In the News
While our WGPlus newsletter editorial team have been taking a summer break, Wired.gov staff have continued to monitor the reduced volume of press releases for reports, guidance notes, consultations, etc. published over the last couple of weeks. The results are published in this ‘holiday update’.
DH: Designed solutions are more cost effective than just throwing money at a problem - A national challenge that will fund teams to ‘develop new design-led ideas for products & services that make lives simpler, better & more enjoyable for those with dementia and their carers’ has been launched by The Design Council and the Department of Health. Closing date for entries is 30 September 2011 with final teams to be announced on the 14 November 2011.
Living well with dementia will offer 5 teams a share of £360,000 alongside professional support to develop working prototypes & business models over the next 5 months. The challenge is aiming to recruit teams with a variety of expertise, including designers, social entrepreneurs, businesses, service providers, support groups or individuals who may already have good ideas.
The Design Council has launched a social network for those interested, to access extensive research on dementia, meet others to form teams, and download the call for entries. ‘Living well with dementia’ follows similar national design challenges run by the Design Council to develop design-led solutions to social & healthcare issues (improving patient privacy & dignity, reducing health care associated infections in wards and a current project: Reducing violence and aggression in A&E by design).
* improve your grades
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NEC, part of Learning and Skills Network, offers the widest range of ‘A Levels’ available by distance learning, including Maths, English, Biology & Psychology. Get 10% discount on NEC courses or a 20% saving when you enrol online. Offer expires 31 October 2011.
Forthcoming Event: Gartner Symposium/ITxpo | 7-10 November 2011 | CCIB (Centre Convencions Internacional Barcelona) Spain - The World’s Most Important Gathering of CIO’s and Senior IT Executives - Now is the time for IT executives to question their assumptions and reimagine IT in a whole new way. Gartner Symposium/ITxpo delivers independent and objective content with the authority and weight of the world's leading IT research and advisory organization.
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The rise of new technologies has given IT a seat at the strategy table–offering a new context for your organization’s infrastructure, investment, innovation and growth. This sets the stage for CIOs and senior executives to re-imagine IT in ways that challenge assumptions and fuel transformation from the inside out.
Learn more about Symposium/ITxpo 2011 in Barcelona, 7–10 November.
Please note that previously published newsletters can be accessed from the Newsletter Archive
EA: The Environment Agency has released its 10 ‘most wanted’ list of alien invaders - the plants & animals that are threatening to take over Britain's waterways. Invasive species now cost the UK economy an estimated £1.7bn every year.
They cause damage to riverbanks & buildings, increase flood risk, crowd out and kill off native wildlife and become so prolific on waterways that fishermen, boaters and anglers are unable to use them.
MoD: The Community Covenant Grant scheme has been launched by the MOD. Up to £30m over 4 financial years has been set aside to help communities undertake projects that promote greater understanding between the military and civilian populations.
TfL: Transport for London (TfL) has announced a package of innovative measures to tackle pollution levels at the busiest roads in central London. The new targeted clean up measures could reduce local pollution levels of PM10 by 10-20% where applied.
HL: This year’s England Homeless World Cup squad has been unveiled with players from across the country. The team of 8 young men - made up of players from Crewe, Manchester, Liverpool, London & Birmingham - headed to Paris on 19 August to represent England in the 9th annual HWC tournament.
The HWC takes place from 21 - 28 August 2011 with 48 nations competing for the Trophy. Throughout the tournament the team will play a number of 7 minute, four a side games of football against countries including Brazil, Spain, Germany and Italy.
Policy Statements and Initiatives
MoD: The Ministry of Defence's 2nd Permanent Secretary, Jon Day, explains what some of Lord Levene's recommendations on Defence Reform will mean, and why we will see dramatic changes across UK Defence.
CO: Plans for a single Government web domain, which would ‘radically reduce the current bureaucracy surrounding Government websites and improve the user experience’ have moved a step closer with the Cabinet Office announced testing has progressed to the next stage - the development of a “beta” site, which will test a much wider range of features than the alpha stage and will focus on understanding & meeting user needs.
