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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

EU NewsOne notes that most ‘top bankers’ are male, which illustrates the point being made rather nicely - A European Commission report shows that limited progress towards increasing the number of women on company boards has been achieved one year after EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding called for credible self-regulatory measures.

Just 1 in 7 board members at Europe's top firms is a woman (13.7%). This is a slight improvement from 11.8% in 2010.  However, it would still take more than 40 years to reach a significant gender balance (at least 40% of both sexes) at this rate.

A report by McKinsey found that gender-balanced companies have a 56% higher operating profit compared to male-only companies.  Ernst & Young looked at the 290 largest publicly-listed companies. They found that 'the earnings at companies with at least one woman on the board were significantly higher than in those that had no female board member'.
DWP:  Is it as simple as a £25k / £2.9k equation? - Last week the Government announced that disability employment services should be focused on disabled people themselves, rather than institutions, so they can access mainstream jobs the same as everyone else’.

The Government was responding to the Sayce Review which was commissioned to look at how the £320m protected budget for disability employment could be used more effectively to support thousands more disabled people into work.

It currently costs the Government & taxpayer £25,000 each year to support each disabled employee working in a Remploy factory yet the average Access to Work award to support a disabled person in mainstream employment is £2,900.
EU News:  Time for a ‘barbaric’ custom to be consigned to the ‘dusbin of history’ - An innovative EU and UNICEF project has helped thousands of families, communities & countries to change attitudes and end harmful traditional practices like female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) in Africa, says a report on the EU funded project published ahead of International Women's Day.

As a result of education & awareness raising, girls in thousands of communities in Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Senegal & Sudan are no longer subjected to this practice.  In many African countries, female genital mutilation/cutting is a centuries-old custom, believed to make girls marriageable.

Estimates show that up to 140m girls & women have undergone some form of female genital mutilation/cutting and are living with painful complications.  Each year around 3m girls – 8,000 a day – suffer the results of it.
CQC:  Ensuring that they are ‘Cared for’ - The Care Quality Commission has published the results of a review of how the healthcare needs of care home residents are met

It addresses how older people & people with learning disabilities living in care homes access healthcare services, whether they have choice & control over their healthcare and whether they receive care that is safe & respects their dignity.
MoDBrewing up in some foreign fields! - To mark the unique occasion of Her Majesty The Queen's Diamond Jubilee, Fortnum & Mason is presenting all Armed Forces personnel on active service with the 'United Services Tin', containing tea & biscuits.  

The gift is intended to ensure that each recipient will be able to join the rest of the nation in celebrating Her Majesty's Diamond Jubilee Weekend on 2-5 June 2012.
SLCFirst lesson for students; get your finances sorted early - The Student Loans Company is urging English students to apply for their 2012/13 funding during National Student Money Week, to ensure their funding is in place at the start of term.  Last year around 27% of new students and 24% of returning students missed the student finance deadline dates in May & June.

Student Finance England will be hosting & taking part in online webchats during National Student Money Week (Monday 12 - Friday 16 March 2012) and helping students understand what support is available to them.  The Company is also currently taking part in UCAS Conventions across England.
NAOWhy do they never apply the Pareto Principle? - The National Audit Office has reported on the initiative for government departments to share back-office functions.  It concludes that, despite significant cost & effort, the planned benefits of the initiative have not been achieved
By creating complex services overly tailored to individual departments, government has increased costs and reduced flexibility.  There has also been a failure to develop the benchmarks necessary for measuring performance.

The NAO reports that the services provided are currently overly customized to meet the needs of individual departmental customers and more complex than the NAO expected. The ability of the shared service centres to make efficiencies is thereby limited by the overhead of running multiple systems & processes.
Press release & links ~ Pareto Principle ~ The Lazy Project Manger ~ Report: Government and IT - 'A recipe for rip-offs': Time for a new approach ~ MPs report on information and communications technology in government ~ ScotGov: Public sector ICT review ~ Planting the Flag: the Strategy for ICT-enabled local public services reform ~ e-Society: the full report (ONS) (scroll down) ~ CBI calls on the Government to harness the potential of information technology to transform public services ~ Institute for Government response to new Government ICT Strategy ~ Socitm’s Manifesto for an incoming Government: A Seven Point Plan for IT in Tomorrow’s Public Services ~ New ICT negotiating guide launched ~ NAO: Central government's use of consultants and interims ~ FireControl: inadequately planned, poorly executed and badly managed

Thought Paper: Realising the Value of Ideas - Nine Principles for Successful Public Sector Portfolio Management - Why do so many high-profile, public sector projects, which start so promisingly, end up in disappointment long before all of the promised benefits are delivered? The reasons are many, complex and have been debated in many Public Accounts Committee hearings. A recent thought paper proposes nine principles which can significantly reduce the risk of failure and which places the emphasis on exploiting valuable ideas from the very outset.

There's never a shortage of good ideas. But can you be sure that you are working on the right things at the right time and in the right order without spending valuable time analysing all the ideas in your portfolio?

