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In the News

OfstedImproving Literacy Standards could lead to a NEET solution - Ofsted has published its best practice reportImproving Standards in Literacy: A shared responsibility’.  This survey report draws on visits to secondary schools that have been effective in delivering cross-curricular improvement in literacy.

Ofsted has also hosted the first of 3 conferences on Mathematics & English for teachers, heads and governors to support improvement in schools & academies, and to help accelerate pupil progress & raise attainment.  During the conference, inspectors shared evidence of what works well and shared strategies for improvement.
DWPGiven the right help most people want to support themselves - More people with mental health conditions have been supported at or into work by a government employment scheme.  According to statistics released last week, almost half of all people with mental health conditions using the specialist disability employment scheme Access to Work (A2W) last year did so for the first time.

A2W provides financial help towards the extra costs faced by disabled people at work, such as support workers, travel costs & specially adapted equipment.  Recent changes to the scheme also mean that:
* Businesses with up to 49 employees will no longer pay a contribution towards the extra costs faced by disabled people in work, saving them up to £2,300 per employee who uses the fund
* Disabled jobseekers who want to set up their own business through the New Enterprise Allowance will now be eligible for A2W funding from day one of receiving Job Seekers Allowance

The Government has already announced £15m additional funding for A2W and the extension of the support to young people taking part in work experience through the Youth Contract. Anyone interested in applying for this support can search the ‘A2W website to find out details of DWP contact centres.
Press release & links ~ Access to work ~ DWP: Youth Contract ~ New Enterprise Allowance ~ Employers urged to take 3 steps to improve mental health ~ National framework to improve mental health and wellbeing published ~ New stress management tool holds up a mirror to poor managers ~ NICE: Improve your knowledge of guidance on common mental health problems ~ Services in Wales come ‘Together for Mental Health’ ~ CIPD: Most people still afraid to disclose a mental health problem to their employer ~ Stress is number one cause of long-term absence for the first time as job insecurity weighs heavy on the workplace, finds CIPD/Simplyhealth Absence survey ~ Mental Health, The Last Workplace Taboo ~ DH:  Being flexible could keep the costs down (4th item) ~ DH: Hard enough task even in good times

DHTime to ‘fill in’ the gaps of legislation covering cosmetic surgery - An independent review of cosmetic surgery recommends better regulation, better training & proper redress if things go wrong.  The main actions that the review group says would contribute to a successful & safe cosmetic surgery industry include:
* making all dermal fillers prescription only
* ensuring all practitioners are properly qualified for all the procedures they offer
* an ombudsman to oversee all private health care including cosmetic procedures
Ofsted In some parts of the world ‘boredom’ is a luxury children have no time to ‘enjoy’ - More local activities and places to go would stop children & young people from breaking the law.  This was the message from 187 children & young people who are either living in care or in a secure training centre when asked for their views on keeping out of trouble by Roger Morgan, the Children’s Rights Director for England

The report Keeping out of trouble summarises the discussions held with children & young people on what the worst kinds of trouble are and how to avoid getting into them.
HMRC Those who don’t ask, won't get - Tax Credit customers are being reminded by HMRC that they must renew claims by 31 July 2013 or their payments might stop.
MO:  Which is worse; Sneezing or Freezing? - Following the cold weather in March & early April, the pollen season has now begun, with tree pollen set to last until the middle of May.  Throughout the season, Met Office forecasters will be working closely with the University of Worcester and Pollen UK to provide the most accurate pollen forecasts for the UK.
BISA case of ‘Not if, but when’ your organisation’s ICT systems are breachedMore small businesses than ever are facing the threat of losing confidential information through cyber attacks, according to research published by BIS. 

The 2013 Information Security Breaches Survey has shown that 87% of small businesses across all sectors experienced a breach in the last year.  This is up more than 10% and cost small businesses up to 6% of their turnover, when they could protect themselves for far less.

This comes as the Technology Strategy Board extends its Innovation Vouchers scheme to allow SMEs to bid for up to £5,000 from a £500k pot to improve their cyber security, by bringing in outside expertise.  

BIS is also publishing guidance to help small businesses to put cyber security higher up the agenda and make it part of their normal business risk management procedures.
Press release & links ~ 2013 Information Security Breaches Survey ~ Innovation Vouchers scheme ~ Guidance to help small businesses ~ Ofcom: UK adults taking online password security risks ~ Keeping the UK safe in cyberspace ~ CO:  An issue that is still very much in the news (2nd item) ~ BIS:  Physical locks & guards won’t keep them out

UKAS: E-learning package on standards and accreditation launched - How can standards and accreditation be used to deliver Government policy?
Civil Service Learning has launched an e-learning module to answer this and other questions on the use of standards and accreditation.

