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In the News

Been away on holiday? Please note that previously published newsletters can be accessed from the Newsletter Archive

EU News:  The problem with EU-wide data is that the figures are a statistical average which obscure wide variations between countries - EU countries have improved their education systems in key areas over the past decade, but they have achieved only 1 out of 5 benchmarks set for 2010, the European Commission's new progress report on education & training has revealed.

The EU has ‘succeeded’ in its target to increase the number of maths, science & technology graduates, with a 37% rise since 2000 – outstripping the target of 15%.  Significant, but insufficient, progress was made on reducing the school drop-out rate, increasing the number of pupils completing upper secondary education, improving reading literacy skills and increasing the share of adults participating in education or training.

Androulla Vassiliou, the Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, said: "…..  But early school leaving continues to be a problem that affects 1 in 7 young people in the European Union and 1 in 5 pupils still have poor reading skills at the age of 15.  That is why education and training are among the core objectives of Europe 2020”.

The Commissioner is strongly urging Member States not to make cuts in education budgets despite the constraints they face due to the economic crisis.
Press release ~ Progress towards the Lisbon objectives in education and training - Indicators & benchmarks, 2010/11 ~ Education benchmarks for Europe ~ European strategy & co-operation in education & training ~ Tackling early school leaving. A key contribution to the Europe 2020 Agenda ~ EC: Early school leaving  ~ Guardian: Poor literacy and maths skills leave teenagers ill-equipped ~ The prospects of this year's school leavers (2009) ~ Education Mobility in England - The link between the education levels of parents and the educational outcomes of teenagers ~ The Fairness Premium ~ Press release: Using technology for learning ~ Futuretrack: Part-time Students from an Employer Perspective ~ Reading Matters ~ Third Sector National Learning Alliance ~ Ofsted: Tackling the NEET problem – how local authorities are getting young people back into education, employment & training ~ Removing barriers to literacy ~ Reading by Six: how the best schools do it ~ ‘Scimorph’ ~ STEMNET ~ Science Learning Centres ~ Skills for Life - Literacy ~ Ofsted: 20 outstanding primary schools - Excelling against the odds ~ 12 outstanding secondary schools - Excelling against the odds ~ An Independent Report to Government on Raising the Aspirations and Attainment of Black boys and Young Black Men ~ Family learning: An evaluation of the benefits of family learning for participants, their families and the wider community ~ BIG – Family Learning ~ Literacy Trust ~ Setting Up a Family Learning Programme ~ IDEA: Family learning programmes: solving the problem ~ ScotGov: Valuing Young People - Principles and connections to support young people achieve their potential ~ Reference Paper for Valuing Young People ~ CBI: Working on the three Rs - Employers’ Priorities for Functional Skills in Maths and English

NLGN:  Power to the people and lower bills too! - With the Coalition putting behaviour change or ‘nudge’ techniques at the forefront of its public service reform agenda, a new report by localism think tank the New Local Government Network (NLGN), illustrates that councils must identify & harness the energy of their most active citizens to help improve services, engage communities and save money.

The new report, Changing Behaviours, has identified a number of innovative case studies & pilot projects where councils have afforded citizens an increased role in re-inventing services, resulting in cost reductions for councils of between 15 – 20%.

