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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

DWPClaimants tempted by the fact that 1+1 can be greater than 2 - People who tell the DWP they are single parents to get Income Support and Jobseekers Allowance, but are actually secretly living with someone as husband & wife, cost the taxpayer nearly £100m in overpaid benefits, making it one of the most frequently committed benefit frauds.  Just 10 recent cases have cost the taxpayer over £1m.

The Welfare Reform Bill will introduce tougher penalties for both fraud & error:
* A minimum administrative penalty of £350, or 50% of the overpayment, whichever is higher, with 4 weeks loss of benefit
* Extended loss of benefit for offences which result in a conviction of up to 13 weeks for a first offence, then 26 weeks for a second offence and 3 years for a third offence
* An immediate 3 year loss of benefit for serious or organised benefit fraud or identity fraud
*A new £50 civil penalty in cases of claimant error which results in an overpayment as a result of negligence or failure.
Press release ~ Fraud and Error in the Benefit System: April 2009 to March 2010 ~ Guide to tackling housing tenancy fraud ~ National Fraud Authority ~ Action Fraud website ~ AC: Protecting the Public Purse ~ Other AC Fraud links ~ National Fraud Initiative ~ SFO – Public Sector Fraud ~ NAO: Fraud Prevention ~ NAO Fraud links ~ MPs publish report on reducing errors in the benefits system ~ Counter Fraud Champions to help crackdown on fraud ~ OS press release ~ Total frauds in Britain in 2008 & 2009 ~ NAO: Minimising the cost of administrative errors in the benefit system ~ NHS Protect ~ Local Authority Investigation Officers Group (LAIOG) ~ Local Government Fraud Manual ~ ScotGov: Fraud ~ CLG: Social Housing Fraud Communications Toolkit ~ Tackling unlawful subletting & occupancy: Good practice guidance for social landlords ~ NAO:  International benchmark of fraud and error in social security systems ~ DWP : Targeting Benefit Thieves ~ UK Benefit Fraud abroad ~ Insurance Fraud Investigators Group (IFIG) ~ Fraud Advisory Panel ~ Fraudweb ~ National Anti-Fraud Network ~ Directgov: Benefit Fraud ~ Welfare Reform Bill

CIPDBut how do we compare to the rest of Europe – Below the average! - The first quarter of 2012 will be the most difficult quarter for the jobs market since the recession, as the number of private sector firms surveyed planning to make redundancies increases.

This is the main finding of the latest Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) quarterly Labour Market Outlook survey of more than 1,000 employers, conducted by YouGov.  The survey results also point to a further widening of a north-south jobs market divide.

The report’s net employment balance, which measures the difference between the proportion of LMO employers that intend to increase total staffing levels and those that intend to decrease total staffing levels in the first quarter of 2012, has fallen to -8 from -3 since the autumn 2011 quarter.  This is the report’s worst figure since spring 2009.
No, 10Family break-ups are never easy or straight-forward - The PM David Cameron visited Scotland last week to make the case for keeping the United Kingdom together

The PM has also had talks with Scottish National Party leader Alex Salmond in Edinburgh.  The meeting came after the First Minister discussed his plans for staging a ballot on independence with the Scottish Secretary Michael Moore earlier this week.
NHS ConfedThere is a need for change in the NHS - Mental Health Network director Steve Shrubb said the latest Death by Indifference report from Mencap was saddening and more must be done to help people with learning disabilities. 

He said: 
“The NHS has made progress in this area but there is absolutely no doubt there is still much more to be done in caring for people with learning disabilities. "The solution lies in the NHS taking responsibility when problems occur and taking steps to rectify the situation. The report includes a number of recommendations to increase the auditing and oversight of services.

