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WGPlus provides an in-depth weekly briefing from the UK Government and Public Sector. To save your time, we research & validate the links to websites, documents and further background information. Click here for more about WGPlus

In the News

RUSIHas the MoD finally managed to combat the previously irresistable gravitational pull of its funding Black Hole? - The Ministry of Defence appears to have balanced the £74bn 10-year 'funding gap', but key equipment programmes, such as Trident renewal and Joint Strike Fighter, are still a major source of potential instability to defence budget, highlights a recent paper from the Royal United Services Institute.

Looking into the Black Hole: Is the UK Defence Budget Crisis Really Over? by Professor Malcolm Chalmers, outlines that while the MoD's books may be balanced on paper, the work needed to turn assumptions on how to close the funding gap into detailed plans has only started.

'While the government is now planning for a 1% annual real growth in the equipment budget after 2014/15, it cannot guarantee what its successor will decide in the 2015 Spending Review.  The drawdown from Afghanistan could weaken the MoD's bargaining position, especially if current efforts to reduce the nation's fiscal deficit have not yet fully succeeded.'
UniteWhat are the SHAs doing with the extra 3% instead of delivering on the government’s pledge? - Ministers were urged ‘to get a grip’ on health visitor recruitment, as one of the government’s key pledges – to recruit an extra 4,200 health visitors – falters. 

Unite, which embraces the Community Practitioners’ and Health Visitors’ Association (CPHVA), called for health visiting budgets to be ring-fenced, as 7 out of the 10 strategic health authorities (SHA) in England reported a decline in the number of health visitors in the last 12 months

The Health Visitor Implementation Plan, published in February 2011, promised to recruit an extra 4,200 health visitors to add to the 8,092 full time equivalents that were practicing in England, as of May 2010.  It set out a provisional target to have trained an extra 1,135 health visitors by the end of March 2012. This was broken down into regional targets for each strategic health authority (SHA) to achieve. 

Unite’s lead professional officer, Obi Amadi said: ‘In the morass of the government’s so-called NHS reforms, the pledge to recruit 4,200 extra health visitors by 2015 stood out.’…….. ‘The government needs to consider ring-fencing health visitor budgets to meets its pledge. The government gave the SHAs an extra 3% on top of baseline funding for health visitors, but it appears it hasn’t been used.  They need to take a good look at ring-fencing budgets, otherwise the money is not going to be spent on what it should be.’ 
EU News:  No austerity for EU MPs despite Euro crisis and national budget cuts by member states - After two days of negotiations & voting, the Budgets Committee finalised its position on the EU budget for 2012.  In general, MEPs sought to restore the draft budget proposed by the Commission, after cuts by the Council in July 2011.
WAGWelsh government announces details of financial balancing act - The Welsh Government’s spending plans for the next 3 years were announced by Finance Minister Jane Hutt last week.
Directgov:  It doesn’t matter how clever one is, we can still be scammed - Students have reported getting emails that appear to be from Student Finance England asking them to verify their account details in order to get their next payment.  This kind of scam email is known as ‘phishing’ and is designed to get access to your Student Finance account.  No government department sends unsolicited emails.  Find out what to do if you get one of these scam emails.

If you get one of these scam emails, don’t click on any links contained in it.  Instead, send it to Student Finance England and delete it from your inbox.  Also consult the Phishing guide on their website.
RoSPASafe working practices recognised - The entry process is now open for the RoSPA Occupational Health and Safety Awards 2012.  Dating back to 1956, RoSPA’s awards scheme - the largest & longest-running occupational safety awards programme in the UK - recognises organisations’ commitment to accident & ill health prevention.  It is open to businesses & organisations of all types & sizes from across the UK & overseas.

The RoSPA Awards, which are sponsored by NEBOSH (the National Examination Board in Occupational Safety and Health), look at entrants’ overarching health & safety management systems, recognising important practices such as strong leadership and workforce involvementAll entrants must register for the awards by 1 December 2011.
WAGLibraries still provide ‘access to the world’ & in this case a speedy one - The 2011 Wales Rally GB (10 – 13 November) will see competitors making their way through some of the most exhilarating scenery in the world and for your chance to get hold of two VIP hospitality places you simply need to join a library in Wales

This promotion is open to anyone over the age of 16 who lives, works or studies in Wales and joins a library in Wales during October 2011 – either in person or online.
NAYour National Archives need You - The National Archives will soon start to digitise the WO 95 record series, which consists of unit war diaries from the First World War.  The series is one of the most requested in our reading rooms in Kew, and digitising it means that we will be able to make these extremely fragile diaries more accessible by publishing them online. 

