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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

This newsletter covers the period of press releases since the publication of the last newsletter in mid-December 2011

NAOHistorically too big, lengthy, risky & complex - The National Audit Office has commended the early progress being made by the Government in implementing its ICT Strategy, but has identified areas where progress has not kept pace with the Government’s ambitions.

Launched in March 2011, the Strategy is intended to tackle systemic problems in government ICT projects which in the past have tended to be too big, lengthy, risky and complex.  

Departments have independently developed systems which have often not communicated easily with one another.  The broad aim of the Strategy is to reduce waste & project failure, create a common ICT infrastructure for government and use ICT to change how public services are delivered.
DefraToo little can be as bad as too much - Energy companies’ plans to protect the UK power supply from the impacts of climate change have been published by Defra.  Flooding of sub stations, difficulties in keeping power stations cool in hotter summers and damage to overhead wires & underground cables in periods of drought were amongst the key threats that energy firms found climate change could pose to their business.

The reports will help Government assess the UK’s readiness for climate change and the actions needed to adapt.  In January 2012, Defra will publish the Climate Change Risk Assessment (CCRA), a report that will give the UK the most comprehensive overview of any nation of the challenges climate change will present.
Press release & links ~ Defra: Drought to be 'commonplace' by 2050s ~ Defra: Advice for infrastructure companies ~ National Infrastructure Plan 2011 ~ Infrastructure UK (IUK) ~ Changing climate, changing infrastructure ~ Impact & summary reports ~ UK Climate Impacts Programme ~ CO: Infrastructure and Corporate Resilience ~ EFRAC report: Future flood and water management legislation ~ National Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management Strategy ~ Defra: Flood Rescue National Enhancement ~ Exercise Watermark ~ National Flood Emergency Framework for England ~ Flood risk management role for local authorities ~ Flood Warnings for Infrastructure (FWFI) service ~ EA: Flood preparation guide for your business ~ ScotGov: Delivering Sustainable Flood Risk Management - An Analysis of Consultation Responses ~ WAG:  Water and flooding ~ Environment Agency - launches UK’s largest flood product test centre ~ HR Wallingford ~ BSI: PAS 1188 ~ UK Flood Barriers ~ NFF: Blue Pages ~ Sir Michael Pitt’s review of the 2007 floods

HMICPolice leadership failed to protect communities - In a recent report (The rules of engagement: A review of the August 2011 disorders) the HM Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) ‘found police need to be better prepared, trained & ready to protect the public if they are to improve upon their response to public disorder’.

The police response in future should still be comprised of police officers who are normally engaged in other, day-to-day duties, but they must be fully trained & able to switch from roles that require largely individual action & initiative, to ‘disciplined & co-ordinated collective, public order actions’.

Police commanders must be equipped to respond with extraordinary measures.  These measures are set out in manuals but 'police are not currently equipped or trained to deliver them in practice'.  There also needs to be a public debate as to where & when police tactics involving protected vehicles, water cannon and AEPs are acceptable.
HMTStill overpaid & unaccountable - The Government has published its response to the report by the Independent Commission on Banking (ICB), which sets out plans to fundamentally reform the structure of banking in the UK.  

This response agrees with the ICB’s recommendations and outlines how the Government will legislate to create a stable banking sector that supports lending to businesses and families, and removes the implicit taxpayer guarantee in the event of a bank failure.

The Government will implement the ICB’s advice in stages with the full package of reforms completed by 2019.  All necessary legislation will therefore be put in place by the end of this Parliament.

The Government will publish a White Paper in spring 2012 setting out further detail on how the recommendations will be implemented; in advance of that, the Government is open to views on how to implement these plans.
MoDHaving fought 24/7, some need locally-based advice, support & care 24/7 - A regional network of support groups to help military veterans access local services has been launched. 13 groups have been created across the UK (staffed by former Service personnel) to give advice to veterans about the range of services available to them.  This could be anything from helping a veteran get specialist medical care to assistance for a widow to claim a pension.

The groups, called Veterans Advisory & Pensions Committees (VAPCs), support the Government's pledge to enshrine the Armed Forces Covenant in law and ensure Service personnel & veterans are not disadvantaged.
LCFairer shares for immediate ‘family’ - The Law Commission has made recommendations to bring inheritance law into line with the needs & expectations of modern families, and simplify the law to help the bereaved deal with the property of a deceased family member.

Every year tens of thousands of people die without a will and the property they leave behind is distributed according to legal rules that date back to 1925.  More recent legislation allows certain family members & dependants who were not adequately provided for to go to court to claim ‘family provision’, whether or not there is a will.
DFIDThere are still other types of disasters besides financial - Some of the world’s richest countries are failing to help prepare for large-scale disasters, such as earthquakes, floods & wars, despite clear evidence that the number of catastrophes is likely to increase in the years ahead, International Development Secretary, Andrew Mitchell has warned.

Despite a year of unprecedented disasters – including famine in the Horn of Africa, the Japan tsunami, New Zealand earthquake, floods in Pakistan and most recently the Philippines – the United Nations’ international disaster response funding system is expected to be left severely underfunded.  The system – set up following the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami – is designed to bring different countries funding into one single pot that makes the international response faster & more effective.

Recent Report: – Exploring the Top 10 Risks and Opportunities for Government and Public Sector - Based on interviews with government and public sector commentators and on a global survey across 15 countries, Ernst & Young has compiled rankings of the top 10 risks and opportunities for government and public sector organisations in 2011 and obtained forecasts on whether these challenges would be more or less important in 2013.

Risk continues to dominate the agenda: fiscal policy, recession, sustainability, security — all have contributed to a drive toward transformation — and with that drive comes opportunity.

The report highlights:

  • Strengthening new forms of global governance, such as G20, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, ranked as the number one opportunity for government and public sector.
  • Triggering a double-dip recession through fiscal consolidation ranked as the number one risk for government and public sector.

