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In the News

CSJIt’s not as though there are not enough examples of Good & Bad Practice - Britain’s system of spending public money needs a fundamental shake-up to eliminate waste & boost results, according to a major new report from think-tank Centre for Social Justice.  Whitehall decisions about the allocation of £700bn of taxpayer’s money should be made on the basis of clearly defined objectives and not vague hopes of improving people’s lives, the report says.

The report from the CSJ is highly critical of Whitehall’s historic approach to making spending decisions.  For decades, spending programmes overseen by successive governments have lacked clear objectives and have been poorly managed & monitored.  One example comes from a Public Accounts Committee report, which concluded: “The Government spends £1.2 billion a year tackling problem drug use, yet does not know what overall effect this spending has.” 

The report calls on Ministers to create a new body – the Office of Spending Effectiveness – which would work with established organisations such as the Office of National Statistics and the National Audit Office – to check spending plans from government departments for their likely effectiveness before they are approved. 
Press release ~ CSJ ~ Outcome-based Government – Full report ~ Executive Summary ~ Social Return on Investment Network ~ nef: Valuing what Matters ~ The SROI Primer ~ The Ambitions and Challenges of SROI ~ Breakthrough Britain. Ending the Costs of Social breakdown ~ Washington State Institute for Public Policy – Costs and Benefits ~ ‘Payment for success- How to shift power from Whitehall to public service customers, KPMG, 2010 ~ DWP, Research Report No.366 ‘Gateway to Work New Deal 25 Plus pilots evaluation’ ~ HM Treasury, ‘Spending Review 2010’ 20 October 2010   (see p.16 para. 1,10) ~ PAC, Tackling problem drug use, March 2010, p.5 para. 1 ~ NAO: Tackling problem drug use ~ Drug Treatment Outcomes Research Study (DTORS) ~ Awareness projects press release ~ Sir Roy McNulty: Rail value for money report ~ Build and Beyond: The (r)evolution of healthcare PPPs ~ AC: All value for money good practice ~ OFT: Commissioning & competition in the public sector ~ Final report on public perceptions of the benefits of HE ~ Summary report published by Universities UKDying for Change ~ Related NAO press release regarding M25 widening ~ Measuring Neighbourhood Watch: Views of Effectiveness ~ NAO:  ;Central government's use of consultants and interims ~ Strategic Financial Management in Councils: delivering services with a reduced income ~ NAO:  Reducing the cost of procuring Fire & Rescue Service vehicles and specialist equipment ~ NAO:  ;Assessing the impact of proposed new policies ~ NAO: The performance and management of hospital PFI contracts ~ PFI: £70m bill for schools that had to close ~ NAO:  Assurance for high risk projects ~ OGC Gateway reviews ~ Major Project Review Group ~ NAO:  Commercial skills for complex government projects ~ Value For Money in public sector corporate services - A joint project by the UK Public Sector Audit Agencies ~ Public service reform in Scotland ~ Capability review website ~ KF: Value for money Health Service press release ~ Valuable lessons ~ ESRC – The Management of Second Best ~ NAO MoD Black Hole press release ~ Ministry of Defence: Major Projects Report 2009 ~ Review of Arrangements for Efficiencies from Smarter Procurement in Local Government ~ AC: View the updated VfM profiles ~ NAO: Department of Health - Young people’s sexual health: the National Chlamydia Screening Programme ~ Necessity - not nicety: A new commercial operating model for the NHS and Department of Health ~ NAO: Help for public sector services ~ Value for Money: Government Guidance See also last item in this section for a new model for public service delivery

Defra:  With recent food price rises behind much of world’s political unrest this is not something that can be ignored by politicians - There needs to be a worldwide agricultural revolution, with farmers growing more food at less cost to the environment, Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman and International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell said last week .  

Responding to Foresight’s report on global food and farming futures, Mrs Spelman and Mr Mitchell said that there was a role for governments, the private sector & consumers to play throughout the entire food system in achieving future food security.

The Foresight report estimates that a third of the world’s food is currently being wasted, and that halving food waste by 2050 would have the same effect as increasing food production today by 25%.  As part of its response, the UK Government will work with the private sector and other countries to learn and share good practice.
Press release ~ Foresight report on global food and farming futures ~ Project website ~ Previous BIS press release ~ GOS: Food ~ Arab Regimes Fear Bread Intifadah ~ Food and Innovation Research Strategy – Food 2030 ~ UK food security ~ Foresight: Land Use Futures ~ Foresight Programme – Environmental Migration ~ UK Cross-Government Strategy for Food Research and Innovation ~ EFRA Committee report on securing food supplies up to 2050 ~ International drivers of sustainable and secure food ~ Ensuring UK food security in a changing world ~ Council of Food Policy Advisors ~ United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation ~ Chatham House - UK Food Supply in the 21st Century: The New Dynamic ~ Strategy Unit report: ‘Food Matters: Towards a strategy for the 21st Century’ ~ Eldis – Food Security ~ FAO - Special programme for food security ~ Oxfam: Rethinking Food Security in Humanitarian Response ~ Global Food Trends - Overview ~ FIVIMS - Food Insecurity and Vulnerability Information and Mapping ~ Christian Aid: Fighting food shortages – Hungry for Change ~ Action Aid: Failing the Rural Poor ~ Mapping and Analysis of the Resilience of the Food Supply Chain in Scotland ~ ScotGov: Food and Drink information ~ Food Security: The Role for the Scottish Government in Ensuring Continuity of Food Supply to And Within Scotland and Access to Affordable Food ~ ESRC funded: New Security Challenges ~ One World – Food Security ~ Global Food Security ~ Major international research initiative launched to improve food security for developing countries ~ UKabc ~ Scuba Rice DFID press release ~ Impacts of Climate Change on Chinese Agriculture ~ Chars Livelihood Programme ~ International Charter ‘Space and Major Disasters’ ~ Human Tide: the real migration crisis ~ Food Security, Farming, and Climate Change to 2050 ~ Crop Wild Relatives: Plant conservation for food security