NA are looking for volunteers to help us ensure that the pages within the 5,500 pieces of WO 95 series are in the correct order before they scan them.  
BNTimely appeal with forecast for another freezing winter - Byte Night is an annual sleep-out in support of Action for Children, raising awareness & funds to help tackle the root causes of youth homelessness in the UK.  On Friday 7 October over 800 sleepers across the country braved the cold to sleep outside so others don't have to.

Please donate now! - In support of this event, an intrepid team from Trillium (valued Wired-GOV subscribers & sponsors) gave up their beds for one night to sleep rough in London.  Click here to sponsor them and donate to this worthy cause - any amount large or small will make a difference.

Research Paper: - New Research Reveals Link Between High-Speed Internet Access and Rural Economic Output - Lack of high-speed internet access could be a major barrier to UK rural regeneration, after new research revealed a strong link between internet access and economic output.

The research examined the links between regional economic output (GVA) and access to the internet across more than 800 wards and towns in some of the most rural regions of the UK.
The report, Entitled "Rural Digital Exclusion: The link between Internet Access and Economic Output" highlights the rural areas of the North East, including County Durham, Northumberland, Tees Valley and Tyne & Wear as the region with the lowest internet access per household at just 59% and also the lowest GVA at £40,369m. This compares to the South East (excluding London) with an internet access per household at 79% and a GVA of £176,500m.

Click here to receive a free copy of the report.

Please note that previously published newsletters can be accessed from the Newsletter Archive

General News

MoD:  The latest Operational Honours & Awards List recognises service on operations in & national operations. Of the 140 honours, three are posthumous.  16 individuals are being awarded a Military Cross (MC) which recognises exemplary gallantry during active operations against the enemy on land.

Press release

ACE:  Arts Council now represents arts, museums & libraries, having assumed some of the functions of the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA), following its closure on 1 October 2011.

Press release & links

MoD:  Construction work on a multi-million pound development at Whittington Barracks for Phase 2 of the Midlands Medical Accommodation project began last week.  More than 1,100 Service personnel will be based at the new site, delivering high quality medical support to the Armed Forces.

Press release & links

ScotGov:  The 'digidoc' international conference in Glasgow last month demonstrated how is gaining an international reputation as a leader in image scanning & the creation of digital archives.  Laser scanning has been used in to record 3 UNESCO World Heritage Sites - Neolithic Orkney, New Lanark Mill, and St Kilda while work on The Old & New Towns of Edinburgh is underway. The Antonine Wall, the most northern frontier of the Roman Empire , is next in line.

The 'Scottish Ten' project run by Historic Scotland and Glasgow School of Art aims to record 5 international sites in countries where Scotland has trade or diplomatic relationships.  Mount Rushmore has been completed and work is due to begin soon at Rani Ki Vav Stepwell in while the Eastern Qing Tombs in have also been selected with 2 further international sites yet to be announced.

Press release & links

STFC:  ALMA, the Atacama Large Millimetre/sub-millimetre Array), the most complex ground based telescope in existence, is officially open to astronomers and has produced its first image.  This comes after more than a decade of design & construction involving technological & scientific expertise from countries across four continents, including the .  The scale of this achievement is demonstrated by the fact that the number of observing proposals on ALMA has outweighed availability 9 times over – already setting a record for a telescope.

Press release & links

FSA:  The Food Standards Agency has updated its list of product ranges that do not contain the 6 food colours associated with possible hyperactivity in young children.  Another company producing product lines free of the colours have been added to the list: Simon Howie Foods.

Press release & links

FSA:  Lindt and Sprüngli has withdrawn some of its Lindor white chocolate truffles because they contain potential traces of hazelnut and almonds that could be a health risk for people who are allergic to or intolerant of hazelnuts or almonds. The Food Standards Agency has issued an allergy alert.

Press release & links

TfL:  Following a meeting at Acas last week London Underground (LU) has received confirmation from the trade unions that they will be recommending acceptance of LU's 4-year pay settlement.  This deal, which would be the longest ever achieved, offers stability and the prospect of no industrial action over pay until at least 2015 

It is now being recommended for acceptance by all unions and means that staff will get a 5% pay increase this year followed by inflation (RPI) plus 0.5% in the subsequent three years.  A guarantee has also been given that LU will not take into account negative RPI, should such a situation occur.  

Press release & links

FSA:  The Food Standards Agency is reminding consumers to follow good hygiene practices when storing & preparing vegetables, following 2 recent E.coli outbreaks.  The FSA commissioned research following these outbreaks that looked at consumer attitudes & behaviour towards food safety when preparing vegetables.  The report has now been published.

