In the News
For the Summer period the WGPlus Newsletter has returned to a weekly format, publishing every Monday.
ScotGov: Disease leaves bitter taste for Scottish Beekeeper - An outbreak of American Foulbrood (AFB), a notifiable disease affecting honey bees, has been found in a Scottish apiary. The disease has been confirmed following laboratory diagnosis by Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture (SASA). AFB is a notifiable disease under The Bee Diseases and Pests Control (Scotland) Order 2007. It kills off bee larva, is highly contagious and difficult to eradicate.
The AFB infected hive has been destroyed as there is no permitted treatment for the disease in the UK. There are no risks to public health from AFB and no implications for the quality & safety of honey. The affected apiary is located near Ballinluig, Perthshire. The movement of bees & related equipment into or out of the affected apiary is prohibited.
Scottish Government Bee Inspectors will be carrying out inspections on apiaries in the area in coming days. In order to assist them to control this & other diseases, beekeepers are urged to register on BeeBase, the national bee database.
CO: Essential communications cut expenditure by two-thirds – The reform of the organisation of Government communications has been announced by Francis Maude, the Minister for the Cabinet Office. The changes, which will lead to the closure of the Central Office of Information (COI), will ‘further improve the effectiveness & efficiency of government communications’.
They follow the introduction of spending controls on advertising & marketing spend in June 2010, which has led to a 68% reduction in external spend through COI from £532m in 2009/10 to an estimated £168m in 2010/11. Government departments have reduced their number of in-house communications staff by around a quarter, and their budgets by half.
The reforms are designed to consolidate those reductions, while ensuring that the remaining spend & activity on advertising & marketing is better coordinated & executed. The Government remains committed to continuing to support essential communications campaigns, such as health & recruitment to the armed services.
ScotGov: We know what we want and we want it now - First Minister, Alex Salmond last week attended the British-Irish Council in London and set out the case for the Scottish Parliament to receive greater economic powers.
The Scottish Government presented the UK Government with papers outlining proposed changes to the Scotland Bill on borrowing powers, the Crown Estate, excise duty, corporation tax, broadcasting and an enhanced role in Europe.
BIG: Forget the ‘X Factor’, watch & support your local competitors without any contrived ‘judging tantrums’ - 90 community groups across the UK are making vital efforts to rally the public’s support ahead of a TV competition which could see them win up to £60,000 from the Big Lottery Fund for a community project. The groups are competing in The Jubilee People’s Millions – a televised competition marking the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, and run by the BIG in partnership with ITV and with the approval of Buckingham Palace.
The Jubilee People’s Millions will be broadcast in each of the 15 ITV evening regional news programmes from 27 to 30 June 2011. Each night two groups will appeal for viewers’ support with the public voting by phone to decide who wins the prize for their community project. There will also be a bonus award for the runner up who receives the most phone votes across the week.
There are 60 awards of £60,000 awards up for grabs across the UK - a total prize pot of £3.6m – and all of the projects that win the funding will open during the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee year, 2012. Voting numbers will be available on the day the projects are due to appear on ITV with telephone voting lines opening at 9am on each day and winners announced the following day.
GSO/HPA: Buy safe and be safe once your there - Music lovers planning to book festival or concert tickets online are being warned of an increasing risk from online scams. Cyber security experts are expecting a surge in fraud over the summer, so make sure you’re aware of the risks and how to avoid falling for an online ticket scam. More than one in ten people (or their friends & family) have already been a victim of a ticketing scam online.
Fake websites aren't always easy to spot. As users become more fraud aware, online scammers are making increasing efforts to trick consumers into visiting fake ticketing websites. ‘As many as half of the websites that sell tickets for events such as Glastonbury & V Festival are bogus’.
Meanwhile the Health Protection Agency (HPA) wants to remind festival goers of a few 'top tips' to keep themselves healthy through the season. Evidence from many festivals shows that most visits to the medical tents or ‘first aiders’ are for minor ailments including sunburn, heat stroke, sprains, coughs, colds and the occasional case of gastrointestinal illness - but there are occasionally reports of sexual health problems, as well as other more serious illness such as heart attacks and respiratory illness.
Dr Mark Salter, a consultant in communicable disease control from the HPA's Health Protection Unit in the South West has been attending festivals (including Glastonbury) for 20 years to offer health protection advice and has devised some top tips to help people to stay safe.
WAG: Deciding on reform is the easy part, obtaining fair & agreed changes can be fiendishly difficult - Local Government & Communities Minister, Carl Sargeant said last week that ‘he has taken decisive action following the independent review into the electoral review processes of the Local Government Boundary Commission’.
Speaking in Plenary the Minister said: …………. "I will publish the report today on the Welsh Government website. I fully accept the findings of the report which contains lessons for all of us, including the Welsh Government, concerned with the process of electoral reviews. The most concerning finding, however, is the conclusion reached that the Local Government Boundary Commission for Wales has lost the confidence of its stakeholders and because of this is ‘not fit for purpose’.
