In the News
CQC: The sad fact is that one could almost not bother with research, just re-use that of previous reports - The Care Quality Commission has published its most comprehensive ‘State of Care’ report. The report examines all care sectors for the first time and explores why some care services are failing to meet CQC standards.
Based on the evidence of over 13,000 inspections, the report suggests that pressures on care services are increasing the risks of poor or unsafe care for people who are less able to speak up for themselves and those, who as a result of their circumstances, are more vulnerable. At the same time, the number of residential (non-nursing) care homes is falling.
Where services fail, CQC has found 3 common factors which contribute to the poor quality of services:
* Providers who try to manage with high vacancy rates or the wrong mix of skills
* An attitude to care that is ‘task-based’, not person-centred
* A care culture in which the unacceptable becomes the norm
OCCE: In this situation ‘Silence is anything but Golden’ - A nationwide Inquiry by the Office of the Children's Commissioner for England has found that 2,409 children & young people were confirmed victims of child sexual exploitation in gangs or groups in the 14 month period from August 2010 to October 2011. The Inquiry also identified that, between April 2010 & March 2011, there were 16,500 children in England who were at high risk of child sexual exploitation.
' I thought I was the only one. The only one in the world', the (interim) report of the first year's findings of a 2-year Inquiry into child sexual exploitation in gangs & groups, publishes the most comprehensive investigation to date of the scale, scope & prevalence of child sexual exploitation in these contexts in England. The conclusions are drawn from extensive evidence submitted by the Government, police, local authorities, health services, voluntary sector agencies and children & young people themselves.
Year 2 of the Inquiry will focus on how to tackle the sexual exploitation of children. The Inquiry will be investigating examples of good practice so that these lessons can be shared nationally. The final report will be published in autumn 2013.
IFS: The Union has lasted 300 years, so how far ahead should the SNP explain its financial plans? - Public spending per head in Scotland is higher than that in the rest of the UK. Oil & gas apart, tax revenues per head are close to the UK average. If you add in a geographic share of oil & gas revenues then Scottish tax revenues would in recent years have been high enough to slightly more than offset the higher levels of public spending.
But over the longer run if, as seems likely, North Sea oil & gas revenues fall, an independent Scotland would face a bigger fiscal adjustment than the rest of the UK. A new Scottish government would need to put together a fiscal architecture which would set out a long term path to sustainability.
This is the first output of a new project at Institute of Fiscal Studies, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, looking at some of the fiscal choices that might face Scotland should it choose independence following the 2014 referendum.
WAG: Is anyone looking at the interests of England & Northern Ireland? - The First Minister of Wales, Carwyn Jones, has welcomed the publication of a report by the UK Government’s Silk Commission, which proposes comprehensive changes to Wales’ financial powers, saying: "I am grateful to the Commission for producing what is a very comprehensive and well-argued report. This report includes some very important recommendations that representatives from all four political parties have been able to agree on and which fit well with our views on the future path of financial reform. …….
Today’s report - coupled with the statement on funding reform that was published jointly with the UK Government last month - provides a solid basis for delivering lasting reforms. We will now give the report careful consideration and will look to work with the UK Government to make quick progress on this agenda."
ICO: Anonymised data is a vital requirement for planning & policy decisions - The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has published its data protection code of practice on managing the risks related to anonymisation. The code explains how to protect the privacy rights of individuals while providing rich sources of data.
The ICO has also announced that a consortium led by the University of Manchester, with the University of Southampton, Office for National Statistics and the government’s new Open Data Institute (ODI), will run a new UK Anonymisation Network (UKAN). The Network will receive £15,000 worth of funding from the ICO over the next 2 years to enable sharing of good practice related to anonymisation, across the public & private sector. The network will include a website, case studies, clinics and seminars.
NICE: At least with over-eating much of the ‘damage’ is self-evident - Setting a minimum price per unit of alcohol, as recommended by NICE, will protect young people from the dangers of excessive drinking, according to a new report.
The report jointly produced by Alcohol Concern and Balance to coincide with Alcohol Awareness Week, states that cheap alcohol encourages young people to drink to excess, making them susceptible to alcohol-related harm.
Young people agreed that promotions such as ‘buy one get one free' offers urge them to drink more than they would normally. Such offers also mean they find it cheaper to drink than to participate in other social activities, such as going to the cinema.
RoSPA: Making Baby’s ‘nap time’ safer - The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) is alerting parents to the deadly danger of nappy sacks to their babies. At least 12 babies in England & Wales, aged from 2-months-old to a year, have died since 2001 from suffocation or choking after putting a nappy sack in their mouth.
Common scenarios in the deaths involved nappy sacks being stored within the baby’s reach, such as under a mattress or close to a cot for convenience, especially when changing a nappy in the middle of the night, says RoSPA, the UK’s leading accident prevention charity.
Thousands of posters & leaflets warning families of the dangers of leaving plastic nappy sacks lying near babies are being distributed to GP surgeries, parent & toddler groups and other family centres.