Press release & links

DH:  People are playing Russian roulette with their lives every year by not protecting themselves against seasonal flu, the Chief Medical Officer has warned.  Only half of under-65s who were advised to get the seasonal flu jab took it up last year.  This is despite the fact that seasonal flu can also be life-threatening. Last year, 602 people died with flu in the .  70% of deaths were in young & middle aged people aged 15-64 years.

Press release & links

ScotGov:  The Borders Railway is to be delivered by Network Rail in a new rail industry partnership aimed at achieving best value for money.  The move comes as Transport Scotland has had to cancel the original procurement competition for the project following the withdrawal of 2 of the 3 bidders.

Press release & links

ScotGov:  Carers who look after family or friends will qualify for free energy assistance help, backed by the Scottish Government.  New Regulations laid at Parliament extend the eligibility for the Energy Assistance Package to include people in receipt of the Carers' Allowance.

Press release & links

WAG:  Cadw’s all new interactive website, online shop and suite of social media channels has been launched.  The new bilingual site provides an interactive one-stop shop for dedicated information about Cadw’s activities.   Split into 3 main sections for easy navigation, the site includes conservation advice, grants information, events, news, membership, publications, educational resources and inspiration for visiting its historic sites.

Press release & links

ScotGov:   Adjustments are being made to routine herd testing for bovine tuberculosis (TB) in as the second anniversary of official TB freedom (OTF) is reached.  Herds which meet certain risk criteria will now be exempt from 4 yearly routine herd testing for bovine TB.  The changes, which aim to reduce the burden on industry, are backed by recent research by Glasgow University into long-term options for more effective TB surveillance in .

Press release

DSA:  The Driving Standards Agency has a range of online services for approved driving instructors (ADI), available from 6.00 am to midnight, 7 days a week.  You can download a guide to using online ADI services.  It also includes space for you to make a note of your user ID and a reminder of your password.

Press release & links

EA:  The Environment Agency has called upon an unusual ally in its fight to control a very troublesome water weed.  A colony of tiny weevils, with big teeth & a taste for a specific plant, has been drafted in to control the problematic Azolla weed. 

Stenopelmus rufinasus, commonly known as the Azolla Weevil, feeds exclusively off the Water fern, Azolla filiculoides. Now the Environment Agency has released a colony of the helpful beetles to seek & destroy a huge mossy slick of the weed in Lincolnshire . The beetle eliminates the need to use chemicals or dredging, which can harm other wildlife.

Press release & links

CWDC:  The Children's Workforce Development Council (CWDC) has announced the start of the next recruitment phase for Early Years Professional Status (EYPS), including publishing details of the organisations responsible for the delivery of the training across from January 2012. 

Press release & links

WAG:  Farmers who are converting or who plan to convert to Organic Farming can now apply for support from the Welsh Government.  The application window for the Organic Farming Conversion Scheme (OFCS) will be open until Friday 4 November 2011 and is available to those farmers who began, or will begin, conversion to organic between 2 January 2011 and 1 January 2012.  Applications must include an organic conversion plan.

Press release & links ~ Organic farming scheme

FSA:  Tesco is recalling some date codes of its own-brand Coffee and Walnut cake. Pecans have accidentally been included in the cake and are not mentioned in the ingredients list or in the allergens advice.  If you are allergic to pecans, the Food Standards Agency advises you not to eat this product.

Press release & links

MoD:  14 injured Royal Marines were in Gibraltar last week undertaking a variety of activities as part of their rehabilitation.  The Royal Marines are members of Termoli Troop, from 40 Commando in Taunton , which works specifically to help those recovering from injury.

Press release & links

NE:  Farmers in the South West are being offered a free soil testing kit as part of an initiative to provide advice on soil management.  The Soils for Profit (S4P) Project is managed by Natural England in partnership with Environment Agency and provides support to farmers on ways in which farm profits and the environment can benefit from improved soil management.

Press release & links

ScotGov:  A national road-show launched last week to encourage parents & carers to play, talk & read more with their younger children.  It will visit all of 's 32 local authorities as part of the next phase of the Scottish Government's Play, Talk, Read campaign which focuses on the early years of children's lives.

Press release & links

Policy Statements and Initiatives

CLG:  The Department for Communities and Local Government has provided further details following the Prime Minister's announcement on Right to Buy.  'Right to Buy - Questions and Answers' covers the key points on plans to raise RtB discounts to a level intended to make the scheme attractive again, and to rejuvenate the housing stock.

Press release & links

MoD:  Defence Secretary Dr Liam Fox has, for the first time, announced that a major ongoing defence project is considered to be underperforming and has been placed on the Projects of Concern list.  The Valiant Jetty project, awarded to AMEC plc in 2003, is nearly 4 years late, and some estimates put it running at £92m over cost – See also RUSI item in ‘In the News’ section.

