In the News
ICO: Given that managers are ‘well paid because they are responsible’ shouldn’t they pay the ICO fine and not council tax payers? - The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) last week served Ealing Council (£80k) and Hounslow Council (£70k) with monetary penalties for serious breaches of the Data Protection Act after the loss of 2 unencrypted laptops containing sensitive personal information.
Both laptops were password protected (but unencrypted) – despite this being in breach of both councils’ policies:
* Ealing Council breached the Data Protection Act by issuing an unencrypted laptop to a member of staff in breach of its own policies. This method of working has been in place for several years and there were insufficient checks that relevant policies were being followed or understood by staff
* Hounslow Council breached the Act by failing to have a written contract in place with Ealing Council. Hounslow also did not monitor Ealing Council’s procedures for operating the service securely
Deputy Commissioner, David Smith, said: “Of the four monetary penalties that we have served so far, three concern the loss of unencrypted laptops. Where personal information is involved, password protection for portable devices is simply not enough. “The penalty against Hounslow Council also makes clear that an organisation can’t simply hand over the handling of the personal information it is responsible for to somebody else unless they ensure that the information is properly protected”.
DfE: Barbie & Ken are being replaced by the real thing - Reg Bailey, Chief Executive of the Mothers’ Union, is carrying out an independent review to address parents’ concerns about the pressures on children to grow up too quickly.
Last week he launched a call for evidence to hear the views of parents, industry and anyone who works with children & young people (or has an interest in this area). The call for evidence will run until 18 March 2011 and Mr Bailey will report back to Government by May 2011.
ScotGov: Could this Celtic Tiger avoid the economic woes of Ireland & Iceland? - The Scottish Government last week submitted detailed evidence supporting the case for Full Financial Responsibility to the Scotland Bill Committee at the Scottish Parliament.
Finance Secretary John Swinney said: "The Scottish Government believes that Scotland's interests would be best served by independence. Until agreement is reached on independence, the Scottish Government is committed to making the case for Full Financial Responsibility……..
"The paper we have sent to committee today ….. would provide the maximum degree of policy autonomy within a UK macroeconomic framework and significantly increase the accountability of the Scottish Parliament”.
MoD: And he won’t even get to see the view from the top as a reward! - A heroic soldier awarded the George Medal for bravery in Afghanistan protecting colleagues from Taliban IEDs, which resulted in him being blinded, is to climb the world's tallest free-standing mountain for charity.
Rifleman Paul Jacobs, from 2nd Battalion The Rifles, suffered severe injuries from an improvised explosive device (IED) in the Upper Sangin Valley in 2009. His medal citation, last March, praised his 'faultless courage, selflessness and dedication to his unit'.
Rifleman Jacobs has been given support in his battle to overcome the challenges imposed by his injuries by St Dunstan's, a charity that helps blind & partially-sighted ex-servicemen & women live independently.
To sponsor Rifleman Jacobs, you can visit his 'Just Giving' website page or make cheques payable to St Dunstan's and post them to St Dunstan's, Fundraising Dept, 12-14 Harcourt Street, London W1H 4HD, stating that the payment is for Rifleman Paul Jacobs' Mount Kilimanjaro challenge.
DWP: It could be the best savings deal around at the moment for some - Around 70,000 people, mainly women, have 2 months left to boost their basic State Pension and get backdated payments.
People who have reached, or will reach, State Pension age between April 2008 and April 2011 and don’t get a full basic State Pension, could increase their payment and get it backdated, if they buy back National Insurance contributions in the next two months.
ASI: Not all about protecting access to beauty spots - The Adam Smith Institute’s latest report argues that 92% of the Forestry Commission’s land could be privatised without endangering valuable broadleaf forests. 92% of the Commission’s land is coniferous or non-wooded, including farmland, and could be sold to raise up to £4.3bn without any impact on the broadleaf woodland most valued for public use.
These broadleaf forests, valued for their heritage and amenity, only make up 8% of the Forestry Commission’s land, and are generally not up for sale. The vast majority of the Commission’s woodlands are coniferous, with no bio-diversity, little variety of fauna and scant public amenity, says the report.
Forthcoming Event: Linking Bio-Based Materials to Renewable Energy Production - 1 March 2011, The Geological Society, London - Less than two weeks to go. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to contribute to the discussion. This one day conference brings together experts in the field of measuring bio-based content to untangle this complex subject.
- Hear from leading speakers in the field of measuring bio-based content, including Chairman of the European Bioplastics Association Andy Sweetman from Innovia Films, Chris Manson-Whitton from Progressive Energy and Ben Sheridan from the British Standards Institute
- Your opportunity to add to the discussion and become more familiar with bio-based content before the new standards become law
- Learn how bio-based content can be measured and used to market consumer products through labelling
- Find out how bio-based content may be the basis of certification schemes for future renewable energy production
Attendees will include regulators and those working in the areas of waste, plastics, composites, fuel and energy.
info rmation and to register please click here.
