In the News
MoD: Re-sizing our military forces is only acceptable if it is balanced by a reduction in political requirements for ‘world policing’ - The Government has committed to increasing the planned MOD equipment budget by over £3bn during the Spending Review period after 2015 to fund vital future military equipment.
The longer-term vision for the make up of our military – Future Force 2020 – will be secured by this 1%-a-year real terms increase in the planned equipment & equipment support programme.
Defence Secretary Dr Liam Fox claimed that this funding will allow the MOD to order significant pieces of equipment over the next decade, including:
* 14 extra Chinook helicopters from 2014 onwards
* The Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier conversion to catapult & arrestor gear ('cats & traps')
* Initial spending on the new Joint Strike Fighter fast jets (known as Lightning II) delivering Carrier Strike capability from 2020
* Development of the Global Combat Ship
* 3 new Airseeker signals intelligence & surveillance aircraft in 2014
* Upgraded Warrior armoured vehicles
In addition, the MoD will plan for an Army of around 120,000 comprising of Regulars & Reserves with a ratio of about 70% regulars to 30% Territorial Army. The MOD will publish a fully funded & balanced 10-year Equipment Plan by September 2011, and the National Audit Office will conduct an affordability audit of this.
Moving towards Future Force 2020, and returning the 20,000 personnel stationed in Germany, means the Armed Forces' estate requirements will change. As a result, the MOD has reviewed its future basing needs. The driving force behind the review of basing is the military requirement.
By 2020, the Army will be made up of 5 Multi-Role Brigades (MRB) of around 6,000 people. These brigades need to be geographically close to suitable training areas so they can prepare for deployment.
Civitas: We need a policy that delivers something between the 2 extremes of ‘giving them the key’ and ‘throwing it away’ - As Parliament begins to scrutinise the Punishment of Offenders Bill, a new Civitas report reveals that Government plans to cut re-offending & public expenditure by rehabilitating prisoners fail to deal with key problems.
Bars to Learning argues that the Government's confused priorities mean that the prisoners most likely to re-offend on release are deliberately excluded from the reforms.
The report shows that promises of penal reform have been made, & broken, many times before, and that current proposals will fail while the Government focuses on immediate cost savings.
iea: Noisy waste of money or future of North – South Travel? - New research released by think tank the Institute of Economic Affairs, (High Speed 2: the next government project disaster?), ‘shows' that the High Speed 2 (HS2) project is economically flawed. It reveals why the scheme is not commercially viable and asserts that taxpayers will bear a high proportion of the financial risks.
The research finds that policymakers in favour of HS2 are making their case on the basis of bogus assumptions, including:
* Flawed economics
* Huge government subsidies on the existing rail network mean that prices & demand levels are severely distorted.
* Estimates made by the government of demand growth are very optimistic and the long timescale involved also adds to the uncertainty.
Newswire – CF: Almost as bad as ‘legalised theft’? - A report published last week by Consumer Focus highlights serious problems in the Individual Personal Pensions (IPP) market.
The watchdog has written to the Financial Services Authority (FSA) asking that further action be taken to tackle consumer detriment in this market and to the Pensions Minister asking that Government review their policy of ‘no transfers’ into the new low cost savings scheme NEST.
The investigation carried out by Consumer Focus has identified 3 features of the individual personal pensions market which continue to cause detriment to consumers.
Consumer Focus is also keen to hear more from savers about their experiences of individual personal pension plans. If customers have switched individual personal pension plan over the last 5 years the watchdog is urging them to fill in a confidential questionnaire (The survey closes on 16 September 2011).
NHS – Confed: The ‘shocking’ thing is that we even need to have a commission to look into the issue - The NHS Confederation has joined Local Government Group (LG Group) and Age UK to establish a commission on improving dignity & care to older patients in hospitals & care homes. The commission will be jointly chaired by NHS Confederation chair Sir Keith Pearson, chair of Age UK Dianne Jeffrey, and chair of the LG Group's Community Wellbeing Board, Councillor David Rogers.
It will involve senior leaders from across health & social care coming together to take evidence from the full range of relevant groups – from specialist clinicians & healthcare leaders to patient advocacy groups – to get to the root of what needs to happen to improve care. It hopes to report its findings in spring 2012.
Press release & links
Free Public Sector Roadshow: Bringing Value and Innovation to Your Doorstep - a series of free-to-attend, one-day regional events dedicated to SAP customers and prospects in local and central government, the emergency services and healthcare.
With tour dates in Manchester, London, Bristol, Birmingham and Glasgow throughout September, we’ll be exploring how we can work more closely with you to reduce costs, improve efficiency and enhance value under two key banners: Shared Services and Management Information.
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Please note that previously published newsletters can be accessed from the Newsletter Archive
NA: The National Archives has once again expanded the database used by their PRONOM service, as part of the ongoing partnership with Georgia Tech Research Institute and the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) in the United States. The most recent collaboration has resulted in the addition of another 50 signatures, which they use to identify digital file formats.
MoD: The RAF's largest ever aircraft has been officially named Voyager after being flown by an RAF pilot at the Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford - its first public appearance. 14 Voyager aircraft and a complete support package are being provided to the RAF under a 27-year £10.5bn Private Finance Initiative contract signed with the AirTanker consortium.
It is a dual role air-to-air tanker & transport aircraft and will replace the long-serving VC10 and TriStar. It is a considerable capability boost, able to carry almost 300 troops over 6,000 miles (9,700km) and to air-to-air refuel other aircraft with 100,000 litres of fuel - greater than two large petrol tankers.
DSA: A free online service making it easy for learner drivers to find qualified instructors in their area has been launched by the Driving Standards Agency (DSA). 'Find your nearest driving instructors' lists fully qualified driving instructors who have signed up to be listed and allows users to search for instructors closest to them by typing in their postcode.
Learners will also be able to see if an instructor has signed up to the voluntary code of practice and if they are committed to continuing their professional development.
CQC: The Care Quality Commission is asking people to share their experiences of care provided by Queen’s and KingGeorgeHospitals. The CQC is conducting a full investigation into Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust and wants to hear from people who have received treatment there, or from their families or carers.
