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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

HMTEveryone has an opinion on the budget - The Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, has announced his Budget which ‘maintains the Government’s strategy to reduce the deficit, announces far-reaching tax reforms, and support for growth and to reward work. It sets out the actions the Government will take in three areas - creating a stable economy, a fairer, more efficient and simpler tax system, and further reforms to support growth’.
Press release & links ~ Chancellor’s 2012 Budget statement ~ Manufacturers predict strong rise in production, but inflationary pressures pick up – CBI survey ~ Funding for university research facilities ~ TUC - Regional pay could take £1.7bn away from local economies ~  Related HMRC PR ~ Ten Super-Connected Cities announced ~ NIESR: Budget 2012 and the OBR’s forecasts ~ New Economics Foundation comment ~ Pensioners 'paying a heavy price for a pro-rich Budget', says TUC ~ IFS: Public finance bulletin: March 2012 ~ WWF Budget 2012 reaction ~ CBI full reaction to the budget ~ Citizens Advice initial reaction to raising the personal tax threshold ~ CSJ: A missed chance to tackle family breakdown ~ Institute of Economic Affairs ~ Local pay for public sector workers won't create private sector jobs, says TUC ~ CAB - Only £33 a year gets to the pockets of the poorest working families from tax threshold changes  ~  PCS comment ~ 'Budget for the rich by the rich', says TUC ~ Budget fails growth and fairness testComment from Wales Office ~ A disappointing Budget for Wales - Jane Hutt ~ Age UK’s response ~ English Heritage’s response ~ CIPD comment

CQC:  There is no 'life’ for the young without ‘mobility’ - Disabled children, young people and their families say they are waiting too long for mobility aids such as wheelchairs, in a Care Quality Commission review of health care services for this group. The national average wait for powered wheelchairs is 3 months, but this ranges to over a year in some areas, according to information supplied by Primary Care Trusts (PCTs).

A national report & 151 local area reports explore how long disabled children & young people wait for wheelchairs as well as other critical services such as speech & language therapy (SALT) and physiotherapy. Families felt access to & involvement in services was a challenge and that they waited too long for access to services and for initial diagnosis, the review finds.
Contributors to this review also felt services were not joined up and that different services did not work well together.  Many disabled children and their families also reported they had not been consulted on how their care had been provided.
Press release ~ Review of support for families with disabled children ~ Whizz-Kidz ~ Aiming High for Disabled Children ~ SpeakOut Network ~ Living made easy for children ~ The Low Review ~ TCS: We need to support disabled children’s mobility ~ Early Mobility means Easier Integration! ~ Disability Grants - Your Guide to Grants for the Disabled ~ Ableize: Disability Directory of Disabled – Information Aids and Mobility Services ~ BBC: MP urges change in powered wheelchair law ~ BBC-CBeebies: Mobility help for a disabled child ~ Kids get going ~ ESRC: Disabled children do matter ~ NHS at Home: Community Children’s Nursing Services ~ ScotGov: National Review of Services for Disabled Children ~ Disability Equality in English Primary Schools Project ~ CWDC: Working with children and young people with disabilities

DHWhat a surprise; Good teamwork provides the best outcomes - If tailored to local circumstances, well-led & well-managed integration can improve the quality of care for patients, a major study has found. More joined up health services & social care was also well liked by staff and reduced hospital costs.

The 2-year study, commissioned by the Department of Health, looked at 16 sites across England which formed the Integrated Care Pilot programme.  The sites piloted different ways of integrating care, such as between general practices, community nurses, hospitals & social services.

The research considered the impact of better integrated care on elderly people at risk of emergency hospital admissions and the treatment of conditions including dementia & mental health problems.  It analysed staff & patient views on the work of the pilots as well as the impact on hospital admissions & lengths of stay in hospital.
Press release ~ National evaluation of DH's integrated care pilots ~ NHS Future Forum calls on healthcare professionals to lead way on patient-centred care ~ NHS Future Forum sends interim recommendations to Secretary of State  ~ List of pilot sites ~ Telehealth & Telecare could save NHS £1.2bn ~ DH:  Balancing the cost of preventive action against the need for health costs to fall ~ Previous NHS Confed PR ~ Integrated care for patients and populations: Improving outcomes by working together ~ Think tanks work together to support integrated care for patients ~ Re-think needed on health and social care outcomes, says The King's Fund ~ More from King’s Fund ~ General practice must embrace change to improve quality of patient care ~  NHS Confederation response ~ Centre for Integrated Healthcare Research (CIHR) ~ The search for low-cost integrated healthcare ~ Additional NHS Confed resources

NO:  Elderly care can be investigated independently - A care home failed to have a suitable room ready for a frail & unwell man, a council wrongly kept a daughter from visiting her mother in a care home, and a severely disabled man was discharged from hospital without any care services in place – these are examples of cases resolved this year by the Local Government Ombudsmen (LGO).  The Ombudsmen want people to know they can use the LGO service if they have an unresolved complaint about adult social care.