This report is part of a wider piece of research that explores the top 10 business risks and opportunities globally across seven sector groups including government, power and utilities, banking, retail, oil and gas, healthcare and life sciences.

Click here to download your free copy of the full report.

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

General News

TfLTransport for London (TfL) has announced that following 2 extensive trials, motorcycles will be able to drive in bus lanes on a permanent basis on the majority of the capital's Red Routes from 23 January, 2012..
ACEArts Council England, in partnership with CyMAL: Museums Archives and Libraries Wales, Museums Galleries Scotland and the Northern Ireland Museums Council, have  launched a revised Accreditation Scheme for museums and galleries across the UK.
Accreditation is a renewable status and museums currently ‘accredited under the 2004 standard’ will be invited to renew their status against the new standard over a 5 year period, which will respect their existing planning cycles.
OFT: The OFT has launched a market study into private motor insurance in the UK which will focus on the provision of third party vehicle repairs and credit hire replacement vehicles to claimants.
NHSBTNHS Blood and Transplant is warning that a 'perfect storm' could be created by next year's bumper sporting calendar & extra bank holidays, severely affecting blood donation levels in 2012. NHSBT statistics show that 93% of donors give blood during the working week and that when there are big sporting events or a string of bank holidays donation levels drop.
Approximately 2m units of blood will be needed by hospitals throughout 2012, and the equivalent of 500 extra donations will be needed each week in the first 6 months to help us build blood stocks and cover extra potential need from Olympic visitors.
LGAEmergency radio broadcasts could be jeopardised by BBC plans to turn off medium wave radio transmitters and lay off local reporters, council leaders have warned. In times of crisis such as flooding, severe weather or other major emergencies, town halls and their partner police & fire authorities often rely on local radio to keep residents informed and issue safety advice.

As part of cost-cutting measures, the BBC is proposing to cut medium wave coverage across swathes of the country, replace hours of local radio content with national FM programmes and lay off many regional staff. However, what appears as FM coverage on paper is in reality only crackling static in many areas where the signal is disrupted by hills or valleys.  Councils warn the medium wave switch off will lead to thousands of their residents in rural communities losing local radio entirely.
DHPlan your meals to save £s & lbs - UK households can be healthier and could save up to £1,500 a year by simply planning their weekly food shop, a new Change4Life survey has revealed.
AS: The Alzheimer's Society has highlighted a growing crisis as charges for older people's home care top £7,000. A new survey of care provided by local councils (published by Labour) found that councils are increasing charges for vital services including home care, meals on wheels and transport to day centres. It also highlights huge differences in the price people pay for care, depending on where they live.
RoSPA: The deadline for organisations to register their interest in becoming local partners for a national carbon monoxide awareness programme has been extended until the end of the January 2012.
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents and Gas Safe Charity are launching the Be Gas Safe programme to raise awareness of the ‘silent killer’ and the steps that can be taken to prevent carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.  Rolling out across England this year, the programme will see 10,000 families receiving a free CO detector and many more receiving safety information.
DWPOnly 38% of working-age people - 11.6m out of 30.4m people - are saving into a private pension, the lowest level in the past 10 years, new analysis by the Department for Work and Pensions showed recently. This highlights exactly why automatic enrolment – introduced from October 2012 – is so critical.
HO: The phone number for people wishing to order & enquire about birth, death and marriage certificates has changed. The new customer service number for the General Register Office is 0300 123 1837. 0300 phone numbers are specially designated for use by public bodies and not-for-profit organisations.
TUC: The 2bn hours of unpaid overtime worked last year would be ‘enough to create over 1m extra full-time jobs’, the TUC said last week as it announced the date for Work Your Proper Hours Day 2012. If workers who regularly put in unpaid overtime worked all their hours from the start of the year, the first day they would get paid would be Friday 24 February.  The TUC has named this Work Your Hour Proper Hours Day (WYPHD) in their honour. 
HMRCHM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) is issuing a New Year reminder to anyone who hasn’t yet sent in their 2010/11 Self Assessment tax return. There are 2 important things to remember if you still haven’t submitted your 2010/11 return:
* firstly - you must send it online
* secondly - you need to do so by the 31 January 2012 deadline – If you send HMRC an online return after this date, or you file a paper return, you will receive a £100 penalty – even if you have no tax to pay or you pay your tax on time.
ScotGov: The starting gun for the first ever crofting elections was fired on 5 January 2012 with the official publication of the Notice of Elections. 6 people will be democratically elected by Scotland's crofting community to represent their interests.  The remaining 3 spaces are to be filled by Ministerial appointment.
The postal ballot for the further 6 members will take place in March 2012 with the count on 16 March 2012. The official change from the current Crofters Commission to the Crofting Commission will then come into effect on 1 April 2012.

