In the News
CO: Return of the ‘public servant’? - Modernisation of public services will give people choice & control over the services they use and end the ‘get what you’re given’ culture. People will be ‘given more choice to shape the public services they use, putting control in the hands of individuals and neighbourhoods so everyone can benefit from the best public services available’, the Prime Minister has announced.
Recognising that ‘Whitehall does not know best’, it begins a programme of consultation & engagement over the summer with individuals, communities, public sector staff & providers to ensure that the improvements are both ambitious & practical.
The 5 core principles for modernising public services are:
* Wherever possible Government will increase choice
* Public services should be de-centralised to the lowest appropriate level
* Public services should be open to a range of providers
* Fair access
* Public services should be accountable to users and to taxpayers
The report has identified a wide range of risks to the UK from climate change impacts in other parts of the world, which may have implications for:
* Foreign policy & security
* Resources & infrastructure
* Financial sector & business
* UK’s role on the global stage
The report demonstrates how the UK is closely interconnected with the global economy, and has an important role in addressing risks internationally. It also points to opportunities in business, finance and global leadership.
The project’s evidence base will inform the UK's first Climate Change Risk Assessment (as required by law through the 2008 Climate Change Act) to ensure that the Government’s policy on adaptation to climate change takes appropriate account of international impacts. The Assessment will be published in January 2012.
DfE: Spare the rod, spoil the child? - The Department for Education has published the final guidance for teachers on how they should deal with bad behaviour (slashed from 600 pages to 52). This guidance will be used by schools from the start of the new academic year in September 2011. It will be revised again if the Education Bill is passed.
Behaviour in good schools is not a serious problem, but overall it remains a big concern for parents. Evidence shows there is much to do. For instance:
* Nearly 1,000 children are suspended from school for abuse & assault every school day.
* Persistent disruptive behaviour accounts for nearly a third of all cases of permanent exclusions in secondary schools.
* Major assaults on staff have reached a 5-year high with 44 having to be rushed to hospital with serious injuries last year
* False allegations have been made against 1-in-4 school staff by a pupil. 1-in-6 have had an allegation made by a member of a pupil's family
* Two thirds of teachers say bad behaviour is driving professionals out of the classroom
* 1in 4 children have been bullied at school and 1 in 5 have been victims of bullying outside of school
DfE: A sensible way to monitor statistical results - The Department for Education is changing the definition of ‘persistent absence’ to ‘deal with the reality of pupil absenteeism in schools and its impact on their learning’. Latest figures show that while 184,000 pupils miss 20% of lessons, more than 430,000 pupils miss 15% of lessons a year – the equivalent of having a month off school a year.
Some schools tend to take action to intervene when pupils near the persistently absent threshold, but nearing 20% is too late. Lowering the threshold will ensure that schools take action sooner to deal with absence. Ministers will continue to look at the possibility of further lowering the threshold over time. The new threshold will be published in statistical releases from October 2011 onwards, with the old threshold being published alongside it.
There is also clear evidence of a link between poor attendance at school and low levels of achievement:
* Of pupils who miss more than 50% of school, only 3% manage to achieve 5 A* to Cs including English & maths.
* Of pupils who miss between 10% & 20% of school, only 35% manage to achieve that target
* Of pupils who miss less than five per cent of school, 73 per cent achieve that target
Press release & links ~ DfE: school attendance ~ A guide for parents about school attendance
TfL: Let’s face it, its probably going to be a ‘difficult’ & crowded couple of weeks - Transport for London (TfL) and London 2012 are determined to ensure that businesses can take advantage of the opportunities generated by the Olympics and have announced 2 new programmes to help SMEs & multi-site businesses run smoothly - and minimise any transport challenges - during the 2012 Games.
From August 2011, multi-site companies employing more than 200 people, such as retail outlets, restaurant chains and financial institutions, can receive bespoke advice to help them devise & implement travel action plans for their organisations during the summer of 2012.
Also from next month, and until summer 2012, more than 50 free workshops will be rolled out across the country. These will be for firms with less than 200 employees that are based in areas set to be most impacted by the 2012 Games.
In addition, a new online planning tool has been developed which helps businesses of all sizes think about the key issues that will affect them during the Games. The tool asks a series of questions about staff and business travel, customers, visitors, suppliers and deliveries.
After answering the questions, the travel planning tool provides companies with suggested actions and the considerations they will need to take into account. Any business can start planning now by visiting the website and selecting 'Make your Plan'.
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Please note that previously published newsletters can be accessed from the Newsletter Archive
STFC: A project established more than 30 years ago to promote collaboration between UK groups writing software for macromolecular crystallography, an X-ray technique used to study biological molecules such as proteins, viruses and nucleic acids, has been awarded the Royal Society of Chemistry's Rita and John Cornforth Award 2011.
The award was made to the CCP4 project to recognise its importance as an essential resource for macromolecular structural chemistry worldwide, and its exemplary team ethos. Over the 32 years of its existence, CCP4 has evolved to fulfil two main roles: the production and support of an integrated suite of programs for macromolecular X-ray crystallography, and the dissemination of theory and best practice to the growing international body of researchers using the technique.
DH: A new Queen’s Ambulance Service Medal, which will distinguish exemplary service from ambulance workers in the NHS, has been announced by Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley. The first medals will be awarded in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List in Summer 2012. The Ambulance Service now joins the Police and Fire emergency services in having a prestigious medal for outstanding service.
Further information on the criteria for eligibility, along with details on how to nominate individuals for the Medal, will be available on the Department of Health’s website. The number of recommendations for award of the Medal which may be submitted for Her Majesty’s approval in any one year shall not exceed ‘10. 5’.
