In the News
Newswire – CPA: As with Child Abuse & Hospital Patient Neglect some issues just continue not to be properly addressed - The Commons Committee of Public Accounts has published a report on the Ministry of Defence (MOD) major projects 2010.
The Rt Hon Margaret Hodge MP, Chair of the CPA, said: "Any good progress being made on many individual defence equipment projects has again been overshadowed by the MOD's continuing failure on important major projects. Unaffordable decisions taken in the short-term lead to inevitable waste of billions of pounds over time……
The MOD must demonstrate the same discipline in its defence procurement that our forces demonstrate in the field. In this one hearing, when we were able to focus on only 4 projects, we identified over £8bn of taxpayers' money which has been written off or incurred simply for reasons of delay…….
…. decisions have been taken without a full understanding of the financial implications. The consequence has been hugely damaging – in just one year an increase of over £3bn in the overall cost of the Department’s major projects”.
IfG: Political dogma or a policy to fit a financial reality - Adrian Brown, leading the research programme on Big Society and public services at the Institute for Government has commented on the PM’s vision for public services, announced this week.
The PM emphasised:
* a radical transfer of power to the public
* greater freedoms for frontline professionals
* a ‘new presumption’ that public services should be open to a wide range of providers
The IfG will shortly be publishing a framework to help policy makers think about the Big Society. They also identify the key roles for government in making the Big Society approach in the public services a reality.
PwC / BIS: Excuses don’t always sound so logical if they have to be written down - PwC plans to speed up the progression of the firm’s diversity strategy by encouraging the use of a new 'comply or explain' approach to the promotion of women to senior ranks in the firm. The approach is being planned after detailed analysis & modelling examined the promotion flow of women & men in the organisation.
Using employee skills & capability mapping techniques, leaders in the firm’s major divisions will be asked to proactively consider women in their promotion rounds, or explain what the blocker to progress is, so that it can be addressed.
Emphasis will fall initially on achieving proportionate promotion rates at manager & senior manager levels in the firm, to build a long term pipeline of senior female candidates for leadership levels. As part of the wider initiative, the firm has initially identified an additional 28 high - performing female partners to be mentored by the board.
Last week also saw the launch of Lord Davies of Abersoch’s independent review into Women on Boards of UK listed companies in the FTSE 100, in which he said that they should be aiming for a minimum of 25% female board member representation by 2015.
JRF: Relatively cheap access to water (especially for the poorest) is a mark of modern civil society - A new report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) has highlighted how low-income households are at particular risk of 'water poverty', as water metering & differential pricing are deployed by agencies to incentivise greater water efficiency, in the bid to adapt to the effects of climate change.
‘Vulnerability to heatwaves and drought: adaptation to climate change’ by a team from AEA and the University of Surrey explores how examples of climate change adaptation in the South West of England may impact on vulnerable groups in society.
This is the first report to be published from JRF's Climate Change and Social Justice programme, which seeks to explore how climate change & adaptation policies are experienced by different social groups in the UK.
DFT: Government partially fills ‘hole’ in council road repair budgets ~ Councils in England will be given more than £100m of extra funding to spend on repairing potholes. The funding is in addition to the £831m already provided to councils for road maintenance this year and the £3bn the Government has committed over the next 4 years.
In order to qualify for this extra funding and to promote greater transparency & accountability, LAs will need to publish information on their website by 30 September 2011 showing where this money has been spent.
NUBS: If ever there was a time the public sector needed managers trained to see & respond to the ‘bigger picture’! - Nottingham University Business School (NUBS) has been chosen as 1 of only 6 official suppliers of executive & part-time MBA programmes for public sector employees.
NUBS is accredited to provide the Master of Business Administration qualification on a part-time basis to leaders & managers working in central government, regional government and the wider public sector.
The U.K. Government’s procurement body Buying Solutions launched the MBA/MPA Qualification as Lot 23 of the pan-government framework agreement – Learning & Development & eLearning Solutions in Sept. 2010.
Press release ~ Further information
White Paper: How to Maintain Service Standards in an Era of Public Spending Cuts - Public services in the UK are fighting to survive. Necessary public sector reform and structural change means that the cuts agenda is now delivering redundancies, mergers and many front line service changes. Yet citizens still need help, especially those who are experiencing major upheavals in terms of benefits, entitlements and eligibility for services.
Online self-service is an obvious solution. It is proven to slash costs while continuing to deliver vital support to citizens and businesses. But can complex queries really be resolved through self-service? And how can you be sure the advice given is correct, especially during a time of rapid policy change?
Click here to receive the latest White Paper and discover:
• Why online self-service may provide a practical solution to your current cost pressures
• How HMRC and Business Link have used online self-service to cut costs and maintain quality
• How Policy Automation makes online self-service easy, accurate and cost-effective
Download White Paper
FDA: Public sector unions in Wales - including the FDA - have signed a partnership agreement with public sector employers and the Welsh Assembly Government in order to provide a sector-wide response to the budget cuts and to help minimise job losses in Wales.