"This is important but so is creating the right working cultures and collaborations so that, for example, health and social care work together and people can be offered the most appropriate care in the right environments. The most appropriate environment even for people with the most complex health issues is usually based in their own homes, supported by friends, carers and family”. ……..
EU NewsForget budget increase demands, EU finds €82bn down back of the sofa - A Commission plan to channel up to €82bn in uncommitted EU structural funds into schemes to create jobs for young people and support small firms could undermine trust in regional policy, because this is precisely what regional policy already aims to do, MEPs warned in a debate last Monday. The plan would use funds not yet allocated to specific regional policy projects.
DfEShaking up the closed shop of LA education - Groups that want to open mainstream, special and alternative provision Free Schools in September 2013 can now submit their detailed plans to the Department.
STFCEven big organisations started from small beginnings - The Science in Society Programme Small Awards Scheme provides funds for small, local or 'pilot' projects promoting STFC science & technology.  Anyone can apply, including grant-funded research groups, STFC research facility users, schools, museums, etc.  Awards range from £500 to £10,000 and the expenditure can go towards materials, salaries and travel & subsistence. The 2012 closing date is 12 April 2012 at 16:00.
WAGStay at home and don't spread your germs - The Chief Medical Officer for Wales, Dr Tony Jewell, is reminding people with the winter vomiting bug norovirus NOT turn up at hospital Emergency Departments for treatment, and not to visit anyone in hospital.
Press release ~ Norovirus outbreak guidelines

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

General News

TUC: The TUC and the National Union of Students (NUS) have launched a new campaign calling for the fair treatment of interns.
STFCImagine if every person on the planet were able to carry out 250,000 calculations per second simultaneously.
This is the combined capability of the next stage of development of 2 giant computers, HECToR and BlueGene/Q, based at the University of Edinburgh's Advanced Computing Facility (ACF).  It marks the next chapter in the UK's supercomputing programme.
NALove letters from botanists & explorers, thought to be over 150 years old, have been discovered at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
IPPR: The think tank IPPR is launching a Commission on the Future of Higher Education in England, to address how higher education can respond to the challenges it will face over the next 20 years and develop a policy framework to strengthen the position of higher education institutions.
STFCCERN has announced that the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) will run with a beam energy of 4 TeV this year.  This is 0.5 TeV higher than in 2010 and 2011. The LHC's excellent performance in 2010 & 2011 has broughttantalising hints of new physics, with scientists on 2 of the LHC's 4 experiments now focussed on a window of just 16GeV in which the Higgs boson can exist.
CLG: Over 200 councils have signalled they intend to help with the cost of living by taking up a council tax freeze offer, Communities & Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles has confirmed.
BP: The Earl & The Countess of Wessex will undertake an overseas tour of the West Indies from 21 February to the 7 March 2012, representing The Queen in the year of Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee.
NE: Youngsters in North West England are discovering more about what goes on behind the scenes at a modern farm, thanks to the efforts of an award-winning Cheshire farming family and the help of Natural England.
FSAGranovita is withdrawing one batch of its Mushroom Pateole Yeast Spread. The product contains levels of gluten that are above the limits allowed for foods to be labelled gluten-free.  The Food Standards Agency has issued an Allergy Alert..
MO: The Met Office recently brought together airport operators, airlines & regulators to discuss the challenges involved in establishing Europe-wide Airport-Collaborative Decision Making.
MoD: In honour of Her Majesty The Queen's 60-year reign nearly 2,500 Armed Forces personnel will parade through Windsor and muster in the castle grounds on Saturday 19 May 2012 for a unique event before an audience of more than 3,000 Armed Forces personnel, their families & veterans.  

An impressive, tri-Service flypast of current & historic aircraft will conclude the celebrations.
for a unique event before an audience of more than 3,000 Armed Forces personnel, their families & veterans.  An impressive, tri-Service flypast of current & historic aircraft will conclude the celebrations.
ScotGov: Alex Neil, Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure & Capital Investment has announced a further £500,000 available to households switching from poor performing boilers to a more energy efficient model.   Over 1,000 households could receive £400 towards the cost of their new boiler by phoning the Home Energy Scotland hotline
RoSPA: The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) is expanding its blind cord safety awareness campaign to 5 new areas in Scotland thanks to the generous donations of Scottish businesses. Local authorities and community organisations in West Lothian, the Western Isles, West Dunbartonshire, Edinburgh and East Lothian, supported by RoSPA, will raise awareness of the safety issues surrounding looped blind cords by distributing thousands of ‘Make it Safe’ packs.
STFC: The Science and Technology Facilities Council has announced a call for applications to the Projects Research & Development scheme (PRD). The applications should be submitted by the deadline of 5 April 2012 and will be reviewed at a meeting of the PPRP Panel on 6/7 June 2012.  STFC intends to allocate a total of around £1.5m. More details of the scheme, including an updated guide for applicants is available.
FSA: A sampling programme for seafood from Dalgety Bay, Fife, is to be carried out after radioactive items were found on the beach. The sampling will be managed jointly by the Food Standards Agency in Scotland and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA).  
Although signs at Dalgety Bay advise people not to remove seafood & bait, some continue to collect shellfish from the area. Sampling seafood, such as cockles, mussels & winkles, should help to identify whether additional measures to protect the public are required.
TfLTransport for London has increased the penalty charge for non-payment on its services from £50 to £80 as part of its ongoing commitment to deter & further reduce fare evasion on London's transport network.
The increase in penalties came into effect on Sunday 19 February 2012 and will cover all of TfL's services in the capital, including London Underground, London Overground, London Buses, DLR and London Tramlink