ScotGov: A dozen youngsters that took up basketball through coaching funded by the Scottish Government's CashBack for Communities programme have been selected for age-group Scotland squads. The 9 boys & 3 girls will link up with the international under 12, under-14 and under-16 teams after participating in the Jump2it and Twilight Basketball sessions run by Scottish Sports Futures and funded by money seized from criminals.
FSA: Due to a packaging error, some Donegal Catch Limited Edition Fish Fillets in a golden breadcrumb have been packed with battered fish fillets instead of breadcrumbed fish fillets. Battered fish fillets contain milk, which is not an ingredient in the breaded fillets, and is not labelled on the packets. As a result, the product presents a possible health risk for people who have an allergy or intolerance to milk. The Food Standards Agency is issuing an allergy alert.
FSA: Asda is recalling some of its Fresh Tastes Pouch Haddock, as it has been packed incorrectly, affecting part of one batch code. The pouch may contain a chicken & bacon product which contains mustard in the sauce. This makes the product a potential health risk for people who are allergic or sensitive to mustard. The Food Standards Agency has issued an Allergy Alert.
PCS: Staff who provide admin & IT support to the UK's passport offices have voted by nearly 9 to 1 to strike over an imposed pay cut, the Public and Commercial Services union has announced. More than 160 workers at Steria UK on a contract for the Identity and Passport Service (IPS), some paid as little as £13,500 a year, plan to walk out for 2 days at the end of July, and are threatening further action in August if necessary.
The PCS members voted 86% percent in favour of strike action and 90% in favour of action short of a strike. The turnout was 62%.
WO: The Welsh Secretary has said that ‘Richard Parks should be acknowledged as an ambassador for young people and charities, following his world-record breaking charity challenge’. Richard Parks has just completed the ‘737 challenge’, an epic fund-raising challenge in aid of Marie Curie Cancer Care which saw him climb 7 summits on each continent & become the first person in history to stand on 3 poles in the same calendar year.
MoD: Work has begun on a new £2.4m Royal Navy Sea Survival Training Centre at Horsea Island, Portsmouth. The project will replace the old facility established in 1982 following the introduction of a statutory requirement for all Royal Navy personnel to undertake regular training in ship abandonment & sea survival procedures. Construction is due for completion in January 2012, and is being managed by the Royal Naval Infrastructure Organisation,
MoD: Service personnel operating within the landmass, airspace & territorial waters of Libya are now eligible to receive the Operational Allowance (OA), Defence Secretary Dr Liam Fox announced last week. The Ministry of Defence conducts a review of the locations eligible for OA on a 6-monthly basis - the most recent of which led to this extension and means that personnel working as part of the ongoing campaign to protect civilians under United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973 will now receive the Operational Allowance.
The OA is already paid to all Service personnel serving in Afghanistan on Operation HERRICK. The move means that all servicemen & women deployed within the geographical confines of Libya on Operation ELLAMY will now receive the allowance, which is based on an assessment of the risk & rigour of the operating environment.
TfL: London Underground (LU) has made a revised 5-year pay offer to trade unions which would see staff get a 4.75% pay increase this year, followed by a rise of inflation (RPI) plus 0.25% in the 4 subsequent years. A further guarantee has also been given that LU would not take into account negative RPI, should such a situation occur, so staff would be guaranteed a minimum 0.25% pay increase each year.
Socitm: Socitm Insight has launched a new service to help public sector website owners to deal with the implication of the EU 'cookie' directive effective from 26 May 2011. The directive puts a new compliance burden on all website owners, including those responsible for sites that may be delivered by third parties.
Website owners are now required to provide their visitors with an opportunity to give their consent explicitly prior to having cookies downloaded on to their computers or mobile devices. The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), which is responsible for enforcing the new law in the UK, has allowed all organisations one year to make the necessary changes - although complaints about serious breaches will be investigated during this period.
Newswire – HPA: Fewer new cases of Haemolytic Uraemic Syndrome (HUS) and bloody diarrhoea (VTEC or EHEC infection, caused by E. coli O104) were reported in Germany last week and there are no additional cases in France. This will therefore be the last update from the HPA on this issue unless there are any significant developments.
Policy Statements and Initiatives
DH: The Department of Health (DH) has published initial thinking on how the NHS Commissioning Board should be designed.
DFID: Britain has set out how it plans to tackle poverty in the OccupiedPalestinianTerritories (OPTs) over the next 4 years, International Development Minister, Alan Duncan, announced recently. Under the new plans, British funding will focus on boosting the Palestinian economy and helping the most vulnerable people.
DCMS: A list of approved broadband suppliers will be selected to help simplify the procurement process as part of rolling out broadband to rural areas. The Framework Agreement will be aimed at local authorities & Devolved Administrations allowing them to select suppliers from the pre-qualified list through ‘call-off’ contracts, rather than run independent procurement processes from scratch for their own areas.
Once in place, use of the Framework Agreement will provide significant savings in terms of time & costs compared to multiple independent procurement processes for both the public sector & suppliers. For suppliers this will mean only having to bid once to be selected for the Framework, rather than up to 40 times for individual broadband procurement processes across the UK. A set of draft requirements has been published for suppliers interested in bidding.
MoJ: Vulnerable victims of crime across England & Wales will benefit from £30m of Government funding, over the next 3 years, Justice Secretary, Kenneth Clarke, announced last week. The money has been allocated to local organisations that have a proven track record in supporting victims at their most vulnerable.