Public Sector Channel Shift – Webinar, SOCITM London Download, Local Govt Case Studies - Meeting customer needs is a challenge. We are all called to transform delivery and reduce cost. Demographics and customer attitudes means a single solution seldom fits all. It’s clear that self-service drives down the costs when successfully integrated end-to-end within an organisation’s processes and resolves the query at the first point of contact.
If delivering savings while maintaining service is a challenge you face, we invite you to download a recent SOCITM London presentation and read the success stories of some innovative public sector organisations that are shifting customer demand to more affordable channels and delivering cashable savings with rapid payback and significant cost reductions.
Click here to access the downloads and tune in to our Webinar on 1st March.
HEFSE: Universities & colleges stand to benefit from a new programme of services & investment to deliver efficiencies through shared services in cloud computing infrastructure & applications. The £12.5m programme is part of a suite of activities under the University Modernisation Fund (UMF), a Higher Education Funding Council England fund that aims to help universities and colleges deliver better efficiency and value for money through the development of shared services.
CRC: The Commission for Rural Communities was set up to promote awareness of rural needs amongst decision makers across & beyond Government. In June 2010, the Secretary of State announced that the CRC was to be abolished and that Defra’s internal rural policy capacity was to be expanded to create a Rural Communities Policy Unit (RCPU).
From 1 April 2011, the CRC’s statutory functions of Advice, Advocacy & Watchdog will be carried out by the Commissioners supported by a very small flexible team. A streamlined CRC will carry out a significantly slimmed down work programme to complement the RCPU’s business plan. The streamlined CRC will have a new website by 1 April 2011 – crc.defra.gov.uk – in readiness for the new ways of working. The current CRC website is now being archived to maintain availability to the work & evidence base.
IfL: The Institute for Learning (IfL) has announced changes to its membership funding arrangements, as part of its transition to being a fully self-financed professional body. All teachers & trainers in the further education & skills sector will be asked to pay their own subscription fees from 1 April 2011. The standard fee will be £68p.a. for Members, Affiliates & Associates and £95p.a. year for Fellows.
LSIS: Conversations with further education & skills providers lead to the setting up of a new Learning and Skills Improvement Services regional response fund. With a deadline for applications of 25 February 2011, the fund will support immediate improvement needs in the further education & skills sector brought about as a result of changes to funding mechanisms & allocations.
LSIS recognises the need for support and is looking for bids that will enable providers in an English region, to deal collectively with operational, funding and planning challenges set by new government agendas.
HL: A letter to PM David Cameron has warned of ‘increased flows into homelessness’ if many local councils continue their current trend of financial decisions.
The letter, written by Jenny Edwards, CE of Homeless Link, predicts a loss of ‘as much as 20% of the voluntary sector’s provision for vulnerable homeless people’, rising in some parts of the country to ‘30% or 40% or more’. In it, Ms Edwards identifies a major contributing factor as being the removal of the ring fence on Supporting People funding.
PCS: The Maritime & Coastguard Agency has been challenged by the PCS union to prove its plans to cut coastguard stations would not put lives at risk. The union has called on agency bosses to run a live test of its proposed centralised control system before its consultation about closing 10 of the UK’s 19 stations ends on 24 March 2011.
The MCA announced the closure plans in December, saying centres in Solent and Aberdeen would be expanded. The union, which represents 750 staff in the agency, has serious concerns about the loss of local knowledge and says ensuring proper emergency cover for our coastlines is vital.
HO: The National Identity Register (NIR), which was built to hold the fingerprints & personal details of millions of ID card holders, has been publicly destroyed. Home Office Minister Damian Green visited an industrial site in Essex to shred the last of 500 hard disk drives and end the National Identity Scheme.
NA: The National Archives has digitised 10,000 unique images of Africa and published them on Flickr. The collection spans more than 100 years of African history, from as early as the 1860s, including images of people, places, national & imperial events, conflict and natural disasters.
The images were transferred to NA from the Colonial Office Library's photographic collection and offer a unique insight into life in the colonies. Approximately a third of the entire collection has been digitised so far.
FSA: The Food Standards Agency has received information confirming that less than half of the substance of a recalled batch of Mas-River Fried Dace is a processed fishery product. This means the product does not need to come from an approved establishment, as stated in the original Food Alert for Action. Tins with a ‘best before’ date of 30 April 2013are still recalled because they contain high levels of histamine.
The Agency has issued a Food Alert for Action that updates the Food Alert for Action issued on 2 February 2011 and the Product Recall Information Notice issued on 19 January 2011. The alerts, recall information notice & images of the product can be found via the links below.
BIS: Business & Enterprise Minister, Mark Prisk, has published details of how Regional Development Agency (RDA) assets & liabilities will be sold & transferred over the coming months. RDAs have developed detailed assets & liabilities plans setting out strategic options that will aim to achieve the best outcome for the local area whilst creating value for the public purse. RDAs submitted these plans to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) on 31 January 2011.
