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WGPlus provides an in-depth weekly briefing from the UK Government and Public Sector. To save your time, we research & validate the links to websites, documents and further background information. Click here for more about WGPlus

In the News

This first WGPlus newsletter of 2011 includes some items published since the last newsletter of 2010 in addition to items for the week 10 – 16 January 2011.

Civitas:  Change (especially rapid change) is not always for the best - The wholesale abolition of Primary Care Trusts proposed in the NHS White Paper could have a negative impact on patient care, and ‘should be halted in favour of a more incremental approach to commissioning reform’, according to a new report released by independent think-tank Civitas.

A risky business: the White Paper and the NHS argues that the Government's approach to the latest reorganisation of the health service could undermine hopes of making efficiency gains in many areas of the country, which are crucial if services are to retain the current level of provision.

It follows comments by Dr Sarah Wollaston MP, at a recent Health Select Committee hearing, that some PCTs are now 'effectively in meltdown'.  Sir David Nicholson, Chief Executive of the NHS, agreed with that description.  Moreover, at a King's Fund breakfast recently, Robert Creighton, CE of Ealing PCT suggested 'this could be a bloody awful train crash'.

In response to concerns like these, Oliver Letwin MP (Number 10's policy-fixer) has been brought in to scrutinise the new health policy.  The report poses 12 big questions that Letwin should be asking of the reforms.  Another publication by Civitas (Refusing Treatment: the NHS and market-based reform)   documented the findings of an in-depth study of commissioning in the NHS.  It pointed to a number of weaknesses.
Press release ~ A risky business: the White Paper and the NHS ~ Refusing Treatment: the NHS and market-based reform ~ Clinical and service integration: the route to improved outcomes ~ Civitas: Moves to transfer commissioning responsibility to GPs could cost the NHS its £20bn efficiency savings target & worse ~ Related subsequent Civitas commentary ~ Related King’s Fund press release ~ Related CQC press release ~ Related NICE press release ~ Giving GPs budgets for Commissioning: What needs to be done? ~ NHS Atlas of Variation ~ Build and Beyond: The (r)evolution of healthcare PPPs ~ Mental health and the productivity challenge: Improving quality and value for money ~ Choosing a high quality hospital - The role of nudges, scorecard design and information ~ NHS 'Right to Request' scheme ~ DH: Social Enterprise ~ Related Unite union press release ~ KF: Inquiry into the Quality of General Practice in England ~ GP commissioning: does size matter? ~ Commission for Leadership and Management in NHS ~ Liberating the NHS? Analysis and questions on the white paper ~ Equity and Excellence: Liberating the NHS ~ NHS Confederation briefing on White Paper ~ Socialist Health Association ~ Health B4 Profit campaign ~ The 'Patchwork Privatisation' of our Health Service: A users' guide ~ NHS Scotland ~ AC: Is the treatment working? - Progress with the NHS system reform programme ~ AC: Payment by Results (PbR) ~ Key NHS reform successfully implemented but needs to develop to achieve more for patients ~ Putting commissioning into practice (Audit Commission, 2007) ~ A prescription for partnership: engaging clinicians in financial management (Audit Commission, 2007) ~ NHS Scotland's Efficiency and Productivity Programme ~ The Impact of NHS Re-Organisation on Service Commissioning Costs: A Welsh Case Study ~ A Systems View of NHS reorganisations - the pain and cost of boldly going where we have been before ~ NAO: Tackling inequalities in life expectancy in areas with the worst health and deprivation ~ Patient Choice: How patients choose and how providers respond ~ Formulas at war over two sorts of inequality in health funding ~ Failing to Figure: Whitehall’s costly neglect of statistical reasoning ~ NHS Allocations

PT:  Guiding them to ‘a safe port’ - A 2-part documentary has been made about the ‘Working one to one with young offenders’ project in Northern Ireland.  The first part was shown on BBC1 Northern Ireland on 4 January 2011 and the second part was shown on 11 January.  Each part of the documentary can be viewed on BBC iplayer for the 7 days following broadcast.