SOCA: Bringing the possibility of ‘closure’ for families of missing persons - The Missing Persons Bureau has launched a new website to enlist the public’s help to identify people, both living & dead, who are unknown to the authorities. The website is the first in the UK dedicated to unidentified people, aims to maximise chances of identification and bring vital closure for the families & friends of the people featured.
UKOC: Immediate action required - UK online centres have announced a new funding round which opens this week - on Wednesday 28 November. The Network Support Fund aims to support centres within the UKOC network who are supporting people to get online for the first time, or to become confident internet users. Individual centres can apply for up to £1,500, and consortia bids can apply for up to £2,000.
The funding round is only open to UKOC, so if you’re interested in applying and you’re not yet a Centre partner, you'll need to sign up by Tuesday 27 November 2012 to be eligible.
Press release & links
Thought Paper: What is Your Data Trying to Tell You? - The Increasing Importance of Data Visualisation in the Public Sector - Statistical discovery and visualisation of data is currently at the forefront of today’s public sector challenge – balancing the requirement to save money against the need to provide front line services to a growing, aging and diversifying population. With the continual increase in data sets and smaller budgets to work with, government officials are expected to make the best decisions possible, quickly and easily.
The good news is that you don’t have to be a statistician to visualise your organisation’s data. Informed policy, enhanced performance and cost efficiencies are increasingly being driven by the introduction of comprehensive desktop visual data analysis, realising:
Increased productivity with effective data discovery.
Speedily identified trends that influence decision making.
Shared results by dynamically linking interactive, multi-dimensional graphics.
Effective communication of findings internally and externally.
A recent thought paper provides a road map of how public bodies are already feeling the benefits of predictive analysis and also offers essential guidance on how best to discover what your own data is trying to tell you.
Click here to find out more.
Please note that previously published newsletters can be accessed from the Newsletter Archive
ScotGov: The outline business case for the new National Centre for the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service (SNBTS) has been approved by the Scottish Government. By centralising processing & testing of blood and tissue donations, the new centre will help to ensure the future supply of blood, tissues & cells for all patients across Scotland. The £36.4m purpose-built facility will be located at Heriot-Watt Research Park near Edinburgh.
HEFCE: The third round of Higher Education Funding Council England’s Revolving Green Fund (RGF) was announced recently, with £20m available from 2013. The RGF helps universities and colleges to reduce their energy costs & carbon emissions.
The third round of RGF is very similar to RGF2 and will provide recoverable grants for both small scale & exemplary retrofit projects starting after 1 May 2013. The deadline for applications is 22 February 2013.
TfL: A new campaign outlining the 'rules' around the use of the wheelchair space on buses has been launched by Transport for London (TfL). The priority wheelchair space, usually located in the middle of the bus, is the only place in which a wheelchair user can safely travel.
Buggy users and other passengers may use the wheelchair space, however if a wheelchair user wants to board the bus, other passengers & buggy users will be asked to vacate the space or fold their buggies.
HPA: To mark Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week, the Health Protection Agency advised people to have their fossil fuel & wood burning appliances – such as boilers, heaters and cookers – checked by an appropriately registered engineer before the winter sets in. The latest figures show that there are around 40 accidental deaths a year from carbon monoxide poisoning in England & Wales.
The HPA also recommends that people should fit an audible CO alarm which meets European Standards EN 50291, in their homes. The installation of an alarm, which can be bought from most DIY retailers, should not, however, replace regular inspections by a registered engineer.
OCUK: This week sees the launch of Universal Jobmatch, a new online service available via GOV.UK that promises to make matching the right person to the right job easier than ever before. T
he site, which replaces the Jobcentre Plus job search tool, allows both jobseekers & employers to add their details meaning jobseekers can find the perfect opportunity for them & employers can find the perfect candidate.
FSA: Raynor Foods Ltd is recalling some batches of Wensleydale Carrot Chutney Sandwich, because egg is not declared on the full ingredients list. If you are allergic to egg, do not eat this product. The Food Standards Agency has issued an Allergy Alert..
HO: A national campaign launched last week by Action Fraud warns UK investors they risk losing thousands of pounds if they fail to take simple steps to check who they're investing with. It is estimated that £1.2bn is lost nationally to investment fraud every year. The campaign, The Devil's in Their Details, advises investors of the steps they can take to identify & avoid these scams.
TfL: As the festive party season kicks off, Transport for London (TfL) reminds people of the dangers of taking illegal minicabs. Posters, cinema adverts and online ads running over the next few weeks will reinforce the message that unbooked minicabs are illegal and potentially dangerous.
BIS: Young people are set to benefit from a new competition launched by the Intellectual Property Office in partnership with UK Music. The competition, MusicBiz, is aimed at 14 to 18 years olds to raise their awareness of music downloading, filesharing and the value of creative copyright. The competition will close on 19 April 2013.