This is a most serious conclusion and I have decided to terminate the appointments of the three existing Commissioners. I believe that the taking of this decisive step and the early appointment of suitable replacements is necessary to recover the reputation of the Commission in the eyes of the public, local government and other interested parties”. …….. "I will issue a further statement to outline the next steps I intend to take in response to the recommendations."
HL: Give your vote a home - The shortlist has been announced for Homeless Link's annual Michael Whippman Award for client involvement. With a focus this year on social media campaigns that raise & challenge awareness of homelessness, the public vote is now open to find the winner.
The Michael Whippman awards scheme was set up to ‘challenge stereotypes around who is and can become homeless, whilst also showing homeless people that anything is possible’. The result this year was a series of innovative & emotive entries using a range of online platforms - from websites to video, from Facebook to photography.
The full shortlist & details on how to vote are online as, in keeping with this year's social media theme, votes are being collected online - via Twitter, Facebook or on the Homeless Link website. Voting is open until Homeless Link's Annual Conference on 13 July 2011 where the result will be announced.
Press release ~ Click HERE to see shortlist and voteIndustry News ; Tackling Fraud in Local Government - The National Fraud Authority estimates there is £2.1bn of fraud in local government. This fraud reduces your ability to deliver essential services to those that need it most. Do you know the scale of the problem in your authority, or how to combat it?
With current clients/partners in the public sector including the DWP, COI, NS&I, DVLA and the Electoral Commission, Callcredit are committed to tackling fraud the UK public sector.
Click Here to find out how to uncover the scale of fraud in your authority, and also to see where else we are providing insight and support across the public sector.
Please note that previously published newsletters can be accessed from the Newsletter Archive
DCMS: VisitBritain has unveiled an international TV campaign featuring well known British stars inviting the world to come and see what Britain has to offer. The famous faces include Dame Judi Dench, Slumdog Millionaire star Dev Patel, fashion icon Twiggy, actor Rupert Everett and inspirational chef Jamie Oliver.
The adverts are complemented by short films from each celebrity – their personal invitation to Britain filmed at a location of their choice, all of which can be viewed on VisitBritain’s website.
ICO: Banks and other financial service providers need to do more to fulfil their legal obligations to give customers access to the information they hold about them, David Smith, Deputy Commissioner at the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), said recently. Speaking at the British Banker’s Association conference, Mr Smith also announced that the financial sector has been identified as one of the ICO’s priority areas referred to in its draft Information Rights Strategy.
Defra: People should think twice about using sky lanterns at celebrations this summer because they are causing problems in the countryside, Agriculture Minister Jim Paice said. Mr Paice has asked the British Hospitality Association to advise its membership of hotels, restaurants & other venues of the problems and to ask that they discourage customers from using the lanterns.
After floating for many miles & falling to earth, the burnt-out remnants can hurt livestock and litter fields. Farmers have reported that sheep, cattle & horses are being injured (and in some cases dying) from eating the metal wire frames, which pierce their internal organs. They also report they are being forced to scour fields to pick up the litter.
STFC: One of the biggest & brightest bangs ever recorded by astronomers came from a massive black hole at the centre of a distant galaxy. The black hole appears to have ripped apart a star that wandered too close, creating a powerful beam of energy that crossed the 3.8bn light years to Earth.
The observations, published in the journal Science, were carried out by an international team including STFC-funded astronomers from the universities of Warwick, Leicester and Hertfordshire. They used an array of space and ground based facilities including the Hubble, UKIRT (UK Infrared Telescope) and Gemini telescopes to witness this catastrophic event.
MO: A special climate survey which the Met Office launched in March 2011 has received tens of thousands of results. The Open Air Laboratories (OPAL) climate survey, which looks at ways in which we affect the climate and how the climate may affect us, was completed by more than 16,000 people.
Since the start of the survey the country has experienced a record-breaking dry spring which was also the joint warmest on record, with weather varying from March frosts to April heat. One area of the survey investigates perceptions of warmth, cold and clothing by participants. Almost 1,800 results have been recorded so far, providing valuable information on how our own response to weather changes throughout a season. You can still take part in the survey; it will be running until summer 2012.
ESRC: For the first time researchers from South Africa & China will be working together on a joint data project with UK social scientists. This international collaboration between researchers in the UK, China and South Africa will use existing data to answer global issues facing all 3 countries.
The 12 new Pathfinder projects are jointly funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) and the National Research Foundation (NRF) in South Africa and cover a wide variety of topics including wellbeing, social mobility and growth.
HEFCE: The Higher Education Funding Council England and JISC are moving forward in delivering cloud-based services for UK education and research. A £12.5m fund was announced in February 2011 that aims to help universities & colleges deliver better value for money by working together more effectively. HEFCE & JISC now confirm the projects and partners appointed to deliver the 2 parts of this work: a national cloud infrastructure and supporting services.