Policy Statements and Initiatives

DfT: Ministers are tackling the misery caused by lorry drivers following satnavs down narrow & inappropriate roads as part of a package of new traffic signs rules.  Under the new rules, laid before Parliament by Transport Minister Norman Baker, councils will no longer need Whitehall approval to introduce certain new signs or some existing ones that they need to use on a regular basis.
Among the new signs councils will now be able to use without needing to get Government approval are those indicating that a route is unsuitable for lorries - designed to tackle the problem of lorry drivers using inappropriate roads because they are following satnavs - and signs indicating charging points for low emission vehicles. The statutory instrument outlining the changes to the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions is expected to take effect from 30 January 2012..
DCMS14 cities across the UK could become super-connected cities, Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt has announced. The bidding cities will have to show how they will use the status to drive growth with a particular focus on SMEs and strategic employment zones.  BT & Virgin will strengthen their networks in the winning cities to deliver 80-100Mbps broadband speeds.
Guidance for bidders has been published and proposals will have to be submitted by 13 February 2012.  Successful cities will be announced in the Budget in March 2012.
Press release & links ~ Related press release & links
HMT: The Government set out the headline agreements reached with trades unions on public service pension reform.  Heads of Agreement have been reached with the NHS Pension Scheme, the Principal Civil Service Pension Scheme, the Teachers’ Pension Scheme and the Local Government Pensions Scheme based on the enhanced offer made by the Government on 2 November 2011.
WAGReducing preventable Healthcare Associated Infections (HCAIs) is a priority for the Welsh Government and the NHS in Wales. They are a major cause of morbidity, mortality, excess healthcare costs – and treatment of infections is becoming more difficult due to an alarming rise in antimicrobial resistance.
The Minister for Health & Social Services, Lesley Griffiths has launched the new Framework of Actions for healthcare organisations, which aims to ensure suitable & sustainable infection prevention and control (IPC) arrangements and robust antimicrobial stewardship are in place for 2011-12 & beyond.
CLG: Councils will be ‘freed to generate greater levels of income, encouraged to support local firms & jobs and be well placed to reap the rewards of success’, Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said when he recently confirmed that Government will introduce major reforms enabling councils to keep a share of business rates they collect rather than paying them back to Whitehall.
ScotGov: Scotland's growing older population must be treated with dignity & respect in their homes, Scottish Ministers and Cosla said recently in a blueprint that looks 10 years into the future. The Older People's Housing Strategy stresses the importance of supporting people to remain at home independently for as long as possible, rather than premature or inappropriate admissions to care homes or hospitals. 
A key focus will be placed on preventative services that are crucial in helping to reduce accidents & emergency hospital admissions. The Spending Review marked a decisive shift towards preventative spending, focussing on delivering better outcomes and value for money.
DfE: The Government has published plans to increase the participation of 16-24 year olds in education, training & work‘Building Engagement, Building Futures' sets out the Government's strategy to improve the opportunities for young people, so they can succeed in education & training and gain the skills they need to secure an apprenticeship or employment.  It includes radical reforms to schools, vocational education, skills and welfare provision.
HO: A new police professional body that supports police officers at all ranks & civilian policing professionals will be set up in 2012, Home Secretary Theresa May has announced.  The new body will take responsibility for developing professional skills & leadership in the police service.  It will act in the public interest and will be a single voice for the police service with a publicly accountable board and independent chairperson.
As part of the government’s programme of policing reform, they are rationalising the landscape of the police service by phasing out the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA).  Some of the NPIA’s critical national services will be moved into the National Crime Agency (NCA), via the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA). Responsibility for delivering other national services – like the ‘non-emergency 101 phone number’ and crime mapping - will move to the Home Office.
CLG: Plans to radically transform the lives of the country's most troubled families’ have been announced by the PM David Cameron and Communities Secretary Eric Pickles. Almost £450m has been made available in a ‘new, determined, cross-government drive to turn around the lives of 120,000 of some of the country's most troubled families by the end of this Parliament’.
A new Troubled Families Team based within the Department for Communities and Local Government and headed by Louise Casey CB, has been established to join up efforts across Whitehall, provide expert help to local areas and drive forward the strategy.
HO: 22 areas in London, Liverpool, Manchester and the West Midlands are to receive funding & support to tackle gang & youth violence, the Home Secretary announced recently. Details of the 22 areas and the funding they will receive can be found in provisional funding allocations.
DfE: Schools Minister Nick Gibb has welcomed the next steps in restoring confidence to GCSEs as rigorous & valued qualifications. The independent exams watchdog Ofqual has confirmed short-term reforms to current GCSEs from September 2012.  Students starting 2-year GCSE courses starting in September 2012 will have to sit their exams at the end of the course in summer 2014.
It follows plans outlined in last year's White Paper to return exams to the end of each course and stop the culture of re-sits.  The changes also mean that students will once again be marked on the accuracy of their spelling, punctuation and use of grammar in GCSEs in key subjects.  Students will, however, be given an early opportunity to resit maths, English & English Language GCSEs every November because these are key subjects needed to progress to further study or employment.
BIS: An estimated 1.3m electrical items (such as MP3 players, kettles, cameras & coffee makers) will be thrown away in 2012 and 75% of them will end up in landfill.  A campaign was launched on Boxing Day, which shows the benefits of recycling and helps the public find their nearest recycling point.  The Government is backing the industry led campaign and calling on people to recycle their old electronic goods. 
Recycling Minister Lord Taylor of Holbeach said: “The old electricals we think are just destined for the scrap heap are packed with precious materials and rare metals that are worth a fortune if they are recycled properly. The amount of palladium we expect to be chucked out over the next few years from old computers, tvs and electrical alone could be worth more than £1billion”.
DHNHS & social care staff who have concerns about patient care will be able to access a new, free whistleblowing helpline from the 1 January 2012. The launch means that, for the first time, the helpline will be available to staff & employers in the social care sector, as well as the NHS, via a now-free phone service.
This is in addition to the introduction of a contractual duty to raise concerns, which will be enshrined in the new NHS Constitution.  A similar web-based whistleblowing service is also being developed, with further details to be announced in due course.
Defra: Rural business leaders will have a hotline to the heart of Government through the creation of new Rural & Farming Networks, Agriculture Minister Jim Paice has announced.  14 networks representing different areas of England have been set up to identify & feed back local issues & concerns straight to the heart of Government, in order to make policies more rural-friendly.
DWP: The Government has announced a new £200m outreach service to help England's most troubled families.  Run in conjunction with local authorities and the organisations delivering the Work Programme, the new service will help families with multiple problems overcome barriers to employment.
Using funding allocated to the UK from the European Social Fund, the Minister has appointed 8 of the country’s leading welfare to work providers to work with local authorities and over 200 local organisations to identify & deliver the services & support needed. These providers will bring with them the expertise needed for the job and over 50% of the organisations are from the voluntary and social sectors.
DH: A new drive to free up nurses to provide the care patients & relatives expect has been announced by Prime Minister David Cameron and Health Secretary Andrew Lansley. The push will see nurses spending more time on front line care in wards and other services, a senior ward nurse with whom the buck stops, patients leading on inspections and a new 'friends & family test' to show whether nurses & patients had a good overall experience, or would want loved ones needing care to be treated at each hospital.
CLG:  The Government has published its proposals for the new arrangements for audit of local public bodies. The Government will now begin a period of ‘intense discussion’ with councils & audit firms so they can shape the practical details of the new, localised audit system. A series of workshops with council finance experts will begin in January 2012.
The Government intends to bring forward legislation to formally close down the Audit Commission and introduce the new framework as soon as Parliamentary time allows.  A draft Bill will be published for pre-legislative scrutiny in Spring 2012.


