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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

DWP:  Income from savings & small private pensions will be yours to keep without any pension credit ‘clawback’ - Details of the Coalition Government’s plans to simplify the state pension system with the creation of the ‘Single Tier’ pension, have been published in a White Paper as part of the Mid-Term Review

The reform will create a simple flat rate pension set above the means test (currently £142.70) and based on 35 years of National Insurance contributions.  It ‘will particularly benefit women, low earners and the self employed, who under existing rules find it difficult to earn a full state pension’.

Joanne Segars, Chief Executive, National Association of Pension Funds said:
"Today’s announcement for a simpler, more generous state pension is a much-needed shake-up that will ultimately help millions of pensioners and savers.  For the first time in a generation, people will know that it pays to save, and that whatever they put aside won’t be eroded by means-testing when they retire."
Press release & links ~ CBI – state pension reforms will bring 'clarity and certainty' to retirement saving ~ Government publishes draft Bill on Single Tier pension reforms ~ CBI: consultation plans crucial to protecting final salary schemes and jobs ~ National Association of Pension Funds ~ The Pensions Service ~ Gov.UK: State Pension ~ Winners & losers debate misses point, says CIPD; the simplicity & clarity of the flat-rate pension will encourage more workers to save for their retirement ~ PX:  Bit of a problem if one is expected to work longer before getting a pension (5th item) ~ Newswire – CF:  Almost as bad as ‘legalised theft’? (4th item) ~ IFS:  The better off can cut back on expensive luxuries, but for the poor that is often not an option ~ Few know what pension income they will receive & levels of engagement with annuity markets are low ~ 400,000 people out of work for more than 2 years may never work again ~ At least 200,000 people could benefit from making transfers between pension funds easier ~ New research by NIESR & TNS-BMRB outlines scale of challenge facing government pension reforms ~ IFS: Funding social care proposals may offer opportunity to rationalise tax system for older people ~ £16bn could be saved if older people shared the cuts burden ~ Government has abandoned private pension savers to predatory financial sector ~ Middle Britain to be Squeezed by 60% in Retirement ~ Research exploring the effect of uprating by CPI on occupational pension schemes
10 DS:  Adopting is stressful enough without red tape delaying things un-necessarily - Would-be adopters are now being supported by a new phone line and a map showing numbers of children in England waiting to be adopted.  The new telephone information line, contactable on 0300 222 0022, opened last week and is staffed by adopters.  

It will help potential adopters navigate the process of adopting a child by providing:
* an authoritative single source of advice & information on adoption
* signposting to local authority & Voluntary Adoption Agencies
* information about the entitlements to support that adoptive parents have
Press release & links ~ DfE: Adoption ‘hotspots' map unveiled alongside new adoption infoline ~ LGA: Government still letting bureaucracy get in the way of finding homes for children ~ Gov.UK: Child Adoption ~ Adoption Information Line ~ Adoption UK ~ Be My Parent ~ BAAF ~ Barnardo’s: Fostering & adoption ~ Ofsted:  LAs must adopt speedier placements ~ Adoption clauses don't fulfil their aims, say Lords ~ Select Committee on Adoption Legislation ~ Let foster parents send children to boarding school ~ Councils must drive out delays in adoptions ~ LGA statement – council performance on adoption ~ A state of the nation picture on adoption ~ Gove calls for more adopters to help find homes for more than 4200 children ready for adoption ~ Child protection system is failing older children, warns Education Committee ~ 'Adoption activity days' can help children find new families ~ Measures to improve adoption and fostering ~ LGA responds to DfE reforms to adoption and fostering ~ PM unveils foster-first policy for prospective adoptive parents ~ Adoption scorecards show the serious extent of delays across England ~ Court delays keep children waiting for adoption ~ To be an outstanding authority delays in adoption must be tackled 

Spending money is the easy bit, spending it for maximum benefit is much harder - The National Audit Office has highlighted 5 key risks to the value for money of projects included in the government’s national infrastructure plan.  The government expects £310bn to be spent by 2015 & beyond on new infrastructure projects in sectors such as energy, rail, roads, water, waste, flood defences & digital communications.

