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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

HOA £bn here, a £bn there, it soon adds up to a useful sum - A new strategy was unveiled last week to ‘help councils hit back against fraudsters & prevent losses of over £2bn a year’.  ‘Fighting fraud locally’ provides a blueprint to better equip local authorities to fight a range of frauds including housing tenancy, council tax and blue badge parking fraud.

It draws on the best practices of councils already successfully tackling fraud, offers practical anti-fraud advice and is accompanied by a set of supporting online products that councils can use to aggressively tackle fraud.

The strategy is the result of an 8-month review led by the national fraud authority (NFA) and supported by the Department for Communities & Local Government, the Local Government Association, local government representative organisations and council chief executives.
WAGIf you cannot read, you will not be able to understand what your smartphone is telling you - A campaign encouraging children to read has been launched by the Welsh Government

Entitled ‘Make time to read’, the campaign aims to raise awareness of the benefits of reading.  It also encourages parents, carers & grandparents to read more with their children – the key message being that just 10 minutes a day reading with your child can make a huge difference.
PC&PECrisis! What crisis? - The Treaty on Stability, Coordination & Governance is impossible to enforce, there are serious concerns over the rule of law and no concessions for UK, says the Commons European Scrutiny Committee in its recent report into the Treaty's impact on the eurozone and the rule of law.

The Treaty does little towards solving the eurozone crisis, other perhaps than providing some comfort to international markets. Moreover it is possible that the Treaty will prove to be politically impossible to enforce

As undesirable as it may be, some form of breakdown of the eurozone clearly remains possible.  The approach taken to proceed with the fiscal compact raises a fundamental question about the application of the rule of law within the EU.  The SCG Treaty would have been an EU treaty, but for the veto.

Although questions have been raised as to what the UK achieved by the use of its veto, the Committee concludes that the veto was justified because of the very real concerns about a breach of EU law, even if this was not the reason given exclusively for the use of the veto in the first place.  The Committee notes that there is an increasing tendency for the EU to propound the virtues of the rule of law, but not to apply it in practice.
SOBut will the SNP take any notice of it? - The UK Government's referendum consultation has produced overwhelming support for the Scottish people being asked a single, clear question on whether Scotland should become independent.

The UK Government has published a 26 page document summarising the 2,857 responses to the consultation and setting out the level of support for the Government's proposals on how to facilitate a legal, fair & decisive referendum. 

It also sets out the UK Government's own response to the consultation and explains how the Government plans to proceed in light of the findings of the consultation.
WAG/ RoSPAPlaying towards a healthy life - The Welsh Government believes strongly in the importance of play in children’s lives and the benefits it gives to their health, happiness & well-being and is taking a global lead on legislating for play opportunities for children.

A consultation (closes on 25 June 2012) has begun on a Welsh measure that will place a duty on local authorities to ‘assess the provision of play and recreational opportunities for children in their areas’.  The consultation covers draft regulations and statutory guidance for play ‘sufficiency assessments’.
Press release ~ Consultation on statutory guidance on play opportunities ~ WAG: Children and young people ~ RoSPA: Safety Coalition urges MPs to confront concerns that stop kids getting out & about ~ Children's Play Information Service ~ Play England: Children’s play initiative ~ International Council for Children’s Play ~ Fair Play for Children ~ Charter for Children’s Play ~ Ofsted: Good practice resource - Improving outdoor play ~ Good practice resource - Making the most of the local natural environment to support all round development of young children ~ NICE: Letting children play ~ Promoting physical activity for children and young people (PH17) ~ Physical activity and the environment ~ Strategies to prevent unintentional injuries among under-15s (PH29) ~ Mind, Exercise, Nutrition... Do It! or MEND for short ~ Healthy and Active Lifestyles in Wales ~ Appetite for Life ~ Climbing Higher - creating an active Wales ~ Wales Active ~ 'Healthy Weight, Healthy Lives toolkit: A Toolkit for Developing Local Strategies' ~ NAO: Tackling Child Obesity - First Steps ~ NICE - Obesity: guidance on the prevention, identification, assessment and management of overweight and obesity in adults and children ~ Physical Activity and Nutrition Networks Wales ~ Play strategy (previous Government) ~ BIG: Children’s Play

CLGTravelling the road to fewer inequalities - Government commitments to tackle ingrained inequalities & promote fairness for Gypsy & Traveller communities were unveiled by Communities Minister, Andrew Stunell in a report published last week.

