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In the News

10 DS‘Y’ this route - Proposals for HS2 route north of Birmingham, including locations of new stations, were unveiled last week.  The preferred route of Phase 2 includes 5 new stations: Manchester, Manchester Airport, East Midlands, Sheffield and Leeds.

The publication of the 211-mile northern Phase 2 route of HS2 (part of the Government’s Mid-Term Review) follows confirmation a year ago of HS2’s 140-mile southern Phase 1 route between London & Birmingham.  Phase 1 starts construction in 4 years and opens to passengers in 13 years.  The routes announced last week will open 6 years after that.
Press release & links ~ CBI: Extending HS2 to North will drive growth and create jobs ~ TUC - High-speed rail must deliver jobs and growth, says TUC ~ Written statement by the Rt Hon Justine Greening MP ~ IPPR North: Osborne urged to invest in transport in the North to create much-needed jobs ~ High speed rail strategic alternatives study: Update following consultation DfTESRC: Research to kick-start the UK economy ~ Committee publishes report on the completion & sale of High Speed 1 ~ PX: Is there a north-south political divide? New landmark polling report finds it’s not so simple ~ Get Scotland on Fast Track ~ DfT:  Would an independent Scotland pay all the costs to extend HS2 beyond Leeds & Manchester? (2nd item) ~ iea:  Noisy waste of money or future of North – South Travel? (3rd item)

DfE:  No wonder it costs over £200k to bring up a child - Parents will have more choice of high quality childcare, the Government outlined last week in its new report ‘More great childcare’.  The new childcare reforms are intended to ensure that the government overhaul childcare qualifications, and provide more choice of quality education & care for parents.
Press release & links ~ CBI: Government needs to be bolder to cut childcare costs and increase places ~ Government policy has made childcare even more unaffordable, says TUC ~ PX: Parents in wealthier areas receive better standard of childcare ~ Qualifications are key to high-quality early years education~ Daycare Trust ~ BBC: Childcare costs 'keep many in poverty' - Barnardo's ~ The Telegraph: How to cut the cost of child care ~ RF: Counting the cost of childcare ~ HMRC: Workplace childcare facilities ~ Scottish Childcare Information Service ~ nidirect: Childcare ~ WAG: Childcare ~ Ofsted: Information about early years and childcare ~ Gov.UK: Help with childcare costs ~ TUC urges employers to show understanding over bad weather and school closures ~ IEA: Government action on living costs could save families £750 a month ~ TUC: Working families to lose £3,000 a year from child benefit and tax credit cuts by 2015 ~ CBI comments on two year olds' childcare funding ~ ‘Women are at the heart of economic growth’ – Maria Miller ~ IPPR: Friendly to families, unfriendly to women ~ Commission calls for views on childcare ~ ScotGov: Supporting children and families
PAIs it just a matter of time before a new NHS ‘scandal’ - Two years on from the publication of the first Francis Report, and shortly before the launch of the findings of the inquiry into Stafford Hospital,  The Patients Association has launched a damning report into complaints handling in England’s hospitals.

The analysis, in a new report 'Complaint handling in NHS Trusts', reveals huge variations in the way in which hospitals display information about how to make a complaint, shows support to patients is incomplete & unclear, and suggests 35% of staff have insufficient training in complaints handling

Despite the shocking catalogue of poor care at Stafford Hospital, and numerous reports since, this investigation shows significant pockets of the NHS have not led the kind of changed needed to prevent another scandal occurring.
Press release & links ~ Regulator finds that A&E department at Queen’s Hospital, Romford, is still failing to protect the safety & welfare of people ~ WAG: New system to drive up standards in NHS Wales ~ CQC has much to do to earn public confidence, warns Health Committee ~ DH: New checks for doctors in world first patient safety boost~ Rolling the Dice: Could IPC be a victim of its own success? ~ Patients Association responds to Royal College of Physicians report on stretched hospital services ~ National Quality Board set out how to improve quality in the new health system ~ NICE: Calls for standardised model of bedside monitoring ~ Common medicines dictionary approved for NHS ~ CQC report shows where NHS should be looking to improve ~ Lives will be saved as junior doctors shadow new role ~ Patient Safety Programme extended ~ New style of NHS leadership could deliver better patient care and financial performance says The King’s Fund review ~ NO: Can dignity in care ever be provided universally? (4th item) ~ CQC: Can anyone still believe the NHS doesn’t need to change how it delivers its services? (1st item) ~ CQC: Time for the NHS to be run to DMS standards? (2nd item) ~ WAG: Ensuring Nursing Care is ‘fit for purpose’ (4th item) ~ Monitor: Good Practice must be spread to all NHS Hospital Trusts (4th item) ~ NHS Confed: There is a need for change in the NHS(4th item) 

NHS Confed:  Don’t waste time & resources by ‘re-inventing the wheel’ - Health & wellbeing boards should take advantage of the experience & connections of established providers of health & care-related services, as well as be open to innovative contributions from new ones if they want to be successful at improving the health outcomes of their communities, according to a new report; Stronger together: how health & wellbeing boards can work effectively with local providers.

