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In the News

It has come to our attention that ‘different desktop setups’ do not always receive a consistently formatted document in their e-mailed version of Wired - GOV Plus.  If you have any problems viewing the e-mailed version below, please click HERE for the website version.

HMT:  Bill provides ‘cold food for thought’ for taxpayers, so no VAT applies this document - The Government has published the Finance Bill, which will enact tax measures announced in the recent Budget and in the March 2011 Budget.
CLGPlanning for a simpler future - A 'new, simplified planning framework that better supports growth and helps creates the homes & jobs that the country needs, puts unprecedented power into the hands of communities, and helps protect & enhance our natural & historic environment' was published by Planning Minister, Greg Clark recently.

The new 50 page document, which ‘replaces over 1,300 pages of inherited policy in 44 separate documents’ delivers on the Coalition Agreement's commitment to ‘publish and present to Parliament a simple and consolidated national planning framework covering all forms of development and setting out national economic, environmental and social priorities’ by April 2012.

The new Framework comes into force with immediate effect for plan-making & decisions.   Appropriate implementation arrangements agreed with the Local Government Association have been put in place for local authorities with up-to-date policies in local plans.
Press release & links ~ LGA: NPPF ~ ScotGov: Streamlining the planning system ~ CBI: Minor measures, major results – Fine-tuning the major infrastructure planning system ~ Previous WWF comment ~ Penfold Review of non-planning consents ~ PX: Planning Curses ~ Draft Technical Advice Note 20: Planning and the Welsh language ~ WAG: Independent advisory group looks at planning in Wales ~ WAG: Revision of Planning Policy Wales Chapter 7 Supporting the Economy (closed) ~ Government must make significant changes to improve draft Planning Framework say MPs ~ ESRC: Empowered citizens or hopeful bystanders? ~ Planning Portal ~ CPRE: Planning help ~ Directgov: Planning permission ~ RTPI: Planning Aid England

Eu news:    Germany (40%) & France (14%) would get bigger rebates than the UK, who would be a net €22.9bn worse off - If adopted as a new own resource of the EU budget the financial transaction tax will significantly reduce the contributions of member states to the EU budget.  According to estimates presented recently by the European Commission, Member States' contributions would be slashed by €54bn in 2020.
The Commission proposes that two thirds of the FTT go to the EU budget, reducing by the same amounts Member States' contributions, with the remaining one third being retained by Member States.
The House of Lords EU Sub-Committee on Financial & Economic Affairs say in its report that the FTT proposed by the EC is 'flawed and will fail to fulfil the Commission's own objectives'.   A proposal that would have such a disproportionate impact on the UK above all other Member States makes the Commission's proposals particularly unacceptable.

Even if the FTT was only adopted by a small group of Member States, there would still be huge implications for the UK, not least because transactions between UK financial institutions and those within the jurisdiction of the FTT would still be liable for the tax.
CLG:  An end to Bank Holiday weekend invasions? - Local Government Minister, Bob Neill, recently published a streamlined planning policythat will ensure fair treatment of travellers in the planning system while respecting the interests of the settled community’Condensing the previous 54 pages of traveller site guidance into just 8 pages, the new policy puts the provision of sites back into the hands of local councils, in consultation with local communities.

The new policy forms part of a broader package, including changes to planning law to limit retrospective planning applications for any form of unauthorised development and the provision of incentives for new & refurbished traveller sites, which will deliver a better balance between site provision and enforcement.

The Government has also been looking at the inequalities faced by traveller groups and will shortly be publishing a report from the Ministerial Working Group.
TKF:  Dropping dead from a sudden heart attack looks increasingly appealing as a ‘good’ end to life - Two reports published recently by The King’s Fund highlight how frail older people are being exposed to unacceptable standards of care and moved around from pillar to post in hospital because of a lack of continuity of care:
* The first report draws attention to breakdowns in continuity of care inside hospitals
* The Fund has also published the conclusions of a 2-day summit which specifically addresses how to improve care for frail older people with complex needs, making 5 key recommendations.
NAO:  What does this imply for the HS2 cost/benefit analysis? - The National Audit Office has published a report on the construction & sale of the high speed railway line linking the Channel Tunnel with central London