This Prince's Trust project enables former offenders to support young offenders through their transition from custody to the community.  The mentors work as a team by visiting the prison on a monthly basis to deliver a motivational talk to a group of young people. Mentors share their life experience to inspire young people that they too can turn their life around and live successfully.  
Press release ~ Quitting Crime ~ Princes Trust ~ Working with employers to Reducing Re-offending ~ NAO report: The youth justice system in England and Wales ~ Related earlier press release ~ Multisystemic Therapy ~ Fitting the Crime: Reforming Community Sentences ~ NAO: Managing offenders on short custodial sentences ~ Reducing Prisoner Re-offending ~ Making Good ~ Youth Rehabilitation Order (YRO) ~ MoJ: Youth justice ~ London Criminal Justice Board ~ Heron Unit ~ Mayor's youth plan 'Time for Action' ~ Youth Crime Action Plan ~ Feltham Young Offenders Institution ~ Reducing Re-offending Through Social Enterprise ~ Offender Learning and Skills Service (OLASS) ~ EDM - Communication Difficulties and Young Offenders ~ BBC NEWS - Communication skills 'cut re-offending' ~ Locking up or giving up? Why custody thresholds for teenagers aged 12, 13 and 14 ~ Barnardo’s ~ Children in Trouble Campaign ~ Locking up or giving up - is custody for children always the right answer? ~ Community sentencing: Public Perceptions and Attitudes - Summary Research Report ~ Alternatives to Custody ~ Re-offending of juvenile statistics ~ HM Inspectorate of Prisons: Report on Young Offenders in Adult Establishments ~ 'Transitions: a Social Exclusion Unit interim report on young adults' ~ Read the former Chief Inspector of Prisons, Lord Ramsbotham’s, statement to the House of Lords on the value of speech and language therapy in prisons (scroll down to column 1447) ~ Ethnic minority young people: Differential treatment in the Youth Justice System ~ 'The Bradley Report - Lord Bradley's review of people with mental health problems or learning disabilities in the Criminal Justice System' ~ IDeA: Offender and ex-offender health ~  TH: Reducing re-offending ~ Lets talk about it - A review of healthcare in the community for young people who offend ~ Getting help with drug problems that prevent you working ~ National Treatment Agency ~ CQC: Healthcare in Prisons ~ CQC: Commissioning health and social care for offenders ~ MoJ: Prison Policy Update ~ Integrated Drug Treatment System (IDTS) ~ RAPt – The Rehabilitation for Addicted Prisoners Trust ~ A Survey of Buprenorphine Misuse in Prisons: July 2007 ~ Channel 4 News video report

NHSC:  ‘Feeling Better’ is a vital part of ‘Getting Better’ - A report published by the NHS Confederation last week argues that the importance of patient experience should not be forgotten amid efforts to find savings & efficiencies in the health service.  A new NHS Confederation report - Feeling better? Improving patient experience in hospital - looks at what we know about improving patients' experiences of hospital care.

The report says that well informed patients who feel they are listened to and are comfortable in their surroundings are less likely to develop complications or need readmission.  It also cites case studies from the US which suggest that this can also lead to better performance against measures of mortality as well as producing better long-term health prospects for patients.
Press release ~ Feeling better? Improving patient experience in hospital ~ Public perceptions of privacy and dignity in hospitals ~ Essence of Care 2010 ~ Dignity in Care videos on YouTube ~ National Cancer Patient Experience Survey Programme - 2010: national survey report ~ Frontier Economics report: One to one support for cancer patients (scroll down) ~ Measuring for Quality Improvement ~ Releasing Time to Care (RTC) initiative ~ The Productive Ward ~ Related ScotGov press release ~ Related DH press release ~ Dignity in Care Campaign ~ Design for Patient Dignity ~ Design Bugs Out ~ Good doctors, safer patients ~ Free to Lead, Free to care ~ Scottish Patient Safety Programme ~ Listening, learning, working together?: A national study of how well healthcare organisations engage local people in planning and improving their services ~  NHS complaints procedure ~ Good practice ~ Is anyone listening? A report on complaints handling in the NHS ~ The Complaints Toolkit – Handling Complaints in NHS ~ Health Ombudsman ~ Ombudsman’s reports

IfGHelping Public Bodies adapt to their 'New Year Diets' - The Institute for Government and Public Chairs Forum (PCF) have published a joint guide to help arm's length bodies & departments manage the transitions set out by the government on the future of public bodies, announced in October 2010.  It pulls together a selection of case studies, lessons learned, and experiences from quangos that have already managed major organisational change such as the:
* Hearing Aid Council
* Learning and Skills Council
* General Medical Council.

There are currently over 900 quangos, accounting for 13% of total government expenditure.  The government announced plans to close, merge or radically reform a third of these bodies.  The guide builds on a joint seminar run by the PCF and the Institute for Government in 2010 and it identifies the key components for successful transitions, based around 5 central themes.

Spotlight on Lean in the Public Sector – A Wired-GOV Special Report - The first in a series of features we will be running, the aim of which is to focus on a significant part of public sector management, Spotlight on Lean focuses on a discipline which has been mistakenly thought to be a thinly veiled ruse to reduce headcount and cut spending.

