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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

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Ofsted:  LAs must adopt speedier placements - Only local authorities that ensure all children identified for adoption are placed within 12 months will be able to achieve an ‘outstanding’ judgement from Ofsted under new adoption inspection arrangements published last week.

Age is the most significant indicator of a successful adoption; the younger a child is placed the better the outcomes.  Delays in adoption can have severe impact on children’s health, development & ability to make new meaningful attachments and can impair their chances of enjoying a successful adult life.  

Along with the new adoption inspection arrangements, Ofsted is also launching the new inspection framework for fostering and revisions to the children’s homes framework introduced a year ago.  The new frameworks will be implemented in April 2012.
ScotGovFairness in trading is what we need, not greed - As Fairtrade Fortnight began (Monday 27 February to Sunday 11 March 2012), Cabinet Secretary for Culture & External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop confirmed that Scotland is on track to achieve Fair Trade Nation status later this year

In line with the Fair Trade Nation criteria, there are now 61 towns that have either achieved Fairtrade status or have active Fair Trade Steering Groups and more towns are expected to progress & launch their steering groups during Fairtrade Fortnight.  Across Scotland, 65% of higher education institutions and 171 schools have reached Fairtrade status. 

Currently 14 local authorities have achieved full Fairtrade Zone status, only 4 more need to achieve it in order to meet the criteria and with all of Scotland’s 6 cities already recognised with Fairtrade status, Scotland is on the cusp of becoming one of the world’s first Fair Trade Nations.  Wales was the first country to become a Fair Trade Nation in 2008.
DFID‘Sticky Fingers’, the perennial problem with foreign aid - £ms stolen by a corrupt Nigerian politician will be returned to the country's poorest people, International Development Secretary, Andrew Mitchell, said last week. James Ibori, 49, admitted stealing from the very people he was elected to serve after a ground-breaking investigation by the Metropolitan Police Service's Proceeds of Corruption Unit (POCU).

Ibori, former governor of Nigeria, embezzled what the Met estimates to be approximately £157m of Nigerian public funds – equal to £38 from every person living in the state at the time of his crimes.   DFID will lead a process to arrange for the funds that have been recovered to be returned to those most in need in Nigeria. 

Ibori's guilty plea comes after a long-running investigation by the POCU, which investigates allegations of foreign corrupt politicians & officials laundering the proceeds of corruption through the UK.
COPublic Fraud: Not just a Third World problem - A recent report from the Cabinet Office, sets out an ambitious, but focused, delivery programme that seeks to reduce levels of fraud & error across Government.
ScotGovYour care in your hands - A new partnership is being formed to support efforts to give people who receive social care increased independence and the ability to direct their own care needs

The Scottish Government is committed to introducing a Self-Directed Support Bill to give people a bigger say in which services they think will best help them to live in their own homes & communities – giving people the chance to change their lives for the better.

A programme – supported by almost £6m of Scottish Government funding – will see almost 30 Scottish independent sector organisations working together with social care providers to help implement self directed support across Scotland.
NHS ConfedYet more evidence changes to NHS are necessary - The care of older people needs fundamental change so that ‘hospitals & care homes stamp out undignified care and ensure all patients and residents are treated with dignity and respect’

That is the message from the Commission on improving dignity in care for older people, an independent body set up by the NHS Confederation, Age UK and the
Local Government Association (LGA).