The High Speed 1 project has delivered a high performing line, which was subsequently sold in a well-managed way, which removed the taxpayer’s open-ended support for the project.  However, international passenger numbers are falling far short of original forecasts and the project costs exceed the value of journey time saving benefits.
ECWho's eligible for privileged catering arrangements? - Commenting on the rules around companies making donations, Tony Stafford, Head of Policy on party & election finance at the Electoral Commission said: “The law states that companies can donate to political parties if they are: registered at Companies House; incorporated in a Member State of the EU; and are carrying on business in the UK”.
DECC:  Greed or legitimate safety & employment concerns? - Following a ballot by the union Unite, fuel tanker drivers have voted to undertake strike action.  The Government has condemned this potentially disruptive action and urged both sides to negotiate a settlement to avoid strike action. Regular updates & the latest information will be published on Directgov website.
DfE:  Is it any wonder so many children that leave school at 16 are un-employable? - Trainee teachers currently have to pass skills tests in basic literacy & numeracy, but around 20% fail first time round.  They only take the tests after starting their training course and are allowed unlimited re-sits. The tests are to now to be reviewed.
EU NewsGreek tragedy will play for some time to come - Top representatives of the Greek ‘Troika’ stoutly defended the focus of the Greek bailout programme last week and insisted that Greece must raise its game on economic reforms, political unity and tackling vested interests, or risk failure.  MEPs advocated a socially fairer & more growth-oriented programme and asked about contingency plans.
Press release & links

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

General News

FSAElla’s Kitchen is recalling pouches of its Stage 3 Seriously Comforting Cottage Pie with a Pinch of Cinnamon, with a 'best before' date of February 2013.  There could be hardened cinnamon inside the product pouch, which could present a choking risk.  The affected batch was supplied to Tesco stores only.  The Food Standards Agency has issued a Product Recall Information Notice.
FSA: The Food Standards Agency is advising companies & individuals who have bought chemicals used for food production from a company called Mistral Laboratory Chemicals not to use them.  The company, based in Antrim, Northern Ireland, sells products from its website and also through other sites such as eBay.
Press release & links
FSAMusgrave Retail Partners GB is withdrawing all batches of its own-brand Supervalu Italian Bolognese Ravioli, which was only supplied to Budgens stores in the UK, because of inconsistent allergen labelling. The product contains celery, which isn’t listed in the allergy information box.  If you’re allergic or intolerant to celery, don’t eat this product. The Food Standards Agency has issued an Allergy Alert.
FSA: From April 2012, Food Standards Agency staff will be taking over the role of dairy hygiene inspectors on farms in England & Wales, continuing the work of the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA), which had previously undertaken this task on the FSA's behalf.
TKF: David Buck, Senior Fellow at The King’s Fund has commented on the publication of the government’s alcohol strategy.
CQC: Following 2 consecutive consultations on the fees that it charges to health & social care providers, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) has announced changes to its fee structure and the amounts that certain providers have to pay under the Health and Social Care Act 2008.  These have been approved by the Secretary of State for Health.
NA: It is now easier than ever to search naturalisation records at The National Archives, following the successful completion of a cataloguing project.
MO: With the pollen season fast approaching, pollen forecasts are now available on the Met Office website. Throughout the season, Met Office forecasters will be working closely with the University of Worcester and Pollen UK to provide the most accurate pollen counts and pollen count forecasts for the UK.
IfL: The Institute for Learning will disburse fee grants to support more than 2,500 part-time teacher trainees entering their second year of initial teacher training (ITT) in September 2012.  The fee grants are separate from the bursaries announced in February 2012, details of which were also included in the ministerial statement.
TUC: More than 1m low paid women could lose out on employer pension contributions after the government raised the new earnings threshold for pension auto-enrolment last week, says the TUC.
BIS: A new Foresight project investigating how identity may be affected by changes over the next 10 years has been announced by the Government Chief Scientific Adviser. The Future of Identity will investigate how changes in technology, geo-politics, demographics & economics over the next 10 years might affect notions of identity & subsequently impact on behaviour.
The project findings will have implications for a diverse range of policy areas including social inclusion, citizenship, political engagement, health &wellbeing and crime & security.
HMRCHM Revenue & Customs has launched its new Tax Academy offering its trainee tax experts 2 professional degrees accredited by Manchester Metropolitan University

As part of its drive towards increasing tax professionalism, HMRC staff will be able to work towards a certificate, foundation degree or an honours degree in Professional Studies in Taxation.  The Association of Accounting Technicians will accredit the certificate course.
UKOCUK online centres are delighted to announce that, following their latest funding round, they can now announce a new list of 31 Community Hubs. The CH programme builds on the successes of the Community Capacity Building project and will see successful projects work in their local communities using technology to bring about social change.  
DefraIf you could make small changes to your lifestyle to protect and ‘Love Your River’, would you do it? That is the question that is being asked of everyone following the launch of the ‘Love Your River’ campaign to raise public awareness about the link between the health of our rivers & water use.
HEFCE: The Higher Education Funding Council for England will allocate £5.3bn to 129 universities & higher education colleges and 186 directly funded further education colleges for the academic year 2012-13.
DWP:  From 30 April 2012 people who are able to get back into the workplace will get Contribution-based Employment and Support Allowance for a maximum of 12 months. This change will affect people in what is known as the Work Related Activity Group.
Claimants who have no access to money or support will be able to claim Income Related ESA. People who already been assessed for IR ESA will automatically have their benefit adjusted and for those who have not been assessed for IR ESA will be asked if they want to make a claim. 