Children’s groups are among those that will benefit from the announcement, along with charities supporting victims of rape, domestic violence, hate crime, burglary, anti social behaviour and other violent crime. Those bereaved by murder, manslaughter and fatal road traffic crimes will also get the specialist support that they need.
WAG: Wales could be the first European country to ban smoking in vehicles carrying children, First Minister Carwyn Jones announced last week. Mr Jones said legislation could be considered later in the current 5-year Assembly term if children's exposure to second-hand smoke did not reduce as a result of a mix of stop smoking interventions & campaigns.
The First Minister added that it would be the next logical step following the ban on smoking in enclosed environments such as offices, pubs and restaurants, given the high concentrations of toxic chemicals present when a person smokes in a vehicle.
The Health Behaviour in School Aged Children survey suggests that around 20% of 11-16 year old school children in Wales report being exposed to smoke the last time they travelled in a car. Those from the least affluent families were more than twice as likely as those from the most affluent families to report being exposed.
ScotGov: A new financing model will deliver hundreds of new affordable homes, Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure & Capital Investment, Alex Neil, has confirmed. The National Housing Trust (NHT) initiative, led by the Scottish Government and Scottish Futures Trust, will see developers & local authorities jointly funding the purchase of newly-built homes so they can be made available for rent at below market rates.
DECC: Coalition measures to keep the UK’s lights on & consumer bills down, and shift the economy away from a high risk, high-carbon future, have been unveiled. With a 25% of the UK’s generating capacity shutting down over the next 10 years (as old coal & nuclear power stations close) more than £110bn in investment is needed to build the equivalent of 20 large power stations and upgrade the grid.
In the longer term, by 2050, electricity demand is set to double, as we shift more transport & heating onto the electricity grid. Business as usual is not therefore an option.
The Electricity Market Reform White Paper sets out key measures to attract investment, reduce the impact on consumer bills, and create a secure mix of electricity sources including gas, new nuclear, renewables and carbon capture & storage.
The Renewables Roadmap published alongside this WP outlines a plan of action to accelerate renewable energy deployment – to meet the target of 15% of all energy by 2020 – while driving down costs.
DWP: The Government has responded to the consultation on the future of child maintenance and is ‘setting out radical changes to the system to make separated parents take full responsibility for their children’s ongoing financial support’. The current Child Support Agency (CSA) scheme is set to close to new customers from 2012. A new & streamlined child maintenance service will be launched.
DH: A life a month could be saved thanks to a £4m investment by the Government in NHS stem cell services, Public Health Minister Anne Milton announced last week.
The project, agreed with partners NHS Blood & Transplant and charity Anthony Nolan, will see stem cell donors & potential recipients matched far more quickly than in the past. It aims to reduce average search times down to 2 weeks, which is estimated will save on average one life per month.
WAG: New laws to tackle school underperformance, make councils work together and a new organ donation system were among the new Bills proposed last week by the Welsh Government. Addressing Assembly Members in the Senedd, the First Minister Carwyn Jones set out the legislative priorities of his new government.
DFID: Malawi will no longer receive general budget support from the UK Government, Andrew Mitchell announced last week. The International Development Secretary took the decision after the Government of Malawi repeatedly failed to address UK concerns over economic management & governance.
General budget support, which is used to allow governments to deliver their own national strategies for poverty reduction against an agreed set of targets, has been suspended indefinitely.
DFID: Development Secretary, Andrew Mitchell, said he will not fund any further projects under the Development Awareness Fund or the Mini-Grants Scheme, and that existing programmes will be wound down. Following an external review of the links between development awareness projects & reducing global poverty, he has concluded ‘there is insufficient evidence that these projects have a clear impact on the lives of the poorest’.
DfE: The Government has published its response to Professor Eileen Munro’s recommendations to reform the child protection system, set out earlier this year. The response outlines the Government’s intention, working with professionals, to build a system focused on the needs, views & experiences of vulnerable children. The Government will reduce central regulation & prescription and place greater trust & responsibility in skilled professionals & local leaders to bring about long-term reform.
MoD: Defence Secretary, Dr Liam Fox, has published the conclusions of an independent review into the Chinook Mk2 helicopter crash of June 1994 on the Mull of Kintyre which tragically resulted in the deaths of all 29 people on board. The review, led by Lord Philip and assisted by 3 Privy Counsellors, examined the evidence relating to the findings of the Board of Inquiry into the accident.
The review makes 3 key recommendations, the:
* finding that the pilots were negligent to a gross degree should be set aside
* MOD should consider offering an apology to the families of the pilots
* MOD should reconsider its policy & procedures for the transport of personnel whose responsibilities are vital to national security
At the request of the Defence Secretary, the Defence Council was convened and has set aside the findings that the pilots were negligent to a gross degree and has ordered that this action be noted on the pilots' records. On behalf of the MOD, the Defence Secretary has also apologised to the families of the pilots.
DfE: All teachers will be expected to meet new standards of competence & conduct from September 2012, following an independent review of the skills that teachers should possess.
WAG: A Welsh Government initiative to provide support for families affected by substance misuse is being expanded to cover parts of Mid, West & South Wales, Deputy Minister for Children & Social Services, Gwenda Thomas, has announced.
The roll out of Integrated Family Support Services (IFSS) across Wales is a key priority of Sustainable Social Services: A Framework for Action. The expansion of the programme is being backed with an additional £1.4m, bringing the total Welsh Government funding for IFSS to £3.3m.
DWP: The Government has launched a consultation (closes on 17 October 2011) into employment services for disabled people and is seeking views on the recommendations put forward by RADAR Chief Executive Liz Sayce.