The Ombudsmen have teams of specialist investigators to handle these complaints.  Details of the LGO’s role are published in a new leaflet, which explains what to do if someone has a complaint about ASC services.
NO:  Even more powers for the LGO - There has been a change in the Local Government Ombudsman’s jurisdiction to cover school admissions and permanent exclusions complaints against academies that have converted from maintained schools.  The Ombudsman can investigate complaints about school admissions appeals if a parent thinks the appeal was handled incorrectly.  

Previously, whilst able to investigate complaints about maintained school admissions appeals, if such a school converted to academy status, depending upon the stage reached in the investigation, the LGO could not always continue to be involved.
LPC:  Only consolation for youths is that they won’t be paying income tax - The Low Pay Commission has welcomed the Government's acceptance of its recommendations on rates for the National Minimum WageFrom 1 October 2012, the adult minimum wage rate will increase from £6.08 to £6.19 an hour, the Youth Development Rate will remain at £4.98 an hour and the 16-17 Year Old Rate will remain at £3.68 an hour.  The Apprentice Rate will increase from £2.60 to £2.65 an hour.
CLG30 seconds can safeguard a lifetime - The Fire Kills campaign urged people to make a potentially life-saving move when they changed their clocks on Sunday 25 March - by taking a moment to test their smoke alarm too.  Just half of all householders who own a smoke alarm say that they test it to make sure it's working on a regular basis.  You're 4 times more likely to die in a fire if your smoke alarm is not working.

If you want an extra nudge to test your smoke alarm regularly, try setting an automatic reminder.  Safelincs, in partnership with Fire Kills, has created a FREE service that reminds you, by email or text, when it's time to test your smoke alarm, change the battery or renew the unit.  The service is completely free and can be cancelled at any time.
STFC:  Comments please - The Science and Technology Facilities Council are currently in the process of redeveloping their website and would welcome your feedback & comments to help them to improve the quality of their service.
BP:  Not one ‘Kaleidoscope’ in the programme - On Tuesday 5 June 2012, the Diamond Jubilee weekend will culminate with a day of celebrations in central London, including a service at St Paul’s Cathedral followed by 2 receptions, a lunch at Westminster Hall, a Carriage Procession to Buckingham Palace and finally a Balcony appearance & Flypast.

The Jubilee Weekend features an extra Bank Holiday for the Diamond Jubilee, with the late May Bank Holiday moved one week later, thereby making a 4-day long weekend.
Press release & links ~ Armed Forces' role in the Diamond Jubilee weekend

Latest Case Study: North Ayrshire Council Empowers Citizens and Improves Service Delivery with ‘Report it’ Mobile App - Public Sector organisations are becoming increasingly keen to explore how to best harness smartphone technology in order to better understand and respond to citizens’ needs and run their service operations more effectively whilst reducing costs.

Find out how to:

  • Empower citizens to report and track issues, from abandoned vehicles, to fly tipping, to graffiti, while on the move.
  • Ensure the right people receive reports at the right time with intelligent routing, based on levels of authority and service delivery targets.
  • Improve citizen satisfaction and engagement whilst reducing the cost to serve.
  • Brand, launch and control your own free mobile app for issue reporting.

North Ayrshire Council has recently launched their own app to enable its residents to report and track issues and faults via their smartphones.

Click here to find out more and receive the North Ayshire Council case study.

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

General News

FSA:  Surya Foods has withdrawn all batch codes of some additional J.F. Mills products due to incorrect allergen labelling, following an earlier limited withdrawal. The products contain wheat flour, which isn’t listed on the label.  If you’re allergic or intolerant to wheat or gluten, don’t eat these products.  The Food Standards Agency has issued an updated Allergy Alert.

Press release & links

FSA:  Morrisons is recalling packs of its own-brand turkey breast with a 'use by' date of 27 April 2012. These packs should have been labelled with a 'use by' date of 27 March 2012.  If you have bought the product do not eat it.  The Food Standards Agency has issued a Product Recall Information Notice.