On the contrary, for those who understand its true intentions and outcomes, Lean can deliver huge benefits to the organisation, its staff and customers and can become the keystone in the management of the severe budget reductions all public bodies are now facing. We have sought to explode the myths surrounding Lean, to reveal the real value that its successful application can bring, and to highlight how Lean is having dramatic effects within certain departments and agencies today with commissioned articles from key practitioners, leading academics along with case studies from HMRC, MoJ and Home Office.
View and Download Spotlight on Lean in the Public Sector

General News

EH: Thanks to an innovative TV project with Channel 4, a Roman villa urbana - a high status Roman town house - has been erected at Wroxeter in Shropshire, on the site of the fourth largest city in Roman Britain.  A 6 part TV series will start on Thursday 20 January (9pm) following a team of modern builders as they set about building the town house using traditional Roman methods.
FSAAsphalia has recalled a batch of its Asphalia for Natural Sleep supplements because they have been found to contain lead at levels above the legal limits. The Food Standards Agency has issued a Product Recall Information Notice.
FSASainsbury’s has withdrawn its Free From Mint Crisps with a ‘best before end' date of February 2012 and Celtic brand Caramel Choices with a ‘best before end' date of August 2011, because both products contain milk, which is not mentioned on the product labels. The Food Standards Agency has issued an Allergy alert advising anyone with an allergy to milk to not eat these products.
FSAMaysum has withdrawn one batch of its meat samosas because they contain sulphur dioxide that is not mentioned on the label.  The Food Standards Agency has issued an Allergy Alert. If you are sensitive to sulphites you are advised not to eat these products.
FSAMorrisons has recalled its Free From Dark Chocolate Bars with a ‘best before end’ date of February 2012, because the product contains milk and is not mentioned on the product label.  The Food Standards Agency has issued an Allergy Alert. If you are allergic to, or intolerant of, milk you are advised not to eat this product.
FSA: The Food Standards Agency is providing further information about the ongoing investigation into the dioxin contamination of poultry & pork farms in Germany. The German authorities have lifted restrictions on more than 3,500 farms and investigations of the remainder are continuing.  They have been informed that levels of dioxins above the legal limit have been found in pigs from two of the restricted farms.  However, the levels found would not be a risk to health.
Unicef: One year after the devastating 12 January 2010 earthquake shook their fragile lives, Haiti’s 4m children continue to suffer from inequitable access to basic water, sanitation, healthcare, and education services and protection from disease, exploitation, and unsanitary conditions, UNICEF said recently. 
Last week, more than 1m – approximately 380,000 of whom are children – still live in crowded camps.  The relief & recovery efforts of Haitians and the international community have been extraordinary.  Nonetheless, the UN children's agency noted in its report - Children in Haiti: One Year After - The long road from relief to recovery - issued in recognition of the anniversary, that the recovery process is just beginning.
MoD: A review into the prosthetics services provided by the NHS to Armed Forces veterans who have lost limbs on active duty, has been launched. Service charities have informed the Department of Health that some Armed Forces leavers are concerned that the NHS may not be adequately equipped to provide prosthetic services to veterans to the same standard currently provided by the Defence Medical Service at Headley Court.
ACE: You can now nominate your Lottery-funded arts project for this year's National Lottery Awards. Your project could be featured in a special awards event broadcast across the UK on BBC1 and there is a £2,000 cash prize to spend on your project if you win. The deadline for entries is 8pm, Friday 18 February 2011.
WAG: Deputy Minister for Children, Huw Lewis, has urged parents & guardians to apply for the Child Trust Fund Cymru top-up before it’s too late. Parents & guardians of children who were born between 31 August 2004 and 1 September 2005 have until 31 January 2011 to submit their application forms for the Child Trust Fund top-up. £50 is available to be paid into the Child Trust Fund (CTF) accounts of all eligible children, with an additional £50 available to those children living in low income families.
Newswire – TUCTUC General Secretary Brendan Barber has commented on proposals announced recently by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) that interns should be paid a £2.50 hourly wage.
MoD: Technologies which could deliver benefits to the front line of the future were shown off last week by SMEs who have received MOD research contracts. The futuristic kit was presented at an innovation showcase at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills in London.

Policy Statements and Initiatives

DfE: Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Education, has written to the NSPCC, the Musicians Union, Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music and Youth Music in response to their advice to music teachers to avoid any physical contact with children.
DH: The support offered to individuals who contracted hepatitis C in England from NHS blood & blood products in the late1970s & 1980s is to be substantially increased following a 3-month review. There will now be a 3-month window for dependants to make claims on behalf of loved ones who have passed away.  Anyone with hepatitis C who may be eligible under the new arrangements can find out more about what they need to do by contacting the Skipton Fund.
CLG: Communities Minister, Andrew Stunell, has set out how local people can bring back into use empty homes that attract anti-social behaviour and cause misery for neighbours. The Government is offering new incentives for councils to get empty homes lived in again, matching the council tax raised for every empty property brought back into use - which can be spent as they wish.
CLG: Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles, has brought an end to rules that ‘can mean people who leave their house empty for more than six months risk having it seized by their local authority’. In 2006, the previous Government introduced 'Empty Dwelling Management Orders'.  