Members of the public are invited to meet with the investigations team during the week of 25-29 July and talk in confidence about their experiences. These meetings will be held at central locations across Romford and Ilford. To book an appointment please contact 03000 616161. Alternatively you can share your experiences via email or by letter, quoting reference number 1-275538421.
NA: The National Archives has released an update to its new, beta search facility. The Discovery service remains in beta, or test, form on their Labs site, but they have added an advanced search function, the first in a series of updates that will see this new service refined & improved to fully meet the needs of users before it is implemented on the NA’s main website.
They will also be holding sessions on site to demonstrate the service & invite user feedback. These will take place at Kew from 11:00-13:00 on 4 August 2011 and 14:00-16:00 on 7 September. Please email for more information and to let them know if you'd like to take part. The next release is planned for early August, and will enable users to download search results.
WAG: Significant changes to the Welsh Blue Badge scheme (that come into force on 1 August 2011) will see eligibility being extended as part of a wide-ranging plan to improve the scheme for disabled parking across Wales.
Eligibility of the Blue Badge will be extended to parents of children under 3 year old with specific medical conditions, people with disabilities in both arms and severely injured armed forces personnel & veterans. Guidance & advice to local authorities and blue badge applicants have already been issued.
WAG: Wales’ Chief Scientific Adviser, Professor John Harries, has named the scientist who will chair the review of the scientific evidence base regarding the eradication of bovine TB in Wales. Professor Christopher Gaskell will chair the panel of experts tasked with this review, and that he will report directly to the Chief Scientific Adviser. It is hoped that the report will be delivered in the autumn 2011.
OFT: Figures released by the Office of Fair Trading show that home improvements continue to top the list of complaints about doorstep rogue traders. The OFT is urging consumers, especially the elderly & vulnerable, to be on their guard against rogue traders knocking at their door.
HMRC: HM Revenue & Customs is reminding students that they may not have to pay tax on the money they make from summer jobs. Provided their total earnings for the tax year are less than the personal allowance of £7,475, they will not have to pay any tax on the money they make.
Directgov: Are you planning to get a job, internship or volunteering placement this summer? If so, Directgov can help. Thousands of jobs, volunteering and work experience placements are listed on Directgov – spend just 15 minutes searching and see what you can find.
Directgov: Scottish universities will set their own fees for students who normally live in other parts of the UKfrom 2012-13. An upper limit of £9,000 will be introduced in time for the 2013-14 academic year, and until then, Scottish universities have voluntarily agreed to follow this upper limit.
At the moment, students from the rest of the UK studying in Scotland pay £1,820 a year, or £2,895 if studying medicine. In comparison, from 2012-13 fees in England are estimated to average £8,665. To ensure Scottish universities aren’t seen as a cheap option, and to protect places for Scottish students, from 2012-13 Scottish universities will be able to set their own fees for students from the rest of the UK.
MLA: Funding to support museums, libraries & archives to run community projects that will generate materials for The People's Record) is now available. A total of £15,000 is available for grants of up to £1,000. Applications from projects that have previously received Peoples Record funding are welcome, as well as new projects. The People's Record is part of MLA's 2012 programme which aims to create a collective record of the public's response to hosting the 2012 Games.
CLG: Grant Shapps has recently welcomed a new action plan for the self build industry that he says could be the turning point that takes it to the masses. Meeting with the National Self Build Association (NaSBA), he said that for too long obstacles have led to the UK having one of the lowest proportions of new homes built by self-builders in Europe and that he wanted to see the self build industry become a mainstream housing option.
CEOP: The UK's national centre for child protection - the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre – has launched a new appeal for the public to help with locating the 25th convicted & high-risk missing child sex offender, whose details are now on CEOP’s Most Wanted website.
Policy Statements and Initiatives
Defra: Local communities are being urged to speak up for their favourite nature areas or suggest where new ones could be created in return for a share of £7.5m to help improve them. A dozen new Nature Improvement Areas (NIAs) will be established, based on the recommendations of local people.
The areas will see rural & urban sites revitalised and turned into bigger, inter-connected networks of wildlife habitats that will range from 10,000 to 50,000 hectares in size. The intention is to re-establish thriving wildlife populations and help species respond to the challenges of climate change. Initial applications will be due by autumn 2011 and more detailed second-stage application by the end of 2011.
Defra is also seeking expressions of interest from local authorities for its Biodiversity Offsetting pilot. This will help developers to follow planning system rules to make good any harm to wildlife, creating new quality habitats or make existing nature sites bigger and better for wildlife. The pilot will run for 2 years from April 2012, providing an opportunity to thoroughly test the offsetting process before a decision is made about whether it could be used across England.
BIS: Skills Minister John Hayes has pledged to provide more effective, targeted help for people who face barriers to learning the English language skills communities need. Following the publication of an equality impact assessment of provision for English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) training, which he ordered, Minister Hayes announced that BIS will work in partnership with the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) on developing new forms of support for those who need informal, community-based learning of English.
From August 2011, national provision of full funding for ESOL courses will be focussed on those actively seeking work on Jobseekers Allowance and Employment Support Allowance (Work Related Activity Group). As part of a broader move towards rebalancing the investment in skills between Government, the employer and the learner, other eligible learners or their employers will be expected to make a contribution towards the costs of their ESOL course.
DfE: Education Secretary Michael Gove has accepted all the recommendations of Lord Bew’s independent review of testing, assessment and accountability at the end of primary school. He said ‘the substantial reforms would ensure that heads, teachers, pupils & parents would be able to have confidence in the new system’.
BIS: The Prime Minister has announced that responsibility for the Land Registry, Met Office and Ordnance Survey will pass to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). The Department’s Permanent Secretary, Martin Donnelly, welcomed the move, which marks a significant step towards establishment of a Public Data Corporation (PDC), plans for which were announced by the Government in January 2011.
Final decisions on membership, structure and commercial strategy of the Public Data Corporation will be taken later this year, following a consultation on PDC data policy, due to launch over the summer.