The Commission has published a draft report for consultation (closes on Tuesday 27 March 2012) that recommends ‘fundamental changes to culture, leadership, management, staff development, clinical practice and service delivery’.  The report aims to identify ways of ending the persistent failings across the health &social care system after years of reports exposing severe shortcomings.
CORecognising service to communities - Nominations were opened last week for a special award that will mark Her Majesty the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee by recognising the work of voluntary organisations throughout the United Kingdom

The new Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Volunteering Award 2012 will honour the efforts of charities & voluntary organisations that undertake projects at a national level this year, including groups which are supporting the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The DJVA is an extension of the successful Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service (QAVS), the highest recognition for volunteering, with an equivalent status to the UK MBE.  Members of the public are invited to submit nominations electronically for both awards (See press release for closure dates in September 2012).
FSASafer raw chicken - The Food Standards Agency is inviting tenders to investigate whether modified atmospheric packaging (MAP) can reduce campylobacter numbers on raw chicken.  Applications should be submitted online using the FSA electronic procurement system by 5pm on 30 March 2012.
MoDSoon there will be just one - The Government Digital Service formally launched GOV.UK (beta) recently, the first step towards a new single domain that will bring all government services and information together in one place.  The beta website includes a new 'INSIDE GOVERNMENT' section containing trial MOD corporate information.
Press release & links

Forthcoming event: Gartner Enterprise Architecture Summit 2012 - 14 - 15 May, London -  In an age of technology and business disruption, enterprise architects have a unique opportunity to impact growth and fuel transformation—but they must make the first move.
Today, real EA leadership means engaging peers, customers and employees in new and different ways. It means leveraging the power of cloud, social, big data and mobile technologies. And providing new levels of reliability, resilience and radical flexibility for the organization as a whole. Get the tools and practices you need to create a leading-edge EA program at Gartner Enterprise Architecture Summit 2012. 
Click here to find out more and to register.

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

General News

TfL: The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has delivered on his manifesto pledge to introduce a 21st century bus that draws inspiration from the iconic Routemaster, as the first new bus for London enters passenger service.
Press release & links
STFC: A mobile physics lab for young people, run by the Institute of Physics and sponsored by the Science and Technology Facilities Council, is embarking on a 6-month tour of North West England.  

The ‘Lab in a Lorry’ is designed to inspire the next generation of scientists & engineers, offering 11-14 year olds the opportunity to explore science through specially created interactive experiments. 
The experiments on board the lorry involve using the properties of light to diagnose sick patients, using sound waves to smash wine glasses, and scattering light to understand why the sky is blue and help identify the real colour of the Sun.  The key concepts behind the experiments will be illustrated with examples from everyday life and cutting-edge research.
MoD: Airborne medics from 16 Medical Regiment have been practising the skills they might need for operations around the world on Exercise Serpent's Anvil.  The exercise, which took place at the Army Medical Services Training Centre in York, saw the medics test to the limit their capabilities, kit & supplies.
TfLTransport for London has recently unveiled a new online application process to make it easier for bus and coach operators to apply for, amend or cancel a London Service Permit. Whilst most buses operating throughout the Capital run services contracted by London Buses, certain services (such as open-top tour buses and commuter coach services) require a LSP to operate. 
Operators are required to submit their applications to Transport for London by 12 March 2012 to take account of necessary changes resulting from the 2012 Olympics & Paralympics to take account of necessary changes resulting from the 2012 Olympics & Paralympics
FSA: The Food Standards Agency is inviting tenders to study international models for delivery of official food and feed controls.  The Agency is currently reviewing the effectiveness of the UK official controls delivery model and considering the scope for making improvements. This research will increase the FSA’s understanding of delivery models in other countries and provide evidence to inform the option analysis for the UK review.
FSA: The Food Standards Agency is advising the public that, based on current evidence, there is unlikely to be any risk to consumers through the food chain from the virus that is causing abnormalities in livestock