The module explains:

  • What standards and accreditation are
  • How they can be used to support self-regulation, co-regulation and earned recognition
  • The role of the British Standards Institution and the United Kingdom Accreditation Service
  • How to decide when to use standards and accreditation.

The module has been developed specifically to assist those in policy roles within central Government departments and agencies but will be of interest to anyone working in the public sector.

Click here to learn more about how standards and accreditation can help you deliver your policy objectives, access the e-learning package.

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

General News

ACEArts Council England will be making changes to the national & regional councils following an independent review of its non-executive governance.
TNA: On 30 April 2013 The National Archives will switch off its old catalogue, and Discovery will become the only way to search their collections.
UniteGPs across the UK should target the parents of children who they think have not received the MMR immunisations, Unite, the union, has urged. Unite, which embraces the Community Practitioners’ & Health Visitors’ Association, said that there needs to be a public awareness programme that informs parents – and not scares them.
LSIS: South London’s Lambeth College has become the first further education college in England to have utilised a new technique to gather ideas from its stakeholders employing the ‘wisdom of crowds’ process

This innovative project, supported by Learning & Skills Improvement Services used this ‘crowd-sourcing model’ to collect the thoughts, ideas & opinions to the question ‘Over the next five years, what do you think Lambeth College can do to help people get into work?’.
The new web-based technology enabled the institution to ‘virtually brainstorm’, collecting & analysing the ideas provided, with assistance from Shoshin Limited and Fountain Park, specialists in the design of ‘wisdom of crowds’ applications.
Socitm23% of visits to council websites are now from mobile devices, according to data from Socitm's Website Performance service (formerly Website take-up service), which collects data from council website visitors through a pop-up survey and is used by more than 100 local authorities to monitor usage & satisfaction with council websites.
TfL: The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has confirmed his decision to introduce a new Ultra Low Emission Discount (ULED) for the Congestion Charge scheme.  It will replace the existing discount and ensure that only the greenest zero or ultra-low emission vehicles driving into the capital receive a 100% discount. 
To qualify for the new discount vehicles will have to be either pure electric or be cars & vans that emit 75g/km or less of CO2 and meet the Euro 5 emission standard for air quality. The ULED will be introduced on 1 July 2013 and will provide a single 100% discount from the Congestion Charge for electric vehicles and ultra low emission cars & vans.
The Mayor also announced 2 further changes to the scheme that will see:
* the removal of the option to pay the charge in shops, which is now used for only 6% of payments
* an increase in the level of penalty charge from £120 to £130
ScotGov: The summer cabinet programme, which sees Scottish ministers meet in venues the length & breadth of Scotland, will continue into its sixth year with events in Shetland, Hawick, Campbeltown and Fraserburgh, First Minister Alex Salmond announced last week.  
FSCS: Help is on the way for hundreds of Marches Credit Union savers after it went into insolvency last week.  The Financial Services Compensation Scheme is stepping in to protect members of the credit union based in Kington, Herefordshire. 

Using credit union records, the FSCS will automatically send payments to members of the credit union.  FSCS will pay the vast majority of savers within 7 days.
FDA: The FDA, the union for senior managers & professionals in public service, has launched an alternative White Paper on civil service reform, which sets out 20 recommendations that it believes will help to deliver the sustainable world-class civil service that the public have a right to expect.
TfLTransport for London and the British Transport Police (BTP) have worked in partnership to successfully jail a fraudulent Oyster card user for 6 months, following a BTP investigation. Fatai Lawal of Barking has pleaded guilty to 2 charges of fraud relating to 2 false email accounts, which were used to fraudulently register other peoples' Oyster cards and transfer their balances to an Oyster card registered to Mr Lawal.
Investigation by the BTP had shown that 150 unregistered Oyster cards had been cancelled and the outstanding monies transferred to an Oyster card Mr Lawal was using, with a value of £1,700. All Oyster card users are urged to protect their cards to prevent any fraudulent use of their credit.
MoD: A Royal Marine and a Petty Officer were part of the first team to successfully recreate famous Antarctic explorer's 1916 rescue mission. Using the same equipment as Sir Ernest Shackleton’s party did a century ago, the pair were part of a 6-strong team who sailed from the edge of Antarctica to South Georgia, to cross the island’s mountains; the first men to complete the full journey since Shackleton himself.
In 1916, Sir Ernest took his whaler, the James Caird, from Elephant Island to South Georgia and struggled across the mountains to raise the alarm when his trans-Antarctic expedition became stranded after its ship, the Endurance, was crushed by the ice.