The Government is also publishing its response to the Sayce Review, ‘Getting in, staying in and getting on’, which recommends that employment support should be focused on the individual and not the institution, so disabled people can access jobs across the economy - rather than in segregated employment.
HMT: The Government has issued a call for evidence (closes on 19 September 2011) as part of its consideration of the integration of the operation of the income tax and National Insurance contributions systems, announced at Budget 2011.
This is a preliminary stage of consultation, and aims to build a strong evidence base on the burdens to employers of having to operate two different systems. Responses to this call for evidence will inform the Government’s proposals for reform, on which it will consult in the autumn.
The call for evidence document poses 14 questions, the majority of which focus on the burdens employers & payroll professionals face in paying income tax & NICs through the Pay As You Earn system. For example, how much staff time & other resource is required to manage the systems, which aspects of the process currently work well and how often problems are encountered when calculating payments.
NICE: The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has opened its consultation (closes on 4 August 2011) on the use of a device that can help improve the outcome of a specific type of heart surgery.
CABG surgery is performed to treat heart disease where the major arteries have become narrowed or blocked. A blood vessel is taken from another part of the patient's body and used to ‘bypass' the affected section of artery by attaching it above & below the blockage or narrowing. The new section of blood vessel is called a graft.
NICE: NICE has published a draft guideline on the initial assessment & referral following emergency treatment for a suspected anaphylactic episode or a severe allergic reaction. The draft NICE short clinical guideline, Anaphylaxis: assessment to confirm an anaphylactic episode and the decision to refer after emergency treatment for a suspected anaphylactic episode is available until 5.00pm, Monday 8 August 2011.
Defra: A consultation on including proposed major sewers within the existing planning process for major infrastructure projects has been launched by Defra (closes on Wednesday 5 October 2011).
DfT: Coastguard stations will be better coordinated & more resilient to the challenges of the coming decades under updated modernisation proposals announced last week by Transport Secretary, Philip Hammond. Under existing arrangements, neighbouring stations are 'paired', allowing them to provide back-up to one another when needed. This announcement means that one station in each pair is retained.
Under the proposals the Coastguard stations at Clyde, Forth, Portland, Liverpool, Yarmouth, Brixham, Thames and Swansea would close progressively over the period 2012 to 2014/15. The station at Solent will be replaced by a new Maritime Operations Centre in the Portsmouth/Southampton area.
There will now be the opportunity for people to comment (by 6 October 2011) on those elements of the announcement which differ from the original proposals.
DfT: Passengers using Heathrow and communities around the airport could benefit from reduced delays, less stacking and fewer unscheduled night flights at the UK's busiest airport, as part of a trial of new measures announced by Aviation Minister, Theresa Villiers.
The measures are set out in the final report by the Government's South East Airports Taskforce and are focused on making Heathrow more resilient and better able to recover on days when the airport’s operations are disrupted by poor weather or other problems.
When such problems occur, these proposals would allow, exceptionally, both Heathrow's runways to be used simultaneously for either arrivals or departures as a way to cut delays & cancellations and get punctuality back on track. Trials of the new measures will be run over the autumn & summer 2012.
The Taskforce also endorsed plans for a switch to a smarter, more effective and more passenger-friendly airport security regime for all UK airports - details of which have also been published for consultation (closes on 7 November 2011).
EU News: Digital technology & the internet are rapidly changing the way in which audiovisual works are produced, marketed, & distributed. Consumers increasingly expect to be able to watch anything, anywhere, any time and via any one of a number of devices (TV, personal computer, games console, mobile media device). Business models have to evolve rapidly to keep pace with the ever faster pace of technological change which offers new opportunities for creators & distributors and also new consumer expectations and ultimately more growth & jobs.
To gather views on how Europe can seize these opportunities and move towards a digital single market, the European Commission has published a Green Paper, which serves as the basis for a debate on whether & how the regulatory framework needs to be adapted to allow European industry to develop new business models, creators to find new distribution channels and European consumers to have better access to content throughout Europe.
The views of all interested parties are sought (until 18 November 2011) on various aspects of online distribution of audiovisual works such as films, documentaries, TV dramas, cartoons etc.
ScotGov: Plans to make the Crofters Commission more democratic & accountable have been unveiled by Environment Minister, Stewart Stevenson. The proposals recommend that the majority of the Crofters Commission (to be renamed the Crofting Commission from April 2012) should be elected by crofters.
A consultation (closes on October 5, 2011) on the draft plans also covers the constituency boundaries for the elections and who should be eligible to vote.
EU News: The European Commission has launched a debate on the future of promotion & information schemes for EU agricultural products. With the publication of a Green Paper on these issues, the Commission is looking at how to shape a more targeted & more ambitious strategy for the future, which will make clearer to consumers – both in the EU & beyond - the quality, traditions and added-value of European agricultural & food products.
The paper raises a series of multi-faceted questions and invites all stakeholders - consumers, producers, distributors & official authorities - to give their comments & suggestions by September 30, 2011. On the basis of these responses, the Commission will draft a Communication for publication next year, which should then lead to legislative proposals.
Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides
BHF: New physical activity guidelines for the UK include specific guidance for under-fives for the first time. Released by the UK’s chief medical officers, they state that pre-school children who are able to walk should be active for at least 3 hours a day, though this doesn't need to be in one go.
ScotGov: A code of practice is being drawn up to help the increasing numbers of new residents who are moving into Scotland's towns & cities to get on well with their neighbours. But the influx of 4-legged visitors aren't coming from overseas - Scotland's urban areas are now home to increasing numbers of roe deer.
