with the FCO’s Historians team, discusses ‘The Sealand Affair’, an obscure but fascinating footnote in British legal & diplomatic history.
In 1967, former British army officer Major Roy Bates occupied a derelict fort in the North Sea called Roughs Tower and proclaimed its independence from Britain as the principality of Sealand, with himself as regent. He gave the would-be state a coat of arms, a national anthem, a currency, its own stamps, a body of laws and issued passports.
WAG: The money the Supporting People Programme in Wales saves other services, far outweighs the cost of the scheme, a new independent report has found. The review concludes that the programme saves the taxpayer £ms in other areas such as health, social care & policing. It also identifies that the programme is particularly strong at working across both geographic and subject boundaries.
Supporting People provides housing related support to around 50,000 vulnerable people a year to help them live as independently as possible in the community, whether in their own homes, hostels, sheltered housing or other specialised supported housing. It offers practical help through support with household management, life skills training and advice on paying bills and filling in forms.
Newswire – WWF: The UK may have world-leading climate legislation, but it is still lagging behind other EU Member States on many of its climate change policies, according to a new tracking tool launched by WWF and Ecofys which ranks countries on a scale from A (excellent) to G (poor).
The Climate Policy Tracker for the European Union provides an up-to-date snapshot of greenhouse gas emission controls across the EU and contains stark reading ahead of global climate change talks in Cancun. It reveals that overall only a third of the necessary action needed to put EU countries on a path towards a low carbon economy by 2050 (reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80-95%), is currently being undertaken by Member States.
PX: New research from Policy Exchange shows that Britain and the EU are only on course to meet international carbon targets because emissions have been ‘off-shored’ to countries like China. Britain is actually consuming almost a third more CO2 than it was in 1990. The difference is that much of the carbon consumed in the UK and EU is ‘embedded’ in products imported from countries such as China.
ESRC: A new study shows that the ability of ‘Black Africans’ settling in the UK to integrate with society varies according to their national & ethnic background.
ippr: A new report by PwC and ippr shows there is real appetite from local people to get more involved in designing & delivering public services. It also shows that as the government begins the task of cutting £81bn from total spending by 2014/15, 90% of people believe that the state should remain primarily responsible for delivering most key public services.
Newswire – RACF: 800 more people could be killed or seriously injured each year on Britain’s roads if all the fixed & mobile speed cameras operational before the road safety grant was cut this summer were to be decommissioned, according to a new report by Professor Richard Allsop of University College London for the RAC Foundation. In light of the findings the RAC Foundation is sending a copy of the report to every highway authority in the country, as they consider how best to spend their reduced road safety budgets.
Defra: Animal Welfare Minister, Lord Henley, has published the summary of the 4,250 responses to the dangerous dogs consultation and repeated his commitment to tackling dangerous dogs & irresponsible owners.
CRC: The Commission for Rural Communities have launched - Commissioning Children’s Centres: a rural perspective - a short guide focusing on families with young children in rural areas and the implications for Children’s Centre commissioning & delivery. This guide is intended for commissioners, providers & practitioners, to supplement the existing resources.
PX: A new report from Policy Exchange exposes how community sentences are failing to properly penalise or deter offenders & do not command public trust. The study describes current community sentences – with their high breach rates & lack of focus on punishment – as ‘the weak link in the sentencing chain’.
Legislation / Legal
OFT: The OFT has imposed requirements on Alliance & Leicester Personal Finance Limited, American Express Services Europe Limited, HFC Bank Limited (part of the HSBC Group) and Welcome Financial Services Limited (part of Cattles plc) to address concerns about the way some consumer debts are enforced.
Newswire – TUC: Ministers must act to close a legal loophole which allows shipping companies to discriminate against overseas workers employed on UK ships by paying them as little as £2 an hour, maritime unions the RMT and Nautilus International and the TUC said last week.