The NAO has made a series of recommendations to help ensure value for money is achieved.  It calls for the Treasury to work with departments & regulators to provide greater clarity for consumers regarding the financial impact of planned infrastructure investment.  Where there are limits on affordability & availability of finance, the NAO notes that the Treasury & departments may need to refine their prioritization of infrastructure programmes & projects.
Press release ~ HM Treasury: Planning for economic infrastructure ~ December 2012 National Infrastructure Plan progress update (plus related docs) ~ CBI comments on NAO infrastructure report - urging more action to boost private investment ~ CO: Voice for construction professionals – BIM 2050 launched ~ National Infrastructure Planning ~ ITRC ~ PX: How to deliver long term investment in infrastructure ~ HMT:  Building our way to a more prosperous future (2nd item) ~ PC&PE: Investment or needless expenditure, read the differing arguments (7th item) ~ Public Accounts Committee publishes report on offshore electricity transmission ~ End broadband arms race, says think tank ~ Business community backs the case for stable and sustained investment in London's transport services ~ £100 billion motorway sell-off can kick-start the faltering economy ~ Commissioner Oettinger welcomes faster decisions on infrastructure ~ EU-EIB Project Bond Initiative launched with start of pilot phase ~ Town Hall pension changes could unlock up to £22bn for infrastructure ~ Infrastructure Bill gets Royal Assent ~ Don’t just rely on usual suspects for growth - CBI ~ Government welcomes first injection into Pensions Investment Platform ~ Osborne urged to invest in transport in the North to create much-needed jobs ~ Capital Futures: Local capital finance options in an age of recovery ~ The Drivers Jonas Deloitte Community Infrastructure Levy Survey ~ Resilience of UK Infrastructure ~ CPNI 

Checking on the ‘horseplay’ in supermarkets - As the next step in the investigation into the results of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland survey of beef products, the UK Food Standards Agency has met recently with representatives from the food industry (producers, processors and retailers) from all parts of the UK.

It was noted that there are two distinct types of case:
* In all but one of the cases, the levels of horse and pig DNA were extremely low.
* In the one exceptional case, the level of horse meat accounted for 29% of the meat content

The causes of these two problems are therefore likely to be different and the focus of the investigations into the causes will be different.  The FSA has now set out a 4-point plan for its investigation, which it will be implementing in conjunction with other Government departments, local authorities and the food industry.
FSAA timely request - The Food Standards Agency are carrying out a survey to find out how useful you find their website and would appreciate it if you could take a few minutes to complete the survey.  Your responses will be used to influence future developments on the website.
MonitorIs anyone really surprised? - The findings have been published in an interim report from a team of experts tasked by Monitor with examining whether Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust in its current form is able to provide services to local patients in the long term.  The team reported that the Trust is not clinically sustainable in its present form and cannot break even without compromising future clinical services.
ScotGov:  Future scientists need to be inspired - Science projects that aim to interest people of all ages & abilities can now bid for funding to reach an even greater audience.  Talking Science grants aim to make science & scientific issues more accessible to communities across Scotland that may not have otherwise have had the chance.  More than £200,000 is available in 2013-14.  The deadline for applications is 5 March 2013.
NICE:  Delivering Health Services more effectively in a NICE way - If you have story to share of an innovative or effective way you have put NICE guidance into practice, now is the time to submit it. There are just a few days to go until the deadline for the 2013 NICE Shared Learning Awards.  