The progress report by the Ministerial working group on tackling inequalities experienced by Gypsies & Travellers contains 28 measures from across Government that will ‘improve outcomes for Gypsies and Travellers across education, health, accommodation, employment and in the criminal justice system’.
Press release ~ Progress report by the ministerial working group on tackling inequalities experienced by Gypsies and Travellers ~ Travellers ~ CLG:  An end to Bank Holiday weekend invasions? (4th Link) ~ WAG: Minister launches Gypsy and Traveller Framework ~ ScotGov: Gypsies / Travellers

Forthcoming eventFree Seminar on Asset & Waste Management in the Public Sector,  Manchester, 24th May 2012  - ** FREE Enrolment for Public Sector delegates - Limited availabilty
  • Is an empty printer cartridge an asset or waste?
  • Is a meeting room table an asset or waste?
If items are not correctly identified as assets they are, by virtue, deemed as waste. Assets are often classed as waste due to space and time constraints within organisations. So, in practical terms, the selling (of an asset) often ends up as a cost, as most organisations buy the services of a contractor for its assets disposals

The MoD’s Disposal Services Authority (DSA) is the expert in maximising returns for the sale of assets, whilst ensuring a compliant, secure and audited process.

The DSA is the only government organisation offering a completely managed service for the re-use, recycling and ultimate disposal of surplus Government and Public Sector assets.

What's on the Agenda?
This free seminar programme will include:
  • Identifying assets from waste
  • Compliance and Security
  • Audit
  • Sustainability through procurement
Click here to find out more and to register.

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

General News

MoD: A housing & training centre for Service leavers at risk of homelessness has been officially opened.   The Beacon is a new 31 unit housing, training & support centre based near Catterick Garrison, providing specialist support to single homeless veterans from around the country.
DfT: An extra 14 motorcycle helmet ratings from the Department for Transport's Safety Helmet Assessment and Rating Programme (SHARP) were published by Road Safety Minister, Mike Penning, last week.  The ratings take the total number of helmets rated by SHARP to 261.
FSA: The Food Standards Agency has launched the Play it Safe campaign, to raise awareness of food safety during the London 2012 Games. The Agency is working with food businesses & food safety enforcement officers to ensure all food sold, cooked and eaten during the Games is safe.
The first strand of the campaign focuses on the Food Safety Squad, the 10 environmental health officers acting as ambassadors for food safety. They represent the hundreds of environmental health officers around the country who are carrying out vital work to keep visitors to the Games safe & healthy.
FSAManning Impex has withdrawn jars of its Buenas brand Macapuno String Coconut Sport in Syrup, with a 'best before' end of August 2013. The product contains sulphur dioxide, which is not mentioned on the label.  If you have a sensitivity to sulphites, don't eat this product. The Food Standards Agency has issued an Allergy Alert.
FSACreme D’Or is withdrawing its Cafe Tasse Chocolat Fin Artisanal Noir 45g bar.  Traces of milk have been found in the product, which hasn't been declared in the allergy information on the label.  If you're allergic or intolerant to milk, you should not eat this product.  The Food Standards Agency has issued an Allergy Alert.
Press release & links
TUC: Families will have gained up to £381 by April 2013 as a result of the personal allowance threshold rising faster than inflation - but could have lost more than £4,000 from changes to working tax credits over the same period - the TUC said last week as it launched its new tax credit calculator for 2012.
The TCC allows working parents receiving tax credits to find out roughly how they are affected (compared to how they would have fared before the government's tax credit cuts) by inputting their household details, income level, number of children and childcare costs.
NA: The National Archives and Arts Council England have announced a new partnership that will benefit archives, museums, libraries and the people who use them.
Defra: Find out what the air quality is like in your region from Defra, whose sources also offer health advice based on current air pollution levels to the general public and those who may be particularly sensitive to air pollution.
ACE: An electronic content service for libraries to access resources to improve their purchasing power was announced last week. The Reference Online Framework Agreement, available until March 2014, will help public libraries in England provide users with an optimum range of online content at an economic price, streamlining the procurement process for both libraries and suppliers.
Through Reference Online, libraries can subscribe to a wide range of content, including general reference material, subject-based encyclopaedias, streamed music services, and - for the first time - family history materials.  It allows public libraries to buy this material at lower prices through group subscriptions.
DfT: Any cyclist, from enthusiasts, to families looking for a safe, pretty route linking city parks can benefit from the Department for Transport’s online cycling journey planner.  Part of the Transport Direct Portal, the planner now covers every road in England.  Cyclists tap in their planned start & end points and the tool calculates a route that suits.
Users can easily tweak the settings to meet their needs, filtering journeys to select the quickest, quietest or most recreational routes – those which take them through parks & green spaces. The planner can even plot routes avoiding steep hills.
NE: From the River Aln in Northumberland to the River Exe in Devon and the Eden to the Medway, farmers in 75 catchment areas of England can now apply for grants of up to £10,000 from the Catchment Sensitive Farming (CSF) Capital Grants Scheme.
Grants are available for carrying out practical works on the farm that will boost the health of England’s streams, rivers, meres & mosses by improving water quality & reducing pollution from agricultural activity
HCAStrong management Boards are vital if Registered Providers are to adapt to a changing operating environment & successfully meet future challenges, the new Regulator of Social Housing said recently. The Homes and Communities Agency took responsibility for the regulation of Social Housing Providers in England as of 1 April 2012, replacing the Tenant Services Authority with a new regulatory committee, which will preserve independence from the Agency’s investment activity.
The new Regulatory Framework details how governance, viability & value for money will be the focus of robust economic regulation designed to maintain lender confidence and protect taxpayers. 
BIS:  A new service which will transform careers advice by ‘combining highly-trained advisers with an interactive website, helping countless people to reach their potential’ has been launched. 