The RDAs plans are now being reviewed by the Government and agreed by the National RDA Transition Board. It is expected that these plans will be implemented from April 2011.
Policy Statements and Initiatives
DECC: Energy Secretary, Chris Huhne has launched a comprehensive review of the Feed in Tariffs (FITs) scheme following growing evidence that large scale solar farms could soak up money intended to help homes, communities & small businesses generate their own electricity.
WAG: Environment Minister, Jane Davidson, has confirmed the continuation of the Tidy Towns initiative for a further 3 years, until 2013/2014. £ projects 3.8m in funding will support the Tidy Towns project during 2011/12.
DfE: The Secretary of State for Education has responded to Darren Henley’s review into music in schools with a pledge to end the 'musical divide' between wealthier children with access to great musical education and children in disadvantaged areas.
To ensure young people from every background have access to quality music education, Michael Gove has announced that £82.5m will be given to music services across England next year. The money will be used to make opportunity more equal in music education and enhance the prestige & esteem of music teaching as a career route for professional musicians.
DH: Families with young children will be offered improved help & support thanks to ambitious new plans to expand & rejuvenate the health visiting service. The Health Visitors Implementation Plan sets out the full range of services that families will be able to expect from HVs & their teams, depending on their needs. It will create a bigger, rejuvenated workforce with an extra 4,200 health visitors by 2015.
WAG: The Final Welsh Budget has now been approved by Assembly Members. Changes during the scrutiny process since the Draft Budget was published in November 2010 have been kept to a minimum. The most significant adjustment is the additional £57m for 2011/12, which has been made possible because WAG has now taken all of the in-year revenue reductions imposed on it by the UK Government last June.
ScotGov: Much more needs to be done to address problems associated with poverty & deprivation in some of our communities, Housing & Communities Minister Alex Neil said last week. A Regeneration Discussion Paper has been published to kick start a wider debate about the key challenges & opportunities for regeneration in the future.
Mr Neil said: "This paper does not provide all the answers, and we are keen to hear from others about their thoughts, ideas and aspirations for the future."
DFID: The UK is to launch a new initiative to boost African trade ‘through reduced bureaucracy, improved transport infrastructure and more efficient border crossings’. The African free trade initiative (AFTi) will see Britain provide technical experts to unblock issues that continue to hold back economic growth across the region.
This will include advising African countries on the design of border posts, infrastructure investment and analysis of major transport bottlenecks. Expected results include cutting the time it takes to travel the length of Africa's North South Corridor from 9 to 7 days and reducing the journey time for goods lorries from Mombasa to Uganda & back to Mombasa by 3 days.
Recently, Development Minister Stephen O'Brien launched Trade Mark East Africa (TMEA), which is DFID's flagship programme in East Africa. It works with the East African Community, national governments and the private sector to boost trade in the region by streamlining red tape & developing infrastructure projects.
No. 10: The Prime Minister has welcomed the publication of the Government’s Trade White Paper that sets out a strategy for driving economic recovery through exports. The paper contains 3 key points that emphasise support for SMEs in expanding their business and increasing their export activity.
DWP: Ministers have said that they are on track to implement the recommendations of the recent Harrington Review of the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) by summer 2011, and that they are pressing ahead with changes to regulations which will mean people suffering from mental health problems or going through chemotherapy will be given more leeway in the review process.
The planned improvements include a much greater personalisation of the whole assessment process, and measures to provide additional safeguards to protect the most vulnerable current claimants of incapacity benefits. The Government will also ask assessors to take into account how well claimants have adapted to their conditions before judging whether or not they can be given specialist help to get back into work.
New regulations published last week will enact some of these changes, by treating people who are waiting for or between courses of chemotherapy in the same way as those already receiving it, and also extend the criteria for people with severe disability due to mental health conditions, meaning fewer very sick people will be asked to attend an assessment.
Also published last week was a report by the Social Security Advisory Committee (SSAC), and Ministers agree with their recommendations that ‘more empathy, improved communications with claimants and better decision making will help improve the process’.
ScotGov: Health Boards across Scotland are set to share in £8.584bn in revenue funding in 2011-12, it was announced last week. This funding includes a £70m Change Fund to work with local authorities on the redesign of health & social care services. This means a total of £11.4bn will be invested in healthcare across Scotland in the next year, an increase of £191m on last year.
ScotGov: The Scottish Government will provide councils with a total funding package next year worth over £11.5bn, Finance Secretary John Swinney has confirmed.
MoD: There was widespread media coverage last week reporting claims that ‘PM David Cameron is reneging on his pledge to write into the law of the land the Military Covenant, the bond between the nation and her Armed Forces’.
The Government is committed to rebuilding the Military Covenant and is legislating to make it a requirement for the Government to make an annual report to Parliament on how it is fulfilling its commitment to the Armed Forces, as well as defining the Military Covenant for the first time. The Covenant Task Force published its report in December 2010 which contained more than 90 recommendations for consideration. The Government will publish a full response in Spring 2011.