Policy Statements and Initiatives

DH: The PM has announced his commitment to make the UK a world leader on dementia1 in 3 people will develop dementia and it costs society an estimated £19bn a year.

The PM has set out his dementia challenge to society, the medical profession, business & Government, alongside the Alzheimer’s Society publishing their report; Dementia 2012: A national challenge.
DWPLone parents on Income Support whose child is aged 5 or over are being informed by letter, starting from May 2012, if they are able to work they will need to move from Income Support to Jobseeker’s Allowance where they will receive extra help to return to the workplace.   Previously this change has been when their child was aged 7.
A lone parent on JSA will not be expected to take up a job if appropriate childcare is not available and their availability for work must take into account their childcare responsibilities.  Lone parents with children of 12 or under will be able to specify school-hours only jobs without it affecting their benefits.
CLG: Cash payments for councils who have adapted the homes of wounded soldiers injured in the line of duty were announced recently by Housing Minister Grant Shapps. 16 councils will receive a share of more than £200,000 funding for helping injured military personnel return to a home that meets their needs & adapt to their new life.
WAGSupport for families who are affected by parental substance misuse will be expanded to all areas of Wales, Deputy Minister for Children & Social Services Gwenda Thomas has announced. The roll out of Integrated Family Support Services (IFSS) across Wales is a key priority for the Welsh Government, supporting children & their families overcome the difficulties of parental substance misuse.
WAG: A crack-down on drivers who abuse the Blue Badge disabled parking system is being launched by the Welsh Government.  It involves the introduction of new style windscreen badges that are FREE for individual blue badge holders in Wales.  The badge has many additional security features that will make them much harder to forge or use fraudulently.
DfE: A slimmed down & more focused Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) for children aged 0-5-year-olds has been published by Children’s Minister, Sarah Teather.  The new EYFS, which will take effect from 1 September 2012, focuses on getting children ready for education and increasing the attainment of all children, particularly those from deprived backgrounds.
The Government also pledges to go further.  Where there are examples of regulation & paperwork that are not necessary to safeguard children, drive up quality or promote child development, they will be removed.   The revised curriculum reduces the number of early learning goals from 69 to 17.
CLG: A new Mayors Cabinet that will ‘ensure elected city mayors have a voice at the heart of Government’ was announced recently by PM David Cameron & Cities Minister Greg Clark. The Cabinet will provide city mayors with a direct route to the Prime Minister and other senior Ministers and provide a forum for cities to exchange ideas, highlight new innovations and lobby for the interests of their city.
On the 3 May 2012 ballot boxes will open in Birmingham, Bradford, Bristol, Coventry, Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, Nottingham, Sheffield and Wakefied for local people to decide whether to have directly elected mayors. Leicester has already elected a mayor and Liverpool will hold an election for a mayor on 3 May 2012.
DfE: Over the next 2 years an offer of FREE universal parenting classes, face-to-face & online, will be available to all parents of children aged 5 years and under, in Middlesbrough, High Peak in Derbyshire, and Camden in London. 

The classes are designed to strengthen parenting skills, and to encourage parents to feel that it is normal to get help in the first few years of their child’s life – just as they do in antenatal classes before their child is born.
ScotGov: A pioneering strategy to connect Scotland’s entire network of museums & galleries in a drive for greater collaboration, innovation & creativity has been unveiled by Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop.   The National Strategy for Scotland’s Museums and Galleries is a ‘framework designed to maximise the sector’s reach, growth and potential’ over the next 10 years.
WAG: Government support for the Welsh drinks industry has been strengthened by the publication of the Welsh Government’s Action Plan for the Welsh Drinks Industry, outlining how WAG will support future growth for the Welsh drinks industry.
CLG: Towns across the country got their applications in ahead of last week's deadline in the hope of becoming Portas Pilots. Ministers revealed the unexpectedly high level of interest whilst announcing that the Government is accepting virtually all the recommendations put forward by Mary Portas last December.
The Government has issued its formal response to the Portas High Street Review.  Grant Shapps confirmed Ministers are accepting the vast majority of Mary's recommendations - but that they intend to go further with a 'Portas-Plus' response.
BISNew standards for apprenticeships will come into force for all age groups from August 2012, subject to consultation with providers & employers, as a further measure to drive up quality:
* For those aged 19 & over apprenticeships will last between 1 to 4 years unless prior learning or attainment has been recorded
* Apprenticeships for 16-18 year olds will last a minimum of 12 months without exception
Also, from last week, a new grant to encourage SMEs to take on apprentices will be made available. The NAS is offering up to 40,000 Apprenticeship Grants to SMEs (employing less than 250 employees), to the value of £1,500, that recruit their first apprentice aged 16 to 24 years old.