The National Careers Service will offer independent, impartial information & advice on learning and work. It will also give people access to a wide range of information about careers and the job market where they live.
DWP: 6months to go until Automatic Enrolment begins and new figures show that final salary pension scheme payouts will reach a record high & peak this year.
Unite: London bus workers have overwhelmingly voted to support an industrial action ballot over the failure of London's bus operators to agree an Olympic payment.  Unite, the union, is now preparing to formally ballot its members working for 15 London bus operators for strike action or industrial action short of a strike.
MoDTerritorial Army personnel keen to deploy on Op HERRICK must now pass through the intensive Afghan Tiger exercise, which comprises assessments on basic military drills and live firing.
NAMaritime birth, marriage & death records are being launched online for the first time at, in association with The National Archives.  These sit alongside the Titanic passenger lists and Merchant Navy seamen records, which are already available to view.

Policy Statements and Initiatives

DECC: The Government recently confirmed its intention to substantially increase the third party liabilities of operators in the event of a nuclear incident.   This follows a public consultation held last year on the UK’s proposals to implement changes made to an international treaty on nuclear third party liability – the Paris and Brussels Conventions, to which the UK and most of the other EU countries are signatories.
DECC: DECC is introducing a range of changes to the FITs scheme to come into effect on 1 April 2012 following a consultation at the end of last year.   The changes will help ensure that current tariff levels for solar PV are more closely matched to installation costs, and that solar PV is considered as part of a whole-house approach to saving energy & carbon.
Press release & links
BIS: The Better Regulation Delivery Office, a new streamlined independent body that will ensure the voice of business is heard in regulation policy, has been created within the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). BRDO has been formed from the Local Better Regulation Office, with expert staff continuing the operation of Primary Authority business engagement and developing practical tools for regulators.
WAG: First Minister, Carwyn Jones and Business Minister, Edwina Hart have both expressed their support for top level internet domain names for Wales - .wales and .cymru. A bid to use the distinctive Welsh domain names is due to be officially submitted to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) later this month.  It follows a decision last year by the body responsible for managing domain names on the internet to increase the number of Internet domain name endings.
WAG: Equalities Minister Jane Hutt has outlined ‘what the Welsh Government is doing to take forward equalities, tackle discrimination and to encourage cohesive communities in Wales’. Publishing the Welsh Government’s Equality Objectives and Strategic Equality Plan the Minister said that they had been developed to make a real difference to people’s lives.  
WAG: Some of Wales’ 22,000 empty private sector properties could soon be turned into new homes thanks to the Welsh Government’s £5m Houses to Homes’ Recyclable Loans Fund which opened for business recently.
The new Fund enables local authorities to offer interest free loans to landlords to renovate empty run-down residential properties and return them to use as homes for sale or rent. Loans will be repaid over a fixed period, making the money available for further loans to turn more empty houses into homes.
CLG: Over 180 potential bids have been sent in from councils who want to take up the Government's £250m offer to support better, more frequent, more environmentally friendly bin collections for residents, Communities and Local Government Secretary, Eric Pickles, revealed recently.
A number of bids are proposing to use the funding to invest in new infrastructure or technology to improve services or increase recycling.  Others focus on better services like tackling 'bin blight' by reducing bin numbers or tailoring collections for specific neighbourhoods.
MoD: The new Joint Forces Command (JFC) achieved its Initial Operating Capability on, 2 April 2012.  The launch of the Joint Forces Command is a major milestone in the MOD's Transforming Defence programme - the most significant programme of Defence reform for a generation.