The unions are concerned that an exemption under what was then the Race Relations Act (and which has now been replaced by the Equality Act 2010) fails to protect foreign seafarers from discrimination, despite EU law which prevents unfavourable treatment on the grounds of nationality. Not only does this legal loophole allow UK shipping employers to pay poverty wages to overseas seafarers, it also makes it harder for UK workers to find jobs on British vessels.
IfG: The government has been defeated in the House of Lords on an amendment that will restrict the powers of Ministers to make changes to 'quangos' set up under a judicial arrangement. The government also agreed to give consideration to a sunset clause for the Public Bodies Bill after 5 years.
WAG: A Draft Assembly Measure to make changes to support the more effective delivery of affordable housing in Wales has been laid. The Housing Measure will enable Local Authorities to apply to the Welsh Ministers for approval to suspend the ‘Right to Buy’ in areas of housing pressure in order to allow the stock of affordable housing to be increased by other means.
ScotGov: New rules for selling cigarettes mean retailers risk committing an offence unless they verify, using an approved proof of age method, that someone is not underage. Acceptable proof of age will be a driving licence, passport or a national Proof of Age Standards Scheme (PASS) card, such as the YoungScotPASS card.
Young Scot yesterday have unveiled their PASS awareness pack to help retailers & service providers abide by the new law and identify authentic proof of age documentation. The rules, which come into force on 1 April 2011, are part of a wider revamp of tobacco sales law. The move also introduces a requirement for tobacco retailers to register to sell tobacco, as well as new offences of proxy purchase & underage purchase.
OFT: The OFT has launched a review of competition regulation for the sale of Domestic Electrical goods and sought views on a possible market study into warranties & repairs in the sector. It plans to focus its work on 'white' goods (ex. washing m/cs fridges) and 'brown' goods (ex. TVs), but not 'grey' goods (ex.computers).
At the same time the OFT is seeking comments on competition in the 'aftermarkets' for Domestic Electrical Goods which include extended warranties and out of warranty servicing & repairs. This follows claims that independent repairers have problems getting access to the technical information and original spare parts they need to compete.
ScotGov: Scotland's most vulnerable children are to benefit from improved support after MSPs backed the Children's Hearings (Scotland) Bill, which will secure better outcomes for children & young people by improving their rights. One of the key changes will be the creation of a new national body, Children's Hearings Scotland, whose National Convener will be responsible for setting standards, monitoring their implementation and for the recruitment, support & training of Scotland's 2,500 local panel members.
EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.
EU News: The European Commission has presented a Report to the European Parliament and the Council on the application of the Regulation on the Statute for a European Company (Societas Europaea or SE). The European Company Statute, more commonly known by its Latin name 'Societas Europaea' or SE, was adopted on 8 October 2001 (IP/01/1376, MEMO/01/314), after more than 30 years of negotiations.
In theory, the Statute gives companies operating in more than one Member State the option of establishing themselves as a single company under EU law. This would make them able to operate throughout the EU with one set of rules, including a unified management & reporting system. The Report is part of the review process of the SE Regulation.
EU News: The ‘EU Internal Security Strategy in Action’ adopted last week comprises 41 actions targeting the most urgent security threats facing Europe. They include a shared agenda to disrupt criminal & terrorist networks, to protect citizens, businesses & societies against cybercrime, to increase EU security by smarter border management, and to strengthen the Union's readiness & response to crises.
A European cybercrime centre is proposed to bring together expertise in investigation & prevention of cybercrime and a series of steps for a smarter approach to border management and preparing for & responding to crises and disasters are in the pipeline.
EU News: 23m people are currently unemployed across the EU - 10% of the active population - with serious consequences for European growth & welfare systems. At the same time, some employers are reporting difficulties in recruiting, especially for high-skill jobs. In the future there could be shortages in areas like the ICT or health sectors, with an estimated deficit of 700,000 ICT specialists by 2015 and 1m researchers by 2025.
To address these challenges & boost the EU employment rate to reach 75% of men & women by 2020, the EC has launched its flagship initiative 'An Agenda for new skills and jobs'. It sets out 13 key actions aimed at reforming labour markets, upgrading skills and matching them with market demand to boost employability and make it easier to move jobs, to improve working conditions & job quality and to create jobs.