Public testing of the beta version of the site is expected in early 2012. Final decisions on the future of the project will not be taken until the beta stage of testing is complete.
CLG: Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles, has introduced new planning measures to support the expansion of popular state schools and the creation of new free schools. In a new planning statement, Mr Pickles set out new principles for councils considering proposals for the creation or development of free & other state-funded schools.
The new planning rules set out how planning departments should operate in a positive manner when dealing with proposals for state-funded school. There should be a presumption in favour of the development of state-funded schools including free schools, as expressed in the National Planning Policy Framework.
The Government is also publishing a summary of responses to its consultation, Planning for Schools Development, and will continue to explore whether there is further scope & need for the planning system to do more to support state-funded schools, and in particular, free schools in the future.
DECC: A £3m scheme has been launched to help install eco-heaters in the homes of social housing tenants. Heating equipment including biomass boilers, solar hot water panels and heat pumps will be available under the new scheme.
Registered Providers of social housing, such as local authorities and social housing associations, will be able to bid for a share of the £3m, part of the £15m Renewable Heat Premium Payment budget, to make home heating improvements to tenants’ homes. The deadline for bids is 15 September 2011 and it will be managed by the Energy Saving Trust.
ScotGov: A collaboration of organisations, headed by Marine Scotland, is taking forward a series of marine surveys to gather information on the biodiversity of Scotland's seas. 8 surveys during 2011 are taking in a diverse range of locations around Scotland's coasts, covering some 2,200 square miles - equivalent to an area 1.25 times the size of the Cairngorms National Park.
The information gathered will build on existing knowledge and help inform plans for the creation of Marine Protected Areas, provide additional information on fish stocks, and inform plans for renewables and other marine developments. The results will also be used to develop better maps of the seabed and improve our understanding of the species and habitats associated with our seas.
DCMS: As part of the Government’s £530m investment in the UK’s broadband network, Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt has announced how much money has been allocated to each English county and to Scotland. This investment will ensure that the UK has the best superfast broadband network in Europe by 2015, with 90% of homes & businesses having access to superfast broadband and for everyone in the UK to have access to at least 2Mbps.
To access these investment pots, local authorities and the Scottish Government will need to play their parts. In England each county council or local enterprise partnership will lead broadband roll-out in their area, draw up an effective delivery plan, and match the Government’s investment with European, their own or private funds. In Scotland the Scottish Government will need to consider how best to use the funds.
Defra: The international community must take urgent action to tackle the alarming rise in the trade of rhino horn before the species is wiped out, Natural Environment Minister, Richard Benyon, said recently. The call came as the UK Government submitted proposals at a Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) meeting for all countries to clamp down on illegal sales of rhino horn and tighten restrictions on the trade in rhino products.
The trade in rhino horn has been fuelled in part by unsubstantiated claims that it can cure cancer or reverse the effects of a stroke and an increase in its black market value. Rhino horn is now reported to be worth more than £50,000 per kilo – more profitable than diamonds, gold, heroin and cocaine. Three out of the five species of rhinoceros are critically endangered.
ScotGov: Scotland would be more competitive with new powers over corporation tax, Finance Secretary John Swinney said recently. The Scottish Government has published a paper on options for reforming corporation tax, highlighting how responsibility for this tax would provide a vital tool for the Government to increase sustainable growth and help bring more jobs to Scotland.
CLG: Councils affected by recent rioting can apply for money from a new multi-million pound fund, Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles has announced. The measures include tax relief on council tax and business rates to help local shops and residents get back on their feet. In a letter to council leaders, Mr Pickles has given details of how councils can apply for the money and what the funding can be used for.
Individuals, homeowners and local firms can also claim compensation for property damage under the Riot Damages Act, and the Government is extending the period for claims to 42 days. This will help provide support for uninsured buildings.
