In the News
Please note that the WGPlus newsletter is taking its summer break and the next scheduled publication date will be on Monday 5 September 2011.
RUSI: As the summer flooding season starts - A new Lloyd's report in co-operation with the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) examines how insurers & key stakeholders can work together to improve flood resilience, response & recovery.
Flooding occupies a prominent position on the UK's National Risk Register and, as such, the impact it has on the UK is of interest to the resilience, climate security & emergency management research programmes undertaken by RUSI.
Recent work with insurance company Lloyds's has explored the impact of flooding on the insurance industry and to provide guidance to insurers on flood risk management.
This work has resulted in the report Flood Resilience, Response and Recovery produced by Lloyd's in co-operation with RUSI, following a workshop in May 2011. The report examines how insurers & key stakeholders can work together to improve flood resilience, response and recovery.
BIS: It’s a downloadable future - The Government has announced plans to support economic growth by modernising UK intellectual property laws. Ministers have accepted the recommendations made in an independent review which estimate a potential benefit to the UK economy of up to £7.9bn.
The recommendations were made in May 2011 by Professor Ian Hargreaves in his report, - ‘Digital Opportunity: A review of intellectual property and growth’. Modernising intellectual property law is a key action from the Government’s Plan for Growth, published in March 2011 alongside the Budget, which will ‘help create the right conditions for businesses to invest, grow and create jobs’.
Alongside the Government response, a new intellectual property crime strategy and international strategy for intellectual property have been published. The Department for Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) has also laid out the next steps for implementing the mass notification system in the Digital Economy Act. This involves letters being sent to internet account holders when their internet connection has been identified as linked to unlawfully shared copyright material.
A report by Ofcom, which is also published, identifies a risk of the system being overwhelmed by vexatious appeals from people determined to disrupt the system. Government expects that a £20 fee should deter appeals without deterring genuine appeals.
PC&PE: It’s the old ‘songs’ that we keep hearing again & again - The Commons Public Accounts Committee has published a report which, on the basis of evidence from the Department of Health and its contractors BT and Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC), examines the delivery of care records systems under the National Programme for IT in the NHS.
The Rt Hon Margaret Hodge MP, Chair of the Committee of Public Accounts, said:
"The Department of Health is not going to achieve its original aim of a fully integrated care records system across the NHS. Trying to create a one-size-fits-all system in the NHS was a massive risk and has proven to be unworkable.
The Department has been unable to demonstrate what benefits have been delivered from the £2.7 billion spent on the project so far. It should now urgently review whether it is worth continuing with the remaining elements of the care records system. The £4.3 billion which the Department expects to spend might be better used to buy systems that are proven to work, that are good value for money and which deliver demonstrable benefits to the NHS”.
PC&PE: The problem is that there could be no one left to say ‘Can Do’ - The Defence Committee is not convinced that, given the current financial climate and the drawdown of capabilities arising from the Strategic Defence and Security Review, UK Armed Forces will be able do what is asked of them after 2015.
The report notes mounting concern that ‘UK Armed Forces may be falling below the minimum utility required to deliver the commitments that they are currently being tasked to carry out let alone the tasks they are likely to face between 2015 to 2020 when it is acknowledged that there will be capability gaps’. The committee is concerned that UK Armed Forces will be continually operating at the maximum level envisaged by the Defence Planning Assumptions
CRC: Still looking after rural interests - The first issue of the newsletter from the Commission for Rural Communities has been published. It continues to operate their 3 statutory functions of advice, advocacy & watchdog, providing Ministers with an independent view of issues facing rural communities. Their business plan for 2011-12 includes a number of exciting projects, and their Chairman & Commissioners are continuing to make a difference to Government thinking over matters such as upland communities, housing and planning, and the rural economy.
If you’re involved in a voluntary organisation delivering services for older people, they would be interested to know how you are meeting the challenge of organisational & financial changes, by taking part in their survey.
Directgov: Could this be a way to get an EU referendum? - A new website that lets you petition the government online has gone live. Any petition that gets more than 100,000 signatures will be eligible for debate in Parliament. It is hoped the e-petitions site will make petitions a useful democratic tool, and encourage more people to get involved in politics.
Once you have submitted your e-petition, it will be checked by the relevant government department. The petition will be open for up to 1 year, which allows members of the public to sign & support your petition.
Socitm: What does it need to run an effective website? - Socitm Insight is supporting an initiative by Aberdeen City's e-government manager to investigate the size, shape and governance of local authority web teams across the UK. If you would like to share information on these issues please complete the questionnaire by 12 August 2011. Results will be shared in the Web Improvement and Usage Community.
Press release & links
Latest Case Studies: - Local Authorities Improve Customer Contact Whilst Reducing Operating Costs - In today's challenging times local authorities are striving to broaden citizen access to council services and yet also deliver significant efficiency gains in the way they provide these services.
Improvements are being driven by key council process transformation goals and also in support of central government initiatives such as NI14 and Tell Us Once.
Numerous Councils have recently implemented a Customer Contact Platform to achieve:
Significantly lower operating costs
Increased customer self-service and satisfaction
Compliance with legislation & best practise
- Efficient delivery of end-to-end services
Click here to find out more and receive the latest local authority case studies.
Please note that previously published newsletters can be accessed from the Newsletter Archive
DH: From 1 August 2011, people will have to answer questions about organ donation before they can complete their driving licence application through the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) website. Expanding on an existing scheme with the DVLA which has seen more than 8.5m people sign up to the NHS Organ Donor Register, the Government now hopes to increase registration even further through a number of prompter questions urging people to consider joining up.