However, the report also warns that government itself must radically change to initiate & maximise these approaches.  Greater resources & emphasis need to be invested in effective communication with residents and in putting support measures in place to enable a more active role for individual citizens in designing their public services.
Press release ~ Changing Behaviours: Opening a new conversation with the citizen ~  Power in People’s Hands: Learning from the World’s Best Public Services ~ Communities in Charge: Decentralisation and differentiation of charges and fees ~ Next Localism: Five trends for the future of local government ~ Community Budgets ~ Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act 2009 ~ Best value: new draft statutory guidance - Consultation (closes 14 June 2011) ~ Proposals to introduce a Community Right to Challenge: Consultation paper (closes 3 May 2011) ~ Proposals to introduce a Community Right to Buy - assets of community value: Consultation paper (closes 3 May 2011) ~ Local referendums to veto excessive council tax increases – Closed consultation ~  WAG: Improving public services ~ Efficiency & Innovation Board ~ Invest-to-Save Fund ~ Transforming Procurement through Home-Grown Talent ~ LGA: Local democracy campaign ~ CLG: Local Democracy links ~ Openly Local ~ ESRC: Graphic Partnership Brings Life to Council Data ~ How do quality accounts measure up? Findings from the first year ~ Expectations for the 2010-11 quality accounts ~ Accounting for quality to the local community ~ Capable Communities: Towards Citizen-Powered Public Services

ICOConundrum for shared delivery of public sector services; How to share common data while maintaining appropriate ‘chinese walls’ - NHS Birmingham East and North breached the Data Protection Act by failing to restrict access to files on their IT network, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) announced recently.  The breach led to some NHS staff at their own Trust and two other NHS Trusts nearby potentially being able to access restricted information.

The files contained information relating to thousands of individuals, including members of staff.  Although health records were not compromised as part of the breach, the files also contained some high level information relating to patients.
Press release & links ~ The Chinese Wall Security Policy ~ Top Business/Technology Issues Survey Results 2011 ~ Parliamentary Ombudsman criticises government agencies for data sharing blame game ~ IISS: The price of sharing data ~ Framework code of practice for sharing personal information ~ Closed MoJ consultation: The knowing or reckless misuse of personal data: introducing custodial sentences ~ The Information Commissioner’s response ~ Information Commissioner's Office ~ The right information, in the right place, at the right time: A study of how healthcare organisations manage personal data ~ Making a difference: Safe and secure data sharing between health and adult social care staff ~ NHS: Information Governance ~  e-Infrastructures for Identity Management and Data Sharing: Perspectives across the Public Sector ~  Agreement for Sharing Data Between Partners of the Warwickshire Direct Partnership ~ Overarching protocol for information sharing in Ealing ~ Grampian Data Sharing partnership

DefraAnd finally, just as one commoner turns into a princess, a common weed also ‘rises through the ranks’ to become a cash crop - A plant that used to be killed as a weed could soon be farmed for essential fatty acids.  Corn Gromwell is native to Europe, North Africa and across Siberia & Western Asia and has also been introduced into the USA.  Until recently it was best known as ‘a common weed in spring cereal crops’.

Innovative research sponsored by Defra it is rich in omega-3 and could potentially be grown commercially in the UK for the first time.  Essential fatty acids are needed to support our nervous, cardiovascular and immune systems.  They can’t be made in the body so have to come from our diets.  

Corn Gromwell contains stearidonic acid (SDA), an omega-3 fatty acid.and it will have the potential to be marketed as a supplement or included as an ingredient in foods.

Forthcoming Event: Retrofit – European solutions to a global problem | Guildhall | Winchester | 20th May - This year’s Radian Retrofit Conference, ‘Retrofit – European solutions to a global problem’, takes place at the Guildhall, Winchester on 20th May.

With more than 250 delegates booked, it promises to provide powerful networking opportunities and the chance to join the debate on how we can make the best use of available funding and encourage additional resources to accelerate the collective contribution to reduce carbon emissions. As the first housing association in the UK to receive funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) for retrofit of social housing, we are well placed to stimulate the debate.
This event follows our successful conference in 2009 which was based on the Radian led 'Retrofit South East' project, supported by funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), when delegates gathered together to learn from Radian’s experience and expertise as a leading advocate and pioneer of advanced whole house retrofit solutions.

Click here for more detailed information on speakers and the programme, and to book your free place.

