In the News
DH: While a ‘free at the point of delivery’ NHS should be ‘sacrosanct’ that doesn’t mean ‘how it is provided’ should be - Plans to modernise the National Health Service and ‘put patients at the heart of everything it does’ were set out in the Health and Social Care Bill, published last week. Under the new measures there will, for the first time, be a defined legal duty for the NHS & the whole care system to ‘improve continuously the quality of patient care in the areas of effectiveness, safety, and - most importantly - patient experience’.
The Health and Social Care Bill 2011 includes proposals to:
* bring commissioning closer to patients by giving responsibility to GP-led groups
* increase accountability for patients & the public by establishing HealthWatch and local health & wellbeing boards within local councils
* liberate the NHS from political micro-management by supporting all trusts to become foundation trusts and establishing independent regulation
* improve public health by creating Public Health England
* reduce bureaucracy by streamlining arms-length bodies
The plans are meant to improve the NHS in five key ways:
* patients would be more involved in decisions about their treatment & care so that it is right for them - there will be ‘no decision about me without me’
* the NHS would be more focussed on results that are meaningful to patients by measuring outcomes such as how successful their treatment was and their quality of life, not just processes like waiting list targets
* clinicians would lead the way - GP-led groups will commission services based on what they consider their local patients need, not on what managers feel the NHS can provide
* there will be real democratic legitimacy, with local councils and clinicians coming together to shape local services
* they will allow the best people to deliver the best care for patients - with those on the front-line in control, not Ministers or bureaucrats.
The proposed measures will also ‘save the NHS over £5bn by 2014/15’ and then £1.7bn every year after that - enough money to pay for over 40,000 extra nurses, 17,000 extra doctors or over 11,000 extra senior doctors every year. The majority of the savings would come from a significant reduction in bureaucracy following the abolition of SHAs & PCTs and a reduction in management staff by an estimated 24,500 posts.
Demos: Having a baby will not ‘solve’ marital problems - Stable single-parented families provide a better home environment for children than rowing married couples finds a new report from the think tank Demos. Becoming parents for the first time is a difficult transition time for couples, with between 14 & 27% of couples divorcing or separating in the first 5 years of a child’s life.
Only up to a third of couples are happier in their relationships after their first child is born (between 18 & 33%). Evidence showed that highly conflictive relationships can be more detrimental for both children and the parents than divorce or separation. Arguing parents – and the instability associated with this – had a worse effect on children’s outcomes than single-parented children with stable home lives.
The report argues that preparing new parents for relationship problems and providing relationship support can limit the negative impact of family breakdown on children.
As trusted experts, Health Visitors should be trained to provide couples with relationship advice to reduce the risk of first-time parents breaking up. However, between 1999 &2009, the total number of full-time health visitors decreased by 19%. In 2009, 245 fewer full-time health visitors were employed than in 2008, leaving numbers of health visitors at an all-time low.
DH: Let’s make the fines payable from the top managements’ pay & performance bonuses! - More than 11,000 patients were placed in mixed sex accommodation in hospitals providing NHS services in December 2010, according to new data published by Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley.
The figures come as the Health Secretary announces that hospitals found in breach from April 2011 will be fined £250 for each patient affected and each day that they stay in mixed sex accommodation.
FDA: One needs sufficient ‘gamekeepers’ to minimise ‘poaching’ - A committee of senior MPs were warned last Wednesday by senior tax officials to expect an upsurge in tax avoidance and a widening tax gap if planned cuts to tax collection budgets go ahead. The Association of Revenue and Customs (ARC), the union representing senior managers in HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC), told the Treasury Sub-Committee that proposed budget reductions could undermine HMRC's ability to identify, prioritise and deal with those avoiding paying tax.
HMRC has already suffered significant staffing reductions, from 99,179 staff in 2004-05 to 68,037 in June 2010. The last Spending Review announcement of a further 15% cut in expenditure will further erode staff capacity, and their ability to close the tax gap.
The latest estimate of the gross tax gap for 2008-09 shows that it has increased by £4bn compared with the previous year, and stands at approximately £52bn. ARC believes that if £2bn of the estimated tax gap were to be recovered, it would provide valuable extra resources - for schools, hospitals and other public services.