No10: The Government has launched the re-invigorated Right to Buy, with a new discount of up to £75,000. Since 1980, 2m social homes have been bought by their occupants under the scheme, but numbers have gradually fallen – to fewer than 4,000 sales last year – as discounts have declined, making the scheme virtually meaningless in some parts of the country.
From April 2012 2m social tenants could benefit from a discount of up to £75,000 – more than quadrupling the discount cap in London and trebling it in most parts of the country.
ScotGov: Households in every local authority area in Scotland will be offered free insulation measures under the Universal Home Insulation Scheme (UHIS).  The scheme, administered by local authorities, offers a range of free home insulation measures including loft & cavity wall insulation.  These measures can help improve energy efficiency, keep heating bills down and reduce fuel poverty.
EST: A new telephone line will open shortly to give the public advice on how to save energy in their homes and businesses, run by the Energy Saving Trust (EST) with Careline Services.
As well as giving out advice on energy efficiency, it will provide information about existing government schemes like the Carbon Emissions Reduction Target (CERT), which requires energy suppliers to install free or subsidised insulation, and Warm Front, the government’s heating grant scheme.
DWP: The Minister for Employment Chris Grayling has urged employers to sign up to a new work experience charter published recently by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).  Highlighting the enormous benefits to young people, employers and society of good work experience, Minister called for more employers to get involved in offering work experience.
DCLGCommunities Minister Andrew Stunell has unveiled a package of measures to make energy information on properties easier to understand, which if followed could help customers save money on their fuel bills.

Press release & links


EU News:  The Commission has launched a public consultation (closes on 1 June 2012) to gather views on the 7th EU Environmental Action Programme (7th EAP), which will set out priority objectives to be pursued up until 2020

The results of the public consultation, together with the views of the Council of the European Union, the European Parliament, the Committee of the Regions and the European Economic and Social Committee, will inform the further development of the Commission's proposal for the 7th EAP, which it plans to present before the end of 2012.

Press release & links

EU News:  The European Commission has launched a public consultation (closes on 21 June 2012) on modernising EU rules governing insolvencies.  The existing rules (the Insolvency Regulation) date from 2000 and set out how bankruptcies – of companies or individuals – should be coordinated between several EU countries. 

The results of the consultation will help determine whether and how the existing Regulation needs to be revised in order to bolster businesses and strengthen the EU's Single Market.  It forms part of the EU's efforts to preserve jobs & to promote economic recovery, sustainable growth and a higher investment rate, as set out in the Europe 2020 strategy.

Press release & links

WAG:  The Minister with responsibility for Transport, Carl Sargeant, has launched a consultation (closes on 15 May 2012) to examine ways of improving the drink-drive rehabilitation scheme (DDRS) in .  Research carried out on behalf of the Department for Transport in 2004 revealed that offenders who attend the drink drive rehabilitation scheme are 2.6 times less likely to re-offend.  

Press release & links

ACE:  Creative & Cultural Skills, Arts Council England and NESTA have joined forces to commission new independent research into the influence of publicly funded theatre on commercial theatre, with a view to gaining a greater understanding of the role of public investment in the arts. 

The 10-minute anonymous online survey, which launched last week, will track the careers of people in the industry, and the talent that has emerged from it, in order to better understand the impact that public investment in the theatre sector makes.

The aim is to collect the views of a range of theatre professionals currently or previously working in the sector, as well as those who have aspired to do so, on how their careers have developed.  Findings from the research will be published in the summer of 2012.

Press release & links

CLG:  Housing Minister, Grant Shapps and Economic Secretary, Chloe Smith have published a consultation (closes on 27 June 2012) seeking views on how to encourage more private investment into the social housing sector through Real Estate Investment Trusts - vehicles for those wishing to invest in property.