NA: New files released online last week by The National Archives give insight into government decisions, espionage inquiries and secret wartime intelligence. The files comprise a range of subjects, from an advertisement proof featuring Margaret Thatcher as a Royal Navy 'bombshell'; a review of the Order of the British Empire, suggesting that 'Knight' and 'Dame' be replaced by 'Chevalier' and 'Lady'; an account of Germany's alleged plans to use poison gas; an atomic physicist's confession of spying; to a file about an SOE Agent-turned Oscar winner.
HO: Sports personalities & celebrities committed to tackling homophobia & transphobia in sport were recently at a Downing Street reception attended by the Prime Minister and Home Secretary. Stars & sports organisations signed the government's charter for action at the event held ahead of Gay Pride.
The charter commits signatories to challenge discrimination and work to rid sport of homophobic & transphobic abuse both on the stands and in the field, so that everyone can take part in and enjoy sport.
BIS: 9 aspiring inventors from across the UK have had a cracking result and won a competition to come up with new designs for a theme park or ride. ‘Lava Springs’, ‘Wacky World’ and ‘Belter Skelter’ were among the winning entries for this year’s ‘Cracking Ideas’ competition. Having seen off competition from around 6,000 entries the regional winners have been announced and are now in with a chance of being crowned the national champion for 2011.
The ‘Cracking Ideas’ campaign aims to encourage young people’s interest in innovation & creativity while educating them about intellectual property.
ICO: Information Commissioner, Christopher Graham, has ordered the Cabinet Office to disclose the names of 24 public sector workers who earn more than £150,000, saying: "If you are earning over £150,000 working for a body that is funded by the public purse then there is now a legitimate expectation that your name and salary details will be disclosed."
HO: A new Neighbourhood Watch website has been launched by the crime prevention minister, Baroness Browning. Developed with Home Office funding and Design Council expertise, www.ourwatch.org.uk uses mapping, messaging & crime-reporting facilities to make it easy for members to share information.
Policy Statements and Initiatives
CLG: Local Government Minister Grant Shapps and Decentralisation Minister Greg Clark have called on a new generation of councillors to ‘shake up their town halls in the interests of the people they serve and help banish the 'computer says no' culture that exists in some councils’.
DECC: Ministers from the British Isles, Ireland, The Channel Islands and the Isle of Man recently signed up to a historic deal to cooperate on exploiting the major wind & marine resource in and around the islands. The states involved agreed to co-operate in the All Islands Approach to energy at the British Irish Council in London.
In practice, more interconnection between the Islands would mean that on, for instance, a very windy day in mainland Britain, surplus power could be sold to Ireland & mainland Europe, as well as enabling imports of electricity from Ireland & mainland Europe when required.
MoD: The first Community Covenant, a voluntary statement of mutual support between a civilian community and its local Armed Forces Community, has been launched recently in Oxfordshire. On 16 May 2011, the Defence Secretary, Dr Liam Fox, published the Armed Forces Covenant which outlined the moral obligation between the Nation, the Government and the Armed Forces and aims to improve support to the Armed Forces Community (which includes serving personnel, their families & veterans).
£30m of Government funding has been allocated over the next 4 years to support the Community Covenant scheme. The launch of the first community scheme in Oxfordshire will be followed by launches in the Vale of Glamorgan, Hampshire and North Yorkshire over the next 2 weeks and in Portsmouth at a later date. The intention is that as many areas as possible should adopt Community Covenants.
ScotGov: Proposals which could save up to £1bn over the next 5 years in public sector information and communication technology (ICT) have been published. A review of public sector ICT infrastructure carried out by John McClelland recommends an overarching national ICT strategy to address national needs and that each part of the public sector, such as universities or councils, should move to shared procurement and use of ICT.
CLG: Housing Minister, Grant Shapps, has encouraged aspiring first-time buyers across the country, to come forward for new Government help to get a foot on the property ladder. The Minister launched the new FirstBuy scheme, specifically designed to help those struggling to buy their first home due to the need for large deposits.
He confirmed that over 100 housebuilders will take part by offering their new-build homes to first-time buyers. Through FirstBuy, the Government & housebuilders together will offer a 20% equity loan, which alongside a 5% deposit from the buyer will enable them to take out a 75% mortgage on the rest of the property.
FirstBuy will help over 10,000 first time buyers in England over the next 2 years, with up to £500m being available across the UK. Loans will be repaid on resale of the property, with the Government's share available for reinvestment in more affordable housing. The first homes are expected to come on stream in September 2011.
FSA: The Bank of England (the Bank) and the Financial Services Authority (FSA) have published a joint paper ‘The Bank of England, Prudential Regulation Authority – Our approach to insurance supervision’ setting out the current thinking on how the future Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) will approach the supervision of insurers. A companion paper was published in May 2011 to cover the PRA’s approach to supervising deposit-takers.