DH: A new prototype cancer test that could help thousands of cancer patients is 1 of the 5 projects that has been awarded funding from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). The test – a simple blood test – will allow doctors to see how a patient is responding to cancer treatment in real-time. It could mean shorter treatments & increased survival rates through better tailored treatments for patients, and better long term survival by early detection of recurring cancers.
Policy Statements and Initiatives
BIS: The costs of red tape on business will be slashed at double the present rate, Business Minister Michael Fallon said last week as he announced the latest Government blitz on bureaucracy. From January 2013, ‘every new regulation that imposes a new financial burden on firms must be offset by reductions in red tape that will save double those costs’.
The new ‘One-in, Two-out’ rule will be imposed across every Whitehall department and will apply to all domestic regulation affecting businesses & voluntary organisations.
It will replace ‘One-in, One-out’, which requires the costs of every new regulation to be matched by savings of an equivalent amount. This policy has already reduced net costs on business by almost £1bn since January 2011.
WAG: As Anti-bullying Week in Wales began, Education Minister, Leighton Andrews, and Deputy Minister for Children and Social Services, Gwenda Thomas, announced their backing for a new Welsh Government campaign urging children & young people affected by bullying to seek help.
Since Meic, the National Advocacy & Advice helpline for children & young people in Wales went 24/7 in January last year, over 10,000 children & young people have contacted the helpline. To ensure the demands for the service continue to be met, Deputy Minister for Children & Social Services, Gwenda Thomas, recently announced a further £100,000 of funding for the helpline.
DCMS: The Culture Secretary has decided to renew the licences of Channel 3 & 5 for another 10 years, subject to negotiations. Ofcom will now begin discussions with the holders on the cost & terms.
CLG: Local Government Minister Brandon Lewis has set out how local retention of business rates will reward councils for local economic growth. The Local Government Finance Act 2012 creates a new model for funding local authorities from April 2013, linking their financial revenue to the decisions they take to support local firms & local jobs.
Local government will retain a 50% local share of business rates and then keep a 50% share of any growth they generate, subject to a levy, providing a strong incentive to go for growth.
SFA: £400m will be spent at a number of colleges across England to upgrade facilities & resources, with £110m coming from the Skills Funding Agency and BIS. More than 50 colleges across the country will be spending £412m on projects ranging from the creation of a state-of-the-art civil engineering academy to transforming classrooms into modern vocational workshops, thanks to co-investment from the Government.
The funding is the third phase of the Enhanced Renewal Grant (ERG3) which has contributed £330m since May 2010, supporting over £1bn of investment in college buildings across England.
WAG: The Welsh Public Sector will continue to carry out Equality Impact Assessments (EIA) when developing its policies, Equalities Minister Jane Hutt said last week.
DWP: The Government has published its first proposals to rebuild confidence & trust in workplace pensions and reverse nearly half a century of declining membership.
A paper called, Reinvigorating Workplace Pensions, contains new ideas for sharing the risks more equally between employer & employee, and for helping people get the most out of what they save in a pension.
OFT: Holidaymakers booking in the UK should have access to fair, clear & transparent information at the right time according to draft guidance for travel agents, tour operators & price comparison websites published last week for consultation (closes on 28 January 2013) by the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and the Office of Fair Trading (OFT).
The joint guidance covers both aviation specific and general consumer protection legislation. This new draft guidance has been designed to help the travel sector comply with the regulations & raise awareness of its legal responsibilities.
2 versions of the draft guidance have been developed:
* an in-depth guidance document
* a shorter version for quick & easy reference which sets out key requirements
TfL: Transport for London is asking Londoners for their views on a number of proposed changes to the Congestion Charging scheme. The proposed changes include:
* the introduction of a new Ultra Low Emission Discount (ULED)
* an increase in the penalty charge
* the removal of the under-used retail (shop) payment channel
TfL is also seeking views on increasing the penalty charge for the Congestion Charge from £120 to £130. This would be only the third increase in the penalty charge since the Congestion Charge was introduced in 2003 and would bring the penalty charge in line with other moving traffic, bus lane & parking penalty charges within London. The consultation closes on Friday 8 February 2013.
Monitor: The NHS should improve the way it records data on the cost of services Monitor said last week. The regulator stated that costs collected from the NHS should in future be based on the actual cost of providing services for individual patients rather than the average cost.
At the heart of this approach is Monitor's proposal to collect Patient Level Information and Costing Systems (PLICS) data on costs from providers in 2013. This draws on data already collected by many providers and has the potential to open up opportunities for more sophisticated methods of correctly pricing patient care in the NHS. Monitor is also proposing immediate changes to improve existing reference costs because these are expected to continue to inform prices for the next few years.
They have also issued Approved Costing Guidance for stakeholder comment before 11 December 2012 to underpin the PLICS collection. The guidance will be published in early 2013 and will consolidate and streamline existing guidance into a coherent framework.
