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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

OfstedTry before you train gives best results - A best practice report on apprenticeships for young people by Ofsted has found that ‘those who had completed work experience, course tasters or vocational study were more likely to make good progress in their apprenticeship than those starting straight from school without it’

Work experience in the area that interested the young person was seen as a positive force in equipping young people with an appropriate work ethic & basic employment skills.

Despite the benefits of work experience, the employers in the survey said that the number of students they could accommodate on placements was restricted.  This was because too many local schools tended to ask for placements during the same short period at the end of the academic year.

The best practice report also found that good relationships between employers & trainers were crucially important in capturing evidence of apprentices’ skills.  As seen in this report, it is important for employers & teachers to work together and understand how the apprenticeship is delivered so learners can show evidence and be readily assessed on both their practical & theoretical skills.
Press release ~ Ofsted: Apprenticeships for young people ~ Directgov: Work experience in Years 10 and 11 ~ DfE: Related documents (scroll down) ~ Apprenticeship Success Rates ~ Good practice resource - Employer-designed and delivered apprenticeship training: Finning (UK) Ltd ~ Good practice resource – Building productive and successful links with employers ~ National Apprenticeship Week 2012 – celebrating success ~ Learning from the best: examples of best practice from providers of apprenticeships in underperforming vocational areas ~ The impact of programme-led apprenticeships ~ Ofsted and the Armed Forces ~ Good practice resource - Using a life coach to support apprentices: Inter Training Services ~ Companies and learners gain real benefits from work-related training ~ Equipping people with the skills for work - Ofsted highlights the ingredients of work-based learning success ~ Ofsted - Raising expectations for adult learners ~ ~ New minimum 12 month duration for all apprenticeships ~ New route into workforce for young Scots ~ Prime Minister: We’ll make apprenticeships a gold standard option for ambitious young people ~ NAO: Adult Apprenticeships ~ Directgov: Apprenticeships ~ BIS comment ~ SFA comment ~ CIPD: Apprenticeships that Work ~ Higher Apprenticeship Fund 

DefraCommon sense prevails at last after celebrity chef cooks up high profile campaign - Fishermen have radically cut the amount of fish they discard following the success of the Government’s ‘Catch Quota’ trials.

Last year’s CQ trial was introduced to reduce discards of North Sea cod & for sole in the Western Channel and results show that those participating in the trail have been successful in reducing discards of both stocks to just 0.2%In 2010, the average discard rates were 38% for North Sea cod trawlers and 28% for Western Channel sole beam trawlers.

The UK is testing Catch Quota management which counts what is caught rather than what is landed at port.   It is a key tool in reducing the wasteful practice of discards while maintaining a profitable fishing industry. Participating fishermen have also drastically reduced discards of undersized fish of all species.
CLGStriving for high standards in local public life without petty & vexatious complaints - The Standards Board Regime has now been abolished for good - freeing up councils to put in place locally drawn up codes of conduct for their elected members.  Ministers hope these new codes will ‘enable local authorities to ensure the highest standards of conduct are maintained, while avoiding them becoming a vehicle for malicious complaints that dragged down the reputation of local government in recent years’.

Recently Mr Neill published an illustrative text that councils can, if they choose, use as a basis for their new local code of conduct.  He has also written to council leaders to remind them of this new opportunity to raise the bar on local standards.

To ensure that corruption in local life is prevented, the Government is bringing in new legislation that makes serious misconduct for personal gain a criminal offence, dealt with by the courts.  Councillors will also have to register certain personal interests on a publicly available register.
DCMSScheme sees interns graduate to permanent jobs - 90% of the arts graduates on a scheme giving them paid placements have secured jobs in the cultural & creative industries.  The DCMS Jerwood Creative Bursaries Scheme was launched in 2010 to kick start the careers of talented new graduates who could not afford to take unpaid internships – a common entry point to jobs in the arts.

At a reception celebrating the scheme’s success as the pilot phase draws to a close, it was revealed 38 out of the 42 recipients have already found new positions, with many being offered permanent roles with the organisations that had hosted them for the bursary scheme.