Press release & links

MoJ:  A prison in Bristol is piloting increasing the number of hours inmates work in its workshops by 50%.  30 prisoners working at HMP Bristol's Waste Management Unit now do 33.25 hours per week instead of 22, in a move towards lengthening their working day & eventually introducing full working weeks.  A similar pilot is also being trialled at the prison's laundry unit, with a group of 15 prisoners.

Press release & links

HMT:  The Government will invest up to £150m to improve mobile coverage in the , the Chancellor announced last week.  This investment will improve the coverage & quality of mobile services for the 5 to 10% of consumers & businesses that live & work in areas of the where existing mobile coverage is poor or non-existent.  The Government will aim to extend mobile service coverage to 99% of the population.  The procurement of additional mobile phone mast sites to increase coverage will begin in 2012.

Press release & links

DH:  All doctors who want to practise in the NHS in will have to prove they can speak a good standard of English before they are allowed to work under strict new rules. The new proposals will ensure that patients are treated by doctors who they can understand, and who can understand them. 

The Department of Health will give the GMC explicit new powers to be able to take action against doctors when there are concerns about their ability to speak English.  In addition, the DH will introduce new powers so doctors can be vetted for their language skills at local level.  

Press release & links

WAG:   6 inspirational entrepreneurs who have all built up highly successful companies in have been appointed as Business Entrepreneurship Champions to the Welsh Government.  Business Minister Edwina Hart said their role is to ‘proactively promote entrepreneurship and provide guidance on entrepreneurship policy to the Welsh Government’. 
Press release & links

DH:  People receiving continuing healthcare support from the NHS will have the right to ask for a personal health budget, by April 2014.  It will give the tens of thousands of people who receive NHS Continuing Healthcare - those assessed to have complex health & care needs - more choice & control over their care.

Press release ~ NHS Continuing Healthcare ~ NHS Confederation comment ~ NAO:  Oversight of user choice and provider competition in care markets ~ More from NHS Confederation ~ 5 tests for successful implementation of personal health budgets

ScotGov:  The Climate Challenge Fund (CCF) which supports community-led action to reduce emissions, along with a Junior CCF for under-18s, officially opened for business last week.  The Scottish Government has confirmed the commitment to CCF at £10.3m each year over the Spending Review period.  Junior CCF will aim to award 10% of the CCF towards carbon reducing projects working with young people (18 and under).  This is the ninth round of CCF funding.

Press release & links

CLG:  Housing Minister Grant Shapps has hailed the rapid progress of Government plans to release formerly-used public land with enough capacity to build up to 100,000 new homes by 2015.  At the same time the Minister announced fresh steps to help communities across the country reclaim & develop hundreds of acres of unused public sector land & buildings, which could be used to deliver the schemes communities want to see in their areas.

Members of the public will now be able to request a sale of public land & buildings by filling in a simple & user friendly form.  It will replace a system that is so obscure & restrictive that it has hardly ever been used, with only one successful application in the past 13 years.

Press release & links ~ Community Right to Reclaim Land

ScotGov:  Scottish Government Ministers have called for the revenue from tax on alcohol to be devolved to , as a final piece in the jigsaw of additions to the Scotland Bill.  A Scottish Government paper sets out the case for devolving the revenue from excise duty to .  The paper highlights that as already meets the public spending costs associated with alcohol consumption, it should also receive control over the revenue benefit.

Press release & links

ScotGov:  The process of devolving responsibility towards schools & headteachers is to be revised after the publication recently of the Devolved School Management Review carried out by David Cameron.  The main recommendation of the report is that existing guidelines on Devolved School Management should be revised & implemented to provide more opportunities to give headteachers meaningful control.  The process of revising the guidance will be led by COSLA and is expected to be completed in spring 2012.

Press release & links


CQC:  The Care Quality Commission (CQC) is consulting (comments by 28 December 2011) about changes to the fees it proposes to charge providers of health & adult social care services for 2012/13. These fees cover CQC’s work in registering providers & monitoring their compliance with government standards of safety & quality.

Press release & links

EU News:  The European Commission has launched 2 public consultations related to access for alternative operators to the fixed telephone & broadband networks of established operators. The consultations are part of Commission efforts to boost the Single Market for telecoms services by ensuring consistent & coherent approaches to regulating telephone and broadband networks in all Member States.

Both consultations are open to telecoms operators, consumer organisations, national regulators, Member States and other interested parties until 28 November 2011:

* The first consultation concerns non-discriminatory access for alternative operators to the infrastructure & services of dominant telecom operators

* The second concerns the way national regulators calculate prices that operators have to pay for this wholesale access (cost-orientation remedies).