A Scotland-wide Deer Code is also being developed to address issues such as:
* Road accidents caused by deer
* Wildlife crime, including deer coursing & poaching
DH: New advice as to how people of all ages can maintain fitness levels and stay or get healthy, has been launched as part of the first UK-wide physical activity guidelines by the 4 nations’ Chief Medical Officers. A key new element is a more flexible approach for adults to get their 150 minutes of activity a week.
The guidelines build on previous advice, but reflect the growing body of knowledge about physical activity levels and links to reducing the risk of serious diseases like heart disease, stroke & diabetes.
ScotGov: A guide on how to ensure local services are better designed & built around people & local communities has been launched by the Scottish Government. The guidance (Public Social Partnership Guidance 2011) builds on the experience of 10 projects, in a range of areas including social care, youth services & recycling. These piloted new ways to effectively link the public & third sectors and to ensure the people & communities are kept at the centre of all discussions on the design & management of the service.
NICE: In final draft guidance, NICE has NOT recommended ranibizumab (Lucentis, Novartis) for the treatment of diabetic macular oedema (DMO).
ECGD: ECGD, the UK’s export credit agency, has published its Annual Review and Resource Accounts 2009-10, showing it provided 33% more support to UK exporters in 2010-11. The most significant development in 2010-11 was the launch of the new products announced in the Government’s white paper Trade and Investment for Growth. As a result ECGD is now able to support a much broader range of exporters. ECGD has started a comprehensive programme to inform exporters about its new products.
OFT: The OFT has published its Annual Report for the last financial year alongside an estimate of the financial benefits of its activities to consumers.
FSA: The General Advisory Committee on Science (GACS) has published its third annual report, which describes the committee’s work over the past year. GACS provides independent advice to the Food Standards Agency on how the FSA uses science.
FSA: The Food Standards Agency has published its Annual Report and Consolidated Accounts 2010/11. The report highlights that during the past year, the Agency delivered a 35% reduction in expenditure in real terms, with the net cost of the FSA falling from £139.2m to £89.9m. In the forthcoming year this will continue with efforts to deliver further savings of £28.8m for Westminster by 2014/15.
In addition, to help ensure food produced or sold in the UK is safe to eat, the FSA took action on almost 1,600 national food & environmental contamination incidents during the past financial year, ranging from counterfeit vodka, to salmonella in bean sprouts.
ISA: The Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) has published its annual report which outlines the organisation's key achievements & challenges during the last year. For the first time, this year's annual report also details the complexities of ISA decision-making by taking the reader through two ‘life of a case’ examples.
CQC: The Care Quality Commission’s report on their second year as the regulator of England’s health & adult social care services was laid before Parliament last week.
NO: A service for everyone’ is how Ann Abraham, Parliamentary & Health Service Ombudsman, describes her Office’s role in resolving 23,667 enquiries from the public last year. Published recently, the Ombudsman’s Annual Report 2010-11 explains the different ways her Office has resolved complaints about government departments & agencies or the NHS in England over the last year.
While more cases (403) were taken on for formal investigation compared with the year before – including double the number of complaints about government bodies – the Ombudsman’s Office also resolved over 600 cases directly, without the need for a formal investigation.
IPCC: The Independent Police Complaints Commission 2010/11 Annual Report has today been laid before parliament.
NO: Complaints to the Local Government Ombudsmen increased over the last year and the upward trend is expected to continue, reveals their Annual Report 2010/11 – Delivering public value. The report shows a 21% increase in complaints & enquiries dealt with at the initial point of contact, raising the number received to 21,840. This resulted in 7.5% more complaints being forwarded to the Ombudsmen’s investigation teams, a total of 11,249 complaints in 2010/11.
Newswire - CCC: The UK is coping now, but it is near its limits in some key sectors and could be pushed over the edge by climate change. But by preparing now, the UK can reduce the adverse effects of climate change and take advantage of opportunities, according to a new report published by the Adaptation Sub-Committee (ASC).
In the water sector for example, while only 8% of resource zones in England are currently at risk of a supply shortfall in a severe drought, this could increase to around 45% by 2035 without additional investment. The UK’s vulnerability to climate change is potentially increasing as a result of patterns of building development in some areas and demographic trends.
General Reports and Other Publications
WO: Lack of adequate broadband connections and ‘not-spots’ in some of the most rural parts of Wales are amongst the biggest frustrations for local communities & businesses, according to a recent Rural Economy Taskforce Report published by the Wales Office.
Ofsted: Nurture groups can make a considerable difference to the behaviour & social skills of children who might otherwise be at risk of exclusion according to a new report from Ofsted. However, schools should ensure that pupils in these groups are making academic as well as social & emotional progress.
Nurture groups are small, structured teaching groups for pupils showing signs of behavioural, social or emotional difficulties. This could include aggression, an inability to work independently, or very withdrawn behaviour.
NO: Serious & extensive failures in Leeds City Council’s provision of education & care services resulted in substantial injustice for vulnerable children and their parents, finds Local Government Ombudsman, Anne Seex.
She has issued reports on 3 different complaints where her investigations found the Council’s service provision was inadequate. All the complaints involved children with special educational needs.
PC&PE: Local authority control of audit & performance provides opportunities to improve value for money and to focus more closely on local priorities. However, there are significant risks to accountability for public money unless new legal & practical arrangements are put in place to uphold the vital principle of auditor independence, warn MPs in a new report from the Communities and Local Government Committee.
The Government has already stated it plans to introduce a public audit bill in the autumn. The committee argues this legislation must set out a number of key principles to govern public audit arrangements in the future.