New work placements were created with a cross-section of the best cultural institutions across England, from Tate St Ives in Cornwall to the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic and from The Sage Gateshead to Brighton Dome & Festival.  Each placement was a new role designed by the host organisation, a quarter of which have now become embedded as permanent roles.
Press release & links ~ Internships in the arts - a guide for arts organisations ~ Students from under-represented backgrounds continue to benefit from Whitehall internships ~ National minimum wage - work experience - internships - and the NMW ~ NMW - work experience & NMW - examples ~ TUC comment ~ Common Best Practice Code for High-Quality Internships ~ Internships that work: A guide for employers ~ CIPD:  Forget the political opportunism, some organisations are trying to help NEETs (3rd item) ~ HEFCE: Internship schemes boost students' job prospects ~ ippr: Why Interns Need a Fair Wage ~ ippr: Britain’s elites must learn how the other half lives (click on ‘Read on’) ~ Unpaid internships that cripple social mobility ~ Graduate Talent Pool ~ Using unpaid interns is wrong – there must be a better way ~ Cash for internships: Tory backers pay party £2,000 a time to buy their children work experience at top City banks and hedge funds ~ Demos comment

ICO‘Publish & be Dammed’ can have unfortunate consequences for innocent individualsInformation Commissioner’s Office statement on Operation Motorman ‘leak’: “We strongly condemn the irresponsible publication of material from the Motorman files.  Putting these into the public domain in this way is a serious violation of many people’s privacy and raises more questions than it answers.

People who are concerned that their personal data may have been included in the Motorman files are able to contact the ICO via our website to make a ‘fast-tracked’ Subject Access Request (SAR) under the Data Protection Act (DPA). ……………… The ICO will now consider what further steps it should take in the face of this apparent breach of the DPA.”
DWPAn end to ‘More than my jobs worth’ H&S tyranny - A new myth busting challenge panel has been launched to ‘curb the worst examples health & safety misuse’.  The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) will run the panel, which will provide quick advice to people who are subject to ridiculous or disproportionate health & safety decisions.

It will separate legitimate decisions to protect people from real risks from those not required in H&S law.  This will allow decisions by insurance companies, local authorities & employers among others to be contested. HSE has also published its top 10 worst H&S myths – exactly the sort of decisions the panel would challenge.

A separate Independent Regulatory Challenge Panel was launched in January 2012 to look into complaints regarding advice given by HSE or LA inspectors about H&S, which a complainant believes is incorrect or goes beyond what is required to control the risk adequately.
Socitm:  Leaders required for Transformation Change in the Public Sector - Socitm are extending the application deadline of their new ‘Top Talent’ leadership initiative until 25 April 2012.

On the same day, the SOCITM Spring Conference 2012 promises to be an invaluable networking opportunity attended by senior business leaders and colleagues from the public and third sectors.

The theme of the conference is Transforming Local Services: The Power of ICT. Plenaries and round table discussions will focus around key ICT topics emanating from both Socitm Insight's IT Trends 2012 report and Planting the Flag: a strategy for ICT-enabled local public services reform, which Socitm is developing on behalf of the Local CIO Council with the support of the Government CIO and the Cabinet Office.
EHDo you know a Heritage Angel? - The search is on to find winners for this year's English Heritage Angel Awards. The annual competition was founded last year by Andrew Lloyd Webber to reward the efforts of local people in saving their heritage. The deadline for applications is Friday 15 June 2012 - (To see BBC 2's Culture Show films of last year's shortlist & award winners visit the multimedia library).

Latest Whitepaper Protecting Your Organisation Against the Bribery Act - A former Ministry of Defence (MoD) purchaser has recently admitted accepting payments worth £66,500 to favour a supplier bidding for CCTV contracts.

The Bribery Act 2010 (the ‘Act’) came into force on 1 July 2011. It introduces changes in the law which could impact upon the conduct of public sector organisations by creating a new strict liability offence: failing to prevent bribery. An organisation will only have a defence to this offence if it can show that it had ‘adequate procedures’ in place to prevent it. It is therefore essential that organisations put in place an anti-bribery policy to minimise the risk of committing an offence under the Act.

Against this backdrop it’s not surprising to learn that public bodies are increasingly turning to eSourcing and Contract Management Solutions, enabling full audit and visibility of the procurement process at all levels of spend and budgetary responsibility, whilst significantly reducing the exposure allegations relating to bribery in the future.

Click here to receive the free paper ‘What can you do to protect against the impact of the Bribery Act' along with the latest guide to public sector e-Sourcing.