DH: The Government will continue to develop a new value-based pricing system that will help NHS patients get better access to innovative medicines Health Secretary Andrew Lansley has confirmed. A Written Ministerial Statement has been laid in the House.
The Government’s response to the consultation - A new value-based approach to the pricing of branded medicines - sets out our intention to work with the patients, clinicians, the NHS and the pharmaceutical industry to develop a value-based pricing system that ensures that NHS patients have consistently good access to medicines that they need.
DfE: The Government has published the appointment letter for the new Ministerial Adviser on Adoption.
MoJ: A competition strategy for the management of 9 prisons and the closure of 2 prison sites has been announced recently by the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, Kenneth Clarke.
BIS: Senior experts from the fields of finance, trade & regulation have met to provide insight on the risks caused by technological advances in computer trading for investors, businesses and the public. The meeting brought together representatives from the International Monetary Fund, Bank of England, Bloomberg and Hong Kong Stock Exchange among others and was chaired by Financial Secretary to the Treasury Mark Hoban MP.
The Group will guide the latest Foresight project ‘The Future of Computer Trading in Financial Markets’. The project aims to make a contribution to the efficiency, integrity and resilience of financial markets by identifying options for policy makers in the UK and internationally.
DH: Plans to transform the care, quality of life & health outcomes for millions of people with respiratory disease have been announced by Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley. Respiratory diseases represent a major problem in England for patients & the NHS. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is thought to affect more than 3m people in England and more than 5m people currently receive treatment for Asthma.
DCMS: A new framework which will allow local television services to be created across the UK was published last week by Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media & Sport Jeremy Hunt. The Government is committed to acting to address the technical & commercial barriers to developing new local TV provision broadcast on Freeview – the digital terrestrial television (DTT) platform.
To make it feasible, Mr Hunt is announcing that a package of geographic interleaved spectrum will be allocated and managed by a new licensed multiplex company. This company will be obliged to build & operate the necessary multiplexes to carry separately licensed local TV services. As previously announced, the infrastructure costs will be met from £25m allocated as part of the television licence fee settlement.
WAG: Wales’ Transport Minister, Carl Sargeant, has announced that sustainable transport is to get a boost across Wales by confirming that sustainable travel centres will be allocated £6m over the next year. These centres deliver a range of measures that encourage people to consider using alternatives to the car – such as walking, cycling and public transport.
DCMS: Plans to give Londoners & the Mayor a bigger say in the running of the Capital’s eight Royal Parks were set out last week by Heritage Minister John Penrose in a Written Ministerial Statement.
CO: Plans to create an expensive database of electors are to be abandoned saving taxpayers more than £11m, the Government announced last week. The Co-ordinated Online Record of Electors (CORE) was legislated for in 2006 by the Electoral Administration Act and intended to make it easier for political parties to verify the legitimacy of their donors. The database, which would have been administered by a new independent public body, would have cost an estimated £11.4m to build and £2.7m per annum to run.
IS: Business Minister Edward Davey has published the Government’s response to the ‘call for evidence’ concerning its review of debt advice & personal insolvency.
HMT: A plan to deliver at least £1.5bn savings across the 495 operational Private Finance Initiative (PFI) projects in England has been announced. The plans follow pilot projects, which have confirmed savings opportunities of around 5% of annual payments.
A team of PFI experts and specialist negotiators will be drawn from across Government to work around the country to deliver savings. Updated guidance & advice on how savings can be made will be published on the Treasury website to support all PFI contract holders.
DH: NHS patients will have more freedom to choose where they go for their healthcare from April 2012, Health Secretary Andrew Lansley announced last week. To date, choice has only been available in non-urgent hospital care, but new guidance sets out that the choice offer will be extended to community & mental health services for the first time.
Following advice from patient groups, clinicians and voluntary organisations, there are 8 services that have been recommended as the most suitable.
The Department of Health has published 2 documents:
* guidance on how the NHS will deliver greater choice
* the Government response to the consultation on the policy delivering this; Any Qualified Provider (AQP)
HMT: The Government will start formal consultations on increasing public service pension contributions in 2012-13 by the end of this month, Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander said last week, as he set out plans for talks on reform to continue into the autumn.
DfE: Early years qualifications are to be reviewed to make sure they are sufficiently rigorous & high quality, Children’s Minister Sarah Teather announced last week as part of wider reforms to early education. The Government has also confirmed that 9 local authorities will be the first to trial payment by results for children’s centres. They will test rewards for reaching the most vulnerable families, improving family health & wellbeing, and raising attainment of children at age 5.
DfE: The Department for Education has launched its review of personal, social, health & economic (PSHE) education, as outlined in the Schools White Paper. The internal review, which will report to the Secretary of State, will look at the quality of teaching of PSHE in schools, along with its content. Heads, teachers, parents, pupils and other interested parties are invited to submit their views & evidence to the Department.
Defra: Defra’s draft National Policy Statement on the provision of major new infrastructure for Hazardous Waste has been published for consultation (closing on 20 October 2011). The draft Policy Statement is one of a series being drawn up under the Planning Act 2008. The objective of the Act is to provide a more streamlined system for obtaining development consent for new major infrastructure and will provide a greater degree of certainty to potential developers.
EU News: A public consultation (closes on 9 September 2011) on access to, and preservation of, digital scientific information has been launched by the European Commission. European researchers, engineers & entrepreneurs must have easy & fast access to scientific information, to compete on an equal footing with their counterparts across the world.
Modern digital infrastructures can play a key role in facilitating access. However, a number of challenges remain, such as high and rising subscription prices to scientific publications, an ever-growing volume of scientific data, and the need to select, curate and preserve research outputs. Open access, defined as free access to scholarly content over the Internet, can help address this. Scientists, research funding organisations, universities, and other interested parties are invited to send their contributions.
FSA: A Russian company has applied to the Food Standards Agency for approval to market taxifolin as a novel food ingredient. The Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes (ACNFP), an independent committee of scientists appointed by the FSA, has now considered this application and has prepared a draft initial opinion.
Any comments on the draft opinion should be emailed to the ACNFP secretariat by Monday 25 July 2011. The comments will be considered by the committee before it finalises its opinion on this novel food ingredient.