The awards recognise services & organisations that share valuable & welcome lessons learned through developing effective ways of putting NICE guidance into practice. The deadline for entries for this year's awards is 31 January 2013, with the shortlist to be contacted in March 2013.
HMRCYou have been warned! - The countdown has begun to the 31 January 2013 Self Assessment deadline, with just days left for anyone with an outstanding 2011-12 tax return to send it online to HM Revenue and Customs.  If you send your return late, you’ll receive a £100 penalty – even if you have no tax to pay or you pay your tax on time.  Further late-filing penalties kick in after 3, 6 & 12 months.
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Please note that previously published newsletters can be accessed from the Newsletter Archive

General News

STFCScientists have been able to reconstruct, for the first time, the intricate 3-dimensional structure of the backbone of early tetrapods, the earliest four-legged animals.  High-energy X-rays and a new data extraction protocol allowed the researchers to reconstruct the backbones of the 360m year old fossils in exceptional detail and shed new light on how the first vertebrates moved from water onto land.
LGAAcademies & free schools are failing in their ‘moral duty' to ensure children are getting healthy school meals, local government leaders are warning.  The Local Government Association is concerned that more than 1m children attending independently run free schools or academies could be eating poor quality meals that don't meet legal food standards, because of a worrying exemption in legislation.
NHS Confed: Commenting on the details published recently concerning public health budgets, Jo Webber says ‘it is encouraging to see the Government asserting its commitment to improving health outcomes’.
HEFCE: The Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) and the Minister for Universities & Science have confirmed funding allocations to the Higher Education Funding Council England for 2013-14 and the Government’s priorities for the Council for the coming year.
HPA: A scientific paper published in Eurosurveillance on 3 January 2013 described a new variant of norovirus (genotype G11 – 4) called Sydney 2012. The latest testing of the most recent outbreaks, completed this week, has now shown that Sydney 2012 has overtaken all others to become the dominant strain.
This new strain does not cause more serious illness than others and the methods of managing cases & outbreaks are the same for any strain of norovirus.  These measures include washing the hands thoroughly and regularly particularly after using the toilet and before eating.
ScotGovScotland’s war memorials will be cleaned & restored in readiness for the anniversary of the First World War through a new fund being made available to communities across the country. The additional £1m for the Centenary Memorials Restoration Fund will pay for the upgrade & maintenance of memorials in villages, towns & cities in Scotland that pay tribute to those who gave their lives during both world wars & other conflicts.
Any enquiries about grants should be sent to Historic Scotland Investment Team and the funding will be available over the course of the 4 year centenary commemorations from 2014-18 to allow communities to choose the best time to restore their war memorials, from the start of commemorations in August 2014 until Armistice Day 2018.
MoD: A university professor who has improved mental health services for the Armed Forces has been made a Knight Bachelor. Sir Simon Wessely’s (Professor of Psychological Medicine, Director of King’s College London’s Centre for Military Health Research) academic work has led to a better understanding of Gulf War Illness and to more effective psychological support for the Armed Services.
DfE: Education Secretary, Michael Gove, has announced that the Teaching Agency and National College for School Leadership will merge to create a single agency, focussed on promoting high-quality teaching & school leadership.
The new agency will lead on delivering school workforce reforms.  Its remit will include teacher training, continuous professional development & supporting school improvement to address under-performance in the education system.  The new agency will formally come into effect by the end of March 2013.
Ofsted: A new inspection framework for all ‘non-association’ independent schools in England will raise expectations for further improvement in these schools. Inspectors will be making a new judgement about the effectiveness of the school’s leadership & management.  They will also make a judgement about the school’s overall effectiveness, which summarises the key inspection judgements.
CABCitizens Advice has responded to the news that ‘banks and the FSA are discussing a deadline for when all PPI claims must be made’. Citizens Advice Chief Executive Gillian Guy said: "A deadline for mis-sold PPI claims could only be fair if, in exchange, the banks comply with an obligation to contact every customer who was sold PPI to tell them they may be entitled to make a claim”.
Monitor: There is no draft report of the Fair Playing Field Review and Monitor does not intend to provide a running commentary on the review. Monitor has yet to decide what recommendations it will make to the Secretary of State.   However in the light of recent media speculation, Monitor has decided to clarify the position on one specific issue – it will not be recommending that private sector providers should be exempt from paying corporation tax.
ACEArts Council National portfolio organisation, Artangel, and new partners BBC Radio 4 have launched an Open call for artists.  ‘Creatives’ working in any media, from anywhere in the UK, can apply for funding & support for site-specific projects - and for the first time this includes artists working the digital space. The closing date for submissions is Monday 29 April 2013.
ACEArts Council England has announced 3 new delivery partnerships for its Music industry talent development fund, Transforming arts fundraising programme and Developing resilient leadership programme. Specific details of how artists & arts organisations can get involved in the programmes will be announced in the coming months.
Defra: A new £1m pot for research to help the gardening industry end its reliance on peat has been announced. The funding has been made available as part of the Government’s response to a report from an independent Task Force, which was set up to help the horticulture industry manage the transition from using increasingly scarce supplies of peat to using sustainable growing products such as compost from garden waste.
ACEArts Council England is looking for a national provider to run a 3-year programme which will help organisations & artists ‘engage with strategic commissioning opportunities in the public service sector’Applications must be submitted online no later than 5pm Tuesday 26 February 2013.

