In the News
IfG: The problem is that good policy proposals are often driven off course by political timescales and opposed for reasons of political opportunism - Numerous attempts to improve policy making under the last government fell short and left civil servants feeling frustrated, according to new research by the Institute for Government. The year-long research into better policy making was based on interviews with 50 senior civil servants & 20 former ministers, as well as an analysis of 60 evaluations of government policy.
The new report (Making Policy Better) proposes a series of changes to embed better policy making into the system. They build on the new Policy Skills Framework announced by the Civil Service last year - but drive those changes further & faster.
The IfG argues:
* Ministers need to be involved in policy earlier & at the strategic goal-setting stage
* the policy process needs to be more open & have greater scope for challenge
* the civil service needs better analytic skills
* but also to become better at innovation & policy design and to value knowledge & expertise more.
The emphasis in this report is on how the Civil Service needs to change. The Institute is also looking at what makes an effective minister, which will be published in May 2011.
CSJ: Not so Happy Families - Britain’s levels of births outside marriage are at the highest point for at least 200 years, according to a major new study of the history of the family from a leading think-tank.
The latest report, published by the independent think-tank the Centre for Social Justice, refutes claims by some academics & campaigners that there is nothing new about contemporary levels of family breakdown.
The inquiry finds that births outside marriage were at low levels throughout the 19th Century and stayed flat until the 1960s. But since then they have soared, from a long-standing baseline of 5% to 45% today.
Research shows that children brought up by lone parents on average do much less well than those brought up by 2 parents. For instance, they are 75% more likely to fail at school and 50% more likely to have alcohol problems.
Cohabitation levels have also soared from under 5% pre-1945 to 90% today. Separate studies have also shown that cohabiting couples with children are far less stable than married couples with children.
NO: There can be no ‘closure’ without acceptance of responsibility, otherwise the same mistake(s) will probably happen again - Several signatory organisations (see press release for logos) have agreed with the Parliamentary & Health Service Ombudsman that; ‘there is a clear need for meaningful, comparable complaints information which can be used to help drive improvement in healthcare and strengthen the quality of services for patients and the public’.
This information can contribute significantly to enhanced patient experience & enduring service improvement.
PC&PE: Too big to function properly - Splitting Ofsted into two new organisations - the Inspectorate for Education and the Inspectorate for Children’s Care - will help to focus & improve inspection in this country, concludes the House of Commons Education Committee.
The committee says a single children's inspectorate is too big to function effectively and needs greater elements of specialism to give people increased confidence in inspections.
TfL: And finally, the Mayor of London aims to be flying high in election year - The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has confirmed work will start this summer on a cable car across the Thames helping to boost the ongoing regeneration of east London. The cable car will span the Thames, ‘providing a low-emission, quick, direct & fully accessible link connecting the Greenwich Peninsula and the O2 with the Royal Victoria Docks and the ExCeL’.
It will provide a much-needed river crossing in this area, cutting travel times to 5 minutes. It is close to London City Airport and will complement the planned £15bn Crossrail project later this decade which will connect Heathrow to the West End, The City, Canary Wharf and east London.
Stretching 1.1km across the River Thames and with 34 gondola cabins operating, the cable car will have the capacity to carry up to 2,500 people per hour and it is anticipated 2m passengers per year.
It will be fully accessible and will be designed so it can be used by those with reduced mobility (including wheelchair users and people with pushchairs); in addition bicycles will be allowed onto the link.
TfL is striving to deliver the scheme before the London Olympic & Paralympic Games, although this remains a challenging timeline for a complex project.
Forthcoming event: - The Coalition One Year On – Thursday, 12th May, Institute for Government, London - To coincide with the launch of its major new report ‘The Coalition One Year On’, the Institute for Government are holding an event to discuss the Coalition's first year and the challenges that lie ahead.
The report will pull together our analysis of how the coalition has performed, what lessons have been learnt and what are the most critical challenges on the horizon.
Nick Boles - Conservative MP for Grantham and
Stamford , founder of Policy Exchange, Institute for Government Fellow
Lord (Jim) Wallace of Tankerness - Advocate General, former Deputy First Minister of during the Labour-Liberal Democrat coalition
Will Straw - Associate Director for Strategic Development at ippr, and founder of Left Foot Forward
Peter Riddell - Institute for Government Senior Fellow, Chair of the Hansard Society
The event will be chaired by Andrew Adonis, Director of the Institute for Government.