Please note that previously published newsletters can be accessed from the
Newsletter Archive

General News

MoD: Ten of the Royal Navy's P2000 patrol vessels took to the seas on Friday, 15 April, for some of the largest squadron exercises & manoeuvres in 25 years. The P2000 class of ships are unique to the Royal Navy in that they are manned by university students, but commanded by a Royal Navy officer (usually a lieutenant).
Each of the 14 ships in the Squadron is assigned to a university that has a University Royal Naval Unit (URNU) where undergraduates can become part of the ship's company for their time at university.  As patrol vessels, the P2000s sail around the UK & European waters protecting the integrity of UK waters, while allowing the student crews to develop navigation, leadership & motivation skills and command attributes.
MoD: The Foreign Secretary, William Hague, has announced that the National Security Council has decided to expand the diplomatic team already in Benghazi, led by Christopher Prentice, to include an additional military liaison advisory team.
In particular, they will advise the National Transitional Council (NTC) on how to improve their military organisational structures, communications & logistics, including how best to distribute humanitarian aid and deliver medical assistance.  In doing so, the UK will coordinate closely with other international partners also assisting the NTC.
FSAMorrisons has recalled 3 of its products because they contain allergens not mentioned on the product packaging.  The allergens are milk, soya, fish & gluten.  The Food Standards Agency has issued 3 Allergy Alerts advising anyone with an allergy to or intolerance of an allergen to not eat the product containing that allergen because it might be a possible health risk to them.
NASupport & leadership for the UK's archive sector will transfer to The National Archives from April 2012 following the closure of the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA), Culture Minister Ed Vaizey has announced, following the Government's review of arm's length bodies.
Newswire – RAC: The RAC has launched an online initiative which allows Britain’s drivers to share their journeys and chart their movements across the UK. The new site – – will provide a substantial insight into the nation’s journey by allowing people to upload their routes, adding in additional details such as stops that were made along the way and what the purpose of the trip is (e.g. a lazy Sunday drive, family trip to Scotland etc.).  
They will be able to chart the people they meet along the way and even incorporate photos from their journey. The uploaded journeys will then be collated & analysed for the next stage of the project which will be announced later in the year.
MoD: Feeding an average 4,000 hungry mouths 5 meals a day, every day, in the sweltering heat of the Helmand desert is a mammoth task, but the Forces' combat chefs consistently rise to the challenge. The dining facility at Camp Bastion 1 is capable of catering for up to 4,900 personnel a day.  On a normal day, the number of diners is a staggering 3,700; that's 130,000 individual meals, on average, served up each week and all for less than a budget of £4 for every Service person every day.
The workforce consists of 50 UK military & Sri Lankan civilian staff.  The military personnel are from 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines and from 7 Brigade, based in Germany.  They work 7 days a week, roughly equating to one chef for every 123 soldiers. The chefs work 12 hours on - 12 hours off and are involved in all aspects of catering - preparing, serving, & clearing up after every meal. 

Policy Statements and Initiatives

DWP: The scope of Professor Löfstedt’s Review into health & safety legislation was set out last week as the draft terms of reference were published. The review is part of a package of changes to Britain’s health & safety system to support the Government’s growth agenda and cut red tape. The membership of the advisory panel to support the review was also published.


DWP: The scope of Professor Löfstedt’s Review into health & safety legislation was set out last week as the draft terms of reference were published. The review is part of a package of changes to Britain’s health & safety system to support the Government’s growth agenda and cut red tape. The membership of the advisory panel to support the review was also published.

Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides

DfT: More than 20 new motorcycle helmet safety ratings have been published by Road Safety Minister, Mike Penning, taking the total number of helmets rated by SHARP - the Safety Helmet Assessment and Ratings Programme - to 247.
The SHARP tests - which award ratings of between 1 & 5 stars - show that the safety performance of helmets can vary by as much as 70%.  With helmets across a wide price range scoring highly all riders should be able to find a high performing helmet in a size and style that fits them and at a price they want to pay.
Newswire – AC: A free resource pack has been launched that will help make sure ‘money spent on services for young people is well-used and has the right impact’. Services for Young People: Value for Money Self-Assessment Pack is a collaboration between the Audit Commission and the Confederation of Heads of Young People's Services (CHYPS).  It is free to download.
In 2009 the Audit Commission report 'Tired of Hanging Around' showed how sport & leisure activities could prevent young people being drawn into anti-social behaviour.  It found that a young person caught up in the criminal justice system costs the taxpayer £200,000 by the age of 16, but one needing support to stay out of it costs less than £50,000.  The report identified a need for councils and their partners to improve resources for young people.  This new resource is designed to complement it.
The pack is organised into five modules which take users through a structured assessment of their services, drawing on their own & comparative data about spending & outcomes.  It then helps them prepare an action plan to provide the best value for money services for young people, specifically tailored to their area and its resources.
HPA: The Health Protection Agency (HPA) wants to remind anyone who visits an open farm not to rely on sanitising hand gels or wipes to protect themselves or their children against germs that may be present in animal dirt around the farm.  Hand gels can't remove contamination in the manner that soap & water can.
Following the publication in 2010 of the Independent Investigation into the outbreak of E.coli O157 at Godstone Farm in Surrey in 2009, the Health & Safety Executive have recently published new guidance for owners & managers of visitor attractions on preventing or controlling ill health from animal contact at visitor attractions.  The guidance includes a supplement for teachers & others who organise visits for children. 

In addition, the HPA, Department of Health and Defra have jointly produced a leaflet for the public 'Avoiding infection on farm visits' with information on how to enjoy farm visits safely.
NICE: The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has published the process & methods guides for its Medical Technologies Evaluation Programme.  This work programme focuses specifically on helping enable new medical technologies (or important modifications to existing ones) to be used more quickly & consistently in the NHS.

Annual Reports

Ofcom: The most complained about major telecoms providers have been revealed by Ofcom, based on all consumer telecoms complaints received by Ofcom between October 2010 and February 2011. On average, Ofcom receives 450 telecoms complaints per day about a range of issues including mis-selling, billing errors, lack of service and customer service problems, which reflects the complexity of the telecoms market.
HL: Research published by Homeless Link, the umbrella body for homeless charities, indicates that cuts in public funding are already having an impact - with services closing, fewer beds available and more projects having to turn homeless people away.

The annual SNAP study (Survey of Needs and Provision) charts changes across homeless services in England.  The survey of 500 day centres & accommodation projects, carried out in September 2010, highlights a number of worrying trends.