Customers are required to pay the correct fare for their journey and failure to do so could lead to a penalty or even prosecution, resulting in a criminal record and a fine of up to £1,000.

Policy Statements and Initiatives

CLG: A new fund to help support much loved seaside towns create new jobs & prosperity has been launched recently by Communities Secretary Eric Pickles and Chief Secretary Danny Alexander.
CLGHousing Minister Grant Shapps recently announced a new £20m safety net to help ensure that mortgage repossession remains the last resort for struggling homeowners. This Preventing Repossessions Fund gives councils the opportunity to offer small interest free loans to struggling homeowners and ensure that court desks can offer on the day advice for those facing the prospect of repossession.
ScotGovA campaign to promote the benefits of children participating in 60 minutes of exercise each day has been launched recently. Featuring TV, press, online & radio adverts and a dedicated website, the Take Life On initiative highlights simple steps parents can take to help their children get active and achieve health benefits as a result.
DWP: The Deputy PM is calling on businesses to sign up to the government’s flagship £1bn Youth Contract so that they are ready to offer the jobs to young people in April 2012. Thousands of companies have received a letter from the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Minister for Employment Chris Grayling, calling on them to play their part in getting young people earning or learning.
CLG: A new £1m fund to give local communities the tools they need to tackle binge & underage drinking was announced last week by the Government's Champion for Active Safer Communities, Baroness Newlove.
The announcement of the new fund comes on the day Baroness Newlove published her latest report 'Building Safe, Active Communities: Strong foundations by local people'.  The new report examines progress on the 12 challenges to action Baroness Newlove put to Government last year.  It outlines how Departments are responding to these challenges and her thoughts on progress and what more she feels can be done.
In her interim report to Government published in July 2011, Baroness Newlove identified tackling problem drinking as her most urgent priority and she will continue to sharply focus on this in the months ahead.  This new fund will give 10 successful communities - based on models of grass roots projects already delivering for their neighbourhoods - the resources to really get to grips with problem drinking and deal with it, head on.
CLG: The £420m Get Britain Building fund is a key tenet of the Housing Strategy. Launched just 2 months ago, the fund has seen a total of 176 expressions of interest - meaning the programme is now 3 times oversubscribed.


OFT:  The Office of Fair Trading is launching a fact-finding review to understand more about the challenges facing consumers & businesses in remote communities across the UK, and is calling for evidence from the public in these areas to help inform its work (closes 20 April 2012). 
Press release & links

BS:  Buying Solutions are launching a consultation in order to take account of the changing requirements customers.  Estates Professional Services will begin the procurement process for the replacement framework by holding Customer Sounding events between 20 - 22 March 2012. 
Press release & links 

WAG:  A consultation (closes on 7 May 2012) has been launched on nominated quiet areas in South Wales . The places being consulted on are large, public spaces such as Heath Park , Cardiff and Cwmdonkin Park , Swansea .  Once an area has been designated it is protected from increases in noise by the Environmental Noise Directive and planning policy. 
Press release & links

CO:  The Government is recently calling on voluntary, business & public sector organisations to play their part in running National Citizen Service (NCS) schemes in a market that could be worth up to £110m by 2014.  Under the programme, young people from very different backgrounds are brought together into a team for 3 weeks, with a common objective, to give something back to their local community and achieve something of which they can be proud.

The Government’s ambition is to make NCS available to all 16-year-olds so that it becomes a rite of passage and is committed to providing 90,000 places by 2014.  In order to do this it needs organisations, from big business to voluntary organisations, to run the schemes around the country.

So that it can find out how to make it easier for organisations to get involved, the Government is launching a period of market consultation to help inform how it will realise its ambitions to scale NCS.  Responses to the online questionnaire are required by 5pm, Friday 16 March, 2012.