Press release ~ Treasury Sub-Committee's inquiry into the Administration and Effectiveness of HMRC ~ Earlier related FDA press release ~ FDA ~ Association of Revenue and Customs (ARC) ~ HMRC 2008 Autumn Performance report ~ 2009 report ~ HMT: Government announces tax avoidance clampdown ~ Related PCS press release ~ Tax Justice and Jobs: The business case for investing in staff at HM Revenue and Customs ~ Tax Justice Network ~ HOOT - Hands Off Our Tax offices ~ HMRC - Anti Avoidance Group: JITSIC (Joint International Tax Shelter Information Centre)
Forthcoming event: Gartner Customer Relationship Management Summit, 14 – 15 March 2011,
London - Governments worldwide are increasing their usage of Customer Relationship Management strategies and technologies to enhance their ability to make
info rmed decisions, to increase the timeliness of service delivery and to reduce the number of mistakes and the resulting costs when responding to service requests. However, in times of cost constraint, these benefits must be carefully weighed against the costs of major CRM implementations, with software licenses, maintenance, and implementation and system integration costs to be considered. CIOs and enterprise architects in the public sector should consider two new trends that Gartner expects will affect government CRM in the next 5-10 years: Social Media and Cloud computing.
Gartner will provide guidance on these topics, giving you practical guidance to help you develop a comprehensive CRM vision and strategy.
If you are a senior IT or business professional in the public sector with a focus on managing your organization's citizen relationships, this is the must-attend event for 2011!
View the full agenda and register at: europe.gartner.com/crm
DCMS: Graduates getting their first break in the arts thanks to a Government-funded bursary scheme will be keeping you up-to-date with their experiences in the Bursary Blog. Young people who have secured placements in the arts industry under the initiative will explain how the scheme has benefited them and give you a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the organisations they are working for.
PCS: The PCS civil service union has announced its members have also voted by a massive margin to reject cuts to redundancy terms. Members of the Prison Officers' Association voted by 95% against the new scheme (on a turnout of 48%).
PCS announced that 90% of its civil service members who voted in its ballot also rejected the scheme that was laid in parliament shortly before Christmas. Both unions have called on the government to reopen negotiations in light of these overwhelming results and the POA is considering joining PCS in taking legal action.
DirectGov: Tickets for the London 2012 Olympic Games will go on sale from 15 March 2011. Paralympics tickets will become available on 9 September 2011.
BHF: Researchers have found that women who have multiple miscarriages before their first child is born are more likely to have parents who suffer from heart disease. The study suggests miscarriage and heart disease may be affected by the same genes and that this should be investigated further. The research is published in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.
FSA: Cans of Mas-River fried dace with salted black beans have been recalled because of high levels of histamine, which can cause scombrotoxic fish poisoning if eaten. The Food Standards Agency has issued a Product Recall Information Notice.
Newswire – TUC: The TUC has published the first in a series of newsletters to help vulnerable workers (and the union members who protect them in the workplace) find out more about their basic employment rights at work.
In February 2011, a new website will be launched, outlining the basic employment rights for different categories of vulnerable workers. Further information will be available about rights at work and how union reps can use enforcement bodies to protect these rights.
SGC: The Sentencing Council's first Sentencing Competition has now been launched. An initial written round will take place in February 2011, and the 6 highest scoring students will then compete in the semi-final & final rounds to be held at The Old Bailey in March 2011 and presided over by Lord Justice Leveson.
All current BPTC and LPC students are invited to take part and email their expressions of interest (stating name, course and university/law school address) by Tuesday 1 February 2011.
PCS: Transport ministers & officials have been heavily criticised by the PCS union for deciding to close the Driving Standards Agency's Cardiff office but holding back the announcement for more than a month. A document leaked to the union show the closure plans, which will mean the loss of 80 jobs, were confirmed by 13 December 2010, but transport minister Mike Penning told officials to delay the announcement until ‘while the public sector situation in Wales was considered and to enable the announcement to be made when parliament was sitting’.
Union reps were not officially told, despite a previous written agreement they would be informed of the management’s decision on 15 December 2010. In addition, the agency’s chief executive Rosemary Thew sent all staff a memo suggesting ‘concerns could be discounted’. The circular reassured staff she would “keep them fully informed” about any ‘firm proposals’ – yet PCS now know a memo had already been drafted to inform Cardiff staff of the office closure decision.