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

General News

AC: The Audit Commission has announced the reduced scale audit fees it will charge individual councils, health & other public bodies for 5 years from 2012/13.   Nearly 800 of the larger local public bodies in the Commission's regime will save a total of £250m over the 5 years, for most a 40% cut on current rates.
WAG: 80 local radio stations across Wales are to receive a share of £100,000 from the Welsh Government to help them continue to play a valuable role in their communities. Community radio stations are small-scale, not-for-profit stations operated for the good of members of the public, or of particular communities, and in order to deliver social gain.
DfT: More than 300,000 school children will learn to cycle safely, competently & confidently on the road over the next year, thanks to nearly £11m worth of government funding allocated last week  A further £24m will be allocated by the Department for Transport over the following 2 years. This includes an extra £2m to support expansion of the scheme on top of money originally earmarked for Bikeability.
MoD: Troops from the British Army's rapid reaction force have taken part in an aviation skills master class.  The training was about honing key skills required for the Airborne Task Force (ABTF), which sees the Brigade maintain a force ready to deploy anywhere in the world at short notice to do anything from disaster relief to war fighting.
Press release & links
PCS: Members of the PCS union are being called on to ‘lobby their MPs in a last ditch bid to defend legal aid’. During its passage through the House of Lords, The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill was heavily amended, so that disabled, vulnerable, victims of domestic violence and brain damaged children will be protected from the worst of the legal aid cuts. But the amendments could be undone when the bill goes back to the House of Commons on 17 April 2012..
MoD: The Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme gives politicians a taste of military life. It is intended to help ensure that, when Parliament is moulding the armed forces future, those expressing their views at least know what they are talking about.
OCUK: Last week, Online Centres UK launched a new network offer to ‘cement all the great benefits that you can access by being a UK online centres partner’.
ScotGov: The Saltire scholarship scheme – which offers international students a £2,000 fee waiver – is being extended to cover a wider range of qualifications & courses. With 600 students from India, China, the USA & Canada already having benefited from the scheme, the Scottish Government has decided to open applications across undergraduate, Masters and PhD courses.
ECC: The Government has welcomed the release of more environmental data by TOTAL relating to the ongoing gas release at the Elgin wellhead platform. Aerial surveillance flights indicate that the sheen is dispersing naturally, and the analyses confirm that the sheen consists of a lightly weathered condensate that is expected to have a minimal environmental impact as it will evaporate & be dispersed in the water column within a fairly short period of time.
UNICEF: As malnutrition reaches emergency levels across the Sahel region of West Africa with at least 1m children at risk, UNICEF’s Executive Director Anthony Lake has called for an urgent escalation of humanitarian efforts to stop the crisis and the cycle of disasters.
TfLTransport for London (TfL) will begin installing the new tensioning cables inside the Hammersmith Flyover this week, as part of its ongoing work to fully reopen the structure to all traffic. The new cables are surrounded by wax oil to prevent deterioration and allow inspection & replacement if required in the future.

Policy Statements and Initiatives

BIS: A pilot scheme that will give local people a real say in decisions about their local adult learning courses and bring better value for money for taxpayers has been announced.  The Government is planning to select between 10 & 15 Community Learning Trust Pilots, which will begin work in August 2012.  Interested organisations have just over 6 weeks to develop & submit their applications.
Organisations such as adult education services & FE colleges that are funded from the Skills Funding Agency’s £210m annual Community Learning budget are invited to prepare their applications in collaboration with local community organisations, businesses and services. NIACE (the National Institute of Adult Continuing Learning) will support the pilot trusts.
ScotGov100 Dementia Champions have started work across Scotland to help drive up standards of care for people with dementia. Alzheimer Scotland Dementia Specialist Nurses are also being appointed in every health board across the country.
In addition, Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon has made a personal commitment for 2013 to introduce a new national post-diagnostic support target to ensure people with dementia receive the help they need following diagnosis.
BIS: New proposals to make the Citizens Advice service a champion for consumer information across a range of sectors and a new National Trading Standards Board were announced last week by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.
Consumers need to know who to go to when they have a problem which is why Citizens Advice and Citizens Advice Scotland will take on responsibilities & resources from the Office for Fair Trading (OFT) and Consumer Focus.  The process has already started, and a new advice line succeeding Consumer Direct was launched by the Citizens Advice service on 2 April 2012.
DFID: The UK Government will fund a range of innovative projects to save more lives in emergencies such as earthquakes, floods & famines. Smart phone 'apps', super buckets and satellite technology could soon be helping people survive major disasters as part of a British Government scheme that will champion breakthroughs in innovation & science over the next 3 years.
CLG: The new 2012-2013 list of the information councils are expected to report to central government, published last week, shows a reduction in demands from 193 data collections last year to 156 this year.
ScotGov: The Chief Secretary to the Treasury has confirmed that the UK Government intends to legislate for an automatic link between normal pension age and state pension age, and also set the normal pension age for police officers and firefighters at 60. The moves cut across negotiations already happening in Scotland between Scottish Ministers and employer groups & trades unions on police, fire, local government, NHS and teachers pensions schemes.
WAG: A pilot fund providing digitalmedia companies in Wales with grant aid to develop newcreative products and applications is to be increased & extended. The fund will now run until the end of March 2013 and an additional £1.5m has been allocated, bringing the total funding to £2m.
OCUKAs of 1 April 2012, Online Centre UK’s two new specialist networks are now live and are already working in their communities to help get people online. These networks will provide specialist help & support to two groups;
* People who are unemployed
* Those who have a disability, learning difficulties or health problems