Policy Statements and Initiatives

DWPBudding disabled entrepreneurs will get extra support to start up their own business in 2013, Minister for Disabled People Esther McVey has announced. Across the country, they will get support through Access to Work to pay for specialised equipment, support workers & travel costs when setting up their business, if they are enrolled on the New Enterprise Allowance (NEA).  The NEA provides expert coaching & financial support for jobseekers with a business idea.
DECC‘Energy saving has never been so attractive’ – that was the message from Edward Davey last week as he announced the Green Deal Cashback Scheme is open, with hundreds of pounds of cash available to householders in England & Wales who make energy saving home improvements.
HO: A panel of experts have come together at the Home Office to discuss ways to tackle female genital mutilation. The roundtable event comes after the Home Office announced a new £50,000 fund to support frontline agencies tackling female genital mutilation.
WAG: A new system to assess the quality of service within the NHS and share findings with the public will be introduced in Wales this year.  NHS organisations have been asked to produce Annual Quality statements as part of the Welsh Government’s commitment to high quality & safe services underpinned by transparency on performance. The statements will give patients easy access to a range of information about the services available to them and how well those services perform in a range of areas.
ScotGov: Following the announcement that Home Secretary, Theresa May, has agreed to cut starting salaries for police constables in England & Wales by £4,000 to £19,000, Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said:
"The Scottish Government did not commission the Winsor Review which relates to policing in England and Wales. We will not impose changes to the terms & conditions of our hard working, dedicated officers. Starting salaries for our police constables in Scotland will stay the same”.
DECC: 132 projects have been awarded a share of £46m from the Government to help reduce fuel poverty, boost energy efficiency, and encourage collective switching & purchasing in regions across Great Britain. This funding will be used by local authorities & third sector organisations to help keep people’s energy bills down & ensure homes are warm this winter, and in the future.
ScotGovThe people, and not the politicians or parliament, will hold the ultimate power in an independent Scotland. In a speech to the Foreign Press Association, First Minister Alex Salmond last week announced one of the first tasks of a newly independent Scottish Parliament will be to establish the process leading to a written constitution for Scotland.
CLG: The Communities Secretary has announced a new competition to enable those individuals with low levels of spoken English to fulfil their potential. In the past there has been the tendency to pay for interpreters, or translate documents into foreign languages, for those with no or extremely poor language skills.  This undermines community integration and encourages segregation.  Today, in 5% of households no one speaks English as their main language.
The government is therefore launching a new competition to back innovative & creative ways of delivering community-based English language programmes that will help to integrate participants into their local communities and also offer financial benefits.
CO: The Government has for the first time released details of the cost per transaction for some of the biggest services it provides to citizens. Every year there are more than 1bn transactions between British citizens & the state and now cost-per-transaction data for 44 of the biggest public services are being released. Taken together, these 44 services account for over 88% of the total transactions and cost just over £2bn a year to run.
Ofsted: Teams of Ofsted inspectors have begun the first in a wave of focused school inspections across local authority areas, ‘where thousands of children are being denied the standard of education they deserve’. The exercise now underway in Derby marks the start of a concerted programme of action by the inspectorate to establish why children in some parts of the country have a much lower chance of attending a good or better school than their peers in other similar areas.
HM Chief Inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw, has said that ‘Ofsted was determined to find out what lies behind these variations and to work with others to raise standards and close the gap between the worst and best performing authorities’.
WAG: With the cold weather set to continue and snow forecast for parts of Wales, the Welsh Government is reminding farmers of their legal responsibilities during periods of severe weather.