The Committee also acknowledges that with costs now exceeding benefits the end of Comprehensive Area Assessment with ‘command and control’ targets & inspection has been widely welcomed. It calls on local authorities to focus on local priorities.
NAO: Despite major expenditure by central government departments on developing the skills of their staff, government does not know how much is being spent and has rarely evaluated its impact on performance.
NAO: The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has delivered some value from the £39.3m spent on its geographic information strategy & activities, the National Audit Office has reported. However, the Department has not tracked the full cost of geographic information and systems to it or its arm’s length bodies, or systematically measured benefits.
The Department has been able to identify savings of only approximately £9m. The figures for costs & benefits are both likely to be underestimates. This lack of financial information means that the NAO cannot determine that value for money has been achieved.
ScotGov: The Joint Action Group on football has met for the final time before the new season delivering wide-ranging recommendations to improve the game. The JAG has agreed 40 points which make significant progress from the initial proposals set out at the meeting in March.
NAO: The Comptroller and Auditor General, Amyas Morse, has qualified the Social Fund White Paper Account for the eighth consecutive year. The account has been qualified because of material levels of error in discretionary awards, which include Budgeting Loans, Crisis Loans & Community Care Grants, and in Funeral Expense Payments. He has also qualified his opinion on Cold Weather Payments, for the first time, because of the level of error found in these payments.
The C&AG has for the second consecutive year, also limited the scope of his opinion on the level of debt within the account, owing to the absence of sufficient appropriate evidence to support the breakdown of the customer debt balance.
EHRC: A new report (All things being equal? Equality and Diversity in careers education, information, advice & guidance) from the Equality and Human Rights Commission looking at careers education & guidance shows there is an aspiration gap for some young people & identifies specific barriers facing different groups.
The report provides strong evidence that careers education & guidance affects the aspirations, subject, career choices and future & and progression for different groups of young people.
EHRC: New health commissioning bodies should learn from the mistakes of their predecessors and take steps to meet their obligations under equality legislation to make a real difference to health outcomes according to the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
The Commission undertook a study assessing the performance of a sample of Strategic Health Authorities & Primary Care Trusts in England with regard to the race, gender & disability equality duties. It found that many bodies were not taking sufficient action to address the diverse needs of people in Britain and to protect the rights of disadvantaged groups.
It concluded that without a major re-think by new health bodies on how they tackle discrimination and advance equality some groups will continue to experience poorer health.
EA: Action should be taken now to protect water supplies for business, agriculture, the environment and people - thereby minimising the risk of water restrictions in the future, says a new report from the Environment Agency. It recommends that ‘more farmers should invest in winter storage and that water companies plan ahead for more long, dry periods and continue running campaigns to encourage customers to reduce water’.
MPA: The Metropolitan Police Authority has published the final report of the Domestic and Sexual Violence Board providing a 5-year retrospective of monitoring, scrutinising and supporting the Metropolitan Police Service's (MPS) performance and response to domestic and sexual violence.
Over the past 5 years the MPA Domestic and Sexual Violence Board (DSVB) has assessed the police response to domestic & sexual violence in each of London's 32 boroughs, identified best practice and made recommendations for improvement.
iea: New research by the Institute of Economic Affairs shows how the government could reduce public spending by an additional £215bn. This would mean the government would be spending around 30% of GDP instead of the government’s proposal of around 40%. The IEA’s proposals would deliver average tax reductions equivalent to around £7,500 per household each year.
The reforms proposed in Sharper Axes, Lower Taxes: Big Steps to a Smaller State (pdf free to download) could also increase economic growth by 0.75% a year leading to dramatic improvements in long-run living standards. The iea claims that opinion poll research conducted for it by ComRes shows overwhelming public support for a much deeper programme of spending cuts.
Newswire – TUC: The widely-held ideological view that buying your home is always best has led successive governments to ignore poorer homeowners, says a recent TUC report. Can Housing Work for Workers? is the latest in the series of Touchstone pamphlets and was written for the TUC by the Fabian Society.
It calls for a new approach to housing policy and says that although more & more people want to own their own homes, home ownership does not always bring prosperity.
The report says that back in 1975 only 62% of the adult population aspired to own their own home, but by 2010 the figure had risen to 89%. However huge mortgages taken out by workers in low-paid jobs can leave cash tied up in property while families become poor and unable to move to pursue employment opportunities elsewhere.
Newswire – TUC: The last 20 years have seen a significant increase in the proportion of over-50s and people over retirement age in employment, the TUC has revealed. A new TUC analysis (Age and Gender: What has changed in the labour market in recent years) - published to coincide with the latest unemployment figures, which were issued last week by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) - finds that the jobs market has changed significantly since 1992.
HEFCE: The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) has published a strategy statement setting out its overall approach to implementing the Government's proposals for higher education reform in the recent White Paper. It also identifies a number of high-level objectives in relation to research & knowledge exchange.
PC&PE: Family Courts will need to be more prepared to cope with litigants representing themselves, following Government reforms to Legal Aid – MPs on the Commons Justice Committee have warned in a new report.
The MPs are also calling on the Government to ‘scrap the provisions in the Children, Schools and Families Act 2010 to allow media access to Family Courts’ following universal condemnation of the plans. The report recommends that Ministers reformulate proposals to increase transparency in Family Courts putting the views of children centre stage.
NAO: HM Revenue & Customs' PaceSetter Programme, aimed at streamlining business operations, has improved productivity through new ways of working and may have contributed to greater staff engagement.