HO: More than 9m people working or volunteering with children & vulnerable adults will no longer need to register and be monitored by the state following an overhaul of the checking regime. The government last week unveiled plans to scale back the vetting & barring scheme (VBS) and criminal records regime to common sense levels while ensuring vulnerable groups are appropriately protected.
ONS: In November 2010, the PM asked the Office for National Statistics (ONS) to, “devise a new way of measuring wellbeing in Britain.” The media coverage following the announcement focused on the subjective well-being or ‘happiness’ aspect of the work. Whilst important, asking individuals about how satisfied they are with their lives is only part of ONS’s work on measuring national well-being.
Through the project, ONS will identify the most important areas of concern for people in the UK and how to go about producing measures that reflect those areas. A national debate has already started and some of the themes which are already becoming apparent as important to people include - job security, relationships with families and health.
The debate will run until April 2011 and the findings will help inform the development of the measures that will be used to track the nation's well-being. People can take part in the debate by visiting ONS website:
DECC: The Government has opened a consultation on the long-term management options for the UK’s existing civil plutonium stocks (closes on 10 May 2011). The UK’s civil plutonium is housed in safe & secure bespoke facilities at Sellafield & Dounreay pending a final decision on the best long-term solution.
EU – News: The European Commission has launched a public consultation aimed at achieving a coherent approach towards collective redress in the European Union. The EC’s public consultation will attempt to identify common legal principles that should underpin collective actions across the EU (such as the need for effectiveness & efficiency, information for citizens and safeguards against abusive litigation). Contributions can be sent until the 30 April 2011.
Ofgem: Ofgem last week published a consultation (closes on 13 April 2011) proposing to strengthen protection for those consumers who receive a smart meter ahead of the national roll out. The announcement also includes proposals on how data privacy protections will be maintained in the interim, while the final proposals for the roll out of smart meters are developed.
LBRO: 5 draft national enforcement priorities for English local authorities have been published for consultation (closing on 6 May 2011) as part of the Local Better Regulation Office's ongoing role to improve the way regulations impact at the front line.
CLG: Ministers are ending rigid 'clawback rights' that stop community & voluntary groups selling or changing the use of community land or buildings that were funded by specific historic central government grant programmes. A legacy of centrally imposed restrictions meant that original grant funding was clawed back if one of these local assets were sold or their original purpose changed - even if the government scheme had long since ended.
Councils, voluntary groups & social enterprises have also been invited to let Ministers know of other historic grant programmes (where clawback rights have been applied in perpetuity) preventing communities from making best use of their assets so that the government can consider whether the terms should be changed too.
MoJ: A consultation (closes on 4 March 2011) seeks the views of the public, victims, service providers, stakeholders & organisations on the Government’s Green Paper on sentencing & rehabilitation of offenders. The 'Breaking the Cycle' Green Paper sets out plans to cut crime, create safer communities and ensure there are fewer victims. Responses can be submitted by post, by email, or via the website.
Defra: 39 new flood & coastal defence projects have been announced as part of Government plans to reduce the risk of flooding and coastal erosion in England. Of these new projects 21 will provide additional protection to over 13,000 households at risk of flooding. The remainder mainly relate to vital repairs and safety enhancements to existing defences.
Government funding for schemes starting in 2012/13 & beyond will be subject to the outcomes of the current consultation on funding reforms which invites views on potential reforms to the way in which central government funding is allocated to projects in England in order to manage the risk of flooding & coastal erosion.
ACE: To help kick off the discussions at the State of the Arts 2011 conference (10 February 2011), the Arts Council and the RSA commissioned 4 provocation papers from leading thinkers within the industry to examine topics such as funding, collaboration and technology. Read the papers by following the links below, and then have your say on the State of the Arts blog.
IS: The Insolvency Service has launched a consultation (closes on 6 May 2011)seeking views on proposals put forward by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) in their report “The Market for Insolvency Practitioners in Corporate Insolvencies”.
The Government are broadly supportive of the majority of the recommendations made in the OFT report, which focussed on the market for corporate insolvency. However, as the regulatory framework applies to all regulated insolvency procedures, the consultation in effect seeks views on both the personal and corporate insolvency market.
Newswire – NHSC: The NHS European Office, part of the NHS Confederation, is keen to hear members' views about the issues associated with recruiting staff from elsewhere in Europe. The European Commission's Recognition of Professional Qualifications Directive makes it easier for professionals to register & practise in European countries other than the one in which they qualified.
The Commission is currently reviewing the Directive to see whether the existing rules & procedures can be improved & simplified and the NHSEO is keen to hear members' views to help shape their response. Please email your views to firstname.lastname@example.org or complete the online survey by 3 March 2011.
WAG: Minister for Heritage, Alun Ffred Jones, has issued for consultation (closes on 31 March 2011) a document which will set out the future development of libraries in Wales– ‘Libraries Inspire: Draft strategic development framework for Welsh Libraries 2012-15’.
NICE: The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has opened a consultation (closes on 10 March 2011) on a new medical technology device to promote wound healing.