Press release & links ~ Consultation on reforms to the real estate investment trust (REIT) regime ~ HM Treasury: Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) consultation as announced in Budget 2012 

OFT:  The OFT has today issued a Call for Evidence to understand whether the home insulation market is working well for consumers.  The OFT is interested in hearing from manufacturers, distributors, trade bodies, consumer groups and others, to understand whether there are aspects of this market which may be restricting the entry of new competitors, limiting consumer choice or keeping prices artificially high (closes 2 May 2012). 
Press release & links 

WAG:  A consultation (closes on 25 June 2012) has begun on a Welsh measure that will place a duty on local authorities to ‘assess the provision of play and recreational opportunities for children in their areas’.  The consultation covers draft regulations & statutory guidance for play ‘sufficiency assessments’ – See ‘In the News’ section for more information.

Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides

DUK: Every child & young person with diabetes in England can expect an improvement in their level of care from last Monday, as a landmark funding agreement for paediatric diabetes services comes in to force. Set by leading paediatric doctors, nurses & commissioners, and working in partnership with NHS Diabetes, the Best Practice Tariff for Paediatric Diabetes sets out 13 mandatory care standards for paediatric diabetes service teams to meet.
JRF: A new report published recently by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation shows how neighbourhoods are the key focus for the Coalition's Localism policies to devolve control over services, assets & decision-making to citizens, and to create a 'Big Society'. 
This report offers lessons for local authorities, neighbourhood practitioners and communities, drawing on direct experience from practitioners in Bradford, and many other places.
BHF: Someone who has had a cardiac arrest but who can’t be helped with a defibrillator is more likely to survive if given Hands-only CPR, researchers say. American guidelines for cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) changed several years ago and now recommend Hands-only CPR – which means uninterrupted & continuous chest compressions. 
It was shown that after the change in guidelines there were improved survival rates among cardiac arrest patients who could have their heart successfully shocked with a defibrillator. Now, new research from America shows Hands-only CPR can also increase survival rates for cardiac arrest victims who don’t initially respond to a defibrillator.
SE: New guidance has been issued to help sports clubs deal with the hosepipe ban, which came into force in many parts of the country last week.  Around 4 out of 10 outdoor sports pitches in England will be affected by the restrictions. With water crucial to maintaining the quality and safe performance of many outdoor surfaces, governing bodies of sports have come together with Sport England to develop the advice.

Annual Reports

Ofsted: An Ofsted report looking at art, craft & design education in schools & colleges has found that after getting off to a confident early start, pupils’ progress slowed during primary school and was no better than satisfactory at the start of secondary school.  

The report, Making a mark: art, craft and design 2008-2011, shows that weaknesses in the teaching of drawing have not been addressed since Ofsted’s last report.
CQC: The Care Quality Commission has published a further 18 reports from a targeted programme of 150 unannounced inspections of hospitals & care homes that care for people with learning disabilities.
RoSPA: There were 420 water-related deaths from accidents or natural causes across the UK in 2010, according to a report published recently by the National Water Safety Forum (NWSF).  The report reveals that, as in previous years, the highest number of fatalities (52%) happened in inland waters such as rivers, canals, lakes, lochs, reservoirs and ponds.
ScotGovNHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde is the first health board to come under scrutiny through a programme of inspections to look at care for older people in hospitals. Health Secretary, Nicola Sturgeon, established the inspection programme, which is being carried out by Healthcare Improvement Scotland, to ensure acute hospitals are providing high standards of care for older people. Every general hospital which cares for older people will be inspected, as part of the inspection schedule.
ScotGov: NHS staff were congratulated last week as Health Protection Scotland’s Point Prevalence Survey shows infections in Scotland's hospitals have reduced by a third since 2006. 
ScotGov: Updated statistics on planning performance in Scotland have been released by Scotland’s Chief Statistician.
Ofgem: Customers are seeing a steady improvement in their overall satisfaction with the complaints handling processes of the largest energy suppliers, but further action is required according to Ofgem’s annual customer complaints survey.