No illness has been reported to date in humans exposed to animals infected with the Schmallenberg virus, which is thought to be carried by midges.  The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the Health Protection Agency (HPA) have stated the virus is unlikely to cause disease in humans.
FSAMorrisons is recalling its own-brand Whole Nut Milk Chocolate, with a 'best before' date of 16 June 2012, as it may be contaminated with small pieces of metal.  If you've bought the chocolate, do not eat it.  The Food Standards Agency has issued a Product Recall Information Notice. .
FSASurya Foods is withdrawing 2 batches of J.F. Mills Rich 'n Moist Luxury Cake Mix due to incorrect allergen labelling. The products contain wheat flour that isn’t listed correctly on the label.  If you’re allergic or intolerant to wheat or gluten, don’t eat this product. The Food Standards Agency has issued an Allergy Alert. .
ScotGov:  All eligible under 18s with type 1 diabetes will now have access to life-changing insulin pumps under plans announced last week. The pumps are small medical devices that are attached to the individual's body and are programmed to administer the correct amount of insulin needed, removing the need for insulin injections and making the condition easier to manage.
Funding of at least £1m will be provided to NHS Boards to help them deliver pumps to under 18s who need them, as well as tripling the amount of pumps available to all Scots. Insulin pumps constantly drip feed tiny amounts of insulin throughout the day and monitor blood levels, increasing the amount of insulin if required.
HMT: Motorists in many remote island communities will benefit from a 5p per litre discount on pump prices from 1 March 2012.  The Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, announced in November 2011 that final EU clearance had been received for the rural fuel rebate pilot scheme to go ahead this year.
STFC: The UK Association for Science and Discovery Centres (ASDC) and the Science & Technology Facilities Council (STFC) are delighted to announce the launch of a new strategic partnership bringing together some of the most fascinating & diverse science in the country with the talents & infrastructure of the nation’s largest network of science engagement organisations
The partnership will begin with a 2-year national programme which aims to inspire more young people across the UK with the wonders of the physical sciences by sharing the amazing stories and technologies of STFC.
DH: Over £100m will be invested in NHS Clinical Research Facilities to develop new treatments to benefit thousands of patients, the Government announced last week. The money, provided by the National Institute for Health Research, will be spent on research nurses & technicians at 19 of the facilities around the country. 

A huge number of new treatments for conditions including cancer, diabetes, stroke, dementia and obesity will be developed by researchers at the facilities.
ScotGov: Some of Scotland’s most inspirational & successful stars have come together to headline a new campaign that celebrates Scotland’s creativity and welcomes visitors to the country. Part of the Year of Creative Scotland 2012, the campaign features posters of the Scottish stars with expressions of their creative inspirations at Scotland’s six main airports - Glasgow, Edinburgh, Prestwick, Dundee, Inverness and Aberdeen - to welcome people to Scotland.  
ACE: A joint 3-year programme between the British Council and Arts Council England, which will support individual artists based in England to work internationally, opened for applications last week. The Artists' international development fund will provide grants of between £1,000 to £5,000 for artists to travel, explore & collaborate internationally while carrying out professional projects.  
TUCOn the day that Parliament debated the new European Treaty, and as Ireland announced a referendum, British unions took part in a day of action called by the European Trade Union Confederation against that Treaty.
Unions argue that the Treaty is unfair, undemocratic and will create a downward spiral of unemployment & debt. The TUC is concerned that the Treaty will tie the hands of individual governments - and therefore electorates - preventing them from doing anything to boost growth and jobs during economic downturns.