Press release & links

EU News:  The European Commission has launched a public consultation, to get stakeholders' views on the application of the 2004 EU Guidelines on state aid to maritime transport.  Submissions can be made until 14 May 2012

The purpose of the present consultation is to invite Member States & stakeholders to provide feedback & data about the effect that the Maritime Guidelines have had on the EU maritime industry or the evolution of business models.  The Commission is also interested in information about possible shortcomings of the Guidelines that could be addressed in the future.

Press release & links

DfT:  Rail passengers and other interested groups are being asked for their views on how train services could be improved in Essex , Rail Minister Theresa Villiers announced last week.   

The consultation (closes on the 11 May 2012) will give them the opportunity to say what changes and improvements they would like to see delivered by the new Essex Thameside franchise.  Bidders will be invited to take on the new 15 year franchise which is due to start on 26 May 2013.

Press release & links

Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides

ScotGov: A new online, one-stop shop has been launched recently to provide guidance to Scottish companies on exporting & growing their international business. ‘Export from Scotland’, delivers a range of free international trade training modules to all Scottish companies and individuals.
BIS: An innovative online training tool has been launched to help get thousands of experienced business people mentoring SMEs.  The new training tool is part of the recent Get Mentoring scheme that is recruiting 15,000 new mentors to help entrepreneurs fulfil their potential.
IPCC: The IPCC has published its guidance on communicating with the media and the public in IPCC independent and managed investigations. This guidance responds to criticism in the aftermath of the shooting of Mark Duggan in August 2011 and the subsequent disorder.
A number of bodies have made recommendations about communications in circumstances where the IPCC is investigating and at times when there is potential for community tension and public disorder. It draws upon previous guidance (currently part of the IPCC/ACPO media protocol) but separates the specific  issue of what the police can say in the aftermath of an incident from other guidance which can still be found in the IPCC/ACPO media protocol.

Annual Reports

CBI: The CBI expects 0.9% GDP growth in 2012, a little down from November’s forecast (1.2%), mainly reflecting the impact from the GDP contraction in the fourth quarter of last year.  High levels of uncertainty around the economic outlook, mainly driven by the situation in the euro area, mean growth will remain subdued, particularly in the first half of this year.  Modest growth of 2.0% is predicted in 2013.
FSCS: A dramatic rise in the number of consumers making claims for mis-sold payment protection insurance (PPI) is likely over the next year, new figures from the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) reveal.  In its recently released ‘Plan and Budget: 2012/13’, the FSCS assumes it will receive around 16,500 claims for mis-sold PPI from failed firms for the period.
DH: Patients continue to report improvements in aspects of care that matter most to them, and 84% of patients rated their experience as excellent or very good, according to the results of the 2011 Patient Experience Outpatient Survey.
ScotGov: Scotland’s Chief Statistician has released statistics on the operation of the homeless persons legislation in Scotland, covering the period April to September 2011. The publication provides detailed information about applications to local authorities for assistance under homelessness legislation, including the main reasons for homelessness, characteristics of applicant households and the assessments & outcomes of applications.
CQC: The national survey of NHS outpatients has shown improvement in the way that patients perceive key aspects of care including being seen on time or early for their appointment, cleanliness, respect, dignity and communication with doctors.  However, there are still a number of areas where improvement is needed.
WAO: Most of the 2010-11 local authority accounts in Wales were prepared & audited on time, with 2 exceptions. That is despite the fact that 2010-11 was a challenging year due to a number of accounting changes, particularly having to adopt International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) for the first time, which represented a fundamental change to the way financial statements were prepared.