General Reports and Other Publications

TKF: Anna Dixon, Director of Policy at The King’s Fund, has commented on the publication of the Public Accounts Committee’s report on the performance of the Care Quality Commission, saying: ……. “The main responsibility for ensuring care standards are met lies with frontline staff and hospital boards.  We must be realistic about what the regulator can do – its role is to act as a backstop when they fail in this task.
The Commission had a troubled beginning, exacerbated by a lack of clarity about its role and a failure to provide the resources needed for it to meet the enormous and complex task it was given”.
MonitorMonitor has published an independent report to ‘inform the development of its policy on approving local modifications to the national tariff’. It is another part of the growing evidence base that Monitor will use to determine its approach as sector regulator.
PC&PE: The Foreign Affairs Committee's report considers the Government's efforts to cultivate Turkey as a ‘strategic partner’ for the UK and to support Turkey's accession to the European Union. 

It concludes that the Government is right to continue to support Turkey's accession to the European Union, as long as Ankara meets the accession criteria, and subject to the Government imposing restrictions on the right to free movement from Turkey after it joins.
However, at the moment, shortcomings in Turkey's justice system are leading to human rights abuses and making it harder to advocate Turkey's EU membership, the Committee said.  The Committee found that the current climate in Turkey is limiting freedom of expression and the media. 
IISS: The International Institute for Strategic Studies comment on the situation in the Falklands region, as Argentina adopts an increasingly assertive strategy of regional diplomacy & economic pressure.
OfstedA report published by Ofsted, called ‘Right on Time’, found that the most significant cause of delay for children needing adoption is the length of time it takes for cases to be completed in court. The average time taken to complete care proceedings in the cases inspectors examined was almost 14 months.
FSA: The recording of presentations from the Food Standards Agency’s contribution to the recent National Science and Engineering Week is now on our YouTube channel.   The event at The Royal Society, brought together a range of experts to describe the work currently taking place to evaluate potential risks to food safety & security.
HOFocusing on victims and changing the attitudes of police & partners is the key to tackling anti-social behaviour, according to a Home Office report published recently. The report, 'Focus on the victim: Summary report on the ASB call handling trials’, summarises the findings of 8 police forces which trialled new approaches to handling calls from the public.

Legislation / Legal

ScotGov: Changes introduced by the Scottish Government mean vulnerable species of sharks, skates & rays now have greater protection, over and above EU legislation. ScotGov is the first government in Europe to introduce legislation protecting such a wide range of species.

The Sharks Skates and Rays (Prohibition of Fishing) Order came into force recently and covers 26 species – including angel sharks, tope sharks, common skate and undulate rays.
BISEmployment tribunal changes came into effect last Friday that will make it easier for businesses to take on staff and improve the process when staff have to be let go. The Government has streamlined employment tribunals to cut unnecessary demands on employers, and encourage growth, while safeguarding workers’ rights.
PC&PE: The Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) calls for statutory clarification of law on disclosure of national security-sensitive material, but finds no case for more extensive change.
There is a case for the legal framework to be made clearer in the way in which it applies to national security-sensitive material and the Committee suggests how that could be done by legislation and changes to the Coroners Rules & guidance.
The Committee considers that proposals for reform which are intended to provide the US with a cast-iron guarantee that any intelligence they share can never be disclosed in a UK court cannot be justified.  Such an aim is incompatible with the Government's commitment to the rule of law.
WWF: Despite the upcoming introduction of legislation to halt the import of illegally sourced wood products, more than half of local authorities still don't have a legal & sustainable timber procurement policy and only 16 are implementing the policy effectively, a report by WWF-UK has found.

For the report - ‘Barking up the right tree?’ - WWF contacted all 433 UK authorities to find out their policies & actions on the environmentally responsible purchasing of timber & paper products.  

Based on their responses, a 5-tier system rated them from red to green.  In total, 336 red ratings were given to authorities that did not have a policy, did not know if they had a policy, or did not respond.
OFT: The OFT has referred the market for privately funded healthcare services in the UK to the Competition Commission for further investigation. This follows the OFT's provisional decision to make a market investigation reference when it published its private healthcare market study in December 2011. The OFT then undertook a public consultation on its findings which closed in January 2012.
OFT: The OFT has secured voluntary agreements from the major liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) suppliers to make changes to their domestic bulk customer contracts and improve transparency around switching & cancellation rights.

EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.

EU News: In today's globalised labour market EU workers often spend part of their careers working outside the EU. In the same way, non-EU nationals make up around 4% of Member States' workforces. Yet, despite effective social security coordination system within the EU, there is a fragmented approach to social security coordination as regards the rest of the world. 