ScotGov: The National Museum of Scotland opened to the public last week, revealing a £47.4m transformation which has created one of the world's great museums - presenting the sciences, humanities & culture, all under one roof.
The centrepiece of a 15-year master-plan, the project has taken just over 3 years to complete with fundraising efforts exceeding target by almost £1m.
Ofgem: Environment Minister, John Griffiths, has launched the Welsh language version of the Energy Best Deal on-line initiative at the Eisteddfod in Wrexham. The consumer awareness campaign is run jointly by Citizens Advice and energy regulator Ofgem.
Through a series of short videos, consumers are made aware of their ‘energy rights’ when it comes to dealing with energy companies. The videos cover dealing with doorstep sales people, debt & disconnection, and getting help for consumers struggling to pay their energy bills.
NA: The National Archives has replaced its library catalogue of published works with a new open-source system called Koha. Named after a Maori custom that can be translated as ‘gift or donation’, Koha is software that is freely available for download from the internet. The system is being supported by PTFS Europe, and will provide both cost & time savings for NA.
EH: With the weather warming up there’s nothing better than escaping the daily grind for a relaxing day out – or even a short break. Here are English Heritage’s top places to escape to in the summer, from hill-top castles and amazing coastal views to cosy cottages in the country.
Directgov: ePassport gates have just been installed at Heathrow & Gatwick. This means that automated border controls are now in place at 15 transport terminals across the UK, including all the major airports. Find out what the new ePassport gates mean for you as a passenger.
PCS: IT workers who maintain the records of millions of people for the Department for Work and Pensions have voted almost unanimously for industrial action over plans to offshore their work. The staff, employed by Hewlett Packard on the government contract, will refuse to co-operate with the process of exporting work from Newcastle, Lytham & Sheffield to Bangalore in India - a move which could lead to the loss of more than 200 posts.
The data that DWP collects includes very personal & valuable information about people's benefits. The union believes this is the first time it has been proposed to send the live records of so many people overseas.
PCS: PCS wants the government to immediately halt the axing of thousands of jobs in Revenue & Customs after a committee of MPs branded the department's service to the public ‘unacceptable’. The 13 MPs on the committee conclude that further cuts to staffing & resources make little sense.
HMRC has axed 30,000 jobs since 2005 and another 10,000 posts are earmarked to go. The department has been employing thousands of people on short term contracts and paying staff to work overtime in an attempt to mask the impact of job cuts. In call centres, where HMRC has invested in 1,000 additional staff, the numbers of calls answered has increased from 44% to 71%.
OFT: The Property Ombudsman (TPO) has successfully completed Stage One of the OFT's Consumer Codes Approval Scheme (CCAS) for its Lettings Code. It has been developed to give consumer landlords and their tenants greater protection when dealing with letting agents and better redress if things go wrong.
NA: Building on the success of the Open Government Licence, The National Archives has extended the scope of its licensing policy, encouraging & enabling even easier re-use of a wider range of public sector information.
The UK Government Licensing Framework (UKGLF), the policy & legal framework for the re-use of public sector information, now offers a growing portfolio of licences & guidance to meet the diverse needs & requirements of both public sector information providers and re-user communities.
Directgov: From 1 August 2011 householders can get government funding to help install renewable heating systems such as biomass boilers & solar thermal panels. Money will be available for up to 25,000 installations over the next year, with grants being awarded on a first-come, first-served basis.
EH: After decades behind virtually closed doors, its treasures overgrown & largely unknown, English Heritage is reviving one of Britain's most important, yet most secret, gardens - Wrest Park in Bedfordshire. With the first phase of a 20-year restoration project now completed - helped by a £1.14m Heritage Lottery Fund grant - this wonderful 90-acre historic landscape & French-style mansion is ready to take its rightful place among the country's great garden attractions and give both locals and tourists a superb new day-out.
DCMS: MorecambeBay, the Glens of Antrim and the Lomond Hills are among 11 spectacular UK landscapes earmarked for financial support. The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) announced that £18.3m has been set aside for the schemes through its Landscape Partnerships programme. The 11 applicants who have passed the first stage of the process will now have to submit a more detailed proposal to secure the funding.
The investment, which is set to attract a further £8.1m of match funding from other sources, will enable the conservation of distinctive landscapes and provide other benefits, such as apprenticeships for disadvantaged young people and courses on traditional rural practices such as drystone walling.
PI: The Planning Inspectorate’s website is scheduled to close by the end of September 2011, as part of the Government’s web rationalisation programme which is looking to reduce the number of Government websites.
They have already moved all their appeal and other casework information to the planning portal where it sits alongside their on-line appeals system. All that now remains on the site is corporate information such as annual reports, management information etc. This will be moved to the DCLG & Wales Government’s websites shortly and their site will then be closed.
STFC: 96 new open star clusters, hidden from previous surveys by the dust in the Milky Way, have been revealed by the sensitive infrared detectors of the world’s largest dedicated, infrared, survey telescope, VISTA. Based in Chile, the telescope is operated by the European Southern Observatory (ESO). This is the first time so many faint and small clusters have been found at once.
BIS: 3 senior city figures have been appointed to form the Advisory Board for the Kay Review of UK equity markets & long-term decision making. The Review was announced in June 2011 by Business Secretary, Vince Cable to ‘investigate the way investors, shareholders, regulators and the boards of UK-listed companies can best serve the long-term interests of British businesses and the economy’.
Its membership confirmed, the Board will now begin its work in earnest before launching a formal consultation in the autumn 2011. An interim report will be published early next year with the final conclusions and recommendations for Government expected to follow in Summer 2012.