Ofsted: Ofsted has launched its consultation on the proposed changes to the inspection of Children & Family Court Advisory & Support Service (Cafcass) to drive improvement for children involved in the family courts proceedings. The consultation closes on 12 March 2013 with new inspection arrangements coming into effect in September 2013.
DCMS: The DCMS are seeking your views as they publish their response to Select Committee report on gambling. The DCMS are calling for evidence on any link between problem gambling & B2 machines (sometimes called fixed odds betting terminals, or FOBTs) as part of a consultation to review the maximum stake & prize limits for gaming machines. Consultation closes on 9 April 2013.
ScotGovSteps to help resolve disagreements between tenants & landlords were outlined in a consultation launched last week.  The Housing Panel consultation will look at the best ways to prevent disputes from arising between landlords & tenants in the private & social rented sectors, and to help parties to resolve issues themselves with input from an independent mediator. Consultation closes on 9 April 2013.
FSA: The Financial Services Authority has confirmed new rules designed to secure funding for the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) in a way which is affordable for firms.   The proposals will be adopted and will come into force when the FSA is replaced by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) on 1 April 2013.
The FSA also proposed setting up a Retail Pool, a collective resource funded by intermediaries and the investment providers which would be triggered if one or more of those classes reached their threshold.  In light of industry concerns about this approach, the FSA recently opened a month long consultation on a proposal that all providers should make contributions when the pool is triggered by the failure of an intermediary. Consultation closes on 18 February 2013.

Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides

EHRC: The Equality & Human Rights Commission has published new guidance on the public sector equality duty (PSED) under the Equality Act. The guidance gives a straightforward, but comprehensive, explanation of how public authorities – both as employers & service providers – should comply with the duty, as well as practical advice on how to do so. 
While this guidance is not a statutory Code of Practice, it can be used as evidence in legal proceedings.  The courts have said that a body subject to the equality duty that does not follow non-statutory guidance such as this will need to justify why it has not done so.
BHF: New guidance from the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) supports the use of the ‘WatchBP Home A’ device by healthcare professionals in primary care to opportunistically detect atrial fibrillation (AF) during measurement of blood pressure. AF is one of the most common types of abnormal heart rhythm and a major cause of stroke if left untreated.
FSA: The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has published final guidance that will help financial firms avoid creating & operating incentives schemes that drive mis-selling. The guidance applies to all firms that deal with consumers and have sales staff or advisers who are part of an incentive scheme.

Annual Reports

IEA: The UK is the 14th most free economy in the world, according to research published recently by the Heritage Foundation and The Wall Street Journal in association with the Institute of Economic Affairs.  The UK’s score of 74.8 is 0.7 points higher than last year, reflecting positive steps such as corporate tax rate cuts.
PC&PE:  The Environmental Audit Committee has published the Government Response to its Second Report of Session 2012-13: Protecting the Arctic. The Government has rejected calls from MPs to protect the Arctic from risky oil & gas drilling, despite renewed safety concerns following the grounding of a Shell rig in the region.
CCCWales has made good progress towards reducing carbon emissions & preparing for climate change, despite a sharp emissions increase in 2010 due to particularly cold winter temperatures, says a report by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC).  It also finds Wales’ flood defence budget better protected than England, although this is still unlikely to keep pace with the growing risk of flooding from climate change.
NIA: A new Report from the Assembly Public Accounts Committee has raised concerns that the level of rate debt has almost doubled in the last 5 years rising from £88m in 2006-07 to £160m in 2011-12.  A further £53m has been written off since 2008-09.
WAOThe Forestry Commission Wales is in good shape, but challenges remain for its successor if forestry in Wales is to continue to improve, says the Auditor General. FCW has followed previous audit recommendations and developed clear & appropriate priorities.  It has also improved its core processes however, planning gaps in areas such as spatial, workforce & financial planning are hampering progress
WAG: The Deputy Minister for Children & Social Services, Gwenda Thomas has welcomed the publication of the Care & Social Services Inspectorate for Wales (CSSIW) Chief Inspector’s annual report 2011-12.
ONS: There have been significant changes to what people can afford to spend during the recession, according to a new report by the Office for National Statistics.