Policy Statements and Initiatives

DfE: Fewer than 1 in 3 nurseries & early years providers take advantage of flexible arrangements allowing them to employ graduate leaders, a conference heard recently. Teachers can currently teach up to 13 children aged 3 & 3 years.  But that ratio falls to 1:8 when teachers are not present.  

Employing better qualified staff means young children get better quality early education that helps them to prepare for school.

The Government agrees with Ofsted that the way to raise quality within the current funding envelope is for more nurseries to hire graduates and use the larger group sizes and structured methods that this permits. This is what happens in France where salaries & qualifications are higher, but funding is the same as England.
Press release & links
ScotGov: Responding to the Fiscal Commission Working Group’s (FCWG) report on currency & operation of monetary policy, the Scottish Government has endorsed their views that ‘a Sterling zone monetary union is the best option for an independent Scotland’.
The Scottish Government’s currency paper, published last week, fully endorses the findings of the FCWG’s expert report that ‘as an independent country in a Sterling zone Scotland would have the powers needed to exploit areas of comparative advantage and also tackle those areas where we need to improve performance’.
WAG: Health Minister Mark Drakeford has set out a number of immediate actions to tackle pressures on emergency health services in Wales, along with longer-term plans to ensure future problems are prevented.  

Short term measures focus on tackling lengthy patient handover delays at A&E departments and improving discharge arrangements to enable medically fit patients to leave hospital beds in a timely manner.

The Minister also announced action to change the policy which applies when the NHS & social services cannot agree financial responsibilities between them.  In such circumstances the patient should be transferred to a suitable out of hospital setting rather than remain in hospital until the financial issue is resolved.
HMT: The Bank of England & HM Treasury have announced an extension to the Funding for Lending Scheme (FLS). This extension builds on the success of the FLS so far, and has 3 main objectives:
* to give banks & building societies confidence that funding for lending to the UK real economy will be available on reasonable terms until January 2015
* to increase the incentive for banks to lend to SMEs both this year & next
* to include lending involving certain non-bank providers of credit, which play an important role in providing finance to the real economy.
DWP: The Government has announced plans to help millions of savers take their workplace pension with them when they change job.  Automatic enrolment means that by 2018 all employers will need to offer a workplace pension, but more savers means more dormant small pension pots. When people move job these pots could be stranded or lost completely over time.
The Department for Work and Pensions has estimated that people on average have 11 jobs over the course of their working lives.  By 2050 this will result in around 50m dormant pension pots.  The ‘pot follows member’ system will mean that over someone’s working life any pots accrued of less than £10,000 will automatically move with them.  

Introducing automatic transfers is projected to reduce the proportion of people reaching retirement with 5 or more dormant pots from a quarter to 1 in 30. The proposal will be included in the forthcoming Pensions Bill.
DfE: Education Minister Elizabeth Truss has announced more than £2m of funding so the best computing teachers can help train thousands more to teach the rigorous new curriculum. The funding will allow, The Chartered Institute for IT, to recruit 400 master teachers in computer science over the next 2 years, by building on its existing network of excellence in teaching computer science.
Each master teacher will pass on their skills & subject knowledge to 40 schools - so that computing teachers in 16,000 primary & secondary schools will be in position to deliver the computer science element of the new computing curriculum and the new computer science GCSE.
WAG: A ‘major conversation’ on how Stamp Duty Land Tax could be reformed in Wales to meet the needs of businesses and to boost the Welsh economy has been launched by Wales’ Finance Minister, Jane Hutt. “I am now keen to discuss with businesses and others with an interest how we can design taxes that are fair, simple and effective, that support growth and jobs and, in turn, help tackle poverty”.
WAGAll dogs in Wales will be micro-chipped by March 2015, Minister for Natural Resources and Food, Alun Davies announced recently. The decision follows a public consultation in 2012 when the overwhelming majority of respondents were in favour of the move.


OfstedPlans to ensure that good is the only acceptable standard of education & care provided by nurseries, pre-schools & childminders for our youngest children were unveiled for consultation recently by Ofsted.  