General Reports and Other Publications

NHSFollowing NICE clinical guidelines can help improve the care of people with long-term conditions who also have mental health problems, a leading thinktank says.
A new report by The King's Fund, ‘Long-term conditions and mental health: The cost of co-morbidities’, says following certain steps, such as those outlined in NICE guidelines, can ensure that mental health problems are identified.
ESRC: New research into the different ways that English and Polish people use language in everyday family situations can help members of each community to understand each other better and avoid cultural misunderstandings.
IPPR: New polling commissioned from YouGov by the think tank IPPR shows a worrying gap between the amount young people on low incomes have in savings accounts and their perception of how much they really need, in a report ‘Young people and savings’.
PC&PE: The House of Lords European Union Committee has recently published its report, ‘EU Area Crisis’ on the euro area crisis.  The Committee agree with the Government that the optimum outcome from the December European Council meeting would have been an agreement on a new treaty to deal with the crisis signed by all Member States that protected UK interests.
TUC: Using the American U6 measure of unemployment - which includes unemployed, discouraged, marginally attached and under-employed workers - would mean unemployment in the UK standing at 6.3 million, higher than any point since the early 1990s, according to a new TUC analysis.
WWF:  The first ever snow leopard prey survey in Bhutan’s newest national park has revealed astonishing footage of snow leopards scent-marking, a sub-adult snow leopard, Tibetan wolf, threatened Himalayan serow, musk deer and a healthy population of blue sheep, the main food source for snow leopards.
ESRC9 out of 10 people who were married or cohabiting talk, to their partner about their worries, according to data from Understanding Society, the world’s largest longitudinal household study of 40,000 UK households.  94% of those surveyed rely on their partner for support when a problem crops up. Family members & friends can also provide important sources of positive support, but mainly for women  
Understanding where people receive emotional support from is important, researchers argue, because existing evidence suggests a 'buffering effect' of having positive social support in the face of shocks such as divorce, ill-health, bereavement, or losing your job.   Having positive & strong social support also appears linked with better psychological & physical health.
IfG: The report ‘Coalition: Voters, Parties and Institutions’ brings together leading commentators, academics & political figures to examine how the coalition government came about, describe how it works, and look at the views of voters, backbenchers and the media.
TUC: There is a huge gap in the rhetoric the government uses on disability and the reality of how its policies impact on opportunities for disabled people, says the TUC. In its submission to the Office for Disability Issues (ODI) consultation on its 3-year strategy on disability, the TUC argues that for disabled people who are able to work, paid, decent, secure & safe employment is the best route out of poverty and is an important step towards social inclusion.
However, while the government says that disabled people need to do more to get into work and off benefits, its current policies are reducing the employment opportunities available to disabled people, says the TUC. The submission points out that ministers are making it even harder for disabled people to find a job - at a time when there are already far too few vacancies to provide the necessary opportunities for everyone looking for work.

Legislation / Legal

HO: New rules will come into force within weeks to cut abuse of the student visa route, Immigration Minister Damian Green has announced recently. Students can currently work in the UK for 2 years after their course has finished. But from 6 April 2012 a more selective system will come into effect so only the most talented international graduates can apply to stayin the UK for work purposes.
EHRCThe Court of Appeal’s dismissal of two discrimination claims supported by the Equality and Human Rights Commission has narrowed the rights of disabled people when flying. The Commission is considering taking the case of Tony Hook against British Airways and Christopher Stott’s case against Thomas Cook to the Supreme Court.
ICO: The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has served monetary penalties totalling £180,000 to 2 councils for failing to keep highly sensitive information about the welfare of children secure. These latest penalties bring the total amount served by the ICO to organisations found in serious breach of the Data Protection Act to over £1m.
TUCWeakening the Transfer of Undertakings and Protection of Employment (TUPE) regulations risks driving down pay and increasing unemployment, the TUC has warned.  In its response to a government call for evidence on TUPE, the TUC warns that changing current legislation could also lead to an increased involvement of the private sector in public services, with contractors competing for business on lower wages rather than on the quality of the service they provide.
10 DS: The Prime Minister met with the insurance industry, consumer and business groups last week to discuss the rising premiums that many drivers, families, consumers & businesses are facing, and the action that the Government is taking to help bring these down.
There was a commitment from the Prime Minister that the Government will take action to tackle the compensation culture, reduce legal costs and cut health and safety red tape.  The insurance industry committed to pass savings made on to consumers.
HMT: The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has agreed a new set of standards aimed at combating the global threat of money laundering, terrorist financing and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The UK supports these new standards and the need for FATF and its member countries to promote their implementation.
BISTuition fee challenge fails - A spokesperson for the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills said: “We are pleased the Court rejected outright the suggestion that our student finance reforms breach students’ human rights.”

EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.