ScotGov:  The Scottish Government has recently launched a consultation (closes on 15 June 2012) on reforming Scotland's tribunal system with proposals centring around a unified, integrated structure. 

The proposals intend to create two generic tribunals, a First-tier & an Upper-tier, in which to transfer the separately operating tribunals in Scotland .  There will also be genuine judicial independence by bringing the tribunal judiciary under the leadership of the Lord President.

Press release & links

DWP:  The final building blocks for automatic enrolment were put in place recently as the Government published its response to the consultation on the earnings threshold.  The Government has also published the consultation ‘Revised implementation proposals for workplace pension reform’ (closes on 4 May 2012).

Press release & links

DfE:  The Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove has laid before the House of Commons a written ministerial statement on school funding reform.  The Department for Education has also published its consultation (closes on Monday 21 May 2012) on school funding reform.

Press release & links

Ofgem:  Ofgem has announced a new regulatory framework to reinvigorate industry efforts to tackle gas theft. This will protect consumers by giving incentives to gas suppliers to detect & prevent theft and to establish minimum standards for theft investigations. 

Ofgem consulted on proposed changes to the regulatory framework in August 2011.  It has now set out its final proposals (views by 30 April 2012) including a consultation on new licence obligations they hope to have in place by summer 2012.

Press release & links

HMT:  The Government has launched a consultation on an Above the Line (R&D credit.  The Government announced in the autumn of 2011 that it would introduce an ATL R&D credit for large companies.  This consultation (closes on 29 June 2012) seeks the views of businesses and other stakeholders on how such a credit should work, ahead of its introduction in April 2013.

Press release & links

OFT:  The OFT has launched its consultation (closes on 19 June 2012) on proposals to strengthen its Competition Act (CA98) decision-making processes, through introducing a new system of decision-makers who are separate from investigation teams.  The OFT intends to publish its response to the consultation and the final revised guidance before Autumn 2012.

The OFT is also extending the trial of its Procedural Adjudicator role for a further year, to 21 March 2013, with an expanded remit.

Press release & links

BIS:  The Government has launched an informal consultation (closes on 27 April 2012) to seek views from businesses, local communities and other organisations (in England only) on how EU Structural Funds, Rural Development Funds & Fisheries Funds can be used to support growth in England

The European Commission proposals for the next funding round (2014-2020) are still subject to negotiation, but the key changes proposed will allow much greater flexibility to tailor the funds to the specific economic challenges faced in different areas.  The Government wants to ensure there is maximum potential value of the EU money for taxpayers.

Press release & links ~ Delivery of Structural Funds, Rural Development Funds and European Maritime & Fisheries Fund in England

BIS:  The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has launched a consultation (closes on 20 June 2012) on proposals to make it easier for Trading Standards officers to tackle rogue traders across local authority boundaries 

BIS will consult further on proposals to simplify other consumer rights later this year with the aim of bringing forward a new Consumer Bill of Rights to comprehensively update consumer law in order to scrap or reform some 12 pieces of existing legislation.

Press release & links

MoJ:  Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke has launched proposals to strengthen community sentences & modernise the Probation Service.  The proposals in the 2 consultations (both close on 22 June 2012) will ‘ensure community sentences are a tough & credible punishment, supported by the innovation, capacity & diversity of voluntary & private providers, in partnership with the Probation Service to reduce re-offending and protect the public’.

Press release & links ~ CBI comments    

ScotGov:  Planning Minister, Derek Mackay has outlined plans to improve efficiency & streamline the planning system, including linking increases in fees to improved performance by planning authorities.  In a statement to Parliament, he launched a series of consultations (closing date Friday June 22, 2012) & measures to take planning forward following the comprehensive reform of the Scottish Planning System in 2006.

Mr Mackay also announced that work would start on the 3rd National Planning Framework in autumn 2012, and launched a consultation on examinations of Development Plans.

Press release & links

DECC:  £ms will be saved for businesses through new proposals (consultation closes on 18 June 2012) to simplify the Carbon Reduction Commitment Energy Efficiency Scheme.  Participants will see their administrative costs cut by almost two-thirds, equating to around £330m of savings up to 2030.

Press release & links

WAG:  A public debate on whether Wales should be a separate legal jurisdiction has been launched by the Welsh Government.  In March 2011, the people of Wales voted ‘yes’ in a referendum on giving the National Assembly for Wales primary law making powers in 20 devolved policy areas.

Laws made in Wales, for Wales, still form part of the law of England & Wales .  This is not the case Scotland and Northern Ireland, who have separate legal jurisdictions.  Since 1999, there has been an increasing divergence between Welsh law and the law in England - particularly in the fields of education, health & social care - to meet the specific needs of the people of Wales.