For individuals losing their jobs, a single point of contact service - Adapt - has been put in place that provides one-to-one careers counselling & guidance, including CV preparation & career search; and a vocational re-training grant. Additionally, private & third employers can receive a recruitment subsidy and a job-related training grant when recruiting someone who has lost their job in the Welsh public sector.
TfL: The Mayor and Transport for London (TfL) have announced £4m funding for Biking Boroughs (BB) to create cycle hubs & cycling communities in Outer London. The funding will help boroughs engage the local community in cycling, create better cycle infrastructure and parking as well as making cycling safer. 13 boroughs were awarded BB status in 2010 with each borough receiving £25,000 to develop their BB strategy.
NSG: The National School of Government recently hosted a visit by 3 senior Afghan government officials. The visit formed part of the National School’s contribution, with other UK government departments, to developing the skills & expertise of the Afghan public service.
FSA: Morrisons has withdrawn all packs of its Double Chocolate Cupcake Kit, because the product contains milk that is mentioned in the ingredients list but not in the allergy information box. This makes the product a possible health risk for anyone who is allergic to or intolerant of milk. The Food Standards Agency has issued an Allergy Alert.
FSA: Morrisons has recalled all packs of its Freefrom Jaffa Cake Slices, because the product contains milk, which is not an intended ingredient. This makes the product a possible health risk for anyone who is allergic to or intolerant of milk. The Food Standards Agency has issued an Allergy Alert.
OFT: As part of Scams Awareness Month, the Office of Fair Trading has held a day of action at airports in the UK & Spain to warn people about bogus holiday clubs and to inform them of their new consumer rights (as from 23 February 2011) if they purchase membership to a holiday club.
STFC: A series of solar flares have been gripping the nation's interest as the sun enters a period of increased activity. The Solar Stormwatch project allows members of the public to use images from the NASA STEREO to spot the explosions from the sun and the resulting clouds of particles as they make their way towards the earth. These particles, at their most disruptive, can cause communications to fail & lead to cuts to power supplies.
MO: The Met Office are inviting the public to submit their questions about climate change as part of their contribution to the Open Air Laboratories (OPAL) project. Anyone who is confused or curious about climate change can send their questions via the OPAL website. Scientists from the Met Office will publish answers to as many of them as possible online, with particular emphasis on popular or trending topics.
NHSC: The NHS Confederation says there is significant room to improve hospital food but that the majority people rate their food as 'good' or 'very good'. Read their full response to Channel 4's Dispatches programme (21 February).
HO: The Government’s new Independent Reviewer of Counter-Terrorism Legislation took up his post last week. David Anderson QC was appointed by the Home Secretary to review the operation of the UK’s counter-terror legislation and to write annual reports to be placed before Parliament. He takes over the role from Lord Carlile of Berriew QC.
HMRC: Tax cheats will face up to 5 years’ detailed scrutiny from the taxman, it was announced last week. Letters will start to land on the doorsteps of 900 tax cheats, telling known evaders that they are now under increased levels of personal scrutiny as part of the new Managing Deliberate Defaulters (MDD) programme.
MDD will closely monitor the tax affairs of individuals & businesses who have deliberately evaded tax to ensure that they are complying with their tax obligations and have demonstrated a permanent change in their behaviour.
DH: A global initiative to establish an international register that will improve the transparency of health research was launched last week by Health Minister, Lord Howe. The register is called PROSPERO, the first online facility to register systematic reviews for research about health & social care from all around the world.
The register is completely free & open to the public. It was started by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Centre for Reviews and Dissemination (CRD) which is funded by the Department of Health. The register is designed to avoid the duplication of health research and will act as a guard against selective reporting of research.
FSA: Tesco is recalling 4 of its Tesco finest meals with a ‘use by’ date of 1 March 2011, because the mashed potato used to produce these products contains small pieces of metal. The Food Standards Agency has issued a Product Recall Information Notice.
Newswire – TUC: False Economy - the cuts campaign website that formally launches last week - claims that ‘more than 50,000 NHS staff posts are set for the axe, destroying government claims that the NHS is in safe hands’.
False Economy's figures have been collated for the most part from NHS trusts themselves under the Freedom of Information Act, but also include figures sourced by the RCN Frontline First campaign, as well as press reports & foundation trusts' annual plans published by the national regulator Monitor.
Newswire – LGA: Councils’ ability to build urgently-needed new housing is at risk of being undermined by too much Treasury interference, local authorities have warned. The Local Government Association, which represents more than 350 councils in England & Wales, is arguing that plans outlined in the Localism Bill to give councils control of their own housing stock do not go far enough.