But they should tailor their engagement programme to local priorities, using different tools & models at different times, rather than fix rigidly on one structure or process, says the report, which draws on the experiences & learning of local authorities, health providers and commissioners.  The report sets out a 12-point framework for building health & wellbeing board and provider engagement.
CO:  Staying ‘on theme’ with the previous item - A new initiative, which brings together commissioners from across the public sector, will ‘transform how public services are delivered and arm the civil service with the right commissioning skills for the future’, Minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude, announced last week.  

Open to all public sector commissioning organisations, including central government departments, local authorities, health bodies and judicial services, the Commissioning Academy will help senior commissioners learn from the example of the most successful & innovative commissioning groups.

The academy is now open for applications from senior level commissioners to join the first cohorts, starting from April 2013 onwards.  Sponsored by their Director General or Chief Executive, those participating in the academy will on completion take forward 100-day plans aimed at transforming their organisation’s commissioning practices
DH:  Assessment of eligibility for NHS Continuing Healthcare funding If you or a relative received care that was paid for between 1 April 2011 and 31 March 2012, were not assessed for NHS CH and think you should be, you have until 31 March 2013 to contact your PCT to make a claim for repayment.
GPSDoes this impact on your organisation? - 2e2 UK Limited has recently entered into administration.  Customers procuring or about to procure through the IT Managed Services (RM717), PSN Services (RM1498) and RM1557 (G-Cloud) frameworks are advised to consider this prior to engagement or contract signature. 2e2 has stated that existing customers will continue to receive service provision.  If you have any concerns please contact the customer service desk.
DfE:  Champion state school pupils deserve a chance to attend the best universities - Registration is now open for the Dux Awards.  Teachers select a Year 9 pupil as their ‘Dux’ (Latin for ‘champion’), who is rewarded with a visit to one of the Russell Group universities.  Registration closes on 8 February 2013 and the events are due to be held from May - July 2013.
ScotGov:  There is a slight irony here - Following David Cameron’s speech signalling the UK Government’s intention to hold an ‘in or out’ referendum on European Union membership, Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has written to EU Foreign Ministers to set out the position of the Scottish Government on the European Union and Scotland’s place in it, including the approach to Scotland’s continued membership following a Yes vote in 2014.

Latest White Paper: Serving the Digital Customer in the Age of Austerity - The Public Sector is facing unprecedented challenges as a result of the converging pressures of the digital customer and the long-running recession. There has possibly never been a time where expectations have increased exponentially in the same period where budgets have been cut significantly.

Customers' behaviours across all demographics and generations have changed with more and more empowered by digital channels such as the web, social media and mobile. Put simply, this means that your customers, having already adopted these new channels in their everyday dealings with commercial organizations and in their personal lives, expect the same from the Public Sector.

This latest paper explores the idea that if you give your Digital Customers what they want, they will in turn help you do more with the budget you have and perhaps help you make the case for more budget as a result of savings you might be able to drive elsewhere.

Click here to download your free copy of ‘Serving the Digital Customer in the Age of Austerity’.

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

General News

TfL: The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has recently announced that the route 24 will become the first bus route in the capital to be served entirely by a fleet of new bus for London vehicles.   

The route, operated by Metroline, runs from Hampstead Heath to Pimlico, via Camden, Trafalgar Square, Parliament Square & Victoria and operates 24 hours a day. Plans are in place for the route to have been fully converted by summer 2013.
IfL: The University of Wolverhampton, in partnership with the Institute for Learning (IfL), has announced the creation of a research centre for FE & skills at the university’s School for Education Futures (SEF).
Through its collaboration with IfL the new Centre for Research & Development in Lifelong Education (CRADLE) will be an important hub & repository for policy & practitioner research and knowledge transfer for teachers, trainers and their practice in further education, with a distinctive focus on the early years of practice.
DWP: Almost half of the ex-Remploy factory workers - around 450 disabled people - who have taken up the Government’s employment support package have found work or are in training. 