Policy Statements and Initiatives

DWP: An extra £5.9m of Government funding has been allocated to councils across London to help benefit claimants renting in the private sector. The funds are part of a £49m package that will be allocated to British councils to help with the transition to new Housing Benefit rules until 2015. This is on top of the £130m Discretionary Housing Payments and the £10m for homelessness prevention in London.
CLGNeighbourhoods suffering the blight of empty homes could benefit from a £100m boost to bring these properties back into use and provide stable homes for families in need. The Homes and Communities Agency will be administering the Clusters of Empty Homes Programme and a shortlist of successful bidders will then be invited to submit more detailed applications by the end of April 2012.
DfE: The Government’s Behaviour Advisor Charlie Taylor has called on the best Pupil Referral Units (PRUs) to take advantage of academy freedoms, to drive up quality of education and develop closer relationships with schools in their area.
As of last week, excellent PRUs are now able to apply to become an academy, with the first opening from September 2012.  This means they will take full control of their budgets & staffing, allowing them to work in the best interest of their pupils. They will also be able to build better partnerships with other schools, diversify their provision, develop new areas of expertise, and help other PRUs to improve.
DCMS: A new national youth dance company and an academy for young film-makers are among measures announced last week to ensure all children have their lives enriched by cultural education. The plans follow recommendations from the independent Review of Cultural Education in England carried out by Darren Henley, managing director of Classic FM.
His review covers all areas of cultural education and aims to ensure that all children, especially those from poorer backgrounds, are able to access the arts.
ScotGov: Additional funding has been awarded to the professional development of Scotland’s science teachers as the Scottish Government welcomes the Science and Engineering Education Advisory Group (SEEAG) report which sets out a range of recommendations for the Scottish Government and its partners.
WAG: Environment Minister, John Griffiths has announced an extra £6.6m to help reduce the energy bills of householders in some of Wales’ most deprived areas. The Minister has confirmed additional funding for the Welsh Government’s successful strategic energy scheme, Arbed.
The £6.6m will ensure that more than 1,500 Welsh homes benefit from energy saving improvements such as external wall insulation, high efficiency, class A boilers and the transition to more efficient types of fuel.
CLG: Communities Minister, Andrew Stunell has announced that the Department for Communities and Local Government will make available up to £10m in funding to help English language training for speakers of other languages.
The commitment to provide additional funding to support English language provision was outlined in the Government's new approach to integration, 'Creating the conditions for integration' published recently.
ScotGovAdvanced apprenticeship frameworks to help employers develop staff to degree level will be introduced from 1 April 2012. The plans were unveiled by Education Secretary Michael Russell as part of a number of reforms to make it easier for students to progress through education, for example from college to university or from college to apprenticeships.  

To help students understand the full range of possible pathways the learner journey will be mapped out and published.
Press release & links
MoD: A letter from Defence Secretary Philip Hammond responding to calls that the MOD contracts for new Royal Fleet Auxiliary tankers should have been awarded to UK firms has been published in the Daily Mail recently.  The new Military Afloat Reach and Sustainability (MARS) tankers will maintain the Royal Navy's ability to refuel at sea and will provide fuel to warships and task groups.
ScotGov: More than 70% of drivers in Scotland admit to taking risks whilst driving, and just over half confess to speeding, according to research carried out by the Scottish Government as it launches a new campaign with Road Safety Scotland (part of Transport Scotland) encouraging drivers to consider how they can reduce their ‘risk factor’ on country roads.
CLG: Fire Minister Bob Neill has announced funding of £74m to support a range of locally-led projects to improve the resilience & efficiency of local fire & rescue control rooms across England.
DfE: A £50m summer schools fund to help the most disadvantaged pupils opened last week.  The money will help up to 100,000 pupils making the transition from primary to secondary school, a time when Ofsted research shows performance can take a significant dip.
WAG: The Welsh Government will focus on helping people to use Welsh in everyday life, including through new technology and social media, the Minister responsible for the language, Leighton Andrews, said recently. As he launched the Welsh Government’s new 5-year Welsh Language Strategy - A living language: a language for living.


WAG:  The Welsh Government has launched a consultation (closes on 30 May 2012) about the way that concerns & complaints about social services in are dealt with.  By introducing an integrated two-stage process, which includes independent investigation in the remit of the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales, the complaints process will be easier to understand.

Press release & links

DH:  Earlier diagnosis of a rare condition and better coordinated care will help improve the quality of life for people with rare diseases and their families, according to the first ever UK plan on rare diseases, published for consultation (closes on 25 May 2012) by the Department of Health.  A rare disease is one that affects fewer than 5 in 10,000 of the population.

Press release ~ Consultation

FSA:  The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has published a consultation (closes on 27 March 2012) paper outlining proposals to change the way pension transfer analysis is carried out.  The proposed changes will clarify & update the current standards and aim to ensure that pension scheme members considering a transfer are given a fair assessment of what they will receive in retirement.