Press release & links ~ Welsh Secretary responds

CC:  Notice of intention to make an Order (regarding local bus services) under section 165 of and Schedule 10 to the Enterprise Act 2002 and public consultation on the proposed Order.  Representations should reach the Competition Commission by no later than 5pm on Friday 27 April 2012.

Press release & links

ACE:  Arts Council England has opened an online conversation as part of the next stage of their consultation on the library of the future.  The consultation - Envisioning the library of the future - which will be captured via a dedicated blog - will help them to define their long term strategy for libraries by exploring what they could and should look like in in 2022 & beyond, through a programme of research & debate. 

This second stage consisting of an online consultation, questionnaires and regional workshops will last until May 2012.  A third stage, to test the public view of the purpose & value of public libraries, will be undertaken between June & late September 2012.  ACE will then produce a final report, drawing upon this research, which will inform their vision for the future of public library services.

Press release & links

FSA:  The Financial Services Authority has published the findings of its thematic review into anti-bribery & corruption (ABC) systems & controls in investment banks.  In response to those findings, the FSA is consulting (closes on 29 April 2012) on proposed amendments to the FSA’s regulatory guidance, ‘Financial crime: a guide for firms’.

Press release & links

Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides

HPA: The Health Protection Agency last week reminded people to be ‘tick aware’ this year and take sensible precautions to reduce their risk of Lyme disease, as Tick Bite Prevention Week began. 

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection which is transmitted by tick bites.  Late spring, early summer & autumn are peak times for tick bites and coincide with people venturing into the great outdoors in the warmer weather.
NENatural England is asking agri-environment agreement holders and Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) managers to get in touch if they are planning to host a Diamond Jubilee beacon on their land.  

A series of beacons will be lit across the UK on 4 June 2012 as part of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations and Natural England is offering advice to help organisers plan their traditional bonfire beacons whilst safeguarding important natural or historic features.
A brief guidance note has been produced with English Heritage highlighting some of the things to consider when choosing beacon sites.  If a proposed beacon site falls within either a SSSI or agri-environment scheme then it will require a consent or derogation. The land owner or manager should speak with Natural England on behalf of the organisers during the planning stage to discuss siting of the beacon and public access issues.
NICEGPs and other healthcare professionals should decontaminate their hands immediately after direct contact with patients to prevent the spread of infection in healthcare settings, says NICE. Around 300,000 patients acquire healthcare-associated infections (HCAIs) each year as a result of care on the NHS.
NICE has updated its guidance on infection control to take into account new evidence since it was originally published in 2003. The updated guidance also reflects the fact that more and more patients are being seen in primary care and more complex issues are being dealt with by GPs and practice nurses.
FSA: The Food Standards Agency is reminding anyone who is considering setting up a stall selling refreshments during the Olympics to plan ahead. To help, the Agency has produced guidance answering the most frequently asked questions.

Annual Reports

RoSPA: The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents believes the availability of new injury data - shedding light on years of life lost due to accidents & regional variations in injury rates - represents major progress in efforts to have accident prevention embedded as a public health priority.
The Injury Profiles, launched recently by the South West Public Health Observatory (SWPHO) on behalf of Public Health Observatories in England, enable comparisons in the rates of people killed & admitted to hospital as a result of accidents to be made from one English local authority to another.
EHRC: The Equality and Human Rights Commission has published its strategic plan for 2012 to 2015, which ‘identifies how the Commission can add most value to the protection & promotion of equality and human rights through the effective use of its unique powers and its duties as the National Human Rights Institution’.
WAG: The Welsh Government is making good progress in delivering its plans to reduce emissions & prepare for a changing climate, according to its first progress report on Wales’ Climate Change Strategy.
FSA: The Food Standards Agency has produced a summary of its research published in March 2012. This includes the development of a number of new methods for screening for genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and an estimation of nutrient intakes in Scotland.

General Reports and Other Publications

PC&PE: The Commons Public Accounts Committee has published its report on ‘Reducing bureaucracy in further education in England’.  The Rt Hon Margaret Hodge MP, Chair of the Committee said: "There are too many funding organizations in further education, none of whom accepts ultimate responsibility for cutting the bureaucracy that colleges have to deal with”. ………… This lack of clear accountability is at the root of many of the issues we highlight in this report”.
IFS: Recently the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) closed a consultation on how transfers of small pots of money between different pension providers could be improved.  New evidence published recently by researchers at the Institute for Fiscal Studies suggests that there are currently £400m of assets in Great Britain being held in pension accounts that are individually worth less than £2,000 and to which no further contributions are being paid.
The research finds that at least 200,000 people could benefit from being able to consolidate these existing small pension pots, if transfers between providers were made easier.
Socitm: Councils must make radical changes to the way they govern & manage their websites and adopt a new model for future development, says a new briefing from Socitm Insight.