Newswire – NHSCNot everyone can get to their GP’s surgery within a few minutes or at minimal cost - A new NHS Confederation report says the over-reliance on treatment delivered through face-to-face contact means the ‘NHS risks being stuck in the technological dark ages as new ways of communication become the norm’.
Remote control, the patient-practitioner relationship in a digital age says that, while for many of the NHS’ main users (especially the very old) face-to-face will continue to be the most sensible way to provide care, for an ever-growing number it is not.  More & more people expect to be able to manage parts of their healthcare remotely using modern communication technologies, as they do with other areas of their life.

The NHS has to cater for this section of society to offer high-quality care and ensure that resources can be used more appropriately where face-to-face contact is the best option. NHSC acting chief executive Nigel Edwards said: “There are lots of pilots and studies showing how new communications technologies can improve care but they are rarely fully taken up so we know important barriers still remain in taking up these new technologies. …………. We need to address these barriers as people increasingly expect to access services online. It simply cannot be sustainable in the health service of the future for skilled NHS staff to continue to send on referral letters using second class post.”
HOCounter-terrorism is much more than ‘Detention Orders’ - New measures to rebalance Britain’s counter-terrorism powers and restore British freedoms whilst protecting the public were outlined by the Home Secretary, Theresa May last week.  The recommendations follow a comprehensive review of counter-terrorism powers and legislation which sought to assess whether they were necessary, effective and proportionate.

In some areas counter-terrorism & security powers were found to be neither proportionate nor necessary and the recommendations are designed to restore British freedoms, while enabling the police & security services to continue to protect the public and national security.
Press release ~ Changes to counter terrorism powers recommended ~ Counter-terrorism ~ Review documents ~ Read the Parliament statement ~ EHRC response press release ~ Global Uncertainties ~ British Perceptions of National Security, Civil Liberties and Human Rights ~ New Security Challenges – Research Projects ~ NSC - publications ~ Liberty ~ Innovative Science and Technology in Counter-Terrorism - INSTINCT ~ Counter Terrorism Science & Technology Centre ~ Office for Security and Counter Terrorism website ~ Directgov: Reporting Terrorism ~ Photography and Counter-Terrorism legislation ~ National Counter Terrorism Security Office (NaCTSO) ~ Centre for the Protection of the National InfrastructureWatch a video about CONTEST ~ FAC: Report on Future inter-parliamentary scrutiny of EU foreign, defence and security policy ~ 6th report - Money laundering: data protection for suspicious activity reports ~ Related recent press release ~ Demos: From Suspects to Citizens ~ TFTP: Opinion of the European Data Protection Supervisor ~ Demos: The edge of violence; a radical approach to extremism ~ CLG Committee report on ‘Preventing Violent Extremism’ ~ Prevent strategy ~ The Prevent strategy: a textbook example of how to alienate just about everybody ~ Office of Surveillance Commissioners ~ Civil servants attacked for using anti-terror laws to spy on public ~ LGA response press release

Industry News:  A new model for public service delivery: The Social Investment Business - Public service reform is central to the Government’s Big Society and Localism agendas. There are many innovative new ways Local Authorities can adapt to reach these goals including enabling social enterprises, charities and voluntary groups to play a leading role in delivering local public services. These include new models for financing and delivering public services that combine outcomes based contracts, social impact bonds, payment by results, civil society consortia, partnerships and mutuals.

The benefits of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) delivering services are clear – building social capital, reach into communities, knowledge of local need, cost effectiveness, innovation and social impact. However, CSOs face multiple barriers in bidding for, winning and delivering pubic sector contracts.

The Social Investment Business manages Government funds on behalf of the Office for Civil Society, the Department of Health and the Department for Communities and Local Government, with over 1,100 active investments. If you are a public sector decision maker or a CSO involved in public service delivery and would like to know more about the support services that we as The Social Investment Business can offer, please click on the link HERE