FSA: As Muslims observe Ramadan, the Food Standards Agency advises that people should consider avoiding drinking bottled water described or labelled as Zam Zam water. This is because tests have shown ‘Zam Zam’ water sold in the UK, or brought into the UK for personal consumption, may contain high levels of arsenic or nitrates (at up to 3 times the legal limit).
Zam Zam water is sacred to Muslims and comes from a specific source in Saudi Arabia. Under Saudi law, Zam Zam water cannot be exported from Saudi Arabia for sale. Any water on sale in the UK that is labelled as Zam Zam is therefore of uncertain origin.
ScotGov: Scots are being urged to learn the laws of a country before they travel in a bid to avoid costly prosecutions. Research by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office showed that 71% of Scots don't always find out about the laws of the country they are visiting before heading abroad, putting themselves at risk of unwittingly breaking the law. Almost 30% were not aware that they would be prosecuted under local law if committing an offence abroad.
FSA: Some packs of Kettle Chips with a ‘best before’ date of 29 October 2011 are being recalled because they might contain pieces of plastic that look similar to the crisps. The Food Standards Agency has issued a Product Information Recall Notice.
CQC: The Care Quality Commission has announced Acting Together, a new partnership scheme that enables CQC to call on people who use services to advise on & contribute to its work. Acting Together includes involving people as Experts by Experience on inspections of health & social care services and in visits to monitor the use of the Mental Health Act. The first 3 partners for the scheme are Age UK, Challenging Behaviour Foundation and Choice Support.
MoD: A state-of-the-art new shot detection system called Boomerang III has been introduced in patrol bases & checkpoints on the front line of Helmand province to alert troops immediately to the source of incoming fire. It detects shots fired at bases and, using a high tech display, indicates the location of the enemy firing point,
ACE: Arts Council England has signalled its commitment to the continuation of the Future Libraries programme, in partnership with the Local Government Group (LGG) and the Department for Culture Media and Sport (DCMS). It will continue with the partnership approach for Future Libraries 2, a 2-stage programme that will run from autumn 2011 to the end of March 2013.
UKOC: Some of you may have noticed than since UK Online Centres launched their new version of Online basics on the Go ON website, you're having some trouble loading the OB course window. UKOC pleased to tell you that there is a relatively easy fix.
WAG: The Welsh Government’s e-Crime Wales initiative was a winner at the Nominet Internet Awards 2011, which highlights UK companies, charities & individuals that are making a difference on, or through, the Internet.
e-Crime cost the Welsh economy close to an estimated £1bn last year, and e-Crime Wales took home a special award for its efforts in co-operating the private and public sectors to tackle the problem. The e-Crime Wales website has a host of practical information including downloadable factsheets, guides & videos, as well as a ‘report a crime’ function, to help businesses stay safe online.
Policy Statements and Initiatives
WAG: New figures which show that the people of Wales reduced their carrier bag use by 7% over the last year have been welcomed by Environment Minister, John Griffiths. The Minister has also said that the significant rise in carrier bag use in England and Scotland over the last year proves that that a mandatory charge for carrier bags, like the one being introduced in Wales in October 2011, is the best way to drive down carrier bag use, and that voluntary agreements with retailers will not take us far enough.
DfE: Recent reports that children are beginning school without knowing their own name demonstrate not just the importance of good parenting, but the wider help & support that young children need in the crucial early years of their life.
A new early years curriculum for 0-5-year-olds will be introduced next year which ‘focuses on 3 prime areas of learning that are critical to making sure children develop healthily and happily’. Research shows that parental interest in their child’s education has 4 times more influence on attainment by age 16 than socio-economic background.
nef: A new website to get the public thinking about drug policy was launched recently. Thinkingdrugs.org aims to get people complex debate around international drugs issues. The site enables visitors to assess the facts & hear arguments from all sides while deciding where they stand. It was created by independent think-tank nef (the new economics foundation) with the support of the drugs policy centre Release.
DfE: The Department has updated the information on FreeSchool groups that applied in the first round of applications. Of the 323 proposals received, 41 were approved to move to business case & plan stage or beyond, although one proposal was subsequently withdrawn by the proposer.
30 of the remaining 40 proposals, including a number that aim to open in September 2012 or beyond, have now been approved to move to the pre-opening stage. Since the last update, 4 more projects have signed funding agreements. This takes the total number of projects that have entered into a funding agreement to 13. More will be listed in due course.
CLG: Centrally imposed limits on town centre parking spaces will be scrapped helping to provide a big boost to struggling high streets, Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has announced. Councils that want to attract customers to local retailers and help stressed out shoppers by providing more parking can now do so without interference from central Government. Parking restrictions set by Whitehall have until now dictated the number of parking spaces a council is permitted to grant, often with a cap that limits the spaces town centres can offer even when they want to offer more.
HMT: The Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, has set out £200,000 additional funding for mountain rescue teams across the UK. This is the first time the UK Government has given direct funding to mountain rescue services and will contribute to the cost of procuring mountain rescue equipment this year.
This is the first of 4 years of funding set aside in the Spending Review, with at least £200,000 available in each year. Funding will be available to 75 teams performing mountain or cave rescue activity across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
DWP: 10 innovative projects will play a key role in restoring fairness to the Housing Benefit system, Minister for Welfare Reform Lord Freud, has claimed. New Housing Benefit measures have been introduced to bring fairness back to the system and reduce the spiralling cost of the Housing Benefit bill.
The 10 successful projects will get a share of a £4m fund to provide innovative support by working with voluntary organisations, providing free advice to landlords & tenants, creating a digital service to match landlords with tenants, and providing digital support to hundreds of local authorities. This funding is part of a total of £190m of extra financial help over the spending review period.