The briefing says that council leaders and managers must accept that the main purpose of the website is to deliver services. News about the council and its activities, and communication of policies and plans, have a place on the website, but must not get in the way of the primary task of delivering services.
BIS: Minister for Further Education, Skills & Lifelong Learning John Hayes has welcomed the interim report of the independent review of professionalism in the further education and skills sector.  

As a result of the recommendations, the Government will set in motion a formal process of consultation with the view to taking away the statutory obligation for teachers to register with the Institute for Learning (IfL).  A final report, which will consider professionalism more widely, will report in the Summer.
NAO: The National Audit Office has issued a report on the 2009 implementation of a points based route, known as ‘Tier 4’, by which students from countries outside the European Economic Area can study in the UK.

The report has found that the UK Border Agency implemented Tier 4 with flaws which were predictable & could have been avoided.  The Agency has not dealt efficiently & effectively with overstayers & students in breach of the rules.
PC&PEFuel crime's disproportionate impact in Northern Ireland requires greater focus & priority say Northern Ireland Affairs Committee in new report, which claims ‘that the scale and impact of fuel laundering crimes in particularly requires a much higher priority and focus in fighting it’. 
TWF: Ian Brinkley, director at The Work Foundation, has responded to the recent Budget announcement.
CQC: Awareness of the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards in care homes & hospitals grew in 2010-2011, but staff training on how to apply them was still patchy, leading to inconsistent practice, says the Care Quality Commission (CQC).
PC&PE: The Joint Committee on Privacy and Injunctions has published a report indicating that the PCC successor must be independent, and have more powers, and that if industry fails to establish an effective regulator, statutory oversight should be considered.
The Committee says the most important step towards improving protection of privacy is to provide for enhanced regulation of the media.  The Press Complaints Commission lacked the power, sanctions or independence to be truly effective.  Substantial changes to press regulation are needed to ensure that it encompasses all major news publishers including, in time, major bloggers.
NHS ConfedNHS Confederation chief executive, Mike Farrar, has said sector regulator Monitor must "nip in the bud" growing fears that it is building an onerous regulatory regime, as the proposed new architecture of the health service takes shape.  He made the comments as his organisation published a submission on plans to transform Monitor into an economic regulator.
HL: Research published by Homeless Link indicates that the average day centre is now seeing 25% more people a day than they were in 2010.  While on any one night 80% of accommodation services surveyed say they have no empty beds for new homeless people.
As well as running at full capacity, 60% of projects also had their budgets cut in 2011. With services facing an average cut of 15% to their funding, the research highlights the impact this is having on both homeless people and local communities.
UCAS: In a report published recently, UCAS recommends reform of the admissions process for entry to full-time undergraduate Higher Education.  Proposals to move to a full post-results admissions process are not being taken forward.
CBI: The CBI has responded to DEFRA’s Parliamentary Report, Company Reporting of Greenhouse Gas Emissions
STFCExplore the work of the Science and Technology Facilities Council in their free newsletter!  If you would like to sign up to receive Fascination 6 times a year, please register now.  It is distributed electronically to be environmentally friendly & cost effective.
WAG: Education Minister Leighton Andrews has received the final report from the Digital Classroom Teaching Task & Finish Group which sets out how Welsh schools can deliver digital classrooms in a digital age.
The report makes a number of recommendations including the creation of a hub to enable learners and teachers to share best practice resources.  The report also recommends the creation of a national digital collection of teaching & learning resources.
PC&PE: The House of Lords Constitution Committee has recently published its report on Judicial Appointments and concludes that a more diverse judiciary would improve public trust & confidence in the justice system.
PC&PE: The defence manufacturer BAE systems has now signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Department for International Development to pay £29.5m (plus accrued interest) to improve the Tanzanian education system - following an International Development Committee inquiry into Financial Crime.
ScotGov: The Scottish Government has welcomed publication of an inquiry by HM Chief Inspector of Fire and Rescue Authorities into the unsuccessful attempt to rescue Alison Hume from a disused mineshaft in 2008.
PC&PE: The Government should drop its commitment to spend 0.7% of Gross National Income on aid from 2013, according to a report published by the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee recently.  The 0.7% target was adopted by donor nations - including the UK - at the UN in 1970, but few have reached it.
The Government, which spent 0.56% of GNI on aid in 2010, plans to introduce legislation to make the 0.7% target legally binding, which the Committee strongly oppose. 