Press release & links

Ofsted:  Ofsted has launched a consultation (closes on Tuesday 27 December 2011) on proposals to ‘revise & streamline arrangements for the inspection of residential provision in further education colleges for students under the age of eighteen’.  From September 2012, Ofsted proposes to concentrate on 5 key judgements for colleges: overall effectiveness, outcomes for young people, quality of service, safeguarding and leadership & management.

Press release & links

BIS:  More than 100,000 businesses could save in excess of £600m in accountancy & administration costs every year under proposals to reduce financial reporting requirements, published by the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills last week. 

The consultation (closes on 29 December 2011) on Audit Exemptions and Change of Accounting Framework sets out plans to allow more small companies & subsidiaries to decide whether or not to have an audit.  The Government is also proposing to introduce legislation in 2012 to exempt most subsidiary companies from mandatory audit, provided their parent is prepared to guarantee their debts.  

Press release ~ Audit exemptions and change of accounting framework

DfE:  Schools Minister, Nick Gibb has set out proposals to overhaul post-16 education and give students the best chance to go on to university or skilled employment.  Consultations launched last week by the Department for Education and the Young People’s Learning Agency (YPLA) recommend that:

* The complex funding system should be simplified & made fairer so it works in favour of students (closes 4 January 2012)

* All students aged 16 to 19 without a grade C or better in GCSE English & maths should continue to study those subjects (closes 5 January 2012)

Press release & links ~ 16-19 Funding Formula Review ~ Study Programmes for 16-19 year olds

Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides

BIS:  A new FREE online service, launched last week, will help people to get improved access to jobs & career development opportunities.  Lifelong Learning Accounts will empower adults to take more control over their learning by providing clear information & advice on skills, careers & financial support all in one place.

As well as improving access to careers information & personal data, the accounts will encourage users to link up with other learners to share knowledge & experiences.  The LLAs offer will continue to develop in 2012 and beyond to provide account holders with the information they want in a way that best suits them.

Press release ~ Lifelong Learning Accounts

ICO:  Two organisations have taken action after they breached the Data Protection Act by failing to encrypt personal information on laptops that were later stolen, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) said recently.   The ICO has produced guidance on the security measures that organisations should have in place when storing personal information electronically.

Acting Head of Enforcement, Sally Anne Poole said:  “The ICO’s guidance is clear: all personal information – the loss of which is liable to cause individuals damage and distress - must be encrypted.  This is one of the most basic security measures and is not expensive to put in place - yet we continue to see incidents being reported to us.  This type of breach is inexcusable and is putting people’s personal information at risk unnecessarily”.

Press release & links

EHRC:  The Equality and Human Rights Commission has joined forces with the Care Quality Commission to produce equality & human rights guidance for care inspectors.  The advice is aimed at ensuring people who are most vulnerable to harm have their rights upheld and respected.

Press release & links

Annual Reports

ScotGov:  The annual report on the state of Scottish prisons has been published by Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons.  The report presents an overall view of 's prisons as well as a summary of inspections conducted during the year.

Press release & links

CO:  A government report shows that in the past 12 months, significant steps have been taken in the drive to cut unnecessary spending and pave the way for a single government web domain.  Hundreds of government websites have been closed over the past year, the Cabinet Office revealed in the recent Central Government Websites annual report.

The Cabinet Office is currently working on a prototype for a potential single government web domain, as recommended by Martha Lane Fox.  A single government domain would host all main public information, building on the services delivered through Directgov, offering additional features & reducing the need for individual government websites.

Press release & links

General Reports and Other Publications

IISS:  The latest Strategic Comment from the International Institute for Strategic Studies highlights how 6 months after foreign forces intervened to protect civilians from the regime of Muammar Gadhafi, his loyalists have been reduced to defending a few remaining strongholds. 

The NATO-led operation that helped the rebels to become the government can provisionally be termed a success.  The war will, however, leave lessons both in terms of objectives & execution.

Press release & links

CSJ:  Tax breaks for marriage are backed overwhelmingly by the British public, according to a new opinion poll commissioned by the influential independent think-tank, the Centre for Social Justice.  And in the wake of the summer riots, more than 80% of those polled said they regarded family breakdown as a ‘serious’ problem facing society.

Press release & links

CIPD:  Stress is, for the first time, the most common cause of long-term sickness absence for both manual & non-manual employees, according to this year’s Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD)/Simplyhealth Absence Management survey.

Press release & links ~ TUC comment

NIESR:  The Department for Communities and Local Government has published 2 research reports by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR ) on international migration to the .