General Reports and Other Publications

TKF: The pay-for-performance scheme for GPs introduced in April 2004, known as the Quality & Outcomes Framework (QOF), has not resulted in improved ill-health prevention or health promotion by general practitioners, reveals new research undertaken by The King’s Fund.
Researchers looked at the impact of the QOF on public health & inequalities and revealed that where local practices were undertaking preventive activities, they usually pre-dated the QOF and were not a result of the incentives. The report makes a number of recommendations.
Ofcom: 48% of parents with children aged 5-15, who use the internet at home, think they know less about the internet than their children do, new Ofcom research reveals. This rises to 70% of parents of 12-15 year olds. These and other findings form part of Ofcom’s media literacy reports, which focus on the safe & informed use and understanding of digital content among UK adults & children.
Ofcom has also published a consumer guide ‘Managing your media in a digital world’ to help parents understand some of the issues raised by Ofcom’s research.
PC&PE: The Commons Committee of Public Accounts has published a report which, on the basis of evidence from HM Treasury, and separately from RBS and Lloyds Banking Group, examines the maintenance of financial stability & protection of the taxpayer.
The Rt Hon Margaret Hodge MP, Chair of the Committee of Public Accounts, said: “….. There are areas of concern, however.  Both banks found it difficult to provide the Treasury with appropriate & robust data on their assets. We found this alarming.  It places a question mark over the standards & practices of the banks themselves, and whether or not there was effective oversight by regulators and the banks' own auditors.
Secondly, the Treasury lacked effective sanctions against RBS and Lloyds when they failed to meet their targets for lending to small businesses in the first year of the Scheme”.
PC&PE: The Committee of Public Accounts has published a report which, on the basis of evidence from HM Treasury, examines the progress on repaying taxpayer support & maintenance of financial stability.
The Rt Hon Margaret Hodge MP, Chair of the Committee of Public Accounts, said: “ ….. There must be an end to the dependence of the banks on taxpayer support.  It is of course, encouraging that by December 2010, the level of explicit support had decreased from nearly £1 trillion to £512 billion. ….. Currently, the arrangements available for winding-up failing banks would not be able to cope with the failure of a major bank.  There is still no way to avoid the taxpayer having to bear the cost of any such failure.  This committee feels that it is inappropriate for banks dependent on taxpayer support to be generating excessive incomes, unnecessary bonuses or dividends at the expense of exiting public support”.
TKF: Waiting times for hospital treatment have reached their highest level for 3 years as the NHS spending squeeze begins to bite, according to a new quarterly monitoring report published by The King’s Fund
The new report highlights the pressure building within the health system as budgets are squeezed and the NHS struggles to deliver productivity improvements.  Most of the finance directors surveyed are already warning that they are unlikely to meet productivity targets in 2011/12.
Civitas: Following Parliament's rejection of votes for prisoners, a new Civitas report calls for urgent reform of human rights legislation to keep European judges from deciding British lawStrasbourg in the Dock, argues that judges have gone beyond their legitimate powers of interpretation in their now infamous Hirst ruling.  He finds some of the European judges are 'woefully lacking in experience' and, as a consequence, 'are undermining the credibility and value of the Court'.
IfG: Director of the Institute for Government, Andrew Adonis, and 12 other peers have written to the PM warning that the House of Lords is full, with 117 peers having been created since the election.  The letter accompanies a new Constitution Unit report, which calls for short term changes to the House of Lords ahead of the government's proposals for large-scale Lords reform.
CAB: As most British workers look forward to enjoying an extra bank holiday to celebrate the royal wedding, a new report from national charity Citizens Advice reveals that tens of thousands of workers in low paid, low skilled jobs are being denied their legal right to take time off.
Give us a break!*, based on evidence from Citizens Advice Bureaux across England & Wales, reveals that denial of paid holiday entitlement is widespread, especially among small employers in low-profitability sectors of the economy.  While most working people take their right to paid holidays for granted, many others are forced to work all year without a break, or only allowed unpaid leave.  In the 3 years 2007 – 2010, CAB advisers dealt with 87,725 such cases.
Citizens Advice is calling on the Government to consolidate the existing enforcement bodies into one Fair Employment Agency to ensure vulnerable workers are able to enforce their basic workplace rights, including the statutory right to paid holiday.  It says this could reduce the number of employment tribunal claims, create a level playing field for responsible employers, and help put an end to exploitation and abuse.
FSA: The Food Standards Agency has published a report of consumers' views on the use of nanotechnology in food & food packaging.  The focus group research, which asked participants about their views on nanotechnology in late 2010 & early 2011, was carried out as part of the FSA's programme of work on nanotechnology.
 ASI: In a report released last week the Adam Smith Institute has called on the government to allow profit-making companies to open and run Free Schools, without the need for a charitable vehicle or trust framework, as required by existing legislation. The Institute endorses the spirit of the Free Schools programme, but argues that unless the profit motive is introduced, its impact will be limited.
 Profit-Making Free Schools: Unlocking the Potential of England’s Proprietorial Schools Sector provides the first in-depth, empirical analysis of England’s existing for-profit schools.  It identifies 489 of them, which – perhaps contrary to expectations – are overwhelmingly non-selective, secular & urban or suburban.  