Inspection evidence shows nurseries, pre-schools & childminders are not improving fast enough. Poor quality early years care & education is a particular problem in the poorest areas, where Ofsted has found that providers are less likely to improve between inspections than those in more prosperous areas.
Under the proposed changes that will come into force from September 2013, only a good or better standard of early years provision will be deemed good enough by Ofsted. The proposals will raise expectations and tackle weaker settings.  The consultation closes on 24 May 2013.
BISPubs struggling to pay rent or beer prices could save thousands of pounds a year each, thanks to a new Code of Practice and the backing of a powerful Adjudicator, under proposals announced by Business Secretary Vince Cable.  

The Code would contain mandatory rules for all pub companies who own a certain number of pubs.  In particular it would stop pub companies abusing the beer tie, which obliges tenants to sell certain types of beers often at high prices. Consultation closes on 14 June 2013.
DfE: The Government has ‘underlined its commitment to high-quality vocational & occupational education’ by announcing a new Technical Baccalaureate measure. The TechBacc will be a performance measure marking achievement by young people aged 16 to 19 in 3 areas.
The Government is currently consulting on a process for identifying vocational qualifications that are genuinely ‘high value’. Consultation closes on 10 May 2013.
WAG: Carl Sargeant, the Minister for Housing & Regeneration, has welcomed a report by the Law Commission, recommending improvements to the legal framework governing rented housing in Wales. The Commission’s report recommends replacing many different forms of rental contract with just 2 types of contract.  
Under the proposals, Welsh Ministers would ensure the use of model contracts that would set out clearly the rights and responsibilities of landlords and tenants, and the circumstances under which either party can bring the contract to an end.   The proposals will also help when people are faced with cases of domestic violence or housing-related anti-social behaviour.
The Minister has launched the Renting Homes White Paper, which has been informed by the Law Commission’s report.  Members of the public are encouraged to give their views during an open consultation on the Paper. Consultation closes on 17 August 2013.
FSA: Two companies have asked the FSA's expert advisers on novel foods to consider applications for chia seeds to be approved for use in the European Union (EU) under the simplified approval procedure.  A novel food is a food or food ingredient that does not have a significant history of consumption within the EU before 15 May 1997.
Any comments on either, or both, of the applications, should be emailed to the ACNFP Secretariat by 9 May 2013.
EU News: Millions of Europeans catch up with their favourite TV series on a smartphone on the way to work, watch online content on their living room TV, or put their own user-generated content online.  There are more than 40.4m ‘connected TVs’ in Europe, and they could be in the majority of EU households by 2016.
These changes are sweeping away traditional boundaries between consumers, broadcast media and the internet.  The Commission wants to explore what this convergence of technology & content could mean for Europe's economic growth & innovation, cultural diversity, and consumers (especially those that may need protection, such as children).  

A Green Paper adopted by the Commission recently invites stakeholders and the wider public to share their views by 31 August 2013.
ScotGov: A consultation on how best to manage Raasay’s sporting rights to maximise community benefits in future has begun. All islanders on the electoral register will receive a copy of the consultation by post to be asked for their views on 3 options. The consultation closes on 7 June 2013.

Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides

NHS Confed: A new NHS Confederation report distils learning from a decade of PCT commissioning for commissioners in the post-April 2013 NHSPut community and clinical engagement 'front & centre', invest time & effort in establishing constructive relationships with partners, and be ready for rigorous, robust conversations with providers & the public about the quality and shape of local services.
These are just 3 elements of a new NHS Confederation report which distils lessons from more than a decade of NHS commissioning for those taking on commissioning responsibilities - both locally & nationally - in the new NHS system
NICEPatients with rheumatoid arthritis can now be offered abatacept in certain circumstances, following final guidance from NICE. Around 400,000 people currently have rheumatoid arthritis in the UK, forcing approximately a third of people with the condition to stop work within 2 years of its onset.
Original guidance from NICE did not recommend the drug as a treatment option after conventional DMARDs, as it was not cost-effective, when compared to alternatives such as adalimumab. However, following the introduction of a patient access scheme which abatacept's manufacturer agreed with the Department of Health, NICE conducted a rapid review of this guidance, and now recommends abatacept in certain circumstances.
NICE: Omalizumab (Xolair) is now available for NHS patients as an add-on treatment for severe, persistent allergic asthma in adults, adolescents & children, says NICE. This follows additional analyses and the submission of a patient access scheme (PAS) by the manufacturer Novartis to the Department of Health which makes the treatment more cost effective.
NICE: NICE has produced a guide for commissioners on dementia, which aims to help improve the commissioning of health & social care support for people with the condition, and for their carers. There are currently around 630,000 people with dementia in the UK - a figure that is expected to double by 2035 due to an ageing population.
Ofgem: Ofgem has approved a new industry code designed to protect & empower consumers during the smart meter roll-out.   The code includes a ban on sales during smart meter installation visit. For any face-to-face marketing to be conducted during the installation visit, a consumer has to give consent before the day of the visit. The code is backed by licence conditions and the power to levy fines if rules are breached.
LSIS: The Learning & Skills Improvement Service has produced guidance for providers of initial teacher education following changes to FE teacher training qualifications, which introduces the new teaching qualifications and explores the implications for teacher educators.