Click here to find out more and to register.
Newswire – LGA: Council leaders are requesting a meeting with Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, to reassure them his health shake-up won’t replace genuine democratic accountability with mere ‘window dressing’.
They want local representation to remain at the heart of the Government’s health reforms. They also want to make sure the crucial opportunity to link health & public health isn’t squandered & services for homeless people, mental health, learning disabilities, AIDS/HIV, dementia & child health don’t ‘take a backseat’.
DECC: Householders who struggle to heat their homes can now apply for help under the re-opened Warm Front scheme, which will provide assistance to more than 90,000 of the poorest households over the next 2 years, helping householders to install heating measures and insulate their homes.
NA: The National Archives is celebrating the fact that this year marks the 60th anniversary of the Festival of Britain, which opened on 3 May 1951. The purpose of the festival was to show the world the British contribution to civilisation - past, present & future - in the arts, in science & in industrial design. It signalled Britain's revival after the war and aimed to present to the world & its own people a modern Britain, building a better future.
Policy Statements and Initiatives
HMT: Mark Hoban, Financial Secretary to the Treasury, has published the Government’s response to the call for evidence on early access to pension savings. Currently, individuals can only access savings in a registered pension scheme from age 55 at the earliest (except in cases of serious ill-health or other limited circumstances.)
Following consideration of the responses received, the Government has concluded that early access to pension savings should not be considered at the present time. The Government will announce further details on the reform to trivial commutation rules for small personal pension pots in the autumn.
Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides
NICE: Final draft guidance published recently by NICE, confirms its previous positive draft recommendation for naftidrofuryl oxalate as an option to treat people who suffer from intermittent claudication caused by peripheral arterial disease and for whom vasodilator therapy is considered appropriate after taking into account other treatment options.
General Reports and Other Publications
ippr: The Alternative Vote system is better suited to the modern electorate than First Past the Post because ‘voters have become more ‘promiscuous’ and less tribal in the way they vote’, according to a new report from Think Tank ippr. The report shows that voters are happy to express more than one preference when they cast their ballots and most people are prepared to express 3 preferences.
YouGov polling for ippr shows that more than 1 in 5 voters say they have engaged in ‘tactical voting’ and voted for their second choice under the First Past the Post system. But the report says that AV will not increase voter turnout and that the electorate has mixed views about the system.
PC&PE: The BBC World Service is ‘of such value to the nation that its income should be ring-fenced against spending cuts’, says the Foreign Affairs Committee in its report into the future of the BBC World Service.
The report says that the decision to transfer funding responsibility for the BBC World Service from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to the BBC will have major long-term ramifications for the future of the World Service.
IISS: The disaster at Japan's Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant has rekindled a worldwide debate on the safety & wisdom of nuclear power. China has frozen approval of all new nuclear power plants, while some nations, such as Thailand, are reconsidering plans to introduce nuclear power. Iran, however, is one nuclear newcomer that has not.
KPMG: Companies which have implemented corporate sustainability strategies have enjoyed a broad range of important benefits according to latest research by KPMG. The report, ‘Corporate Sustainability: a progress report’, has also highlighted that ‘finance & cost are the biggest challenges companies face when implementing sustainable practices’.
PwC: The high street is at risk: with 60% of shoppers expecting to spend more online in the coming 2-3 years and the same number stating they have been shopping online for more than 5 years now. Retailers need to act now to meet the demands of the new consumer, according to new research from PwC: Pick ‘n’ Mix – meeting the demands of the new multi-channel shopper.
DCMS: With just under 500 days to the go until the beginning of the Paralympic Games, a joint DCMS/Office for Disability Issues (ODI) report has hailed the steps already taken to ensure that everyone can benefit from hosting the 2012 Games.
The report, London 2012: a legacy for disabled people, lays out the opportunities & benefits that the Games will deliver for people with disabilities.
Newswire – CBI: The CBI is calling on the Government to bolster the UK’s attractiveness to investors, warning that without action, investment & jobs will be lost to other countries.
In a new report called Making the UK the best place to invest, the CBI identifies the main drivers & blockers for investment, based on research from 400 companies, including interviews with senior business leaders. The report suggests that much more needs to be done to improve the investment landscape to retain companies based here and attract fresh inward investment.