DCMS:  British people are being asked for their views on plans announced by the European Commission for a new £1.5bn Creative Europe programme.  The programme, which was unveiled last month, would run from 2014 to 2020 to follow on from the current Culture, MEDIA and MEDIA Mundus programmes.

The UK Government is now seeking views about the proposals to inform its approach to negotiations in the EU Council and European Parliament during 2012.  The consultation will run until Friday 16 March 2012.

Press release & links

DfT:  Rail passengers in the Thames Valley , the South West & South Wales are being asked for their views on how their rail services should be run, Rail Minister Theresa Villiers has announced.  A consultation will give passengers, local councils and other interested groups the chance to say what improvements & changes they want to see delivered by the new Great Western rail franchise, which is set to be renewed in 2013.  The consultation closes on 31 March 2012.

Press release ~ Great Western Franchise Replacement consultation

LC:  In a new consultation (closes on 20 March 2012), the Law Commission of England & Wales and the Scottish Law Commission are proposing reforms to allow a wider range of people to insure the lives of those on whom they are dependent.  The existing law is based on the Life Assurance Act 1774, which prohibits people from insuring the lives of others without an ‘insurable interest’. 

This means that you can insure your own life or the life of your husband, wife or civil partner – but you have no automatic right to insure the life of someone else, such as a live-in partner, parent or child.  You can only insure another person where you are tied by a legal obligation. The courts have interpreted this narrowly, refusing to allow insurance based on a moral obligation for a son to look after his father, or to bury his mother.
Press release ~ LCE&W:  Insurance Contract Law: Post Contract Duties and other Issues ~ SLC:  Insurance contract law reform

WAG:  An ‘ambitious’ vision of what cancer care should look like to help achieve rates comparable with the lowest in Europe have been set out in a new cancer plan published for consultation (closes on 5 March 2012) by the Welsh Government.  

This plan sets out the Welsh Government’s expectations of the NHS, working together with local government, the third sector and the public, with regard to what improvements should be delivered by 2016.  The plan also identifies themes for action and will include a short document for the public what it can expect over the coming few years.  

Press release & links

HMT:  The Economic Secretary to the Treasury Chloe Smith has announced a consultation on extending the use of rebated fuel or ‘red diesel’ to allow tractors to grit roads in rural communities.  The consultation will be carried out in the New Year by HM Revenue & Customs, following an informal review into wider use of red diesel for a range of community-based activities. 

For the last two winters, HMRC has temporarily relaxed its enforcement procedures to allow tractors to provide this important support for communities which are often too remote to benefit from municipal gritting during extreme weather.  This winter HMRC is continuing to monitor the weather situation and will once again relax the rules should there be a deterioration in conditions.

Press release & links

FSA:  The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has announced plans to prevent a return of the risky mortgage lending seen in boom times, by ensuring that common sense standards continue to apply in future. 

The Mortgage Market Review aims to prevent a recurrence of the irresponsible lending which resulted in some borrowers taking on mortgages which only seemed affordable on the assumption that house prices would always rise.  The consultation closes on 30 March 2012.

Press release & links

DWP:  New plans have been published that ‘will ensure that money saved into a pension stays in a pension’.  The Minister for Pensions, Steve Webb, has promised to protect the pension pots of people who move jobs often by abolishing Short Service Refunds for DC occupational schemes.  These refunds allow individuals to get their pension contributions back – leaving them without a pension. 

A highly mobile jobs market and the introduction of automatic enrolment will lead to around 4.7m additional small pension pots in our pensions system by 2050.  Options for consultation (closes 23 March 2012) range from small changes to encourage transfers to an automatic transfer system where pension pots could either be consolidated in one or more ‘aggregator’ schemes or move with people from job to job.

The DWP have also published a consultation on the 2012/2013 review & revision of earning thresholds for automatic enrolment (closes 26 March 2012).

Press release & links ~ Meeting future workplace pension challenges: improving transfers and dealing with small pension pots ~ Automatic enrolment thresholds: review and revision 2012 / 2013 

SGC:  New proposals about how the owners of dangerous dogs should be sentenced by the courts have been announced, with the launch of a public consultation (closes on 8 March 2012) on the first sentencing guideline that covers dangerous dog offences.

The draft guideline also aims to ensure that sentencers make best use of their powers so that irresponsible owners who put the public at risk can be banned from keeping dogs, genuinely dangerous dogs can be put down and compensation can be paid to victims.

Press release & links ~ Consultation exercise

HO:  Young people under 18 could be included in the cross-government definition of domestic violence for the first time, under a consultation launched by the Home Secretary Theresa May.  The consultation will run until 30 March 2012.

Press release & links

MoJ:  Plans to lower the £84m cost to the taxpayer, and relieve pressure on businesses, through the introduction of fees for employment tribunals have been announced by Justice Minister, Jonathan Djanogly. 

The consultation puts forward 2 sets of proposals that ‘will ensure that those who use the system make a financial contribution but which will also protect access to justice for those on low incomes or limited means’. 

The Government is planning to relieve pressure on the taxpayer by ensuring that those who use the service pay towards it.  In both options the tribunal would be given the power to order the unsuccessful party to reimburse fees paid by the successful party.  