DH: Patients have been stronger voice under plans set out by Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley. 75 Local HealthWatch pathfinders, introduced as part of the Government’s plans to modernise the NHS, have been announced. These new learning networks will champion patients’ views & experiences, promote the integration of local services and improve choice for patients through advice & access to information.
DCMS: The strict controls to prevent children from accessing hard-core pornographic material through video-on-demand (VoD) services will be secured as part of the comprehensive review of communications legislation currently being undertaken, Communications Minister Ed Vaizey has announced.
A starting point is Ofcom’s report to Government, ‘Sexually Explicit Material and Video On Demand Services’ which is published last week. Ensuring the effectiveness of strict controls on VoD services will also complement the recommendations made by Reg Bailey in his independent review of the commercialisation and sexualisation of childhood, Letting Children Be Children.
CLG: Councils and other public bodies should publish asset lists that will help to identify £bns of potential savings and protect frontline services, Communities & Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles has announced. Public sector assets are worth an estimated £385bn, with almost two thirds owned by councils and the Government has committed to work with areas seeking to make savings through better property management.
Government estimates this could potentially save £35bn over 10 years. A 'demo' map locates over 180,000 assets owned by almost 600 public sector bodies, including Central Government and 87 councils. It reveals widespread public property ownership, beyond frontline services, underlining the scope for savings and the potential of a national asset map.
CO: As part of the continuing drive to maximise the buying power of Government, Francis Maude has announced 2 new contracts for office supplies which are expected to deliver savings of over £18m a year. All Central Government Departments will now use the new centrally managed deal for Office Supplies and will pay the same price for items such as pens & paper, bringing to an end the days where Departments pay different prices for the same items.
Savings of between 12-29% are expected with the 2 new contracts which will be managed by HMRC on behalf of Government Procurement. The number of catalogue line items has been rationalised from 15,000 to 3,500 with scope to reduce this even further and generate more savings. The new contracts will make available environmentally friendly, recycled stationery & toners and, for the first time ever, the unique "Closed Loop" recycling solution.
ScotGov: A major boost to expand renewable projects in the agriculture sector was announced recently by Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead, through the development of an Agri-Renewables Strategy, which will 'ensure that land managers can benefit from the renewables revolution and unlock the green energy potential of their land'. The strategy will be in place by summer 2012.
Defra: Further steps on the path to a green economy that Government & businesses can take have been published in order to make further progress towards strong sustainable growth. ‘Enabling the transition to a green economy: Government and Businesses working together’ looks ahead to 2020 and maps out planned Government action across areas including climate change, resource efficiency, waste prevention, carbon capture and storage, offshore wind generation, and the Green Deal. It will form the basis for continuing dialogue between government, business and communities.
CLG: A new 'Planning Guarantee' will create greater certainty for local communities by speeding up local planning applications that get stuck in the system, Planning Minister Greg Clark announced in a letter to local councils recently.
At the moment thousands of planning applications get caught in the system for over a year, leaving householders & local firms frustrated by delays to getting a decision. Mr Clark has advised local authorities that the Planning Guarantee will mean that no planning application should take longer than 12 months to reach a decision, including any appeal.
The Government will consult in the autumn on reducing the information required to accompany all planning applications. Ministers are keen to hear from local people, local firms, councils, and other parties on what information is really helpful & necessary.
ScotGov: Scotland's first Social Housing Charter is taking shape and the Scottish Government is seeking views to inform the final document. The Charter is part of new arrangements to ensure that tenants and other customers of social landlords receive continually improving services. It will set the outcomes & standards that all social landlords should be achieving and the new Scottish Housing Regulator will monitor, assess & report on how well the landlords do. Responses & comments should be sent by Tuesday November 1, 2011.
CLG: As part of the Government's commitment to the Great British pub, Community Pubs Minister Bob Neill has launched a review of restrictive covenants, a legal clause that can be used to prevent community pubs reopening as public houses following a sale. Between 2004 & 2009 some 572 pubs are said to have been permanently lost following a sale with a restrictive covenant, potentially depriving thousands of regulars of an important community asset. Consultation will close on25 October 2011.
CLG: Plans to put councils in charge of providing financial support for council tax which are designed to help more people back into work, maintain protections for pensioners and save the taxpayer up to £480m a year have been published for consultation by Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles (closes on 14 October 2011).
Under the existing system local authorities are responsible for council tax rates & collection but do not control the policy on council tax benefit, which is run centrally from Whitehall. Ministers are proposing to bring all aspects of the council tax system together at local level, freeing billing authorities how best to support working age households and establish stronger incentives for councils to get people back into work.
Ofgem: Energy regulator Ofgem has published initial proposals for the revenues it will allow the 4 energy transmission companies to recover from consumers in the year from 1 April 2012 to 31 March 2013, under the one-year extension to the existing price control. Consultation closes 12 September 2011.
The current transmission price control runs from 1 April 2007 to 31 March 2012. It is to be extended by one year so that it finishes at the same time as the 2008-2013 gas distribution price control.
HEFCE: The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) has published a technical consultation on a new regulatory framework for higher education (closes on 27 October 2011). The consultation follows the White Paper, 'Higher education: students at the heart of the system' (June 2011), which signals the Government's intention to establish a more integrated & transparent regulatory framework for higher education.
The White Paper proposes a new role for the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) as an independent 'lead regulator', working in partnership with the other higher education regulatory bodies. BIS is now consulting on the detail of the new framework, to take effect from 2013 and, as part of that, on HEFCE's new role & responsibilities, including as a 'single gateway' for entry to the higher education sector
CLG: Housing Minister Grant Shapps has announced plans to speed up the process for evicting persistent 'neighbours from hell' from their homes when all other efforts to curb their anti-social behaviour have failed. The Minister made clear that eviction should only ever be the last resort - but that too often the rights of victims have come second to those of the people making their lives a misery.