General News

ScotGov: Promising opening discussions with the US over the long-standing import ban on authentic Scottish haggis have led to renewed hopes that Americans & expat Scots will soon be enjoying the national dish. Imports of Scotland's iconic dish have been banned in America for almost 40 years and the move to allow its import into the US has been backed by organisations, such as renowned haggis maker Macsween.
FCO: A survey carried out by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office has shown that over 80% of students are unaware of the recruitment process which could lead them to successful career opportunities within the European Union Civil service, especially asjust under half of the UK nationals employed will be retiring in the next 10 years.  
Encouragingly, the professional expertise of UK nationals and English language skills are highly sought after. The FO is working with partners in academia & beyond to spread the word about the job opportunities available in the EU for bright graduates with French or German language skills.
HL: Jenny Edwards, Homeless Link's Chief Executive, has commented on front page story in the Standard on
homeless men sleeping in dustbins reported on Monday 17 January 2011:
EH: All 7 Historic Environment Managers have succeeded in securing employment after completing English Heritage's Historic Environment Traineeship (HET) Scheme, set up to boost the next generation of heritage professionals.
FSATesco is recalling all of its own-brand Chocolate Delight No Added Sugar (49g) and Instant Custard Mix (74g), because some packets of the products contain small pieces of metal.  The Food Standards Agency has issued a Product Recall Information Notice.
FSAAytac Foods has withdrawn packs of its Dried Apricots and Golden Jumbo Raisins with a ‘best before end’ date up to & including December 2011, because the products contain sulphur dioxide, which is not mentioned the product labels. The Food Standards Agency has issued an Allergy Alert.
FSAHovis has withdrawn some of its own-brand pancakes because they contain egg, which is not mentioned in the allergy advice box on the label. The Food Standards Agency has issued an Allergy Alert advising anyone with an allergy or intolerance to egg to not eat this product.
FSA:  Sainsbury’s is recalling its own-brand French Raclette Slices with a ‘use by’ date of 23 January 2012, because the product has been labelled with the incorrect use by date. The correct use by date is 23 January 2011. The Food Standards Agency has issued a Product Recall Information Notice.
BHF: New research says a stress management programme could help heart patients avoid further cardiac incidents after scientists studied the health of people who had just been diagnosed with heart disease. They found that patients who took part in a cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) course had a 41% lower risk of having a fatal or non-fatal cardiac incident.
MoD: In a stark diversion from his traditional role, a Company Sergeant Major in Helmand is helping his unit to talk through any problems they may have and overcome any mental health issues. He operates the TRiM (Trauma Risk Management) system which teaches soldiers to spot signs of mental distress in their colleagues.
The aim is to encourage troops to talk about their problems and seek help at the earliest stage from the team of community psychiatric nurses and consultant psychiatrists who are on hand in Afghanistan to provide any care & treatment needed.
Newswire – RoSPA: Faulty electric blankets are putting too many people across Northern Ireland at risk of injury & fire, say accident prevention campaigners following a series of safety events. Nearly 75% of electric blankets tested by Home Accident Prevention groups failed safety checks.  The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) is urging all electric blanket owners to have their blankets serviced regularly.
Directgov: A scheme that provides funding for Second World War veterans, their spouses, widows & carers to return to the places where they saw action has been extended for another year.  So if you would like to make a commemorative trip in 2011, you have until 31 January 2012 to apply for funding.
NAOld Money, a new mobile phone application which uses records from The National Archives to convert old money into present day values, is now available to download (compatible with iPhone, iPad & iPod Touch).  The application uses historic price data from documents held at NA to see what a sum of money from the past would be worth today and the spending power it would have commanded at the time.
MoD: A new group has recently been set up to make sure that Defence tackles any criminal activity that is targeted against the supply of equipment & support to the military. The Defence Crime Board will align & focus the investigation of crime, the Department's prevention & deterrence initiatives and the recovery of stolen assets & monies defrauded across all of the MOD & the Armed Forces.
FSA: The Food Standards Agency and the Medical Research Council (MRC) have announced a joint call for research to help improve understanding of the biological mechanisms that cause food allergies.  Food allergy is a common & important disease, affecting up to 2% of adults and between 5% & 8% of children in the UK. Symptoms vary but can be severe and result in anaphylaxis and (occasionally) death.  The deadline for applications is May 2011.
TfL: More than 50 free London walks led by trained guides took place on Saturday 29 & Sunday 30 January.
The walks known as Winter Wanders are 1 of 3 annual guided walking weekends (organised by Walk London & supported by Transport for London) and are held on the last weekend in January of each year - the other 2 are Autumn Ambles (September) and Spring into Summer (May). 
ESRC: ‘Straight to the point, easy navigation, dynamic research content on the most important topics facing society today’ are just some of the new features of the Economic and Social Research Council’s (ESRC) web portal, launched last week. The new website will be the first port of call for anyone interested in the UK’s society & economy.
Through the new 'research topics' section visitors will have access to topical features, case studies, informed debate and expert opinion on a range of topics including climate change, ageing, employment and crime.
CFEB:   The Consumer Financial Education Bodyresearch finds that over half of UK adults have resolved to get 'money fit' in 2011, whilst 40% don't plan to exercise their 'money muscles' at all.  The CFEB Money Workout campaign is designed to help people get their money into shape, minus the slog in a sweaty gym, with a simple 3-step approach - set a money goal; give your money a workout; stay on the right track.
BHF: The Government has published its plans to reform how & what children are taught in schools in England. The Education Bill sets out changes to the way that pupils will be tested, teacher training and how schools are funded. The British Heart Foundation would like to see all children taught emergency life-saving skills. The BHF Heartstart programme works in partnership with local volunteer groups, the ambulance service and other organisations to teach people in communities including schools emergency life support skills.

Policy Statements and Initiatives

DECC: Plans to explore linking up green energy projects in the North, Baltic & Irish Seas were backed by PM David Cameron recently at the UK-Baltic-Nordic Summit held in London. 