* The first report examines the determinants of international migration between the   and 14 different groups of countries

* The second report, 'Local Geography of International Migration to the  ', explores the determinants of immigrants' location choices within the  

Press release & links

Ofsted:  Last week was Children’s Book Week - a national celebration of reading for children of primary school age.  Research & evidence from Ofsted’s inspections show that the critical age when children learn to be good readers & writers is between 3 and 7.  However, nationally, 1 in 5 children leaving primary school does not reach the standard expected for reading & writing:

* Ofsted published a report ( Reading by six: how the best schools do it) in November 2010, which showcases the work of 12 outstanding schools in teaching virtually all children to read to the expected standard.

 * Another Ofsted report, Excellence in English, published in May 2011, featured some schools that were very effective in promoting reading.

Press release & links

Unite:  The fact that 40% of disabled children are living in poverty is ‘a scar on the conscience of ’, Unite, the union, said recently.  Unite called on ministers to act ‘immediately and urgently’ on The Children’s Society findings in its report - 4 in every 10: Disabled children living in poverty

The report revealed that when the Disability Living Allowance is removed from family income, 40% of disabled children in the UK are living in poverty, rising to about 50% where there is also a disabled adult in the family. 

Press release & links

Legislation / Legal

TfL:  Visually impaired & other disabled people with trained assistance dogs will be able to use moving escalators legally for the first time on the Tube, Docklands Light Railway and London Overground thanks to the revision of a dated byelaw.

TfL has worked with the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association to devise a training course that means the byelaw can be updated and all trained assistance and police dogs will be allowed to use moving escalators.  The Government has now approved the byelaws and they came into force on 5 October 2011.

For many years TfL was advised dogs should not be allowed to use moving escalators to prevent injuries, so under TfL's byelaws all passengers with dogs were required to carry them on escalators or use lifts or stairs instead.

Press release & links

BIS:  Changes to unfair dismissal rules which could save nearly £6m a year for British business have been announced.  The decision will see the qualification period for the right to claim unfair dismissal extended from 1 to 2 years. This will come into force on 1 April 2012.

Press release & links ~ CBI comment ~ CIPD comment

DH:  From last week, the sale of tobacco from vending machines is prohibited across .  The ban has been introduced to prevent under-age sales to children and to support adults who are trying to quit.  Cigarette vending machines are often unsupervised, making it easy for children to buy cigarettes from them. It is estimated that 35m cigarettes are sold illegally through vending machines to children every year.

Press release & links

ScotGov:  The Scottish Government has published a paper outlining proposals for the future of legal aid provision.  'A Sustainable Future for Legal Aid' follows the recent publication of the Scottish Government's public spending plans for the next 3 years, and sets out proposals for maintaining a fair, high quality & equitable legal aid system which maintains public confidence at an affordable & sustainable level of expenditure.

Press release & links

NO:  The Local Government Ombudsmen have highlighted flaws in the way councils decide to pursue bankruptcy for council tax debts.   The LGO has published a report summarising their experience of complaints so that councils can avoid maladministration & advice agencies can identify suitable cases to refer on to the Ombudsmen.

Press release & links

EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.

EU News:  The European Commission has released its yearly financial report, which presents detailed information on what the EU money was spent on & how was it managed.

Press release & links

EU News:  Only 2 out of 9 social networking sites (Habbo Hotel & Xbox Live) have default settings which make minors' personal profiles accessible only to their approved list of contacts according to a new round of tests undertaken for the European Commission.  The Commission is reviewing protection of minors online from such risks as grooming & cyber-bullying as part of the objective set by the Digital Agenda for Europe.  

In the other 7 websites tested results showed that a considerable amount of personal information - including information added by users after registration - was displayed by default to users beyond the minor's approved contacts list.  This information did not necessarily lead to immediate identification of minors, but could do so. 

Press release & links

Defra:  Food labelling will be clearer, simpler & more honest following heavy lobbying in Europe by the .  The victory means it will be far easier for consumers to know what’s in the food they’re buying, including:

* The country of origin of fresh & frozen meat

* If any of the main ingredients in foods claiming British origin are actually imported

* If there is more than 5% water content in cuts of meat such as bacon

Press release & links

EU News:  The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has completed the first stage of a major piece of work that will provide the scientific basis for the modernisation of meat inspection across the EU.  The first set covers the inspection of swine and was published last week.

The 5 remaining sets of Opinions & reports will cover poultry; bovine animals over 6 weeks old; bovine animals under 6 weeks old; domestic sheep & goats; farmed game & domestic solipeds.

Press release & links

EU News:  Have you been tempted by a cheaper online offer from another EU country but wondering how reliable it is to shop from abroad?  'Mystery shoppers' from the EU-supported European Consumer Centres' Network have checked just that.  Their report (State of the e-Union) shows the results of 305 purchases in 28 countries. 