Defra: Innovative local solutions to accelerate recycling rates & reward people for doing the right thing will be given a Dragon’s Den-style kick start under new plans. As announced in the Government’s waste review, published last week, Defra will provide up to £2m over the next 3 years to help fund the best new local projects that look into fresh ways to help people recycle more & produce less waste.
DCMS: More than 1,000 budding sports stars across Hertfordshire competed in their first School Games Festival last week recently. The event is part of a new exciting opportunity to encourage young people to play more competitive sport in school and leave a lasting sporting legacy from London’s Olympics.
The Hertfordshire Festival is one of 9 pilot events taking place across the country this summer ahead of the launch of the new national School Games competition in September 2011. The new competition will use the inspiration of 2012 to get more young people playing competitive sport, and will build up to a national final in the Olympic Stadium in May 2012.
CLG: Councils could save £10bn every year if they improve the way they buy, source and pay for goods & services new research reveals. New, cutting edge analysis of council spending data by procurement experts Opera Solutions has revealed that ‘greater transparency coupled with improved analysis is the key to unlocking massive savings by driving down costs’.
DWP: The Government will not introduce legislation to override pension scheme rules, Pensions Minister Steve Webb confirmed recently, when responding to a consultation which sought views on the impact of using the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) for private sector occupational pension schemes. Research by the DWP, reveals that out of those pension schemes that have rules referencing RPI, but could move to CPI, the majority say they wouldn’t.
DWP: Local communities will be at the heart of re-designing local welfare services, according to evidence published by the Government last week. As part of the Welfare Reform Bill, funds for Community Care Grants and Crisis Loans for general living expenses will be transferred to Local Authorities and devolved administrations by April 2013.
The Department for Work and Pensions’ response to a Call for Evidence on how to deliver and design new local services has ‘revealed huge scope for innovation and creativity’. The report also contains new information about the current scheme that will help local authorities in developing their plans, including for the first time local authority level social fund data.
BIS: Equity investment needs to be recalibrated to support the long-term interests of companies and underlying beneficiaries such as pension fund members, Business Secretary Vince Cable said last week, as he launched an independent review into UK equity markets.
Another area where the Business Secretary wants to see progress is in bringing excessive, unjustified pay under control. Next month BIS will be launching a consultation on changes to company reporting that will propose tougher provisions on disclosure of executive pay and its link to company performance.
The Business Secretary will also be holding talks with relevant parties and remuneration committee chairs in the next few weeks to explore various policy options, with a view to announcing further action in the autumn.
ScotGov: A programme that has encouraged thousands of parents to play, talk & read more often with their children will be rolled out throughout Scotland over the coming year. The Play, Talk, Read campaign - part of the Scottish Government's renewed focus on the early years of children's lives - builds on the campaign's success over the past two years.
The national drive - which includes TV adverts, a one-stop website for parents of young children and provides free items to help children's learning and development - is aimed at helping parents stimulate their children from birth through low-cost, fun activities.
WAG: Welsh Environment Minister, John Griffiths, has announced that there will be a review of the scientific evidence base regarding the eradication of bovine TB in Wales. This review is part of the Government commitment made to take a science-led approach to evaluate & review the best way of tackling bovine TB.
BIS: Business Minister, Mark Prisk, has outlined ‘how Government and the construction industry will work together to decarbonise the built environment by 2050’. The joint Government and industry action plan sets out our low carbon construction strategy, as well as action already taken this year.
The plan is the Government’s response to the industry’s Innovation Growth Team report, presented by Government Chief Construction Advisor Paul Morrell in November 2010.
DWP: The Social Security Advisory Committee (SSAC) has been asked by the Minister for Welfare Reform to undertake an independent review of Passported Benefits (PBs) and provide advice on possible approaches to the provision of PBs under Universal Credit. The review will consider a number of key issues, including complexity, cost and work incentives.
As part of the review the Committee would like to hear from individuals, organisations and other bodies with views on PBs under Universal Credit. The consultation period ends on 22 July 2011.
BIS: New proposals to simplify the confusing & overlapping provision of consumer protection are needed to better protect consumers, Consumer Minister Edward Davey announced last week. Under proposals set out in a new consultation ‘Empowering and Protecting Consumers’, ministers want to see a new simplified ‘consumer landscape’ with public funding concentrated on 2 bodies that consumers trust and already turn to for advice – Trading Standards and the Citizens Advice service.
Consumer policy is not devolved to Scotland or Wales therefore the consultation applies in both those countries. However consumer policy is devolved in Northern Ireland and so this consultation does not apply there. The consultation closes on 27 September 2011.
NICE: NICE has launched a consultation on its draft quality standards & draft guidance on service user experience in adult mental health and patient experience in adult NHS services (both close on 19 July 2011).
DfE: Children’s Minister, Sarah Teather, last week called on the public to make sure their voices are heard by responding to the Government’s proposals to reform the education & health support for children with special educational needs (SEN) & disabilities. Consultation closes on Thursday 30 June 2011.