An agile approach ensures that efforts are focused on ideas which will add the most value by delivering business change.

Emergn's latest Portfolio Management Thought Paper outlines nine principles for developing an effective approach to active portfolio management.

Click here
to download your free copy of ‘Realising the value of ideas - Nine Principles for Successful Portfolio Management’.

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

General News

FSAMorrisons is recalling its own-brand Carvery Cooked Ham because of incorrect allergy labelling.  The product may contain mustard, which is not mentioned on the product label.  This means the ham should not be eaten by anyone with an allergy or intolerance to mustard. The Food Standards Agency has issued an Allergy Alert.
FSA: The Food Standards Agency has updated its list of product ranges that do not contain the 6 food colours associated with possible hyperactivity in young children.
FSALituanica is recalling all batches of Arsenal brand vanilla marshmallows. The product contains peanuts, which isn’t mentioned on the label.  If you’re allergic to peanuts, don’t eat this product.  The Food Standards Agency has issued an Allergy Alert
FSA: The Food Standards Agency has launched a Capability Review to ensure the organisation is delivering on its core objective to protect the public's health & consumer interests in relation to food & feed.

The Review will assess the FSA’s performance against a framework that covers strategy, delivery & leadership.  If you have experiences & insights that would be helpful in the FSA Capability Review, please email the FSA before Monday 9 April 2012.
FSAExtending the availability of Remedial Action Notices (RANs) for use in all food businesses in England has been delayed.  The Food Standards Agency has written to local authorities notifying them of the delay. 

The process of taking the RANs extension through government committees is taking longer than expected, but the FSA still aims to introduce the England extension before the beginning of the Olympic Games in July 2012.
The extension of RANs will be introduced in Scotland on 1 April 2012, Northern Ireland on 6 April and Wales on 1 May, as planned.
RoSPA: The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents has unveiled a revamped RoSPA Advanced Drivers & Riders website – complete with a new members’ forum – to help reduce road accidents by encouraging an interest in road safety.
The website focuses on driver & rider behaviour and is relevant to those at every stage, whether they are experienced or newly qualified.  It provides up-to-date information on safer driving & riding techniques and is easier to navigate than the original site.
WAG: Environment Minister, John Griffiths has urged farmers in Wales to do all their burning before the season ends later this month. The Minister has reminded farmers that in Wales burning can legally only take place between 1 October & 31 March in upland areas, and between 1 November & 15 March elsewhere.
NE: A landmark agreement has been reached between Natural England, the government’s advisor on the natural environment, and the Conservation Grade Nature Friendly Farming scheme. The new agreement has been created as part of Natural England’s engagement with commercial organisations, and pledges to work together to increase biodiversity on farms across the country. 
As well as recognising the roles of farmers & government, this agreement will mobilise the huge potential of food brands and their consumers to support the restoration & management of nature throughout the food chain.
LSIS: Further to the recent announcement that Frank McLoughlin CBE, Principal of City and Islington College will chair the independent Commission on adult vocational pedagogy, the Learning and Skills Improvement Service are pleased to invite applications for Commissioners from across the further education & skills sector & industry to support this important & exciting agenda.
The Commission, which was announced by Government in New Challenges, New Chances last December has been tasked with the aim of improving adult vocational education and setting out recommendations to ensure that all adult learners receive the highest standards of teaching & training, and the best learning experience possible.
TfL: The first key enabling works to allow the Hammersmith Flyover to be fully reopened to traffic have now been completed, Transport for London announced last week.
TfL: A host of top London attractions have announced that they will provide special 'after work' offers during the London 2012 Games to encourage people working in Games transport 'hotspot' areas to travel home outside peak hours.
ScotGov: First Minister Alex Salmond has welcomed the announcement that Edinburgh will be home to the headquarters of the new UK Green Investment Bank.
Unicef: The world has met the Millennium Development Goal target of halving the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water, well in advance of the MDG 2015 deadline, according to a report issued recently by UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO).  Between 1990 & 2010, over 2bn people gained access to improved drinking water sources, such as piped supplies and protected wells.
DCMS'Holidays at Home are GREAT' is a domestic tourism campaign aimed at boosting tourism throughout the UK by encouraging people to visit a website offering 20.12% discounts on accommodation, restaurants, attractions & transport around the country.
HLHomeless Link has recently called on politicians, public & voluntary sector professionals to ‘Take a Step’ to help end rough sleeping at an event held at the House of Commons.  New research from the umbrella body for homelessness charities indicates that 57% of new rough sleepers seek advice or use services before ending up on the streets.
Defra: The UK Government is giving £8.5m to a total of 33 new projects under Defra’s Darwin Initiative, which has backed wildlife conservation projects in some of the world’s poorest countries for the last two decades. Since its launch in 1992, the Initiative has committed £88m to 762 projects in over 150 countries.
Unite: Government changes to overseas domestic worker visas will turn the clock back and lead to workers being trapped with abusive employers, Unite, the union, has warned. Since 1998 migrant domestic workers could escape abusive employers by changing jobs or leaving their employment without the fear of being deported. 
The change in government policy will lead to domestic workers suffering in silence with victims fearful of becoming ‘illegal’ and perpetrators going unpunished.  