This is why the Commission is putting forward fresh ideas to clarify the social security rights of people migrating into and out of the EU.  The aim is to ensure better protection of workers' rights, in particular acquired state pension rights.
EU News: The European Medicines Agency has published its updated policy on conflicts of interests of the scientific experts & committee members it uses in its work. The policy was endorsed by the Agency’s Management Board on 22 March 2012.
The updated policy gives clearer guidance on the involvement of experts in academic trials and publicly funded research. It aligns restrictions for the different roles in the scientific decision-making process and tightens the rules on grants from the pharmaceutical industry.
EU News: Each year, EU citizens & companies have to move some 3.5m vehicles to another Member State and need to get them registered according to the national legislation.  It takes on average 5 weeks to complete the procedure and the cost is estimated at €400 for citizen & for businesses.  

The proposal presented by Vice-President Antonio Tajani would lead to a very substantial administrative simplification with total savings of at least € 1.5bn per year for businesses, citizens and registration authorities.
EU News: Member States' tax provisions are to be scrutinised to ensure that they do not discriminate against cross-border workers, in a targeted initiative launched by the Commission recently.
EFSA: The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has published its second report on the Schmallenberg virus (SBV) which can lead to severe birth defects in domestic & wild ruminants, entitled: ‘Schmallenberg’ virus: analysis of the epidemiological data.
EU News: The Commission has launched a public consultation (closes on 1 June 2012) to gather views on the 7th EU Environmental Action Programme (7th EAP), which will set out priority objectives to be pursued up until 2020 – See ‘Consultations’ section for more information.
EU News: The European Commission has launched a public consultation (closes on 21 June 2012) on modernising EU rules governing insolvencies.  The existing rules (the Insolvency Regulation) date from 2000 and set out how bankruptcies – of companies or individuals – should be coordinated between several EU countries – See ‘Consultations’ section for more information.
PC&PE: The Treaty on Stability, Coordination & Governance is impossible to enforce, there are serious concerns over the rule of law and no concessions for UK, says the Commons European Scrutiny Committee in its recent report into the Treaty's impact on the eurozone and the rule of law – See ‘In the News’ section for more information.

Charity and Voluntary Sector

CSJ: The Centre for Social Justice has urged the Chancellor to rethink Government plans to cap tax relief on charitable donations in an open letter sent to the Treasury. With the backing of more than 70 effective poverty fighting charities, the CSJ argues that the proposed cap would reduce the funds given directly to frontline groups by the most generous Philanthropists.

In the letter to the Chancellor, Christian Guy, Director of Policy at the CSJ, wrote;   ……. “We know that 8% of donors give nearly half of all donations and with the limitations imposed by this cap, those donors will face either a higher tax bill, or the prospect of giving less to charity in order to maintain their current overall tax burden”.   …………….
BIG: Rural villages across the UK are being offered grants of up to £50,000 from Big Lottery Fund’s Village SOS scheme, which aims to inspire a rural revival across the UK and support rural communities.
DUK: Every child & young person with diabetes in England can expect an improvement in their level of care from last Monday, as a landmark funding agreement for paediatric diabetes services comes in to force. The Best Practice Tariff for Paediatric Diabetes sets out 13 mandatory care standards for paediatric diabetes service teams to meet – See ‘Guidance Notes & Best Practice Guides’ section for more information.
BHF: Someone who has had a cardiac arrest but who can’t be helped with a defibrillator is more likely to survive if given Hands-only CPR, researchers say. – See ‘Guidance Notes & Best Practice Guides’ section for more information.

Business and Other Briefings

WAG:  A new £75m Welsh Government scheme that will create 12,000 new job opportunities over the next 3 years was launched by the First Minister of Wales Carwyn Jones, last week.  Jobs Growth Wales will create new job opportunities for unemployed young people, aged 16-24, for a 6-month period and provide business with the chance to expand and make those posts permanent.
Press release & links

OFT:  A searchable register of the businesses supervised by the OFT under the Money Laundering Regulations 2007 has been made public for the first time recently. 

Under the Regulations, estate agents and some businesses engaging in consumer credit lending are supervised by the OFT to reduce the risk of them being used for money laundering or terrorist financing purposes.  These businesses need to register with the OFT. 
Press release & links

ScotGov:  Scottish companies are being reminded that they can spread the cost of the inflationary increase in business rates through the Scottish Government’s rate deferral scheme for 2012-13.  The scheme gives companies the flexibility to defer the uplift in their 2012-13 business rates bills over 3 years.