The MIST Therapy system claims to promote wound healing in chronic, 'hard to heal' & acute wounds by delivering low-energy, low-intensity ultrasound to the base of the wound through a continuous saltwater mist.
The saline mist generated acts as a channel for transmitting ultrasonic energy to the base of the wound, which aims to reduce the amount of bacteria in the wound and stimulate tissue regeneration.
ScotGov: Improving the 'already excellent' police & fire services for all of Scotland's communities is at the heart of options for reform outlined in 2 separate consultations launched last week by Justice Secretary, Kenny MacAskill. The consultations will close on 5 May 2011.
He said the consultations & subsequent reforms offer a chance for improved local accountability & services and an opportunity to spread policing & fire expertise around the country, while strengthening national resilience to threats such as terrorism.
FSA: Following joint work with the Bank of England, the Financial Services Authority (FSA) has published, for consultation (closes on 25 March 2011) a draft code of practice designed to enhance the dialogue between auditors and supervisors. The aim of the code is to improve audit effectiveness and ensure that supervisors are better informed about (and able to challenge) the firms they regulate.
Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides
NE: Natural England has launched a range of new conservation guides which illustrate how careful land management can help create healthy habitats for wildlife. Designed to support land managers with Environmental Stewardship agreements, but of interest to anyone looking to discover how wildlife habitats can best be looked after, these illustrated guides provide a visual showcase of how different conservation techniques can support a wide variety of plants, animals and insects.
A range of habitats & landscapes are looked at – from woodlands to ponds and grasslands – with information on how to encourage plants & insects and the birds that depend upon them. Other guides look at hedgerow restoration and the management techniques to encourage particular species such as the black grouse, with guides for lapwing & snipe due to be published shortly. See press release for links to guides.
BIS: Universities wanting to charge over £6,000 for their courses from 2012 will have to work much harder to recruit students from disadvantaged backgrounds under new guidelines. In a final Guidance Letter sent to the Office of Fair Access last week, Ministers asked its Director to ‘be more challenging & demanding of universities seeking to charge higher fees’.
The Government also announced details of the national scholarship programme that will provide students from disadvantaged backgrounds help with the cost of attending university. Around 50,000 students a year could be awarded a scholarship from 2014. Scholarships will be worth at least £3,000 for individual students in tuition discounts and other benefits.
CLG: New rules to stop taxpayers' money being spent on town hall newspapers or hired lobbyists have been put before Parliament. The new 'publicity code' for English councils tightens up the rules to protect the use of taxpayers' money being spent inappropriately. Following consultation, it sets out specific rules to stop municipal newspapers being published more often than 4 times p.a. and to prevent the hiring of lobbyists.
Newswire – RoSPA: The mothers of 2 teenagers who died from carbon monoxide poisoning have made a film with the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents in Northern Ireland to raise awareness of the ‘silent killer’ and how future tragedies can be prevented.
Catherine McFerran and Katrina Davidson give their personal accounts of the tragedy that claimed the lives of their sons, Neil & Aaron, during a weekend away last summer. As well as their story, the film shares some of the steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning, focusing particularly on the families’ campaign for people to use audible CO alarms.
DUK: A new online guide which could make insulin pump treatment more available for people with Type 1 diabetes in the UK was the focus of a parliamentary briefing last week. The step-by-step guide will provide information about insulin pump technology and report on the experiences of the three NTAC hospitals which are now trying this out as a treatment.
General Reports and Other Publications
WWF: Some companies in the UK are still selling a variety of wood products that come from questionable sources in parts of the world where illegal logging is having a devastating effect on biodiversity and communities, a study by WWF has revealed.
The ‘What Wood You Choose?’ study found that wood used to make kitchen worktops, doors & decking, on sale in the UK, comes from parts of Indonesia, Malaysia and the Congo Basin where illegal logging is harmful to species & people. If businesses aren’t checking their sourcing from these places, they can easily be contributing to the problem.
Newswire – FAC: The Foreign Affairs Committee FAC has published a Report on Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) Public Diplomacy: The Olympic and Paralympic Games 2012. The FCO's otherwise creative campaign to enhance the UK's reputation at the 2012 Games lacks one overarching message, says the report. The Committee recommends that the FCO should form a 'rapid response unit', set up well before the Games, which can rebut or challenge negative stories appearing in the world media.
ScotGov: With the publication of papers by the UK Government related to the case of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the Scottish Government took the opportunity last week to release the final documents it can publish which primarily relate to notes of meetings & calls between Scottish and UK Ministers in 2007 & 2008.
WAG: Local authorities in Wales have the opportunity to compare the financial & environmental costs of different methods of kerbside recycling collections, thanks to a new Eunomia report. 'Kerbside Collections Options: Wales' studies collections in 6 Welsh local authorities to identify which methods generate the best outcomes.
PX: The UK needs a robust system of protecting fundamental human rights while at the same time ensuring ‘that senior Supreme Court justices are more accountable & judicial assertiveness does not undermine parliamentary democracy’, according to a report from the Think Tank Policy Exchange.