He has proposed a new mandatory power for possession, enabling previous convictions for anti-social behaviour to be taken into account and short-cutting the often long & expensive process which requires landlords to prove again the 'yobbish' actions of their nightmare tenants. Consultation closes 27 October 2011.
CO: Minister for Cabinet Office, Francis Maude, has launched a public consultation on open data (closes on 27 October 2011). The consultation follows the commitment by the Prime Minister to publish key data on public services, including GP achievements & prescribing, the performance of hospital teams in treating key conditions, the effectiveness of schools at teaching pupils across a range of subjects and criminal sentencing by court.
ScotGov: A plan to increase the number of Scots diagnosed in the earliest stages of cancer by 25% - to improve cancer survival rates for patients in Scotland – has been published for consultation. The draft Detect Cancer Early Implementation Plan - published for consultation with the NHS, clinicians, cancer charities and key third sector groups - will aim to save more than 300 lives a year by the end of the next Parliamentary term. Stakeholders are being invited to submit their responses by 26 August 2011.
Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides
OFT: The OFT has launched a new online resource to help businesses comply with the law when selling goods & services at a distance - such as website or mail order sales. The Distance Selling Hub provides information for businesses about the rules & regulations that apply to the sale of certain goods & services over the internet, telephone, through interactive TV, by text or by mail order.
OFT research shows that many businesses are not fully complying with the Distance Selling Regulations (DSRs), the main law that relates to shopping from a distance, with the OFT's 2010 Drivers of Compliance report estimating that only 9% of business respondents considered themselves to be very familiar with the DSRs.
NICE: NICE has published its clinical guideline on the management of stable angina. The guideline sets out recommendations on what treatment & care the NHS should offer to people with a diagnosis of stable angina, including the use of anti-anginal drug treatment and surgery.
NICE: NICE has published a set of new proposed indicators for 2012/13 QOF. Set to drive up quality of care across general practice, the ‘menu’ will help target resources where they are most needed and deliver the best patient outcomes. Each indicator has been piloted across a range of practices and is based on the most up-to-date evidence. NICE has also made recommendations on which existing QOF indicators should be retired or amended.
EHRC: The Equality and Human Rights Commission has launched a new online resource about human rights to help public sector bodies in England & Wales and organisations carrying out public functions & advocacy. The resource focuses on 9 public sectors areas: adult social care; children's services; health; housing; education services; local government; criminal justice, courts & prisons; policing and immigration & asylum.
FSA: The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has published rules on platforms regulation. This follows a review of the regulation of platforms in the context of the objectives of the Retail Distribution Review (RDR). The rules extend the consumer protection elements of the RDR into a rapidly developing area of investment services. These new rules have 2 key aims; firstly, to ensure that consumers receive a better service and, secondly, for the market to be more transparent & operate more efficiently.
DfT: Volunteers, childminders & care workers should be freed from the unnecessary & costly process of being licensed as minicabs following guidance published by Transport Minister Norman Baker. Changes to the minicab licensing laws in 2006 mean that some councils have been classing people like childminders - who drive children to & from school in their own vehicles, and care workers - who assist elderly people in their homes, as minicab drivers. The new guidance makes it clearer which vehicles the Government believes need minicab licences – and those that do not, removing the burden on Local Authorities of licensing vehicles unnecessarily.
FSA: The Food Standards Agency has produced a DVD for those working in butchers shops to encourage them to think about the type of food safety risks they face in their business and how they should control them. It features 3 butchers talking about the steps they have taken to reduce food safety risks. The DVD has been produced as part of the FSA’s response to addressing the recommendations of the Public Inquiry into the serious outbreak of E.coli O157 in Wales in 2005.
NICE: In provisional draft guidance the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) does not recommend Fingolimod for the treatment of relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis. This is because there are uncertainties over its clinical effectiveness and, based on the available evidence, it would not be a cost effective use of NHS resources.
TUC: The TUC has launched a new microsite to help people find out more about their basic rights at work. Basic Rights @ Work will introduce vulnerable workers - people who have little knowledge of their employment rights, who find it hard to access advice and who do not have the ability to protect themselves against abuses of their rights - to information about employment rights in the UK and how to enforce these rights through statutory enforcement bodies.
The microsite contains 5 videos, created by the TUC & enforcement bodies, which explain how the different agencies operate. They are designed to inform workers & their union reps about the basic workplace rights that are enforced by each agency and the powers the enforcement officers have to carry out their investigations. The videos also outline the sanctions that can be imposed on employers.
PC&PE: The Commons Health Committee published reports recently on their annual accountability hearings with the General Medical Council (GMC) and Nursing & Midwifery Council (NMC).
DfE: National, regional & local authority figures for the Key Stage 2 tests taken by thousands of pupils at the end of primary school have been published. In all subjects – English, reading, writing and maths – the percentage of 11-year-olds reaching the expected level (Level 4) or above is up.
But the statistics show that:
* 1 in 3 pupils fail to achieve the expected level in the three Rs combined (reading, writing & mathematics)
* 1 in 10 boys leave primary school with the reading age of a 7-year-old and one in 14 boys leave with the writing age of a 7-year-old
* the proportion of children achieving above the expected level has fallen in both reading & writing.
Monitor: NHS foundation trusts have identified the key challenges they will need to meet in a new report published by Monitor, the independent regulator. In the Review of NHS Foundation Trust Annual Plans 2011/12, Monitor highlights the key issues & trends that it has identified in the plans submitted by individual foundation trusts.