Deloitte: The financial pressures currently faced by the public sector are so severe that publicbodies are being compelled to shift to lower cost channels of service. According to a report launched by Deloitte, the public sector needs to emulate the corporate world by driving citizens towards ever cheaper & more efficient ways of doing business.
The time is now right not just to open up new online channels, but to mandate their use & to restrict expensive channels to those people who really need them.
Legislation / Legal
DfT: A new system to tackle uninsured driving has moved a step closer as Road Safety Minister, Mike Penning has laid the final regulations in Parliament. Under Continuous Insurance Enforcement it ‘will be an offence to keep an uninsured vehicle, rather than just to drive when uninsured’.
Motorists will receive a letter telling them that their vehicle appears to be uninsured and warning them that they will be fined unless they take action. If the keeper fails to insure the vehicle they will be given a £100 fine. If the vehicle remains uninsured - regardless of whether the fine is paid - it could then be clamped, seized & destroyed. Vehicles with a valid Statutory Off Road Notice (SORN) will not be required to be insured.
FDA: The FDA is joining with the Civil Service Pensioners’ Alliance, Prospect, the Police Federation, National Association of Retired Police Officers and the GMB to launch a judicial review of the Government’s decision to change the index for uprating public sector pensions from the retail prices index (RPI) to the consumer prices index (CPI). The application was launched on Monday 18 April 2011.
FDA General Secretary Jonathan Baume said: “The Government’s decision – announced in the 2010 Budget - to change the index for uprating of pensions for senior public servants is wholly unacceptable and potentially illegal…… With CPI predicted to lag up to 1.5% behind RPI for the next five years to 2016, this change cuts at least 15% from the value of a pension and amounts to a considerable detrimental change that we are determined to oppose.”
Newswire – TUC: Government plans to extend the qualifying period for protection against unfair dismissal from one year to two will affect nearly 3m workers, the TUC said in its submission to the government's review of the employment tribunal system.
The TUC submission says that while more needs to be done to speed up tribunal claims, the government is seeking to do this by restricting access to justice and pricing low-paid vulnerable workers out of the system.
The TUC firmly opposes plans to introduce fees for those wishing to take their employers to employment tribunals and says that this will have a disproportionate impact on low paid workers. (Nearly 70% of tribunal claimants have average or below average earnings and 35% earn less than £15,000.
EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.
DCMS: The Government recently revealed how changes to the EU regulations covering electronic communications will be implemented. The updated directives must be implemented by 25 May 2011 and the Government has published its final plans following a consultation, which was launched in December 2010.
The Government will adopt the amended Framework exactly as set out and will not ‘gold-plate’ the regulations by adding any additional measures, to ensure British firms can compete equally with the rest of Europe.
EU News: A European Commission report presented recently demonstrates the current limitations in assessing the socio-economic implications of cultivation of genetically modified (GM) crops in the EU. Specifically, the report to the European Parliament and the Council, which is based on information principally provided by Member States, reveals that the existing information is often statistically limited and that it is frequently based on already preconceived ideas about GMO cultivation.
This report is the starting point for the Member States, the Commission, the European Parliament and all interested parties to deepen their reflection on this sensitive topic. However, in order to move forward in a sensible way, the Commission considers that discussions should shift from the polarised perceptions documented in the report to a more tangible and objective basis.
EU News: The European Court of Auditors (ECA) has made its 2010 Annual Activity Report (AAR) available to the public. The AAR provides an overview of the key results & achievements of the ECA during 2010 and the resources used.
EU News: On Tuesday 19 April 2011, 25 years after the tragic Chernobyl accident, EU Commissioner Andris Piebalgs announced the EC's pledge of around €110m at a high-level conference in Kiev to ensure that the Chernobyl site is made stable and environmentally safe.
The Commission has so far committed a lion's share - some €470m - to Chernobyl-related projects, mainly for nuclear safety, but also on programmes to help the local population and provide affected families with access to quality healthcare. Yet a further €740m are needed from the international community in order to complete the major projects on the site by 2015.
EU News: Technical rules on how the 900 and 1800 MHz radio frequency bands should be opened up to advanced 4th generation (4G) communication devices have just been adopted by the European Commission. The rules, which are important to avoid interference problems with existing GSM & 3G devices, are an important step to bringing wireless broadband access to more EU citizens and businesses.