Ministers pledged to allow authorities to keep money raised from rent & sales to invest in new builds and improving existing stock. However, under new rules proposed in the Localism Bill, councils would still be made to give 75% of the money raised from the sale of council houses to the Treasury.
LBRO: Pilots of a common framework of professional standards have been launched by local authority trading standards & environmental health officers working with the regulatory outcomes experts LBRO. The transparent competency framework for regulators has already been successfully used by HSE, the Office of Rail Regulation and by health & safety teams in local authorities, and is now being taken forward with supporting development tools for other local regulatory services, and national regulators.
DH: An extended list of events that should never happen during care in the NHS has been unveiled along with a powerful financial disincentive, as the Government affirms that sub-standard care will not be tolerated in the NHS.
‘Never events’ will be enshrined in the NHS Standard Contract, meaning that payment from GPs or other commissioners will be withheld where care falls short of the acceptable standard. The measures will help to protect patients and give commissioners the power to take action if unacceptable mistakes do happen.
ScotGov: A successful knife crime education campaign that has seen knife carrying reduce by 35% during a pilot scheme in Inverclyde is to have its funding doubled. New figures released last week show a second area supported by the No Knives, Better Lives initiative - Renfrewshire - has reported a 29% fall in knife carrying during the period of the scheme in its area.
Ministers now want to roll out the same tactics to other parts of Scotland and will be opening discussions with local authorities, including South Lanarkshire, to explore whether the initiative can help achieve similar results in the ongoing fight against knife crime.
DH: A new public health research school designed to build closer relations between researchers & practitioners across Public Health England & Local Authorities was launched last week by Public Health Minister Anne Milton. The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) School for Public Health Research will aim to increase the evidence base for effective public health practice.
Policy Statements and Initiatives
ScotGov: A panel of independent experts has backed a Scottish Government plan to reform the system of NHS compensation claims. The No-Fault Compensation Review Group has recommended changing the current adversarial court system to one of no-fault compensation, which would mean patients who have suffered loss, injury or damage as a result of healthcare treatment could be compensated without having to take the NHS to court.
The proposed new system would still require proof that harm was caused by treatment, but would remove the need to prove negligence. The system would also remove the need to pay legal fees.
HL: The Government has announced that it is dropping plans for a 10% cut in housing benefit for anyone out of work (in receipt of JSA) for more than a year. The proposed cut appeared in the June 2010 emergency budget, but is no longer part of the Welfare Reform Bill published in Parliament by Iain Duncan Smith.
ScotGov: A new service, being rolled out across Scotland, will see all Scots turning 40 being invited for a health check. The NHS 24 service - 'Life Begins at 40' - will allow those contacted to assess their own health online or over the phone. Following completion of the self assessment questionnaire the user will be given health information specifically tailored to their individual needs, along with relevant signposting to other sources of information on national and local services
The Keep Well programme, which currently provides health checks in certain areas of high deprivation, will now be extended in an £11m plan to cover all of Scotland's poorest communities from 2012. As part of this programme, steps will also be taken to ensure health checks are offered to eligible carers.
ScotGov: The planning process for hydro electric schemes is set to be simpler & quicker. From June 2011, new applications up to 50MW will be determined by councils rather than Ministers. Currently, hydro schemes over 1MW are decided by Ministers and the changes will bring hydro into line with the thresholds for determining wind farms. There is no change to the threshold for other types of energy development.
ScotGov: Up to 5,000 people will be helped into work in Scotland thanks to a new funding package worth £10m. The money will be used to encourage SMEs to take staff on, provide assistance with hiring new employees and encourage Scotland's exporting companies.
There are 3 elements to the package:
* £5m for the Employer Recruitment Incentive run by Skills Development Scotland
* £2.5m for Small Business Employment Support
* £2.5m for a new Export Support initiative run by Scottish Development International
CLG: Councils should open up their public meetings to local news 'bloggers' and routinely allow online filming of public discussions as part of increasing their transparency, Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles said last week. He believes councils should open up public meetings to the 'citizen journalist' as well as the mainstream media, especially as important budget decisions are being made.
Local Government Minister, Bob Neill, has written to all councils urging greater openness and calling on them to adopt a modern day approach so that credible community or 'hyper-local' bloggers & online broadcasters get the same routine access to council meetings as the traditional accredited media have.
WAG: Lesley Griffiths, Deputy Minister for Science, Innovation & Skills, has announced a £2.4m package to support skills in the workplace and to help those at risk of redundancy or redeployment. The funding will support 13 projects approved under the latest bidding round from the Wales Union Learning Fund (WULF).
ScotGov: The Scottish Government will continue to focus on comprehensive action to support jobs and ensure a continued & strengthened return to growth John Swinney said last week, as ScotGov launched a further update of its Economic Recovery Plan.
ScotGov: Ways of adapting Scotland's goose management schemes to make them more responsive to conservation needs are being considered by the Scottish Government. It follows a review suggesting that the current schemes have been very successful in protecting & sustaining many important goose populations.