The FSA estimates that the changes to the way TVAs are performed will prevent an undervaluation of benefits of up to £20bn.  In other words, the changes mean that transfer values may have to increase before an adviser recommends a transfer.

Press release & links

FSA:  The Chia Company, based in , has applied to the Food Standards Agency to extend the authorisation of chia seeds, so it can market chia seeds in baked goods, breakfast cereals, and fruit, nut & seed mixes. 

The ACNFP has considered this application and has formulated a positive draft opinion.  Any comments on this draft opinion should be emailed to them by Friday 9 March 2012. The comments will be considered by the committee when it concludes its assessment of this novel food ingredient.

Press release & links

LC:  In a consultation opened last week (closes on 31 May 2012), the Law Commissions of England &Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and are seeking views on how the regulation of health care professionals in the UK and social workers in England can be made clearer, simpler, more modern & more consistent.

News release & links

EU News:  There are many cases where animals & plants have been introduced to an environment that is not naturally theirs, and are now spreading so fast that they become a threat to biological diversity.  

The European Commission is considering ways to tackle this problem, including a new dedicated legislative instrument, and seeking views through an on-line consultation (closes on 12 April 2012) on how to deal with the issue most effectively.  The results of the consultation will feed into a proposal to appear later this year.

Press release & links

EU News:  Double non-taxation deprives Member States of significant revenues & creates unfair competition between businesses in the Single Market.  As a first step in combating this problem, the Commission has launched a public consultation on the double non-taxation of cross-border companies

The aim of the consultation is to gauge the full scale of the problem and see where the main weaknesses lie.  On this basis, the Commission will develop the most appropriate policy response before the end of 2012.

In order to encourage participation by those who may have insight into real-life exploitation of double non-taxation by companies, anonymous contributions will be accepted. The consultation is available in all official EU languages and will run until 30 May 2012.

Press release & links

DECC:  Energy regulator Ofgem and the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) have published a report showing how more co-ordination in the development of offshore links & infrastructure can be achieved 

In tandem, Ofgem has launched a consultation (closes on 26 April 2012) on potential changes to the regulatory regime for offshore transmission assets to take some of this work forward.

Press release & links

NHS Confed:  The care of older people needs fundamental change so that ‘hospitals & care homes stamp out undignified care and ensure all patients and residents are treated with dignity and respect’.  That is the message from the Commission on improving dignity in care for older people, an independent body set up by the NHS Confederation, Age UK and the Local Government Association (LGA) – See ‘In the News’ section for more information on consultation.

Annual Reports

PC&PE: The Community Budgets initiatives for dealing with families with multiple problems are still at an early stage, so rather than produce a full report at this stage the Communities and Local Government (CLG) Committee has produced a brief report setting out issues which will provide a starting point for a full inquiry and report in 2013.

General Reports and Other Publications

CHGold can be expected to continue playing a significant role in the international monetary system, serving as a valuable hedge and safe haven, particularly in times when tail risks predominate.  However, reintroducing gold as an anchor in the international monetary system would be impractical & damaging given bullion’s deflationary bias, says a new Chatham House Report
BIS: Professor John Kay has published an interim report on his Independent Review of investment in UK equity markets and its impact on company performance and governance. It provides an overview of submissions received in response to last September’s call for evidence, and reflects the many conversations the review team has had with business leaders and other experts over the last few months.
The comments & proposals discussed in the report signal areas of interest for the final report, but do not represent its provisional conclusions, and Professor Kay is not making any recommendations at this stage. Interested parties with additional evidence relevant to the Review can make a submission to the secretariat by Friday 27 April 2012.  Professor Kay will present his final report, including recommendations for action, to the Business Secretary in the summer.
ESRC: The latest official unemployment figures show that unemployment among young people has soared to 22.3%, higher than the recession of the 1990s, while the overall unemployment rate is 9%.   