He announced that Energy Ministers will work together through the North Seas Offshore Grid Initiative and share experience with Ministers in the Baltic Energy Market Interconnection Plan (BEMIP) to ensure planning, market, regulatory & technical challenges are properly addressed and the right framework created for industry to invest in future projects.
ScotGov: Young people across the country are taking the lead in a new project to help drive Scotland's transition to a low carbon society as part of the Low Carbon Scotland Public Engagement Strategy. Developed by the Scottish Government in partnership with Young Scot, the national youth information agency for Scotland, the project involves three teams of 12 to 19 year old volunteers who will look at how their communities will change in a low carbon Scotland.
DWP: Young unemployed people will get much more help to access extended work experience opportunities to get the best possible start in life, Employment Minister Chris Grayling announced last week.  Under a new scheme young people will be allowed to do work experience for up to 8 weeks (previously only 2 weeks) so they can get a proper stint in a business, gaining valuable experience, getting a decent entry on their CV and providing real value to the employer.
The Work Experience scheme will be administered by Jobcentre Plus, who will match young unemployed jobseekers to companies interested in giving young people a step up.
CO: Deputy PM Nick Clegg has called for new ideas to help improve the rates of young people and other under represented groups registering to vote in elections. Traditionally young people, BME communities and those in areas of high social deprivation are less likely to register to vote. The Electoral Commission estimates that over 50% of 17–24 year olds are not registered to vote, alongside 31% of BME British residents.
DWP: The vast majority of people who apply for Employment & Support Allowance are either being found fit for work (39%) after undergoing a Work Capability Assessment or stop their claim (39%) before they complete their medical assessment.  Ministers have already made changes to the way the Work Capability Assessments recognise people suffering from mental health conditions and those with cancer.
BIS: New plans to improve the way in which workplace disputes are resolved have been published alongside an ‘Employer’s Charter’ – the measures are designed to give businesses more confidence to take on workers & support growth. The Government wants to enable workplace disputes to be resolved as early & as easily as possible. The key proposals are set out in a consultation (closes on 20 April 2011).
Tribunal claims rose to 236,000 last year – a record figure and a rise of 56% on 2009 – and business has to spend almost £4,000 on average to defend itself against a claim.  Concerns have been raised by businesses that the system has become too costly, takes too much time, places unnecessary strains on small businesses and that it is too easy to make unmerited or vexatious claims.
CO: Minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude, has launched a new network of Counter Fraud Champions, who will lead the fight against fraud & error in their own central government department and in the agencies and other public bodies for which the department has responsibility. New figures revealed by the National Fraud Authority show that 55% of fraud – a massive £21bn - is committed against the public sector.
They will also feed into the work of the Government’s Counter Fraud Taskforce, which was launched last October, and take forward the Taskforce’s recommendations when it completes its work in Spring 2011.


FSA: The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has begun a consultation (closing date Monday 14 March 2011) on proposals to reduce the frequency of hygiene inspections on dairy farms in England & Wales. The proposals could result in an annual saving of £1.2m for taxpayers and more than £130,000 for farmers. It is proposed changes in Scotland will not occur until the Food Law Code of Practice is reviewed in 2012.  A similar consultation is being launched by the FSA in Northern Ireland.
DECCNuclear operators will be expected to take on liability of €1.2bn for each of their sites, an increase on the current level of £140m, under proposals outlined for consultation by Chris Huhne last week (closes on 28 April 2011). The proposal follows the changes to the Paris & Brussels Conventions on nuclear third party liability and is a 7-fold increase on the current level of £140m.  It is also more than the €700m minimum required under the revised Conventions.
There will also be an increase in the categories of damage for which operators are liable to include damage related to the environment. The geographical scope of those eligible to claim compensation will be widened, and any liabilities will be channelled automatically to the nuclear operator.
FSA: The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has published a discussion paper to open a public debate about how the FSA, and in future the proposed Consumer Protection and Markets Authority (CPMA), should pursue the objective of consumer protection and specifically the issue of product intervention.  The consultation ends on 21 April 2011.
WAG: New plans to encourage pregnant women in Wales to follow healthier lifestyles were announced last week as part of a fresh Welsh Assembly Government strategy to improve maternity services. Wales has the highest rates in the UK of expectant mothers who smoke or are obese. The consultation on the draft strategy closes on 11 April 2011.
Defra / PCS: England’s best known historic forests ‘will be protected for future generations’ under proposals announced by Environment Secretary, Caroline Spelman. The proposals are contained in a consultation document on the ownership & management of the 18% of England’s woodland currently run by the Forestry Commission.
The document lays out different approaches for different types of woodlands.  Any forest or wood for which a suitable offer cannot be achieved will continue to be part of the publicly owned forest estate.  The consultation will close on 21 April 2011
Meanwhile the PCS union commented: ‘The public body responsible for managing the UK's forests costs less than the price of a packet of crisps a year for each person in England….. Public ownership ensures the commission carries out a wide range of functions that the union does not believe can be provided by the private and voluntary sectors….. In 2009 the commission conducted a detailed study of the long-term role of public forests that concluded public ownership was essential in supporting the forestry estate.
EU NewsPublic procurement accounts for roughly 17% of the EU’s GDP. In times of tight budgets & economic difficulties in many Member States, public procurement policy must ensure the most efficient use of public funds, with a view to supporting growth & job creation. The European Commission has launched a consultation which will focus on the modernisation of the rules, tools & methods for public procurement to deliver better on these goals. The deadline for responses to the Green Paper is 18 April 2011.

Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides

e-ILP: See how Learning and Skills Network (LSN)works and how it improves engagement with learners, in this new short video. The tool provides a collaborative, accessible but personal environment to enable pastoral tutors and the wider course team to communicate effectively with learners. The information captured can be used by staff to enhance guidance, support and delivery of learning.
CRC: In partnership with the Commission for Rural Communities, the National Association of Local Councils (NALC) is publishing a new suite of good practice guidance materials for local councils entitled ‘Continuing Effective Engagement for Town and Parish Councils‘.
Newswire – HPAPrimary Care practitioners can now access a broad range of information to help them look after patients who have come to live in the UK from abroad, following the launch of a free-to-use online resource by the Health Protection Agency (HPA). The Migrant Health Guide recognises the fact that these migrant patients sometimes have health needs which are more complex than those of UK born patients.
NICE: GPs should not offer benzodiazepines or antipsychotics to patients presenting with generalised anxiety disorder (GAD), according to updated guidance from NICE. NICE recommends that combination treatments should only be undertaken by practitioners with expertise in the psychological and drug treatment of complex, treatment-refractory anxiety disorders and after full discussion with the person about the likely advantages & disadvantages of the treatments suggested.
Newswire – TUC: The TUC has published a guide for union reps to help them better support & represent disabled people at workDisability and Work: A trade union guide to the law and good practice contains advice & information across a range of topics, including challenging disability discrimination, the equality duty, recruitment procedures, sickness absence, redundancy, health & safety, mental health and training.
NICE: National mass-media campaigns warning the public of the risks of UV radiation - the leading cause of skin cancer - should continue to be developed & sustained by NHS commissioners and LAs, as rates of melanoma rise faster than any other cancer in the UK. This latest guidance focuses on ways to help prevent skin cancer using public information, sun protection resources and by making changes to the built environment. 
FSA: The Food Standards Agency is reminding people about the possible risks from getting the 'winter vomiting bug' norovirus from eating raw oysters. Eating raw oysters can carry a risk of food poisoning because shellfish can contain harmful bacteria and viruses because of the way they feed. Infections linked to norovirus tend to be more common during the winter.
BHF: Eastenders’ Phil Mitchell had a heart attack on the programme last week. Soap operas are out to capture the audience’s attention so it’s not surprising that heart attacks are portrayed so often in a dramatic fashion. However, we know that for many people this isn’t their experience of a heart attack.  Symptoms can be very varied and often people can dismiss them as something innocuous like ‘bad indigestion’.
The reality is that heart attacks symptoms can affect people very differently.  The British Heart Foundation run campaigns to help people understand what a heart attack might feel like.  They have also created a short film to give people the chance to ‘watch their own heart attack’ and find out what it might be like to have one.
Newswire – ICOCouncillors who handle personal data must check if they need to register as a data controller or risk a fine of up to £5,000, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) said last week.  The ICO is writing to councillors across the country to urge them to check if they are fulfilling their legal requirements under the Data Protection Act.  Over 6,000 councillors are currently registered with the ICO, but a further 13,000 are potentially not fulfilling their obligations.
Newswire – AS: The Scottish Government is improving its oversight of major capital projects such as hospitals, schools, prisons & roads in the face of increasing budget pressures & uncertainties. An Audit Scotland report (Management of the Scottish Government’s capital investment programme) looks at how well ScotGov is running its programme of capital projects. It also follows up a 2008 AS report on major capital projects.

Annual Reports

Newswire – AS: The Accounts Commission says councils have carried out substantial work to address the serious challenges of delivering quality services with less money. However councils & councillors face increasingly difficult choices in allocating funds and prioritising services.
The report highlights councillors’ community leadership role and says this will be vital as they consider service redesign & changes.  Councils need to be able to show they have considered all options. They should continue to work with partners both within local government and across sectors to coordinate initiatives, remove barriers and support more efficient & effective service delivery.
YPLA: The Public Accounts Committee Academies Programmereport focuses on the performance of sponsored academies; how they have performed impressively to date, achieving rapid academic improvements and raising aspirations in some of the most deprived areas in the country.

General Reports and Other Publications

LLUKLifelong Learning UK is publishing the results of their investigation into how technology is changing teaching & learning.  Technology is changing our learning institutions, but not everyone is using it to its full potential.  A survey by the National Union of Students showed that 42.9% of students would like academics & teachers to make more use of technology.  You can access the findings in 4 ways.
HEFCE: Universities & colleges need to make online learning a central part of organisational strategies if they are to meet rapidly changing student demands and stay competitive in the global higher education (HE) market.  So says the report, 'Collaborate to compete: Seizing the opportunity of online learning for UK higher education', published by the Online Learning Task Force.
The report showcases 14 online innovative approaches to course delivery in the UK, including partnerships between HEIs and the private sector.  The report also makes six recommendations to institutions and the wider HE sector.
Newswire – ESC: The European Scrutiny Committee has published ‘The European Union Bill: Restrictions on Treaties and Decisions relating to the EU’, which explains how Part 1 of the Bill will apply referendum locks and other constitutional safeguards before further competence or power can be transferred from the UK to the EU.  The Report's overall evaluation & conclusions are summarised in the last chapter.
BISEmployers highly value graduates who gained their qualification while studying & working part time, research published by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Higher Education Careers Services Unit (HECSU) reveals.  Around a third of employers said that their views of part time study have improved based on the experience of their employees.
IfG: The Institute for Government highlights the fact that on Thursday 20 January, the House of Lords held a 4-hour debate on the 'constitutional and parliamentary effect of coalition government'.
NLGN: A new report by localism think tank New Local Government Network has set out a vision for more sustainable local public services beyond the current financial settlement and the aims of the government’s Localism Bill.
Next Localism: Five trends for the future of local government explores how a new relationship between State & Citizen could make a reality of the freedoms needed to fulfil local government’s ambition, shape the future of local democracy and ‘lock in’ localism into the wider public service reform agenda.  The report demands three key reforms from central government that would herald a new era of localism. NLGN has also identified five shifts for how councils can be more ambitious.
Newswire – CE&CCC: New Government rules on energy policy could lead to a second ‘dash for gas’, delaying critical investment in renewables & other low carbon technologies and making the UK’s climate change targets impossible to achieve - MPs on the Commons Energy and Climate Change Committee warn in a report.
The Committee is also sceptical about the ability of the Government to deliver its aims on nuclear power. Ministers told the Committee that the NPSs should enable the development of 16 GW of new nuclear plant by 2025.  That is 2 new nuclear plants each year.
nef: With the average national vacancy rates on high streets expected to exceed 15% as cuts to public services, consolidations of chain stores and national economic conditions play out local economies, nef (the new economics foundation) believes we should be looking at new ways to reinvigorate our town centres.
NE: A new report (Crop Wild Relatives: Plant Conservation for Food Security) published last week by Natural England shows how the scarce wild relatives of modern crops ‘could hold some of the seeds of success in the fight for global food security’.
All of our food crops were originally wild plants whose descendants have for centuries been selectively bred to develop higher yielding crops.  In the process a great deal of their original genetic diversity has been lost. In the 20th century, 75% of genetic diversity in crops was lost due to increased use of scientifically bred varieties.
Newswire – CIPD: There is a big difference between the conditions that can accompany strong organisational performance in benign economic times (or over the short-term) and those that yield the kind of sustained organisational performance, through good times & bad, that all organisations truly strive for, according to the findings of a 2-year research programme unveiled by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.