Press release & links

FSA:  Morrisons is recalling one date code of its own-brand honey & mustard ham because mustard is not mentioned in the allergen labelling box.  If you have an allergy or intolerance to mustard, don’t eat this product.  The Food Standards Agency has issued an Allergy Alert.

Press release & links

PCS:  In a consultation ballot held by the PCS union - representing more than half of all staff in the civil service and its related agencies - 90.5% of respondents rejected the government's proposals for a new pension scheme.

Press release & links

ACE:  New Art Exchange, in collaboration with technology providers Artfinder, has opened registration for the online Culture Cloud competition.  UK based artists can enter the competition by uploading 2 dimensional artworks to the project website before 4 May 2012.

Press release & links

ACE:  The Young Masters Art Prize is now open for entry submissions with 30 April 2012 announced as the deadline.  A £5,000 prize awaits the winner who, with those shortlisted, will be able to exhibit in projects throughout 2013.

Press release & links

OS:  Geographic information (GI) experts across the globe are being given an opportunity to gain professional recognition from Ordnance Survey under a new accreditation scheme.  The new professional accreditation programme will create a specialist network of GI experts who will work with the national mapping agency in supporting, and providing technical advice to government, commercial & international customers.

Press release & links

UKOC:  New research has shown that the UK has the strongest internet economy of any G20 country - with 13.5% of all purchases in the country being made online in 2010.  The country's 'internet economy' was worth £121bn - a huge £2,000 per person and research from PwC has shown that households can save between £500 - £1,500 a year just by being online.

Press release & links

TfL:  In line with the Mayor's goal to boost passenger numbers & improve services on the Thames, London River Services has now installed improvements at Tower Pier and Greenwich Pier.  Passenger numbers on the river have increased by 1m over the past 4 years, but the Mayor is committed to improving river services further.  Work is under way to increase pier capacity on the Thames by 20% and potentially open up the river to half a million more users by the end of 2012

Press release & links

WWF:  A primary school in Pontypridd, Wales will be kicking off the celebration for WWF’s Earth Hour on 31 March 2012 at 8.30pm.  Ysgol Evan James school entered a competition organised by WWF-UK, offering communities the chance to lead the switch off and win a £1,000 grant towards organising a special event on the night.

Press release & links

TfL:  More than 40% of traffic signals across London now 'self regulate', cutting disruption by up to nearly 20 per cent at upgraded junctions.

Press release & links

WAG:  The Environment Minister, John Griffiths, has announced that the Welsh Government will launch a badger vaccination project as part of its work to eradicate bovine TB from cattle in Wales.  The Minister made his decision after considering the Science Review that he commissioned last summer, and other evidence & advice provided to him.  The Minister also announced that he would not be implementing a cull of badgers within the Intensive Action Area.

Press release & links ~ Deputy Minister for Agriculture issues message to farmers 

ScotGov:  A mum whose teenage son saved the lives of 5 others after he died in a road accident has given her backing to a Scottish organ donation teaching pack.  To coincide with the pack's re-launch, specialist nurses for organ donation will visit 100 schools across the country over the next few weeks to present the pack to them and to take part in Q&A sessions with pupils.

Press release & links ~ Education pack

ScotGov:  Education Secretary for Education Michael Russell has announced confirmation that agreement has been reached with Educational Institute of (EIS) on a package of support for teachers to ensure that delivery of new qualifications under Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) remains on track.

Press release & links

FSA:  The Board of the Food Standards Agency has agreed to the lifting of the last of the ‘Mark & Release’ monitoring controls on sheep introduced in 1986 as a result of the Chernobyl nuclear accident.

Press release & links

Policy Statements and Initiatives

CLG: Communities will now have a new way to combat the neighbours from hell who ruin neighbourhoods and cause misery for fellow tenants. For the first time, social landlords will be able to present their evidence in court through a new type of statement, which clearly sets out the harmful impact of anti-social behaviour on the community.
It comes ahead of new measures to tackle anti-social behaviour and strengthen the hand of landlords that will soon be announced by the Government.
BIS: The private sector and the open data community are to have greater influence over the release of public sector data to encourage the creation of high-value businesses & promote economic growth, the Government has announced.
A new independently chaired Data Strategy Board (DSB) will advise Ministers on what data should be released and has the potential to unlock growth opportunities for businesses across the UK.  At least one in three members of the DSB will be from outside government, including representatives of data re-users.
WAG: 4 world-class institutions from Wales & Ireland have launched an exciting new alliance to lead the way in developing cutting-edge healthcare. The £1m Celtic Alliance for NanoHealth (CAN) will help companies on either side of the Irish Sea stay at the forefront of innovation & growth in what is a fast developing & hugely influential healthcare sector.
HMT: The Chancellor has launched the National Loan Guarantee Scheme (NLGS), helping smaller businesses across the UK (with an annual group turnover of up to £50m) access cheaper finance.  Around £5bn in guarantees will be made available in the first tranche.