The Department has unveiled details of plans to ensure that landlords can take action against tenants who wreck communities beyond the immediate neighbourhood of their home. A consultation has now been launched on allowing landlords to seek to evict tenants convicted of the sort of criminality seen in the recent rioting - wherever that criminality occurs. The consultation (closes on 17 November 2011) also proposes to speed up the process for evicting offenders.
FSA: The European Commission is reviewing the current Framework Directive (Directive 2009/39/EC) on foods intended for particular nutritional uses (also known as ‘PARNUT’ or dietetic foods). The proposal includes changes to claims about gluten. The UK governments have launched consultations to seek views on the proposal to inform forthcoming negotiations within Europe. Consultation closes – 3 October 2011.
WAG: Transport Minister, Carl Sargeant, has launched a blue badge scheme consultation document (closes on 31 October 2011) as part of the ongoing Welsh Government commitment to reforming the scheme. It includes proposals for:
* Introducing an improved IT system to administer the Blue Badge scheme
* A newly designed secure blue badge
* Changing the Blue Badge fee
* Giving local authorities additional powers to reduce fraud and tackle misuse
NICE: NICE is gathering the opinions of patients & the public to help develop the ways it presents its guidance. They have launched a short online questionnaire, consisting of questions that will help gauge the awareness of our clinical guidelines and experience of using them. The questionnaire is a mixture of multiple choice questions and opportunities to provide more detailed replies. The survey forms part of a larger study called DECIDE, which is a 5-year collaborative project funded by the European Commission's Seventh Framework Programme.
NE: Natural England has launched a public consultation (closes on 30 September 2011) to ‘seek views on how to help people to comply with laws protecting wildlife and the natural environment, and on how these laws should be enforced if regulations are broken’.
FSA: The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has published a Consultation Paper (CP) and Discussion Paper (DP) on its proposals for Recovery and Resolution Plans (RRP), required of financial institutions. The publication also covers policy proposals aimed at reducing the impact of firms' failure in relation to their investment business client money and custody assets holdings. Consultation closes on 9 November 2011.
The CP covers the requirement for banks and large investment firms in the UK to prepare and maintain Recovery and Resolution Plans and the DP explores matters relevant to the resolution of financial services firms. The FSA will hold events for firms & advisers to talk through the proposals in early September. Further details can be found on the FSA website.
BIS: The Government has launched a consultation setting out proposals that will ‘promote high quality teaching & learning for adults, further free colleges to respond more effectively to the needs of their local communities and strengthen the skills system by securing a fairer balance of investment between learners, employers and taxpayers’.
The plans outlined in New Challenges, New Chances represent the next phase of the Government’s plans to implement radical reform of adult learning & skills provision in England. The consultation will close on Friday 21 October 2011.
FSA: The Food Standards Agency is seeking information from relevant groups on the sale & consumption of whole insects and other animals, such as worms, in the UK, including details of species that are currently on sale. This follows a request by the EU Commission for all EU member states to identify insects introduced to the EU market after 15 May 1997, which may, in future, require a novel food safety assessment.
Any relevant information should be emailed to the Agency's Novel Foods Unit by Friday 2 September 2011. Interested parties unable to meet this deadline should email the Novel Foods Unit as soon as possible.
DCMS: The Gambling Commission will be able to share information with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on suspicious betting related activity under proposals recently announced. Currently, the Gambling Commission can only share limited information with sports governing bodies, unless the body is specifically listed in the Gambling Act 2005.
The GC is planning to amend this in order to add the IOC and they are also consulting (closes 9 November 2011) on whether any additional sports bodies should also be included.
Socitm: Socitm is seeking members’ comments & questions on the Government’s Open Public Services white paper (published last month), which sets out how the Government intends to ‘make improvement happen by putting choice & control in the hands of individuals & neighbourhoods, encouraging public services to become more responsive to peoples' needs’. Socitm will be responding to the consultation in September and invites members to offer their questions comments now, via the Socitm blog.