Policy Statements and Initiatives

ScotGov: Finance Secretary John Swinney has called on the Chancellor of the Exchequer to use the forthcoming Budget to invest in economic recovery.  Mr Swinney was speaking following a meeting of UK and devolved government Finance Ministers on the day that new Scottish Government figures revealed the cost to Scotland of the UK’s continuing austerity programme.
The quarterly State of the Economy report published last week by the Scottish Government’s Chief Economist, ‘provides further evidence to support calls for investment in capital projects, action to boost lending to business and support for household budgets to get the economy moving again’.
HO: A new TV advertising campaign challenging teenagers to re-think their views of what constitutes rape & consent was launched by the Home Office recently. With 33% of teenage girls and 16% of boys reporting that they have experienced some form of sexual violence from a boyfriend or girlfriend, the campaign aims to help teenagers recognise unacceptable behaviour.
The adverts point teenagers towards a website designed specifically for them, where they can find information, seek help and share experiences with their peers.
ScotGov: Scottish school pupils are set to broaden their knowledge on aspects of Scottish life & culture across all areas of learning.  Learning Minister Alasdair Allan recently confirmed the award in Scottish Studies is among a number of recommendations made by the Scottish Studies Working Group that will be taken forward.
WAG: Finance Minister, Jane Hutt, has announced that £11m of Invest-to-Save funding is being made available to help the public sector meet the challenge of delivering more efficient and effective public services.
WAG: Children in reception class are to receive free books & resources as part of a new programme to boost literacy in the Foundation Phase. Minister for Education & Skills, Leighton Andrews, has that Booktrust Cymru’s Foundation Phase programme would receive Welsh Government funding of £200,000 for a 3-year period.
The funding will help pay for a book bag containing 2 storybooks - one in English & one in Welsh; resources for each school; a support officer to work with schools beforehand; and an evaluation of the programme.
DH: At the international congress for telehealth & telecare, Paul Burstow set out how the appropriate use of telehealth in the NHS can help people to live more independent lives and stay in control of their care.  

It would mean patients no longer have to wait at home for the doctor or district nurse to call to check vital signs, they spend less time in NHS waiting rooms and anything that could be serious is picked up before it has a chance to get worse.
Paul Burstow said: "The widespread adoption of telehealth and telecare as part of an integrated care plan will mean better quality of care and greater independence for people with long-term conditions. Delivered from the front line it could save the NHS up to £1.2bn over 5 years”.
WAG: As International Women’s Day (7 March 2012) approached, the Equalities Minister joined budding young female engineers as they took on scientific challenges. Jane Hutt tried her hand at building her own wind turbine from scratch alongside 30 ‘Year 9’ girls from 10 secondary schools from across Cardiff & the Vale of Glamorgan.
The workshop was part of a programme at the Discover! Saturday Club - a science-based activity club designed to offer girls a hands-on insight into careers relating to science, technology, construction & engineering.
DfTCyclists & walkers across the UK are on track to benefit from thousands of new cycle spaces and routes from the middle of 2012, Transport Minister Norman Baker has announced.  Over 7,500 new cycle spaces at railway stations and 38 new & improved routes have been agreed, as part of a £30m package of developments to connect communities, reduce carbon emissions, get people active and make cycling safer & more convenient.
DH: Over £330m of extra funding will be spent on providing state of the art equipment & facilities to improve services for patients, the Prime Minister has announced. Hospitals around the country will get money for new operating theatres, A&E departments and other services as well as new CT scanners and ultrasound equipment.
NE: To help farmers & growers cope with the drought conditions that, despite recent rainfall, continues to affect some parts of the country, Natural England is ensuring that the appropriate Environmental Stewardship (ES) derogations are made available as quickly as possible to farmers who are in agri-environment schemes.
CBI: The CBI has commented on the launch of greater employment support for ex-offenders, with referral onto the Work Programme on day one of release.
DH: A profound shift of decision-making to the local NHS means that clinicians lead change in information technology, ensuring its freedom to innovate, the Health Secretary said at the launch of the Chief Clinical Information Officers network.
Confirming that the government has secured agreement to over a £1bn reduction in its contract with Computer Sciences Corporation, the largest supplier to the now-dismantled National Programme for IT, the Health Secretary made clear that this money will be released back into the NHS.
WAG: Health Minister Lesley Griffiths has taken the opportunity of World Kidney Day to thank all those who took part in the public consultation on Welsh Government plans for legislation on organ & tissue donation.
DfTRail fare increases will be capped at the rate of inflation under plans to help hard-pressed passengers by ensuring the rail industry brings down the cost of Britain’s railways.  A value-for-money study by Sir Roy McNulty concluded last year that ‘inefficiency across the railway industry is costing farepayers and taxpayers £3.5bn-a-year’.
In her Reforming Our Railways: Putting the Customer First Command Paper, Transport Secretary Justine Greening has outlined how the industry will work collaboratively to reduce this £3.5bn efficiency gap by 2019 with the savings going towards curbing fare increases while also investing in rolling stock and better infrastructure, and lessening the industry’s reliance on public subsidy.
DH: More research training will be offered to nurses, midwives & allied health professionals thanks to a new strategy launched by Health Secretary Andrew Lansley. Healthcare professionals will be funded to do further education in the research field, such as Masters degrees and PhDs or to spend time doing internships so they can gain experience in using research to improve care.
The aim is to put research at the heart of frontline services and make NHS staff some of the best trained in the world.  The scheme will be managed through the National Institute of Health Research.
CLG: Housing Minister Grant Shapps has recently offered wannabe decorators & carpenters the opportunity to become ‘an apprentice in the home’ - and get paid to hone their skills.  Under the Tenant Cashback Scheme, responsible residents will have the chance to tackle everyday DIY dilemmas like leaky taps, fitting doors and painting and decorating.
DECC: A total of £3.5m in funding has been announced to help train hundreds of people in key green skills ahead of the launch of the Green Deal, delivering on the Deputy PM’s announcement in March last year to create 1,000 Green Deal apprenticeships.
EC: The Electoral Commission has published its response to both the Scottish & UK Government consultations on the Scottish referendum.  The Commission’s response focuses on how to deliver a referendum that is run in the interests of voters and identifies issues where both governments will need to continue to work together to ensure this happens.
ScotGov: The Scottish Government will become the first administration in the UK to make an official  publication available in digital download format for devices such as iPad & Kindle, after it was confirmed the Your Scotland, Your Referendum consultation will be issued as an eBook.
HMT: Discussions have now concluded with health, education & civil service unions on details for new public service pension schemes to be introduced from 2015.