Following the factory closures, more than 210 disabled ex-Remploy workers found work, with almost 240 taking up the opportunity to retrain for a new job. This follows news that 4 Remploy factory businesses have now re-opened as going concerns.
Press release & links
STFC: A Science & Technology Facilities Council funded project will help us learn more about our Sun & the ‘space weather’ that it generates.   Researchers at the Universities of Dundee & Durham will look at the basic physical processes that occur in plasmas on the Sun and throughout the Universe. This ‘space weather’, though beautiful to observe, also causes problems for spacecraft, satellites and high-flying airplanes, as well as power blackouts. 
WAGHealth Minister Lesley Griffiths has announced that the Welsh Government has reached an agreement with the General Practitioners Committee (GPC) Wales on changes to the GP contract for 2013/14.
HO: A new advertising campaign to remind young people to talk to FRANK for factual & trustworthy drugs advice was launched by the Home Office recently. The launch of the 3 adverts marks FRANK's tenth year.  In this time more than 35m people have used the FRANK website and millions have called the FRANK helpline to speak to specially trained advisors.
UKOC49% of adults in England have the maths skills of an 11 year-old, according to the latest figures.  That means that half of us regularly struggle with things like fractions, percentages & ratios in our everyday lives.  Now a new initiative has been set up to give adult maths a boost for 2013 and get more people to believe that ‘maths really is something everybody needs to know and many of us need to brush up on’.
Maths4us kicked off last week with over 20 national organisations coming together to pool resources & plan action on adult maths over the coming weeks.  OCF (Online Centres Foundation) - the organisation behind UK online centres - is just one of the partners involved in the initiative.
EH: A hundred years ago this year, the British government under Herbert Asquith recognised for the first time the State’s duty to protect the physical remains of its history.  Over the course of 2013, a series of exhibitions, a book and a BBC television series will all mark the centenary of this heritage milestone.
The Ancient Monuments Act of 1913 was a landmark moment for heritage – it created many of the powers still used to safeguard the nation’s legacy of historic buildings.  The Act also effectively established the National Heritage Collection, Britain’s outdoor museum today consisting of 880 historic sites and now in the care of English Heritage, CADW and Historic Scotland.
TfL: A new programme is intended to enable London Underground to meet the Mayor's commitment of reducing delays by 30% by end of 2015.  
CO: The government recently announced 12 university departments that are deemed to be outstanding are to have the prestigioustitle of Regius Professor bestowed upon them by The Queen to mark the Diamond Jubilee.
MonitorMonitor has taken regulatory action at Stockport NHS Foundation Trust to improve performance within the A&E department for the benefit of patients. The regulator has found the Trust in significant breach of its terms of authorisation due to successive failure to meet its A&E healthcare target for 4 out of the last 6 financial quarters.
LSIS: The Learning & Skills Improvement Services has confirmed when it will cease delivery of its improvement services for the further education and skills sector by the end July 2013. 
Following discussions with BIS, LSIS is now able to confirm that the majority of its work will continue as planned, until the end of March 2013, and that a phased ending to its services will take place during the summer term.
NENatural England and the South Downs National Park Authority are appealing to the public to help protect a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) which has been damaged as a result of illegal activity. Unfortunately, over recent months, the site has been blighted by off-road motorcyclists who have been using it as a track.  
Damage to the site is worsening over time, with offenders bringing equipment with them to dig tracks and make alterations to suit their sport.  Anyone who witnesses illegal or irresponsible use of motorised vehicles in the countryside should report it through Pathwatch or call the Sussex Police 101.

Policy Statements and Initiatives

DWP: Improvements to the Work Capability Assessment, which came into force last week, will mean ‘more people suffering from cancer will get the unconditional help they need’. 

The changes will mean people who are awaiting, receiving, or recovering from any form of chemotherapy or radiotherapy for cancer will be placed in the Support Group for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), where they will get the long term financial support they need while unable to work.
Previously, different forms of treatment were assessed differently.  But the new simpler process will mean all types of cancer treatment are seen as having the potential to be equally as debilitating.  This means more people will qualify for the ESA Support Group whereas before they may have been placed in the Work Related Activity Group, where they would be expected to make efforts to return to work.
WAG: A £7m national support programme for the Literacy & Numeracy Framework to help schools drive up standards of literacy & numeracy across all subjects in the curriculum has been launched. 

The final Literacy & Numeracy Framework (LNF), which was published last week on the Learning Wales website, will support curriculum planning and also help teachers to monitor pupils’ progress in literacy & numeracy against clear annual expectations for all learners aged 5 to 14.
CLG: Homeowners looking to take their next step on the property ladder will now be able to trade their old property in for a new-built home, Housing Minister Mark Prisk said recently.  Launching ‘NewBuy part exchange’, the minister said this new measure would help free up the housing market, not just for these ‘second-steppers’, but also for aspiring first-time buyers, as more properties are freed up to buy.
As of the 25 January 2013, builders offering the NewBuy scheme will now offer to buy a customer’s existing property in advance of selling them a newly built home, alongside their 5% deposit.
ScotGov: Plans for Scotland to retain its leading role in cutting emissions and to continue to lead global efforts to tackle climate change have been set out. The Scottish Government is investing over £1.14bn over the next 3 years on measures to address climate change and has published the second draft Report on Proposals and Policies (RPP2).  

The report details climate change strategies, which build on Scotland’s current low carbon action plan, to meet its ‘world leading and ambitious climate change targets’ up to 2027. 
ACE: The Society of Chief Librarians (SCL) has announced that 4 'universal offers' will be rolled out nationally to create an integrated approach to library services in England & Wales. 
The SCL also announced other initiatives that will be launched in public libraries throughout 2013, such as the introduction of the first national Books on prescription scheme with the Department of Health. Libraries will also be on hand to help claimants of Universal Credit, which comes into force later this year, providing internet access & support to complete the application and manage their account online.
WAG: Minister for Communities and Local Government, Carl Sargeant, launched a campaign last week to tackle the increased levels of domestic abuse that occur around the time of major sporting events such as the Six Nations rugby tournament.
DfE: The Education Secretary, Michael Gove, announced last week that Computer Science will be included in the EBacc. The change is being made because of the importance of computer science for both education and the economy. The previous ‘harmful’ ICT curriculum was removed last year and will be replaced soon with a new programme of study focused on computer science.
Computer science will be added to the list of separate science options (so there are now 4 separate sciences instead of the traditional 3) in the EBacc.  Pupils who sit any 3 of the 4 separate sciences and get at least a C in two of them will get the EBacc.  This change has no effect on those doing the ‘traditional’ three separate sciences, it is just another option.  The ‘core plus additional’ option is unchanged.
ScotGov:  A programme of action to tackle child sexual exploitation in Scotland was announced last week by Minister for Children and Young People Aileen Campbell.
Defra: A new, independent public body will hold in trust the nation’s publicly-owned forests for future generations, Environment Secretary Owen Paterson announced last week. Alongside the continuing work of the Forestry Commission, this new body will own, maintain & safeguard our forests on behalf of the public. The announcement formed part of the Government’s response to the Independent Panel on Forestry’s report on the future of trees & woodland.
WAG: A programme to deliver intensive support to families with complex needs has been established in the Western Bay area covering Bridgend, Neath Port Talbot and Swansea local authorities and Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board.
Integrated Family Support Services aim to keep families together by helping them to take positive steps to change & improve their lives. There are indications that it is already making a real difference to children & families in Wales where the impact of parental substance misuse is felt. 