New research from Understanding Society, a study of more than 40,000 UK households, has examined what is driving this uneven employment pattern and finds that young people suffer from a 'double-penalty' in their attempts to find and keep a job.
ESRCInitiatives by successive governments to provide better access to higher education for young people from less-privileged backgrounds have failed according to Understanding Society, the world’s largest longitudinal study.  
NAOPlans by the Child Maintenance & Enforcement Commission to reduce its spending are high risk, according to the National Audit Office.  There is already a £44m shortfall in the £161m reduction originally expected by 2014-15.
NLGN: The new age of austerity risks creating a reclusive society characterised by public affluence and private squalor, localism think tank NLGN warned recently. In a provocation paper setting out scenarios for future relationships between councils & the public, the think tank warns that the era of austerity could create ‘me first’ attitudes that cause people to turn away from public services and instead demand tax cuts & access to private sector services.
NLGN’s paper – Anticipating the Future Citizen – argues that without strong local leadership, greater central government support for localism and significant investment in community solutions, local government risks ever greater community disconnection & anger.
PC&PE: The House of Lords Science and Technology Committee has recently published its report on the role & functions of departmental Chief Scientific Advisers (CSAs). The report sets out a range of recommendations to ensure that Government policy decisions are supported by the best science & engineering advice available.
NIESR: The National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) has published research which finds that skilled migrants make positive contributions to innovation and business operations through their advanced technical knowledge and niche skills.
TUC: The government must be far more ambitious in its attempts to tackle the growing youth unemployment crisis, says a new TUC report. Generation Lost: Youth unemployment and the youth labour market is the latest in the series of Touchstone Extra pamphlets.
The pamphlet finds that the government's response so far only provides enough places on support programmes for around one in 10 young people who will claim Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) in future, and analyses official data to suggest that the unpaid Work Experience scheme is not leading to any overall improvements in young people's chances of finding work.
CHRussia's stability is at increased risk and the overriding objective of Vladimir Putin is to preserve the narrow & personalized ruling system built over the past 12 years, says a new Chatham House report. Putin Again: Implications for Russia and the West argues that the instruments of government (not least the security forces) are corrupted & unreliable, but they have a clear interest in maintaining the system that sustains them. 
RUSISecurity policymakers have placed a great deal of focus on mounting the biggest security operation to avert a terrorist threat in the coming London Olympics, while postponing much needed reform until after the Games, according to a new report from the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI).
PC&PE: The Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) has published its Report on the implementation of the right of disabled people to independent living in the context of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), which was ratified by the UK in 2009.
PXPolice officer pensions have become ‘unaffordable for taxpayers’ and a drain on police budgets.  A new report by think tank, Policy Exchange, reveals that the rising cost of police pensions means that the taxpayer is now picking up around 80% of the bill, with total costs standing at £2.5bn a year, the equivalent to £1 in every £7 of total police expenditure.
AS: Scotland’s councils & NHS boards must improve the planning & organisation of social care. Councils spend £3bn a year on these services, which are vital for many people, according to an Audit Scotland report, Commissioning social care.
ECData matching may have the potential to improve electoral registers in Great Britain, but more work needs to be done, the Electoral Commission has advised the UK Government.
CIPD: The crisis in trust many organisations are facing can be repaired, but not if we continue to blame the economy and focus solely on senior leadership.  In reality, we all need to recognise that we each have a stake in the future success of the organisations in which we work.  
That’s according to new research published by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, which found that the crisis in trust predates the economic downturn and is a function of a breakdown of 5 types of trust relationship within an organisation.

Legislation / Legal

SC: The new definitive guideline on drug offences will be used in all courts in England & Wales from 27 February 2012.    The Sentencing Council’s guideline brings sentencing guidance together for the first time to help ensure consistent & proportionate sentencing and provide effective guidance for sentencers and clear information for victims, witnesses & the public on how drug offenders are sentenced.
HMT: The Government has taken steps to close two aggressive tax avoidance schemes recently disclosed to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) by a bank. The schemes, both of which are ‘highly abusive’, are designed to work around legislation that has been introduced in the past to block similar attempts at tax avoidance.  