The programme, Shaping the Future is built on detailed, tracking of the progress of 6 organisations undertaking change programmes over a 2-year period, as well as drawing insight from the 11,000 practitioners in the dedicated network through round table events, polls & online discussions. The final report draws out 10 key insights from the research to help managers & leaders unlock sustained, long-term performance in their own organisations.
Newswire – P&CRC: The Political and Constitutional Reform Committee has published its assessment of the process of government formation following the May 2010 general election.  In general, the committee finds that the process went well, but it also suggests some practical improvements & clarifications. The committee has already commenced a separate inquiry into the draft Cabinet Manual that was published in December 2010.
Newswire – NHSConfed: A briefing from the NHS Confederation calls on parliamentarians to analyse & debate the main elements of the Health and Social Care Bill. Since it was published in January, the NHS Confederation has examined it line by line.  While they support the objectives of the proposed reforms, areas such as how accountability will work need further clarification if the new healthcare system is to be a success.
Defra: Roads, railways, energy & water supply networks and other infrastructure all need to be able to cope with the effects of a changing climate. The first batch in a series of reports produced by organisations which maintain national infrastructure and published by Defra set out potential risks & solutions.
Reports from 7 organisations (National Grid plc (gas + electricity), the Environment Agency, Trinity Lighthouse Authority, the Highways Agency, Network Rail and Natural England) were carried out at the request of Defra under the Climate Change Act to ensure that organisations with a crucial role in running the country’s infrastructure are preparing for the threats & opportunities which climate change will pose.  
The government has also published an overarching document outlining the emerging findings from the 7 reports. In total 91 organisations will be asked to submit reports to Defra over the next year, covering water utilities, rail companies, major airports, harbour authorities and economic regulators.

Legislation / Legal

ScotGov: Regulations governing the approval of a national Tenancy Deposit Scheme have been laid in the Scottish Parliament.  The regulations are expected to become law in March 2011. The Scottish Government estimates that between 8,000 and 11,000 tenants annually have £3.6m of their deposits wrongly withheld.
Once operational, the tenancy deposit scheme will be free for landlords & letting agents to participate in. Tenants will no longer have to take legal action to seek recovery of a wrongly withheld deposit. It will provide access to a free & independent dispute resolution service, where agreement over the return of a deposit cannot be agreed by the tenant & landlord.
TfL: From 3 January 2012 around 75,000 heavy goods vehicles (HGVs), buses & coaches and around 72,000 larger vans & minibuses will have to meet tighter Low Emission Zone (LEZ) standards.  Those who cannot will have to pay a £100 daily charge or risk a £500 penalty.  Owners of HGVs, buses and coaches would have to pay a £200 daily charge or risk a £1,000 penalty. 
As part of the information campaign a new LEZ website has been launched - - which includes a vehicle checker to enable owners to check whether their vehicle meets the emissions standards and provides advice on what steps they can take to do so, such as fitting an approved filter.
JCHR: The Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) has published a Report on the Public Bodies Bill, focussing on 3 significant human rights issues arising in the Bill.  The Bill was published following the Government’s review of non-departmental public bodies (NDPBs).  It proposes to create a number of delegated powers by which the Government can abolish, merge, modify the constitution, functions or budgetary arrangements of a body or authorise delegation of a body’s functions to a third person or body.
The Committee is concerned that there should be no adverse impact on the ability of the UK to safeguard individual rights & liberties protected by domestic law & the ECHR and to meet its international human rights obligations.
OFT: The Office of Fair Trading has announced a market study into the supply of energy to consumers who are not connected to the main gas grid. The study will look at whether the market is working for 'off-grid' energy consumers who use sources such as heating oil, LPG and, more recently, renewable energy sources like solar panels. The OFT expects to confirm the scope of the study in March and conclude it in Autumn 2011.
HO: A new offence to stop under 18s gaining unauthorised access to airguns was introduced by the Government last week. From 10 February 2011, owners will be liable for a fine of up to £1,000 if they do not take reasonable precautions to stop unauthorised access to their airgun by people under the age of 18.  Safety leaflets informing new owners of the offence will be also be included with every air gun purchased.
ScotGov: Minister for Parliamentary Business, Bruce Crawford, last week announced the Scottish Government is committed to bringing forward a Bill clarifying & strengthening theFreedom of Information (Scotland) Act. He said that ScotGov intends to bring forward measures to strengthen & improve the Act through a Freedom of Information (Scotland) Amendment Bill in the next Parliamentary session.
ScotGov: MSPs have given their backing to the principles of the Reservoirs (Scotland) Bill following the Stage 1 debate in the Scottish Parliament last week. The proposals update the legislation governing Scotland's reservoirs by offering greater protection for the public along with a reduction in red-tape for owners.
The most significant change is the move away from a capacity-based system (currently only reservoirs greater than 25,000 cubic metres are regulated) to a risk-based approach. This will result in some previously unregulated but higher risk reservoirs being brought under the regime, and other large reservoirs which do not pose any risk becoming subject to a lower level of regulation;
ScotGov: As the second reading of the UK Government's Scotland Bill is undertaken in the House of Commons, Scottish Ministers have called for the Bill's 'significant failings' to be addressed. The Scottish Government has previously published analysis on the financial provisions in the Bill.
ScotGov: New legislation to tackle problems with 'party flats' let out for stag & hen parties moved a step closer last week. Regulations amending the Antisocial Behaviour etc (Scotland) Act 2004 have been laid in the Scottish Parliament. The regulations are expected to become law by late March 2011. Local authorities will be able to issue Antisocial Behaviour notices to owners of party flats and bring a case to court with the prospect of a successful verdict.

EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.

EU News: The European Commission last week welcomed the vote by Member States to ban from use in the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) emission offset credits from certain projects which destroy industrial gases.  Essentially, the ban means that companies will be able to use these credits for 2012 compliance under the EU ETS until 30 April 2013, but not thereafter.
EU News: The European Commission has adopted measures to make participation in the EU's current Seventh Framework Programme for Research more attractive & more accessible to the best researchers and most innovative companies, especially SMEs.  Based on the simplification plan unveiled by the Commission in April 2010, these measures will take effect at once.
The measures adopted in the present Commission Decision are based on a broad consensus in this debate, and are also in line with the recommendations of the Expert Group carrying out the Interim Evaluation of FP7 (IP/10/1525).
EU NewsAlternative fuels have the potential to gradually replace fossil energy sources and make transport sustainable by 2050, according to a report presented to the European Commission by the stakeholder expert group on future transport fuels.  The expert group has developed a comprehensive approach covering the whole transport sector.
EU News: Natural resources, from raw materials to food, water, air and ecosystems, are fundamental to the functioning of our economy and our quality of life, but global strains on them are increasing.  Building a more resource-efficient Europe is therefore crucial to the EU’s economic & ecological security.  The European Commission has set out its views on a strategic framework that should deliver a more sustainable use of natural resources and the shift towards resource-efficient, low-carbon growth in Europe.
EU NewsEU membership negotiations with Croatia can be completed in the first half of 2011 provided its reforms stay on the right track, said Foreign Committee Affairs MEPs in a resolution adopted last week.  
Yet the biggest challenge may be ‘selling’ the benefits of EU membership to a sceptical Croatian population.  MEPs are very concerned that the majority of Croatian citizens think that Croatia's EU membership would not benefit the country, according to the latest Eurobarometer survey.
EU News: The European Commission has requested the UK to put an end to discriminatory legislation allowing for differential pay of non-UK seafarers linked directly & indirectly to their nationality. The request takes the form of a 'reasoned opinion' under EU infringement procedures. In the absence of a satisfactory response within 2 months, the EC may decide to refer the UK to the EU's Court of Justice.
EU News: Plans to use the enhanced co-operation procedure to create a unitary patent system in the EU, as requested by 12 Member States last year, were approved by the Legal Affairs Committee on 27 January 2011.
The European Parliament as a whole will vote on the proposal during the February Strasbourg session and the Competitiveness Council will examine it on 10 March 2011.
EU News: The European Commission has launched a consultation which will focus on the modernisation of the rules, tools & methods for public procurement to deliver better on these goals. The deadline for responses to the Green Paper is 18 April 2011 – See ‘Consultations’ section for more information.

Charity and Voluntary Sector

PT: Youth charities The Prince’s Trust and Fairbridge are uniting to offer more support to disadvantaged young people across the UK. The two charities will merge on 1 April 2011 with a vision of delivering a more joined-up, wide-ranging service for an increased number of disadvantaged young people.  
The united organisation, which will be called The Prince’s Trust, will help around 50,000 young people over the course of the next year alone – with a view to helping a growing number in the future. The two charities are confident their decision to integrate will help drive more funds into the youth sector at a critical time for disadvantaged and unemployed young people.
MoD: The new Families' Activity Breaks (FAB) website offering bereaved military families the chance to go on an activity holiday in 2011 with people who have suffered similar losses has been launched. FAB is a non-public-funded, tri-Service charitable initiative which works in partnership with the Youth Hostel Association to provide bereaved military families with activity-based holidays.
The aim of FAB is to provide bereaved military families with an adventurous (yet safe environment) in order to encourage self-confidence, resilience & peer support whilst having fun. Staffed by volunteers from all 3 Services and civil servants from the Ministry of Defence, 2011 is the third year FAB will be providing holidays for families who have suffered the loss of a loved one.
MoD: For the second year running, the Ideal Home Show is showing its support for the UK's Armed Forces by giving free entry to this year's show to all Service personnel. All servicemen & women will be able to take their families to the event at Earls Court in London, from 11 to 27 March 2011, thanks to the show's support of the Tickets for Troops charity.
SESport England’s Chair, Richard Lewis, has urged grassroots sports clubs to examine how they could benefit from the Sportsmatch programme, which has been re-launched for 2011-12. Sportsmatch brings additional funding to not-for-profit organisations that have secured sponsorship to deliver new projects to get people playing & enjoying sport. Grants from £1,000 up to £100,000 are available to match sponsorship from the commercial sector, private individuals or charitable trusts.