They allow councils to take over properties that have been empty for as little as 6 months. Councils have the right to seize furniture, fixtures and fittings, when the home is taken over, including where the home has been left empty for a period after the owner has died
DH: Detailed plans to transform cancer care in England and save thousands of extra lives each year have been announced by Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley. Overall these plans will drive up England’s cancer survival rates so that by 2014/15 an extra 5,000 lives will be saved every year.
Improving Outcomes – A Strategy for Cancer, sets out how the Government, NHS and public can prevent cancer, improve the quality & efficiency of cancer services and move towards achieving outcomes which rival the best in Europe. The Strategy – backed with more than £750m over 4 years – sets out a range of actions to improve cancer outcomes.
Defra: UK Fisheries Minister, Richard Benyon, talks about the ways that Defra is working to end fish discards
WAG: All Community Dental Services in Wales are now delivering the Designed to Smile (D2S) scheme, Health Minister Edwina Hart has announced. Over 30,000 children are now benefiting from the scheme, delivered through 500 schools, improving their oral health and preventing tooth decay.
In the scheme dental health support workers deliver a supervised tooth-brushing programme in schools and provide toothbrushes & toothpaste to school children along with oral health advice. Part of this service is delivered via mobile dental health units that provide specialist preventive care and treatment to schools.
Defra: Sharks, skates & rays under threat of extinction should be given bespoke protection to help them recover faster, according to a new Government conservation planlaunched last week, which outlines how Defra will continue to work nationally & internationally to allow threatened stocks to replenish and to ensure that healthier stocks are fished sustainably.


EU News: Following the publication of a Communication on 20 October 2010 on a European crisis management framework for the financial sector (see IP/10/1353), the European Commission has recently launched a consultation on technical details underpinning that framework.  The consultation should be read in conjunction with that Communication.  

The Commission intends to come forward with a legislative proposal for a comprehensive framework for dealing with failing banks before the Summer of 2011.  The deadline for contributions to this consultation is 3 March 2011.
EU News: The Commission services have launched a public consultation on the Professional Qualifications Directive (Directive 2005/36/EC).  The consultation is an opportunity for stakeholders to highlight areas of the Directive they feel could be simplified and made more user-friendly.  It also seeks views on how to better integrate professionals working in the Single Market and raises the option of a European Professional Card.
The results of the Consultation will feed into an evaluation report and a Green Paper due this autumn.  The Commission will come forward with a proposal for modernising the Directive in 2012.  Stakeholders are invited to respond until 15 March 2011, and a public hearing is scheduled for 21 February 2011.
NICE: The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has opened consultations on 2 new medical technology devices:
FOS: The Financial Ombudsman Service recently published for public consultation its proposed budget for the next financial year (2011/2012) – together with an update on the numbers & workload for the current financial year (2010/2011).  Consultation closes on Monday 21 February 2011.
DirectGov: Pubs, bars and other licensed premises may be allowed to open for longer on 29 April 2011 in order to celebrate the Royal Wedding.  The proposals would allow pubs and bars to open an extra 2 hours and put on live music and other forms of entertainment if they choose to mark the special occasion. The consultation will run until Wednesday 26 January 2011.
EU News: As part of its work in creating a more transparent & stable financial system, the European Commission Services have this week launched a consultation on Central Securities Depositories (CSDs) and on the harmonisation of certain aspects of securities settlement in the European Union.  The purpose of this consultation is to gather input from all stakeholders in order to inform the legislative proposals due in June 2011.  The deadline for replies is 1 March 2011.
DWP: A radical reform of child maintenance which ‘places family responsibility and the welfare of children at its heart’ has been published for consultation (closes on 7 April 2011) by Work and Pensions Minister Maria Miller. The plans, which focus on strengthening families, will ‘encourage responsibility & support separating parents to reach their own agreement on maintenance and other issues important to the long term welfare of their children’.
FSA: The Food Standards Agency has written to stakeholders to seek their views on a potential change in its interpretation of the Novel Foods Regulation (Regulation (EC) No 258/97) in respect of food from the descendants of cloned cattle & pigs.  At its meeting on 7 December 2010, the FSA Board made clear its position that the marketing of products obtained from cloned animals should continue to be subject to the Novel Foods Regulation, and require authorisation.  

However, based on the available evidence, the Board agreed that there are no food safety grounds for regulating food such as meat & milk from the descendants of cloned cattle & pigs.  The Agency is seeking comments by 10 February 2011, following which the Agency will confirm its final interpretation of the regulation in respect of cloned animals and their offspring.
CLG: The Government has published a consultation on the future of fire & rescue control services in England.  This follows the closure of the FiReControl project, announced on 20 December 2010. The consultation discusses whether the original aims of the project - improving efficiency, national resilience and the technology available to fire and rescue services - are still valid and, if so, how they might be achieved now.  
It also considers the principles on which available funding should be distributed.  The role of central government, if any, is also considered.  Responses are requested by 8 April 2011.

Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides

NICE: NICE has published its latest commissioning guide - on ´commissioning a paediatric continence service´.  The guide draws on recent NICE guidance on the management of bedwetting and nocturnal enuresis in children & young people and on the diagnosis & management of idiopathic childhood constipation.  The commissioning guide supports commissioners to redesign services in order to improve outcomes for children and young people and to help the NHS make better use of its resources.
CFEBThe Consumer Financial Education Body has launched a new & interactive calculator to help people in England & Wales stay on top of their finances during a separation or divorce.  It can help people draw up a budget, work out what they have and what they owe and looks at how they might split what they have.  Designed to ensure anonymity, users of the Divorce & Separation Calculator can save their data and return to it at any time. 
Newswire – CIPD: Pay can often account for the largest part of organisational expenditure.  Get it wrong and employers may find that they are operating at a loss, or that they find it difficult to recruit & retain the talent they need, but get it right and it can create value for the organisation.

The latest Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) Guide, The Pay Review Process, raises awareness of the need to establish the pay review as a business process and offers insight on how to achieve this.
Newswire – ICO: The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has published a set of top tips on freedom of information for communications professionals working in public authorities.  The top tips, written by the ICO’s Director of Corporate Affairs, Susan Fox, who is a Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) Chartered Practitioner, are designed to help communications professionals consider freedom of information as part of their communications strategy.
EHRC: The Equality & Human Rights Commission has published guidance that explains what public authorities in England and non-devolved bodies in Scotland & Wales  have to do to comply with the public sector equality duty.

From 6 April 2011, when this part of the Equality Act 2010 comes into force, public authorities will need to consider what they are doing to tackle discrimination, harassment or victimisation.  The new duty includes age, disability, gender, gender reassignment, pregnancy & maternity, race, religion or belief and sexual orientation.
NICE: The NICE guide on commissioning a service for the management of lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS) in men, published in late 2010, aims to improve services for the estimated 1 in 4 men in England aged 40 and above who have lower urinary tract symptoms.  The guide offers advice on a range of issues, including local needs assessment & opportunities for clinical service redesign.
Underpinned by the NICE clinical guideline on the management of lower urinary tract symptoms in men published earlier last year (CG97), it forms part of an interactive commissioning tool, providing data for local comparison against the benchmarks and is a resource to estimate & inform the cost of commissioning decisions.
IfG: The Institute for Government and Public Chairs Forum (PCF) have published a joint guide to help arm's length bodies & departments manage the transitions set out by the government on the future of public bodies, announced in October 2010 – See ‘In the News’ section for more information.

General Reports and Other Publications

Civitas: New research shows that ‘for-profit’ schools must be an integral part of Michael Gove’s education reforms if they are to work.  Schooling for Money: Swedish Education Reform and the Role of the Profit Motive, looks at the role of for-profit schools in Sweden and provides quantitative evidence regarding how these schools perform.  The competition that drove improvements in the Swedish system was only possible because of the high number of for-profit schools that were established.
CH: The sidelining of justice by the Afghan government and its international backers is fuelling the insurgency in Afghanistanand presents a serious strategic risk, says a new report from Chatham House.  The report (No Shortcut to Stability: Justice, Politics and Insurgency in Afghanistan) published ahead of President Obama's statement on the review of the US war strategy in Afghanistan, argues that any strategy to create long-term stability in Afghanistan must place justice at its core.
Civitas: The Government has announced a 20% real terms reduction in police funding over the next 4 years, starting with a 6% cut in the national funding grant this year.  Satisfying this proposal is likely to involve dramatic staff reductions, including of frontline police officers.  In this briefing, Civitas claims that there is a strong relationship between the size of police forces and national crime rates.
LSN: The Learning and Skills Network have claimed that the UK economy could falter as a result of the lack of new skills needed to meet demand in growth sectors. If government is to ensure this doesn't happen, it needs to take action now, because this could prove to be a Sword of Damocles hanging over the recovery. The LSN research report, 'Engaging employers to drive up skills', reveals a ‘dangerous gap between national policy rhetoric and the attitudes, expectations and capabilities of education providers on the ground’.
W&PSC: The Work and Pensions Select Committee has published its report into changes to Housing Benefit.  The Report says there is still a level of uncertainty around the impact of the proposed changes to Housing Benefit and their cumulative effect on households. It examines the wide-ranging reforms to the Housing Benefit system proposed by the Government and in particular for claimants in the private rented sector, in receipt of Local Housing Allowance.
Civitas: The German & Swiss economies are powering ahead of the rest of Europe through superior lending to small & medium sized businesses, according to a new report from independent think tank Civitas.  German savings banks and Swiss cantonal banks, lessons for the UK by Stephen L. Clarke, Research Fellow at Civitas, argues that the UK system suffers from a lack of competition and a lack of locally-oriented banks committed to serving the needs of Britain's SMEs.