By acting immediately, the Government will ensure the payment of over half a billion pounds in tax, protect further billions of tax from being lost and maintain fairness in the tax system.
The bank that disclosed these schemes to HMRC has adopted the Banking Code of Practice on Taxation which contains a commitment not to engage in tax avoidance.  The Government is clear that these are not transactions that a bank that has adopted the Code should be undertaking.
HMIC: A joint inspection published recently by HM Inspectorates of Constabulary and the Crown Prosecution Service found that ‘the criminal justice system has made progress in relation to the needs of rape victims although there is more to do: but improvements must also be made to the way the police gather & analyse intelligence material to identify perpetrators of rape and more can be done to ensure that prosecutions are robust’.

EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.

iea: New research (Liberating farming from the CAP), shows that by abolishing direct EU subsidies to farmers the level of food production would increase & prices would be driven down. The EU is currently spending €55bn on the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).  This budget is planned to increase to €63bn by 2020.
EU News: The European Commission has published its second Trade and Investment Barriers Report, which describes the progress achieved in dismantling barriers to the markets of 6 strategic economic partners - China, India, Japan, Mercosur, Russia and the US.
The report recognises some success stories in the removal of certain trade barriers, such as in India, but also underlines the overall persistence of barriers for European business to access key markets.  Dismantling these barriers would improve and open up new export and investment opportunities for European companies and people.
EU News: The latest report from the European Retail Forum for Sustainability shows retailers taking the environment into consideration in their business decisions more actively than ever.  Companies in the forum are paying more attention to the greening of their supply chains, sustainable distribution systems and the use of renewable energies.
EU News: The answers to Europe's search for new economic growth may be closer to home than expected.  The European Commission has released a study showing that, if the internal market for electronic communications were completed, the EU gross domestic product (GDP) could grow by up to €110bn a year, or more than 0.8% of GDP.
EU News: The European Commission has proposed action to meet 3 key challenges facing our society, in areas that are crucial to growth & jobs: the supply of raw materials, sustainable agriculture, and active and healthy ageing.  All 3 require a more concerted innovation effort across the public and private sector, in order to improve quality of life and position Europe as a global leader.
The Commission has therefore launched 2 new European Innovation Partnerships (EIPs) - on Raw Materials and on Agricultural Sustainability & Productivity - and has endorsed a 4-year action plan for the Active & Healthy Ageing EIP (a pilot launched in February 2011).
EU News:   A photo, a film or a poem still covered by copyright, but whose right holder is not identifiable, would be made publicly available across the EU, under draft legislation voted by the Legal Affairs Committee last Thursday. This legislation would allow everyone to access so-called ‘orphan works’ and push forward the project of making Europe's cultural heritage available online.
EU NewsDouble non-taxation deprives Member States of significant revenues & creates unfair competition between businesses in the Single Market.  As a first step in combating this problem, the Commission has launched a public consultation on the double non-taxation of cross-border companies – See ‘Consultations’ section for more information.
EU News: There are many cases where animals & plants have been introduced to an environment that is not naturally theirs, and are now spreading so fast that they become a threat to biological diversity.  The European Commission is considering ways to tackle this problem, including a new dedicated legislative instrument, and seeking views through an on-line consultation – See ‘Consultations’ section for more information.

Charity and Voluntary Sector

BIG: 50 communities across England are each taking charge of £1m to spend on making their areas better places to live – in a pioneering Lottery funding scheme to empower local people

The funding is part of a £200m Big Lottery Fund initiative, called Big Local, which will give local people a key role in deciding how to improve their areas and tackle local problems.

Business and Other Briefings

BIS: A new report published by the Government shows that around £4m of regulatory burdens will be cut from British businesses between January and June 2012. 