Participating banks will pass on the entire benefit that they receive from the guarantees to smaller businesses across the UK through cheaper loans.  Businesses that take out an NLGS loan will receive a discount of 1 percentage point compared to the interest rate that they would otherwise have received from that bank outside the scheme.
DH: More people should be able to spend their final days in a place of their choice and new Government funding will help to make this happen, Health Secretary Andrew Lansley announced last week.  A new fairer funding system is needed but essential information needed to develop a system doesn’t exist.  
8 pilots sites – with a share of £1.8m will collect this vital information and help the Government meet its aim of having a new per-patient funding system for both adult & children’s palliative care services.
BIS:  Sustainable businesses will have the opportunity to provide information & data that will shape how the Green Construction Board (GCB) will deliver its plans for a low carbon built environment.  Business Minister Mark Prisk, co-chair of the GCB, called on the construction industry to share their finest low carbon research & development expertise to help create a ‘knowledge database’.
During his speech, the Minister also announced the creation of a low carbon ‘Routemap’ by the GCB illustrating the overall required emissions reductions for industry and the measures which will deliver them up to 2050.
CLGGreater Manchester will create & protect 6,000 jobs as the city signs an innovative deal with central government giving it new powers to create jobs & train local people with the right skills to fill them, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Cities Minister Greg Clark have announced recently.
These powers, including the ability to 'earn back' a portion of the additional tax generated by investing in infrastructure, have been agreed as part of the City Deals initiative, which ‘sees cities bid for powers to free them from Whitehall controls in order to boost growth locally’. Manchester is the first ever city in the country to secure such powers and will be able to reinvest the money in local economic development and infrastructure.
HO: Plans to turn the tide against irresponsible drinking and empower communities to reclaim their high streets were unveiled last week by Home Secretary Theresa May. The link between drink & social harm is clear, with almost 1m violent crimes and 1.2m hospital admissions involving alcohol in 2010/11 alone.


EU News: So that the EU learns all the lessons from the crisis, it is implementing regulatory reforms in the financial sector in general and in the banking sector in particular.  As part of these reforms, it is now time to deal with the growing area of non-bank credit activity, or so-called ‘shadow banking’, which has so far not been a prime focus of prudential regulation and supervision.
Last week’s Green Paper sets out how existing and proposed EU measures already address shadow banking activities. Although these measures go some way towards addressing shadow banking entities & activities, there is still further progress to be made given the continually evolving nature of shadow banking and our understanding of it.   Stakeholders are invited to respond to the consultation before 1 June 2012.

Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides

DH: The NHS could save £ms and provide better care by involving more Allied Health Professionals such as podiatrists in patient care. There are almost 5,000 leg, foot or toe amputations in England every year – each one costs the NHS around £65,000.  Investing in providing integrated foot care and bringing this number down could save the NHS almost £300m.
A new series of online tools, launched last week, will help the NHS identify how therapists can intervene at different stages of a patient’s condition to improve patient care whilst saving on costs.
NAO: The National Audit Office has published a report on central government’s use of the Government Procurement Card to pay for goods & services. The report finds that used appropriately, the Government Procurement Card can be a cost-effective way for government to procure goods & services.
However, while controls in 5 departments examined by the NAO were operating as intended, there is no up to date value-for-money case quantifying the benefits of the cards.  There has also been a lack of clear central guidance on when the cards are the most appropriate way to procure goods and services.
NICE: The official NICE Guidance app is available to download now for users of Android and iPhone smartphones. The FREE app allows quick & easy access to all of NICE's recommendations & advice, and has been developed in response to demand from users of NICE guidance.
More than 760 pieces of NICE guidance are contained, such as clinical guidelines on COPD, hypertension & stroke, and the app is automatically updated whenever access to the internet is available. While the app can be downloaded for the iPad, it is not currently optimised for it, so iPad users wishing to access NICE guidance should access our Pathways instead.
ScotGov: The delivery of Scottish studies in schools will become a reality following the launch of a key online resource for teachers & pupils. Education Scotland has created a ‘one stop shop’ with Study Scotland hosting materials on history, arts & culture, to ensure learning about Scotland is an integral part of learning for Press release & links
OFT: The OFT has published revised guidance on the standards it expects from businesses offering debt management advice or credit repair services to consumers. The guidance expands on previous versions, providing examples of 'unfair or improper practices' which, if engaged in, could render a business unfit to hold a consumer credit licence and operate in the market.