The DfE particularly wants to hear from parents, young people, teachers & professionals who have experience of SEN & disabilities and are frustrated by the current problems.
MoJ: The Government will lead by example by committing to using better, quicker & more efficient ways of resolving legal disputes, Justice Minister Jonathan Djanogly announced last week. Britain’s largest employer signed the first ever Dispute Resolution Commitment (DRC) which requires all Government departments & agencies to use alternatives such as mediation, arbitration & conciliation wherever possible before taking disputes to court.
Making more use of the wide range of options available to resolve disputes has already saved taxpayers an estimated £360m over the last decade. The commitment is the latest in a series of Government moves to encourage people & businesses to take responsibility for their own disputes, rather than turning to lawyers and judges to resolve issues.
The Ministry of Justice published the consultation paper 'Solving disputes in the county courts: creating a simpler, quicker and more proportionate system', which sets out & seeks views on proposals to reform the civil justice system in the courts in England & Wales and includes questions on the appropriate use of ADR (consultation ends on 30 June 2011).
DfT: The biggest overhaul of financial protection for holidaymakers in more than a decade officially got underway last week. Up to 6m extra holidays could be covered by the Air Travel Operators' Licence (ATOL) scheme under the reform proposals put forward for consultation (closes on 15 September 2011) by Aviation Minister, Theresa Villiers.
Changes in the way holidays are booked since the scheme was first introduced mean there are now many holidays available which look like packages, but fall outside the existing legislation, leading to confusion amongst passengers over their level of protection. The reforms are also intended to put the ATOL fund back on a financially sustainable basis, removing the need for the taxpayer support currently given via a government guarantee.
Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides
NICE: In final draft guidance published recently, NICE recommends 2 treatments for multiple myeloma. Publication of this latest draft follows an appeal by the manufacturer of bortezomib, Janssen. NICE has not yet issued final guidance to the NHS. Until NICE issues final guidance, NHS bodies should make decisions locally on the funding of specific treatments. Final guidance is expected to be published in July 2011.
ScotGov: Guidelines for partnership working between schools and food & drink organisations to help teach young people about ‘where their food comes from’ was launched last week. The guidelines also aim to facilitate partnerships which highlight the varied career opportunities available in the food & drink industry and raise career aspirations of Scotland's children and young people.
RoSPA: In addition to improving regulatory ‘housekeeping’, the Löfstedt Review of health & safety must consider how businesses - particularly smaller firms - can be helped to avoid accidents & ill health, says the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents.
RoSPA is contributing to the review, which is focusing on approximately 200 statutory instruments & approved codes of practice, rather than the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 or other primary legislation. It is expected to report by the end of October 2011.
DfE: Speaking at the Food For Life Programme conference last week, Children’s Minister Sarah Teather said the Government is asking the School Food Trust to draw up new nutritional guidelines for nurseries & children’s centres.
Responding to calls from childcare providers, parents & nutritional experts for clearer information, the voluntary guidelines are being brought in to help children develop healthy eating habits early on and fight obesity.
NICE: Patients with broken hips should be treated earlier and have surgery on the same day or the day after being admitted to hospital, says NICE. Currently, some patients have to wait several days before receiving surgery, during which time they can be left in pain and may suffer complications.
In its first clinical guideline on hip fracture, NICE recommends that early surgery can help speed up recovery time for patients, lower the number of follow-up procedures necessary and reduce the length of hospital stays. Furthermore, the recommendations will cost little to put into practice and will save money in the long-term. Currently, 70-75,000 hip fractures occur each year in the UK, at a cost of £2bn.
CQC: The Government has given an update on the progress of HealthWatch in its formal response to the NHS Future Forum report. Both HealthWatch England and Local HealthWatch will now be established from October 2012. Local authorities and Local HealthWatch will take formal responsibility for commissioning NHS complaints advocacy from April 2013.
General Reports and Other Publications
CAB: Con merchants & rogue traders have never had it so good, according to a report out from Citizens Advice - Desperate times, desperate consumers. The national charity says current economic conditions have paved the way for an unprecedented boom in scams that exploit people's need to save money on bills, increase their income and find work and affordable housing.
More people out of work combined with changes to the benefits system mean that more people are vulnerable to scams that seem to offer work or jobs training. CAB evidence suggests unscrupulous employers are taking advantage of people’s desperate search for work, often advertising fake ‘jobs’ in local Jobcentres or on the internet that require fees to be paid in advance but leave people without work.
NAO: The Comptroller & Auditor General has qualified his audit opinion on the 2009-10 accounts of the Equality and Human Rights Commission owing to irregular expenditure in a number of areas.
Ofsted: Alternative provision outside school, which is used to prevent exclusion and re-engage students in their education, should be better monitored by schools & pupil referral units so it can be used more effectively, according to an Ofsted report published last week.
The report, ‘Alternative provision’, finds that in many cases staff visit infrequently or sometimes not at all to check on children’s progress. Often students spend much of their week away from school attending alternative, off-site provision. But there are currently very limited safeguards to ensure such provision is of good quality.