Press release & links

Industry News

Dstl:  As part of its quest to find the very best armour solutions for UK forces, Dstl’s Armour & Protection Science and Technology Centre (A&P STC) is providing access to test facilities for SMEs who have developed armour materials or systems, but who are having difficulties in putting them through their paces.

Dstl Scientists are used to testing armour materials & systems in rigorously controlled ways as part of the development & acceptance of armour for armed forces.  Dstl uses weapons & explosives that are not generally available and must be carried out safely & in well characterised conditions.  It is also not cheap, but the cost to SMEs is just the cost of supplying the material or system.

Press release & links

GeoPlace:  GeoPlace has developed an INSPIRE compliant view service to publish data from the National Street Gazetteer (NSG) as part of the INSPIRE Transport theme. Through this publishing service local authorities will meet the INSPIRE publishing requirements for the transport theme.

Press release & links

DECC:  The Government has recently launched its eagerly awaited £20m Marine Energy Array Demonstrator scheme (MEAD), which will support up to 2 pre-commercial projects to demonstrate the operation of wave and/or tidal devices in array formation over a period of time.   Generating energy from the power of waves or tides could provide up to 20% of current electricity demand.

Organisations can apply to the MEAD scheme online via the DECC website. The closing date for applications is 12 noon on 1 June 2012.  DECC will host an event on 2 May 2012 for anyone interested in applying and would encourage anyone planning to submit a bid to attend to learn more about the requirements of the scheme.  Projects must be up & running by the end of March 2016.

Press release & links

ScotGov:  Dutch renewables company 2-B Energy has joined forces with Scottish Enterprise to deliver cutting-edge offshore wind technology with the potential to reduce costs by up to 45%.  The organisations will work together to support commercialisation of 2-B’s unique two-bladed offshore turbine concept through development of offshore test & demonstration facilities in Scotland – potentially by the end of 2014.

The 2-B concept bucks the trend toward the more conventional three-bladed horizontal axis onshore wind technology currently being deployed offshore and its design significantly reduces the number of components required throughout the lifetime of the turbine, which should result in significantly lower operation & maintenance costs.

Press release & links

Forthcoming Event

HL:  Round 2 of the Homelessness Transition Fund opened last week, with 2 grants programmes available to applicants:

* Main Grants for frontline services rolling out No Second Night Out and other initiatives (deadline for applications is 14 May 2012)

* Small Grants for organisational development (ongoing programme with no fixed closing date)

The Homelessness Transition Fund website has been updated with full details on how to apply - and 2 FREE Webinars (Wednesday 11 April at 3pm & Monday 30 April) will share detailed guidance and give applicants the opportunity to ask questions:

Press release & links

NA:  The National Archives are now just over halfway through the process of working together with archives & stakeholders across the to co-create the new Archives Accreditation standard  Time is moving on, but you can still influence the standard and the evidence required to meet it.  New discussions are launched each Monday, and the process is open to everyone working in or with archives. 

Press release & links

 Socitm:  A combination of data analysis, information technology & sharing with other local public services is delivering sustainable business change for Scarborough Borough Council, its chief executive Jim Dillon will tell delegates at the Socitm Spring conference on 25 April 2012.

The council is 1 of 7 shire districts to have joined up with North Yorkshire County Council, York City Council, the North Yorkshire Police and a national park authority in the North Yorkshire Connect Partnership formed 3 years ago.  A partnership with Northgate is ‘exploiting technology to bring efficiencies and enhanced customer experience through a comprehensive programme of business process and service re-design’.

Press release & links

GPS:  Disposal Services Authority seminar - Asset & Waste Management (24 May 2012) - Venue: Novotel, City Centre, Manchester .  FREE enrolment to Public Sector delegates only – very limited capacity.

The programme will include:

* Identifying assets from waste

* Compliance & Security

* Audit

* Sustainability through procurement 

Press release ~ DSA Connect

BIS:  Join experts from the Intellectual Property Office and Companies House, who will help you understand Intellectual Property and your responsibilities as a first time director.  Get It Right – First Time; Next event Harrogate - 1 May 2012.

The IPO has also published: ‘From ideas to growth: Helping SMEs get value from their intellectual property’, which sets out the IPO’s plans for improving access to the knowledge, know-how and support that will help SMEs maximise the value of their intellectual property assets, and develop strategies to manage them effectively.

Press release & links

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