FSA: A company from the United States has applied to the Food Standards Agency for approval to market phosphated distarch phosphate as a novel food ingredient. The Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes (ACNFP) has now considered this application and has prepared a draft initial opinion.
Any comments on the draft opinion should be emailed to the ACNFP secretariat by Monday 25 July 2011. The comments will be considered by the committee before it finalises its opinion on this novel food ingredient.
MoJ: Making squatting an offence for the first time, sending persistent offenders to prison and abolishing so-called ‘squatters rights’ are among a range of proposals put forward as part of a new Government consultation - ‘Options for dealing with squatting’ (closes on 5 October 2011). Legislation will be brought before Parliament following the conclusion of the consultation, if deemed necessary.
Alongside plans to consult on squatting the Ministry of Justice also announced last month, as part of its proposals for reform of civil legal aid, plans to stop squatters getting legal aid to fight eviction. The Government is clear that legal aid should be targeted at those most in need and does not consider it sensible for the taxpayer to provide funding for individuals who have clearly entered & remained on the property or site as a trespasser.
CLG: Local Government Secretary, Eric Pickles published proposals to allow the local retention of business rates by councils and to let them borrow against future rate income. Legislation will be set out later this year so changes start as soon as possible.
The consultation (closes on 24 October 2011) is the outcome of a review into local government funding that sought to repatriate rates; create a financial incentive for councils to promote local growth; reduce dependency upon central Government grant; and maintain protections for business and vulnerable areas.
DH: One person dies every 2 hours as a result of suicide in England and a new consultation on preventing suicide has been launched by the Care Services Minister, Paul Burstow. Bereaved families & experts in general practice, local government, transport, mental health & criminal justice will all help to inform a new strategy to be published in the New Year. The consultation closes on 11 October 2011.
The suicide strategy will place a new emphasis on family members. This means working with relatives to prevent a vulnerable person taking their own life and better supporting those who have been bereaved following a suicide. Consultation responses will inform the final strategy, in early 2012.
DfE: The Secretary of State for Education has set out how the Government will ensure that education funding is better targeted in the future. A copy of the statement is available to download. In addition, a new school rebuilding programme has been launched, which will be targeted at those schools in the worst condition. Information will be available shortly from Partnerships for Schools.
The recommendations of Sebastian James’s review on school building will be broadly accepted subject to a thorough consultation process on details & implementation. This consultation has now been launched (closes on Tuesday 11 October 2011).
Also a new consultation has been launched seeking views on proposals for a new, fairer & more transparent school funding system (closes on Tuesday 11 October 2011). The current funding system for maintained schools will continue in 2012-13.
A consultation has been launched with Local Authorities only about LACSEG academy funding, to ensure that the rapid growth in academy numbers is funded fairly and to ensure that local authorities are not double funded for services they no longer provide (closes on 16 August 2011).
DfE: The Department for Education has announced that only the highest quality qualifications will be included in new, transparent school league tables. From 2014 only GCSEs & valued vocational qualifications that meet strict new criteria will be recognised in the tables. All these qualifications will count equally. At the moment, some qualifications are worth as much as 6 GCSEs in the tables.
Schools will retain the freedom to offer any qualification approved for 14- to 16-year-olds. Teachers will still be able to use their professional judgement to offer the qualifications which they believe are right for their pupils. But only the most rigorous will count in league tables.
A consultation (closes on Friday 30 September 2011) will help define the rules governing high-quality qualifications. The DfE propose that all full-course GCSEs, established iGCSEs and AS levels should continue to count in the tables.
Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides
Newswire – CIPD: The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), with the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW), have launched the Government’s Common Best Practice Code for High-Quality Internships. It is designed as a guideline for organisations seeking to ensure fair, open and high-quality internships as a means of improving social mobility and enabling organisations to access wider talent pools.
The event also launched Professions for Good (P4G), a group of professional bodies representing over 1m professionals worldwide from the human resources, legal, accountancy, property & engineering professions. It aims to further understanding of the professions’ contribution to the UK economy & society and the importance of fair access to these professions to ensure the recruitment of top talent (regardless of background).
HMT: The Chief Secretary to the Treasury and the Minister for the Cabinet Office have published a new Code for corporate governance which will apply to central government departments and will help enhance their transparency & accountability.
DH: A new resource to ‘support clinical commissioning groups in designing and purchasing high quality dementia services’ was launched last week by Care Services, Minister Paul Burstow. The dementia commissioning pack provides a set of tools & templates for health & local authority commissioners, helping them to design services that are suited to local needs and are cost effective.
It supports planning across the whole spectrum of dementia, from early diagnosis to end of life care, together with guidance on how to reduce the inappropriate use of antipsychotic medication.
Newswire – FRC: The Accounting Standards Board (ASB) and Auditing Practices Board (APB) of the Financial Reporting Council (FRC) have reconfirmed that the true & fair view remains of fundamental importance in both UK GAAP and IFRS. A paper published for preparers & auditors explains the continuing primacy of the true and fair requirement and its relevance to preparers, those charged with governance and auditors.
EMA: The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has announced new guidelines for the use of pioglitazone, which can be found in the medicines Actos, Glustin, Competact, Glubrava and Tandemact. Actos is used along with diet & exercise to control blood glucose levels in adults with Type 2 diabetes. The announcement follows recent studies which indicate a small increased risk of developing bladder cancer.
FSA: The Food Standards Agency has changed its precautionary advice to consumers following the recent outbreaks of E. coli O104:H4 in Germany and France linked to sprouted seeds. Consumers are advised to follow the on-pack instructions. Caterers are also advised that they should source their supplies of sprouted seeds from producers that have recognised food safety and quality control systems in place.
EH: English Heritage's Annual Report and Accounts were laid before Parliament recently. In addition to the accounts, the Annual Report & Accounts includes the Chief Executive's report on the year, easy to use charts showing the year in numbers and for the first time, English Heritage's performance against various sustainability indicators.
PB: The Parole Board for England & Wales has published its Annual Report and Accounts for 2010/11, reporting on its performance against business plan targets, statistics for determinate sentence and indeterminate sentence prisoners and accounts for the year.