The committee also calls for DFID to do more to tackle corruption feeding off the aid programme.  DFID detected only £1.2m of fraud in its £7.7bn budget in the year to March 2011 – a figure the Committee found ‘paltry and implausibly low’.
PC&PE: The House of Commons Home Affairs Committee is recommending that the Government seek major amendments to the 2003 US-UK Extradition Treaty and that it ‘should seek to amend the Treaty to specify that the same test applies for extradition from the UK that applies to extradition from the USA’.  I

t should also introduce a ‘forum bar’ to extradition, which would allow a judge to decide that a person be tried in the UK in cases where both countries have jurisdiction. 
PC&PELabelling on electrical equipment sold by DIY stores must be used to warn that it is illegal for an unregistered person to carry out MOST electrical works in the home, says the Communities and Local Government Committee.  Far too many homeowners do not appreciate either the dangers of using sub-standard engineers or their own liability when it comes to faulty gas & electrical work.
In addition, public awareness about the risk of the odourless, invisible & potentially lethal carbon monoxide fumes must be raised to increase safety in the home, warns the Committee.

Legislation / Legal

HO: From last week, all taxi licensing authorities can request enhanced criminal record checks before issuing licences to taxi & private hire vehicle drivers. This means licensing authorities can find out if someone is barred by the Independent Safeguarding Authority from working with children or vulnerable people before issuing a licence.
Up until last week, only drivers who regularly pick up vulnerable people, including children, have been eligible for enhanced checks. This change will standardise this practice for all drivers.
DH: The Health & Social Care Bill has gained Royal Assent to become the Health & Social Care Act (2012).
LC: In a recent report, the Law Commission are recommending that consumers should have a new legal right of redress against traders that carry out misleading or aggressive practices.
TUC: TUC General Secretary, Brendan Barber, has commented on the ruling in the Supreme Court last week, which found against a number of insurance companies which have been seeking to deny compensation to the victims of mesothelioma.

EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.

EU News: The European Climate Adaptation Platform (CLIMATE-ADAPT), an interactive web-based tool on adaptation to climate change, went online recently at the European Environment Agency (EEA) in Copenhagen.
It is a publicly accessible, web-based platform, designed to support policy-makers at EU, national, regional & local levels in the development of climate change adaptation measures & policies.  Adaptation means anticipating the adverse effects of climate change and taking appropriate action to prevent or minimise the damage they can cause.
EU News: The European Commission has formally requested the United Kingdom to amend its legislation providing for exit taxes on companies. The UK legislation at stake results in immediate taxation of unrealised capital gains in respect of certain assets when the seat or place of effective management of a company is transferred to another EU/EEA State.  

However, a similar transfer within the UK would not generate any such immediate taxation and the relevant capital gains would only be taxed once they have been realised.
ScotGovScotland is a step closer to having its own rural parliament to ‘empower rural communities and give them a greater opportunity to influence decision-making, network and share expertise’. 

A recent report highlights the experiences of countries which already have rural parliaments, including the benefits & potential pitfalls, success stories and the various formats used.  The next step will be a meeting in May with representatives from existing European rural parliaments.
EU News: The European Commission recently proposed new rules to ensure that European ships are only recycled in facilities that are safe for workers & environmentally sound.  More than 1,000 large old commercial ships, such as tankers & container vessels, are recycled for their scrap metal every year, but many European ships end up in substandard facilities on the tidal beaches of South Asia.
The new rules, which will take the form of a Regulation, propose a system of survey, certification & authorisation for large commercial seagoing vessels that fly the flag of an EU Member State, covering their whole life cycle from construction to operation & recycling.
EU News: The EU is tightening the requirements of the Seveso directive in order to prevent accidents with hazardous chemicals such as fireworks.  In the near future, EU citizens will be able to access information on Seveso sites in their neighbourhoods and see how to react in an emergency from the comfort of their homes by the click of a mouse.  The rules will enter into force in 2015.
Also, with the new rules European citizens will be able to go to the courts when they think their views have not been taken into account if a new Seveso site is established to close to their homes.   
EU News: The European Commission has authorised UK plans to grant a £1,1155m network subsidy to the UK Post Office Ltd aiming to keep open & modernise non-commercially viable offices.
EU NewsCyber attacks on IT systems would become a criminal offence punishable by at least 2 years in prison throughout the EU under a draft law backed by the Civil Liberties Committee last week.  

Possessing or distributing hacking software & tools would also be an offence and companies would be liable for cyber attacks committed for their benefit.

Charity and Voluntary Sector

BHF: A type of bacteria found in the mouth could cause blood clots and a life-threatening heart condition if it escapes into the blood stream, scientists say. Streptococcus gordonii normally contributes to plaque forming on teeth but researchers say if the bacteria gets into the blood stream it could lead to endocarditis, a dangerous infection in the heart.
BHF: Men are more at risk of dying suddenly from cardiac arrest caused by irregular heart rhythms, according to a new report. The National Audit of Sudden Arrhythmic Death Syndrome (SADS) found that 62% of deaths were in males. The average age of death was 33.