The Third Statement of New Regulation, which measures the success of the One-in, One-out rule, shows that there is a cumulative net reduction of regulation since January 2011.  It also shows that the number of regulations which reduce a cost on business continue to outweigh the number which put a new cost on business.
BIS: A recent report calls for universities to be at the heart of the economy to ‘promote growth in the UK and improve the employability of our graduates’.

Professor Sir Tim Wilson was asked by the Government to undertake a review into how universities work with business to ensure graduate skills & employability meet the needs of business, and to maximise the university sector’s capabilities in business-led research & innovation.   His report makes a series of recommendations for universities, business and the Government.
Press release & links
TfL: Freight operators and their customers are being targeted with a major new campaign to ensure supplies keep moving during the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.  The new marketing campaign urges people who make or receive deliveries in Games transport 'hot spot' areas to plan ahead so they can continue to operate effectively and profitably this summer.
The campaign is in addition to more than 200 free TfL workshops, both inside & outside the Capital, which have been on offer since January 2012 to help hauliers and their customers (from across all sectors) continue to operate effectively this summer.
BIS: A new pilot scheme, launched last week, will provide a boost for growth by helping businesses speed up the processing of patent applications in the UK and Germany. 

Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH) allows applicants who have been successful in obtaining a patent from either the UK Intellectual Property Office (UK IPO) or the German Patent and Trademark Office to request accelerated examination of a corresponding patent application filed in the other country.

The UK-Germany PPH pilot started on 1 March 2012 and will run for an initial period of one year, ending on 1 March 2013.
This Brief introduces new guidance on the VAT liability of caravan pitch rentals, which reflects minor amendments effective from 1 March 2012.
This Brief updates on the review of insolvency processes following the Paymex Limited VAT Tribunal decision.

Industry News

ScotGov: Finance Secretary, John Swinney has announced funding to increase the energy & low carbon support available to Scottish companies.  The Scottish Government has awarded £3.4m of European Regional Development Funding to 6 projects from leading Scottish universities & colleges.
The projects will help up to 1,000 SMEs across Scotland to develop low carbon technologies, products & services and are expected to support 270 jobs. The projects are run by 6 different universities & colleges who will collaborate through the Energy and Low Carbon Business Support project to share experiences and prevent duplication of work.
DECC: A world-leading gear engineering & manufacturing company has been confirmed as the first successful bidder to a major Government scheme to support manufacturers developing next generation offshore wind technologyDavid Brown Gear Systems (David Brown), whose UK facility is in Huddersfield, Yorkshire, has been awarded a £1.2m grant to help develop its 7MW offshore wind turbine gearbox.
It is the first company to be awarded funding under DECC and the Technology Strategy Board’s Offshore Wind Component Technologies Innovation scheme which is worth around £5m.  

Launched in November 2011, the scheme aims to help innovators with novel ideas to reduce the cost of offshore wind energy.
TfLTransport for London (TfL) and London boroughs recently published a list of 10 contractors they are considering for 4 new area-based highways contracts that could save tens of millions of pounds through better working practices.   The contracts awarded by the end of 2012.

The new contracts will cover both road maintenance and the construction of new schemes, and for the first time, they will have the potential to apply to all roads in London.  Each of the 4 contracts will cover a specific London area and will run for 8 years.

Forthcoming Event

RoSPA:  Professionals with responsibility for water safety across the will meet in April 2012 to discuss how to move accident prevention standards forward despite difficult operating conditions. 

The National Water Safety Seminar, hosted by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents in Birmingham on 26 April 2012, will bring together representatives of all parts of the water safety industry, including those whose work encompasses safety at beaches, in inland waters (e.g. rivers and lakes), at sea, in swimming pools and during water sports.  The event is supported by the National Water Safety Forum.

Delegate places can still be booked, with an early booking discount of 20% available until 15 March 2012. Visit the website to view the seminar’s full programme and book online.

Press release & links

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