CC: The Competition Commission (CC) is to investigate the completed acquisition by DCC Energy UK Limited.  The CC is expected to publish its final report by 18 September 2012. The CC would like to hear from all interested parties, in writing, by no later than 18 May 2012.
EU News: The ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) is a future in which everyday objects such as phones, cars, household appliances, clothes and even food are wirelessly connected to the Internet through smart chips, and can collect & share data.
The European Commission wants to know what framework is needed to unleash the potential economic & societal benefits of the IoT, whilst ensuring an adequate level of control of the devices gathering, processing & storing information (which includes users' behavioural patterns, location & preferences).

The Commission wants to ensure that the rights of individuals are respected and is launching a public consultation inviting comments by 12 July 2012. .

Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides

HMRCHM Revenue & Customs has made its online tax-help presentations, or webinars, available round the clock.   Previously, customers had to register to watch the live webinars at set times & dates.  The webinars cover many different topics, including:
* Business expenses and capital allowances
* First steps as an employer
* The Construction Industry Scheme
* Limited companies, an overview
* How VAT works
FSA: The Food Standards Agency has developed guidance on edible & non-toxic glitters & dusts. The Agency is aware that non-edible cake decorating materials, described as dusts or glitters, are being marketed in ways that could be misleading.  These include products only labelled as ‘non-toxic’, without stating they are not to be consumed.
EA: The Environment Agency has warned recently that drought conditions can increase the risk of flash flooding - Dry, compacted soils mean that water is less easily absorbed into the ground. The warning comes on the day that the world’s first social media flood warning application has been launched on Facebook.

‘FloodAlerts’ is a free to use application, which uses live flood warning data from the EA and allows Facebook users to receive messages on their wall when a Flood Alert, Warning or Severe Flood Warning has been issued for river and coastal flooding in their location.
PCS: A number of important employment law changes came into effect at the start of April 2012, including an increase in the qualifying period for unfair dismissal for new starters and costs awards to businesses in so-called vexatious tribunal claims.   Find out more in Thompsons solicitors latest employment law bulletin.
DfT: Local authorities across England have been given advice on how to tackle the problem of potholes on their roads following the publication of the ‘Pothole Review’ by the Department for Transport.
ScotGov: Housing Minister. Keith Brown recently underlined the need for good quality temporary accommodation for homeless families. Recent statistics show a marked reduction in the numbers of children in temporary accommodation, down by 18% in 2011 to 5,259.
Homelessness charity, Shelter Scotland and the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) have published guidance on standards in temporary accommodation.
HPAAhead of the petting farm season, the Health Protection Agency is reminding people, especially those with responsibility for young children, to enjoy their farm visits safely by ensuring good hand hygiene after touching farm animals or their surroundings.
EU NewsSoil sealing – the covering of the ground by an impermeable material – is one of the main causes of soil degradation in the EU. New guidelines on best practice to limit, mitigate & compensate soil sealing made public by the European Commission last week collect examples of policies, legislation, funding schemes, local planning tools, information campaigns and many other best practices implemented throughout the EU.

The guidelines call for smarter spatial planning and using more permeable materials to preserve our soil.

Annual Reports

PC&PE: In the Home Affairs Committee's third report of the year into the Work of the UK Border Agency, it criticises the 'Agency' for failing to deport more than 600 Foreign National Prisoners who were released between 1999 & 2006 are still in the country and for failing to clear the ever increasing ‘controlled archive’.  At the current rate it will take a further 4 years to close all cases. 
MoJ: Harmondsworth had ‘managed to maintain standards despite doubling in size, but significant improvements were still needed in some areas’, said Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons, publishing the report of an unannounced inspection of the removal centre near Heathrow.
MOMet Office research suggests industrial air pollution is largely responsible for changes in the temperature of the Atlantic Ocean which are linked to drought, flooding and hurricane activity. 
WAG: The latest report published by the Welsh Government on local authority municipal waste management shows that for the second successive quarter people have recycled 49% of their waste.