Instead of urging the City to relax lending, as George Osborne and Vince Cable did in a recent meeting with the heads of the major banks, the Government should bypass the big banks altogether by making the banking sector more diverse and competitive.  
EFRAC: The cross-party Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee has published the report of its inquiry into Future Flood & Water Management.  The Report says the Government must act to tackle the twin challenges of protecting over 5m properties from flooding and maintaining clean, reliable & affordable water supplies.
SAC: In a report published on postal services in Scotland, the Scottish Affairs Committee says the Government’s assurances regarding its intentions for the universal service obligation and the Post Office network are welcome, but need to be reinforced.
The Committee recommends that, where appropriate, this would be best achieved by amendments to the Postal Services Bill or, at least, by clear statements during the Bill’s passage.  The Committee’s report considers 2 key issues: the maintenance of a universal service and the continuation of a sustainable Post Office network across Scotland.
CECCCDoubts raised about oil spill response in UK – but MPs on the Commons Energy and Climate Change Committee warn against moratorium on deepwater drilling. The MPs conclude that extra precautions should be considered to ensure that a deepwater drilling disaster does not happen here – but that a moratorium would undermine energy security and is not necessary.
The Committee states it has serious doubts about the ability of oil spill response equipment to function in the harsh conditions off the west coast of Shetland – where wells are being drilled over a thousand metres deep.  A lack of clarity in UK liability rules could also see taxpayers pick up the tab for a major oil spill in the North Sea, the CECC Committee has warned.
PAC: The Government's "Bonfire of the Quangos" has been "poorly managed" resulting in badly drafted legislation that won't deliver significant cost savings or improved accountability, according to a new report by MPs on the Public Administration Committee (PASC). 
PF: Muslim population figures from a Pew Forum report estimates growth rates among Muslim populations worldwide and provides population projections for 2020 & 2030.
PXPolicy Exchange has recently published a new report detailing how the planning system is failing to build the infrastructure Britain needs – and how the system could be reformed. Planning Curses by Bridget Rosewell, Chief Economic Adviser to the Greater London Authority, shows how despite efforts to streamline planning, vital projects are not going ahead because of over-elaborate and unrealistic economic predictions.
PX: Britain’s electricity market is being hamstrung by too much regulation & uncertainty, according to a new study from Policy Exchange. The research finds that costs are being piled on consumers, with generators waiting for government to centrally plan, and regularly fine-tune its plans, rather than seeking out the best investments & innovations to secure supplies and reduce carbon emissions.
PPI: Fresh analysis of the government's raft of economic cuts identifies families with new babies as among those hardest hit by the cuts package. The Family and Parenting Institute research shows how a broad range of family types will be affected.  The report identifies 3 family types which will suffer the biggest blows to their finances from changes to tax & state benefits:
ippr: The system for electing Westminster MPs is ‘broken’ and is likely to produce increasingly undemocratic results in the future, according to a new report from ippr.  New analysis shows that the May 2010 general election was decided in just 111 constituencies by fewer than 460,000 voters – or 1.6% of the electorate.
The report – Worst of Both worlds: Why First Past the Post no longer works – shows that, because of long-term changes in voting patterns, the current voting system can no longer be relied upon to deliver a clear-cut result with a strong & stable single-party government.  
ippr: A new briefing on migration trends by ippr suggests that net migration is unlikely to fall much below 200,000 in 2011 – roughly the annual level it has been at for much of the last decade. This is despite the fact that the Coalition government is introducing measures to restrict immigration in order to meet the Conservative election pledge of reducing net immigration 'from the hundreds of thousands to the tens of thousands'.
PXUniversities could reduce potential student debt or protect teaching & research by being more imaginative about how they are run, a recent report from Policy Exchange shows. The study calls for the HE sector to outsource functions like maintenance & accommodation that have little to do with education. It claims that there are also big savings to be had from universities sharing services like finance, human resources or student records.  Up to 30% of the total cost could be saved if more services were shared, according to estimates.
Demos: The test to assess people for the new Personal Independence Payment will not accurately measure the cost of living with a disability shows a new report from the think tank Demos, funded by the disability charity Scope.  The report warns that the costly reassessment will waste government money and fail to provide disabled people with vital support.
This new assessment will test the functional impact of a person’s disability.  Yet, the report finds that the cost of living with a disability could not be accurately measured in this way.  Rather, disability-costs are driven by a range of factors, including employment status, housing and transport.  This means many disabled people with less complex needs, but very high disability-costs, will be left without vital support.
HAC: In a brief report, the Home Affairs Committee highlights a number of areas where the UK Border Agency is not meeting the standards which both those using its services and the general public have the right to expect. In particular, the committee singles out the continuing threat of delays & backlogs in processing asylum applications, which it attributes at least in part to inadequate decision-making in the first instance.
PX: Policy Exchange recently published a new report on bailouts arguing that there should be a semi-automatic procedure to recapitalise troubled banks whereby bank bonds are converted into equity. This report considers the economic & ethical perils of state guarantees for the creditors of banks
Ofsted: Primary schools are making good progress in introducing languages to children, but there are significant barriers to good language learning in secondary schools, according to a report published by Ofsted, the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills.  These obstacles include insufficient use of the chosen language in lessons and a drop in the numbers studying languages.
The report, ‘Modern languages – Achievement and challenge 2007-10’, recognises the significant efforts made to support languages – especially in primary schools – since Ofsted’s last languages report in 2008 and highlights a number of weaknesses in the way secondary students are taught.
KF: Commenting on the National Audit Office report on NHS hospital productivity, Professor John Appleby, chief economist at The King’s Fund said: ‘The report highlights once again the scale of the productivity challenge facing the NHS.  Despite some welcome announcements from the government this week, there is no doubt that the structural changes to the NHS will distract attention from this essential task.
‘But this is not a counsel of despair.  As the report points out, there are significant opportunities for the NHS to improve productivity, especially by reducing variations in clinical performance between front line teams delivering health care. With evidence emerging that some services are already being restricted, an intelligent approach is needed that focuses on these opportunities.  This will take time to implement and the financial squeeze is already severe, but it is vital to avoid a ‘slash and burn’ approach.’
KF:  New reports on the quality of NHS services have in many cases failed to provide the public with meaningful information about the performance of local health services, according to a report published by The King’s Fund recently. The KF analysed around a quarter of quality accounts and, while there were some good examples, found significant variation in the quality & presentation of the information published.
iea: The UK has fallen out of the top 15 most economically free countries in the world. Scoring only 74.5 in the 2011 Index of Economic Freedom, released last week by the Heritage Foundation and The Wall Street Journal in association with the Institute of Economic Affairs, the UK has slipped to 16th place in the Index.  This is 5 places lower than last year. The UK does particularly badly when ranked on fiscal freedom & government spending.
CQC: A major review by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) on stroke care has found the extent to which patients are supported in coping with life after stroke varies significantly across England. Although the report highlights some good services built around the individual, their family and carers, The North East and South West of England being particularly good, however the CQC found that this approach is far from universal.
DWP: The National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) were commissioned to use their global econometric model, NiGEM, in order to model various scenarios involving extending working lives, and to quantify the macroeconomic effects therein.  The core scenario is a 1 year increase in working life for the UK population that is gradually phased in over the period 2010-14.