The report, Poverty and Social Exclusion in the UK & EU, 2005-2011 says that, although overall levels of severe material deprivation in the UK have changed little in recent years the percentage of people in the UK who say they would be unable to meet an unexpected, but necessary financial expense has markedly increased since the start of the economic downturn, up from 26.6% in 2007 to 36.6% in 2011.

General Reports and Other Publications

CSPL: The Committee on Standards in Public Life, chaired by Sir Christopher Kelly, has published the findings of its review of best practice in promoting high standards of behaviour in public life.  The report argues that ‘while much of the basic infrastructure to improve standards is in place, there is a great deal more to do before high ethical standards are fully internalised in the cultures of all our public institutions’.
PC&PE: The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has published its report on offshore electricity transmission - a new model for infrastructure.  It commented: "Not only is it unlikely that this new licensing system for bringing electricity from offshore wind farms onto the national grid will deliver any savings for consumers, it could well lead to higher prices”.
HL: As homelessness rises across the country, ‘plans to cut local funding of housing support services by up to 85% will damage lives & communities’, Homeless Link warns.  Some deep concerns have been highlighted by the report Who is supporting people now?, which explores the impact of funding changes on local authorities, services and the people they support in 7 communities in England.
IoE: The positive impact of Reading Recovery for pupils who struggled with literacy at the start of primary school lasts up to & into secondary school, a study from the Institute of Education (IOE), London, has revealed.
Reading Recovery is a school based literacy programme for the lowest achieving children aged 5 or 6 that enables them to reach age-expected levels within 20 weeks.  It involves a short series of one-to-one lessons every day with a specially trained teacher.
PC&PE: A number of key decisions need to be taken swiftly in order to ensure a smooth change-over to a new system of pricing for the drugs used by the NHS the Health Committee reported last week, following an inquiry into the work of the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE).  It also urges greater openness about the results of clinical drug trials, and welcomes the new role that NICE will have from April this year in producing guidance for the social care sector.
PXHouseholds could reduce their gas & electricity bills by as much as £70 a year if they were allowed to compare each other’s energy bills. A new report, Smarter, Greener, Cheaper, by Policy Exchange says there is evidence both internationally and in the UK that households cut the amount of energy they use when their energy use is compared to that of a more energy efficient neighbour.
The report argues policy changes are needed if the Government wants to take full advantage of the roll-out of smart meters, which will see 53m new gas & electricity meters installed in homes across the UK over the next 7 years.
PC&PE: The Draft Local Audit Bill ad-hoc Committee published its Report, Pre-Legislative Scrutiny of the Draft Local Audit Bill, last week. Launching the report, chair of the Committee, Margaret Hodge MP, said: "We heard conflicting evidence about whether & how much public money is likely to be saved by implementing this legislation.  Given this uncertainty it's essential the Government commissions & publishes a new financial impact assessment alongside the Bill when this is presented to Parliament.

The Committee is concerned that the proposed new arrangements as set out in the draft Bill will result in a more complex and fragmented audit regime.  We believe that the principle of independent audit - which has guided public sector audit for the last 150 years - could be undermined if the bill is not amended.”
IISS: According to the latest Strategic Comment from the International Institute for Strategic Studies, the British Army is planning to rely on more reserves as part of a radical reorganisation forced by defence cuts. But the project's long-term viability relies on the successful withdrawal from.