Annual Reports

PC&PE: Recently the Foreign Affairs Committee published a wide-ranging report on the work of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and two of its sponsored bodies, the BBC World Service and the British Council

It makes key recommendations on language skills for top diplomats, BBC World service funding and priorities, and funding for the British Council.
PC&PE: The Procedure Committee agrees with the Backbench Business Committee (in a report) that the e-petitions pilot has been successful.  It therefore recommends that debates on e-petitions become a permanent feature of Westminster Hall.
Monitor: In approving the Health and Social Care Act 2012, Parliament charged Monitor with overseeing on behalf of patients a new regulatory system for NHS foundation trusts and other licensed NHS providers.  Over the past year Monitor has received external advice to help them develop their new role in time for April 2013.
MonitorMonitor has confirmed the enforcement action it is taking over known or potential breaches of the new provider licence by 18 NHS foundation trusts. The breaches under the new regulatory regime that came into force on 1 April 2013 relate to a range of issues that had put the trusts in significant breach of their terms of authorisation under the old regime.
These issues include failure to deliver improvements in the quality of care, long waiting times (including A&E), poor financial performance or planning and failure to develop strategic plans.
CCCReductions of around 20% in production emissions over the last two decades has limited growth in the UK’s carbon footprint, says the Committee on Climate Change in its latest report.  

However, the report also estimates that the carbon footprint has increased by 10% or more.  This is due to increased imports as incomes have grown and manufacturing has shifted to other countries as part of the broader globalisation process.

General Reports and Other Publications

Cebr: Research from the world’s specialist insurance market, Lloyd’s of London, warns of an annualised $168bn insurance deficit that leaves 17 high growth countries severely exposed to the long-term costs of catastrophic events.

The independent study conducted by the Centre for Economics & Business Research and commissioned by Lloyd’s highlights clear risks for countries affected by this shortfall including an unnecessary burden placed on the State and a higher cost of recovery after disasters:
NHS Confed: A Royal College of Nursing survey indicates nurses are spending an estimated 2.5m hours a week on non-essential paperwork & clerical tasks.

Mike Farrar, NHS Confederation chief executive, said:
"We fully recognise the story that the RCN's survey tells. It is entirely consistent with the picture that has emerged during the first phase of our work on tackling the burden of bureaucracy in the NHS. ……….
"It is clear we need to do more to free staff from the shackles of unnecessary form filling and create more time to spend on patient care. We need a smarter system of information use, not a bigger one. And we need to embrace technology that helps rather than hinders staff, moving away from the paper-based archaic NHS. ……
"We are currently undertaking a major piece of work looking at how we can cut bureaucracy by a third in the NHS. …… We will report our findings and recommendations in September."
PC&PE: The Committee of Public Accounts published its 41st Report of this Session which, on the basis of evidence from the New Schools Network and the Local Schools Network, and from the Department for Education and the Education Funding Agency, examined the expansion of the Academies Programme.
NAO: The Equitable Life payment scheme runs the risk of failing to meet payment targets and over-running on costs. The speed with which the Treasury had to set up a scheme to make payments to former policyholders of Equitable Life impeded its ability to design one which worked efficiently & effectively, according to the National Audit Office.
The data for making payments was old & incomplete and many practical issues had to be overcome including having to trace over one million people and confirm their identity.  As there is still a large number of payments to be made, the Scheme runs the risk of failing to meet payment targets and overrunning on costs.
PX: A report from think tank Policy Exchange, Better Public Services: A Roadmap for Revolution, calls for a number of changes in the way services are delivered, which ‘puts power firmly in the hands of the public’.   It argues that the state’s right to monopoly provision of public services should be swept aside.  
Private companies & voluntary groups should be able to compete in an open & transparent process to provide services to the public.  A new legal right would be established giving people the right to exercise choice in the public services they consumer.
IPCC: The Independent Police Complaints Commission has found that former senior officers at Surrey Police were “afflicted by a form of collective amnesia” in relation to the force’s failure to investigate an allegation in 2002 that the voicemail of Amanda (Milly) Dowler had been hacked by the News of the World.
The IPCC investigation found that there was knowledge of the allegation in 2002 at all levels in Operation Ruby, Surrey Police’s investigation into the abduction & murder of Milly Dowler, but that no action was taken to investigate it despite an indication that a crime had potentially been committed.
PC&PEShale gas production in the UK could enhance our energy security & boost tax revenues, but it is too early to say whether it will reduce energy prices, the Energy & Climate Change Committee has cautioned in a new report.
IfLImproved learner outcomes & employment opportunities, enhanced teaching practice & professional development, and business growth for FE providers & local employers are just some of the benefits of partnership outlined in a report published by the Institute for Learning and the 157 Group last week.