BCE:  The Boundary Commission for England has published online all the responses received on its initial proposals for the new Parliamentary constituencies.  The publication of the responses marks the start of a public consultation where people can let the Commission know the extent to which they disagree with or support any of those earlier representations made by others.  People should send their written comments to the Commission by midday on 3 April 2012.

Press release ~ Boundary Commission for England (BCE)

WAG:  Business Minister Edwina Hart has urged people to participate in a call for evidence (by 18 April 2012) from the expert group considering the potential role of city regions in delivering more jobs & greater prosperity in Wales.

Press release & links

WAG:  A Welsh Government consultation that will examine the problems experienced by drivers using the M4 between Magor and Castleton, near Newport, has begun. 

The M4 Corridor Enhancement Measures Consultation will run until 6 June 2012 and provide the public with a number of different opportunities through exhibitions, workshops, response forms & websites to share the problems that they experience on this particular stretch of the M4 and voice their opinions on how best to tackle these issues.

Press release & links

FSA:  The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has published proposed guidance for firms that sold payment protection insurance (PPI) and are beginning to contact customers who may have been mis-sold a policy but have yet to complain.  The consultation ends on 3 April 2012.

The guidance outlines steps firms should take when writing to these customers.  It stresses the importance of these communications explaining clearly why the customer may have been mis-sold and could be entitled to redress, what the customer should do to respond to the firm, the time limits involved and the need to act promptly. 

Press release & links

Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides

NICE: More than 90% of patients are now being screened for their risk of developing blood clots following the launch of NICE guidelines on venous thromboembolism (VTE), latest figures reveal. NICE produced a clinical guideline & quality standard on VTE in 2010 recommending that patients are checked for their risk of developing blood clots on admission to hospital.
The Royal College of Nurses has also been carrying out work to help prevent VTE among patients. It has developed an online learning module which encourages nursing staff to assess patients for risk of VTE, to educate them about prevention, and to increase the number of nurses correctly fitting preventative devices such as anti-embolism stockings.
SC: The Sentencing Council has published definitive guidelines on 3 overarching aspects of sentencing: allocation, offences taken into consideration and totality.  The guidelines, which will come into force in June 2012, aim to ensure that the principles in each of these areas of sentencing practice are applied consistently in courts in England & Wales.
CIPDOlder workers are needed to help the UK remedy the challenges of a future employment gap.  It is predicted that UK employers will need to fill an estimated 13.5m job vacancies in the next 10 years, but only 7m young people will leave education over this period. Employers will increasingly need to rely on older workers to fill these vacancies.
New guidance from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD); Managing a healthy ageing workforce: A national business imperative (produced in collaboration with the Scottish Centre for Healthy Working Lives), stresses the need for employers to act now, or risk the consequences.
CABCitizens Advice response on banks writing to customers who may have been mis-sold PPI;  You can get free online information on PPI from Citizens Advice to help you make a claim, including a template letter to send to your bank.
CSEF: One of the areas highlighted in the recent 2012 OFSTED evaluation schedule for the inspection of maintained establishments & academies was the quality of behaviour & safety in schools. Under these new guidelines judgements on behaviour & safety will be made not only on the basis of an inspection but also on the examination of evidence collected over a period of time.
As part of the process OFSTED will also be considering how well a school promotes its cultural, spiritual, moral, social development through a planned curriculum. To help prepare for this (and possibly improve an establishment’s overall performance) the Children’s Safety Education Foundation have produced a wide range of online digital materials that will not only develop the PSHE curriculum but also assist governors and teachers in meeting the new criteria.