EU News: The European Parliament is ‘holding to a firm, united position in the deadlock over the EU budget for 2011’. This was confirmed in Tuesday's plenary debate on the 2011 budget negotiations, when discussions ranged over three key issues: the figures for the budget 2011; flexibility within the budget to deal with new priorities or upcoming urgencies; the question of Parliament's involvement in talks on the future Multi-annual Financial Framework and own resources.
For the S&D group, Martin Schulz (DE) said "Parliament is being tested. The discussion is not about money anymore but about the direction in which the EU is developing. It is about the rights of Parliament as reflected in the Treaty of Lisbon... We are elected to deal with the EU and its budget. Now the national governments want control and monitor us. That is the wrong way around!".
Lastly, Commission president José Manuel Barroso said to the assembled MEPs: "We will use our right of initiative to put forward proposals on own resources before the end of next June”.
EU News: Harry Potter's 'invisibility cloak' has moved a step closer to reality thanks to European Commission funded nanotechnology research. Scientists from Germany, Greece, Turkey & the UK have succeeded in tailoring the flow of light using nanotechnology, opening the way not only to potential applications in lenses & optical circuitry, but also to exotic 3 dimensional devices such as 'invisibility cloaks'. Although currently limited to cloaking objects of sub-millimetre size, the project has delivered a key proof-of-principle for engineering optical properties of materials in ways believed impossible until now.
EU News: Clearing up the confusion caused by divergences among national legal systems (e.g. in cross-border family or civil law cases) would help, says Parliament in an own-initiative report voted on last week. MEPs also back efforts to cut red tape that prevents small firms from trading across borders.
This report responds to the EU Action Plan Implementing the Stockholm Programme, which was presented by the Commission on 20 April 2010. The Stockholm Programme seeks to create a European area of freedom, security & justice that will guarantee citizens’ fundamental rights, including freedom of enterprise.
EU News: Rules banning certain hazardous substances are set to be extended to more types of electronic & electrical equipment, including talking teddy bears and lab equipment, following a vote by MEPs. The update to EU legislation, agreed with Member States, also foresees a review that could consider adding new substances to the current blacklist.
EU News: The President of the European Parliament, Jerzy Buzek, and Belgium's State Secretary for European Affairs, Olivier Chastel, last week formally signed into law the financial supervision package, which will establish new authorities to oversee the operation of banks, securities markets & insurance companies, as well as monitoring the build up of risk in the economic system as a whole. The new watchdogs are set to be operational by 2011.
EU News: The European Commission has asked Cyprus, Greece, Hungary, Finland and the UK to notify national transposition measures as required by the Animal Welfare Directive 2007/43/EC. The request takes the form of a ‘reasoned opinion’ under EU infringement procedures. In the absence of a satisfactory response within 2 months, the Commission may decide to refer these States to the European Court of Justice.
EU News: The European Parliament and the Council have given their signature to a regulation that will enable passengers travelling by sea & by inland waterways to enjoy the same rights wherever they travel in the European Union. Among these rights is the right to information or compensation in the case of delay or cancellation of a journey. In addition, the new rules also offer people with a disability or reduced mobility protection when travelling over water.
Charity and Voluntary Sector
PCS: The government's plans to open up more public services to voluntary groups could mean a bonanza for fraudsters if cuts to the charity regulator are not reversed, the PCS union warns. At the same time as encouraging more of the third sector to take control of services, the government is planning to cut the Charity Commission’s budget by a third - a move that will leave the commission unable to fulfil is important functions, the union says.
PCS members from the Charity Commission told MPs recently that, in 2008, there was an estimated £32m of fraud in the charitable sector and that commission staff have long felt they had insufficient resources to tackle the problem effectively.
DWP: Community groups in 30 areas across the country can now bid for money to help older people keep active & make the most of their later lives. As part of its Big Society ambition, the Government is providing £1m to fund ‘Active at 60’, a project that will help older people who are most at risk of loneliness & social isolation.