OFT: The OFT has announced a market study, supported by Ofwat, looking at the market for treatment of organic waste. The study will look at whether the market is working effectively to deliver the best outcomes for customers. Organic waste has 3 mains sources: sewage, food scraps discarded as part of household rubbish and waste products from the food & farming industries.
There are new opportunities to use advanced technologies for producing energy from this waste. These include techniques like 'anaerobic digestion' which ferment organic waste and produce clean energy. The study will examine whether there are appropriate incentives in place for the efficient use of these technologies.
DUK: Children across the UK have been gathering support for the Diabetes UK Children’s Charter, calling for equal access to treatment, high quality medical care and excellent support in schools.
Over the next few weeks Diabetes UK is urging as many more people as possible to add their support and show Government & decision-makers that they have to act on the Children’s Charter and ensure that young people with diabetes have a better future. A Diabetes UK delegation will present the petition to 10, Downing Street in the Spring.
ScotGov: An early trial of an innovative way to tackle extreme temperatures on Scotland's roads has provided favourable results. A liquid solution was recently successfully tested on hard-packed snow and ice on a Huntly road in Aberdeenshire.
It will provide a new way of clearing roads at temperatures of up to -20 degrees and strategic stocks will be placed around the country for targeted use during lower temperatures, when normal salt is not as effective.
SE: Sport England and the charity Leonard Cheshire Disability have joined forces to launch Yoodo Sports, a new project to help people with disabilities take up & enjoy sport.
Yoodo Sports will bring disabled people together with activity ‘buddies’ – people who may or may not have an impairment themselves, but want to help others play sport or be active. This initiative will make it easier to find someone to exercise with and have fun.
Policy Statements and Initiatives
BIS: The Government has announced more detail on its plans for a new system of flexible parental leave to help parents balance their work & family commitments. In the coming weeks BIS will be launching a consultation on a new properly flexible system of shared parental leave, that they aim to introduce in 2015. The consultation will also consider how best to extend the right to request flexible working to all employees.
ScotGov: A new campaign aimed at informing parents of the health benefits of children participating in 60 minutes of physical activity a day kicked off last week. The 'Take Life On' initiative will feature TV & radio adverts and a dedicated website highlighting the importance of the '60 minutes' message and simple steps on how parents can work with their children to achieve this.
HO: The Policing Minister, Nick Herbert has told the Financial Times newspaper that government will improve its approach to tackling corporate fraud. In an interview published last week, he said that the Home Office will lead a project to create a single Economic Crime Agency. A consultation with key stakeholders will take place later this year. It is estimated by the National Fraud Authority that fraud costs the UK £30bn a year.
DCMS: The Government is committed to transferring responsibility for London’s 8 Royal Parks, currently managed by the DCMS, to London’s Mayor. In a statement of intent, published last week, the Government said that there would be full democratic accountability to Londoners with the Parks getting a high-profile champion. Clear links would also be established between their management and other London-wide issues such as planning, transport, tourism, the environment and leisure.
ScotGov: A range of new initiatives to improve the protection of Scotland's most vulnerable children have been announced. They arise out of a comprehensive review of child protection procedures across Scotland and build on national child protection guidance issued in December 2010 (Details - see press release).
HO: Retailers will be banned from selling alcohol below the rate of duty + VAT under new plans announced by the Home Office last week. To tackle the growing concern over how cheaply some alcoholic drinks are being sold, the government intends to introduce a new proposal which would prevent retailers from selling a 1 litre bottle of vodka (37.5% abv) for less than £10.71 and a 440ml can of lager (4.2% abv) for less than £0.38.
The government's review of pricing and associated research reports can be found in the alcohol pricing section of the Home Office website.
DfT: Local authorities are set to receive a £560m funding boost for sustainable transport projects to help create economic growth and reduce carbon emissions. Full details of the Local Sustainable Transport Fund have been published in a Government white paper ‘Creating Growth, Cutting Carbon’ which aims to encourage greater use of public transport and more walking & cycling.
The Local Sustainable Transport Fund is now 1 of just 4 grant streams for local transport funding. This is part of the simplification & reform of local transport funding to support the localism agenda, reducing the number of funding streams from nearly 30 to just 4.