Legislation / Legal

ScotGov: Proposals from the Scottish Court Service to change the future structure of Scotland’s courts have been accepted by the Scottish Government. The Justice Secretary has now sent draft Orders to the SCS and the Lord President which will enable the necessary legislative changes to be made in the Scottish Parliament to implement the proposed court closures.
The Scottish Court Service will be required to consult with relevant key stakeholders on these Orders before deciding whether to formally consent.  Once approved, the Orders will be laid in the Scottish Parliament where they will be considered by the Justice Committee.
DCMS: The government’s Royal Charter proposes a new system of independent, self-regulation of the press which is one of ‘incentivisation’ rather than compulsion. Those proposals are now being taken forward in the Crime and Courts Bill. Following the initial debate in Parliament, clauses have been refined to make it absolutely clear that small blogs are outside of the scheme.
MoJ: The culture of using meritless judicial review applications to delay immigration decisions and hold up development will be attacked by new controls announced by Justice Secretary Chris Grayling. The changes are intended to tackle the soaring number of judicial review applications being made in England & Wales.
HO: A new legal agreement has been signed with Jordan which should ‘allow the government to remove the last remaining obstacles to the deportation of Abu Qatada’, the Home Secretary announced last week. 

The comprehensive mutual legal assistance treaty sets out a joint commitment between the UK & Jordan to tackle international crime, including a number of fair trial guarantees which would apply to individuals subject to immigration action who are returned to either country.
PC&PE: The introduction of auto-enrolment makes rigorous pension scheme governance essential, argues the Work and Pensions Committee in a report published last week. The Report calls on the Government to reassess the case for establishing one body with sole responsibility for regulating workplace pensions. 
Noting concerns over current gaps in regulation and the potential for further gaps to arise as a result of now having 3 regulators with a role to play, the Report argues that a single regulator is necessary to ensure that all members of workplace pension schemes are adequately and consistently protected. 
The Report also highlights that deferred-member charges and member-borne consultancy charges have the potential to cause serious consumer detriment.   It recommends that both are banned by the Government, if significant progress is not made in the very near future by the industry towards ending them.

EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.

EU News: The Council has adopted a directive on Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) and a regulation on Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) (PE-CONS 79/12 and PE-CONS 80/12). 

The new system, which is part of the ‘Single Market Act’ package, will provide for simple, fast & low-cost out-of-court settlement procedures designed to resolve disputes between consumers and traders arising from the sales of goods and services.
PC&PEThe Government has not made a convincing case to opt-out of about 130 EU police & criminal justice measures and that to do so would have significant negative repercussions for the UK’s internal security, says the House of Lords EU Committee in its new report published, following an inquiry undertaken jointly by 2 of its Sub-Committees.
ScotGovTransition arrangements for the Common Agricultural Policy should ensure that support can continue for Scottish farmers. The proposals will allow certain important aspects of Scotland’s existing SRDP (Scotland Rural Development Programme) to be rolled over into 2014 - avoiding leaving a gap between the existing CAP and its successor for key priority areas such as Single
EU News: The Irish Presidency has reached provisional agreement with the European Parliament on new rules to benefit mortgage holders & consumers across Europe. The new rules, set out in this Directive, will also help improve comparability of mortgage products leading to a more level playing field across Europe and help the development of a cross-border mortgage market.
The provisional agreement reached with the European Parliament will now have to be endorsed by EU member states before being finalised.
EU News: Both the United Kingdom and Ireland have announced their decision to join the Commission’s proposal to modernise current EU rules on cross border insolvency, which date from 2000.  