It will also help businesses by discouraging unmerited & unnecessary claims and encouraging early settlement of claims.  The consultation will close in 6 March 2012, with a view to introduce the fees not before 2013-14.

Press release & links

DWP:  The current system of paying bereavement benefits is inconsistent & complex, with no encouragement to return to work the Minister for Welfare Reform, Lord Freud said when he published a consultation (closes on 5 March 2012) to ensure that widows & widowers are supported better in the future.

Payments made under the War Pensions Scheme or Armed Forces Compensation Scheme will not be affected by this review.  The review will not impact those already in receipt of bereavement benefits at the point at which a new scheme is introduced.

Press release & Links

IPO:  Richard Hooper has issued a call for evidence (by Friday 10 February 2012) as part of the independent feasibility study on developing a Digital Copyright Exchange (DCE) in the .  The independent study is being carried out in two parts:

* Phase one is looking at all of the issues highlighted in the Hargreaves Review surrounding copyright licensing in and for the digital age in further detail

* The second phase will examine & recommend solutions to the issues raised

Press release & links

CLG:  The sense of injustice associated with the system for social housing is finally coming to an end, Housing Minister Grant Shapps claimed last week.  Mr Shapps said the new allocations guidance he published for consultation (closes on 30 March 2012) will ‘release councils and housing associations from the shackles of the current tick-box approach for allocating social homes’.  

The new powers will support councils who are already making plans to ensure social housing is used to reward people who are working or actively seeking work.

Press release ~ Consultation

TPT:  School leaders have a unique understanding of the best ways to support the ’s hardest-to-reach young people in school.  The Schools Network and The Prince’s Trust want to help school leaders (SLs) get their voices heard.

The SN and TPT want to hear about the challenges SLs face in supporting young people who may be underachieving or at risk of exclusion – and what support you feel you need from local authorities, the voluntary sector and the Government to meet these challenges.  To get involved, fill in a quick survey which will take no more than 10 minutes.

Press release & links

ScotGov:  A consultation (closes on Friday 30 March 2012) on the development of a safety system for adventure activities in has been launched by the Minister for Commonwealth Games and Sport, Shona Robison.  The Scottish Government is considering the best way forward for in light of the UK Government's plan to replace the statutory Adventure Activities Licensing Authority (AALA) with a new voluntary code of practice.

Press release & links

Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides

ICO: The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has published new guidance making it clear that information concerning official business held in private email accounts is subject to the Freedom of Information Act.
NICE: The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has published a new quality standard & clinical guidanceon service user experience in adult mental health:
* The quality standard for service user experience in adult mental health contains a number of statements, which include ensuring that people can access mental health services when they need them.
* The guidance for service user experience in adult mental health contains a number of recommendations for healthcare professionals that underpin the quality standard.
ICO: Website owners ‘must try harder’ on complying with the new cookies law the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) said when it published its half term report on enforcing the new rules. The ICO has also published updated guidance for UK website owners, setting out specific examples of what compliance looks like.
Acas: We may have had the mildest November for over 300 years but now that January's here Acas, the workplace experts, are reminding employers that now is the time to make sure they're prepared for those workplace issues that crop up over the winter months.
Defra: Defra’s new Farming Advice Service (FAS) will offer a one-stop-shop to farmers needing advice on subjects including cross compliance, nutrient management, competitiveness, and climate change adaption & mitigation.
BHF: The British Heart Foundation has become the first organisation in the UK to actively promote Hands-only Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR).  Backed by Resuscitation Council UK, they say anyone who doesn’t have CPR training should now ignore the kiss of life in favour of “hard and fast” compressions in the centre of the chest to the beat of Stayin’ Alive.
CIPD: The issue of mental ill health is still being swept under the carpet in most workplaces, with just 4 in 10 employees saying they would feel confident to disclose a mental health problem to their employer.

That’s according to the latest research by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), published to coincide with the launch of a new guide to help more employers to manage & support mental health at work, which has been developed by CIPD and leading mental health charity Mind.
Acas: Ed Sweeney, chairman of Acas, has pinpointed 4 key areas he sees as the likely workplace issues in the year ahead.

Annual Reports

DH: The official report on NHS performance shows the NHS is on track to deliver up to £5.9bn savings this financial year whilst maintaining or improving quality of services.  The Quarter 2 report shows that of the 8 key quality areas highlighted, all have been maintained or improved.  In particular the NHS has reduced MRSA and C. difficile infection rates as well as driving down breach rates for mixed sex accommodation.
HPA: The Health Protection Agency’s (HPA) second report on Migrant Health (and the first UK-wide report) was published recently. The report brings together infectious disease surveillance information with a focus on non-UK born populations.
Most people migrating long-term to the UK plan to study or work and will have a similar range of health concerns to UK born residents in the same age bracket.  However, a small proportion of the non-UK born residents bear the greatest burden of infectious disease reported in the UK.  

For example, in 2010, 73% of TB cases reported in the UK, almost 60% of newly diagnosed cases of HIV, and 80% of hepatitis B infected UK blood donors were born abroad.
DH: The third annual report of the National Oversight Group (NOG) for high secure psychiatric services is available.   The NOG for high secure services brings together partners to provide oversight on service provision on behalf of the Secretary of State for Health.