The new service in Western Bay is part of the roll-out of IFSS across Wales by 2014, ensuring equitable & timely access to the service for some of the country’s most vulnerable children & families.


Ofwat: Ofwat has announced proposals to change the way it regulates the water & sewerage sectors to drive more efficient, customer-focused companies, and ensure more sustainable water use.  The proposals are part of its consultation on how it plans to set limits on how much water & sewerage companies in England & Wales can charge their customers from 2015 to 2020.
The publication of Ofwat’s ‘Setting price limits for 2015-20’ consultation follows a 2-year period of engagement by the regulator on how it might change its broad approach to setting price limits.  

Ofwat will publish a final methodology for the next price review process in summer 2013.  Decisions on new price limits are due at the end of 2014 and will come into effect in April 2015.  The consultation closes on 26 March 2013..
TfLTransport for London (TfL) is encouraging Londoners to have their say on proposed changes to the Congestion Charging scheme before the public consultation closes on Friday 8 February 2013.
FSA: A UK company has applied to the Food Standards Agency for approval to market sporopollenin shells from a type of plant known as clubmoss Lycopodium clavatum, as a novel food ingredient.   The Agency is inviting comments on this application. Any comments on this application should be emailed to the ACNFP Secretariat by 18 February 2013.
FSA: A US company has asked the FSA's expert advisers on novel foods to consider its application for a refined oil to be approved for use in the European Union under the simplified approval procedure.  The oil is from a plant known as Buglossoides arvensis.  Any comments on this application should be emailed to the ACNFP Secretariat by 18 February 2013.
CC:  The Competition Commission has published an issues statement as part of its investigation into the proposed merger of the Royal Bournemouth & Christchurch Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (RBCH) and Poole Hospital NHS Foundation Trust (PH).
The issues statement identifies clearly for all interested parties the key questions which the inquiry is examining.  The issues statement does not imply that the Inquiry Group has yet identified any competition concerns. The CC is expected to publish its final report by 24 June 2013.
The full issues statement is available on the inquiry home page along with all other information relating to the inquiry. Any interested party is invited to respond to the issues statement, in writing, by no later than 11 February 2013.
HMT: The Government has published for consultation a set of guidelines & tools to support public & private sector infrastructure providers’ capability to improve the delivery of large scale projects & programmes.  The launch of the toolkit forms part of the Government’s Cost Review programme, led by Infrastructure UK, which aims to improve delivery & make efficiency savings of at least 15% by 2015.
Developed by Infrastructure UK in collaboration with industry & academics from the University of Leeds, the ’Infrastructure Procurement Routemap: a guide to improving delivery capability’ provides a valuable guide for infrastructure clients and a coherent approach to assessing and building an effective delivery environment, combining best practice tools & case study examples such as Crossrail.
The closing date for consultation on the draft toolkit is 22 April 2013 after which responses will be reviewed in preparation for the release of an update of the toolkit in late spring 2013.  

The consultation will involve continued development with industry and the opportunity to participate in a series of regionally based roadshows.  Further details will be advertised through trade press & industry representative bodies.
WAG: Views are being sought on draft guidance on the provision of a service toidentify mental health problems, learning disability or other needs in people brought into custody in Wales. Health Minister Lesley Griffiths has launched a consultation on Criminal Justice Liaison Services (CJLSs), which identify people in the police station or court and signpost or divert them towards an appropriate agency as early as possible in the criminal justice system.
A CJLS of some description is in place in all areas in Wales and all have long-term funding.  Draft guidance has been developed to ensure consistency in provision across Wales, outlining the minimum levels of service required in all Local Health Board areas. Consultation closes on 12 March 2013.
FSA: The Food Standards Agency has published its Forward Evidence Plan for 2013. The plan outlines priority science & evidence activities for the coming year, including potential areas for research funding and workshops that will help develop the Agency’s evidence base. Any comments on the plan should be sent by Friday 15 February 2013.
FRC: The Financial Reporting Council has issued (for consultation), guidance for directors, and related standards for auditors, to implement the recommendations of the Sharman Panel of Inquiry into Going Concern and Liquidity Risks. Consultation closes on 28 April 2013.
EU News: The EU aims to allow free circulation of all products throughout the EU - the Single Market concept - but complaints from producers & distributors to the European Commission show that blockages in the trade of industrial products still exist.
In order to address this issue, the Commission is working to identify & eliminate any gaps in the Single Market legislation, in particular if there are any obstacles to the trade of new products & new technologies, such as key enabling technologies or 3-D printing. 