CSC: The Civil Service Commission has published its annual report for 2010-11 which details the Commission's role in regulating appointments to the Civil Service to ensure they are made on merit on the basis of fair & open competition.
The report also outlines the work of the Commission in hearing appeals under the Civil Service Code - the ethical code that is part of the terms and conditions of employment of all civil servants.
NAO: Amyas Morse, the Comptroller and Auditor General has qualified his audit opinion on the 2010-11 accounts of the Ministry of Defence owing to material error arising from adopting accounting policies which do not fully comply with International Financial Reporting Standards.
He has also limited the scope of his audit opinion on the grounds of inadequacy of evidence to support the accounting for certain expenditure and balances in the financial statements
NAO: Amyas Morse, the Comptroller & Auditor General, has not been able to give a clear audit opinion on the 2010-11 accounts of the Skills Funding Agency in relation to how the Agency has accounted for further education colleges.
The audit opinion of the C&AG is that, under International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), further education colleges should be treated as subsidiaries of the Agency and therefore their financial results should have been consolidated in the Agency’s statements. The C&AG has therefore concluded that the Agency’s accounts do not present a true & fair view.
NAO: The head of the National Audit Office, the Comptroller and Auditor General, has qualified the 2010-11 accounts of the Department for Work and Pensions. The Department’s accounts have been qualified every year since 1988-89.
The latest accounts have been qualified because of the material level of fraud & error in expenditure on state benefits (except for the State Pension which has a low level of error). The total of overpayments made by DWP, due to fraud and error, is an estimated £3.3bn (or 2.1% of total expenditure on benefits administered by the DWP of £153.6bn).
CCRC: The Criminal Cases Review Commission has recently published its Annual Report and Accounts for 2010/11. The Annual Report sets out the Commission’s assessment of its performance in 2010/11 and publishes the accounts of the organisation which was set up to investigate alleged miscarriages of justice.
PC&PE: The events of the 'Arab Spring' should stand as a reminder to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) that failing to take a stronger & more consistent stance against human rights violations by overseas regimes can carry risks for the UK, says the Foreign Affairs Committee in its Report on the department's 2010-11 human rights work, published last week.
NAO: Amyas Morse, the Comptroller and Auditor General, has qualified the respective accounts of theDepartment for Environment, Food and Rural Affairsand theRural Payments Agency.
Newswire – HPA: Digital mapping techniques have enabled the Health Protection Agency and British Geological Survey to produce a new radon map of Scotland. Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas which seeps up from the ground and is the second largest cause of lung cancer in the UK.
The new technique has led HPA scientists to estimate that between 2,000 and 5,000 Scottish homes could have radon concentrations above the radon action level where work would be recommended to protect occupants - a rise on the numbers predicted in the 2009 map.
WAG: Steady progress has been made on implementing the Welsh Government’s Welsh-medium Education Strategy, according to the first annual report published last week. The Strategy, published last year, aims to develop effective Welsh-medium provision from nursery through to further & higher education, and has a detailed action plan & specific outcome targets.
General Reports and Other Publications
TKF: Many NHS hospitals will struggle to deliver productivity improvements essential to maintaining quality and avoiding significant cuts to services, according to the latest quarterly monitoring report on NHS performance published by The King’s Fund.
CQC: The Care Quality Commission has published details of the enforcement action it has taken against Castlebeck Care (Teesdale) Ltd which failed to protect the safety & welfare of patients at Winterbourne View. The effect of this action is that the assessment & treatment centre near Bristol has been closed.
IfL: The Institute for Learning (IfL) has published a statement confirming that members who do not pay their subscription by the due date will cause their membership to lapse, but that this will not amount to a breach of the Code of Professional Practice.
Newswire – NHSConfed: The NHS Confederation last week welcomed the Government's changes to its public health proposals, but remains concerned about issues such as health premiums and the commissioning of sexual health & children's services.
The Government's updated vision for a future Public Health Service was set out on 14 July with the publication of Healthy Lives, Healthy People: Update and Way Forward, which builds on proposals set out in the November 2010 white paper.
PC&PE: MPs on the Commons Treasury Committee are calling on the Financial Services Agency (FSA) to delay implementing new rules on the provision of financial advice for 12 months to allow advisers more time to comply.
The committee backed plans to ban commission on advised sales and impose higher professional standards on independent financial advisers, subject to flexibility on a case-by-case basis, but were concerned that a substantial exodus of experienced advisers from the market could harm consumer choice.
BHF: The Government has published a new report that outlines how the UK can maintain its position as a leader in the field of regenerative medicine. The Government outlines 10 actions it will take to support the research sector, including providing more help to get innovative regenerative medicines to patients and developing a national strategy to support the sector in the long-term.
NO: 3 Lambeth Council tenants experienced significant delays & inconvenience because of delay in putting right serious disrepair in their homes, finds Local Government Ombudsman, Dr Jane Martin. In her report, she says “the tenants have received a very poor service since they raised their concerns” and added “Even when some delay was unavoidable, there have been problems with the Council’s communication with all three tenants.”
STFC: The House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee has published the STFC and Department for Business Innovation & Skills (BIS) responses to its Fourth Report of Session 2010-12: Astronomy and Particle Physics.
CQC: The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has told Dolphin Court Care Home in Havant that it must take swift action to improve services at the home. Following visits in June 2011, CQC inspectors found that the care provided fell short of the essential standards of quality & safety people should be able to expect from a care home.
NICE: The Government must invest in gathering more evidence about what measures work to influence population behaviour change, according to a report by the House of Lords Science and Technology Sub-Committee. The report - Behaviour Change - investigates the way the Government tries to influence people's behaviour using behaviour change interventions.
FSA: The Food Standards Agency has published an update on the sweeteners steviol glycosides. The European Union is currently examining whether the sweetners should be authorised for use in food. Earlier this month, member states voted in favour of a European Commission proposal to authorise steviol glycosides in a range of foods.