CLG: The CLG has unveiled details of plans to ensure that landlords can take action against tenants who wreck communities beyond the immediate neighbourhood of their home. A consultation (closes on 17 November 2011) has now been launched on allowing landlords to seek to evict tenants convicted of the sort of criminality seen in the recent rioting - wherever that criminality occurs – See ‘Policy Statements & Initiatives’ section for more information.
Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides
SI: Following the recent furore over the BBC and Travel Channel’s ‘staged’ tribal TV series, Survival International has released a code of practice for filmmakers working with tribal peoples. The guidelines aim to prevent further misrepresentations and potentially damaging portrayals of tribes.
CAB: National charity Citizens Advice has issued new advice for people at risk of redundancy in the wake of the recent unemployment figures showing a rise in job losses.
NHS Confed: Commenting on the Audit Commission's report, NHS Financial Year 2010/11, NHS Confederation deputy director of policy Jo Webber said the figures showed NHS leaders were starting out from a strong position to achieve the £20bn savings required of them, but pressure will increase in the years to come.
AUK: Latest findings of the Silver RPI published by Age UK Enterprises, the commercial services arm of charity Age UK, show that since 2008 the extra increase in prices measured by the Silver RPI, relative to the Headline RPI, is now costing the average over 55 year old an additional £984.281 per year, when compared to the population as a whole.
The gap between inflation experienced by the general population and those in later life since 2008 is in part due to the impact of a low interest rate environment. This reduced mortgage payments for the majority of homeowners but benefited those in later life less because they are less likely to carry mortgage debt.
DH: New statistics show that since December 2010, when monthly collection of mixed-sex accommodation data was first introduced, the number of reported breaches has fallen by 90%. In December 2010, hospitals reported that 11,802 patients stayed in mixed-sex accommodation, compared to 1,126 in July 2011 – a drop of 10,676.
DH: The second annual report of the national statistics on waiting times for suspected and diagnosed cancer patients in the English NHS produced by the Department of Health was released on 19th August 2011 according to the arrangements approved by the UK Statistics Authority.
General Reports and Other Publications
PC&PE: Extensive cuts to rural, evening & weekend bus services are damaging the ability of many people – especially the old, young or disabled – to participate in employment, education or voluntary work and to access vital services such as healthcare and retail facilities, say MPs.
In a review of England’s bus services (outside London) after the Spending Review, the cross-party Transport Committee warns that even deeper cuts in bus services are likely in 2012–13, as local authorities struggle to deal with budgetary reductions, and calls for the concessionary travel scheme to be preserved so that the elderly & disabled continue to enjoy free bus travel.
EHRC: The Equality and Human Rights Commission has published a report that ‘shows current privacy law is failing to stop breaches of personal data privacy and is not keeping pace with the rapid growth in personal data collection’.
The report shows that the way government and its agencies collect, use & store personal data is deeply flawed. They may be unaware that they are breaking the law as the complexity of the legal framework means their obligations are unclear. It also finds that it is difficult for people to know what information is held on them, by which government agency or private sector body, or how it is being used.
ICO: Google Inc. has taken reasonable steps to improve its privacy policies, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) said recently, following an audit at the company’s London office.
The ICO’s audit – which took place in London in July 2011 – was agreed as part of the terms of an undertaking that Google signed in November 2010 after the company reported that its Street View cars had collected Wi-Fi payload data alongside the location mapping information that was the stated aim of the project.
The audit found that Google has taken action in all of the agreed improvement areas. The ICO has now asked the company to go further to enhance privacy, including ensuring that users are given more information about the privacy aspects of Google products.
IISS: In its latest Strategic Comment, the International Institute for Strategic Studies states that the recent launch of China's first aircraft carrier for sea trials may not affect the balance of power in East Asia immediately, but it is a milestone in the modernisation of the Chinese navy.
PC&PE: The Public Accounts Committee has published a report examining the effectiveness & efficiency of the current education system for 16- to 18-year-olds.