BIS: Further Education, Skills & Lifelong Learning Minister, John Hayes, has announced new measures to guarantee the quality of the Government's flagship Apprenticeship programme, ensuring every apprenticeship delivers training that directly meets the needs of employers and learners.
The Specification of Apprenticeship Standards for England will ensure:
* All apprenticeships deliver high quality, nationally-recognised qualifications relevant to the skill, trade or occupation of the learner & employer
* All apprenticeships offer individuals appropriate training to achieve a good standard of literacy & numeracy (and ICT where relevant to the skill, trade or occupation)
* Every apprentice will receive at least 280 hours of guided learning per year.
DH: Treatment of around 20,000 people who suffer major trauma each year is set to improve as the Government announces significant new investment into trauma & microbiology research. A new £20m initiative will bring both military & civilian trauma surgeons and scientists together to share innovation in medical research & advanced clinical practice in the battlefield to benefit all trauma patients in the NHS at an early stage of injury.
The new National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) for surgical reconstruction and microbiology will be set up at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham, where all injured service personnel are currently treated after evacuation from the frontline in Afghanistan.
DfE: MPs voted last week on the Government’s plans to end the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) for 16- to 18-year-old pupils in education or training. Colleges, schools & training providers will receive an enhanced discretionary learner fund so that they can target pupils most in need of financial support to stay in education post-16.
Young people currently receiving the EMA will continue to receive it for the rest of the 2010/2011 academic year only. LAs have a statutory duty to make sure that no young person in their area is prevented from attending education post-16, because of a lack of transport or support for it.
HMT: The Government has published further details of a new Finance Transformation Programme which will make financial implications inherent to every decision taken in the public sector. The Economic Secretary to the Treasury, Justine Greening, set out the foundations for this programme at the Government Finance Profession’s annual training event and these were published last week in Managing Taxpayers’ Money Wisely.
WAG: Minister for Heritage, Alun Ffred Jones, has launched a new campaign to encourage people to discover what is going on at their local library. The 'Fancy that' campaign encourages all generations of the family to try something new at the library.
From now until the end of January 2011 there are lots of events for all the family happening in libraries across Wales. Take time out with yoga and pamper sessions; learn about your family history or take your first steps to using a computer. Alternatively, come and have a bit of fun and try out a new arts & craft activity.
CLG: Communities Minister, Andrew Stunell, said last week that church leaders are in a unique position to connect people from different faith groups and to get communities involved in local action.
Church leaders have been encouraged to identify any barriers they encounter when providing services to the community - such as any regulations, byelaws, planning rules or legislation in the way of community action. An online barrier busting service was launched by DCLG last year. This allows councils, community groups and individuals to submit information on bureaucratic barriers standing in the way of community action in their area.
ScotGov: A new campaign (the Play, Talk, Read campaign) to encourage parents & carers to play, talk & read to their young children to help give them the best start in life, has been launched. The Play Talk Read website has been updated for this year's campaign including tips & advice with digital books, an online community, interactive videos, games and promotions.
9 TV infomercials featuring parents telling their Play, Talk, Read stories are also being aired. A Play, Talk, Read DVD is available to parents & carers FREE through the website and is also being distributed through the infomercials & roadshows.
CLG: Housing Minister, Grant Shapps last week offered older social housing tenants struggling to manage & heat their large family homes a dedicated officer to find them smaller properties more suited to their needs. In addition, a moving service would help tenants with every aspect of moving, from joining them on viewings to organising packing & removal services, plus handymen would be available to decorate & make repairs to their new home, including putting up shelves & installing white goods
There are 430,000 under-occupied social homes in England - where tenants have two or more bedrooms more than they require. In many cases, these properties are occupied by elderly tenants whose children have since grown up & moved out. With more room than they actually need, many of these residents are finding it a struggle to look after & heat the properties that are now too big for them to manage.
MoD: The Ministry of Defence has announced changes to the allowances paid to Armed Forces personnel for expenses incurred during service. The Prime Minister set out the need to reduce allowances as part of the wider 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review. Savings of £250m a year from the current annual Service allowances bill of £880m have been identified following an extensive review of the system.
All ‘actual, unavoidable expenses incurred for Service reasons’ will continue to be reimbursed. Allowances paid for ‘operations & separation from families’ have remained the highest priorities for reimbursement and lower earners have been protected as much as possible. A full list of affected allowances and an explanation of the changes to them is available in the 'Summary of changes to allowances' document at Related Links.