NAO: The complexity of the formulae used by government departments to provide funding to local public bodies is partly down to the nature of the services being funded, and partly to the fact that the formulae attempt to achieve multiple objectives, according to a report published by the National Audit Office. The different approaches to formula funding have evolved over time, but key choices in the design & operation of the formulae remain open to question.
NAO: HM Revenue & Customs faces a significant challenge in securing a £1.6bn reduction in running costs over the next 4 years, at the same time as increasing tax revenues, improving customer service and achieving reductions in welfare payments, according to a report by the National Audit Office.
CH: According to a new Chatham House / YouGov Survey, the UK public overwhelmingly believes that the coalition government has changed UK foreign policy for the worse. There is also scepticism about interventionism, with nearly half of all respondents saying Britain should not involve itself in any way in uprisings like those in Egypt & Libya. Voters said that the ‘government is contributing too much to the EU and overseas aid which doesn't enhance security and well-being’.
IFS: New research published by researchers at the Institute for Fiscal Studies finds little or no evidence that marriage itself has any effect on children’s social or cognitive development.
PC&PE: The Government allocated funding for student support for 16-18 year olds for 2011-12 far too late to allow students to make informed decisions, says the Education Select Committee in a report published last week.
The Committee’s report on participation by 16-19 year olds in education and training accepts that changes to student support needed to be made, but says that the delay in deciding on allocations and the guiding principles for distribution should not have been allowed to happen.
PC&PE: The Public Administration Select Committee (PASC) has published an ‘evaluation of Whitehall departments’ plans for structural change in response to the twin challenges of major public service reform and significantly reduced administrative budgets’.
The committee expresses concern that the centre of Government, notably the Treasury and the Cabinet Office, is ‘providing neither strategic leadership nor a governance framework to departments in managing their change programmes’.
ESRC: A new study suggests young people with a serious genetic blood disorder are ‘not getting the right help at school, especially pupils who miss lessons due to sickness’. Research funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) at De Montfort University, the University of York and LoughboroughUniversity reveals that most children with sickle cell disease (SCD) do not feel supported by schools in catching up on absences from class.
PC&PE: The Joint Committee on Human Rights have published a report on the Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures Bill. In the report the Joint Committee says that:
* the overriding priority of public policy in the area of terrorism prevention should be the criminal prosecution of individuals who are suspected of involvement in terrorist activity; and that
* recognition of the difficulties of prosecuting some dangerous individuals does not require acceptance of the need for a new regime which is essentially a watered down version of control orders
ESRC: Following the victory of the Scottish National Party (SNP) in the recent Scottish elections on 5 May 2011, a unique in-depth survey of the entire SNP membership conducted throughout 2008, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) reveals 87% wanted Scottish independence, with 65% of the SNP preferring independence as part of the European Union and 22% outside the EU, and 12% wanted more powers for the Scottish Parliament.
The survey of SNP members also revealed a party dominated by men (only 32% are women) and an average age of 59. Fewer than 8% of SNP members were below 35 and were considerably outnumbered by those over 75 at the time of the survey.
PC&PE: The credit rating agencies are not to blame for the eurozone's debt crisis says the Lords EU Economic and Financial Affairs and International Trade Sub-Committee in a new report, Sovereign Credit Ratings: Shooting the Messenger?
HMIC: A report by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary, ‘Adapting to Austerity’, found that authorities & forces have made a good start in developing plans for the next 4 years, but they ‘need to transform their efficiency if they are to succeed in sustaining services while cutting costs’.
However, HMIC found that protecting the frontline will be very challenging over the next 18 months as two thirds of the cuts to central government funding fall within the first two CSR years (2011/12 & 2012/13). Forces will have to transform their efficiency if they are to protect frontline services. HMIC is also publishing alongside this report; 'Police Numbers and Crime Rates – A rapid evidence review'.
ACE: The Arts Council has published Supporting growth in the arts economy, a think piece by Tom Fleming Creative Consultancy which will inform ACE policy around the arts & the creative economy. Within the series of 3 papers, Tom Fleming & Andrew Erskine illustrate synergies between the arts & the creative economy and discuss suggestions for the Arts Council's approach.
ESRC: Parents struggling to combine paid work with bringing up their children now have some positive news thanks to a new study funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) on maternal employment & child socio-emotional behaviour in the UK. The research shows that there are no significant detrimental effects on a child’s social or emotional development if their mothers work during their early years.
IISS: North Korea’s growing arsenal & provocative behaviour increase the risk that eventually somebody will be goaded to retaliate, according to a new in-depth report from the International Institute for Strategic Studies.
CBI: The CBI has called on the Government to ‘harness the potential of information technology to transform public services’. In a new report System Reset: Transforming public services through IT, the CBI says that making better use of technology could make accessing public services easier for the public & businesses, while saving taxpayers’ money.
IT can also revolutionise frontline service delivery and should not be viewed as just a support function, as the Open Public Services White Paper recognises.
Legislation / Legal
LC: The Law Commission has published its 11th Programme of Law Reform, which will form a substantial part of their work for the next 3 years.
PC&PE: Rules governing taxis and private hire vehicles need urgent & wholesale reform, say a cross-party group of MPs. The problems posed by taxis & private hire vehicles (PHVs) operating outside of the district in which they are licensed – the phenomenon called 'cross-border hire' – cannot be solved without new legislation says the Commons Transport Select Committee in a report published last week.
PC&PE: The UK needs a clear & consistent process to make governments accountable for the constitutional changes they introduce says the House of Lords Constitution Committee. In its report on the Process of Constitutional Change, the committee says that ‘it is not acceptable that the UK has no agreed process for constitutional change when the constitution is the foundation upon which law and government are built’.
The committee's report sets out a ‘comprehensive package’ of processes which governments should follow to ensure it meets these standards, including publishing green & white papers & draft bills, and considering the detail of proposed changes in Cabinet committee.
PC&PE: The House of Lords Constitution Committee has published its report on the Scotland Bill, which would modify the finances of the Scottish Parliament, including a new Scottish rate of income tax, as well as making a number of adjustments to the boundary of devolved responsibilities. The Bill is due to have its second reading in the Lords on 8 September 2011.
EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.