The new rules aim to shift focus away from liquidation and develop a new approach to helping businesses overcome financial difficulties, all the while protecting creditors' right to get their money back.
EU News: An EU-funded research project aims to start testing a new diagnostic tool for malaria one year ahead of schedule.  The pioneering smartphone-like device uses nanotechnology to detect not only the malaria infection but also any drug resistance from a pinprick of blood, taking just 15 minutes.  

The Nanomal project partners say if field trials later this year are successful the device could be deployed in developing countries from 2015.
EU News: The European Commission is proposing to ‘slash red tape for citizens & businesses by doing away with bureaucratic rubber-stamping exercises currently required to get public documents like your birth certificate recognised as authentic in another EU Member State’.
Currently, citizens who move to another Member State have to spend a lot of time & money in order to demonstrate that their public documents (such as birth or marriage certificates) issued by their Member State of origin are authentic.  

This involves the so-called 'Apostille' certificate which is used by public authorities in other states as proof that public documents, or the signatures of national officials on documents, are genuine.
EU News: The European Commission has decided to refer Spain to the EU's Court of Justice for discriminatory real estate tax rules that prevent non-residents from enjoying the same tax benefits as residents.
According to the Spanish legislation, capital gains from the sale of a permanent residence are exempt for tax if the money is used to buy another permanent residence.  In practice if a person living in Spain sold its permanent residence to buy a new house in another Member State where he would move, he could be taxed on the capital gains made on the sale.
EU NewsChanges in the way people watch TV are sweeping away traditional boundaries between consumers, broadcast media and the internet.  The Commission wants to explore what this convergence of technology & content and a Green Paper adopted by the Commission recently invites stakeholders and the wider public to share their views by 31 August 2013 – See ‘Consultations’ section for more information.

Charity and Voluntary Sector

CO: Entrepreneurial former council staff were joined at Hammersmith Town Hall last week by Nick Hurd, Minister for Civil Society, to launch their new business – 3BM – which provides a range of critical school support services.  

The business is made up of staff from 3 London boroughs; Hammersmith & Fulham, Kensington & Chelsea and Westminster.  They are delivering services such as financial management, IT & building development to schools allowing them to focus on education.
3BM is the first ever mutual joint venture to spin out of local government.  The business is owned by a partnership between the employees and another company. The employees own 75.1% of the business and Prospects, the education employment company, has a 24.9% share. The local councils will see £1m in savings over the next 4 years.
BIGBig Lottery Fund (BIG) Scotland hasformally handed over the reins to its largest single investment in Scotland as the £50m Life Changes Trust launches in Edinburgh. 

The investment from BIG has been made to bring about a step change in the way young people leaving care & people with dementia and their carers access support & services in Scotland in the future. The £50m will be evenly split between the 2 beneficiary groups.
DWP: The ‘UK is now the world-leader in social investment’, according to a new report looking at progress towards supporting disadvantaged peopleSocial Justice: transforming lives – One year on sets out progress made against over 100 different commitments across government – since launching the social justice strategy in March 2012.
CLGBids are open for the final round of the £20m Homelessness Transition Fund, which will offer grants of up to £150,000 to invest in innovative new ways of preventing & tackling rough sleeping across the country.
COWhat is social action? The Centre for Social Action supports programmes that encourage people to create positive change through social action.

Business and Other Briefings

DfTIf you offer MOT tests, keep up to date with the Special Notices issued by VOSA about changes to the MOT scheme. A Special Notice contains information about changes to the MOT testing scheme so that you - as the MOT tester or Authorised Examiner - can make sure vehicles are tested to the required standard.
DECC: Observing the Infrastructure Code of Practice and the UK/Norway Framework Agreement; guidelines for Pipeline Works Authorisations. Access for developers of offshore oil & gas fields to upstream infrastructure for the purpose of transporting & processing hydrocarbons is a key element in the process of extracting the UK’s petroleum resources.  