The Commission has therefore launched a consultation process which asks business & interested parties to inform the Commission about regulatory issues they encounter while trading industrial products within the EU.  Consultation closes on 17 April 2013.
HO: New proposals to allow people to join the police force without starting at constable rank were revealed recently by the Home Office last weekCurrently all recruits to the police have to start at the lowest rank and work their way up, meaning new recruits have to serve at least 20 years before becoming a chief constable.
Tom Winsor, in his independent review of police pay and conditions, recommended allowing skilled applicants from outside policing to join at inspector, superintendent or chief constable level. The Home Office accepted his recommendations in principle and have launched a consultation to seek views on how it should be done. Consultation closes on 28 March 2013.

Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides

NICE: Leading experts have dismissed claims that the formula used by NICE to recommend which drugs are funded on the NHS is ‘flawed’ and say that it is still the best available method for assessing drugs

A European Commission-funded study says that the method used by NICE called quality-adjusted life years (QALY) for assessing the value of new drug treatments does not reflect variations in views on illness & disability.
QALYs looks at the cost of using a drug for a year and weighs it against how much someone's life can be extended & improved.  Generally, if a treatment costs more than £20,000-30,000 per QALY, it would not be recommended as cost-effective by NICE. The findings of the study - which involved surveying 1,300 respondents in Belgium, France, Italy and the UK about the QALY - were presented at a conference in Brussels on health outcomes in Europe last week.
ScotGovVulnerable children will benefit from improved support from local services, following updated guidance from the Scottish Government. To further support practice the ScotGov has recently completed work on 3 manifesto commitments on child protection:
* The National Framework for child protection learning & development
* The Risk Assessment Framework
* Child Protection Guidance for Health professionals
TNA: Recently The National Archives have published an Agreement on Cooperation signed by the Information Commissioner and the Chief Executive & Keeper, The National Archives.  This sets out how The National Archives and the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) will co-operate as regulators of access to and re-use of public sector information.

Annual Reports

IoEEmpowering teachers with the skills to use music in the classroom can boost not only music skills in children, but also helps to improve aspects of literacy, particularly reading. 

The New London Orchestra's flagship education project Literacy through Music is aiming to improve primary school teachers' confidence & skills in using music in the classroom, and provide them with methods & activities that they can use to support literacy development.
The scheme, now in its second full year, is being run by the NLO, which provided in-service training for teachers.  The previous (first) year's scheme evaluation had found that the children taking part in the scheme had significantly improved their reading abilities compared to those in control groups.  This positive finding led to the NLO organising the professional development programme that built on the evaluation of the first year.
BIS: A third of men and nearly a third of women who participated in further education (FE) got a better job as a result.  This is the key finding from The Impact of FE Learning, a new report from the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills.  The report also demonstrated many other financial, personal & social benefits.
PC&PE: A report published by the Commons Culture Media and Sport Committee issues an ultimatum to the game of English football: make the necessary reforms within 12 months or face possible legislation.

The Committee reported previously on domestic football governance in July 2011, after concerns were expressed by supporters & commentators about the sufficiency of checks & balances on financial management in football, as well as wider failures of governance.
ONS: The latest statistics from the 2011 Census, published last week, provide a new level of geographical detail about the characteristics of the population of England and Wales. The Office for National Statistics is now giving the geographical detail for what are known as 'output areas', as well as for wards, parishes and Westminster parliamentary constituencies.
NAOA review by the National Audit Office of ‘early action’ has concluded that ‘this approach has the potential to result in better outcomes and greater value for money’.  Early action is the early deployment of resources by public bodies to prevent problems occurring or getting worse in service provision, rather than spending money reactively once those problems have occurred.
Government has signalled its commitment to the principle of early action but there is little evidence of a concerted shift in resources to early action projects, or cross-government coordination, either in consistent definition & measurement or in establishing adequate support structures.   

Determined leadership is necessary to divert resources away from pressing & highly visible current needs, in line with public expectations, towards long-term early action programmes, particularly at times of fiscal austerity.
WAG: Within the first few months of being open the Wales Coast Path had already provided more than a £16m boost to the Welsh economy and attracted 2.89m visits, according to new research by the Wales Economic Research Unit.
NAO: A report by the National Audit Office has concluded that the Ministry of Defence has taken significant positive steps designed to deal with the accumulated affordability gap in the Equipment Plan 2012 to 2022, and lay the foundations for stability going forward
The crucial test will be whether the Department is able to deliver the Equipment Plan within planned expenditure limits, supported by the existence of a substantial contingency provision, over the next few years.  If such a track record is established, which can only happen over time, the Department will be able to demonstrate it has really turned a corner.
Ofsted: A new survey published by Ofsted has found that more needs to be done to ensure disabled young people can access youth work provision available in their locality. The survey report highlights where more could be done in the planning of youth services for disabled young people within a local area.

It is intended to serve as a guide to local authorities & providers to identify the key factors that make schemes successful and adapt local provision accordingly.