EU News: The European Commission calls on EU Member States to develop & pursue a common vision on how to coordinate research at EU level in the field of ageing. This was the message of a Recommendation just adopted by the Commission entitled "More years, better lives - the potential and challenges of demographic change".
The Recommendation urges Member States to participate in a Joint Programming Initiative on ageing populations in research areas such as how to retain people in the labour market, how to help older people remain active for as long as possible, in good health &with a better quality of life and how to make our future care systems sustainable.
EU News: Better air quality is on the way, thanks to proposals from the European Commission to lower the sulphur content of shipping fuels. The proposals should reduce sulphur dioxide emissions by up to 90 %, and fine particle emissions by up to 80 %.
EU News: The European Commission has proposed to revise the tachograph legislation to make full use of new technological opportunities such as satellite positioning. This will make fraud more difficult & reduce the administrative burden, which is expected to save companies €515m per year.
EU News: The European Commission has brought forward proposals to change the behaviour of the 8,000 banks that operate in Europe. The overarching goal of this proposal is to strengthen the resilience of the EU banking sector while ensuring that banks continue to finance economic activity & growth.
EU News: Will the EU have binding standards for managing radioactive waste in the EU? Including final repositories for nuclear waste from nuclear power plants? Will Member States have to notify detailed programmes on when and how they will build these repositories?
The answer to all these questions is: ‘Yes’. The Council has adopted the ‘radioactive waste and spent fuel management directive’, proposed by the Commission on 3rd November 2010. With this adoption, the Directive will enter into force at the latest in September 2011, and Member States have to submit the first national programmes in 2015.
All EU Member States produce radioactive waste, generated by numerous activities, such as electricity production, medicine, research, industry and agriculture. 14 out of 27 Member States have nuclear reactors which generate also spent fuel.
EU News: The European Commission has approved funding for 183 new projects under the LIFE+ programme, the European Union's environment fund. The projects involve all EU Member States and cover actions in the fields of nature conservation, climate change, clean technology, environmental policy and information and communication on environmental issues. Overall, they represent a total investment of some €530m, of which the EU will provide €244m.
EU News: As from last week, new EU rules for toys are in force to fulfil the highest safety requirements worldwide. With the entry into force, the new Toys Directive, all actors involved in the production, selling & control of toys on the EU market will get more responsibilities to better protect children. The EU Commission has also prepared a guide with recommendations for consumers on how to protect their children from toy-related risks.
EU News: The Task Force on maritime employment & competitiveness has delivered its report containing recommendations for possible future measures for the shipping industry.
In its report, the Task Force provides recommendations on topics such as the regulatory framework, ranging from recruitment, training, career paths, working & living conditions on board including access to new technologies, legal & administrative treatment of seafarers, the piracy threat, state aid and employment.
EU News: The ban on heavy metals and other dangerous chemicals in electrical & electronic equipment has now been extended to a much wider range of products, with new rules entering into force last week, which will improve the safety of electronic products such as thermostats, medical devices & control panels, and will prevent the release of hazardous substances into the environment. Member States have 18 months to transpose the new rules.
EU News: Africa’s first specialist rural microfinance fund supporting fair trade & organic small business, FEFISOL, the European Solidarity Financing Fund for Africa, was launched last week. The €15m FEFISOL fund will provide much needed microfinance funds for poor rural households across Africa and help finance small scale investment in agricultural activities. It is expected to double in size by 2013 and will assist microfinance institutions that help poor households in rural areas where no formal lending exists.
Charity and Voluntary Sector
ScotGov: Scotland's third sector has been given a 'massive boost' with the launch of 2 new programmes to help enterprising organisations grow & operate more efficiently. The £3m Just Enterprise programme will deliver a wide range of business support to social entrepreneurs and third sector organisations across Scotland. It will lead to the creation of an online hub where organisations can go for support and assistance.
A further £4m will be provided through the Enterprise Growth Fund, which will see grants of between £25,000 & £200,000 awarded to enterprising third sector organisations with the most sustainable & ambitious business plans.
BHF: BHF-funded scientists at the University of Edinburgh have shown that tiny particles in diesel exhaust can increase the chances of a clot forming in blood vessels. When a clot forms in one of the blood vessels supplying our heart with oxygen, it can cause a heart attack.
The study also showed that the tiny ‘nanoparticles’ in diesel fumes – which are less than a millionth of a metre wide – stopped blood vessels from relaxing & contracting properly, a key part of keeping them free from disease.
AUK: New research from Age UK and the Pensions Policy Institute maps out the fastest way to reduce pensioner poverty by projecting the effect different government policies will have on older people. One in six pensioners (1.8m) still live in poverty and although numbers have been falling over the last 3 decades in the UK, figures show that since 2005 levels have remained steady.
The PPI research shows that if the current policies remain in place including the 'triple lock' guarantee then the percentage of pensioners living in poverty will fall to 14% in 2017 and 11% by 2025. Government proposals for a single tier state pension for future pensioners would cut pensioner poverty rate to 10% by 2025.
CO: A new £30m Big Society fund to help modernise organisations that supply critical support to front-line charities, voluntary groups and social enterprises has recently opened for applications. Interested organisations should register online by 5 August 2011. Further information is available on the Big Lottery Fund website. The Transforming Local Infrastructure Programme is managed by Big Fund, the non-lottery arm of the Big Lottery Fund, which has pledged a further £20m for infrastructure development in the future.
There are over 2,000 infrastructure organisations which provide services from advice to volunteer recruitment to charities in England. This support is critical particularly for small local charities & voluntary groups and the funding will help them join up services to avoid duplication & develop more effective online resources
BHF: The Government’s aim to ‘nudge’ people in to being healthier needs to be coupled with regulation, according to a new report. The Behaviour Change report, by the Lords’ Science and Technology Sub-Committee, concludes that nudging needs to be part of a package of measures, which include regulation, to help bring about healthy changes in behaviour.