MoJ: As part of their punishment offenders supervised by Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Probation Trust have been clearing scrub, weeds & rubbish in the village of Longstanton - and their hard work has uncovered a World War II guard post (known as a pillbox).
The trust plans to get offenders to rebuild a second, dilapidated pillbox in the Cambridgeshire village as a lasting legacy to the men & women who served in the war. As part of the punishment the offenders will learn new skills that will improve their chances of getting into honest employment and reduce re-offending. You can take part in the Green Paper consultation: 'Breaking the cycle: effective punishment, rehabilitation and sentencing of offenders.' (Consultation closes on 4 March 2011).
HFEA: The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority has launched a public consultation (closes on 8 April 2011) about sperm & egg donation. The consultation will focus on 3 main areas of policy:
* The level of compensation for donors
* The number of families a donor can help to create
* Family donation
ScotGov: The Scottish Government has launched a consultation on draft legislation to require farmers with breeding herds to test for bovine viral diarrhoea (BVD). BVD is a major economic drain on the industry. Under government plans, farmers with breeding herds will have to screen their herd annually for the disease.
A range of screening methods would be available so that all types of herd can find a suitable testing regime for their circumstances. Additionally, where a calf is born in a non-breeding herd it would have to be tested for BVD, for example by using an ear tag test. The consultation closes on 15 April 2011.
FSA: The Food Standards Agency has published new draft regulations in England that will implement 2 European directives. The directives set criteria for the purity of 4 new food additives & 1 sweetener recently permitted for use in the European Union. If you require any further information or have any comments, please contact the Food Additives Team by Friday 11 February 2011.
Similar regulations are being made in Scotland, Wales & NI. recently permitted for use in the European Union. If you require any further information or have any comments, please contact the Food Additives Team by emailing
ScotGov: The first ever statutory guidance setting out Scotland's approach to dealing with flooding and its impacts on homes, businesses & communities is a stage closer. Environment & Climate Change Minister, Roseanna Cunningham has launched a consultation (closes on 18 March 2011) on the guidelines which will ensure that the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, local authorities and other organisations, such as Scottish Water, adopt a sustainable & collaborative approach to managing the risk.
DirectGov: The government is consulting the public on its new strategy for dealing with waste water and sewage. The government is required under European law to prevent environmental damage and poor water quality by providing adequate waste water infrastructure. The consultation document explains the background to the draft National Policy Statement and its purpose.
It also gives information on some specific 'nationally significant' infrastructure projects such as the prevention of sewage overflows into the River Thames. The Statement also poses a number of questions which the public are invited to consider and explains how to respond (by 22 February 2011).
DCMS: Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has launched an action plan to make his vision of local TV a reality for consultation (closes13 April 2011). The Government aims to award licences by the end of 2012. Speaking at the Oxford Media Convention, Mr Hunt said the initiative would offer communities a ‘new voice’ and provide local perspectives directly relevant to them.
The Action Plan, which builds on the Shott report published last month, proposes broadcasting the channels on Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) and displaying them prominently on the Electronic Programme Guide (EPG).
New & existing media providers have been invited to register their interest by 1 March 2011and come forward with suggestions on how a channel dedicated to local news and content could work best.
DfE: The Secretary of State for Education last week announced a consultation (closes on 14 April 2011) on a major review of the National Curriculum in England.
The review will be led by the Department, supported by an advisory committee and expert panel made up of top teachers, academics & business representatives. The review will:
* replace the current substandard curriculum with one based on the best school systems in the world
* consider what subjects should be compulsory at what age
* consider what children should be taught in the main subjects at what age.
Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides
HSE: The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) has developed an on-line form to enable tenants to notify instances of the non-issue of a Landlord Gas Safety Record, which LA staff are also welcome to use if they wish to. Previously LAs have reported instances where Landlords have failed to provide tenants with a copy of a Gas Safety Record.
LSIS: The 300th case study of good e-practice has been published on the Excellence Gateway – The Learning and Skills Improvement Service’s online service for everyone who works in the further education and skills sector in England. The case studies aim to stimulate & support innovation and improvement in learning & skills and are produced by the JISC Regional Support Centres (RSCs) on behalf of the Excellence Gateway.