However, the review also suggests that the help available is inconsistent. The proposals would continue to allow farmers & crofters to organise the control of geese locally, but will re-balance the focus of payments made under local goose management schemes.
DH: Designers are to rethink the design of hospital A&E departments in a bid to develop innovative new ways to reduce violence & aggression towards NHS staff, which is estimated to cost at least £69m a year in staff absence, loss of productivity and additional security. The year-long project, ‘Reducing violence and aggression in A and E by design’ is being run by the Design Council forthe Department of Health.
DfE: Education Secretary, Michael Gove has confirmed that children in England will continue to receive free books at key stages of their childhood to instil a love of stories & reading. The free bookgifting scheme will be delivered by the successful Booktrust charity with Government investment valuing £13.5m over two years – half the cost of the previous scheme.
WAG: Environment Minister, Jane Davidson, has outlined the next steps in plans to transform the way Wales manages & protects its environment, countryside & seas. Following discussions and an open consultation, plans to adopt a new ‘ecosystem approach’ have been published in a progress report on “A Living Wales”, the Welsh Assembly Government’s new framework for managing the living environment.
EU News: In order to tackle low levels of consumer & business confidence in online transactions, the European Commission is asking citizens and other interested parties how electronic signatures & electronic identification (eID) & authentication can help the development of the European Digital Single Market.
The results of this consultation (closes on15 April 2011)will feed into the EC's review of the existing eSignature Directive and the preparation of a planned initiative on the mutual recognition of electronic identification & authentication.
ScotGov: Scotland's first Social Housing Charter (SHC) has moved a step closer, Housing & Communities Minister, Alex Neil, announced last week. A discussion paper has been published summarising responses from a series of summer road shows. It also provides suggestions on how to develop the Charter further.
The SHC will define what social landlords should be doing for the customers they serve: their tenants; homeless people; and others who use their housing services. Comments are requested by 16 May 2011. The ScotGov is planning to publish a draft Charter in the summer for formal consultation.
ScotGov: Important aspects of succession law are the focus of a Scottish Government new consultation (closes on 23 May 2011). The consultation, targeted at the legal sector but open to all interested parties, will review the current financial limits regarding prior rights of surviving spouses & civil partners on intestacy and confirmation to small estates.
FSA: The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has published proposals to strengthen its existing rules on with-profits to improve protection for policyholders. Last year the FSA carried out a review of the way in which firms have met the requirements for the fair treatment of with-profits policyholders that were introduced in 2005. The FSA’s review identified a number of concerns about the way in which firms were operating their with-profits funds and treating their policyholders.
WAG: The Chief Medical Officer for Wales, Tony Jewell, has announced the start of a consultation (closes on 18 May 2011) on new plans to reduce smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke. The Tobacco Control Action Plan for Wales builds on the Welsh Assembly Government’s programme of measures to discourage young people from starting to smoke, support smokers who want to give up and promote smoke-free environments, but will particularly aim to protect children and reduce inequalities in health.
The main aim is to drive down smoking levels to 16% by 2020 with an ultimate vision of a smoke-free society for Wales, in which the harm from tobacco is eradicated.
Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides
ScotGov: New nutritional guidelines to help improve the health & well being of children & young people in residential care have been published. They are based on similar guidelines introduced in 2008 to support nutritional improvements in school meals, but have been adapted for residential accommodation with input from young people in care, the Care Commission, HMIE, NHS and the Food Standards Agency.
The Care Commission will use the new guidelines as the basis for good practice when carrying out future residential care inspections. Similar new guidelines have recently been developed to support schools in implementing the Nutritional Requirements for Food & Drink in Schools (Scotland) Regulations 2008 for children & young people who have additional support needs.
NICE: NICE has launched a new section of its website, designed to help staff in general practice get the most out of evidence & guidance provided by NICE. Specifically created to support the use of evidence-based medicine & public health practice, this online resource offers solutions to enable the uptake of NICE & other national guidance in primary care, and contains a section on how NICE can help GP consortia.
The website has 4 key sections: NICE for my patients, Using NICE guidance in my practice, My NICE resources, and NICE for GP consortia. Each section is easy to access & read, providing targeted information.
LBRO: The Local Better Regulation Office has developed 2 new tools to supplement its successful Outcomes & Impacts Toolkit, which helps regulators demonstrate the value of their services. The Toolkit is a step-by-step guide to the development of meaningful indicators to assess the impacts & outcomes of operations, drawing on visual representations called pathways.
Now LBRO has designed a new online tool to aid the quick & easy creation of these pathways. This helps users map the pathways which result from the logic modelling which is at the heart of the toolkit. Before applying this tool, LBRO recommends users stage a workshop with staff & external partners to develop the pathway & indicators relating to outcomes & impacts.
To this end, LBRO has also published a guide for facilitators running such workshops which should help in the design & delivery of the workshop sessions.