General Reports and Other Publications

NAO: In a report examining central government’s approach to local authority funding, the National Audit Office has highlighted the increasing difficulty faced by local authorities over the rest of the spending review period in absorbing the reductions in their central government funding without reducing services.
The spending watchdog recommends that the Department for Communities and Local Government work with other government departments to improve the evaluation of the impact of decisions on local authority finances & services.
RUSI: In November 2012, a RUSI delegation travelled to Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, for extensive, ground-breaking nuclear talks - the first of their kind by a British organisation in recent years. 
Over the course of its week-long visit, RUSI found its North Korean interlocutors willing to discuss - and in some cases actively debate - controversial issues such as: North Korea's nuclear & ballistic missile programmes; sources of instability on the Korean peninsula; leadership transitions in South Korea, Japan, China, and the United States; and regional economic development.
PC&PE: A report published by the Political & Constitutional Reform Committee calls for more autonomy & fiscal powers for local government in England. As part of its inquiry, the Committee produced its own code for relations between central & local government (published with the report). 
The key principles of the code are that local government should be independent of central government, able to exercise a range of tax-raising powers suitable to the needs of the local community, and that government, of all levels, should be appropriately consultative & accountable to its people. 

The code is intended to replace the estimated 1,293 duties imposed on local government today and the Committee wants the Government to use the code as the start of a national conversation
PC&PE: The Department for International Development (DFID) is channelling more funds through multilateral organisations, like the UN & World Bank, even though they have higher administrative costs and at times limited effectiveness, the International Development Committee has found.  

The Committee is calling on DFID to carefully examine its growing multilateral expenditure and ensure that it has thoroughly examined other options, such as greater use of local, effective, small NGOs and sector budget support.  
PC&PE: The Government has not proved its case that GCSEs in the key academic subjects should be abolished & replaced with new English Baccalaureate Certificate exams, according to the Education Committee.  

In its latest report, the Committee says the Government is trying to do too much, too fast.  Introducing several fundamental changes at the same time and to a tight timetable will jeopardise the quality of the reforms and may threaten the stability of the wider exam system.
PC&PEEmbarking on an ambitious, perhaps unachievable, reform of rail franchising, in haste, on the UK’s most complex piece of railway was irresponsible say MPs in their review of cancellation of the West Coast Main Line Franchise competition.
Many of the problems with the franchise competition, detailed in the Laidlaw report, reflect very badly on civil servants at the DfT. However, ministers approved a complex – perhaps unworkable - franchising policy at the same time as overseeing major cuts to the Department’s resources.  This was a recipe for failure which the DfT must learn from urgently. 

Legislation / Legal

NE: Farmers & growers are being urgently advised to comply with the law & register with Natural England, if they are using imported non-native bumblebees for commercial pollination

The move follows the announcement in December 2012, which saw licensing regulations tightened from 1 January 2013, as part of plans to help safeguard the health of our native bumble bees & honey bees.  However, many growers have not yet registered with Natural England.
MoJVulnerable people will be protected from aggressive bailiffs, but businesses will still be able to collect debts fairly under new laws just announced.  Bailiffs will be banned from entering homes at night or when only children are present and new safeguards will prevent them from using force against people who owe money.  They will also no longer have free reign to fix their own fees, as new set costs are brought in.

Until now there has been insufficient legal protection against aggressive bailiffs but that will change with the new laws and a mandatory training & certification scheme which they must pass before going into business.  Bailiffs who do not follow the rules will be barred from the industry. 

The changes will be made by enacting parts of the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007 and creating new laws through the Crime & Courts Bill, which is currently progressing through Parliament.
BIS: Groups of consumers & companies will find it easier to take collective legal action against businesses acting in an anti-competitive way under new proposals announced by Competition Minister Jo Swinson last week.  Included in the measures is a new fast-track regime that will help small businesses fight anti-competitive practices that stifle growth.
EHRC: The Equality and Human Rights Commission have intervened in a human rights case at the Court of Appeal involving an 87-year-old protestor who says his ‘right to privacy was breached by the police retaining information about him on a national extremism database’.
In its submission the Commission said the national database is not subject to democratic oversight and contains reports about people who protest peacefully and without ever being suspected of a criminal offence. The retention by the state of sensitive personal information of the sort stored on this database interferes with the right to privacy & potentially stigmatises innocent people in the eyes of employers & other organisations.
FRC: The Financial Reporting Council has announced the outcome of its investigation into the conduct of Members of the ICAEW and Ernst & Young LLP (“E&Y”), Member Firm of the ICAEW, as auditors to Lehman Brothers International (Europe) (“LBIE”).  