Business and Other Briefings

HMRC: All VAT-registered businesses in the UK will now have to submit their VAT returns online, and pay electronically, for periods starting on or after 1 April 2012. 

Previously, only newly-registered businesses and those with turnovers of more than £100,000 had to submit their VAT online, as well as pay electronically.  Anyone else could send HM Revenue & Customs a paper VAT return, but this will no longer be an option.
HM Revenue & Customs now accepts that EU/EEA seafarers were entitled to SED before 6 April 2011 if they met the full qualifying conditions for this relief.

Industry News

GPS:  The Government Procurement Service Furniture Category is currently developing Invitation to Tender documentation for the forthcoming renewal of a furniture framework agreement  They invite suppliers & customers to download their draft specifications and complete the feedback form with any recommendations, by Wednesday 11April 2012.

Press release & links

MoD:  The Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) is aiming to give a boost to businesses of all sizes by encouraging them to get involved in supply chains for future build, repair & maintenance contracts for the  UK's Defence estate. 

Its Next Generation Estate Contracts (NGEC) team is procuring contracts for the South West, South East and Central areas.  DIO is calling on businesses of all sizes, who feel they can make a contribution to the supply chain for these works, to get involved.

Press release & links

ScotGov:  First Minister Alex Salmond recently launched the industry-led energy skills academy - Nigg Skills Academy (NSA) - established with over £900,000 public funding, to deliver training for thousands of workers across key sectors including oil & gas and renewables.

Press release & links ~ Nigg Skills Academy

MoD:  Overseas-based suppliers are being encouraged by Peter Luff, the Minister for Defence Equipment, Support & Technology, to invest in the 's defence & security sector. 

A new Industrial Engagement Policy (DSIEP) has been launched following the publication of the 'National Security Through Technology' White Paper on 1 February 2012.

Press release & links

CO:  Minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude, has made a statement on the award of Public Services Network Connectivity Framework Agreements.   

He said: 
“The Public Services Network is a fundamental building block of our ICT Strategy, and today’s announcement of suppliers to the framework is a huge step forward in providing the infrastructure to deliver services to citizens more efficiently and cheaply”. 
Press release & links

DH:  The government has announced £4m of funding for businesses to develop cutting-edge ideas to address some of the biggest health problems of our time.  The Department of Health has opened 2 new competitions with up to £2m of funding each to develop technological & innovative solutions that can:

*Change people’s behaviour in order to reduce the impact of obesity & alcohol related diseases 
(Deadline 1 June 2012)

* Improve the number of patients taking their medication as prescribed

(Deadline 18 May 2012)

The competitions will be run through the Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) process and are open to all organisations not just those in the health sector.  Businesses can find out more about the competitions by attending a briefing session, which will be held in London on 12 April 2012 
Press release ~ SBRI competitions (scroll down)

MoD:  Cutting-edge defence science & technology is being showcased by the Ministry of Defence's Centre for Defence Enterprise (CDE).   Revolutionary gadgets & gizmos, developed by SMEs & funded by CDE grants, are on display this week at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills in London .

Press release & links

WAG:  Business Minister Edwina Hart has announced that the new £40m Wales SME Investment Fund, which is designed to create up to 4,000 jobs, is now open for applications 

The new 4-year Fund will be managed by Finance Wales.  It will ensure more SMEs, including those who sell their goods & services to consumers rather than businesses, become eligible for repayable commercial investment from Finance Wales.

Press release ~ Wales SME Investment Fund

CO:  The Cabinet Office has announced that they have signed a new deal with Oracle that will deliver in excess of £75m in savings by 2015.  The key aspects of the deal include:

* A single discount

* Licence sharing

* Bulk buying

* Shared services savings

Oracle will also establish a Centre of Excellence where government’s investment in its Oracle estate will be maximised by leveraging expert resources.  This will be aligned to the Government’s IT Strategy, ensuring the delivery of this important programme across government.

Press release & links

FSA:  The Food Standards Agency in Scotland is inviting tenders to carry out secondary analysis, for 2011 and 2012, of dietary data that was collected in the UK Living Costs and Food Survey.

Press release & links

Forthcoming Event

Socitm:  Councils’ progress & learning on transforming the cost base & customer experience of local public services will be shared at the Socitm Spring conference taking place on 25 April 2012 in London . 

The agenda is focused on the strategic capabilities & information & technology issues set out in Planting the Flag, the strategy for ICT-enabled local public services reform, produced by Socitm for the Local CIO Council.

A number of councils leading the way with transformation, including Brighton & Hove and Plymouth, will be reporting on what they are doing to exploit shared services, joint procurement, process redesign & self-service and the impact of these reforms.

Press release & links ~ Planting the Flag

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