HO: Plans to make private security businesses across the UK more accountable for quality & standards were unveiled by the government last week. The Security Industry Authority (SIA) currently regulates the private security industry through the compulsory licensing of individuals who work as security guards including door supervisors, CCTV operatives and those involved in close protection (e.g. bodyguards).
Fresh proposals would move responsibility for the standards & behaviour of 330,000 security staff from the SIA onto an estimated 4,200 businesses currently operating in the UK. The consultation closes on 15 January 2013.
DECC: Proposals to ensure that all households are on the best deal for their gas & electricity as soon as possible were published by the Government last week.
Following publication of Ofgem’s Retail Market Review proposals, the Government is setting out further ideas to help consumers with their energy bills, including the Prime Minister’s commitment to ensure that households get the cheapest tariff. The consultation closes on 4 January 2013.
FSA: The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has published a consultation paper outlining how much capital Self Invested Personal Pension (SIPP) operators must hold in future. The proposed regime reflects the growing popularity of SIPPs as a way to invest, the wide range of assets that can be placed within them, and will help protect consumers should the operator have to be wound down.
The absolute minimum capital a SIPP operator must hold will increase from £5,000 to £20,000 because experience has shown the cost of winding down an operator is unlikely to be less than this amount.
The FSA recognises that the proposals will require some operators to raise significant new capital, so there will be a transitional period of one year between the publication of final rules & implementation. The consultation closes on 22 February 2013.
CO: As part of its drive to enhance the right to data, the Cabinet Office has launched an open consultation on new guidance for public authorities on how to handle Freedom of Information (FOI) requests for the release of datasets. The guidance will complement new provisions governing the release of data in the FOI Act, which are planned to come into force in April 2013, giving public authorities time to prepare for their new duties.
The online consultation fulfils an Open Data White Paper commitment to open up the process of developing guidance to the public. The traditional email route for submissions is also available, and all contributions should be made by 10 January 2013.
WAG: A new draft Control of Dogs (Wales) Bill, aimed at promoting responsible dog ownership and helping to prevent dogs from becoming dangerously out of control has been launched by Environment Minister, John Griffiths. The consultation closes on 1 March 2013.
RoSPA: Employers managing & using lakes, reservoirs and other inland water sites across the UK are being offered the chance to shape safety guidance.
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) and the Royal Life Saving Society UK (RLSS UK) are updating the Safety at Inland Water Sites guidelines, which provide a raft of legal & safety information. Organisations are urged to register their views in an online consultation survey before midnight on 7 December 2012.
Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides
APCC: The Transitional Board of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners has launched guidance to help Police & Crime Commissioners overhaul the way in which politicians interact with the public.
‘Digital Democracy: Building new relationships with the public‘ is intended to help PCCs make the most of the opportunities presented by digital media. Written in conjunction with digital communications experts, Public-i, the APCC’s guidance challenges the status quo and through straightforward advice & case studies shows how technology can help PCCs to interact with the public.
Ofsted: Ofsted has publishing a best practice report called Promoting enterprise in college vocational courses. The report shares the experiences of 15 high-performing colleges who excel in teaching their students enterprise-related skills & entrepreneurial capability.
ICO: The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has published its data protection code of practice on managing the risks related to anonymisation. The code explains how to protect the privacy rights of individuals while providing rich sources of data – See ‘In the News ‘section for more information.
PC&PE: The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) has published the report of its inquiry into the Autumn Statement 2012: Environmental Issues. A Treasury led 'dash for gas' could make the UK's carbon targets under the Climate Change Act unachievable, the cross-party EAC has warned.
The Committee is calling on the Government to restore investor confidence in the future direction of energy policy by setting a clear decarbonisation objective in the forthcoming Energy Bill.
NAO: The tax avoidance disclosure regime introduced in 2004 by HM Revenue & Customs, DOTAS, has helped the department make some important headway in reducing the opportunities for avoidance. However, there is little evidence that HMRC is making progress in preventing the sale of highly contrived tax avoidance schemes to a large number of taxpayers.
In each of the last 4 years, over 100 new avoidance schemes have been disclosed under DOTAS. While HMRC believes most of these would be defeated if tested in the courts, there is no evidence that their usage is reducing.
DH: The Department of Health, working in partnership with the Public Health Observatories in England, has released baseline data for the Public Health Outcomes Framework (PHOF).
This release of baseline data for the Public Health Outcomes Framework 2013-2016 includes data for the first set of 39 indicators at England and upper tier local authority level. The data are presented in an interactive data tool which allows users to view data in a user-friendly format and in particular to:
NAO: The BBC has strengthened its approach to managing its finances, but should improve its financial reporting systems, according to a report by the National Audit Office (the NAO) for the BBC Trust published last week. This is to ensure the BBC can monitor more frequently how its spending aligns with its strategic and editorial priorities.
DH: Comprehensive action is needed to stop the rising tide of liver disease, is one of the key findings to emerge from Chief Medical Officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies, first annual report. The report, which is the first of two volumes, provides a comprehensive picture of England’s health by bringing together a number of data sources in one place for the first time.