DUK: The scale of the "postcode lottery" of care that patients can expect across England, and the different amounts of money health authorities spend on health issues, has been highlighted for the first time in an NHS survey. The NHS Atlas of Variation has found that some NHS trusts are failing in key areas including diabetes care, cancer and stroke. The atlas, which consists of 34 maps, shows that people with Type 2 diabetes in the SW of England are twice as likely to have an amputation, than those in the SE.
CRUK: CANCER patients from deprived backgrounds are more likely to develop life-threatening health problems, research published in the British Journal of Cancer shows. The study found that less affluent patients are 50% more likely to develop at least one serious illness like heart disease, tuberculosis, dementia or diabetes, which could reduce their chance of recovering from cancer.
Business and Other Briefings
CLG: Small businesses & local shops will find it easier to get their tax cuts as the Government scraps form filling rules to help increase take up. To help eligible businesses claim their tax cut in the future new measures in the upcoming Localism Bill will end the legal requirement for ratepayers to fill in an application form first.
Councils will be free to administer Small Business Rate Relief in a way that best serves local businesses and local needs. The Government will also amend secondary legislation to ensure that all eligible businesses automatically have their discounted bills calculated using the small business multiplier.
STFC: A research team led by the University of Bristol has used STFC's ISIS Neutron Source to come up with a new way to treat carbon dioxide (CO2), so that it can be used in efficient & environmentally friendly methods for extracting oil. These new CO2 soluble additives can also be used to reduce the environmental damage caused by every day industrial processes, such as food processing and the manufacture of electronics.
The researchers have developed a soap-like additive for CO2 that turns it into a viable solvent for commercial-scale enhanced oil recovery to increase the amount of crude oil that can be extracted from oil fields. Liquid CO2 is increasingly being used industrially to replace common petrochemical solvents, because it requires less processing and it can be easily recycled.
The difficulty has been that in order to operate effectively as a solvent, carbon dioxide needs additives, many of which are (in themselves) damaging to the environment. This new development by an international team provides a solution. The project has been funded by the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the US Department of Energy.
STFC: A new UK company set to transform the use of terahertz electronics for applications in security imaging, telecommunications & cancer detection has won a prize in the Research Councils UK (RCUK) Business Plan Competition 2010.
Teratech Components Ltd, a recent spinout from STFC, will use the £10,000 prize towards kick-starting the company's business to exploit the commercial applications of terahertz electronics - engaging with industry and new markets outside of the traditional space sector.
Terahertz (THz) applications span the physical (security imaging), biological (cell formation) and medical (cancerous tumour detection) sciences with a growing interest in the application of THz frequencies to security imaging through clothing in airport scanners and to non-destructive pharmaceutical & manufacturing inspection through multilayered or opaque surfaces.
WAG: First Minister Carwyn Jones has visited a company in the Swansea Valley which has benefited from Welsh Assembly Government funding to help them through the recession. Eurogrind, a tool manufacturing company based in Pontardawe, received funding through the ProAct scheme to upskill their staff. ProAct, which is backed by the European Social Fund, was designed to help companies through the economic downturn by providing financial support to increase the skills levels of the workforce.
ScotGov: First Minister Alex Salmond last week officially opened the new offices of wave energy developer Aquamarine Power as the company took a major step towards the commercialisation of their Oyster technology with the announcement of £11m new investment in the company.
EA: Inspiring organisations leading the way in environmental performance in the UK were honoured on 24th November 2010 at the Environment Agency’s inaugural Environmental Pioneer Awards. See press release for links to winners
LSIS: Have you recently taken up the post of Principal? Learning and Skills Improvement Services (LSIS) is running a 2-day induction course for new principals (12 & 13 January 2011) to provide essential practical guidance on all aspects of leading & managing a successful college. The programme is designed especially for principals & CEOs of further education colleges who have been less than 18 months in post.
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