NICE: In draft guidelines on the diagnosis & treatment of high blood pressure (hypertension) published on 22 February 2011, NICE has made a number of new recommendations that are set to significantly change the way high blood pressure is diagnosed & subsequently treated.
LGA: New guidance is being draw up to improve fire safety in blocks of flats. The Local Government Group has been commissioned to put together the specialist advice which will be used for social & private landlords, risk assessors, fire officers and others in the housing sector. The new guidance will run alongside existing advice on housing fire safety published in 2008. As well as dealing with new-build, repair & refurbishment in flats, it will also tackle issues surrounding vandalism.
IfG: As part of the government's drive to realise the Big Society, more & more public services are being encouraged to 'go mutual'. The Institute for Government and the Public Chairs' Forum (PCF) have published a short report offering practical advice on mutualisation as an alternative model for service delivery in Arms Length Bodies (ALBs).
Mutualisation – an alternative model for ALBs features comment pieces from the PCF and the IfG which identify & explore some of the broader issues relating to the development & application of ALB mutuals.
LGA: The LG Group has launched a new web resource designed to help councils explore ways to save money on their fuel bills & boost revenue by selling energy into the national grid. Compare Renewables provides information on 8 different renewable energy options available to councils, including details on how they work, costs, payback periods and potential returns.
The Compare Renewable development team will be presenting the work at the LG Group’s FREE renewable energy event on 14 March 2011 at Local Government House, Smith Square, London.
FSA: The Food Standards Agency has welcomed new guidelines (published by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence) on the diagnosis & assessment of food allergy in children & young people.
NICE: Over 1m people in England are dependent on alcohol, but only a small proportion (around 60,000) currently receives treatment. In an attempt to improve the situation, NICE has published guidance outlining how the NHS should diagnose, assess & treat the condition.
The guideline calls for all relevant health & social care professionals to be able to identify patients who could be misusing alcohol through clinical interviews & internationally recognised assessment tools, such as the Alcohol Use Disorder Identification Test (AUDIT) and the Severity of Alcohol Dependence Questionnaire (SADQ).
ScotGov: Health Secretary, Nicola Sturgeon, has accepted the MRSA National Programme Board's recommendations and new minimum standards for MRSA screening in Scottish hospitals have been unveiled.
The expert group's reports have recommended that all patients should be screened on admission - or before admission in the case of planned admissions - using a clinical risk assessment approach to identify risk. Where a patient is identified as being at risk, they will have swabs taken for further laboratory testing.
HO: New posters warning young people of the risks of using fake ID and guidance to help door staff & those selling alcohol to spot false documents and know what to do once they have confiscated them, have been published by the Home Office.
NICE: NICE has produced 2 new tools to support the recently published guidance on preventing unintentional injuries in children & young people under 15. The two tools - Key facts for local councillors and Ten questions to ask if you are scrutinising local action on preventing unintentional injuries - will help those working in local authorities and local councillors & their staff put NICE's recommendations into practice.
HO: New guidelines will help frontline professionals such as nurses, doctors, teachers and social workers identify & prevent Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). The Female Genital Mutilation Act was introduced in 2003 and came into effect in March 2004. The offence attracts a penalty of up to 14 years in prison and/or an unlimited fine.
Directgov: People wanting to adopt can no longer be turned away on the grounds of race, age or social background, following new guidance from the government. With adoption numbers falling, the aim of the new guidance is to give more children loving homes and the chance of a stable upbringing with adoptive parents.
The number of children placed for adoption fell by 15% between March 2009 & 2010. More children are also waiting longer to be adopted, with black children taking on average over 50% longer to be placed for adoption than children from other ethnic groups.
FSA: The Department of Health and the Food Standards Agency have issued revised guidance for parents on the safe preparation & storage of powdered infant formula milk. Powdered infant & follow-on formulas are not sterile, which means they can contain harmful bacteria. So it is important to take care when preparing & storing formula, to reduce the risk of babies becoming ill. Bacteria will be killed if formula is made up following the advice, which includes using water that is at least 70°C.
AC: Parish councils are elected bodies that serve around 15m people in England and spend about £500m a year. The Audit Commission has put the spotlight on the timeliness & quality of their financial reporting with the publication of 'Auditing the Accounts 2009/10: Parish Councils', which summarises the results of auditors' work on the annual return. It covers 9,397 parish councils, each with an annual turnover of less than £1m.
Newswire – Maplecroft: According to Maplecroft’s 2010 Fiscal Risk Index, several major European economies (including the UK) are ‘the most exposed to fiscal risk due to their ageing populations, substantial levels of debt and high public spending on health and pensions’.
General Reports and Other Publications
Newswire – CPA: The Committee of Public Accounts has published a report on the youth justice system in England & Wales.