It brings into sharp focus that England is one of the few countries in the EU where a major cause of preventable death is on the increase. Between 2000 & 2009, deaths from chronic liver disease & cirrhosis in the under 65s increased by around 20%, while they fell by the same amount in most EU countries.
And all 3 major causes of liver disease – obesity, undiagnosed infection, and, increasingly, harmful drinking – are preventable.
NAO: The National Audit Office has reported that the Department for Education has delivered a fundamental change in the nature of the Academies Programme through a rapid, 10-fold increase in the number of academies since May 2010. This increase is a significant achievement.
However, the Department was unprepared for the scale of the financial implications arising from such a rapid expansion. In the 2 years between April 2010 & March 2012, the Department had to meet an estimated £1bn of additional costs, while remaining within its overall spending limits.
WAG: Minister for the Environment & Sustainable Development, John Griffiths, has welcomed publication of this year’s Sustainable Development Annual Report 2011 – 12.
ONS: The difference in average hourly earnings between employees in the public and private sector was highest at the bottom end of the scale in April 2011, according to a report published last week by the Office for National Statistics.
This analysis is based on characteristics collected in the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE). A podcast giving more background on this analysis in available on the ONS Youtube channel.
Ofsted: Ofsted’s first adoption statistics were published last week. The data provides a comprehensive picture of adoption in England. Along with the adoption statistics, Ofsted is also publishing the fourth annual statistics for fostering services.
LGA: Thousands of miles of Britain's roads could be strewn with potholes within months without reform of how Government funds maintenance, highways bosses are warning.
Decades of underfunding, recent severe winters and widespread flooding earlier this year, compounded by the current Government cutting £500m from roads maintenance budgets, means many councils are struggling to move beyond simply patching up a deteriorating network.
The Local Government Association is calling on Government to free up money & invest it in resurfacing the current network. This will not only allow councils to pay for resurfacing projects to make roads safer, and save £bns in the long term (reactive repairs are 20 times more expensive), but also boost jobs & growth in the short-term. A good quality surface is also far more resistant to flood & ice damage.
PC&PE: In a report published recently, the Procedure Committee says that the Backbench Business Committee has been widely welcomed by MPs as a successful innovation, and makes some modest recommendations to increase its powers & responsibilities.
When the Backbench Business Committee was set up in 2010 to give control of some Parliamentary time to backbench MPs, it was agreed that it should be reviewed after the first session (2010–2012).
The Procedure Committee has reviewed its first 2 years, and concludes that while there is no need for major substantial change to the practices or procedures which have developed around backbench business and the work of the Committee, a number of proposals could improve and refine the framework within which it operates.
General Reports and Other Publications
IFS: Choice & competition have been at the centre of many of the most ambitious reforms of the last decade aimed at boosting quality & efficiency in the NHS. Yet there has been very little evidence on their impact.
A report by researchers at the Institute for Fiscal Studies, commissioned with the Nuffield Trust as part of the new joint programme Understanding Competition & Choice, provides the first insights into how choice reforms implemented under the Blair government in 2006 and 2008 have changed where care takes place.
Socitm: What might local public services take from the new Government Digital Strategy unveiled by the Cabinet Office on 6 November 2012, asks the latest briefing from Socitm Insight.
The new Government Digital Strategy: what should local public services take from it? begins by reminding readers that the strategy has been written for central government, and goes on to describe key differences in the governance of local public services, the nature of the services themselves, and the ways in which they are delivered to citizens.
CBI: The CBI is calling for a radical shake up of schools from nursery to sixth form to ensure all young people achieve their potential. In a new report, the CBI warns the education system fosters a cult of the average; too often failing to stretch the most able or support those that need most help.
IoE: Recently, Nesta launched its report: Decoding Learning: The Proof, Promise and Potential of Digital Education. The report was written for Nesta by researchers at the Institute of Education’s London Knowledge Lab (LKL) and Learning Sciences Research Institute (LSRI) at Nottingham University and it pulls together evidence about the innovative use of technology to support learning and the impact this can have for students.
NO: Isle of Wight Council wrongly withdrew social services support from a child in need, leading to cancellation of a residential school placement, finds Local Government Ombudsman, Dr Jane Martin.
In her report she says: “Given the view of the child’s consultant psychiatrist, I do not consider there is any doubt that proper and timely review of her residential placement would have confirmed the need for it to continue. So she was wrongly deprived of the continuity of care and security that is so vital to her wellbeing … And her parents and siblings had significantly less relief from her challenging and at times frightening behaviour.”
nef: Two years ago, Prime Minister David Cameron gave the Office for National Statistics the green light to begin a new programme for Measuring National Well-Being. A key part of the programme was to begin to collect subjective well-being data on a scale never before seen.
Last week, to coincide with the Office for National Statistics’ 2-year anniversary event, the New Economics Foundation launched Well-being patterns uncovered – their report based on new data (the Office for National Statistics have also launched a report, entitled Measuring National Well-Being: Life in the UK 2012).