Annual Reports

AUK: Following recent media focus on inadequate hospital care for older people, the crisis in social care, and the delay in the implementation of age discrimination legislation, Age UK is calling on the Government to create a new visionary framework for ageing to enable us all to prepare better for later life. The new framework should provide older people with protection and security whilst enabling them to fulfil their potential.
Age UK’s call comes  in its Agenda for Later Life 2012  report which outlines the charity’s calls to action and also presents  a unique 360 degree look at what life is like for older people in austerity Britain - from health, to income, discrimination, housing, transport and financial services.
Ofsted: In a major survey carried out over the last 3 years Ofsted has found wide differences in the quality & quantity of music education in schools across England. 1 in 5 of the schools visited were judged inadequate for music. The findings & recommendations are published in a report recently.
NAO: The National Audit Office has published a report on the efficiency of central government office property since 2004. The spending watchdog has found that departments have made good progress in improving the efficiency of their office estate.  However, in order to achieve the best value for money, departments should stop managing their estates in isolation from one another.
ScotGovGovernment & Expenditure Revenue Scotland 2010-11 (GERS), published by the Chief Statistician, shows that, including a geographical share of UK North Sea oil & gas revenues, Scotland contributed 9.6% of UK public sector revenue and received 9.3% of total UK public sector expenditure, including a per capita share of UK debt interest payments
HEFCE: In October 2011, the Higher Education Funding Council England published its approach to implementing the control on the number of full-time students that universities and colleges can recruit for 2012-13. This included information about how they could bid for 20,000 'margin' places. The outcomes of bids have now been published.
PC&PE: The Department for International Development's (DFID) operating & administrative budget is being restricted at the same time as overall UK aid expenditure is growing - raising concerns amongst MPs on the Commons International Development Committee that DFID may be spending the aid budget less effectively, because it is being forced to outsource staff functions and spend considerable sums on consultants.
PC&PE: The Commons Public Accounts Committee has published its latest report on preparations for London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

General Reports and Other Publications

EHRC: The Commission has published a landmark review of how well public authorities deliver human rights protection and promotion in England & Wales.  It is the second report in the 'How Fair is Britain?' series.
The review concludes that people in England & Wales have their human rights upheld in many ways. But more could be done to improve human rights protections for some – including people using care services and victims of crime.  It says that the core principles of human rights – dignity, equality and respect for everyone – should get more emphasis.
CBI: Further improvements need to be made to major infrastructure planning in the UK to help accelerate investment & speed up decision-making, the CBI said recently. It is calling on the Government to demonstrate its commitment to attracting the £200bn of investment needed in our infrastructure by 2015, by making the major infrastructure planning system as effective as possible.
In a new report, Minor measures, major results – Fine-tuning the major infrastructure planning system, the CBI urges the Government to reduce uncertainty at the pre-application stage, simplify the non-planning consent landscape, and introduce more flexibility and a sense of urgency into the system.
ESRCTeenagers who turn their backs on a healthy lifestyle and turn to drink, cigarettes & junk food are significantly unhappier than their healthier peers.  New research also shows that 12-13 is a catalyst age when young people turn away from the healthy habits of their younger years and start to get involved in risky behaviours.
TfL: A report on air quality by Transport for London, using modelling by King's College, indicates that there should be a small overall improvement in the Capital's air quality resulting from the traffic management arrangements for the London 2012 Games.
ESRCDo your parents know where you are at night?  According to 36% of 15 year old boys and nearly a quarter of 15 year old girls the answer to that question, at least once a month, is ‘no’.  

This is the finding from Understanding Society, an Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) fundedlong term study of 40,000 UK households, which asked more than 2,000 10-15 year olds how frequently they stayed out past 9.00pm without their parents knowing where they were.
CLG: Local Government Minister, Grant Shapps, has welcomed the announcement by the Audit Commission that hard-pressed councils and other local bodies should see big fee reductions following the successful outsourcing of the Commission's centralised audit practice.
PC&PE: The Business, Innovation and Skills Committee has published its fifteenth report of this Session which looks at Stamp Prices, focussing on the impact proposed increases in the price of stamps might have on consumers - not least vulnerable customers and SMEs - and on Royal Mail itself.
TUC: Stronger wage growth & incentives to unlock the £724bn 'cash pile' currently held by UK companies - equivalent to around half the size of the economy - offer the only hopes of a sustainable economic recovery, according to a new TUC report.
IISS: The latest Strategic Comment from the International Institute for Strategic Studies says that ‘Nearly a year into its uprising, Syria's descent into civil war seems unstoppable’.
PX: The government has been urged not to back down from pursuing its digital agenda.  A new report by think tank Policy Exchange says that all non-personal data held by the public sector should be made available to the public for free.  
The report – A Right to Data – says that ending the practice of reselling key datasets like maps & postcodes would cost the government around £50m a year in lost fees & charges. The overall benefits of opening up all publicly held data would far outweigh this, with some estimates suggesting that the upside for the economy could run into the £bns.
PC&PE: The Commons Public Accounts Committee has published its report on the BBC's efficiency programme.
ESRC: The downturn in the housing market in the last 3 years has left the UK a nation of frustrated, unfulfilled house-movers, according to the latest data from Understanding Society, a study of 40,000 UK households funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.  