Newswire – SAC: The Scottish Affairs Committee last week published its report: The Video Games Industry in Scotland, in which it urges the Government to make the future of the sector a priority in the face of emerging barriers for growth.
CSJ: Britain’s high levels of family breakdown are a key factor in the rising tide of mental illness, according to a major new report from a leading think-tank. The survey by the Centre for Social Justice puts the cost to the nation of mental illness at £105bn and cites research showing that it accounts for a quarter of the years lost through premature death – significantly more than the toll from cancer and heart disease.
The report also finds that mental illness often strikes when people are young, with 50% of lifetime mental illness excluding dementia starting by the age of 14 and 75% by the time people are in their mid-twenties. Family breakdown in all its forms is strongly associated with poor mental health in adults & children, the report says, yet go unacknowledged in the Government’s mental health strategy launched recently.
Newswire – WWF: Colossal deep-sea gas fields in the eastern Mediterranean’s Levant Sea are causing a scramble to start drilling – while concerns for irreversible damage to outstanding marine biodiversity, as well as legally binding restrictions on deep-sea exploitation, are being ignored.
Newswire – HC: The Health Committee has published the conclusions of a brief inquiry into the processes proposed by the GMC for the Revalidation of Doctors. Revalidation of doctors has been under discussion for over 10 years; The Committee believes this is too long and concludes: "Now that "late 2012" has been set as the date of implementation, we look to the GMC to ensure that there are no further delays and that the current target date is achieved."
Reviewing the GMC’s current proposals, MPs warn that ‘too little attention has be given to the issue of how to deal with doctors whose practice gives cause for concern’.
HMIC: Police forces cannot plan for a quiet world and must swiftly adapt in real-time to protests that pose risks to public safety, a report by H.M. Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) says. This latest review considers the implications of the British model, built on ‘toe-to- toe’ policing – the principle that officers should police amongst the people without barriers or obstructions.
Ofsted: All types of childcare provider can (and do) deliver the learning & development requirements of the Early Years Foundation Stage well, with training, support & challenge, key to their success. Ofsted’s report ‘The impact of the Early Years Foundation Stage: A good start’, examines the work of early years providers across the sector, from large primary schools to childminders working alone with one or two children.
The EYFS is the statutory framework against which providers of early education are judged and includes requirements for the provision of young children’s learning & development and welfare. The report focuses particularly on two areas of learning: personal, social & emotional development; and communication, language & literacy skills.
Newswire – AS: Scotland’s public sector pensions, which cost £3bn a year and affect 1 in 5 people in the country, face significant cost pressures and major reforms. An Audit Scotland report on the cost of public sector pensions in Scotland, says the Scottish Government and councils will need to implement changes in Scotland to ensure that pensions are fair & affordable in future.
IfG: The Institute for Government has recommended further action ‘to ensure new look Whitehall Boards can be as effective as possible’ in a report published last week. While the new lead NEDs present an opportunity for improved boards, there remains some work to do to ensure they can overcome past problems, the report says (A summary report is available below and the full report will be published shortly).
IISS: The International Institute for Strategic Studies has published a 'Strategic Comment' on the longer-term impact of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. An official report into the incident, published in January 2011, called for widespread regulatory reform. But it remains to be seen whether the spill will inspire Congress to embrace reforms, or will create further splits in an area where a fragile bipartisan compromise on energy and climate change had previously existed.
Newswire – PCRC: The Commons Political and Constitutional Reform Committee has published its fifth report - Voting by convicted prisoners: summary of evidence.
Newswire – AC: Levels of staff sickness absence in the National Health Service (NHS) vary dramatically across the country, with the North of England showing the highest levels, an Audit Commission briefing has found. Managing sickness absence in the NHS finds a significant variation in rates between types of trusts around the country and between different departments within trusts.
It finds that more NHS staff take sick leave in areas of high deprivation. Junior staff are also more prone to taking time off sick than their more senior colleagues. But these factors cannot explain all the variation, which must be due in part to differences in the way NHS organisations manage, motivate & support their staff. Nor do they explain why long term sickness seems to be a particular issue for the NHS.
CQC: The Care Quality Commission has told the NHS in Wiltshire that it must improve standards of care at ChippenhamCommunityHospital. The report says that overall, the hospital is not meeting 11 of the essential standards of quality & safety.
Newswire – SAC: The Scottish Affairs Committee has published its report on the circumstances around the termination of the UK Border Agency’s (UKBA) contract with Glasgow City Council for the housing of asylum seekers in the council’s accommodation.
The report is highly critical of the manner in which UKBA’s London office handled notifying the Glasgow asylum seekers of changes to their housing provision, which it says was inappropriate at best and callous & inhumane at worst. However, the Committee says the Immigration Minister responded speedily & appropriately to the situation he had been put in.
Newswire – CSPL: The independent Committee on Standards in Public Life last week published its response to the consultation paper prepared by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority for their first review of the MPs' expenses scheme.