Their report highlights the value of the data to analysts both inside government and outside, in terms of identifying population groups with low well-being, and the factors associated with high well-being.
nef: The New Economics Foundation has released latest interim findings from its New Austerity Big Society project, which present some of the unfolding stories, testimonies & case studies of life ‘at the end of our welfare state’.
IfG: Two years after the government announced a radical & transparent new way of tracking performance through departmental Business Plans, the Institute for Government says they are of limited use & lack political backing.
PC&PE: The Government's plans for reforming the civil service must not undermine its impartiality, says the House of Lords Constitution Committee in its new report, The Accountability of Civil Servants, published last week.
The Committee is concerned that proposals in the Governments Civil Service Reform Plan, such as allowing ministers to select departmental permanent secretaries from a shortlist and directly to appoint civil servants on fixed-term contracts, could risk undermining the impartiality of the civil service, threaten the principle that appointments are based on merit and make it harder for officials to give honest advice to ministers.
LGA: Councils would be able to build 60,000 new homes over the next 5 years if Government gave local authorities more discretion over borrowing, a new report published last week claims.
The report ‘Let's get building' argues that a shortage of finance is the main obstacle stopping contractors getting to work – and that councils could help plug the gap if a centrally-imposed debt ceiling which prevents local authorities from maximising the value tied up in their housing stock was removed.
Under current estimates, councils would be able to fund the building of 15,000 homes over the next five years. But if the cap were to be removed, this figure could be quadrupled.
NO: London Borough of Croydon failed to provide education for two children for more than 6 months, finds Local Government Ombudsman, Dr Jane Martin.
In her report she says “the Council did not allocate places for either child for more than six months after the complainant made her in-year application. While there were reasons this was not possible, the Council should have offered alternative educational provision. It did not do so.”
RM: Royal Mail has welcomed independent inquiry's recommendations for tackling dog attacks on postal workers. Its report calls for tougher legislation against owners of dangerous dogs and recommends Royal Mail should actively pursue legal action against the owners of dogs which attack postmen & women. Over 3,000 postmen & women were attacked across the UK by dogs from April 2011 to April 2012
HL: A report published recently, ‘Universal Credit implementation: meeting the needs of vulnerable claimants’, by the Work and Pensions Committee warns that significant concerns remain about the potential impact of the Universal Credit changes on some of the most vulnerable benefit claimants.
In its evidence to the committee, Homeless Link and its members expressed concerns about the:
* Rapid implementation of such a fundamental reform
* Lack of plans to test the new system with vulnerable people who are homeless & have complex needs
* The need for vulnerable claimants to continue to have their rent paid direct to their landlord and the need to clarify how the support costs of people living in hostels and other supported accommodation will be met and ensure that those with high support needs are not impacted by the benefit cap
Legislation / Legal
DfE: Lord Carlile has submitted a review of the Edlington Case. This review was commissioned by the Secretary of State in March 2012 following full publication of the Edlington Serious Case Review. He was concerned that although the SCR documented key events in the case of the J brothers there was insufficient scrutiny of what could have been done differently.
OFT: The OFT has opened formal investigations into several Payday Lenders over aggressive debt collection practices. It has also written to all 240 payday lenders highlighting its emerging concerns over poor practices in the sector. These actions are set out in a progress report published as part of the OFT's compliance review of the payday lending sector.
MoJ: The problem of costly & spurious review cases clogging up the courts will be tackled by new plans announced by Justice Secretary Chris Grayling. The proposals would reduce the number of ill-founded judicial review applications so that others can be dealt with more swiftly & effectively.
The number of applications has rocketed in the past 3 decades, from 160 in 1974 to 11,200 last year but the proportion of successful applications is very low. In 2011 only 1 in 6 applications determined were granted permission to be heard.
ScotGov: New Snaring legislation has come into force and the changes apply to all snares & snaring operators who currently use snares as a means of pest & predator control including farmers, crofters, gamekeepers, and greenkeepers on golf courses.
Snare operators have been able to undergo training courses, which are run by Scottish Government approved bodies, since 2010. Since last week, a snaring operator who has successfully completed the training course can apply to their local police station for a unique identification number which must be attached to all snares set from 1 April 2013.
ScotGov: The Scottish Parliament has voted to approve secondary legislation so that all tenant charges, other than rent and a refundable deposit, will not be permitted. From 30 November 2012, the law will now also allow any charges in relation to the UK Government’s Green Deal that may be attached to a privately rented property.
The current legislation, the Rent (Scotland Act) 1984, has not been explicit enough about additional charges such as reference checks, credit checks and inventory fees. The move follows a consultation launched earlier this year on how to deal with unfair and illegal premiums.
ICO: The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has served a monetary penalty of £60,000 to Plymouth City Council for a serious breach of the Data Protection Act where the details of a child neglect case were sent to the wrong recipient. The report included highly sensitive personal information about 2 parents and 4 children, notably allegations of child neglect resulting in ongoing care proceedings.