Annual Reports

DH: Across the NHS, hospital & mental health staff are more satisfied with their workplace. The 9th annual NHS Staff survey shows that improvements have been made in some key areas and levels of job satisfaction & staff engagement remain high.
EH: The first comprehensive survey on the effect of crime on England's historic buildings & sites, commissioned by English Heritage, has been released. The survey shows a worrying rate of damage.
FSAOnly slow progress is being made in reducing the population’s intake of saturated fat, total fat and added sugars, according to Scotland’s ongoing dietary monitoring programme. The most recent programme report found that the intake of these nutrients continues to be considerably higher than the Scottish dietary targets.
EC: There is no evidence of widespread or systematic attempts to undermine elections or referendums last year, a new report shows.  The Electoral Commission, working with the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) and the Association of Chief Police Officers Scotland (ACPOS), has published the fourth annual study of cases of alleged electoral malpractice.
CQC: The Care Quality Commission has published a further 19 reports from a targeted programme of 150 unannounced inspections of hospitals & care homes that care for people with learning disabilities. These 19 inspections covered locations that provided a range of services including assessment & treatment, rehabilitation and longer term care.
DfE: Around 74,000 children have missed out on a place at their first-choice secondary school, official figures have revealed. That is around 5,000 fewer than last year.  Schools Minister Nick Gibb welcomed the improvement, but said that too many – around 1 in 7 – would still have to attend a secondary school this September that was not top of their list.
OFT: Supporting consumers & economic growth through difficult times remain central priorities, the OFT stated in its Annual Plan published last week.
FSA: The Financial Services Authority has published its business plan setting out its priorities for 2012/13, and the implications for the FSA’s budget.  
FSA: Following the Food Standards Agency’s move to regular publication of audit reports for approved meat plants in England, Scotland & Wales, the Agency has now published the latest batch of audits.

General Reports and Other Publications

PC&PE: In a recent report, the Scottish Affairs Committee says the Secretary of State for Scotland should announce the Government's commitment to devolve & decentralise the Crown Estate Commissioner's (CEC) marine and ancient rights & responsibilities in Scotland.
The evidence to the Committee identified major issues over the CEC's management of its responsibilities, particularly in relation to the seabed and the foreshore. However, simply handing these responsibilities to Holyrood would not address the fundamental problems identified: the Committee says devolution of these powers should be based on the CEC’s further decentralisation to local authority & local community levels to the maximum extent possible.
RUSI: The 2011 Libyan operation cannot be a widely applicable model for future intervention, regardless of the military success of the campaign that helped rebels depose Qadhafi at little civilian cost.  This is important to bear in mind as the unfolding crisis in Syria rumbles on, or new ones develop, claims a new report ('Short War, Long Shadow') by the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI).
NO: A homeless family with 2 young children had to spend a night in a car because the London Borough of Newham wrongly refused them temporary accommodation. In her report, issued recently, Local Government Ombudsman, Dr Jane Martin finds that, even when the Council confirmed the family’s homelessness, there was a delay of nearly 7 weeks in dealing with the case.
NOBishop Vesey’s Grammar School has refused to remedy injustice caused by serious flaws in the conduct of its admission appeals as found by the Local Government Ombudsman, Anne Seex. She has now taken the unusual step of issuing a second report, calling on the Governors of the School, in Sutton Coldfield, to reconsider its position and agree to her recommendations to hold new appeals for the boys affected, and pay £200 compensation to the parent who complained.
PC&PE: In a report released recently, the Public Administration Select Committee (PASC) considers the role of the independent adviser on Ministers' interests & concludes that role is not ‘independent in any meaningful sense’.
WWF: Commenting on the recent announcement by DECC on measures to ‘provide certainty to gas investors’, Keith Allott, head of climate change at WWF-UK, said: …… "A new dash for gas will destroy the UK's leadership on climate change and will leave UK citizens at the mercy of rising & volatile fossil fuel prices”.
WWF said that a recent International Energy Agency (IEA) report warned that a new ‘dash for gas’ would result in greenhouse gas emissions consistent with a long-term global temperature rise of over 3.5°C.
PC&PE: The Commons Public Accounts Committee has published its report on Ministry of Justice Financial Management.   The Rt Hon Margaret Hodge MP, Chair of the CPA, said: "Financial management at the MOJ has improved since we last reported. However, the Ministry remains unable to deliver timely and accurate financial accounts. This is unacceptable and undermines public confidence in the Ministry’s stewardship of public funds”.
PA: The Patients Association has welcomed the Royal College of Nursing’s report on staffing levels and joined their call for there to be a maximum ratio of patients to nurses particularly in elderly wards where patient needs are often much greater.
ESRC: The new political appetite for 'localism' in town planning has triggered anxiety within local communities and amongst those charged with making it work, according to new research funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).
WWF: Responding to the publication of the Habitats Regulations review by Defra, WWF said that George Osborne was completely wrong to describe the regulations as a ‘burden on business’.
MO: The Met Office has launched a new independent report which provides a transparent & authoritative view of hurricane landfall rates in the United States. Made specifically for the insurance markets, the report is designed to support industry professionals who manage hurricane risks.
In addition to enabling confident & informed decision-making on pricing & capital management, it will provide much needed documentation in the run-up to the implementation of new regulations such as Solvency II.
Unicef: As the world commemorated World Water Day, UNICEF called on governments to pay particular attention to those living in rural areas who are being left behind in their countries' progress, especially with regard to access to safe drinking water & basic sanitation. A recent report showed conclusively that poor people in rural areas are overwhelmingly those without these most basic necessities for life.