Following the conclusion of the investigation, the FRC’s Executive Counsel, Gareth Rees QC, has decided that no action should be taken against E&Y or any individuals in connection with their conduct in this matter.
DCMS: A Government commitment to open up marriage to same-sex couples took a step forward recently with the publication of the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Bill.
LGAResidents & councils would be left powerless to decide where new warehouses, factories & industrial premises are built in their communities, under Government planning reforms which town hall leaders say ‘will undermine the work councils are doing to deliver economic growth’.
Developers of warehouses, factories, offices & conference centres larger than 40,000 square metres – roughly the size of a big supermarket site – could choose to bypass local communities in favour of having their planning applications assessed in private by a quango & ministers, as part of the Government's Growth and Infrastructure Bill.
Defra: The sale of 5 invasive non-native aquatic plant species is to be banned in order to protect wildlife Environment Minister Richard Benyon announced last week. The banned plants are Water Fern, Parrot’s Feather, Floating Pennywort, Australian Swamp Stone-crop (New Zealand Pygmyweed), and Water Primrose

Invasive non-native species can have a devastating cost to the economy, costing £1.7bn to control.  Floating pennywort, which can grow up to 8 inches a day, costs the British economy £23.5m per year.
WAG: A major piece of legislation that is set to transform the way people in Wales receive care & support has been introduced. The Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Bill was presented to the National Assembly where it will now undergo the process of scrutiny before being voted on. It's anticipated that, if passed, it will gain Royal Assent later in 2013.

The White Paper Sustainable Social Services for Wales: A Framework for Action highlighted a number of key challenges faced by public services in Wales now & in the future.  These included demographic changes, increased expectations of those who access care & support, and continuing hard economic realities. 

The Bill aims to address these issues and in doing so will give people greater freedom to decide which services they need while offering consistent, high-quality services across the country.
OFTRises in pump prices for petrol & diesel over the last 10 years have been caused largely by higher crude oil prices and increases in tax & duty and not a lack of competition, an OFT report has found. 

The evidence gathered by the OFT suggests that at national level competition is working well in the UK road fuel sector, although it has identified an absence of pricing information on motorways as a concern and does not rule out taking action in some local markets if there is persuasive evidence of anti-competitive behaviour.
BCE: As a result of the Electoral Registration and Administration Act 2013 receiving Royal Assent on 31 January 2013, the date of the next boundary review has been postponed until 2018.   The Boundary Commission for England has therefore ceased working on the 2013 Review and will no longer be reporting to the Secretary of State in autumn 2013.
LC: The Statute Law (Repeals) Act 2013 has received Royal Assent.  The Act gives effect to the repeals put forward (817 whole Acts & parts of 50 other Acts) by the Law Commission for England & Wales and the Scottish Law Commission in their 2012 Statute Law Repeals Report.
LC: The Trusts (Capital and Income) Act 2013 has received Royal Assent. The Act derives from the Law Commission report, ‘Capital and Income in Trusts: Classification and Apportionment’ and it enacts 3 principal reforms.
HO: A new law which will open up more opportunities for social enterprises to deliver public services came into force last week.  The Public Services (Social Value) Act requires local authorities & other commissioners of public services to consider how their services can benefit people living in the local community – See ‘Charities / Voluntary Organisations / Third Sector’ section for more information.

EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.

EU News: The European Commission has recently launched a call asking experts from all fields to participate in shaping the agenda of Horizon 2020, the European Union's future funding programme for research & innovation.
Individuals can express their interest, acting either in a personal capacity, as representatives of collective interest groups, or as representatives of organisations.  Details of the criteria on which selection will be based, including the profile of experts, are set out in the call.  
EU NewsAmbient air quality is poor in many EU Member States – despite an obligation for governments to ensure good air quality for citizens.  The situation is so serious that the Commission is currently taking action against 17 States with a consistent record of poor air quality.
A fresh approach is now being taken, enlarging the scope of the legal action.  The aim now is to urge Member States with on-going air quality problems to take forward-looking, speedy & effective action to keep the period of non-compliance as short as possible.
EU News: The European Commission last week announced the winners of a multi-billion euro competition of Future and Emerging Technologies (FET). The winning Graphene and Human Brain initiatives are set to receive €1bn each, to deliver 10 years of world-beating science at the crossroads of science & technology. Each initiative involves researchers from at least 15 EU Member States and nearly 200 research institutes.
EU News: One year ago, ahead of the European Data Protection Day 2012, the European Commission proposed a root & branch reform of the EU’s data protection rules to make them fit for the 21st century.  One year later, headway has been made and negotiations on the new rules are progressing at full speed.
EU News: The Commission is working to identify & eliminate any gaps in the Single Market legislation, in particular if there are any obstacles to the trade of new products & new technologies, such as key enabling technologies or 3-D printing.  The Commission has therefore launched a consultation process which asks business & interested parties to inform the Commission about regulatory issues they encounter while trading industrial products within the EU – See ‘Consultations’ section for more information

Charity and Voluntary Sector

HO: A new law which will open up more opportunities for social enterprises to deliver public services came into force last week.  The Public Services (Social Value) Act requires local authorities & other commissioners of public services to consider how their services can benefit people living in the local community.
Under the new legislation, local authority procurers must now consider how they can improve the social impact of their public service contracts before they start the procurement process.  The Act also requires commissioners to consider consulting on the services to be procured.
The new legislation comes as part of a major government drive to make it easier for Social Enterprises to deliver public services.  The government has also launched its new Commissioning Academy which will bring together commissioners from across the public sector to transform how public services are delivered.

Business and Other Briefings

HMRC: People selling directly to customers and who haven’t paid all the tax they owe have one month to come forward & pay up under an HM Revenue and Customs campaign. Under the time-limited opportunity, direct sellers - often called agents, consultants, representatives or distributors - must tell HMRC about the tax due and make arrangements to pay before 28 February 2013.