An investigation by the ICO found that the council had no secure system in place for printing reports containing sensitive personal data, and had failed to take reasonable steps to ensure reports were checked before they were sent out.
EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.
EU News: In 2010, 810,500 persons acquired citizenship of an EU27 Member State. The highest number of citizenships were granted by the UK (195,000 persons), France (143,000), Spain (124,000) and Germany (105,000) which together accounted for 70% of all citizenships granted by the EU27 Member States.
Compared with 2009, the number of acquisitions rose by 4% in the EU27 in 2010, mainly due to an increase in the number of citizenships granted by Spain.
EU News: Health spending per person and as a percentage of GDP fell across the European Union in 2010. This is one of the many findings in the "Health at a Glance: Europe 2012", a new joint report by the OECD and the European Commission.
From an annual average growth rate of 4.6% between 2000 & 2009, health spending per person fell to -0.6% in 2010. This is the first time that health spending has fallen in Europe since 1975.
EU News: Marine litter is a serious threat to the coastal & marine environment around the globe. Marine habitats are contaminated with man-made garbage and other waste, posing growing environmental, economic, health & aesthetic problems.
To raise awareness & stimulate reflection, the Commission is publishing an overview of the relevant EU legislation, policies, and strategies that touch on this problem, with an indication of on-going & future initiatives in this area.
The Marine Strategy Framework Directive requires Member States to achieve ‘good environmental status’ of their marine waters by 2020. In order to do so, a first step in the implementation is the preparation of an initial assessment (Article 8) which identifies the main threats to the European Seas.
EU News: The European Commission recently adopted an Action Plan to address the problem of incidental catches of seabirds in fishing gears. Scientific evidence has shown that high numbers of seabird species including albatrosses, petrels, shearwaters, auks, sea ducks & divers are being caught in fishing gear every year. Measures taken so far to protect seabirds from being entangled in fishing gear have been ineffective.
The new Action Plan sets up a management framework to minimise seabird bycatch and focuses on long line & static net fisheries where seabird bycatch are known to be highest, although other gears such as trawls & purse seines are also covered by the plan.
It entails a wide range of elements under 30 recommended actions that are a combination of binding & non-binding measures. The rules will apply to EU fishing vessels inside & outside EU waters as well as non-EU vessels operating in EU waters.
EU News: Recently, the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) adopted his opinion on the Commission Communication on ‘Unleashing the potential of Cloud Computing in Europe’ in which the Commission proposes key actions & policy steps to speed up the use of cloud computing services in Europe.
The EDPS Opinion not only reacts to the Communication but also highlights the data protection challenges created by cloud computing and how the proposed Data Protection Regulation will tackle them when the reformed rules come into effect.
EU News: The President of the Committee of the Regions, Ramón Luis Valcárcel, has sent a letter to the Heads of State and Government to stress the deep concerns of European regional & local representatives about ‘being deprived of the instruments they need to respond effectively to the challenges they face’. President Valcárcel warns that ‘new cuts in the cohesion policy heading could harm growth prospects and damage the economic recovery’.
EU News: The teaching of IT, entrepreneurial & citizenship skills is fundamental for preparing young people for today's job market, but, in general, schools are still paying insufficient attention to these transversal skills compared with basic skills in literacy, mathematics & science, according to a new European Commission report.
The report also outlines progress in teaching 6 of the 8 key competences defined at EU level for lifelong learning in knowledge, skills and attitudes.
ScotGov: New incentives have been proposed by Marine Scotland to increase catches of valuable Monkfish & Megrim – while boosting cod conservation. Fishermen have highlighted that days at sea restrictions, applied under the EU’s Cod Recovery Plan (CRP), have had the effect of forcing them to fish in cod-abundant waters closer to port, rather than taking the time needed to seek alternative species in deeper waters, like Monkfish.
As a result, catches of Monkfish have reduced by 27% since 2009. In 2011, this meant that some £2m of Scottish quota went unlanded. Marine Scotland has proposed a new flexibility that allows fishermen that target Monkfish & Megrim (where their catch is made up of at least 40% of these species) to receive a 50% ‘discount’ on their time at sea. This ‘buy back’ also means that the fishermen targeting these species catch considerably less cod than most fishing trips.
EU News: The youth unemployment rate is close to 23% across the European Union – yet at the same time there are more than 2m vacancies that cannot be filled.
The European Commission is launching a new strategy called Rethinking Education to encourage Member States to take immediate action to ensure that young people develop the skills & competences needed by the labour market and to achieve their targets for growth & jobs.
EU News: The European Commission has found that a UK umbrella support scheme for investments in next generation access (NGA) broadband networks, 'BDUK', is in line with EU state aid rules. In particular, the scheme is aimed at supporting local projects in rural & remote areas, where such networks would unlikely be developed on commercial terms.