ScotGov: A report suggesting ways to improve education & training for the workplace has been published. The review, carried out by Willy Roe, argues that ‘the post-16 education & vocational training arrangements should be strengthened & better integrated with other parts of the education and employment systems’.
The report provides a number of specific recommendations aimed at improving education & training for the work-place, providing better value for money and improving support for unemployed young people.
MW: The social housing requirements of new immigrants will cost the tax payer £1bn p.a. for the next 25 years. That is the conclusion of a study published by Migrationwatch. The study found that 45 additional social homes would have to be built everyday (or nearly 1,400 a month0 over that period to meet the extra demand.
The study also found that non EU migrants were more likely to live in social housing that the UK born. For some nationalities the difference was striking: Nigeria (29%), Iran (33%), Jamaica (35%), Ghana (39%), Portugal (40%), Bangladesh (41%), Turkey (49%), Somalia (80%) compared to UK born for whom the proportion was 17%.
CBI: The CBI has warned against government plans for wholesale extension of training levies or license to practice schemes which it said would hinder employer investment in staff training and do nothing to increase productive skills levels. In a new report on training investment, employers said that a voluntary approach would be the best way to build on the strong business commitment to training and boost skills levels.
EHRC: A new report, published by the Equality & Human Rights Commission, shows a continuing trend of women being passed over for top jobs in Britain. More than 5,400 women are missing from Britain’s 26,000 most powerful posts.
The report, Sex & Power 2011, measures the number of women in positions of power & influence across 27 occupational categories in the public and private sectors.
The Commission’s report calculates that at the current rate of change it will take around 70 years to reach an equal number of men & women directors of FTSE 100 companies. It also found it could be up to 70 years before there are an equal number of women MPs in parliament – another 14 general elections.
OFT: The Office of Fair Trading has published its market study into aggregates, cement & ready-mix concrete. It proposes to refer the sectors to the Competition Commission for more detailed investigation. These sectors had a combined turnover in 2009 of up to £3.4bn and are vital inputs in the construction sector, which represents 7% of UK GDP.
Some 40% of construction expenditure is in the public sector, for schools, hospitals, roads and other physical and social infrastructure, with central Government being the biggest customer. In its study the OFT identified a number of features of the sectors which could prevent, restrict or distort competition. These relate both to structural features that may dampen competition, and to the conduct of major firms towards smaller operators.
ASI: New research released by the Adam Smith Institute (ASI) shows that the introduction of a Tobin Tax in the UK, as argued for by the ‘Robin Hood Tax Campaign’, would be disastrous for the financial services industry. The Robin Hood Tax campaign has argued that £20bn can be removed from the UK financial sector without causing significant disruption through a proportional tax on currency conversions. This is a reckless and ill-informed claim that ignores evidence to the contrary.
The ASI report, ‘The Tobin tax: Reason or treason?’, looks at Sweden, the only country to have previously introduced a ‘pure’ Tobin tax of 0.5%. It was a disaster, raising only one thirtieth of the proceeds predicted by its proponents and being scrapped within 5 years.
Press release & links
IfL: The Institute for Learning (IfL) has responded to an inquiry into the role of colleges in the community, led by a commission comprising the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (Niace), the Association of Colleges (AoC) and the 157 Group, and chaired by Baroness Sharp of Guildford. IfL’s response to the second call for evidence was informed by the views of IfL members, teachers & trainers in further education & skills.
PC&PE: The Committee of Public Accounts has published a report on defence logistics supply chain. Speaking on the publication of the report the Rt Hon Margaret Hodge MP, Chair of the CPA said:
"The Ministry of Defence has a duty to make sure that our troops serving on the frontline get the supplies they need, when they need them and in the most cost-effective way. For twenty-five years, the Department has promised this Committee that it would resolve the long-standing problems associated with its supply chain: late deliveries, missed targets and inadequate cost information. Yet these problems persist. ……..