EHRC: A review of research evidence commissioned by the Equality and Human Rights Commission indicates there are different perceptions about the legal protections for religion or belief and about the level of discrimination towards different religions or beliefs.
Evidence in the report shows that people’s understanding of their rights around religion or belief is not always matched by recent changes to equality law. The Commission is concerned that this could be preventing people from using their rights.
ScotGov: A review of Gaelic education by HMIE has found that ‘Scotland has the potential to be an international model of best practice in the promotion of a minority language education’.
Gaelic Education: Building on the Successes, Addressing the Barriers also states that Curriculum for Excellence presents new & exciting opportunities for Gaelic education, as well as highlighting some areas for improvement.
DECC: New figures released recently reveal that nearly half of Britain’s homes do not have adequate basic insulation and are throwing away at least £100 in wasted energy payments every year. The latest lagging statistics show that only 57% of Britain’s lofts have been properly insulated and only 58% of cavity walls have been filled. Insulating lofts & cavity walls cuts down on energy leakage and therefore reduces energy bills.
EHRC: Older people’s basic human rights are being overlooked in the provision of care at home, according to emerging findings released recently by the Equality and Human Rights Commission. The Commission is conducting a major inquiry into home care, which is investigating how well the home based care & support system in England is protecting the rights of people over 65. The full report will be published in November 2011.
ScotGov: Parents have offered Scotland's schools a number of suggestions on how handbooks could be improved as part of the first national consultation into such materials. Handbooks are still seen as a valuable & trusted source of information, and parents are largely happy with what's available.
NAO: The National Audit Office has highlighted risks to value for money associated with the Department of Health's programme aimed at enabling its staff to take the lead in leaving the NHS - or 'spinning out' - to set up health social enterprises. These are independent bodies delivering services, previously provided in-house, under contract to Primary Care Trusts.
PC&PE: The Government should withdraw its controversial proposals to modernise the Coastguard Service, says the influential cross-party Transport Committee. Serious concerns were raised that the safety of people at sea, on cliffs & beaches will be jeopardised if the proposals proceed in their current form. Ministers must issue revised proposals for further consultation.
A drastic reduction in the number of rescue co-ordination centres will result in a loss of local knowledge amongst coastguard officers who are responsible for taking calls from people and vessels in distress. The committee is not convinced by the Government's claim that technology can, at present, replace such local knowledge.
The committee also strongly condemns the Government's cost-cutting decision to withdraw funding for the 4 Emergency Towing Vessels (ETVs) stationed around the UK coast - large tugs that intercept disabled ships to prevent environmental pollution disasters.
Ofsted: An Ofsted report launched last week, picking out the lessons learned from School Sport Partnerships, says ‘schools should build strong partnerships with sports clubs, community groups and other local organisations to stimulate participation & competition in the variety of PE & sports on offer and engage children at risk of adopting unhealthy lifestyles’.
The report - School Sport Partnerships: A survey of good practice - shows that by offering a wide range of activities, from boxing to basketball, to fencing & dance, schools raise participation and competition in sport. It shows that collaborative planning can increase the capacity of schools to improve PE & sport. Inspectors also found effective use of the 2012 Olympics boosted pupils’ interest in learning and academic achievement.
FSA: New research, published by the Food Standards Agency, provides insights on how people with life-threatening nut allergies use food labels when choosing what food to buy & eat. The research will be used to help produce clearer allergy information for consumers.
DfE: The panel reviewing the testing, assessment & accountability system at the end of primary school has published its final report. Education Secretary, Michael Gove, set up the review last year. He said external accountability at Key Stage 2 was vital because it was shown to drive up standards, but agreed the current system was flawed and could be improved.
IFS: The Equalities Act 2010 places an obligation on the government to give 'due consideration' to the effects of its policies on gender inequalities. The Institute for Fiscal Studies was asked by the Fawcett society to consider ways in which their tax & benefit microsimulation model, TAXBEN (which IFS use for their distributional analysis of tax & benefit changes after each Budget) could be used as part of an assessment of the separate impact of Budget measures on men & women. IFS have now published some simple analysis that does this.
AUK: New research by Age UK shows that cheques are particularly important to older people with 73% of them using them as a means of payment, while 63% of cheque users of all ages agree that they would find it a problem if they were no longer available. The report concludes that payment is an essential service like the utilities such as energy or telecoms.
NAO: The Department for Work and Pensions will have to make rapid progress in reorganising the way it operates if it is to meet its target of achieving sustainable running cost reductions of £2.7bn, while implementing substantial welfare reforms and a £17bn reduction in benefits & pensions by 2014-15, according to the National Audit Office.
The Department has the largest annual expenditure of any central government department and so its cost reductions will be central to the Government’s meeting its priority objective of reducing the budget deficit.