EU News: A campaign to raise 112 awareness rates, after a survey has indicated that only 34% of regular travellers and 26% of all Europeans know this is the single emergency number they can call, both in & outside their home country when in trouble.
Press release & links

EU News:  Several Member States, including Germany, the United Kingdom, Italy, the Netherlands, Austria and Belgium, may face serious teacher shortages in the future, according to a new report published by the European Commission, entitled 'Key Data on Education in Europe 2012'. 
Press release & links 

EDPS:  The European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) has issued a Follow-up Report outlining the status of compliance of European institutions & bodies with the Video-Surveillance Guidelines issued by the EDPS. 
Press release & links 

EU News:  The European Commission has adopted a strategy to shift the European economy towards greater and more sustainable use of renewable resources.   The Commission's strategy & action plan, ‘Innovating for Sustainable Growth: a Bio economy for Europe ’, outlines a coherent, cross-sectoral and inter-disciplinary approach to the issue of renewable biological resources. 
Press release & links

EU News:  A step towards a safer use of hazardous chemicals has been taken with the publication of the first EU Classification and Labelling Inventory.  Released by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), it lists the classification of all the chemical substances used in the EU which allows identifying those that are potentially hazardous and may damage health and the environment. 
Press release & links 

EU News:  The scientific report 'The state of soil in Europe'  has been published by the European Commission's Joint Research Centre, in collaboration with the European Environment Agency, and provides a comprehensive overview of our present understanding of soil resources and degradation processes
Press release & links 

EU News:  The EU’s new rules on economic governance, the so-called ‘six-pack’ has 2 legs: fiscal & macroeconomic surveillance.  The macroeconomic imbalances procedure is a new tool that helps detect & correct risky economic developments.  Its first ever annual Alert Mechanism Report (AMR), adopted last week, kicks-off the surveillance. 

The European Commission identified 12 EU Member States whose macroeconomic situation needs to be analysed in more depth.  Among the reasons for calling for in-depth analysis on these 12 countries are the following for the UK

UKImportant loss in export market shares over the last decade, despite some recent stabilisation. The high level of private debt should be seen in conjunction with a weak public finance situation. The household debt largely reflects mortgages in a context of high accumulated increases in house prices.  Moreover, the economic reading of the scoreboard points to the need for further analysis of the drivers and policy implications of large & sustained current account surpluses.

Press release & links

EU News:  Rules to enable new bluetongue vaccines to be used more efficiently, and thus make farmers' lives easier, were approved by the EU Parliament last Tuesday.  If Member States put these rules into effect quickly, then the new vaccines could be used for the 2012 vaccination campaign.

Press release & links

EU News:  The Commission has welcomed the European Parliament's adoption of the 5-year Radio Spectrum Policy Programme (RSPP) which will allow sufficient spectrum to be made available for wireless applications and services such as high speed 4th generation (4G) wireless broadband.  Radio spectrum supports 3.5m jobs & more than €250bn of economic activity each year in Europe , including incredibly popular services such as wireless broadband.

Wireless broadband is also playing an important role ensuring every European access to basic broadband by 2013 and to fast & ultrafast broadband by 2020.

Press release & links

EU News:  New legislation to boost dairy farmers' bargaining power to get fair prices for their raw milk and help them prepare for the end of milk quotas in 2015 was approved by the Parliament last Wednesday.  It will enable farmers' organisations to negotiate raw milk prices on their behalf without falling foul of competition law.  To enter into force, the new regulation still needs to be formally endorsed by the Council.  It will apply until the end of June 2020.

Press release & links

EU News:  High Performance Computing (HPC) is critical for industries that rely on precision & speed, such as automotive & aviation, and the health sector.  For these reasons, the Commission recently sets out a plan for the EU to reverse its relative decline in HPC use & capabilities.  Under this plan the EU will double its investment in HPC (from €630m to €1.2bn) and before 2020.  Half of the investment would be for development & training and for new centres of excellence, creating thousands of jobs.

Press release & links

EU News:  Corruption remains a major problem in the countries of the European Union and levels are thought to have risen over the last 3 years, according to the Eurobarometer survey published by the Commission recently. The data shows that almost three quarters of Europeans continue to see corruption as a major problem and think that it exists at all levels of government.  8% of respondents say that they have been asked or expected to pay a bribe in the past year.

Press release & links

EU News:  The European Commission has launched a public consultation, to get stakeholders' views on the application of the 2004 EU Guidelines on state aid to maritime transport.  Submissions can be made until 14 May 2012 – See ‘Consultations’ section for more information. 