Last year, over 40% of deliveries from suppliers were a month or more overdue. ……. A more efficient supply chain could release resources for the frontline. But the Department does not have the information to develop more cost-effective ways of running its supply operations. …………… In the meantime, IT systems being used to track supplies will remain at critical risk of failure. If they fail, there could be shortages at the front-line within a month."
PC&PE: Private Finance Initiative (PFI) funding for new infrastructure, such as schools & hospitals, does not provide taxpayers with good value for money and stricter criteria should be introduced to govern its use, the Treasury Select Committee has concluded in a new report.
Higher borrowing costs since the credit crisis mean that PFI is now an ‘extremely inefficient’ method of financing projects, according to the Committee. Poor investment decisions may continue to be encouraged across the public sector, however, because PFI allows Government departments and public bodies to make big capital investments without committing large sums up front.
Legislation / Legal
OFT: The Office of fair Trading is urging gyms to check their contract terms to make sure they are lawful & check whether they need to notify their customers of any changes, after the High Court ordered a gym management company not to use certain unfair terms & business practices.
CC: The Competition Commission (CC) has provisionally found that Sky’s control over pay-TV movie rights in the UK is restricting competition between pay-TV providers, leading to higher prices and reduced choice and innovation for subscribers.
WAG: The Welsh Government has issued a competitive call for high quality, collaborative industrial research projects. Collaborative industrial research projects are designed to encourage companies & institutions to work together, boost the level of business investment in R&D and bring new or improved products, processes and services to the market.
To date the A4B (Academic Expertise of Business) programme has allocated £7.4m in support of 35 collaborative industrial research projects. The funding has enabled higher and further education institutions in Wales to increase the size and scale of collaborative projects by drawing in large companies and supply chains from Wales and further afield.
This latest bidding round is specifically focussed on academic institutions in convergence areas and all projects have to involve at least 2 industrial partners and clearly illustrate the potential benefits for business. The deadline for electronic applications for funding is 7 October & 21 October for hard copy.
TfL: Transport for London (TfL) is pleased to announce that Eminox and HJS have been awarded a contract to install specialist pollution reducing equipment on some London buses. The innovative TfL pilot will be carried out on 18 buses that will have NOx abatement systems called Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) fitted, which reduces oxides of nitrogen (NOx) to harmless nitrogen & water.
The process involves the injection of urea into the exhaust pipe prior to a catalyst. The urea decomposes and hydrolyses to ammonia (NH3) which reacts with NOx and reduces it to nitrogen and water. The pilot will be carried out over a year on three different marques of buses and the systems tested for their emissions performance & reliability.
WAG: Welsh scientists intend to use the latest printing technologies to develop a low cost biosensor capable of diagnosing a range of health conditions. The project is supported by the Welsh Government’s Academic Expertise for Business (A4B), an EU funded initiative to stimulate and encourage collaboration between educational institutions and industry.
The aim is to place living antibodies into a suitable ink which would then be printed onto a compatible substrate or material to form a disposable sensor, capable of being mass produced at low cost. Antibody based assays are routinely used to detect specific medical conditions but use of these tests is limited because they need to be carried out in laboratories by highly skilled technicians which is costly & time consuming.
By contrast a printed array of antibodies speeds up the testing process while reducing the expertise & complexity of equipment needed – introducing the possibility of hand held electronic scanners and far quicker diagnosis. It could also prove invaluable for use in emergency humanitarian situations and in remote areas.
SfH: Skills for Health have recently scheduled 6 new webinar dates throughout September. So if you weren’t able to join them for the first ones, sign up now for Skills for Health’s free webinar to explore their award-winning Doctors Rostering System.
ACE: If you are looking to programme diverse, distinctive & engaging performance art, decibel Performing Arts Showcase is unmissable - Manchester, 13-16 September 2011. Described as the most dynamic cross art-form event in the UK Showcase features a dynamic mix of up to 50 performances making it an unrivalled opportunity to preview extracts from, or pitches of, exciting new tour ready and developing work.
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