Legislation / Legal
CLG: The Coalition Government's intended abolition of Regional Strategies can be taken into account when making planning decisions, the High Court agreed recently. The judgment - in a High Court case brought by CALA Homes - confirms that the intended scrapping of Regional Strategies is a 'material consideration' which can be considered by local planning authorities & planning inspectors when making decisions.
The Government has long announced its intention to abolish the strategies through the Localism Bill, which received its Second Reading on 17 January 2011 in the House of Commons and is currently in Committee stage. This latest judgement will not affect decisions already made on planning applications.
HO: Millions of people will ‘be protected from unwarranted state intrusion in their private lives with a return to common sense government’, the Home Secretary outlined last week in the Protection of Freedoms Bill, which follows the review of counter-terrorism & security powers and the scrapping of ID cards. It also drew on views put forward by the public through the radical Your Freedom website set up after the coalition government came to power.
EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.
FCO: EU Careers Month started on 7 February 2011 as part of the Foreign Office's campaign to encourage the UK's top calibre graduates to apply for jobs in the EU Civil Service. The Campaign will include a raft of online information to raise awareness about what working in the EU involves and how to get through the selection process. Potential applicants will have ready access to blogs, videos and case studies of British staff working in Brussels.
EU News: All new types of passenger cars & small delivery vans now have to be equipped with Daytime Running Lights (DRL). Trucks & buses will follow suit 18 months later, in August 2012. DRL lights are special lamps which automatically switch on when the engine is started. They are expected to increase road safety as they substantially raise the visibility of motor vehicles for other road users.
EU News: Have you ever been annoyed for not being able to borrow a friend's or a colleague's mobile phone charger because it wasn't compatible with your phone? This era is coming to an end. A common charger compatible with mobile phones of all brands is the simple idea that the Commission has been pushing for many years. Thanks to the cooperation between 14 companies and the EC the solution is there: onechargerforall.eu.
New technical standards for data-enabled mobile phones were published on 29 December 2010. Last week marked the start of an implementation process triggered by the European Commission. Mobile phone manufacturers can now proceed with required design & testing changes for chargers ensuring compatible phones are safe and interoperable.
ScotGov: A meeting between Education Secretary, Michael Russell, and key European officials on the issue of fees for European students has been described as 'productive'. Currently, European law obliges the Scottish Government to pay the fees of students living in non-UK EU countries at a cost of more than £75m a year.
Costs have surged from £20m in 2000-01 when there were half as many EU students coming to Scotland. Mr Russell said: “…. we cannot allow our universities to become a cheap option for students who have to pay to study in their home countries”. There will be regular updates about the engagements on Brussels at www.engageforeducation.com
Charity and Voluntary Sector
DWP: Unemployed people will be able to access thousands of new volunteering & training opportunities to help them take their first steps back into work - under new plans unveiled last week by Secretary of State for Work & Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith.
Under the scheme advisers from youth charity The Prince’s Trust and other local government voluntary organisations will be located in Jobcentre Plus (JCP) offices to signpost jobseekers of all ages to volunteering & training opportunities in their area. The new initiative will particularly benefit young people as they will be able to get more support to help them into jobs, education and training.
CRUK: A genetic pattern could predict how aggressive prostate cancer is before treatment, and whether the disease will come back in men who have already been treated, according to research published in the Lancet Oncology.
BHF: Drinking diet fizzy drinks could raise your risk of heart attacks & strokes, according to new research. Scientists in America looked at the diets of over 2,500 people. They found that people who drank a diet fizzy drink every day had a 61% higher risk of a vascular cardiac event, such as a heart attack or stroke, than those who drank no fizzy drinks at all. Interestingly, there was no increased risk for those people who drank regular fizzy drinks, compared to no fizzy drinks.
Business and Other Briefings
OFT: The OFT is warning credit brokers to improve the way they deal with customers' upfront fees or risk losing their licences. The warning follows OFT action to revoke the credit licences of two associated businesses NIZ Financial (UK) Ltd and First Money Direct Ltd after uncovering unfair business practices. The OFT's decision to revoke the licences is subject to appeal and does not finally take effect until the end of any appeal process.
This brief confirms HMRC's view of the VAT treatment of commercially operated sports leagues.
LDA: The London Development Agency’s planning for decentralised energy throughout London, incorporating the London Heat Map, has been commended at this year’s Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) awards. The work combines engagement, training, planning advice, technical support and commercial analysis to help London boroughs deliver decentralised energy schemes and create a thriving market for heat. The programme provides guidance for planning policy & development management and a heat infrastructure tariff model.
OS: Ordnance Survey has donated a prize-winning, giant floor map of Great Britain to INTECH Science Centre in Winchester. The MaxiMap is a huge 20sqm map of Britain, designed to be walked & played on, with the aim of exciting children about geography, teaching concepts like scale & distance and the impacts of climate change.