EU News: 77% of 13-16 year olds and 38% of 9-12 year olds in the EU have a profile on a social networking site, according to a pan-European survey carried out for the European Commission. Yet, a quarter of children who use social networking sites like Facebook, Hyves, Tuenti, Nasza-Klasa SchuelerVZ, Hi5, Iwiw or Myvip say their profile is set to ‘public’ meaning that everyone can see it, and many of these display their address and/or phone number.
EU News: The European Commission has adopted an evaluation report of the Data Retention Directive outlining the lessons learned since its adoption in 2006. The Directive established data retention as a response to urgent security challenges, following major terrorist attacks in Madrid in 2004 and in London in 2005.
The EC will now review the current data retention rules, in consultation with the police & the judiciary, industry, data protection authorities & civil society with a view to proposing an improved legal framework.
Business and Other Briefings
HMRC: Employers across the UK are being urged to file their Employer Annual Return (P35 and P14s) online by 19 May 2011, or they could face a penalty. Changes came into effect this year, which mean Employer Annual Returns sent to HMRC after the 19 May filing deadline will almost certainly result in a late-filing penalty. Previously, an extra-statutory concession gave employers extra time before HMRC charged a penalty. This has now been withdrawn.
From this year, employers will be liable to a penalty if they file their annual return on paper (with some very limited exceptions, such as certain individuals who employ their own carer). Last year, no penalty was charged for employers with 5 or fewer employees. But these transitional arrangements have now ended.
HMRC: HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) is doubling the number of specialist officers cracking down on labour providers who fail to pay their tax. These specialist officers are expected to bring in an additional £500m of tax over the next 4 years.
The extra 100 officers will offer free health checks to businesses to help them use legitimate labour providers and tackle fraud within the industry. Those found guilty of tax evasion could face jail.
TfL: Transport for London (TfL) is carrying out a trial that will see 18 buses retrofitted with specialist equipment to tackle NOx air pollution. The trial is a UK-first and will evaluate a number of the latest available technologies, to see which provides the best results before extending it to more buses in the fleet.
TfL has taken considerable steps in the last 10 years to reduce the environmental impact of its bus fleet. All buses achieve Euro IV standard for particulate matter (PM) pollution and, as a result, emissions of particulate matter from the fleet have dropped from over 200 tonnes in 1997 to 14 tonnes in 2010.
The Mayor's Air Quality Strategy proposes that, subject to Government support, by 2015 all buses in London will meet the Euro IV standard for NOx. The majority of the 8,500 buses in the Capital's fleet should meet this but it is estimated that around 2,700 buses will need to be retrofitted or replaced in order to bring them in line with this standard.
OS: Digimap for Schools, the online mapping portal that brings digital Ordnance Survey mapping into the classroom, received a top honour at the Geographical Association’s awards on Thursday (14 April) evening. Launched in November last year, Digimap for Schools provides easy, online access to Ordnance Survey's most detailed digital mapping for the whole of Great Britain. It was awarded Gold Certification for the most innovative new educational resource available to teachers.
The service is designed to improve the teaching of geography in schools - reflecting changes in technology that mean children are increasingly used to working with maps online. It provides instant access to mapping at various scales that can then be printed for use outside the classroom.
PwC: PwC will pilot two 100% electric vehicles at the firm’s central London offices as part of a pioneering new scheme to lower the firm’s overall transport emissions, the first of its kind for a corporate fleet. The deal with Hertz, will encourage employees to swap taxi journeys of over 6 miles with booking the cars from the firm’s central London offices in Westminster or Southwark.
The 2 five-door, small hatch cars have a 90 mile range, are 100% electric, and provide a live member car care support line via the Connect by Hertz in car communications system, including statistics on emissions & usage. The cars will be charged at the two PwC offices or via Hertz's wider network, or Source London's network. Employees could also charge them overnight via a three pin socket.
LSN: The Learning and Skills Network (LSN) is running an event on Tuesday 5 July 2011, which will demonstrate how ‘RoI empowers and projects HR and L&D into teams that deliver true operational success..."
Register now to learn how to plan to ensure that in 12-18 months from now, your programme will have delivered a tangible Return on Investment and that it has changed behaviours?
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