Moreover, 41% of these schools operate on fees less than or on a par with the average per-pupil spend in the state sector.  Both this subset of inexpensive for-profit schools, and for-profit schools in general, significantly outperformed the independent sector as a whole in Ofsted inspections between 2007 and 2010.
Crucially, Croft also finds that these for-profit schools have significant spare capacity relative to their size – although they only have 15% of the total number of pupils educated in the independent sector, they carry 25% of the sector’s spare capacity. This, coupled with their proven ability to add capacity, suggests that for-profit schools are the ideal solution to the Department for Education’s problems.

Legislation / Legal

ICO: The Information Commissioner has welcomed new powers to serve monetary penalties of up to £500,000 for the most serious incidents of businesses & other organisations making unwanted marketing phone calls or sending unwanted marketing emails to consumers, which will come into force on 25 May 2011.
FSA: The Financial Services Authority have welcomed the High Court’s dismissal of the British Bankers’ Association’s (BBA) and Nemo Personal Finance Limited’s (Nemo) legal challenge to the FSA payment protection insurance (PPI) measures.  However this is not the end of the process: the BBA & Nemo may seek to appeal the court’s judgment.
The FSA has not put a waiver in place so firms must continue to deal with complaints where possible, including letting customers know they can refer their complaint to the Ombudsman if they are unable to progress it. Failure to do so may result in Enforcement action.

EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.

EU News: Ahead of World Malaria Day (25 April 2011), EU-funded researchers discovered that drugs originally designed to inhibit the growth of cancer cells can also kill the parasite that causes malaria.  They believe this discovery could open up a new strategy for combating this deadly disease, which, according to World Health Organisation statistics, infected around 225m and killed nearly 800,000 people worldwide in 2009.
EU News: The need to ensure that citizens & businesses are easily able to access an open & neutral internet has been underlined by the European Commission in a report adopted last week week.

The Commission has asked the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) to undertake a rigorous fact-finding exercise on issues crucial to ensuring an open & neutral internet, including barriers to changing operators, blocking or throttling internet traffic (e.g. voice over internet services), transparency & quality of service.

The Commission will publish, by the end of 2011, evidence from BEREC's investigation, including any instances of blocking or throttling certain types of traffic.  If BEREC's findings and other feedback indicate outstanding problems, the Commission will assess the need for more stringent measures.
EU News: The European Commission has adopted the 17th update of the list of airlines banned in the European Union.  Some airlines – including 4 all-cargo air carriers from Indonesia and 1 air carrier from Ukraine – have been removed from the list as safety concerns have been satisfactorily addressed.

However, all air carriers certified in Mozambique have been banned from flying into the EU as have the operations of Air Madagascar for two specific aircraft because of significant safety deficiencies requiring decisive action in both cases.
EU News“A delicate balancing act combining austerity and growth boosting measures for 500 million Europeans".  This is how Budget & Financial Programming Commissioner Janusz Lewandowski describes the draft EU budget 2012 as adopted by the Commission on 20 April 2011;
The draft budget for 2012 represents €132.7bn in payments amounting to a 4.9 % increase on 2011.  The proposed increase for next year’s budget amounts to the bare minimum required to honour the Commission’s legal commitments.  Any decrease below this figure would require member states and the European Parliament to break the legal commitments that have been made on existing contracts.
EU News: The European Commission has invited stakeholders' views on the forthcoming revision of EU rules on the public financing of broadband infrastructure.  Comments should be submitted by 31 August 2011.  In light of the results, the Commission will decide whether a revision of the guidelines is indicated and, in the affirmative, put forward a proposal for discussion in early 2012 – See ‘Consultations’ section for more information.

Business and Other Briefings

ICO: The Information Commissioner has welcomed new powers to serve monetary penalties of up to £500,000 for the most serious incidents of businesses & other organisations making unwanted marketing phone calls or sending unwanted marketing emails to consumers, which will come into force on 25 May 2011.

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