The Commission wants to table a legislative proposal which will allow consumers shopping online from an EU country to solve their disputes with traders based in another EU country, entirely online as an alternative to going to court.  This is expected before the end of 2011.

Press release & links

EU News:  In almost all European countries, gross basic salaries for teachers entering the profession are lower than national GDP per capita - and their pay will not even double over the course of their working lifetime, except in a handful of Member States.   These are the main findings of a report which compares the salaries of public-sector teachers and school heads in 27 EU Member States, Iceland, , and .

Press release & links

EU News:  The European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) adopted an opinion last week on the European Commission proposal to revise the EU legislation on tachographs - the device used in road transport to monitor driving times & rest periods of professional drivers - as a means of checking compliance with social legislation in the field.

Press release & links

EU News:  The European Commission has launched 2 public consultations related to access for alternative operators to the fixed telephone & broadband networks of established operators – See ‘Consultations’ section for more information. 

DWP:  The European Commission has adopted a draft legislative package which will frame cohesion policy for 2014-2020. 

Press release & links

Charity and Voluntary Sector

BIG:  What does this country need most – more recycling, better educated youngsters, stronger community spirit or new investment in science?  Channel 4 is following the Big Lottery Fund (BIG) as it asks the British public how they would spend £10m of lottery money.  The results of this nationwide debate will help directly determine which projects or charities will benefit from a huge cash injection. 

From caring for the world around them, to helping people learn the skills they need to make the most of their lives, to tackling local issues – for the first time, the general public are being asked to decide the themes that best represent their priorities for Lottery funding in the current climate.

The results will help BIG to find 5 inspirational projects across the , each to receive a multi-million Big Lottery Fund cash injection as part of its Millennium Now grant programme.

Press release & links

ScotGov: The distribution of £ms from dormant bank accounts to third sector organisations in is a stage closer.  The Scottish Government has now issued formal instructions to BIG Scotland, asking them to take into account four themes when deciding who should benefit from the grants:

* Opportunities for children & young people

* Addressing health inequalities through increased activity

* Bridging the gap between older & young people

* Creating community based employment opportunities

Press release & links

BHF:  An analysis of the number & type of organ donations in the has revealed significant variations across the 4 nations.  Over time, has consistently outperformed the rest of the both in terms of the percentage of people on the organ donor register and donation rates, which have been higher than the average for most of the last 20 years.

According to Betty McBride, the British Heart Foundation's Director of Policy & Communications the rate of heart donations has slumped over the past two decades:   “The reality is that nine out of 10 of us want to donate but just 25 per cent join the donor register. There is clearly a yawning gap between good intention and action and that needs to be filled, not with more research, but with active politics like they have in . We need opt out legislation across the , supported by proper infrastructure and training for doctors”. 
Press release & links

BNByte Night is an annual sleep-out in support of Action for Children, raising awareness & funds to help tackle the root causes of youth homelessness in the .  On Friday 7 October over 800 sleepers across the country braved the cold to sleep outside so others don't have to. 

Please donate now! - In support of this event, an intrepid team from Trillium (valued Wired-GOV subscribers & sponsors) gave up their beds for one night to sleep rough in London .  Click here to sponsor them and donate to this worthy cause - any amount large or small will make a difference.
Press release & links 

DUK:  A team of researchers have identified a naturally occurring compound which can restore normal blood glucose control in mice with diabetes. The researchers, from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis , have suggested that the discovery could lead to a potential treatment for Type 2 diabetes.

Press release & links

DCMS:  Do you know someone – male, female, young or old – who has made an outstanding contribution to sport?  Someone who has been working hard, often behind the scenes, perhaps in a voluntary capacity?  If so, why not help get them the recognition they deserve by nominating them for an Honour?

Press release & links

CO:  The Social Action Fund which is designed to support the creation of new social action opportunities opened for applications last week.  Worth over £20m, the fund will offer grants of £100,000 & more to projects across that will expand volunteering and giving of time, money, knowledge & assets.

The Fund is open to proposals relevant to its three main themes:

* Social action in the community

* Social action inspired by the Olympics & Paralympics legacy

* Social action for all ages

Press release & links

CO:  The £80m Community First fund, which will provide small grants to community groups & local social action projects, has been opened by Nick Hurd Minister for Civil Society.  This comes in the same week that the first of 5,000 people to be trained as Community Organisers took up post

A Community First website has been opened which invites people to sign their community up to receive support.  Funding will be handed out by panels of local people so communities decide what’s important to them. The fund is divided into two strands:

* £30m will be used to provide small grants

* The remaining £50m will be used to match private donations invested in community endowment funds

Press release & links

Business and Other Briefings

HO:  Last week the Home Office made some amendments to the list of approved English language test providers for applications made under Tiers 1, 2 & 4 of the points-based system and for spouse or partner applications.