From last week, HMRC will be writing to direct sellers to let them know about the Direct Selling campaign.  HMRC is inviting direct sellers to a live Twitter Q&A session, with tax experts who will answer questions about the campaign, on 7 February 2013, between 1pm & 2pm.
FSA: The Financial Services Authority has confirmed that Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds and RBS will start the full review of their sales of interest rate hedging products (IRHPs) to small businesses.  

In June last year, the FSA announced that it had found serious failings in the sale of IRHPs.  The recent announcement means that these banks have agreed to work on reviewing individual sales and providing redress to customers based on principles outlined in today’s FSA report, and overseen by independent reviewers.
HMT: The Government has published for consultation a set of guidelines & tools to support public & private sector infrastructure providers’ capability to improve the delivery of large scale projects & programmes.  The consultation will involve an opportunity to participate in a series of regionally based roadshows – See ‘Consultations’ Section for more information.

Industry News

MoDMaritime Constabulary Operations and Maritime Security Operations already use the full spectrum of tools available to the Royal Navy, but some hostile activity can be difficult to detect in busy & congested waters where it is hard to identify & stop the few illegal operations out of the vast number of legitimate civilian activities.
More effective tools are now needed to strengthen the UK’s response & reduce the risks to trade and shipping.
The MOD’s Centre for Defence Enterprise (CDE), which is part of the Defence Science & Technology Laboratory (Dstl), is seeking proof-of-concept research proposals from industry & academia to improve the security of maritime operations.  This latest call for proposals will close on Monday 25 February 2013 at 5:00pm.  You can also register for an online ‘webinar’ on 5 February to participate in a summary of the call and a Q&A session.
MoD: The British Army is conducting its largest ever virtual simulation experiment in order to better understand its future equipment & training needs. Exercise Urban Warrior 5 uses advanced science & computer technology as part of a cutting-edge experiment designed to help the Army better understand the battlefield of the future.
Using virtual computer simulation technology at the Land Warfare Centre in Warminster, more than 200 soldiers have been playing out battlefield scenarios in a virtual environment based on the real-world Urban Warfare Training Centre in France.
STFCUK leaders in micro & nano-technology will provide businesses with unrivalled access to expertise & facilities through a new business alliance announced recently.  This new partnership will support innovation across a wide variety of industrial sectors that impact on our lives from medical diagnostics to defence & security, and from space exploration, to consumer electronics.
The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), the University of Glasgow and Kelvin Nanotechnology Ltd (KNT) have formed Kelvin-Rutherford, a new venture combining their extensive resources to provide a ‘complete nanotechnology service; delivering seamless support from device design through computer simulations to fabrication & evaluation in preparation for mass-production’.  
Ofcom: Ofcom has recently awarded the licence to operate the new local TV ‘multiplex’ on digital terrestrial TV (DTT). The multiplex operator Comux will be responsible for building & maintaining the technical infrastructure required to broadcast the 19 local TV services currently being licensed by Ofcom.
GPS: The Government Procurement Service are pleased to announce the award of a new Legal Services framework which replaces the existing Legal Services and LitCat frameworks. The new framework provides access to high quality professional legal services, whilst delivering best value for the taxpayer.
DfTRail franchising future programme  - The government is announcing its plans for the 3 live competitions which were put on hold in October 2012. In a written statement to the House of Commons, Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin outlined how the Great Western, Essex Thameside and Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern franchise competitions would be handled following the findings of an independent investigation into rail franchising.
Press release & links ~ Committee publishes report into the cancellation of the InterCity West Coast franchise competition

Forthcoming Event

TNA: In association with The National Archives, the Bloomsbury Institute presents an evening of advice & discussion on researching your family tree  - Thursday 7 February 2013.
Chaired by TNA’s family history specialist Audrey Collins, authors Guy Grannum (Tracing Your Caribbean Ancestors), Peter Christian (The Genealogist's Internet) and Andrea Stuart (Sugar in the Blood) will tell you how to get started and discuss what's involved in researching your family tree.
The Square Kilometre Array (SKA) - STFC Knowledge Exchange Workshop -  Jodrell Bank Observatory - 20 March 2013.   

The Science and Technology Facilities Council Innovations Club jointly with STFC’s Astronomy Programme group are hosting an event on The Square Kilometre Array to discuss current developments and future R&D needs in the key areas of SKA, the largest & most sensitive radio telescope in the world to be built in South Africa & Australia.  The £1.2bn SKA's huge fields of antennas will sweep the sky for answers to the major outstanding questions in astronomy.
This workshop aims to pull together the interest from both the academia & industry in order to facilitate knowledge exchange (KE) between STFC funded researchers (HEI’s & labs) and industry with a view of exploiting technologies & advances being made through SKA.  These technologies will have significant industry applications within the general ICT sector.

The workshop will further highlight funding opportunities to support KE relationships around the SKA project as well as provide an opportunity to hear a general update on the status of SKA from the Project Office and UK supporting activities from STFC.
GPSGovernment Procurement Service is a partner of The Public Sector Show, which is taking place on 30 April 2013 at The Business Design Centre in London.
GPS are pleased to confirm our full programme of activities at the show, which includes a keynote session from David Shields in the main conference, a full day of seminars and a presence at the exhibition. More than 2,400 people have already registered to attend this FREE event.

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