Legislation / Legal

TUC: The TUC has welcomed the government's consultation on giving lesbian & gay partners the same right to civil marriage as heterosexual couples. A TUC briefing sets out what is in the consultation, the public & media reaction to the debate so far, the government's possible motivation in changing the law, and how trade unions & lesbian, gay, bi & transgender (LGBT) organisations may wish to respond to the questions in it.
ScotGov: As the Scotland Bill nears the end of its parliamentary processes at both Westminster & Holyrood parliaments, the UK & Scottish Governments have been in negotiation over final amendments, Cabinet Secretary for Government Strategy Bruce Crawford said last week.
Having agreed a package of changes to the Bill, and undertakings on its implementation, both Governments will now recommend that their respective Parliaments support the Bill. However Mr Crawford said the Bill remained a missed opportunity to give Scotland the tools to stimulate the economy & create jobs.
ScotGov: A new Bill has been published to ensure that devolved policies such as the provision of free school meals & blue badge parking will continue to operate in Scotland after changes are made to the UK benefit system.
The Welfare Reform (Further Provision) Bill, published recently, will ensure that the legislative framework which supports the provision of these ‘passported benefits’ will not be adversely affected by the Westminster Government’s changes.

EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.

CBIPlans to reform data protection laws in Europe will restrict & burden businesses and threaten innovation, the CBI said recently. In its submission to the Ministry of Justice’s Call for Evidence on the European Commission’s data protection proposals, the UK’s leading business group said the proposed regulation will threaten many innovative business models, which rely on data sharing to generate revenue.
Compliance will also place a cost burden on all businesses which may deter investment and be passed on to consumers. The CBI is calling on the European Commission to revise its proposals, in favour of a proportionate, risk-based approach to the scope of data protection regulation, taking fully into account the benefits versus costs of any changes and their impact on innovative business models.
WAG: A recent Welsh Government report shows that the 2000 – 2006 Structural Funds programmes created many benefits for Wales during the period.
HOCalls for proposals for the European Integration Fund 2011/2012 are now open. The closing date for completed applications is 16:00 on Wednesday 16 May 2012. Applications are welcomed from non-governmental organisations, charities, academic institutions, local government, inter-governmental organisations, limited companies and any partnership made up of these organisations.
To assist bidders in preparing their applications, 1 day workshops will be held on 2 April 2012 in Manchester & 4 April 2012 in London There will be limited spaces available on a first come, first served basis.
HPA: Tests by the Animal Health and the Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA) have confirmed the presence of Schmallenberg virus (SBV) in livestock samples submitted since January 2012 from a number of farms across England. To date, the majority of the cases of SBV infection have been in sheep with some cases reported in cattle.
According to the AHVLA, SBV infection has only been identified in areas of the UK at risk of midge incursion from Northern Europe during summer/autumn 2011. It is thought that UK livestock were most probably infected last year by midges blown across the English Channel from Northern Europe.
EU News: The European Commission has approved UK plans to relieve the Royal Mail Group (RMG) from excessive pension costs relating to its past monopoly position and to provide RMG with restructuring aid consisting of a debt reduction of ₤1,089m.
EU News: A new agency for managing large-scale EU information systems has been inaugurated in Tallinn, Estonia, with the attendance of Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmström.  Its main task will be to en­sure that the Visa Information (VIS) and EURODAC systems operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The Agency is due to become fully operational as of December 2012.
EU News: The European Commission proposes to improve business opportunities for EU firms in procurement markets.  The main objective of the initiative is to help open worldwide public procurement markets and to ensure European businesses have fair access to them.  