Business and Other Briefings

BIS: Two of the UK’s most important growth industries received a boost last week, as Skills Minister, John Hayes announced a new NationalSkillsAcademy (NSA) for Composites & Biotechnology.  The Academy, which will form part of the National Skills Academy for Process Industries, will receive up to £1.98m of funding over 3 years, matched by employers.

It will work with employers, the Life Sciences Advisory Council, the National Composites Centre and specialist training providers to develop new professional standards and training programmes that meet the fast evolving skills needs of these hi-tech industries.
WAG: The Deputy First Minister, Ieuan Wyn Jones, last week told businesses that his plans to make Next Generation broadband available to all businesses in Wales represent a significant opportunity the private sector.  He will call on businesses to join him in creating a truly digital economy. Welsh Ministers have set a target for all businesses to have access to Next Generation broadband by mid-2016, and all households by 2020 - ahead of European targets.
MoD: An independent review will investigate whether pricing rules for single supplier defence contracts can be modernised to deliver better value for money, the MOD has announced. Lord Currie of Marylebone will chair a review of single source procurement - which is currently subject to 'Yellow Book' rules - where only one defence supplier is invited to tender.
HMRCRevenue & Customs Brief 05/11 This Brief announces a simplification of the 'change in use' provisions that will take effect from 1 March 2011.
 This brief explains minor changes to the option to tax for land and buildings (anti-avoidance rule), and in particular the treatment of occupation by grantors.
 This Brief explains HM Revenue & Customs' (HMRC) policy following the First Tier Tribunal decision in the case of John Price (TC/2010/01287).

Industry News

WAG: A £4.5m training boost to ensure people in the Creative Industries have the skills to build a dynamic, enterprising sector has been announced. Skillset Cymru, the Welsh arm of Skillset, the Sector Skills Council for the Creative Media industries, will lead Skills in the Digital Economy to address the skills needs of the Creative Media Industry across West Wales and the Valleys over the next 4 years.
Skills in the Digital Economy will carry out research to identify current & future skills needs for the sector in the target region, in order to develop & deliver relevant training and help individuals develop new skills to sustain their existing employment or to seek new employment.
BIS: David Willetts, Minister for Universities & Science, has announced £7.2m of investment that could revolutionise the internet.  The 6-year ‘Photonics HyperHighway’ project will bring together world-leading scientists to pioneer new technologies that could make broadband internet 100 times faster.
The project, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), will look at the way fibre optics are used and develop new materials & devices to increase internet bandwidth.  This will ensure that the web can cope with more broadband subscribers and the increasing use of services such as internet television and music downloads.

Forthcoming Event

LLUKLifelong Learning UK are conducting a review of current qualifications for learning professionals in the further education sector in England and they want to hear from you! Local events give you the chance to meet with other colleagues and discuss the proposals. These FREE events will run from 10am – 3.30pm. To guarantee your place, please click on the relevant link below:
Self-facilitation Pack - For those who are keen to get involved but can’t make an event, then organise your own group discussion. Your event will be an opportunity for participants to discuss the proposals made in the review document with colleagues & others. This will help inform their individual responses to the proposals.
Online Survey - If you’re unable to attend an event, then you can still take part by completing the online survey. The survey is open to Friday 11 February 2011.
ACE: On Monday 7 February 2011, as part of Apprenticeship Week 2011, the National Apprenticeship Service is running a FREE event to help arts organisations discover how apprenticeship schemes can benefit the cultural sector.

To book your place
, please email  
LSISLearning and Skills Improvement Serviceshave already held 4 learning fairs, all of which have proved to be a great success.  Together with the Teaching & Learning websites, they provide opportunities for a teaching & learning-dedicated community to meet, communicate & share resources.  The fairs cost £75 each, which can be paid for using your LSIS Account. Book your place on one of their forthcoming regional fairs.
LBRO: The Local Better Regulation Office and the Trading Standards Institute are planning a series of seminars to stimulate debate regarding test-purchasing and more effective approaches to controlling age-restricted products.
The seminars will take place on March 22 (Manchester), March 23 (Birmingham), and March 29 (Cardiff) & 30 (Exeter). The 4 seminars have been developed in response to an evidence-based report from LBRO's Business Reference Panel, which highlighted the difficulties experienced by retailers. Contact Erica Butler (01212 264037) for details.
RoSPA: Road safety experts will meet in February to find out how the reduction in public spending will impact on strategies to prevent accidents on the UK’s roads. The seminar, hosted by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), and entitled ‘Road Safety in a Time of Reduced Public Spending’, will take a close look at the challenges faced by road safety professionals in the current economic climate.  It will highlight the importance of evidence-based practice & evaluation in making the most of tight budgets.
In light of increasing financial pressures (especially on LAs) and to enable as many delegates as possible to attend, the 1-day seminar will take place instead of RoSPA’s annual 3-day Road Safety Congress. It will take place at Maple House in Birmingham on Tuesday, February 15.  
EH: A specialist course on 'Archaeological Survey Using Airborne Lidar' is being held on 23 February 2011 at the Oxford University Department of Continuing Education (OUDCE) in Oxford.  The course is designed for a professional audience, particularly those who are currently involved in research, fieldwork and the planning process and who are already aware of lidar, but have little or no practical experience with its use.

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