Charity and Voluntary Sector

BHF: Marking National Heart Month, a small clinical trial in which scientists appear to have reduced heart damage following a heart attack by injecting cells taken from a healthy part of the heart back into the damaged heart.

CO: The Government is recently calling on voluntary, business & public sector organisations to play their part in running National Citizen Service (NCS) schemes. The Government’s ambition is to make NCS available to all 16-year-olds so that it becomes a rite of passage and is committed to providing 90,000 places by 2014. Responses to the online questionnaire are required by 5pm, Friday 16 March, 2012 – See ‘Consultations

Business and Other Briefings

HMRCHMRC has launched a new online video to help employers reduce the problems caused by inaccurate employee data.
BIS: An innovative online training tool has been launched to help get thousands of experienced business people mentoring SMEs.  The new training tool is part of the recent Get Mentoring scheme that is recruiting 15,000 new mentors to help entrepreneurs fulfil their potential.
HMRC: Electricians around the country will start receiving letters this month from HMRC warning them to pay any undisclosed taxes.  Under a special, time-limited tax opportunity, electricians can pay the tax they owe, with lower penalties.
CBI: Improved access to more varied sources of finance would help SMEs and the wider economy, but barriers to increasing non-bank lending also need to be tackled, the CBI said recently. Although businesses are understandably more risk-averse because of the fragile state of the economy, making sure firms have greater access to alternative sources of finance will be vital when it comes to securing growth and supporting the recovery.
FRC: The Financial Reporting Council has taken steps to promote a better understanding of explanations under its 'comply or explain' approach to corporate governance in a paper published recently. The paper, which is based on discussions between senior company & investor representatives facilitated for the FRC by the London Business School, notes a very high level of compliance with the UK Corporate Governance Code.
It says that a large majority of companies who do not comply with one or more provisions of the Code provide a full explanation of their reasons.  However, a minority do not and the paper is intended to help address this by setting out clearly what practitioners expect.
Press release & links ~ Report of discussions between companies &investors: What constitutes an explanation under 'comply or explain'?

Industry News

ScotGov:  Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs, is driving forward ’s climate justice agenda with support for a groundbreaking renewable energy programme in Malawi
Press release & links 

OS:  Budding innovators & entrepreneurs are being asked to contribute ideas that could improve neighbourhoods & communities across Britain, with a £115,000 prize fund available to help develop ideas with the best use of Ordnance Survey products & services.

The GeoVation Challenge, run by mapping agency Ordnance Survey, is looking for great geography, technology & design based ideas, which will deliver solutions to a variety of problems experienced in neighbourhoods & communities across the country. 

The challenge runs until 28 March 2012.  The best entries will then be invited to further develop their ideas at a GeoVation Camp before going on to pitch head to head for funding at a “Dragons’ Den” style showcase later in the year

Press release & links

EU News:  Experiments have shown that children, for example, can become extremely attached to a robot playmate, but can the robot in turn can develop a bond with a human being?  Could we one day expect robots to develop a behaviour that resembles human attachment? That is the question being explored in the ALIZ-E project. 

To enable such self-sustaining & constructive interactions – ones that take place between robot and human over days & weeks, rather than just a few minutes, the ALIZ-E project is looking to implement memory systems in robots.  

The role of memory is crucial in human social behaviour.  While social relationships happen in the 'here & now,' they depend also on the past because our current behaviours are influenced by previous experiences of similar situations.  If successful, this research may lead to future applications, including the development of educational companion robots for young users.

Press release & links

FSA:  The Food Standards Agency is inviting tenders for a project to develop an electronic recipe database for the FSA to use in dietary consumption & exposure assessments. 

The FSA uses a recipe database (in dietary surveys) to help ensure that foods consumed as ingredients of other foods are accounted for in dietary exposure assessments, as far as practicable and where appropriate.  Applications should be submitted online using our electronic procurement system by 30 March 2012.

Press release & links

Forthcoming Event

FSA:  The Food Standards Agency is bringing together a range of experts on Tuesday 13 March 2012 to explore the future risks threatening food safety and the plans that are in place to tackle them.  In the spirit of National Science and Engineering Week (9 - 18 March 2012), presentations from a number of experts will explore how research & data analysis can help us identify emerging risks.  The event is FREE to attend, although places are limited so you will have to register in advance.

Press release ~ The Identification of Future Global Food Risks

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