Legislation / Legal

OFT: The OFT has imposed requirements on Royal Bank of Scotland plc (RBS) and National Westminster Bank plc (NatWest), both members of the RBS Group, to address concerns about the way some customer debts are enforced via charging orders.
MoJAlbanian prisoners can now be sent back to Albania to finish their prison sentences, following a new agreement signed by Prisons Minister Jeremy Wright recently.  The UK currently holds almost 200 Albanian national prisoners and the Prison Service has already identified those who are eligible for transfer.
This is the UK's first major bilateral prisoner transfer agreement providing for compulsory transfer outside the European Union.  Albania is a Council of Europe member state and is subject to regular prison inspections.
OFT: The OFT has launched a market study to examine whether defined contribution workplace pension schemes are set up to deliver the best value for money for savers. The market for these pensions is going through a period of significant change which will see an expected rise in the value of annual contributions of around £11bn by 2018.
Ofcom: Ofcom has recently fined Playboy £100,000 for failing to protect children from potentially harmful pornographic material. Two websites owned by Playboy (Playboy TV and Demand Adult) allowed users to access hardcore videos & images without having acceptable controls in place to check that users were aged 18 or over.
Unlike other pornographic websites, these websites are regulated by Ofcom and its concurrent regulator, the Authority for Video On Demand (ATVOD).  This is because they provide access to videos in a similar way to adult services broadcast on television – and fall within UK jurisdiction.  Ofcom concluded that Playboy’s failure to protect children from potentially accessing these sites was serious, repeated & reckless.

EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.

EU News: Since 2000, the European Union, through its Cohesion Policy funds, spent almost €5bn for co-financing energy efficiency measures in the Member States. The European Court of Auditors has assessed whether Cohesion Policy investments in energy efficiency were cost-effective.
The Court found that the projects selected by Member State authorities for financing did not have rational objectives in terms of cost-effectiveness (i.e. cost per unit of energy saved).  The planned payback period for the investments was 50 years on average, and up to 150 years in certain cases.
EU News: The European Food Safety Authority has announced the launch of a major initiative designed to facilitate access to data, enhancing transparency in risk assessment.  The programme, to be developed in cooperation with the Authority’s partners & stakeholders, will consider how best & to what extent technical data used in risk assessments can be made available to the broader scientific community & interested parties.
HPA: The ‘Case studies, Exercises, LEarning, Surveys & Training across Europe (CELESTE)’ consortium led by the Health Protection Agency has been awarded the Multiple Framework Contract for ‘Scripting, planning, conduction and evaluation of exercises, training and assessment implementing the draft decision on cross-border threats to health’. 

The contract, which is signed between the HPA and the European Executive Agency for Health and Consumers is worth a maximum of €6m for the whole duration (including the possible extension).
EU News: A resolution to keep up pressure on the Commission & member states to explore all avenues for pooling sovereign debt was adopted last Wednesday. The text affirms that fears of free-riding can be overcome by carefully-crafted solutions, so debt pooling need not be automatically taboo. It also points out that the Eurozone is unique in having a single currency, but no common bond market.

Charity and Voluntary Sector

BIGTwo thirds of working age people with sight loss have experienced restrictions in accessing or fully participating in employment (RNIB).  However an England-wide initiative which has received almost £300,000 by the Big Lottery Fund (BIG) aims to improve the situation for hundreds of blind & partially-sighted people by linking them with employers through targeted placements.
Through the Extending the Reach project from the Royal National Institute for Blind People (RNIB),   participants will be supported to search for jobs, improve their application writing, interview techniques, and acquire work experience & relevant training.  They will also be supported & monitored for up to a year to ensure a smooth transition into permanent employment for both employer & employee.

Business and Other Briefings

DWP: Businesses are being targeted in a new Government campaign urging them to kick off the New Year by taking on a young person.  Minister for Employment, Mark Hoban, challenged businesses as he launched the new 'Youth Contract: Works for me' advertising drive on local radio stations.  