General Reports and Other Publications

NOTorbay Council has refused to pay the full compensation recommended by the Local Government Ombudsman to a man it had made bankrupt without having proper regard to his mental health

Ombudsman Dr Jane Martin found that the Council’s failure caused serious injustice, as it led to the debtor incurring costs of £24,000, and so she recommended the Council to pay £25,000 compensation: the Council has offered to pay £1,000.
In response, the Ombudsman has taken the unusual step of issuing a second report, calling on the Council to reconsider its position and remedy the injustice by paying the man the full £25,000.
ACEArts Council England and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport have published a report in to the A Night Less Ordinary scheme which ran from February 2009 until March 2011.
A Night Less Ordinary was a pilot scheme to test whether theatre attendance by under-26s could be increased if price was removed as a barrier by offering free theatre tickets to children and young people at more than 200 participating venues throughout England.
FDA: In its two reports published last week, ARC (the Association of Revenue and Customs) has questioned the Government's commitment to tackle tax avoidance by big business and the wealthy. 

The 2 papers respond to the Government's proposal for an anti-avoidance rule, and a recent Public Accounts Committee report on HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).
NIESRThe National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) has published research into employer & employee experiences of the ‘Fit Note’ which replaced the ‘Sick Note’ in April 2010.
It concludes that the fit note can improve practice in enabling employees to return to work, through adjustments, such as amended duties or temporarily reduced hours. However, the fit note frequently lacks information from GPs to enable employers to make adjustments and these are not always implemented effectively.
CeBR: As the amount of data continues to grow exponentially, compounded by the internet, social media, cloud computing & mobile devices, it poses both a challenge and an opportunity for organisations – how to manage, analyse & make use of the ever-increasing amount of data being generated.
In the Centre for Economics and Business Research’s study, they investigate how organisations can unlock the economic value of big data through the adoption of big data analytics.  

By using big data analytics solutions, and specifically high-performance analytics, businesses & governments can analyse huge amounts of data in seconds & minutes to reveal previously unseen patterns, sentiments and customer intelligence.
RUSIAfrica represents a potential new front for counter-terrorism in Britain and the linkages already evident across the continent suggest the development of some disturbing new trends, highlights a new report by the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI).
Global Jihad Sustained Through Africa outlines that since the central leadership of Al-Qa'ida is weakened & challenged, the terrorist movement is looking to partnerships in Saharan and Sub-Saharan Africa to re-group & re-energise.
IEANot enough is being done to reduce the extraordinarily high cost of housing in Britain. This is the finding of a new report released recently by the Institute of Economic Affairs - Abundance of land, shortage of housingIn the USA, Germany & Switzerland, real-terms house prices are still close to their 1975 levels. 
IPCC: The Independent Police Complaints Commission found that “professional boundaries became blurred, imprudent decisions taken and poor judgement shown” by senior police personnel following completion of two investigations into allegations linked to the relationship between the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) and a former senior executive at the News of the World newspaper.

Legislation / Legal

LC: The Law Commission has published a report recommending the repeal of more than 800 old laws that are cluttering up the statute book.
MoJ: The new virtual court at Hatfield Remand Court allows a defendant, charged in Watford’s police station, to have their first hearing held over secure video link from the Magistrates’ court, often within hours of being charged.  

Virtual courts are designed to avoid delays for victims & witnesses and to ensure crimes are dealt with more quickly & effectively. The same equipment is used for police officers providing evidence at court from the police station.
DCLG: Parish Councils across England, including Bideford Town Council, have been handed a new power to continue to hold prayers as part of their formal business. In February 2012, the High Court ruled against Bideford Town Council, maintaining that it was illegal for councils to continue with the long-standing practice of holding prayers at the beginning of their meetings.
LGA: The Local Government Association (LGA) has called on the Government to ensure that its proposed new Late Night Levy for clubs & bars adequately compensates councils for keeping nightlife hotspots clean & safe.  Under the Home Office proposals, councils & police will be able to charge venues for the cost of protecting their customers and cleaning up after them. 