CQC: The Care Quality Commission has published its 4th annual report on the safer management of controlled drugs regulations. The report finds that there has been progress, with many instances of good innovative practice in the management of & sharing of concerns of controlled drugs.
General Reports and Other Publications
PC&PE: In a report released recently, the Home Affairs Select Committee highlighted concerns over a lack of an evidence based approach to student visas policy. The committee is concerned that an impact assessment which highlights the cost of the student visas policy had been published 12 weeks after the policy had been announced.
The assessment, which states that the policy could cost the economy as much as £3.6bn, has led to the committee concluding that the Government is failing to establish a solid evidence base before embarking on policy changes which could damage Britain's economic recovery.
PC&PE: The conclusion of a report published recently by the Work and Pensions select committee is that ‘the Government's aims for the incapacity benefit (IB) reassessment process, which began nationwide in April, are not yet being properly communicated to claimants, leading to fear and anxiety amongst vulnerable people’.
The report, ‘The role of incapacity benefit assessment in helping claimants into employment’, supports the Government's objectives for the IB reassessment, but it argues that that the Government should be more proactive in explaining its aims for the process and in emphasising the range of support which will be available to claimants.
IPPR: Community-based alternatives to prison should be used to punish the majority of people convicted of minor offences, according to a new report published by Institute for Public Policy Research. The research focussed on the London borough of Lewisham in order to assess the alternatives to prison. It found that these alternatives could cut crime, reduce re-offending and save the tax payer money.
PC&PE: The Science and Technology Committee has recently concluded that in order to allow others to repeat & build on experiments, researchers should aim for the gold standard of making their data fully disclosed & made publicly available.
In the report examining the current peer-review system as used in scientific publications and the related issues of research impact, data management, publication ethics & research integrity, the MPs say that it should be a fundamental aim of the peer-review process that all publications are scientifically sound. The Committee found that the integrity of the peer-review process can only ever be as robust as the integrity of the people involved.
LSN: The Bournemouth & Poole 14–19 Team is a joint Bournemouth Borough Council and Borough of Poole Team, and it commissioned the Learning and Skills Network in February 2010 to conduct some research on the views, learning experiences & aspirations of young people in order to be able to tailor provision accordingly.
LSN: An article published in the Evening Standard recently again highlights poor locum screening and induction processes are continuing to put patients at risk. The article ’Baby had meningitis but locum said he was teething’ shows fears continue to grow about such incidents of unqualified locums treating patients, despite Government calls for enhanced procedures and uniformity in screening standards across the health service.
To maintain patient safety, employee inductions should always be paired with skills screening, which assesses locums & clinical staff on their appropriate language skills & clinical competencies. At Learning and Skills Network, they have developed a solution which allows HR staff to organise the induction & screening of all new NHS clinical staff through a central system.
WWF: New research reveals that the benefits of mandatory carbon reporting for large businesses are much greater - and the costs lower - than the Government has suggested. A new report has found that Defra’s impact assessment (IA) of mandatory greenhouse gas reporting overestimated the total costs of MCR for large companies by up to £4,600m (over 420%), and underestimated the benefits by £980m (at least 230%).
UKOC: New research from the London School of Economics (LSE) has found that there is still a digital underclass forming in Britain. Gaps based on education & employment persist independent of age or other characteristics, and it’s therefore ‘a problem unlikely to go away even with better infrastructure or as younger generations grow up’.
PC&PE: The Treasury Committee's report into the administration & effectiveness of HM Revenue & Customs has found there is considerable dissatisfaction among the public & tax professionals with the service provided by the Department. The committee is concerned that if this continues it may undermine respect for the tax system.
The report identifies serious concerns in a number of areas, including:
* Unacceptable difficulties contacting HMRC by phone during peak periods
* Endemic delays in responding to post
* An increasing focus on online communication that may exclude those without reliable internet access
PC&PE: The Commons Home Affairs Committee has published a report on implications for the justice and home affairs areas of the accession of Turkey to the European Union. In the report, the Committee says that it has real concerns about the implications of Turkish accession to the EU for the security of the EU external border, noting that Turkey’s membership would extend this up to Iran, Iraq and Syria. Turkey must be required to ‘clearly and objectively’ demonstrate that it has met stringent criteria set by the EU for border management prior to accession.
However, the committee also believes that the risks posed in relation to organised crime are ‘considerably outweighed’ by the potential benefits - partly in terms of the standards that Turkey will be required to meet to become an EU Member, but largely owing to the opportunities it will bring for increased co-operation.
TUC: 2,215 charities are facing budget cuts as local authorities reduce their funding - or in some cases completely withdraw it - according to new research published by the union backed anti-cuts campaign website False Economy.
The research shows that charities face net funding reductions of more than £110m this year, though the final figure is likely to be far higher given that some large authorities have not yet finalised where the cuts will hit.
TKF: The prospect of a more competitive marketplace for health care providers including short-term contracts for fledgling social enterprises presents significant risks for their survival, according to a new report on social enterprise in health care published by The King’s Fund. Legal, financial & other support is needed to develop & grow the social enterprise sector and some start-ups will need to develop more robust business models.
Crucially, the report recommends that NHS commissioners need to offer longer-term contracts to enable social enterprise providers to establish themselves in a more competitive environment. The report found early evidence to suggest that health care providers that have adopted the social enterprise model have benefited by reducing bureaucracy, speeding up decision-making and by allowing the reinvestment of surpluses, an effective motivator for staff.
MO: 2 research papers shed new light on why the upper layers of the world's oceans have seen a recent pause in warming despite continued increases in greenhouse gases. Climate model simulations from KNMI show that such pauses in upper-ocean warming occur regularly as part of the climate system's natural variability.