 In addition to this, NIESR carried out a series of counterfactual analyses which modelled the loss to the economy from older people leaving the labour market early.
PA: The Patients Association have published a report on ‘Public Attitudes to Pain’ which is the largest survey of its kind ever performed.  Chronic pain is continuous, long-term pain of more than 12 weeks or after the time that healing would have been thought to have occurred in pain after trauma or surgery
In the report, the Patients Association calls for the Government to establish a clear care pathway for chronic pain services in the NHS and to recognise chronic pain in its own right.  They also want to see further education provided for healthcare professionals on pain services. Approximately 7.8m people live with pain from day to day yet there is only 1 pain specialist for every 32,000 sufferers.

Legislation / Legal

CHAC: The Commons Home Affairs Committee recently published a report on firearms control in which it urges the Government to codify & simplify the law.  The committee concludes that interpreting & applying the current 34 pieces of legislation governing the control of firearms places an ‘onerous burden’ on the police and on members of the public who wish to abide by the law, because it is ‘so complex and confused’.
ippr: Responding to the publication of the Localism Billippr welcomes the decentralisation of key powers to councils & communities, but says that ‘the Bill represents a cosmetic commitment to localism as it does not deliver new funding streams that give local people more control over how their taxes are spent’. ippr north published Five Foundations for Real Localism in November 2010, which set out a series of foundations against which the Localism Bill can be assessed.
WO: Secretary of State for Wales, Cheryl Gillan, announced last week that the Organ Donation LCO will proceed to pre-legislative scrutiny in Parliament. The Welsh Assembly Government has also submitted the proposed LCO for pre-legislative scrutiny in the National Assembly. The Welsh Assembly Government is seeking powers to be able to bring in a system of presumed consent on organ donation in Wales.
ScotGov: A new disclosure scheme to improve the protection of Scotland's most vulnerable groups is to go live on 28 February 2011, Children's Minister Adam Ingram has announced. The Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) scheme had been due to commence at the end of November 2010, but Ministers took the decision to postpone its introduction to ensure the new IT system which supports it is fully fit for purpose and as robust as it can be.
Newswire – HoLLG: The House of Lords Leader's Group on Members Leaving the House has recommended that ‘leave of absence' arrangements should be strengthened to encourage Members unable to play a full part in the work of the House, to step down from active membership.  The report also recommends that Members should be able to take permanent voluntary retirement from the House of Lords.
DWP: The Pensions Bill, which was published last week, is the ‘next step in helping millions save for their retirement in a workplace pension’. At present employers do not have to contribute into a pension scheme for their employees and many choose not to.  The Pensions Bill will implement measures in the Making Automatic Enrolment Work review and the Command Paper ‘A sustainable State Pension: when the State Pension age will increase to 66’.  It builds on reforms set out in the Pensions Act 2008 and Pensions Act 2007.
The Pensions Bill will bring forward the rise in the State Pension age for men and women to 66 by 2020 so that the State Pension remains sustainable and fair for the future, given rising rates of longevity.

EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.