General Reports and Other Publications

IISS: The latest Strategic Comment from the International Institute for Strategic Studies reports that Egypt’s convoluted transition from authoritarian rule to a more democratic system continues to suffer from serious tremors.
PC&PE: The House of Lords Constitution Committee have published a follow-up report calling for changes to the Health & Social Care Bill to ensure that ministerial responsibility to Parliament & legal accountability for the NHS are not diluted.
PC&PE: A default answer of 'yes' to development should be removed from the National Planning Policy Framework (NPFF) says the Communities & Local Government Committee in its review of the draft framework.
The phrase 'significantly and demonstrably' must also be removed from the presumption that all planning applications should be approved unless the adverse effects ‘significantly and demonstrably’ outweigh the benefits, say the MPs because it adds a further barrier to the achievement of truly sustainable development.
PC&PE: The Commons Public Accounts Committee has published its 61st Report of the Session which, on the basis of evidence from the Cabinet Office and HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), examined tax disputes.
The Rt Hon Margaret Hodge MP, Chair of the Committee of Public Accounts, said: "This report is a damning indictment of HMRC and the way its senior officials handle tax disputes with large corporations.  We uncovered both specific and systemic failures which must be addressed.
NLGN: The New Local Government Network have published a report that ‘revealed London’s boroughs could build a new generation of council houses, avoid disrupting the lives of poorer citizens and save money for the Exchequer in the process’.  This could allow them to build 9,500 new homes for London and save £56m in the process.
The costs of housing benefit for families in B&Bs and other temporary accommodation is so high that it in some parts of the capital it would be cheaper to build new social housing for them.  As councils pay for private rents at market level, the rent for each household in social housing would be much cheaper.
PC&PE: The House of Lords House Committee has recommended that Members of the House of Lords who are found to have wrongly claimed money under the system of financial support for Members should not be allowed to return from suspension until all outstanding amounts owed have been repaid.
The House Committee rejected options that would have allowed a Member to forgo all or part of their attendance allowance to repay an outstanding debt, or to deny attendance allowance completely but allow the Member to participate in the work of the House.
ESRC: Older people and those who work non-standard hours are less likely to feel integrated into society, according to a study funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).
EC: At least 6m people in Great Britain were not registered to vote in December 2010, according to a new report from the Electoral Commission, the independent elections watchdog.
Ofsted: A report published by Ofsted has found that achievement in information, communication & technology (ICT) was inadequate in almost a fifth of the secondary schools visited.  Inspectors found that how well pupils did in secondary schools was adversely affected by the lack of challenge for more able students and poor coverage of key aspects of the ICT curriculum.
TKF:  The King’s Fund has called on the government to spell out who will be responsible for improving Londoners’ health and health care following the abolition of the strategic health authority.  Their new report shows that London’s NHS is facing significant financial problems and an urgent need to improve the quality of care.
CBI: The Government & industry need to work better together to tackle barriers to using fewer resources, achieve greater efficiencies and encourage businesses to come up with solutions, the CBI said recently. Dr Neil Bentley, CBI Deputy Director-General set out 3 steps to achieving a constructive dialogue between government and business.
A recent report by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development said the demand for energy & material resources could rise to 170% per cent of the planet’s generative capacity by 2040.
IfG: The Institute for Government has welcomed news that the housing strategy on which the Welsh Government is currently consulting puts the notion of government as system steward at its heart. In April 2011, the Institute published a report, System Stewardship as one of a trio of papers on policy making (alongside Making Policy Better and Policy Making in the Real World).
Civitas: Contrary to government assurances, new equality rules will have no economic benefit and questionable impact on real inequality. As unemployment continues to grow, a new Civitas report reveals that new equality regulations threaten further job losses.
PC&PE: The Government is undermining confidence in energy policy and hurting the UK solar industry by rushing through panicked changes to Feed-in Tariffs (FiTs) without adequate notice to consumers & installers alike, according to a new report by MPs on two influential select committees.
JRF: The Coalition Government is repeating the same mistakes as Labour on poverty reduction, according to a recent report (Monitoring Poverty and Social Exclusion 2011). 

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation's annual assessment of poverty in the UK warns that the Coalition does not have a comprehensive anti-poverty strategy, and relies too much on the tax and benefits system alone to encourage people into work, mistakes also made by Labour.
ScotGov: A series of 15 marine surveys in 2011, covering over 2,000 square miles, have uncovered rare species and furthered our knowledge of the biodiversity of Scotland's seas. The survey methods included use of acoustic multi-beam scanning to create a 3D image of the seabed, underwater videoing & photography, and sea bed sediment sampling.
BIS: Universities & Science Minister David Willetts has released a series of reports on the impact of Research Council funding during a speech at Policy Exchange. This includes a report from Research Councils UK and individual reports from the 7 individual Research Councils.
ESRC: Many people look forward to the New Year for a new start on old habits.  While you are more likely to do something if you plan it in advance, research funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), shows that partnering up or planning with someone can really boost the likelihood of sticking to your resolutions.  

This finding suggests that ‘buddy schemes’ could make a big difference to people following dieting plans, health programmes and could be integrated into government well-being initiatives.
CBI: There are no quick fixes for the UK economy but ‘a concerted effort to tackle the serious imbalances which created our legacy of debt and faltering growth will secure a better, brighter future for all of us’, said CBI Director-General, John Cridland in his new year message.
In a new report featuring a ‘Vision for rebalancing the economy’, the CBI sets out how by acting now, the UK can move away from its dependence on debt driven household & government spending and increase business investment and net trade.
PC&PE: The Government is right to increase aid to fragile & conflict-affected states, such as Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), but it must be prepared suspend or even cancel a programme if a Government flouts agreements or refuses to engage in efforts to increase transparency & accountability, MPs on the International Development Committee argue in a new report.
NHS Confed: Commenting on a recent report on integrating care from the King's Fund and the Nuffield Trust NHS Confederation deputy policy director Jo Webber said integration was the right way to go but requires social care funding reform first.
CHWidespread disruption & business failure in the UK economy can be staved off for at most a week in the case of a natural disaster or major terrorist attack. This is the key finding of a major new report from Chatham House

Governments & businesses are under-prepared to respond to high-impact, low-probability events (HILP) with worst-case scenarios rarely factored into contingency planning.
Press release & links
CoAD: The Commission on Assisted Dying has published a 400 page report into the safeguards that would need to be in place for a safe assisted dying law to operate in England & Wales.  The Commission finds that the choice of assisted dying could safely be offered to people who are suffering at the end of life and likely to die within 12 months, provided that they satisfy the eligibility criteria.  
People who might not have the mental capacity to make such a choice, who might be clinically depressed or experiencing pressure from friends or relatives, would be protected by a comprehensive set of safeguards. The Commission also finds that the provision of high quality end of life care must be a priority for Government, independent of the issue of assisted dying
PC&PESomali piracy is a major problem for the UK and the international community.  As a state whose strengths & vulnerabilities are distinctly maritime, the UK should play a leading role in the international response to piracy.  