Newswire – Ho CC: A reduction in the time allowed for advertisements on commercial broadcasting channels has been called for by the House of Lords Communications Committee, who report that ‘existing regulation of the market is no longer relevant in the digital age and doesn’t serve the best interests of viewers’. The Committee feels that the Code on Scheduling of Television Advertising should be harmonised to level the playing field between public service & commercial broadcasters when Digital Switchover happens in 2012.
HEFCE: The Higher Education Funding Council Englandhas published 3 studies relating to flexible & innovative provision:
* 'Diverse provision in higher education: options and challenges'
* 'Costing study of accelerated two-year honours degrees: a report to HEFCE by Liz Hart Associates'
* 'Flexible Learning Pathfinders: key statistics 2008-09'
CSJ: The scrapping of the Supporting People programme by local authorities would be dangerous & counter-productive, according to leading independent think-tank the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ). The housing-related programme provides crucial support to over 800,000 older people and cutting its funding would ‘undermine the aspiration of effective & targeted social expenditure’. The programme provides a great example of one occasion when government has properly evaluated the impact of its expenditure.
CLG: Returning home from hospital after a fall, or facing the mountain of climbing a step when you are elderly can be daunting, but help through handypersons services can go a long way to reducing these worries. A new independent report commissioned by the Department for Communities and Local Government shows that handypersons services around the country are showing that they are value for money and help elderly people to carry on living in their own homes with confidence.
The report says handypersons services, can reduce the risk of injury or even death through preventing further falls, reducing risk of burglary or fire. These preventative services are cost effective, for example postponing entry into residential care can save up to £28,000 per year per person.
LGO: Barnsley Council raised the price of a narrow strip of land it had agreed to sell to a woman for her extension – effectively valuing a small triangle of land (7 inches at its widest point) at £4,000, finds Local Government Ombudsman, Anne Seex.
In her report, issued today (22 February 2011) she says the woman “…justifiably feels a strong sense of outrage that the Council should have exploited her situation to try to obtain what she describes as an ‘extortionate’ price.” She added that it was inconceivable that the Council could have obtained any value for the land from anyone else.
ScotGov: Housing & Communities Minister, Alex Neil, has commented on a recently published report from Save the Children regarding child poverty in the UK.
IISS: The International Institute for Strategic Studies has published a Strategic Comment on the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE)’s uncertain future, claiming that the credibility of the OSCE as a regional security provider is increasingly in doubt.
Newswire - LGA: Council leaders remain unconvinced of the Government’s commitment to ‘reducing the huge quantity of information local authorities have to collect & report to government departments each year’. The LGA has set out its concerns in a response to CLG’s Single Data List Consultation.
iea: New research released by the Institute of Economic Affairs calculates that £16bn could be saved per year by 2015/2016 if older people shared the cuts burden. In Sharing the burden – How the older generation should suffer its share of the cuts, the IEA looks at the savings that would be made if non-means-tested benefits to older people were cut and the state pension system were reformed.
IFS: The Institute for Fiscal Studies has published its analysis of the most recent public finance figures.
Newswire – AvMA: AvMA has published its latest report into implementation of patient safety alerts; "Too little too late?" Full implementation of all alerts by the deadline given is supposed to be mandatory, but ‘half of NHS trusts still have not complied with at least one alert’.
Newswire – HAC: The Commons Home Affairs Committee has published a short report on police finances, focusing on the impact of the Government’s proposed settlement for police forces from 2011-12 to 2014-15.
IISS: The International Institute for Strategic Studies has published a Strategic Comment on Russian navy's regeneration plans. A recent deal under which Russia will buy 4 Mistral naval ships from France is an important demonstration that Moscow is getting serious about building a modern navy.
CIPD: The temporary migration cap is hampering employers’ ability to hire skilled non-EU workers, says latest CIPD/KPMG labour market survey.
Newswire – TUC: A record 5.26m people worked unpaid overtime last year - the highest since records began in 1992 - a TUC analysis of official figures revealed last week to mark Work Your Proper Hour Day (WYPHD). They clocked up an average 7 hours 12 minutes unpaid overtime a week, worth £5,485 per person and a record £28.9bn to the economy.
Public sector workers are the most likely to do unpaid overtime, with 26.3% regularly putting in more than 7 hours of unpaid overtime a week, compared to around 18.9% in the private sector.
ippr: Revised figures on growth published last week should lead the Chancellor George Osborne to make his forthcoming Budget a budget for growth, according to a new collection of essays published by ippr, the Left Foot Forward blog, and the Friedrich Ebert Foundation.
Demos: The numbers of young people ‘not in education, employment or training’ published last week fails to accurately show the full extent of the youth unemployment crisis according to the think tank Demos. A forthcoming report exposes the inadequacy of level 1 & 2 NVQs that offer little or no protection from unemployment, and are shown to harm – rather than boost – young people’s earning potential.