EU News: With €2.7m of EU funding, researchers from the Czech Republic, Germany, Portugal, Spain & Sweden have developed a solution to ‘give elderly & disabled people easier control over the various electronic appliances & services in their homes using their mobile phone or other devices’.

The "I2HOME" project has developed a personalised and simplified Universal Remote Console interface based on existing & evolving open standards.  I2HOME has been tested in day-care centres and home settings in 4 pilot sites in the Czech Republic, Germany, Spain and Sweden and more than 100 organisations & companies in Europe already use or work with I2HOME technology.
Other applications of this technology are used in the EU-funded BrainAble project which also helps people with disabilities by improving direct as well as indirect interaction with devices thanks to brain sensors that can measure feelings like boredom, confusion, frustration or information overload.
EU NewsNatura 2000, Europe's network of protected natural areas, has been expanded by nearly 27,000km².  The main countries involved in this latest expansion are the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Spain and Poland.

This includes a major addition of marine areas covering more than 17,500km² which will increase protection for many endangered marine species.  Natura 2000 now covers almost 18% of the EU's landmass and more than 130 000 km² of its seas.
EU News: Results from a study released by the European Commission show that while a healthy 84% of the software programs tested enable parents to block access to certain websites, they are less efficient at filtering so-called web 2.0 content (such as social networking sites or blogs).  In addition, only a few products on the market are able to filter web content accessed via mobile phones or game consoles, at a time when one child out of four in Europe goes online in this way.

In parallel, an EUKIdsOnline survey, also funded by the EU's Safer Internet Programme, found that only a quarter of EU parents use parental control software to monitor, track or filter what their children can do online.
ScotGov: A report published last week by the European grid co-ordinator Georg Adamowitsch recognises Scotland's North Sea renewables resource and highlights Scotland's action as 'a fine example' of how to utilise different offshore technologies. An offshore grid is a European priority project and Scotland is working with the UK and 9 other countries to create a North Sea grid.

The report also highlights the work of the University of Aberdeen on the development of a DC transmission networks using DC/DC transformers.  The Aberdeen University work involves investigating new technology to support the development of the North Sea Grid and has been awarded European Research Council funding of more than £600,000 to develop design & management software for the grid.
EU News: Following the publication of a Communication on 20 October 2010 on a European crisis management framework for the financial sector (see IP/10/1353), the European Commission has recently launched a consultation on technical details underpinning that framework – See ‘Consultations’ section for more information.
EU News: The Commission services have launched a public consultation on the Professional Qualifications Directive – See ‘Consultations’ section for more information.

Charity and Voluntary Sector

VSOVSO Voices, the new campaign, shares stories from 3 people who have ‘been there and done it!’  Get an insight into life as a volunteer and find out if you could follow in their footsteps
AUK: Celebrities are lining up to back the ‘fluffiest, brightest & newest awareness day in town – Age UK’s Bobble Day on Friday 11 February 2011.  The Charity is calling on people of all ages to buy & wear a bright orange bobble for the day, or even dress entirely in orange!
The day will mark the shocking fact that during the winter over 250 older people die needlessly every day in the UK as a result of the cold.  All funds raised will go towards Age UK’s Spread the Warmth campaign, helping over 350,000 older people live safer, healthier, more fulfilling lives this winter.
BHF: The British Heart Foundation have met with Nick Hurd, the Civil Society Minister, and Detective Chief Superintendent Steve Head, the Head of the London Crime Unit, to discuss the growing problem of bogus collections.
During recent years the rising value of textiles on international markets has led to an increase in people stealing donated goods from doorsteps & charity clothing banks.  In 2009/10, there were 250 thefts of donated goods from doorsteps meant for BHF shops. To find out more information or to locate your nearest shop please call 0844 412 5000 or visit their shops page
AUKDespite being identified as the most vulnerable group in the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake, one year on, older people continue to be forgotten by international donors.  This is according to a report by Age UK’s international partner organisation,  HelpAge International.
Out of 321 projects included for funding in the United Nations Flash Appeals for Haiti, 5% of projects refer to older people’s needs.  Only 0.6% of these projects included activities that are specifically targeted for older people and none of the 0.6% of projects were funded. In other words, the UN’s Flash Appeals have not funded a single project that provides specifically targeted support for older people.

Business and Other Briefings

This brief explains the HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) position following the ECJ judgment in AXA UK plc (case ref C-175/09).
This Brief gives information about new legislation for VAT recovery for land, property, boats and aircraft and changes to VAT Regulations. The new rules begin on 1 January 2011.
The brief reminds businesses of two VAT changes that will take place in January 2011.
This Brief gives details of the VAT - change in treatment of business samples.

Industry News

WAG: A unique £4.9m centre of excellence to help smaller businesses in the Convergence areas of Wales take advantage of emerging mobile technologies has been announced. The Centre of Excellence in Mobile Applications and Services (CEMAS) will be based at the University of Glamorgan and will be a test bed for SMEs to design, develop, test & protect the creation of new mobile phone services & applications.

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