The proposal also aims to ensure that all companies (both European & non-European firms) are on an equal footing when it comes to competing for business in the EU's lucrative public procurement market.
PC&PE: A Lords EU Committee have called on the Government to overcome the UK's lack of mobility culture, including by making language learning compulsory in primary & secondary schools.  

Coupled with financial, socio-economic & cultural barriers, the Lords Social Policies and Consumer Protection EU Sub-Committee warns that the UK's future participation in mobility programmes, such as the EU's Erasmus scheme, cannot be assured.
EU News: Transport ministers have reached agreement on proposals to transform the existing patchwork of roads, railways, airports & canals into a unified European transport network.

The proposed Regulation for Guidelines for Trans-European Networks (TEN-T) will ‘remove cross-border bottlenecks, upgrade infrastructure and streamline cross-border transport operations for passengers and businesses throughout the EU’.
EU News: Last week’s Green Paper sets out how existing & proposed EU measures already address shadow banking activities. Although these measures go some way towards addressing shadow banking entities & activities, there is still further progress to be made given the continually evolving nature of shadow banking and our understanding of it.  Stakeholders are invited to respond to the consultation before 1 June 2012 – See ‘Consultations’ section for more information.

Charity and Voluntary Sector

CO: Millions of people will be able to come together to celebrate the London 2012 Olympic & Paralympic Games in their local communities at one of over 2,000 games being held across the UK, thanks to a £2m Big Society fund, Minister for Civil Society Nick Hurd said last week.
The Community Games programme will provide support & resources for communities to organise their own local sporting & cultural events in celebration of the London 2012 Games.  Community Games was the brainchild of Legacy UK, a charity whose role is to create lasting impact from the Olympic & Paralympic Games by funding ideas and local talent to inspire creativity across the UK. 
BIGHundreds of charities & community groups across England that are struggling with the effects of public funding cuts and increased demand for their services have been given a new Lottery lifeline

The Big Lottery Fund (BIG) has awarded 217 of its grant-holders an extra year’s worth of funding to enable them to continue their work through the tough economic environment.  Grants of up to £10,000 have also been awarded to over 600 projects to help them review their work and find ways of becoming more sustainable.
BHFPatients suffering from high blood pressure who have different readings in each arm have a reduced chance of survival over 10 years, a study has claimed. Results showed a 9% increase in risk of death for every one mmHg difference in blood pressure between arms.
DUK: Member of the Great British Olympic swimming team and British record holder for the 100m breaststroke, Kate Haywood, launched Diabetes UK’s Swim22 fundraising event in London last week. Swim22 allows swimmers who have always dreamed of tackling a cross-Channel swim to do the next best thing in the comfort of their local swimming pool, by completing 22 miles over 3 months.
STFC: British army bomb disposal experts from 11 EOD have paid a visit to the Science and Technology Facilities Council’sRutherford Appleton Laboratory after asking to find out more about its world-leading science. 

The visit was part of a goodwill exercise being carried out by the regiment to strengthen relationships across Oxfordshire, allowing organisations to develop a mutual understanding of each other’s work. In return STFC had the opportunity to enthuse a new group of people about its science.
During the event 2 cheques were presented by Councillor Phil Hayward to WO1 (RSM) Paul Hands for the Felix Fund a charity that raises money for bomb disposal experts and their families.

Business and Other Briefings

ScotGov:  More than 350 companies in Highlands & Islands are being supported to get online & make better use of broadband through an initiative launched last week.  With a quarter of Scottish businesses currently not online, the ICT business engagement programme - a collaborative project between the Scottish Government, Highlands & Islands Enterprise and Business Gateway – will invest £864,000 in the Highlands & Islands, to help SMEs exploit digital opportunities.