It found that between 2009 and 2010 only 10 – 14% of people who wished to move actually achieved their desire and overall only 6.4% of people moved home during that period.
PC&PE: The Treasury Committee's report considers HMRC's past work in ensuring tax compliance and concludes that while progress has been made, there is still work to be done. The Sub-Committee Chair, Mr George Mudie MP, said: "HMRC has done some good work in ensuring tax compliance but there is still a long way to go if the tax gap is to be significantly reduced”
HPAA team of leading Health Protection Agency (HPA) experts have contributed to a World Health Organization (WHO) publication entitled ‘The evolving threat of Antimicrobial Resistance: Options for Action’ which was published recently
NOCouncil officers wrongly granted planning permission 3 times for cattle-rearing buildings in a village, causing years of noise & smell nuisance to residents.  Residents lost the peaceful enjoyment of their homes because of incompetence & neglect, says Local Government Ombudsman, Anne Seex, in her report issued last week.

She says that Durham County Council should commission an independent assessment to help it consider whether to remove or amend the planning permissions for all three buildings.
PC&PEMore stringent limits are essential to cut sulphur emissions from ships, but the UK government must negotiate to ensure the EU Directive goes no further than the revised MARPOL Annex VI agreed in 2008, say MPs on the Transport Committee in a report examining a draft EU directive aimed at curbing this significant source of air pollution.
DfE: A new generation of teachers will be trained in managing disruptive behaviour under new proposals set out recently by Charlie Taylor, the Government’s Expert Adviser on behaviour. From September 2012, new trainee teachers will be allowed to do some of their teacher training in Pupil Referral Units (PRUs), where children excluded from mainstream education are taught.  They will be able to develop key skills in managing disruptive behaviour.
Publishing his independent review into alternative provision, Charlie Taylor also calls for outstanding PRUs to take advantage of academy freedoms so they can help drive up quality of provision and develop closer relationships with schools in their area.
IFS: As background to the Chancellor's Budget on 21 March 2012, the Institute for Fiscal Studies last week published a summary of recent analysis looking at the likely evolution of household incomes over the next few years and, in particular, how they are likely to be affected by tax & benefit changes that are currently planned for 2012-13.
NHS Confed: The head of the NHS Confederation has warned that plans to improve the nation's mental health are at risk as the basic building blocks are not yet in place to make them a success.  Mike Farrar, the Confederation's chief executive, was speaking one year on from the publication of the mental health strategy "No Health Without Mental Health".

Legislation / Legal

DH: On 6 April 2012, all large shops in England will have to hide tobacco products from view in a drive to cut the number of smokers and protect young people who are often the target of tobacco promotion.  

Cigarettes & all tobacco products will have to be hidden from view except when staff are serving customers or carrying out other day-to-day tasks such as restocking.  Guidance on the new law is available on Businesslink or through local authority trading standards departments.
Press release & links
HO: Women will have the right to ask police about a partner's domestic violence history as a new scheme is trialled in parts of England & Wales. The Home Secretary announced last week that police forces in Greater Manchester, Gwent, Nottinghamshire & Wiltshire will run a 12-month trial of the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme.
CBI: The CBI has commented on the Government’s proposals to reform the tribunals system, which includes the introduction of fees. In the last 5 years alone, tribunal claims have risen by 150%.
DWP: Iain Duncan Smith’s Welfare Reform Bill became law last week, marking an historic moment for the Coalition Government and delivering on his promise to restore the welfare system to one that is fair for society and will make work pay.
CC: The Competition Commission has published an issues statement as part of its market investigation into the supply of aggregates, cement and ready mix concrete in Great Britain.

EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.

EU News: Following last year's triple disaster in Japan, the EU decided to take a critical look at its nuclear power production and re-assess the safety & security of all nuclear power plants in the EU.  

All 14 Member States that operate nuclear power plants (Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, the Netherlands, Romania, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom) and Lithuania, which is decommissioning its nuclear power producing units, agreed to participate in these voluntary stress tests.
The stress tests go beyond safety evaluations performed during normal licensing process and periodic reviews. They assess whether nuclear power plants can also cope with extreme unexpected events.