However, the National Audit Office has concluded that the Programme is not yet value for money because the extent to which efficiency has improved is not clear; and some key principles of process improvement are not yet being applied strategically across the entire organisation and embedded into the Department's core processes.
Newswire – LC: In a report published last week, the Law Commission recommends reforms to the 5 public services ombudsmen that will make it easier for citizens to complain if they receive poor public services.
Legislation / Legal
DCMS: All gambling operators selling into the British market - whether based in the UK or abroad - will have to obtain a licence from the Gambling Commission, under plans announced recently by John Penrose, Minister responsible for gambling regulation.
The changes mean that for the first time ‘remote gambling’ (gambling through remote means, such as the internet, telephone, television or radio) will be regulated at the point of consumption not the point of supply, ensuring British consumers are always protected, no matter which online gambling site they visit.
OFT: The OFT has opened investigations into a number of websites that charge people for government services that are available directly from government either at no cost or for a lower fee. The investigation will look into websites that charge consumers to apply for services that are free such as European Health Insurance Cards (EHICs) as well as websites that impose higher charges for services that do carry a cost such as booking a driving theory test.
The OFT will consider, amongst other things, whether the websites are deceptively presented as official government services - an ‘unfair commercial practice’. This would raise particular concern if consumers are thus misled into paying fees for services that are available free of charge from the official government website, or paying significantly more than what they would have to pay when using the official website.
EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.
EU News: One in five 15 year olds and many adults in Europe cannot read properly. A new study published by the European Commission shows what countries are doing to improve reading literacy – and where they are falling short. The study, which covers 31 countries (EU Member States, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Turkey), reveals that while most have made progress in developing literacy policies, they often lack focus on the groups most at risk, such as boys, children from disadvantaged households and migrant children.
EU Education Ministers have set a target to reduce the share of poor readers from 20% to less than 15% by 2020. Only Belgium (Flemish Community), Denmark, Estonia, Finland and Poland have already achieved this target.
EU News: The year 2010 was important for the Commission in enforcing & reforming EU competition rules, in the interest of both consumers & businesses. It saw a near-record amount of fines imposed on companies for operating price-fixing and market-sharing cartels in a year that was also busy dealing with the conditions of the support to banks in the context of the financial and economic crisis. On the policy front, new rules were adopted on both horizontal and vertical agreements.
These & hundreds of other examples are covered in the European Commission's 2010 Report on Competition Policy highlighting the benefits that the enforcement of competition rules brings for law-abiding companies & consumers alike. To mark the 40th anniversary of the Annual Report on competition policy, it also includes an overview of the major developments of competition policy & enforcement over the past 4 decades.
EU News: New rules to prevent abusive practices in the energy wholesale market, and thus protect final consumers all over Europe, were backed by the Industry, Research and Energy Committee on last week. The rules have been agreed with EU Member State representatives, and will be put to a vote by Parliament as a whole in September 2011.
EU News: The European Commission has cleared, under EU state aid rules, an investment fund that will support sustainable urban regeneration in the Northwest region of England, a common interest objective promoted by the EU cohesion policy through the Joint European Support for Sustainable Investment in City Areas initiative (JESSICA).
With this first decision, the Commission has clarified the guiding principles for the assessment of similar support measures that several Member States are currently envisaging.
EU News: In its proposals for a major reform of the EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), the European Commission has set out a radical approach to fisheries management in Europe. The plans will secure both fish stocks & fishermen's livelihood for the future while putting an end to over-fishing & depletion of fish stocks.
The reform will introduce a decentralised approach to science-based fisheries management by region & sea basin, and introduce better governance standards in the EU and on the international level through sustainable fisheries agreements. All fish stocks will have to be brought to sustainable levels by 2015, which is in line with the commitments the EU has undertaken internationally.
EU News: In 2010, EU Customs seized more than 103m products suspected of violating intellectual property rights (IPR) at the EU's external borders. According to the Commission's annual report on EU Customs enforcement of IPR, the number of shipments stopped by customs almost doubled compared to last year, rising from 43,500 in 2009 to almost 80,000 in 2010.
EU News: The Commission last week adopted a regulation permitting, as of January 1, 2012, a pre-movement treatment for dogs travelling to listed Member States claiming echinococcus-free status. Finland, the United Kingdom, Ireland and Malta are the Member States currently on the list.
Before travel to 1 of the 4 Member States, a dog needs to receive a specific treatment administered by a vet. The details of the treatment should then be introduced by the vet in the pet's passport and the owner can travel with his pet from 24 hours to 5 days (120 hours) after treatment.
EU News: The European Commission has launched a debate (comments & suggestions by September 30, 2011) on the future of promotion & information schemes for EU agricultural products. With the publication of a Green Paper on these issues, the Commission is looking at how to shape a more targeted and more ambitious strategy for the future, which will make clearer to consumers the quality, traditions and added-value of European agricultural and food products – See ‘Consultations’ section for more information.
EU News: Consumers increasingly expect to be able to watch anything, anywhere, any time & via any one of a number of devices. To gather views on how Europe can seize these opportunities and move towards a digital single market, the European Commission has published a Green Paper, which serves as the basis for a debate on whether & how the regulatory framework needs to be adapted to allow European industry to develop new business models, creators to find new distribution channels and European consumers to have better access to content throughout Europe.
The views of all interested parties are sought (until 18 November 2011) – See ‘Consultations’ section for more information.
Charity and Voluntary Sector
CRUK: A Cancer Research UK-funded study, by scientists at the University of Oxford, has found that many girls & their parents do not understand the importance of attending cervical screening after they have had the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine.