HO: Two new funds totalling £14m are being made available to the voluntary sector to empower communities to take action against crime and antisocial behaviour. The funds are:
* A £5m 'Community Action Against Crime: Innovation Fund'
* A £4 million 'Choices Fund'
HMT: Coastal communities across the UK will receive a multi-million pound boost each year from a new Coastal Communities Fund, the Chancellor and Chief Secretary to the Treasury, announced last week. This new fund will be financed by the Government through the allocation of funding equivalent to 50% of the revenues from the Crown Estate’s marine activities.
For each country of the UK, the funds available will be directly linked to the revenues raised by the Crown Estate’s marine activities from that area, with separate funding for England, Wales, Northern Ireland, the Highlands & Islands and the rest of Scotland. The fund will be available on a bid basis and the Government is in discussion with the Big Fund, part of the Big Lottery Fund, about the detailed terms on which they could deliver the funds to communities.
Business and Other Briefings
CO: The Minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude, has renewed the government’s pledge to increase support for Britain’s SMEs by ‘calling on big business to follow the Government’s lead and pay their bills promptly’.
He made the call at last week’s Innovation Launch Pad Product Surgery, a special event organised to enable some of Britain’s most innovative and pioneering SMEs to pitch their ideas direct to Government buyers. 9 trailblazing SMEs were chosen for the event – the culmination of a process involving over 2,000 civil servants voting on ideas submitted by 350 SMEs.
WAG: Small retailers should find it easy to manage Wales’s carrier bag charge when it comes into force in October 2011, following an announcement by Environment Minister, John Griffiths. As of 1 October 2011, shoppers in Wales will have to pay a minimum of 5p for every carrier bag they are given, in an effort to dramatically cut down on the excessive number of bags given out each year.
The charge will also mean that retailers in Wales will be obliged to keep a record of the number of bags they issue and account for how proceeds from the carrier charge are used. However, following feedback from the Federation of Small Businesses and other organisations representing the business sector, the Environment Minister has decided that retailers with a headcount of less than 10 would ‘have limited administrative resource and therefore should be exempt from record keeping around the charge’.
This brief explains the HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) position following the First Tier Tribunal decision in Paymex Ltd (Case ref (2011) UKFTT 350).
WAG: Wales’ first full scale tidal stream energy generator has been given the go-ahead following a £6.4m EU funding boost, First Minister Carwyn Jones has announced. The funding will enable the unique £11m DeltaStream device, which will generate clean electricity from the tides off the West Wales coast, to be manufactured ready for installation in 2012.
The device will be sited in Ramsay Sound, Pembrokeshire, and during the 12-month demonstration period will provide a sustainable source of electricity to the people of St Davids.
Ofcom: Millions of homes & businesses in rural parts of the UK could receive better value broadband servicesby the end of 2011. This follows Ofcom’s decision to ‘reduce significantly the prices that BT Wholesale can charge internet service providers (ISPs) in primarily rural, less densely populated areas’. The price reduction will be 12% below inflation per year and will apply to services provided using BT’s wholesale broadband network.
Ofcom expects these price cuts to generate more competition between retail ISPs and to lead to cheaper retail prices which will benefit consumers. The changes may also lead to better quality services by enabling ISPs to allocate more bandwidth per customer which could deliver faster broadband services. The charge controls will come into effect by mid August 2011.
MoD: Scientists from the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), together with industry & academia, have put on show equipment which could one day be deployed to front line troops. The exhibition took place last week at Defence Equipment and Support's (DE&S's) headquarters at Abbey Wood in Bristol and was made up of equipment which ‘aims to reduce the burden on the dismounted soldier without reducing effectiveness’.
MoD: British Defence Minister Peter Luff and French Délégué Général Laurent Collet-Billon hosted the inaugural UK-France Industry Day in London last week to forge closer ties between the two key allies and their military markets.
The event, attended by more than 30 defence companies at prime, sub-contractor and SME levels, provided a forum for both governments to engage with industry and discuss issues relevant to last November's Franco-British Treaty.
LDA: The London Development Agency, in partnership with Newham Council, has begun the formal recruitment of development partners for its Royal Docks sites at Silvertown Quays and the Royal Albert Dock. The 2 sites, covering 85 acres of land, provide a unique opportunity for the successful bidders to create world class developments and shape the future of the Royal Docks.
The selection process began with the launch of a formal Pre-Qualification Questionnaire, published in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU). The marketing campaign is being managed by Knight Frank on Silvertown Quays and Drivers Jonas Deloitte on the Royal Albert Dock site.
BIS: Visiting JaguarLand Rover in the Midlands, Prime Minister David Cameron has announced details of a £25m fund that will support up to 10,000 Advanced & Higher Apprenticeships, giving firms in sectors such as advanced manufacturing, information technology and engineering the hi-tech skills they need to grow.
The Higher Apprenticeships Fund will support the expansion of apprenticeships up to degree equivalent in companies, particularly SMEs, where there is unmet demand for the higher level skills that are necessary to create additional jobs & growth. Industry representatives are invited to bid to the fund, which will be delivered via the National Apprenticeship Service. The new apprenticeships will commence from October 2011.
STFC: The Futures Programme of the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) and the British Institute of Radiology (BIR) are holding a joint workshop on cancer care research. The purpose of this workshop is to bring together the cancer care community and the research community funded by STFC in areas where there is significant potential for STFC to contribute, & begin the formation of collaborative research partnerships.
The number of workshop participants will be limited to 100 and they aim at achieving a balance between the cancer community and the research community. If you have not done so already, please register your interest and contact Dr Sharmila Banerjee by 1 September 2011.
WSL: WorldSkills London 2011 – the world’s largest international skills Competition – comes to the UK this year for the first time in 22 years. Around 150,000 visitors are expected to attend the Competition, which takes place from 5 - 8 October 2011 at ExCeL London.
Visitors will be able to see 1,000 talented young people from across the globe battle it out to be the world’s best in 46 different skills competitions – ranging from mobile robotics, computer-aided design and engineering to landscape gardening.
In the lead up to the event, the WorldSkills London 2011 ‘Have a Go’ campaign aims to provide 1m opportunities for people across the to try a new skill. Have a Go is a fun, interactive way of getting people involved in skills, culminating in a 3-week skills festival from 19 September to 9 October 2011.
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