Civitas: Green economic policies mean more pain than gain for Britain according to a new Civitas report (The Green Mirage), which finds claims that the low-carbon economy can deliver so-called 'green collar' jobs are staggeringly far-fetched and unsupported by official measures.
The report concludes that, far from re-energising Britain's economy, the 'green economy' will drain investment from other sectors, making Britons pay more for electricity indefinitely and live less productive lives with access to fewer jobs.
CBI: The Government needs to act swiftly to ensure the global competitiveness of the UK’s most energy-intensive manufacturers is not undermined by rising costs & climate change and energy policies, the CBI says.
In a new report Protecting the UK’s foundations: a blueprint for energy-intensive industries, the CBI argues that the carbon floor price is making it increasingly uncompetitive for the most energy-intensive users to remain in the UK and the CBI is calling on the Government to consider exempting these firms from the tax.
DECC: A council by council area breakdown of how many British homes have been insulated by the Government’s energy saving scheme has been published. Lagging lofts & filling cavity walls can save households over £100 in fuel bills every year.
Legislation / Legal
CQC: The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has taken legal action to protect the safety of residents of a care home following serious concerns about people’s welfare. Sea View Lodge in Herne Bay was a care home owned by partners (Sea View Lodge) Mr Shahid Sheikh and Mrs Nelofa Sheikh. CQC has referred safeguarding allegations to the police.
EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.
EU News: The European Commission has opened an in-depth investigation to ascertain whether UK plans to restructure the postal incumbent Royal Mail, by relieving it of its 'pension deficit' and strengthening its balance sheet, are in line with EU state aid rules.
WSL2011: The European Social Fund is making funds available to help young people from disadvantaged areas explore training, skills & employment opportunities at WorldSkills London 2011. The ESF is providing just under £500k in funding to assist young people from disadvantaged areas in around the capital to attend WorldSkills London 2011, the world’s greatest skills Competition taking place this year (5-8 October) at ExCeL London.
WSL 2011 is in the process of contacting eligible schools, colleges & community groups – providing welcome news for groups who expressed an interest in the event, but were not able to fund the costs of visiting.
EU News: Authorisation to use the 24 GHz radio frequency band for short-range anti-collision radar in cars has been extended until 2018 by a European Commission decision. This temporary extension will ensure short range car radar systems remain available on the market until manufacturers develop technology using the 79 GHz band, which was the operating frequency designated for such systems back in 2004.
PC&PE: The European Commission’s proposed package of measures for the dairy sector is not sufficient on its own to redress the problems facing the UK industry, warn MPs in a report evaluating the Commission’s ‘Milk Package’.
The Environment Food and Rural Affairs Committee warns that farm-gate milk prices remain below the average cost of production and calls on the Government to set out its strategy to improve the state of the UK dairy sector. MPs also urge DEFRA to provide greater support for innovative research and development in the dairy sector that is focussed on novel uses and processes that add value
ScotGov: A new Scottish Beef Scheme will be introduced from 1 January 2012 to ensure support payments to the beef sector continue until new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) regulations come into force. The scheme will help some of Scotland's most vulnerable beef producers by targeting payments towards small farms in hills and other less favoured areas, where agricultural conditions are very poor. It replaces the Scottish Beef Calf Scheme which can no longer continue under CAP legislation.
CLG: Swift action by the Government has restored the flow of regeneration funding from the European Union after a period of interruption caused by irregularities in projects, Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has announced.
The European Commission has confirmed it is lifting an interruption to payments of European Regional Development Funding (ERDF) in England following the implementation of a new regime of tighter controls on projects. The Commission temporarily interrupted the payment of funds after an annual audit found a number of irregularities in projects.
EU News: Recently the European Commission agreed to measures that should make a significant contribution to getting some of the EU's most troubled economies back on track. The Commission is proposing to the European Parliament and the Council to adjust the current system of EU co-financing in cohesion, fisheries and rural development policies for Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Romania, Latvia and Hungary. Each Member State would need to submit a request to benefit from this new system.
Charity and Voluntary Sector
MoD: A team of Armed Forces personnel, recovering at the Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre from serious injuries, competed in the Ironman UK Triathlon event in Bolton on Sunday 31 July 2011. They included Royal Marine Joe Townsend, aged 23, who lost both his legs on operations in Afghanistan.
The Ironman UK is a long-distance triathlon, considered to be one of the toughest single day endurance events. It is a race comprising a 2.4-mile (3.9km) swim (open water), 112-mile (180km) cycle and 26.2-mile (42km) run (a full marathon).
HL: A new £20m grants scheme has been opened up by Homeless Link for voluntary sector organisations working to tackle rough sleeping in England, with £8m being given out in the first funding round. The Homeless Transition Fund will award grants of up to £250,000 to protect & enhance essential services for single homeless people. Grants will also be awarded to support the introduction of No Second Night Out and other new ways to end rough sleeping.
The independent Fund has been set up to help support the Government’s rough sleeping strategy ‘Vision to end rough sleeping: No Second Night Out nationwide’. Administered by Homeless Link, the Fund will award £20m over the next 3 years. Organisations have until the 30 September 2011 to submit applications.
Currently running as a pilot across London, No Second Night Out is a standard that the Government wants every local authority in England to adopt. It involves having the right services in place to make sure that anyone who ends up on the streets gets rapid help so they don’t spend a second night on the streets.
DFID: The second round for the GPAF Impact funding scheme has opened. The deadline for applications is 19 September 2011. The GPAF is a demand-led fund supporting projects focused on poverty reduction and the most off-track Millennium Development Goals in poor countries. Projects are selected on the basis of demonstrable impact on poverty, clarity of outputs & outcomes, and value for money.