Press release & links

BIS:  Measures to strengthen supply chains & reduce the burden of regulation were announced by the Business Secretary Vince Cable last week.   Speaking at the Federation of Small Businesses conference, Dr Cable set out the practical steps Government is taking to help SMEs and boost business investment & cut red tape.

These included the Advanced Manufacturing Supply Chain Initiative has been set up to help the existing supply chain grow, achieve world class standards and encourage major new suppliers to come & manufacture in the UK.  This initiative, to be run by Birmingham City Council, will provide grants & loans to successful projects demonstrating real ambition to create globally competitive supply chains.

Vince Cable also launched the Focus on Enforcement campaign - asking business to tell us where enforcement can be improved, reduced or done differently and to discover and celebrate where it works well, so others can learn from it.

Press release & links

HMT:  The Chancellor has launched the National Loan Guarantee Scheme (NLGS), helping smaller businesses across the (with an annual group turnover of up to £50m) access cheaper finance.  Around £5bn in guarantees will be made available in the first tranche – See ‘Policy Statements & Initiatives’  section for more information.

HMRC:  Revenue & Customs Brief 07/12

This Brief confirms changes to the procedure for the submission of Intrastat supplementary declarations that apply from 1 April 2012.

HMRC:  Revenue & Customs Brief 08/12

This Brief provides guidance on the application of the flagging rules for tonnage tax in 2012.

HMRC:  Revenue & Customs Brief 09/12

This brief gives information about changes to the procedures for the use of red diesel in private pleasure craft from 1 April 2012.

Industry News

DH:  The country’s biggest supermarkets, food manufacturers, caterers & food outlets are joining forces to help cut 5bn calories from the nation’s daily diet, the Health Secretary Andrew Lansley announced last week 

More than three-quarters of the retail market has joined the fight against obesity and are leading the way in signing up to the Responsibility Deal’s calorie reduction pledge.

Press release & links

DECC:  Energy Minister Charles Hendry has given BP consent to drill the deepwater North Uist well, northwest of the Shetland Islands .  In accordance with DECC standard guidance, as part of the assessment process BP provided detailed confirmation that they have taken into account the findings & recommendations of the various Macondo investigation reports.

The UK Government took rapid action following the Gulf of Mexico tragedy, doubling offshore drilling rig environmental inspections and strengthening the requirements for Oil Pollution Emergency Plans.

Press release& links

DECC:  Wind turbine manufacturer Gamesa recently gave a vote of confidence to the offshore wind industry by announcing their plans to build a major manufacturing facility in Leith which will produce the giant wind turbines that are set to be built around the British coast.

Gamesa, a global maker of wind turbines based in , has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Forth Ports, Leith, and the two will now work together in preparation for a longer term agreement.

Press release & links ~ WWF comment 

GPS:  The Government Procurement Service in partnership with the Department for Education has launched a new framework for the provision of Information Management & Learning Services for Schools, Local Authorities and a broad range of educational stakeholders.

The framework offers real transparency on costs, pricing for individual solution components where possible, indicative pricing for support requirements & training needs which will allow organisations to benchmark and be more informed purchasers.

Press release & links

Forthcoming Event

NICE:  The NICE annual conference will take place on 15 - 16 May 2012, at the ICC in Birmingham .  Over 70 expert speakers have confirmed including Professor Malcolm Grant, Chair of the new NHS Commissioning Board, and Andrew Lansley CBE, Secretary of State for Health.

To secure your place, visit the conference website, where you can also download the programme for full details of all plenary & stream sessions. In addition you can view the highlights of our last annual conference, which took place in May 2011.

Press release & links

STFC:  Muon, neutron and light source facility users & researchers are cordially invited to the FREE Science Technology Facilities Council’s Public Engagement Symposium.  The event takes place on 29 May 2012 at STFC's Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxfordshire.  STFC are offering bursaries of up to £100 towards travel & subsistence for their early career researchers who use STFC facilities (Diamond, ISIS, CLF, ESRF and ILL ) to attend.

The day’s programme includes a series of short, interactive workshops such as:

* Writing science for a public audience – what works and who to work with

* Public speaking: How to speak with confidence and impact

* Top tips and practical ways to use new and social media

* Talking to a public adult audience

Press release & links

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