WAG: An £11m package of funding to support vital bus & community transport services. It is being allocated earlier than usual to help local authorities support subsidised transport services and maintain the networks already in place, without undue worry to operators & passengers.
Newswire – ICO: The Information Commissioner’s Office is challenging the British public to make 2011 the year they ensure that their credit reference file is accurate & up to date. Under the Data Protection Act everyone has the right to obtain & protect the information financial institutions hold about them.
If the content of an individual’s credit file is inaccurate then that individual can ask for it to be corrected – which could in turn stop lenders from turning down their requests for credit.
The ICO has a practical, easy to understand consumer guide detailing people’s rights, called ‘Credit Explained.’ Almost a third of the data protection complaints the ICO received in 2010/11 were about lenders.
CEOP: Vulnerable children are being taught how to stay safer online thanks to 2 new educational films & teaching resources, launched by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre – the UK’s national centre for child protection:
* ‘Know Your Friends with Josh and Sue’ - for young people with special educational needs & learning disabilities
* ‘Sam’s Real Friends’ - for young deaf people.
Although previous CEOP educational films have been subtitled, this is the first time such resources have been created specifically relating to online safety for children with additional needs. Accompanying lesson plans and suggested activity sheets are also available for each resource, allowing teachers & parents to work through the films with children in their care.
BHF: Kids are more likely to keep fit & active if they exercise with their best friend, according to new British Heart Foundation funded research from the University of Bristol. BHF have a range of resources to help keep children and young people fit & active.
ScotGov: Public Sector bosses across Scotlandhave been encouraged to look closely at their food & drink buying policies in a new guide which seeks to 'scotch the myths' about European procurement rules. Contrary to many views, EU rules actually support a sustainable approach to the buying of food & drink by councils, hospitals, colleges and prisons.
EH: New guidance for local authorities & public sector bodies looking to transfer the ownership & management of historic buildings, monuments or landscapes to community-based organisations is now available on the English Heritage website.
It covers a range of issues from the viewpoint of the LA and the community respectively, including; taking stock of heritage assets, formulating transfer strategies, developing support for the project, assessing options for new uses, managing the risks, agreeing terms for transfer, raising finance and maintaining long-term viability. The guidance offers tips & checklists and provides numerous links to sources of further advice & support.
NICE: The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has published a commissioning guide to help the NHS in England effectively commission evidence-based services to help women who smoke during pregnancy and after childbirth to quit.
The guide provides support for the local implementation of NICE guidance through commissioning and is a resource for people involved in commissioning health & social care services and public health programmes within the NHS & partner organisations in England.
General Reports and Other Publications
PA: In a new report, Parliamentary Ombudsman Ann Abraham criticises 3 government agencies for collectively failing to put things right when a data sharing mistake led to a woman’s personal & financial information being wrongfully disclosed to her former partner and her child support payments being reduced without her knowledge.
The report, A Breach of Confidence, is the outcome of the Ombudsman’s investigation of Ms M’s complaint about HM Revenue & Customs, the Child Support Agency and the Department for Work and Pensions, and their handling of her personal information.
The Ombudsman has also taken the significant step of recommending that the Cabinet Office takes steps to ensure that lessons are learnt from Ms M’s experience and that appropriate guidance is disseminated to all government departments.
CH: Existing systems of global governance do not reflect emerging economic realities. This is problematic both for over-represented Europe and for under-represented Asia. But, as Gareth Price (of Chatham House) writes, Asia & the EU must not only work together, but implement new ways of doing so.
IISS: The International Institute for Strategic Studies comments on the price of sharing data and highlights 2 important issues have been raised by the recent publication of secret American diplomatic cables.
Newswire – FAC: The Foreign Affairs Committee has published a short report on Future inter-parliamentary scrutiny of EU foreign, defence and security policy. The report puts forward a proposal that would ensure continued scrutiny of this area of EU activity by a body of national parliamentarians, following the planned dissolution of the Assembly of the Western European Union (WEU) in mid-2011.