The funding via the Impact window is available to medium sized UK-based not for profit organisations and locally registered civil society organisation in certain countries. Organisations receiving Programme Partnership Arrangements are not eligible to apply.
Business and Other Briefings
HMT: The Financial Secretary to the Treasury, Mark Hoban MP, has announced that 2 deregulatory amendments to the EU Prospectus Directive have been brought into effect a year early by the UK to help small businesses access equity finance more cheaply & effectively. The new requirements came into law on 31 July 2011, allowing businesses to take advantage of the measures from 1 August 2011.
Implementing the amendments a year early means that fewer small issuers are caught by the prospectus regime. SMEs will now be able to raise equity finance up to €5m (doubled from €2.5m) before a costly prospectus must be produced. They will also be able to target a larger pool of investors (up to 150 investors, from 100). Lifting a significant number of small companies outside of the obligations to issue a prospectus will make accessing equity finance more efficient and save UK SMEs around £12m per year.
HMRC: Plumbers, gas fitters & heating engineers have only one month left to tell HM Revenue and Customs about tax that they owe and to make arrangements to pay any interest and penalties due. They were offered a special tax plan to put right their tax affairs in March 2011. HMRC then began using information held on people working in the plumbing industry to clamp down on those who have chosen not to come forward and take advantage of the Plumbers Tax Safe Plan (PTSP).
BIS: A new pilot scheme, increasing the flexibility of the Patent Prosecution Highway will provide more support for UK businesses operating in the US & Japan. The Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH) is an existing scheme that can speed up the process of getting patents granted in participating countries. It gives applicants who have received a favourable decision by a first examining office the opportunity to request an accelerated examination at another office. The ‘Mottainai’ pilot will run for an initial 1 year period until 14 July 2012.
A new R&C brief explaining changes to the treatment of products falling under CN code 3811 at 1 July 2012.
This brief clarifies HM Revenue & Customs' interpretation of two aspects of the Substantial Shareholding Exemption.
STFC: The ESA Business Incubation Centre Harwellis ‘looking for innovative entrepreneurs & young companies that could benefit from a unique and focused package of technical expertise and business support to turn space technologies and 'know-how' into marketable new products in non-space fields’.
Successful applicants to the ESA BIC Harwell will benefit from an impressive support package, which includes up to £41.5k towards the protection of intellectual property, design, prototyping and market studies. The next deadline for proposals is 5 September 2011.
MoD: Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) has announced that it will develop a national prime contract worth up to £950m to manage its 240,000-hectare UK training estate. DIO will be inviting expressions of interest from potential bidders for the new contract.
The National Training Estate Prime (NTEP) contract will deliver management of training areas, camps & ranges (including air weapons ranges) in the UK when the current arrangement starts to expire in 2013. Some sites will follow in 2014 and beyond. Key sites will include Salisbury Plain Training Area, Catterick Training Area, Sennybridge, and Otterburn.
BIS: Local enterprise partnerships were given extra help recently when they received a share of the £5m start up fund to get up & running. Partnerships were asked to bid for a share of the funding which will help them finance things such as training & other initial costs as they work towards establishing themselves.
The Government received 32 proposals from the partnerships, totalling £5.5m. Of the bids received, 18 partnerships have been offered their bid in full and 14 have been offered a reduced amount.
MoD: Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) has announced the 3 bidders short-listed for a new national contract to provide the Armed Forces and their families with housing services. The National Housing Prime will start in 2013, providing repairs & maintenance to more than 49,000 UK military homes, grounds maintenance & housing construction projects with an individual value of up to £3.93m.
BIS: As part of a tour of the North East to look at the economic impact of moving to a low carbon economy, Vince Cable visited Applied Superconductor Ltd (ASL) – based in Blyth, Northumberland and inspected the Superconducting Fault Current Limiter. The renewable energy device can save the energy industry over £600m in reduced capital costs, cutting carbon emissions by 37m tonnes by 2020.
UKOC: UK online centres managing director, Helen Milner, will be speaking at the upcoming Public Sector Digital Strategies Convention (14 September 2011) and they have got a special discounted price (33% discount) for members of the UK online centre networkwho want to attend.
HL: Interested in applying to the Homelessness Transition Fund? Join a webinar (Monday, August 22, 201110:00am - 11:00am) to find out more about who can apply, what you can apply for and to get the chance to ask us questions. Places are free but space is limited. On the day please do sign in early as places are allocated on a first come first served basis.
WAG: On farm training events for farmers who are interested in entering Glastir, the Welsh Government’s land management scheme will be taking place during August & September 2011. Starting on Thursday 4 August, a series of 30 ‘on-farm’ training events have been arranged where farmers can come along and familiarise themselves with the scheme. All events are open to anyone who wishes to attend – simply turn up on the day.
Editorial Content Statement
Wired-Gov would like to make it clear that the commentary & links provided, in respect of any particular item, are published in its capacity as an independent non-government funded organisation and reflect the editorial team’s need to both précis & re‑format the content of news releases.
Any views expressed are therefore entirely those of the Wired-Gov Plus editorial team and independent of any sponsor, government organisation or political party.
For the official view of a source organisation, readers should click on the ‘press release’ that is the first link attached to each item.
Speed of download - Readers are reminded that some documents linked to can be large (VL) and may take some time to download, even with a broadband link. Readers are encouraged to be patient.
While every care is taken to ensure that all links ’work’ in the newsletter (including checking just before publication), Wired-Gov cannot guarantee that websites will not make changes that will nullify individual links, especially over a period of time.
Wired-Gov is not responsible for the content of external websites.