The Fukushima accident showed us that two natural disasters can happen at the same time: the nuclear power plant could withstand the earthquake but could not cope with an up to 20 meter high tsunami wave which followed and cut off the power supply to the plant.
EU NewsFailing to implement environment legislation is thought to cost the EU economy around €50bn every year in health costs & direct costs to the environment.  In an effort to reduce that figure and deliver better environmental outcomes for people and businesses, the Commission has issued a communication on better implementation of EU environment law.
EU News: Through new EU legislation adopted last week by the Council, Europe establishes stronger regulations to effectively fight illegal arms trafficking.  It establishes requirements for exports, imports & transit licensing, and makes it easier to track weapons.

Charity and Voluntary Sector

CO: An army of dedicated young people will spend a 750,000 hours helping their communities to tackle the social problems that matter most to them under National Citizen Service 2012, the Minister for the Cabinet Office Francis Maude announced recently.
AUK: The Care & Support Alliance, a coalition of 60 organisations representing disabled, older people and their families, has launched the first ever online interactive lobby, to support a traditional mass rally of parliament which took place on 6 March 2012.
The twobby & lobby will apply parliamentary pressure, as campaigners tell their MPs that the care system is in crisis, and that families across England urgently need funding & reform to help care for loved ones.
CRUK: More than three quarters of people asked to list possible warning signs & symptoms of cancer failed to mention pain, coughing or problems with bowels or bladder according to a Cancer Research UK report, Delay Kills.
But even when people recognised signs they thought might be serious the survey found that nearly 40% said they might delay getting symptoms checked out because they were worried what the doctor might find.  And more than 25% might delay because they feared wasting the doctor’s time.
BHF: A new drug aimed at helping people with chronic heart failure has been approved for use in the UK. Ivabradine has been licensed following a study of chronic heart failure patients involving more than 6,000 people. The drug could help improve both symptoms of heart failure and a patient’s quality of life where other drugs have failed.
BIG: Communities across England are receiving funding from the Big Lottery Fund (BIG) to jump start detailed planning for more sustainable living. Fuel poverty, rising food prices and scarce resources are just some of the issues in the sights of BIG’s Communities Living Sustainably programme.  It aims to inspire people to adapt the way they live, work & connect together to reap financial, environmental & health gains.
No 10: Children’s Minister, Tim Loughton, recently visited Clapton Girls’ Academy in Hackney to present Linklaters  with the Prime Minister’s Big Society Award for its ‘Learn for Work’ programme.  Through the programme employees of the law firm work with children at local schools to help develop the aspirations, skills & experience they need to fulfil their potential.
DUKOnly a fifth of young adults aged 16 to 24 with diabetes receive the recommended care checks for their condition, according to research presented at the Diabetes UK Professional Conference 2012. This poor management of diabetes in young adults increases the chance of life-threatening complications later in life: Diabetes UK are therefore urging the NHS to do more to stop young adults with diabetes falling through the gap between children’s and adult healthcare services.
DFID: Britain is to establish a new rapid response network of top UK-based businesses & charities to provide emergency relief when major international crises hit - such as floods, famines and earthquakes. The network, called the Rapid Response Facility, will mobilise life-saving support in the critical hours following a humanitarian disaster, Andrew Mitchell said recently.

Business and Other Briefings

HSEOne in five construction sites failed safety checks during the first 5 days of an intensive inspection initiative in Merseyside & Cheshire. The inspections were carried out as part of a month-long drive across Great Britain to improve health & safety in one of the country's most dangerous industries. Inspectors are targeting sites where refurbishment or repair work in being carried out, with the aim of reducing the risk of death, injury and ill health.
HMRCRevenue & Customs Brief 04/12 This Brief is to confirm the HM Revenue & Customs position following the decision in the case of Harrier LLC in the First Tier Tribunal. The case concerned the liability of photo books.

Industry News

WAG: Environment Minister, John Griffiths, has visited a new facility which will collaborate with local companies to develop green business technologies & opportunities. The BEACON initiative, the first of its kind in Wales, has its centre at Aberystwyth University.
The facility at Aberystwyth University’s Institute of Biological Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS) houses large-scale equipment capable of taking laboratory research to economically viable industrial opportunities.  It will help Welsh businesses develop new ways of converting crops such as rye grass, oats and miscanthus (elephant grass) into products including pharmaceuticals, chemicals, fuels and cosmetics.
STFC: The Science and Technology Facilities Council’s Futures Programme is making available around £400k per annum to demonstrate that STFC has the technology & expertise to address the Global Challenges in energy, the environment, and healthcare by bringing innovative technology & applications from STFC’s Programme relevant to these areas to a proof of concept stage, in readiness to access external funding.
The Fund will operate as a pilot scheme in the first instance and will be reviewed after the first projects are awarded. The deadline for submitting applications is 4.00pm on Wednesday 4th April 2012..
MO: The Met Office and Thames Water have signed a joint agreement to launch a suite of weather intelligence models for the water industry.  With water resources very low across many parts of England the new weather intelligence models will be vital in helping the water industry better account for weather impacts through the year - from predicting demand due to hot weather in summer to leakage and burst pipes in winter.. 
Benefits to the water industry include:
* Access to 4 operational & strategic weather intelligence models, enabling the impact of weather on leakage, burst, demand and seasonal night use to be understood & mitigated.
* Using world leading models to make operational resourcing decisions & cost savings in the business and manage risk across the water distribution network.
WAG: The latest technology in eye examinations will soon be available across Wales, thanks to £753,345 Welsh Government funding.  Fundus cameras, which allow optometrists to view the back of the eye (the retina) and to take digital photographs, are the very latest in screening equipment.