Companies seeking access for their hydrocarbons to such infrastructure must apply in the first instance to the relevant owner of the infrastructure in question.
BIS: The 2013 Information Security Breaches Survey has shown that 87% of small businesses across all sectors experienced a breach in the last year.  This comes as the Technology Strategy Board extends its Innovation Vouchers scheme to allow SMEs to bid for up to £5,000 from a £500,000 pot and as BIS publishes guidance to help small businesses to put cyber security higher up the agenda and make it part of their normal business risk management procedures – See ‘In the News’ section for more information
HMT: The Bank of England and HM Treasury have announced an extension to the Funding for Lending Scheme (FLS). This extension builds on the success of the FLS so far, and has 3 main objectives – See ‘Policy Statements & Initiatives’ section for more information.
DWP: The Government has announced plans to help millions of savers take their workplace pension with them when they change job – See ‘Policy Statements & Initiatives’ section for more information.
EU News: Both the UK & Ireland have announced their decision to join the Commission’s proposal to modernise current EU rules on cross border insolvency, which date from 2000 – See ‘EU News’ section for more information.  
PC&PE: The introduction of auto-enrolment makes rigorous pension scheme governance essential, argues the Work and Pensions Committee in a report published last week. The Report also highlights that deferred-member charges and member-borne consultancy charges have the potential to cause serious consumer detriment – See ‘Legislation / Legal’ section for more information.  
This Brief contains an update following the consultation on the withdrawal of the VAT exemption for supplies of business research

Industry News

WAG:   The £40m High Performance Computing (HPC) Wales initiative has officially launched its second supercomputing hub.  HPC Wales has built a state-of-the-art high performance computing capability, technology, infrastructure & facilities on a pan-Wales, pan-sector basis across Universities & business centres in Wales.
It has given Welsh businesses and universities involved in commercially-focussed research access to advanced and evolving computing technology.  A key HPC Wales activity is working with industry, SMEs & larger companies in order to develop new intellectual property, services and products which can help them compete & win new business.
WAG: The Welsh Government is extending the Digital Development Fund, which helps Creative Industries businesses to exploit new markets through digital technologies. Launched in 2011 as a pilot, the £2m has helped a wide range of businesses diversify into new markets, develop new products and also exploit short term market advantages.
Extending the Fund for another 3 years until March 2016, subject to a review in 2015,  Economy Minister Edwina Hart said this would provide continuity of support.
ScotGov: More than 2,000 jobs are expected to be created over the next 5 years at 3 new innovation centres.  Supported by £30m of public funding, the centres, they will concentrate on developing world-leading Scottish technology & life sciences. 
One of the new centres, focusing on stratified medicine & innovation, will be built at the new Southern - one of Europe’s largest hospital sites. The remaining 2 centres will develop state-of-the-art sensors & imaging systems and digital health technologies ensuring that Scotland continues to be a pioneer in life sciences, innovative technology, ideas and development. 
ScotGov: A £15m fund to help develop deep-water wind turbine foundations in Scotland has been announced. The Scottish Innovative Foundation Technologies Fund will support the development of prototype foundations for offshore wind turbines sited in water depths greater than 30 metres.
OS: A study has revealed that the insurance industry needs to adopt new ways of working in order to make sense of Big Data and remain competitive in future years to come. The research, conducted in conjunction with Ordnance Survey, found that 82% of those questioned believed that insurers that do not capture the potential of Big Data will become uncompetitive.
Whilst there is a hunger for better insight, the research showed that too many insurers believe they are ill-equipped to capture the potential of Big Data.

95% agreed that many underwriting departments lack the necessary tools, whilst 81% agreed that many underwriting departments lack the specialist skills.  Despite these shortcomings, underwriters admitted that they don’t expect to see much investment in Big Data even 10 years from now.

Forthcoming Event

GPS: A series of workshops are being held (in May & June) to provide support & guidance toGovernment Procurement Service customers.
The first of these sessions is ‘An Introduction to GPS and the Government eMarketplace’ where they will look at how GPS are here to help you, what tools we have available and provide an introduction & demonstration of the Government eMarketplace, including catalogue shopping and the electronic request for quote (eRFQ) function.
CLG: Communities Minister Don Foster has announced that 250 free concerts will go ahead this summer, featuring the best of local musical talent. 

concerts will be both free for people to attend & for musicians to enter and will bring people from different backgrounds together to listen to a wide variety of music.  Over 200,000 people are expected to attend the concerts in July, making the attendance even greater than that of festivals such as Glastonbury.
DFID: The UK government and the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation will co-host 'Nutrition for Growth: Beating Hunger through Business & Science' on 8 June 2013 in central London.
The event will bring together business leaders, scientists, governments & civil society to make the ambitious commitments needed to tackle ‘under-nutrition’ in some of the world’s poorest countries, enabling people & nations to prosper.

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