The giant floor map, which is worth in the region of £300, is being donated by OS to INTECH so that it can be enjoyed by the tens of thousands of schools pupils who visit the centre every year. The map is the brainchild of former teacher Ann Jones and her business partner Rowena Wells. Last year they won OS’s GeoVation Challenge, earning them an £11,000 with which they have developed their MaxiMap idea.
BIS: The UK Centre for Medical Research and Innovation (UKCMRI) has received a further boost following Government approval of the Medical Research Council’s business case for the institute. The institute will foster collaboration with other centres of excellence and bring this country’s best physical, biomedical and clinical scientists together. This will help ensure that advances in biomedical sciences are translated swiftly & effectively into benefits for patients & the economy.
The Government has also ‘earmarked’ funding to improve facilities for storing & accessing the rapidly increasing amount of bio-molecular research data that is expected to be used in the development of future treatments. By earmarking these funds, the Government considers the project is ready to progress to detailed appraisal.
The European Life-Science Infrastructure for Biological Information (ELIXIR) project would significantly increase the quality & quantity of information readily available to researchers in genomics & systems biology and ensure it is catalogued & stored in a standardised format, building on the UK’s leading international standing.
HMT: The Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, has announced that £10m of funding will be allocated to support the early phases of superfast broadband in Wales. The funding will help to deliver the roll out of Next Generation Broadband in Pwllheli & surrounding areas of North Wales as part of the Welsh Assembly Govt's national delivery plan for all of Wales.
The Spending Review 2010 announced that £530m will be invested over the Spending Review period to support the UK's broadband network and to incentivise the roll out of superfast broadband in areas that the private sector would not otherwise reach. This £10m is just the first wave of funding that Wales will receive.
ScotGov: A new Scottish Energy Laboratory (SEL) was launched last week to strengthen collaboration across 50 energy research, test & demonstration facilities and underpin Scotland's leading position in low carbon energy development.
The SEL will be a 'virtual' hub for national & international companies to identify & access the most appropriate of Scotland's test & demonstration assets for their technologies. This asset network has a combined investment value of some £250m across all key energy sectors and includes the European Marine Energy Centre in Orkney, the Hydrogen Office in Fife and the European Offshore Wind Development Centre in Aberdeen, which recently secured a €40m grant from the European Union.
STFC: The European Space Agency seeks entrepreneurs with innovative ideas for using space technology, applications & services in a non-space environment. ESA Business Incubation Centres (ESA BICs) can assist you in getting your project off the ground by providing technical expertise and business development support.
CLG: Housing Minister, Grant Shapps, has confirmed that 2 leading bodies in design are to merge their activities on design for housing. Ministers plan to expand the Design Council by bringing in some of the activities, skills, knowledge & expertise from the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment to create a one-stop shop, providing a service to industry, councils and local communities.
STFC: Using the unique capabilities of STFC’s ULTRA laser system, scientists from the University of Bristol have been able to watch a chemical reaction happening in solution with more detail than ever before. This could lead to improved drug design for medical therapies and catalysts for industrial processing, plus paving the way for further applications in bio- and atmospheric chemistry.
WAG: As part of the Welsh Assembly Government’s Youth Engagement and Employment Action Plan, Education Minister, Leighton Andrews, has launched launched a new £900,000 pilot scheme to help young people aged 16 to 17 into employment.
The scheme is part of the Intermediate Labour Market Programme (ILM), and will offer 180 employment opportunities in Communities First areas in parts of South & West Wales, for a 6 month period.
TfL: Transport for London (TfL) is continuing in its commitment to deliver more than 2,500 apprentices across the Capital's transport infrastructure working in partnership with its contractors & the London boroughs.
One beneficiary of TfL's apprenticeship programme has been the Mayor's flagship Barclays Cycle Hire scheme, which has 24 new mechanical apprentices as well as 133 recruits who were not previously in employment. A short film has been produced showcasing the positive impact of apprentices on the scheme.
MoD: Defence Estates has announced its future commercial plans for UK military housing from 2013, unveiling a new single contract for the provision of all housing-related services to the Armed Forces and their families. The new National Housing Prime contract will provide repairs & maintenance to more than 49,000 UK military homes, grounds maintenance and housing construction projects up to a value of £3.93m.
ACE: Arts Council England highlight a few of the many great arts activities taking place around the country throughout 2011.
OS: Ordnance Survey has joined forces with Southampton City Council to celebrate over 160 years of history between the map makers and the city with an exhibition at the MaritimeMuseum.
Ordnance Survey In Southampton: Mapping Great Britain Since 1791 celebrates not only a long association between the national mapping agency and the city of Southampton, but also the Ordnance Survey's recent move to a new head office at Adanac Park, near the M271.
The exhibition showcases a timeline of Ordnance Survey's history starting in 1791 when the Board of Ordnance Survey was ordered, by the government, to survey England's south coast to protect the country from a French Revolution sweeping across the English Channel. The exhibition runs until Sunday 5 June 2011. For details of opening times & ticket prices, visit the Southampton Maritime Museum website.
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