Government is proposing that 70% of the fee would go to the police.  Councils are warning that this ignores their role in maintaining visible street patrols, cleaning up streets, and working with businesses to protect customer and would leave them unable to invest in new schemes & improvements to high streets.  The LGA is calling for police & councils to be able to decide locally how to spend & share the money. 

EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.

ScotGov: Fears that farmers will be unable to farm sloping land are entirely unfounded, Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead said last week. Recent media coverage surrounding the use of fertiliser has fuelled concerns that farmers will be unable to use fertiliser on sloping ground, effectively rendering it useless.
However, Mr Lochhead stressed this was not the case.  The proposed amendments to the general binding rules of the Water Environment (Controlled Activities) (Scotland) Regulations 2011 will simply bring these rules into line with current CAP cross compliance regulations which came into effect on 1 January 2012.  The impact on farmers is expected to be minimal.
EU News: EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht and Deputy Assistant to the President of the United States Michael Froman have ‘agreed on an ambitious set of investment principles and openly invite other countries to follow suit’.   In the framework of the Transatlantic Economic Council (TEC), the EU & the US have developed a blueprint for creating & maintaining stable, predictable & transparent investment regimes.
The principles cover the elements which the EU & the US believe are necessary to attract long-term sustainable investment. The EU & US have implemented these principles in their own respective investment regimes and call on other countries to consider them with a view to strengthening international investment markets.
EU News: Without effective rules to combat money laundering & terrorist financing, the soundness, integrity & stability of the financial system could be seriously compromised. The threats associated with money laundering & terrorist financing are constantly evolving, which requires periodic revision of the legal framework.
In light of the recent adoption of revised international standards and of the Commission's own review process, a report on the application of the Third Anti-Money Laundering Directive was adopted by the Commission last week.
EU News: The EU institutions employ nearly 40,000 people widely representing the EU.  EPSO, which administers the centralized recruitment procedure have now launched this year’s online test for generalists.
EU News: New guidelines on best practice to limit, mitigate & compensate soil sealing made public by the European Commission call for smarter spatial planning and using more permeable materials to preserve our soil – See ‘Guidance Notes & Best Practice Guides’ for more information.
EU News: The European Commission wants to know what framework is needed to unleash the potential economic & societal benefits of the ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT), whilst ensuring an adequate level of control of the devices gathering, processing and storing information. The EC wants to ensure that the rights of individuals are respected (consultation closes on 12 July 2012) – See ‘Consultations’ section for more information.

Charity and Voluntary Sector

BIG: Ronald Quested considers himself lucky. He survived, when more than 30,000 Merchant Navy seamen were killed during the Second World War. Ronald wants their sacrifice to never be forgotten.
He, along with 2 other Merchant Navy veterans & 2 war widows, is making a visit to Malta to mark the 70th anniversary of the Maltese people being awarded collectively the George Cross for their bravery in withstanding an intensive bombing campaign on the island.  The £8,150 cost of the visit is being funded by the Big Lottery Fund’s Heroes Return 2 programme, which now no fixed deadline for applications.
BIG: Fixing it for young people across the UK is the Big Lottery Fund (BIG) which recently awarded £7,197,907 to Public Service Broadcasting Trust (PSBT) for Fixers.   

‘Fixers’ is an award winning social action campaign encouraging young people between the ages of 16 & 25 to change things for the better. Young people can choose & develop campaigns that will be useful to the community and help other people.
BIGEnterprising communities in rural Scotland are being offered grants of up to £50,000 from the Big Lottery Fund to start up community business ventures that will breathe new life into their areas. The news comes as 10 Scottish communities are sharing the first grants from BIG’s Village SOS funding competition.
SESport England has launched ‘Ping! the Public’ - a new initiative to boost recreational table tennis.  £250k of National Lottery funding has been set aside to pay for public ping pong tables. From village halls to city councils and the Woman’s Institute to after-school clubs, non-profit organisations can apply for their own table.
DCLG: Eric Pickles has called on local bands to take part in 'Bandstand Marathon - Communities in Tune', a nationwide music day which aims to encourage 500 areas across the country to come together & celebrate the final day of the Paralympic Games on 9 September 2012 through a range of free live performances.