The NHS HPV vaccination programme was launched in autumn 2008, giving girls aged 12 to 13 the chance to have the vaccine, which prevents at least 7 out of 10 cancers of the cervix. But as the vaccine does not protect against all cancer-causing strains of the virus, these girls should still go for cervical screening when they're older - even if they've had all three doses of the vaccine.
CRUK: Cancer Research UK-funded scientists have taken a further step to identifying men at a greater risk of prostate cancer with the discovery of 7 new variants in the human genome that increase the chances of developing the disease.
Business and Other Briefings
HMRC: A new taskforce to tackle VAT abuse in London’s fast food outlets was announced last week by HM Revenue & Customs. HMRC has identified that there is a problem with some fast food outlets deliberately falsifying their records and mis-declaring their true sales levels in order to avoid paying the correct taxes.
This is the 4th taskforce launched by HMRC since May 2011. HMRC is planning a further 9 taskforces in 2011/12, with more to follow in 2012/13. The taskforces come as a result of the Government’s £900m spending review investment to tackle tax evasion, avoidance & fraud from 2011/12, which aims to raise an additional £7bn each year by 2014/15.
TfL: Transport for London (TfL) and London 2012 are determined to ensure that businesses can take advantage of the opportunities generated by the Olympics and have announced 2 new programmes to help SMEs & multi-site businesses run smoothly - and minimise any transport challenges - during the 2012 Games. In addition, a new online planning tool has been developed which helps businesses of all sizes think about the key issues that will affect them during the Games – See ‘In the News’ section for more information.
HA: The Highways Agency has reached agreement with TomTom to feed up to date traffic information from England’s motorways and major A roads into its sat nav services for road users. The HA, which manages the 4,300-mile strategic road network, collects data on traffic flows from sophisticated monitoring equipment built into the road surface, backed up by CCTV and other sources.
This data, which is already provided to drivers through the Agency’s own channels, will be fed to TomTom for its High Definition Traffic Services and is expected to be particularly beneficial to families heading off on holiday over the next few months.
The HA provides its traffic information to TomTom™ in a Datex II format, which it helped develop as a European standard specifically for road data information exchange. The Agency data provides real-time traffic information & predictions based on past conditions, helping road users to plan their journeys to avoid congestion.
ScotGov: Wave energy developer Aquamarine Power has revealed the latest in leading edge hydro electric wave energy technology. First Minister, Alex Salmond, unveiled the next generation full-scale Oyster 800KW device at Burntisland Fabrications (BiFab) yard in Methil, Fife where it was built.
The Oyster 800 can generate 250% more power at one third of the cost of the first full-scale 315kW Oyster device (Oyster 1), which was installed & grid-connected at the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) in Orkney in late 2009 and operated through 2 winters, delivering over 6,000 operating hours.
The first Oyster 800 will now be transported by sea to EMEC for installation with another 2 being deployed in 2012 & 2013, linked to an onshore hydro-electric plant in a 2.4MW array. A farm of just 20 Oyster 800 devices would generate sufficient power for up to 15,000 homes.
BIS: A new national web based system, Talent Retention Solution (TRS), will ‘help match skilled employees facing redundancy to UK companies in growing sectors of advanced manufacturing and engineering who are recruiting’, Minister for Business, Mark Prisk, announced last week.
The easy to use system comes as a result of work undertaken by the Skills and Jobs Retention Group (SJRG) and Semta (the Sector Skills Council for Science, Engineering and Manufacturing Technologies) to support defence engineers who may be struggling to find work in today’s difficult economic climate.
Following a short implementation phase, TRS will become fully operational by January 2012, when it is expected that over 1,500 employers across the UK will have signed up to the system, ranging from large organisations in each sector to the smallest SMEs. The system will provide live data broken down by skills & geography.
BIS: Britain’s most enterprising individuals & businesses last week attended an evening reception at Buckingham Palace after they were announced as this year’s winners of the Queen’s Awards for Enterprise 2011.
The Queen’s Award rewards people who have played an outstanding & significant role in promoting the growth of business enterprise & entrepreneurial skills and attitudes in others – for example amongst young people or those in disadvantaged groups.
The application/nomination period for The Queen’s Awards for Enterprise 2012 is now open & closes on 31 October2011. Entry is free and forms can be completed & submitted online.
DCMS: A list of approved broadband suppliers will be selected to help simplify the procurement process as part of rolling out broadband to rural areas. The Framework Agreement will be aimed at local authorities & Devolved Administrations allowing them to select suppliers from the pre-qualified list through ‘call-off’ contracts, rather than run independent procurement processes from scratch for their own areas.
For suppliers this will mean only having to bid once to be selected for the Framework, rather than up to 40 times for individual broadband procurement processes across the UK. A set of draft requirements has been published for suppliers interested in bidding – See ‘Policy Statements & Initiatives’ section for more information
NA: The National Archives is holding a one day Celebrating the Census conference at Kew on Saturday 1 October 2011. The conference is for anyone who wants to know more about the census, from genealogists to local & social historians.
Places are limited and are available on first-come first-served basis, so book early to guarantee your place. Book before 31 July to save £5 off the ticket price.
HMRC: SMEs hoping to win Olympics contracts are invited to take advantage of an HMRC online advice seminar this month. The HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) online webinar will run on 27 July at 6pm, and can be downloaded free from the internet thereafter.
The seminar will cover issues such as talking to a bank about financing, ensuring that the right systems are in place to comply with procurement policies and how firms go about making a bid for an Olympic contract. It will also explain how customers can get support & guidance on any tax obligations & entitlements.
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