The Forgotten Half, due to be published in March 2011, examines the paths of the 50% of young people who do not go to university. It finds poor support for young people in terms of career advice & qualifications to help them make the transition from school to work in an increasingly competitive job market.
The report will recommend waiving or reducing employer’s National Insurance contributions for workers under the age of 25 to get more young people into the workplace. Demos says the cost to the state would be rapidly made up by preventing young people moving onto unemployment benefits for long periods and mitigating the effect of a lost generation.
Legislation / Legal
DfT: The Government is making it easier for councils to tackle pavement parking and stop it causing an obstruction to pedestrians. Vehicles parked on pavements can cause particular problems for people in wheelchairs or with visual impairments and those with pushchairs.
Regional & Local Transport Minister, Norman Baker, has written to councils prompting them to use their powers to prevent parking on the pavement where it is a problem. The DfT has given all councils in England permission to use signs to indicate a local pavement parking ban. Until now councils have had to gain special signs authorisation from Government each time they want to put a pavement parking ban in place.
NAO: More could be done to manage the risk of a reduction in the value of EU funds to the UK in the event of a depreciation in the euro, the National Audit Office said recently. The UK Government receives around £5bn from the European Union each year to fund EU programmes in the UK. However, the relative value of the pound & the euro varies significantly, with the exchange rate fluctuating by up to 14% in a single month, which can lead to an increase or decrease of £700m in the sterling value of funds provided by the EU if the exchange rate holds at that level.
The use of forward contracts (a form of hedging where the department & a commercial bank agree an exchange rate in advance) has helped reduce the potential funds exposed to a fall in value from £8.5bn to £2.4bn in 2009-10. However wider use of hedging could reduce still further the amount of funds at risk.
EA: A report commissioned by the Environment Agency shows that commonly-used plastic ‘bags for life’, if used 4 or more times, will have a lower carbon footprint than single-use carrier bags. The EA said that other environmental impacts of single-use lightweight plastic bags such as litter – which weren’t assessed by the study – also need to be taken into account.
HSE: An agency of the Ministry of Defence has been censured over safety failings that led to the death of a Government scientist. On 21 February 2011, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) completed a Crown Censure with the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) following an investigation into an incident on 14 August 2002.
By accepting the censure, Dstl has formally acknowledged there were health & safety failings, such as inadequate or poorly followed risk assessments when the possibility of explosion or ignition were clearly foreseeable.
Dstl is part of the MOD and as such cannot face prosecution from the Health & Safety Executive in the same way as non-Government bodies. Crown Censures are agreed procedures applicable to crown employers, including the MOD, in lieu of HSE criminal proceedings. There is no financial penalty associated with Crown Censure, but once accepted is an official record of a failing to meet the standards set out in law.
MoJ: From April 2011 separating couples must consider using mediation as a better way of resolving their disputes than battling over them in court. A new protocol agreed with the Judiciary requires couples to have at least one mediation awareness session, where both parties find out what the process can offer before they decide if it is right for them.
OFT: Barclays Bank, HSBC, Lloyds Banking Group and RBS Group have all voluntarily agreed to review and (where necessary) improve the way they sell will-writing & executor services following discussions with the OFT.
There is no requirement in law to appoint a professional executor. While the costs for preparing a will can be relatively modest, the costs for a professional executor to administer an estate can be high and vary considerably. For an average estate, consumers can pay between £3,000 & £9,000. Failing to shop around for executor services could be costing UK consumers around £40m a year, according to OFT estimates.
ScotGov: The Scottish Government has proposed to Parliament that new planning rules should be introduced to strengthen protection of crofting land. If passed, the rules will ensure the Crofters Commission is consulted on planning applications which could significantly affect the extent or quality of croft land, and that their views inform planning decisions.
EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.
EU News: The Commission is taking action to help citizens & businesses to benefit fully from the opportunities offered by the Single Market by publishing a strategy to improve governance of the single market. The expansion of the Internal Market Information (IMI) system to other areas of EU law such as, potentially, gambling & e-commerce will help to achieve this.
IMI is a multilingual online application that allows national, regional & local authorities to communicate quickly & easily with their counterparts elsewhere in the EU. By December 2010, nearly 6 000 authorities were using this system where they can assist each other in order to, for example, process applications from foreign professionals, grant permissions or check that cross-border service providers comply with security obligations.
EU News: More people across the EU now have access to public services online, according to Europe's 9th e-Government Benchmark Report. The average availability of online public services in the EU went up from 69% to 82% from 2009 to 2010.
The report reveals the best & worst performers in the EU, focusing on two essential public services: 'finding a job' and 'starting a company'. Although Europe's national public administrations are moving in the right direction, there is still disparity between countries. There is also room for improvement in take up of eProcurement.
BIS: The UK Government, alongside other European member states including Belgium & Italy, have welcomed publication of the European Commission’s Small Business Act Review The 3 Member States have committed to working together in Europe to promote the interests of SMEs and have urged the Commission to host a forum for small business ministers, as part of a renewed focus on putting SMEs at the heart of European decisions.