Business and Other Briefings

ScotGov:  Finance Secretary John Swinney outlined the range of new business incentives that are available to encourage private investment in ’s 4 new Enterprise Areas, during a visit to the Port of Dundee week.  Incentives & actions to stimulate investment include:

* Business rate discounts worth up to £275,000 per business or enhanced capital allowances 
* New streamlined planning protocols across all sites 
* Skills & training support 
* an international marketing campaign to promote the sites 
Press release & links

HMRC:  Real Time Information (RTI) moved a step closer last week when the pilot was launched, with the first of 10 volunteer employers submitting their RTI return.  RTI will make it easier for employers, pension providers and HM Revenue & Customs to administer PAYE.  Under RTI, employers & pension providers will tell HMRC about PAYE payments at the time they are made – as opposed to only at the end of the year.  

Most employers will join RTI from April 2013 and all employers will be using the RTI service by October 2013.  Two free webinars are available:

* Real Time Information – an overview

* Accurate Employee Information Matters – it can save time and money

Press release & links

HMRC:  With the 2011/12 tax year now ended, employers across the country are being reminded to send in their annual returns on time, or face a penalty.  Employer Annual Returns, which provide information on employees’ tax & national insurance deductions during the tax year, must be sent online to HM Revenue & Customs by the 19 May 2012 deadline.

If you file your return late, you’ll be charged a penalty of £100 per 50 employees for each month, or part month, that your return is outstanding.  Employers who are not registered for online filing need to sign up now for HMRC’s PAYE Online service. To help you get your return right first time, HMRC has published a list of common errors to avoid on its website.

Press release & links

CLG:  The next generation of Enterprise Zones are now 'operational sites' with 'live deals' immediately available for aspiring new businesses.  Every Enterprise Zone can now offer simplified planning rules, super-fast broadband and immediate tax breaks to businesses as soon as they move onto the site. The discount provides up to 100% relief to new businesses for 5 years.  Government is meeting the costs. 

Press release & links

CIPD:  News that the Government is to freeze rather than reduce the current annual limit for non-EU workers for the next 2 years and lower a key salary requirement will help employers recruit key skilled workers and increase the chances of export-led growth. 
Press release & links 

HSE:  A change to the rules on reporting workplace injuries will save British firms thousands of hours completing official paperwork.  From 6 April 2012, employers no longer have to report injuries which keep workers off normal duties for 7 or fewer days.  Employers have also been given a longer period in which to report, increasing from 10 to15 days from the time of the incident. 
Press release & links 

Industry News

ACE:  In a bid to vastly expand its Art Project, search engine giant Google has signed new partnerships with 151 organisation in 40 different nations.  The organisation said it also intends to expand the scope of the artistic formats the scheme covers, with street art, photography & sculpture now included along with paintings, and instantly viewable through simple online navigation.

Dulwich Picture Gallery, the Royal Collection, and the Victoria & Albert Museum are among the latest partners to team up with Google on the Art Project.  The National Gallery and Tate Britain have also pledged their support to the initiative.

Press release ~ Google Art Project

OS:  Ordnance Survey has teamed up with Newcastle City Council to ‘demonstrate how 3D mapping can help make Newcastle one of the most sustainable cities in Europe ’ by using 3D city models to provide valuable information to enable effective solar power generation.

Both organisations are members of a European project consortium called i-SCOPE ( Interoperable Smart City Services through an Open Platform for urban Ecosystems), which will run for 3 years and will involve 11 cities across Europe .

Press release & links

WAO:  The Auditor General is hosting a 'Meet the Buyer' event on Tuesday 1 May 2012, 2 - 4pm for anyone interested in finding out more about potential business opportunities from his 2014 contracting arrangements.  6 firms currently have contracts with him to provide 30% of public sector audit work in .  And firms deliver all 740 of the audits of the town & community councils.  Collectively, the firms' work is worth over £3m a year.

From 2014, the Auditor General intends to buy audit services from a much wider range of suppliers.  These services include support for performance audit across the Welsh pubic sector, including value for money reviews and national studies as well as the audit of annual accounts and grant claims.

Press release & links

ScotGov:  Cloud computing company enStratus plans to create up to 30 highly-skilled jobs in by the end of 2014 and is currently recruiting key staff in preparation for its Edinburgh office opening later this year.  The company’s expansion to is supported by a Regional Selective Assistance (RSA) grant totalling £240,000.

enStratus™ is a cloud infrastructure management solution for deploying & managing enterprise-class applications in public, private & hybrid clouds.  For the enterprise, managing multiple teams delivering tens or hundreds of applications to the cloud requires consistent governance & automation, as well as the independence to choose the clouds & operations tools that meet business needs.