Newswire – CPA: The Committee of Public Accounts has published a report on PFI in Housing and Hospitals. The Rt Hon Margaret Hodge MP, Chair of the Committee of Public Accounts, said: “Local authorities and health trusts used PFI because there was no realistic alternative, not because it represented best value for money. The use of PFI and its alternatives should now be robustly evaluated. Looking back at PFI procurements, the government should also do more to find out where and why PFI works best and capture the lessons. Departments should also do more to ensure they get the best out of existing PFI contracts”
Newswire – CPA: The Committee of Public Accounts has published a report on Educating the next generation of scientists. The Rt Hon Margaret Hodge MP, Chair of the Committee of Public Accounts, said: “… A strong supply of people with science, technology, engineering and maths skills is important for the UK to compete internationally. The starting point is a good education for children and young people in science and maths”.
IISS: In the 4th IISS Global Perspective Series of discussions, the director of the IISS's Transnational Threats and Political Risk programme said ‘Policymakers are running to catch up with online technology and activity’ in his talk on 'Power in Cyberspace' at the institute's Middle East office last week.
Newswire – HoL EUC: The House of Lords EU Committee has published its report on the operation & use of the ELMER database, the Serious Organised Crime Agency’s (SOCA) principal tool in identifying suspicious activity that may involve funds which are the proceeds of criminal activity.
The report, Money laundering: data protection for suspicious activity reports, follows the Committee’s 2009 report, Money laundering and the financing of terrorism, in which the Committee expressed concern about the number of organisations with access to ELMER on the grounds of data protection.
NAO: A report from the National Audit Office concludes that the Department for Work and Pensions does not yet have enough evidence to demonstrate that its activities to reduce the cost of mistakes by customers have been value for money. Mistakes made by claimants in the information they provide to the Department, termed customer error, are difficult to detect, correct & prevent. However, the report concludes that the scale of overpayments and underpayments demonstrate a clear imperative for improvement.
Ofsted: An Ofsted report looking at the barriers to good literacy shows that poor development of speaking & listening skills at an early age is holding children back from learning to read & write.
The report, Removing barriers to literacy, also highlights the need for teachers to have high expectations, the importance of the systematic teaching of phonics, and how the clear assessment of individual pupils’ progress & needs can drive improvement.
iea: New research shows that government attempts to tackle poverty are fundamentally flawed. The current focus on redistribution comes at a high fiscal cost and is trapping people in long-term dependency.
These policies are driven by meaningless child poverty targets and are a major barrier to the government cutting the welfare bill. Despite pouring ever increasing amounts of money into the welfare budget, actual poverty is still not being addressed.
A New Understanding of Poverty, an Institute of Economic Affairs report, shows why current poverty measures and the redistributive policies built around them should be scrapped. They should be replaced by a new measure looking at poverty in terms of what people can afford to buy, rather than their level of income relative to others.
Legislation / Legal
CLG: A bill to ‘return power to councils and communities reversing decades of increasing central government control’ started its second reading in Parliament last week. To make sure the general public & community groups can fully understand the effects of the Localism Bill, a plain English guide has also been published.
ScotGov: While the Public Records (Scotland) Bill cannot’ right the wrongs of the past’, it will ensure the same problems don't occur in the future, the Minister for Culture & External Affairs claimed last week. The Bill is designed to improve record keeping across the public sector, strengthening transparency & accountability, as well as helping to secure the records of vulnerable people.
It will fulfil one of the main recommendations of the Historical Abuse Systemic Review (the Shaw Report of 2007) which found that poor record keeping often created difficulties for former residents of residential schools & children's homes, when they attempted to trace their records for identity, family or medical reasons.
ScotGov: ‘Parliament must engage positively on the Scottish Government's spending plans, which will protect jobs, frontline services and economic recovery in the face of Westminster cuts’, Finance Secretary John Swinney said last week when the Budget Bill 2011-12 was officially published ahead of the Stage One Debate at the Scottish Parliament this Wednesday.
DCMS: Secondary legislation on sharing the costs of the Digital Economy Act’s measures to tackle online copyright infringement has been laid in Parliament.
EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.
EU News: On 14 January 2011, the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) issued an opinion on the Commission's Communication on the review of the EU legal framework for data protection. The Communication is an essential landmark on the way towards a new legal framework that will represent the ‘most important development in the area of EU data protection since the adoption of the EU Data Protection Directive 16 years ago’.
The opinion sets out the EDPS vision for the future framework and proposes a set of recommendations. The EDPS supports the main issues & challenges identified by the Commission, but asks for more ambitious solutions to make the system more effective and give citizens better control over their personal data.