EU News: The Commission has adopted a proposal to interconnect business registers within the EU. Company registers provide company information that is essential for consumers & business partners alike, such as information on a company's legal form, its seat, capital and legal representatives.
Business registers are currently organised at national, regional or local level, and lack the capacity to share information in an efficient and transparent manner. The proposal will now pass to the Member States and the European Parliament for consideration.
EU News: Over the last 10 years, work-related stress has increased in 9 Member States and has only fallen in Sweden. Studies suggest that between 50% & 60% of all lost working days are related to stress. In the UK it's estimated that 10m working days are lost due to anxiety, stress & depression linked to work.
The direct costs related to stress at work are now estimated to be as high as 4% of EU GDP. In response to these developments, European workers' & employers' representatives reached an agreement in 2004 to ensure a minimum level of protection against stress at work. The EC has published an evaluation of this agreement, concluding that it has had positive effects where implemented.
EU News: In order to tackle low levels of consumer & business confidence in online transactions, the European Commission is consulting citizens and other interested parties on how electronic signatures & electronic identification (eID) and authentication can help the development of the European Digital Single Market (closes 15 April 2011) – See ‘Consultations’ section for more information.
EU News: The European Ombudsman, P. Nikiforos Diamandouros, has invited citizens, interest groups, and other organisations to submit comments on a draft statement of principles that should guide the conduct of EU civil servants. Comments can be submitted until 15 May 2011.
Charity and Voluntary Sector
BIG: The Big Lottery Fund has published a statement regarding clarification of its financial operational cost, following recent media commentary.
Business and Other Briefings
HMRC: Free tools to help SMEs get their business records ‘ship shape’ were launched last week by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC). The 4 new products are suitable for the self employed, sole traders and small businesses. They have been produced in advance of the launch of HMRC’s new Business Record Checks programme later this year, which will impose penalties for significant record-keeping failures – See press release for details & links.
This Brief announces a four week consultation on draft legislation which amends the VAT treatment of business entertainment expenses.
WAG: An £8.3m green energy project is already helping Welsh companies turn up the heat on their rivals. Cardiff University’s SEREN project aims to help businesses in West Wales and the Valleys lead the way in developing new technologies & products, creating up to 150 jobs in the low carbon economy.
Renewable energy company WDS Environmental is one of the first to benefit from the programme which is backed with £4.6m from the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Assembly Government. It is also funded by the British Geological Survey, the private sector and Cardiff University’s own funds.
EU News: Last week, European Commission Vice-President for the Digital Agenda, Neelie Kroes, met with 300 leaders of the European Photonics sector at the annual Photonics21 General Assembly, which is organised by the Photonics21 European Technology Platform in close collaboration with the European Commission.
One example of the potential of this sector can be seen in the OLED100.eu project where researchers & industry have developed organic lighting technologies called Organic Light-Emitting Diodes (OLEDs) that are at least 5 times more efficient than conventional lighting. Furthermore, unlike current energy efficient lights, OLEDs do not contain mercury, can be tailored to produce light in any colour and, due to their long lifetime, also create less waste.
Combined with intelligent light management systems such Solid State Lighting could help to save up to 70% of the electricity consumption of today's lighting systems.
TfL: By the end of 2012 card readers across the whole of the Transport for London (TfL) network will have been upgraded so that a touch of a contactless bank or credit card will allow passengers to touch in & out for pay as you go travel on the bus, Tube, Docklands Light Railway (DLR), Tram and London Overground network.
The new system will be up and running on all of London's 8,000 buses in time for the 2012 Games and discussions are also under way with the Train Operating Companies that serve London about whether contactless payment cards could be used on National Rail services where Oyster is currently accepted. Oyster will also continue to be accepted for the many millions of customers who use it every day.
LSN: Action learning is a highly effective approach for solving the problems that leaders & managers face in the workplace, day in day out. It is ideally suited to dealing with the issues & problems caused during periods of change.
This 1-day workshop (25 May 2011) is an interactive introduction to action learning theory & practice, enabling you to:
* Understand how action learning works
* See how action learning could be used to address workplace problems
* Experience for yourself how action learning motivates & encourages people to come up with their own solutions and put their learning into practice
* Understand the importance of group contracts & ground rules to support the creation of a positive & effective working environment
FSA: Communicating the science of food allergy is notoriously difficult. Have you something to say about simplifying uncertainty in science? Would you like to listen to cutting-edge thinking on how best to convey developing ideas to the public?
The Food Standards Agency, in partnership with the Anaphylaxis Campaign, will be holding a conference on ‘Communicating the science of food allergy’ in London on 14 March 2011. Places will be available for a cross-section of people with an interest in food allergy. The event is free to attend, although everyone will have to register in advance.
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