PC&PE: The Education Select Committee says it ‘cannot support’ 6-week flagship programme in current form as costs may exceed entire public spending on youth services. Instead, the Committee calls for the NCS to be retained but become a form of accreditation for existing schemes which meet the Government’s objectives.
The hard hitting report criticises the Government’s ‘regrettable’ failure yet to outline a youth policy or strategic vision for the sector. It says that youth services are suffering ‘disproportionate’ cuts and that the Government should be prepared to take action to ensure that local authorities meet their statutory obligations.
PC&PE: South Sudan needs the EU to invest time, finance & practical resources if it is to become a viable state following its declaration of independence on 9 July say the Lords EU Foreign Affairs Sub-Committee, following an inquiry into the EU’s role there.
The Committee concludes that there is a ‘high risk’ that South Sudan will fail as a state. Its report calls on the EU to prioritise joining together with the United Nations, African Union and United States to resolve the most urgent issues threatening South Sudan’s stability in order to avoid this.
South Sudan is a test case for the new European External Action Service and the EU needs to act faster if it is to be successful, starting by getting an effective Head of Delegation in place in Juba as soon as possible.
NO: Local Government Ombudsman, Dr Jane Martin, has issued a report criticising the way Peterborough City Council and Lincolnshire County Council dealt with allegations made by a foster child against her foster carer’s daughters. The foster carer complained that the investigation was badly managed and unnecessarily protracted.
ESRC: The regulation of personal data varies hugely across countries & sectors, research funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) reveals. The study examined privacy regulations in 4 countries (the UK, US, Germany & Sweden) across 3 different areas:
* the use of Closed Circuit TV cameras in public places
* RFI Technology chips in consumer goods, such as electronic toll collection tags
* the introduction of biometric features in passports and identity cards
Legislation / Legal
ScotGov: New laws to crack down on sectarian & other forms of hatred in Scotland should be in place in time for the new football season after Ministers introduced a draft Bill to the Scottish Parliament.
The legislation seeks to create 2 new offences relating to offensive behaviour that can incite religious, racial or other forms of hatred, in and around football grounds and on the internet.
If approved, the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Bill will mean bigots will face up to five years in prison upon conviction and the possibility of a football banning order.
ScotGov: Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead said the Scottish Government intended to introduce a protection order for the species, collectively known as elasmobranchs. Subject to parliamentary approval, this will give greater protection for 26 vulnerable & endangered sharks, skates and &, including tope, spurdog and common skate.
The proposals will extend the current provisions, which prevent the landing to market of some elasmobranchs by commercial fishermen, to also cover fishing by recreational sea anglers. The new order will also mean that only catch-and-release by rod & line will be permitted, allowing recreational sea anglers to continue to tag these species, increasing our scientific knowledge of Scottish elasmobranchs, whilst ensuring that they are returned to the sea alive.
PC&PE: Government proposals for contingency bills to increase the number of days that terrorist suspects may be detained before being charged are unsatisfactory & unreliable, says a Joint Committee of Peers & MPs last week. Lord Armstong of Ilminster, the Chairman of the committee, has recorded a podcast to accompany the release of the report.
The Joint Committee scrutinised the Home Office's draft Detention of Terrorist Suspects (Temporary Extension) Bills, which could be enacted urgently if it ever became necessary to extend to 28 days the maximum period for which the police could apply to a High Court judge detain terrorist suspects before charging them. The committee agrees with the Government's objective, but does not accept the Government's proposals for achieving the objective.
OFT: The OFT has successfully taken court action against an online computer software retailer who failed to deliver goods or provide timely refunds. The companies' director Pavan Arora has been ordered by Cardiff County Court to provide refunds to customers who remain out of pocket. If he fails to do so, he could be fined or imprisoned.
Under the law, unless the shopper agrees otherwise, internet traders are generally required to supply goods within 30 days or provide a refund. Traders should also not offer for sale products that they cannot reasonably guarantee to supply. Online shoppers have specific legal protections and different cancellation rights from those buying in store.
Directgov: Plans to cut re-offending, improve the sentencing framework and reform the legal aid system have been outlined by the Ministry of Justice. The plans are detailed in the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill.
Ofgem: Ofgem has signalled its determination to press ahead with an overhaul of the retail energy market following wide support from consumers, Consumer Focus, Which?, CAB, Age UK and uSwitch along with independent generators and small energy suppliers.
EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.
EU News: The European Commission has adopted a draft regulation that will better inform consumers across the EU and achieving the aim of better & clearer legislation.
The draft regulation strengthens & clarifies provisions for foods intended for vulnerable groups of the population who need particular protection – namely infants & children up to 3 years old, and people with specific medical conditions, such as cancer patients or individuals with metabolism disorders.
It does so by maintaining the existing compositional and labelling rules applicable to infant & follow-on formulae, processed cereal-based foods & other baby foods and foods for special medical purposes. Further, the proposal establishes a single EU list of substances, instead of the existing three, that can be added to these foods. The substances covered in the list include, among others, minerals & vitamins.