The upcoming international conference to be hosted by the UK in February 2012 must produce decisive results. The Government was right to permit private armed guards to defend British flagged shipping against Somali pirates, but it must now provide proper guidance on the legal use of force.
STFCInvestment in scientific research is delivering real economic, international & societal benefits to the United Kingdom, and helping secure a more prosperous economic base for the future, according to a new report issued by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC).

Legislation / Legal

OFT: The OFT has secured agreement from banks & travel money providers to significantly improve the information on options available for consumers purchasing foreign currency in the UK or using credit and debit cards abroad
CC: The Competition Commission (CC) has published its final report into the local bus industry ‘setting out comprehensive measures which will ensure that passengers benefit from greater competition’.  25 years after bus services were deregulated in the UK (excluding London & Northern Ireland), the CC’s proposals to open up the market will represent the biggest change in the industry since that time.
In its final report, the CC has confirmed that in many areas bus operators face little or no competition, leading to passengers facing less frequent services and, in some cases, higher fares than where there is some form of rivalry. The CC also states that the way some local authorities tender for supported services - necessary bus services which would not be provided without public support - can also restrict competition.
CO: The Government’s plans to ‘radically increase the transparency & accountability of public bodies’ moved forward when the Public Bodies Act received Royal Assent. This significant milestone in the reform programme will enable the Government to push on with its plans to simplify the quango landscape.  Reforms using the powers in the new Public Bodies Act will begin immediately.
CO: In a ‘Recall of MPs’ draft Bill published recently, the Government is proposing to introduce a power of recall, allowing voters to force a by-election where an MP is found to have engaged in serious wrongdoing and having had a petition calling for a by-election signed by 10% of his or her constituents.
DfT: Tough new measures to crack down on drivers who abuse the disabled parking system - including a new Blue Badge design which is harder to forge - came into force on 1 January 2012. 

The new badge will have security features such as a unique hologram, digital photo & serial number allowing parking attendants to check for genuine badges more easily through the windscreen.
DH: With just 100 days to go before tobacco displays in supermarkets must be removed, retailers are being reminded that they need to start getting their shops in order. The tobacco display provisions in the Health Act 2009 and related regulation will be implemented for large shops from 6 April 2012 and for all other shops from April 2015.
DECC: A DECC spokesperson has responded to the Feed-in tariff for solar PV appeal.
DfT: Ministers are tackling the misery caused by lorry drivers following satnavs down narrow & inappropriate roads as part of a package of new traffic signs rules.  Under the new rules, laid before Parliament by Transport Minister Norman Baker, councils will no longer need Whitehall approval to introduce certain new signs or some existing ones that they need to use on a regular basis – See ‘Policy Statements & Initiatives’ section for more information.

EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.

EU News: The European Commission has proposed that the EU accept Russia & 7 more countries as parties to an international convention designed to prevent child abduction.  The 1980 Hague Convention ensures the prompt return of children abducted by one parent to their habitual country of residence and protects parental access rights.
The move will effectively extend protection for children in the EU to: Russia, Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Gabon, Morocco, Seychelles & Singapore. The Convention has been ratified by 86 countries to date, including all EU members.
EU News: The European Commission has published its staff assessment following the second review of the EU & IMF-supported financial assistance programme for Portugal, carried out in Lisbon from 7 to 16 November 2011.

The report concludes that, overall, Portugal has made good progress on a number of fronts, as requested by the Council of Ministers (implementing Decision 2011/344/EU). This paves the way for the third instalment of €5.3 billion in European funding to Portugal in January 2012.
EU News: The EC has adopted a Quality Framework for Services of General Interest (SGI) in the EU.  They provide an essential safety net for citizens in areas such as health care, care for the elderly, child care, assistance to disabled persons and social housing.  They also have a key role to play in the knowledge economy in the area of schools, training centres and university.
EU News: The EC decided recently to extend the list of goods subject to export controls, to prevent their use for capital punishment, torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.  

Trade of certain anaesthetics, such as sodium thiopental, which can be used in lethal injections, to countries that have not yet abolished the death penalty, will be tightly controlled.  Furthermore, the scope of the EU regulation has been enlarged to include other products such as spike batons that previously were not prohibited.
NHS Confed: The NHS Confederation’s European Office has welcomed a number of proposals for rules governing the movement of health workers across the European Union, but says there are still issues that require further clarity to ensure the safety of patients is not put at risk..
The EC’s proposals for an updated Directive on the Recognition of Professional Qualifications are intended to make it easier for people to use their skills & practise in other European countries by removing unnecessary obstacles & red tape.  The NHS Confed's EO has previously called for safeguards, including a European-wide alert system for regulators to warn each other if dangerous or fraudulent health workers try moving to another country to work.
Defra: The UK Government has recently secured a ‘victory’ for the fishing industry by stopping a massive cut in the number of days that fishermen are allowed to spend at sea

Fishermen in all countries will still face an expected reduction in the amount of time they are allowed to fish but a concession from the commission will allow the UK to develop more conservation measures and provide incentives for fishermen to take them up.
WWF: Recently the One Planet Economy Network EU project (OPEN:EU) launches a unique new tool for mapping ecological carbon and water footprint data across all the 27 EU member states.