The campaign raises awareness of the £1bn Youth Contract, the Government’s package of support offering nearly half a million opportunities to help 18-24 year-olds into work.
Mr Hoban is particularly urging businesses to take advantage of 160,000 wage incentives offered as part of the package.  These give employers up to £2,275 when they take on a young person who has been unemployed for more than six months.
ECGDUK Export Finance (UKEF) has confirmed that more businesses in Northern Ireland will be able to take advantage of its Bond Support Scheme following the addition of Ulster Bank to its panel of affiliated lenders.  

The Bond Support Scheme provides exporters with increased opportunities when raising contract bonds related to exports and is one of several UKEF initiatives designed to help UK businesses export and ensure they have access to the working capital essential to their growth.
WAGTwo Welsh Government business rate incentive schemes - with a total value of £21.5m – go live this month.  Both schemes are now open for applications with £3.27m available in the current financial year.

Details of the two new schemes – the Enterprise Zone Business Rates Scheme and the Wales Renewable Energy Producers Business Rate Scheme – were announced last week by Business Minister Edwina Hart.
WAG: First Minister Carwyn Jones has taken the message that ‘Wales is open for business’ as to Turkey in the first of a number of trade mission & overseas missions for 2013.
CBI: The CBI has commented on changes to workplace dispute settlements and TUPE regulations, announced by Employment Relations Minister Jo Swinson.
ECGD: A revised Short Term Communication from the EU Commission came into effect on 1 January 2013 and will be valid until 31 December 2018.  As a result UK Export Finance, in common with its counterparts in other EU countries, remains prohibited from providing trade credit insurance cover for exports to buyers in the EU and in certain other OECD countries where the risk horizon is under 2 years.
BIS: A new round of the £350m Regional Growth Fund opened last week. The Fund has already helped 180 projects get started, creating & safeguarding local jobs and attracting significant private sector investment.
DWP: British businesses will be helped to tackle long-term sickness absence in the workplace thanks to a new independent assessment & advisory service aimed at getting people back to work and away from long-term sickness benefits

The scheme will save employers up to £160m a year in statutory sick pay and increase economic output by up to £900m a year.  The new service is expected to be up & running in 2014.
This Brief gives information about their intention to start a programme of assurance visits to business customers of Registered Dealers in Controlled Oils (RDCO), and business customers of distributors trading under the Tied Oils Class Approval scheme who purchase closed containers of 210 litres or less.

Industry News

WO: Plans from Japanese firm Hitachi to build up to 6 new nuclear reactors in the UK progressed last week as Ministers asked the Office for Nuclear Regulation and the Environment Agency to assess the design of their reactor. Hitachi recently acquired Horizon Nuclear Power and plan to develop new nuclear reactors at Wylfa in Anglesey and Oldbury in Gloucestershire.
A Generic Design Assessment (GDA) will now be carried out on the Advanced Boiling Water Reactor, which is the only Generation III + reactor which has been in operation anywhere in the world, with four ABWRs in Japan, and three others under construction in Japan and Taiwan.

Forthcoming Event

STFC: UK industry can find out more about the €244.7M business opportunities from the Extreme Light Infrastructure (ELI) Project’s ‘Attosecond Facility’ at a special FREE seminar organised by UK Trade & Investment (UKTI), in association with the Science & Technology Facilities Council on 21- 22 February 2013.
The seminar, which is free to attend, will give delegates an insight into how to successfully work with the ELI ‘Attosecond Facility’ in Hungary, by gaining an understanding of the facility’s current & future technology needs.  

In addition attendees will also have the opportunity to meet with key decision makers from the project during scheduled one-to-one meetings in order to ask specific questions and highlight available technologies.
RoSPA: Equipping children with the skills to ‘learn about safety by experiencing risk’ will be the focus of the LASER Alliance Annual Conference next month.   LASER Hands On will be held at DangerPoint interactive education centre in Talacre, north Wales, on Thursday 21 February 2013, where the importance of high quality practical safety education (HQPSE) will be discussed.

 HQPSE seeks to deepen children’s knowledge and understanding of risk competence and to develop skills appropriate to their age. 

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