Press release & links

BIS:  business could save nearly £100,000 per year thanks to a free patent system launched by the Intellectual Property Office (IPO).  The new online service, called Ipsum, will remove the cost to businesses of requesting patent documents; instead they will now be available for free at the click of a button. 

Previously each document requested by a business would cost £5 and by the time it had been delivered it might already be out of date.  Ipsum is updated in real time so businesses will now have the up to date information on patent applications they need.

Press release & links

BIS:  More than 100,000 UK businesses could save in excess of £600m in accountancy & administration costs every year under proposals to reduce financial reporting requirements, published by the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills last week – See ‘Consultations’ section for more information.

HMRC:  Revenue & Customs Brief 36/11

This brief provides further guidance to assist businesses with the implementation of changes to VAT accounting in relation to salary sacrifice arrangements announced in Revenue and Customs Brief 28/11 on 28 July 2011.

Industry News

BIS:  A £50m Global Research & Technology Hub has been announced by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.  The Hub will connect researchers & businesses working to commercialise the Nobel Prize winning super strong material graphene

There are Graphene centres of research excellence at Manchester, Cambridge, Lancaster, Exeter, Bath, Oxford & Durham universities and Imperial College London.  Since the original discovery of graphene at Manchester , EPSRC has invested over £16m into research funding for the area.

Press release & links ~ Graphene

BIS:  A £145m boost to improve ’s e-infrastructure has been announced by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, which will ‘drive growth & innovation across a range of sectors that rely heavily on computing including manufacturing, engineering and design. It will also provide industry with the latest technology and facilities, giving reassurance that Britain is a great place to do business and encouraging further private sector support’.

Press release & links

ScotGov:  Plans to replace the coal fired power station at Cockenzie in East Lothian with a high efficiency gas station have been approved by Ministers.  The new 1,000 Megawatt Combined Cycle Gas Turbine power station will create up to 1,000 jobs in demolition & construction and 50 full time positions when completed.

Natural gas is a much more efficient fuel than coal and will more than halve carbon and nitrogen dioxide emissions compared to the existing power station.  The development will be carbon capture ready and will be required to fit full carbon capture & storage technology once it is commercially & technically proven.  

In addition, the Scottish Government has today published a new study that will help promote the most efficient use of waste heat in generating electricity.

Press release & links

DH:  The Government has launched the first 2 National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) partnerships for early stage health research, which will usher in a new era for clinical trials - accelerating the development of innovative treatments from the lab to patients, as well as providing a real boost to the growth of the life science sector.

The new set up means that when a company wants to collaborate with the NIHR Partnerships, just one legal agreement is now required rather than having to negotiate with each NHS Trust & University.  Access to the Partnerships is via the NIHR Office for Clinical Research Infrastructure (NOCRI), providing an easy & consistent point of entry for industry.

Press release & links ~ NIHR Office for Clinical Research Infrastructure (NOCRI)

Forthcoming Event

IfL:  The Institute for Learning (IfL) is one of the further education & skills organisations being represented at the world’s largest skills competition and jobs & careers event, WorldSkills London 2011, which is being held at ExCeL London from 5 to 8 October 2011.  In the run-up to the event, IfL has been interviewing members about their involvement in supporting Team . 

Several IfL members are also working as Master Volunteers in the event competition team, offering expertise in their specialist areas.  The team challenge will involve WorldSkills plumbing competitors teaming up to install a renewable energy (solar) system, after the main plumbing competition.

Press release & links

ACE:  Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender arts festival Gaywise FESTival 2011 kicks off in London next month.  This year's festival, which runs 7-20 November, features a diverse programme of short film screenings, workshops & debates, visual arts exhibitions and live performances.

Press release & links

NE: Natural is undertaking a formal public consultation (closes on Thursday 24 November 2011) on the Studland to Portland possible Special Area of Conservation (pSAC).  Two open meetings have been arranged so that members of the public can study maps in detail, and meet staff from Natural England who will be on hand to discuss the boundary, the necessity of the site and the evidence behind it.  Tea and coffee will be available at both open meetings:

* First open meeting: Thursday 13 October 2011

* Second open meeting: Tuesday 1 November 2011

Press release & links

DCMS:  Hundreds of schoolchildren will get the opportunity to tread, swim & cycle where some of the world’s best athletes will compete next year.  Under plans for the finals of the 2012 School Games, youngsters will aim for victory at four major London 2012 venues just two months before the Olympics begin.

Press release & links

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