The EUREAPA tool (EU Resource and Energy Analysis Programme Application), a decision making support tool, is now available for free online, aimed at EU & national government policy makers, NGOs and academics.  It is based on the integration of the Footprint Family of indicators with an economic model so that the impact of the EU’s trade on the environment can be demonstrated.
EU News: The EC has adopted a Decision establishing an eHealth Network, as foreseen by the Directive (2011/24/EU) on Patients' Rights in Cross-border Healthcare.  The Network will bring together the national authorities responsible for eHealth on a voluntary basis to work on common orientations for eHealth.  
The aim is to ensure EU wide interoperability of electronic health systems and wider use of eHealth. The eHealth Network is expected to translate the results of numerous research projects and pilot projects into real-life accessible services for European citizens.
EU News: The EC has adopted guidelines to help the insurance industry implement unisex pricing, after the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that different premiums for men & women constitute sex discrimination.
Press release & links
Defra: It will be cheaper & easier to travel abroad with pets from 1 January 2012, when the UK harmonises its rules governing pet movement with the rest of Europe. 

The Pet Travel Scheme has been successfully operating across Europe since 2004, and will allow the UK to maintain high levels of protection against animal disease whilst bringing it into line with scientific advances and updating a system first devised in the 1800s.
EU News: Scientists & surgeons from France, Germany, UK and Switzerland have developed a ‘virtual liver’, using EU research funding, which will help surgeons better plan & carry out tumour operations and ensure quicker patient recovery.
The PASSPORT project (Patient-Specific Simulation and Pre-Operative Realistic Training) makes a uniquely accurate ‘virtual liver’ available to physicians based on medical images sent by the radiologist to a PASSPORT online service, which helps surgeons decide whether they should or not operate. Surgeons can now see more precisely where a tumour is and where they will have to operate to safely remove it.
EU News: From 1 January 2012, the European Commission gives citizens, businesses & non-governmental organisations at least 12 weeks to comment on plans for new policies & legislation, compared to 8 weeks previously.
The Commission has also introduced an alert service for upcoming initiatives: Organisations that sign up for the Transparency Register, can subscribe to this alert service to get early information on the roadmaps for new initiatives in their fields of interest about one year before there adoption.
EU News: As the working group drafting the ‘international agreement on a reinforced economic union’ reconvened on 6 January, European Parliament representatives Elmar Brok (EPP, DE), Roberto Gualtieri (S&D, IT) and Guy Verhofstadt (ALDE, BE) stressed in their amendments that ‘all decisions must be based on normal EU procedure in order to ensure democratic accountability and Parliament’s legislative role are respected’. They also called for a roadmap with a view to introducing eurobonds.
The 3 MEPs also have serious doubts as regards the provisions enabling Member States to bring each other before the Court of Justice when failing to comply with budgetary discipline.  They question the compatibility of this article with the EU treaties and its proper functioning and asked for further clarification.
Finally, the EP representatives insist that the agreement enters into force after ratification by four fifths of the Eurozone members and that its provisions are brought within the framework of EU law as rapidly as possible. Member States shall propose to amend EU treaties to include the agreement within 5 years of it entering into force.  After 7 years the agreement will automatically expire.
DCMS: British people are being asked for their views on plans announced by the European Commission for a new £1.5bn Creative Europe programme. The programme, which was unveiled last month, would run from 2014 to 2020 to follow on from the current Culture, MEDIA and MEDIA Mundus programmes – See ‘Consultations’ section for more information.

Charity and Voluntary Sector

CRUK: Less overall radiotherapy, delivered in fewer but higher doses, is as safe as standard, lower doses for treating prostate cancer, according to new research* published in the Lancet Oncology recently.
CSJ: The Centre for Social Justice predicts that a scheme to encourage firms to subsidise voluntary work carried out by their employees would boost total private gifts to charities by around £1bn a year.

Business and Other Briefings

BIS: A new national programme which will focus on helping small & medium manufacturing businesses to grow has officially launched.  The new Manufacturing Advisory Service (MAS) is now available to all manufacturing businesses across England.

It will be delivered by the MAC, which is comprised of Grant Thornton, Pera, WM Manufacturing Consortium Ltd and SWMAS Ltd.  It has been estimated that the new MAS will help to generate £1.5bn in economic growth, 23,000 jobs and safeguard 50,000 jobs.
This Brief confirms the VAT liability of the construction and first sale of dwellings that are linked to a separate provision of care.
Following HMRCs review which considered whether there was scope for an extension of red diesel entitlement to vehicles used for certain community/charity activities, the grass cutting guidance has been updated.
This Brief provides guidance on the use of red diesel by vehicles used for snow clearance/gritting following HM Revenue & Customs review which considered whether there was scope for an extension of red diesel entitlement to vehicles
This Brief announces the Intrastat thresholds and changes to procedures that will apply from 1 January 2012.
This Brief announces the withdrawal of Extra Statutory Concession on parts and accessories for boats supplied to disabled people and charities.
This brief announces the withdrawal of ESC on motor vehicles adapted after initial supply to disabled people.

Industry News

BIS:  The offshore marine energy project in Cornwall, which allows developers to test new wave energy technology, has been taken on by the Government to secure its future as a vital part of the 's green energy sources.  The Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) took over ownership of the Wave Hub asset from the South West Regional Development Agency (RDA) on the 1 January 2012.

To manage the day-to-day operation of the testing facility on its behalf, BIS has set up a stand-alone operating company, Wave Hub Limited, which will be based in Hayle, Cornwall .  This arrangement will allow the project to build on the operational plans already put in place by the RDA.

Press release ~ Wave Hub project 

MoD:  Giant sacks, specially designed to transport fuel by air to the front line, have been delivered to troops in . The Air Portable Fuel Containers Mk 5 are enormous rubber balls which enable essential fuel supplies to be delivered by air to more remote areas of operations.  Designed & built in the , the containers have been bought under a £2m, five-year agreement with GKN Aerospace, based in Portsmouth .

Press release & links

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