Press release & links

DECC:  £60m of investment in the Met Office Hadley Centre’s Climate Programme was announced by the Government last week aimed at maintaining the ’s place as a global leader in climate research & modelling.

Over £11m of new High Performance Computing (supercomputing capacity & associated hardware) will be provided to underpin this programme of research. This significantly enhances the Hadley Centre’s capability until 2015 and is a response to the recommendation of the Government Chief Scientific Adviser.

Press release & links ~ Met Office Hadley Centre’s Climate Programme

DECC:  The and recently agreed a Framework on Civil Nuclear Cooperation, providing the ‘basis for companies to engage in multi-billion pound decommissioning opportunities in ’.  Both countries reaffirm their commitment to working together in the field of civil nuclear energy, particularly in areas that are mutually beneficial. 

These include Japanese companies’ technical expertise in new plant design & construction, and the UK's decommissioning and waste-management experience & technology.  The countries will share expertise, experience & technology in the remediation, decontamination and decommissioning of the Fukushima nuclear site.

Press release & links

GPS:  The Government Procurement Service are currently implementing a new eEnablement strategy which aims to transform the sourcing, procurement & management of centralised deals & suppliers to ensure that all arrangements are easily accessible to customers.

As part of this strategy GPS are developing a new website which will be launched w/c 16 April 2012.  It will replace the current website and help simplify access to deals, providing information, guidance & direct access to the supporting eProcurement tools.

GPS are also rolling out a new eSourcing suite, with a range of electronic sourcing tools to benefit both our customers and our suppliers.  Once the new portal is live, the existing Capability Assessment and Invitation to Quote (ITQ) systems will be replaced and customers will be able to use the new eSourcing suite to run further competitions, or will be able to browse & buy from catalogues through the Government eMarketplace.

Press release & links

MO:  An essential requirement for wind farm operators is the ability to anticipate the weather conditions at wind farm sites. Having highly accurate data about the real-time and forecast weather conditions at individual sites enables operators to plan visits or equipment deliveries, schedule maintenance or repairs while ensuring the safety of staff and contractors, and ensure any downtime is kept to a minimum. 

The Met Office's VisualEyes™ system is a web-based monitoring & alert solution that gives customers a clearer picture of the real-time and forecast weather conditions at locations across Europe .  Already used by many of the major utility companies and major wind farm operators, VisualEyes™ has just been enhanced to ‘extend the planning service for lightning, hub height wind & visibility from 36 hours ahead to 5 days ahead’
Press release ~ Met Office's VisualEyes™ system

Forthcoming Event

WAG:  Wales’s relationship with the Olympic & Paralympic Games is being showcased in a new exhibition - Following the Flame - which will be at the National Library in Aberystwyth and the Riverfront Arts Centre in Newport until 16 June 2012, providing a fascinating account of the history of Welsh athletes since the first modern Olympic Games in 1896 and the very first Paralympic Games in 1948 - the last time the Games were in London.

Press release & links ~ Following the Flame

OS:  IT & business-people looking to grow their businesses have been challenged to bring their imagination to Location 2012 - Profit from location data & mapping.  Based on the idea that everything happens somewhere, the conference will look at how business can profit from location information from selling services to customers to making more cost-efficient & effective business decisions.

Co-ordinated by Ordnance Survey, the one-day conference (Tuesday 8 May 2012) will bring together a wide range of location data service providers and others in the IT & GIS (Geographical Information System) world to show how businesses can make profitable business decisions using geographic information.  Registration & attendance by delegates is FREE. The event will run from 9.00am – 5.00pm

Press release & links

NEF:  With the economic system in crisis and global political movements pressing for change, the political priority is to challenge the economic order that generates an increasing gap between rich & poor and major environmental damage’

On the 9 May 2012, the New Economics Foundation is organising an event at the LSE on ‘The Wisdom of Prevention’. This social justice rationale - to prevent the worst social and economic effects of free market capitalism through a fair distribution of resources - is being reversed by the government’s priority of preventing something else: dependency.
Press release & links 

NE:  A Farming More Precisely’ event is being held for farmers on the Isles of Scilly on 26 April 2012 at the Mermaid Inn on St Mary’s, hosted by the Soils for Profit Project. 

The FREE event is an opportunity for farmers & land managers to find out about new techniques that can improve the management of their soils, manures & nutrients, while making savings on expensive inputs, improving productivity and helping to enhance the local natural environment.

Press release & links

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