NAO: Amyas Morse, Comptroller & Auditor General, has qualified his audit opinion on the 2008-09 Consolidated Statement on the use of EU Funds in the UK. It reports confirmed financial corrections, or ‘disallowance penalties’, being imposed on the UK by the European Commission of £398m and provisions for further corrections of £601m.
EU News: The European Commission last week published a report on Member States' performance in the prevention & recycling of waste. This shows that some Member States have ‘made excellent progress, but that we are still some way from achieving the long-term goal of becoming a recycling society' – one that not only avoids producing waste, but also uses it as a resource.
EU News: Following the launch of the 3 new European Supervisory Authorities on 1 January 2011 (MEMO/11/1), the Commission now proposes to make targeted changes to legislation in the area of insurance & securities regulation to ensure that the new Authorities can work effectively.
In particular, the proposal sets out in detail the scope for the Authorities to exercise their powers, which include the possibility to develop draft technical standards and to settle disagreements between national supervisors. The proposed directive will now be sent to the Council and the European Parliament for consideration.
Newswire – LGA: In an ‘unprecedented move’ the Government plans to make councils pay for fines levied by the EU against the UK for missing national targets on things like improving air quality and boosting recycling rates. The impact on council budgets could be almost immediate.
The Government is already exceeding air pollution targets and has less than a year to get an extension from the EU or face a potential fine of £300m, enough to add £15 to the average annual council tax bill.
A number of other EU directives, with implications for local government, contain the potential for similar fines. Breaching the air quality limits, alongside a failure to hit targets on waste recycling, procurement and service delivery could see fines in excess of £1bn levied against the UK. The LGA has produced a report on the relationship between Europe and Local Government which sets out how the relationship could be improved - "Knowing me, Knowing EU".
Charity and Voluntary Sector
10 DS: The Biddick Hall Community Focus Group – a project that has transformed the community through local action on health, crime, employment and activities for young people – is the latest winner of the Prime Minister’s Big Society Award.
People can submit nominations via the nomination form. Nominees will then go through a selection process which will eventually involve a panel of previous winners and individuals from civil society organisations, Government and the private sector. Award winners will receive a certificate from the Prime Minister and will be invited to a regular Big Society Award Winners Reception at Downing Street.
Business and Other Briefings
This Brief explains HM Revenue & Customs' (HMRC's) position following the Tribunal decision in Oasis Technologies (UK) Limited (Case ref TC00581). It also explains the treatment of electronic bingo machines.
STFC: PV Glaze, BiSN and Chris Underwood are all winners in a challenge run by STFC's Futures team, which seeks to exploit scientific research to find solutions to the government's grand challenges in energy, environment, healthcare and security. They have been awarded free access to the unique cutting-edge research facilities & expertise at STFC's Daresbury Laboratory.
LSN: The World Gold Council (WGC) has chosen Learning and Skills Network (LSN) LRI to implement their StaffDevelopmentAcademyfor their worldwide employee base. WGC has small numbers of employees based all over the world and the core Staff Development Academy, along with WGC faculties, will spread & connect both knowledge and learning across the globe for them.
OS: Leading global insurer, RSA, last week announced an enhancement to its underwriting systems, after signing a deal with Ordnance Survey for its OS VectorMap Local digital mapping product. RSA is the first commercial customer to take advantage of the benefits of OS VectorMap Local.
By allowing users to completely customise the content and style of their mapping to suit their specific needs, OS VectorMap Local offers greater flexibility of use. It is the first in a new generation of digital mapping products from Great Britain’s national mapping agency.
HL: Book your place now: Surviving the cuts conference - Discover practical ways to safeguard your service, improve efficiency, empower your staff to change and demonstrate your impact, in addition to exploring new opportunities and ways of working.
Homeless Link is running a conference designed to help frontline charities from all sectors to survive the cuts on 8 February 2011 in London.
QDCA: The Qualifications & Curriculum Development Agency is offering induction training for new exams officers in spring 2011. There will be 9 Spring into summer training events taking place at regional venues during March (event dates & venues are available on their Key dates page).
If you are a new-to-role exams officer but have not received an invitation and wish to attend an event, please contact your QCDA centre support officer.
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