They can reveal signs of a variety of eye conditions & wider health problems, and allow the optician not only to view, but also capture images of the retina, enabling monitoring &comparison over time.
Announcing the funding, Health Minister Lesley Griffiths said: …… “It is estimated an ophthalmologist using a fundus camera will see 10 patients for the cost of seeing 1 patient Nurses, technicians & orthoptists using the camera will support a consultant-led virtual clinic, freeing up the consultant to see more patients.”
WAG: The Minister for Health and Social Services, Lesley Griffiths, has unveiled a realistic simulator that will teach student nurses vital skills for the specialist care of young babies.  The ‘SimBaby’ is one of the stars of the cutting edge Caerleon Clinical Simulation Suite at the School of Nursing & Midwifery Studies in Cardiff University.
Features include breathing sounds, which can vary depending on scenario, chest movement, palpable pulse, interchangeable eyes with normal, constricted & dilated pupils and vocal sounds including crying, content, coughing, and hiccupping.  It will allow student nurses to practise intubation, CPR and intravenous access – procedures which could not be safely carried out in a real-life setting.
‘SimBaby’ is joined by ‘SimMan’, a full-body adult patient simulator used for the teaching of core skills including airway, breathing, cardiac and circulation management.

Forthcoming Event

STFC:  Registrations for STFC's 'Doing Business with Big Science' Roadshow, calling at Cardiff, Belfast & Edinburgh in April 2012 are now open (see press release for dates).  These FREE events are designed to support greater engagement between engineering companies and large international European research institutions, such as CERN, the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) and the Institut Laue Langevin ( ILL ). 

The roadshows will provide an opportunity for engineering firms to find out more about these facilities' current procurement needs & processes and to hear from other companies that have already benefited from such collaborations.

Press release & links

HSE:  Apprentice tradesmen in the region are set to benefit from a new e-learning package to help them better understand the risks from asbestos.  Those who train or take on apprentices are getting the opportunity to find out how they can use the interactive resource, developed by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) at a FREE training event on Tuesday 20 March at the Dryden Centre, Evistones Road, Low Fell, Gateshead.

It will equip lecturers, trainers & employers with information about the ‘Introduction to Asbestos Training Package’ that includes a lesson plan, power point presentation including notes for lecturers, task sheets and posters so that they can build it into training for their apprentices.  Those who take part will also be offered a Continuing Professional Development (CPD) certificate for attending the event.

Press release & links

OS:  People across are being given the opportunity to gain a greater understanding of open data, and the tools & techniques to use open datasets, through a series of 6 masterclasses hosted by Ordnance Survey.

The open data FREE masterclasses will combine theory & practical sessions and provide participants the opportunity to use & harness free-to-use open datasets, including Ordnance Survey’s own free-to-use OS OpenData, now approaching its second anniversary, after being released on 1 April 2010.

Ordnance Survey is able to offer up to 30 places at each masterclass, running from 9.30 am until 5.00 pm each day (See press release for locations & dates 16 – 30 March 2012).

Press release & links

UKOC:  On 22 March 2012, UK Online Centres will be holding a research symposium at the London School of Economics to bring together people and & currently doing research (in any form) on social digital behaviour. The symposium aims to encourage sharing between partners in the public, private and voluntary sectors.

At the moment they are putting together a list of recent & ongoing research programmes that cover any of the above themes that they will share before the symposium - please do share your latest research plans as well as any downloadable versions or links to your latest research papers and reports.

Press release & links

ACE:  Booking is now open for the fourth seminar in the Building digital capacity for the arts programme.  Emerging business models for the digital environment (20 March 2012) is aimed at arts organisations & artists across who are grappling with the disruption to existing business models caused by digital platforms and who aspire to be on the front foot rather than the back. 

The seminar will draw on a mixture of talks, case studies and discussions about the challenges & opportunities associated with identifying sustainable business models within a rapidly changing environment.

Press release & links

NE:  A series of ‘Farming More Precisely’ farmer events are being held across the South West this spring as part of the Soils for Profit Project.  These FREE group training sessions (places are limited) will help farmers & land managers to learn new techniques to improve the management of their soils, manures & nutrients with a view to improving productivity, making savings on expensive inputs and reducing losses to the environment.

The Project is also running a series of workshops during the spring on how to use the PLANET computer program for nutrient management.  For further details on the Farming More Precisely events and PLANET workshops, including dates & venues, visit NE farm events webpage or the SWARM Knowledge Hub.

Press release & links

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