EU News: On 19 June 2011, European Commissioner for Home Affairs, Cecilia Malmström, participated in the inaugural ceremony of the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) in Valetta, Malta. The new Office began some of its activities in November 2010, but it is now fully operational.
The EASO was established with the aim of enhancing practical cooperation on asylum matters, and helping Member States fulfil their European and international obligations to give protection to people in need.
EU News: Essential investment in education, social inclusion, poverty reduction and a knowledge-based society must go ahead without delay, said the European Parliament last Thursday in its first formal response to the Commission's draft budget for 2012. In the Commission's draft budget, unveiled on 20 April, the fields of R&D and cohesion policy, payments are set to increase by over 8% in 2012.
EU News: In an effort to give a further boost to the transparency of the EU's decision-making process, the European Parliament and the European Commission last week launched a joint, public Transparency Register which provides more information than ever before on those who seek to influence European policy.
EU News: The European Parliament has opted – by an overwhelming majority (615 for, 16 against, 21 abstentions) – the Consumer Rights Directive, which the European Commission proposed in October 2008 (IP/08/1474). The vote follows a deal reached between the 3 EU institutions (European Commission, European Parliament and the Council of Ministers), and clears the final hurdle before the new rules can become reality for consumers.
Charity and Voluntary Sector
: Research funded by Diabetes UK and carried out by a team from Newcastle University has discovered that Type 2 diabetes can be reversed by an extremely low-calorie diet alone. In an early stage clinical trial of 11 people, all reversed their diabetes by drastically cutting their food intake to just 600 calories a day for 2 months. And 3 months later, 7 remained free of diabetes.
Diabetes UK is keen to stress this study involved an extreme diet conducted under close medical supervision. They strongly recommend people do not attempt to lose weight in this way. People with diabetes who want to lose weight should consult their healthcare team before loosing weight in this way.
BHF: New figures from the NHS show a record number of people are now on the Organ Donor Register. The NHS Blood and Transplant service says that 18m million people (close to 30% of the UK’s population) have registered to donate after they die. The figures also showed widely varying donor registration rates in different parts of the UK, with Scotland leading the way on 37%.
National Transplant Week is on 4 – 10 July 2011 and you can join the debate about organ donation and the opt-out system in the British Heart Foundation’s new online community.
BIG: BIG Fund, the non-Lottery funding operation of the Big Lottery Fund (BIG), has launched its call for proposals from social investment intermediary organisations that want to increase their capability with a share of £5m from dormant bank accounts.
The £5m Big Society Investment Fund will invest funds from dormant bank accounts in England into social investment intermediaries while the Big Society Bank is being set up. Delivered by the BIG Fund, the Fund will ‘help build a dynamic social investment market that provides robust financial products to better support frontline social sector organisations’.
Business and Other Briefings
OFT: The OFT has issued a reminder to businesses it supervises under money laundering regulations to improve compliance or risk enforcement action. The reminder comes as the OFT announces the findings of 2 separate pilot programmes, designed to identify & address compliance and registration issues across the UK.
The OFT's anti-money laundering team has now answered over 6,500 business enquiries on how to comply and continues to provide guidance.
This brief provides advice on the VAT treatment of the charge for carrier bags to be introduced in Wales.
WAG: The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has announced its endorsement of the Airspace Change Proposal (ACP) which will ‘create a unique environment within the UK for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) to fly in segregated airspace’. The revised airspace will become effective from 28 July 2011.
The Welsh Government, which sponsored the ACP, has been the driving force behind setting up the Wales UAS environment, which includes ParcAberporth as a dedicated centre for UAS. Endorsement of the ACP will further enhance the facilities and services already available within the region.
WAG: The success of a Welsh start-up company that developed a unique concrete product now used by the construction & civil engineering sector worldwide is to be featured at a business innovation seminar in Swansea.
Concrete Canvas was started just 4 years ago by Will Crawford & Peter Brewin to manufacture Concrete Cloth, the revolutionary material technology they developed. The cement-impregnated fabric hardens when hydrated to form a fire & waterproof concrete surface. The flexible material can be moulded to fit any shape and once hydrated starts setting in only two hours.
The company has benefited from Business Innovation, a £28m programme part funded by the European Regional Development Fund, to help companies in Wales identify opportunities for business improvement & growth.
Defra: Tens of thousands of new apprenticeship opportunities in the food industry were announced by Food Minister, Jim Paice, last week. Mr Paice made the announcement as he launched a Defra-sponsored action plan to get food businesses to run more apprenticeships and change the way young people to think about working in the food industry.
AUK: Age UK is holding its first-ever conference dedicated to promoting excellence in older people’s services on Wednesday 13 July 2011 at the Radisson Blu Portman Hotel in London. Services for Later Life 2011 will see professionals from across the public, private & voluntary sectors come together with older service users to share expertise, ideas & innovation in developing & providing services for older people.
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