EU News: It will now be easier for EU citizens living in another Member State to stand as candidates in the 2014 European Parliament elections, following a vote on a European Commission proposal in the European Parliament last week. The proposal is now expected to be adopted by the Council before the end of 2012.
EU News: The European Commission's proposals to help businesses & consumers resolve cross-border legal disputes more easily received the support of the European Parliament recently.
The reform of rules will help determine, which national court has jurisdiction in cross-border cases and how court judgements issued in one EU country are recognised and enforced in another (also known as the ‘Brussels I reform’. The draft legislation will now pass to the Council for final adoption, expected to take place at the next Council of Justice Ministers in December 2012.
EU News: The emergence of exploration for shale oil & shale gas in some EU countries should be backed up with ‘robust regulatory regimes’, the European Parliament said in 2 resolutions voted last Wednesday. Member states should also be ‘cautious’ about permitting exploitation of unconventional fossil fuels pending further analysis of whether EU-level regulation is appropriate, say MEPs.
Charity and Voluntary Sector
CLG: Nick Boles, Communities Minister, last week saw young people being inspired through business at the launch of this year’s Mosaic Enterprise Challenge competition. School teams are supported by specialist business mentors to compete through the game, which places them into a realistic business situation in which they must develop & market a new product and respond to simulated business competitors.
The competition aims to promote entrepreneurship and inspire knowledge & enthusiasm about business among young people. The Enterprise Challenge, supported by the department, will this year involve over 3,000 students in 80 schools who will be supported by more than 300 mentors.
BIG: The Big Lottery Fund (BIG) is providing £927,500 to develop an alternative way of funding early intervention programmes that aim to improve the lives of some of the most vulnerable in society. This will include an initial programme to help support children & young people to stay safely in their homes, via the use of a Social Impact Bond (SIB).
The funding comes from Next Steps: Supporting Social Investment in England, which is exploring the potential of new approaches to raising finance that will help address significant social issues.
DCMS: Culture Secretary Maria Miller has welcomed the publication of a report which contains innovative ideas – and a 10-point plan – to boost philanthropy & legacy giving to benefit the arts & heritage in the UK.
BIG: Big Lottery Fund (BIG) and national communications charity Media Trust, in partnership with the Thisis and localpeople community news sites run by Northcliffe Digital, have launched Communities in Focus, a photography competition to showcase inspiring images of people and communities from across the country.
From snapshots of local events such as street parties and farmers’ markets to portraits of people making a difference, such as charity volunteers or the village choir, Communities in Focus is designed to showcase the brilliant people, groups & activities that are the life of our communities.
The competition will run on the competition pages of all Thisis websites and on localpeople websites across England. Entries must be received by Wednesday 19 December.
Business and Other Briefings
DWP: Disabled entrepreneurs & small businesses will benefit from more support to pay for specialised equipment & other costs faced by disabled people in work under changes to the Government’s disability employment programme announced last week.
The programme, Access to Work, provides financial help towards the extra costs faced by disabled people at work, such as travel costs, specially adapted equipment & support workers.
BIS: Business Minister, Michael Fallon has announced the launch of a new Enterprise Capital Fund (ECF) to invest in science, technology and engineering-based SMEs. The new fund, Longwall Ventures ECF, is the 12th ECF and comprises £25m of Government investment & £15m from private investors.
FRC: The Financial Reporting Council (FRC) and The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS) are to commission jointly a major project that will investigate the competencies & professional skills of auditors.
The project is being commissioned as a contribution towards restoring market confidence through improving audit quality and re-building trust in the audit profession.
NE: An agreement between business leaders & conservationists will help to put the natural environment at the heart of Tees Valley’s economic regeneration. The accord involving Tees Valley Unlimited (the local enterprise partnership) and Natural England (the Government’s environment adviser) is ‘aimed at identifying suitable areas for new industries while protecting and enhancing important natural habitats’.
Believed to be the first of its kind between NE and an LEP, the agreement builds upon a close working relationship that will ensure early engagement between developers, local planners, TVU and conservation bodies to help create a smoother, solution-orientated planning process.
It is anticipated that this co-operation will reduce delays to development and increase the likelihood of planning permission being granted, further endorsing the attractiveness of the area to potential investors.
DECC: Plans by Areva for a new offshore wind manufacturing plant in Scotland, and their commitment to developing the UK offshore wind industry, were welcomed by the Government last week. Areva plan to build a factory making blades & nacelles for offshore wind turbines and for use as a base for installing them in the North Sea, creating 750 jobs and many more in the supply chain.
DECC: The UK confirmed its global reputation as a centre for traded carbon markets last week, as the UK’s first auction for Phase III allowances of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) took place in the City of London. London is now the hub for 90% of EU carbon trading and 80% of global carbon trading - a £90bn market.
In addition to the leading emissions market, ICE Futures Europe also lists European natural gas futures & options contracts. All ICE Futures Europe contracts are cleared thought ICE Clear Europe, ICE’s London based clearing house, clearing an average 2.6m energy futures contracts each trading day.
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