In the News
10DS: Will the Cabinet Consensus last long enough to see them through? - The Queen’s Speech 2013 included announcements about immigration, pensions, caring, consumer rights & strengthening economic growth and was ‘focused on legislation that unlocks the potential of the people of the UK to unleash their talents’.
The speech included:
* a Social Care Bill
* a Pensions Bill
* an Immigration Bill
* a National Insurance Contributions Bill
* a Consumer Rights Bill
* a Rehabilitation Bill
CO: Clouds could provide a ‘sunnier’ future for cost of public sector ICT - The formal introduction of a ‘Cloud First’ policy will drive wider adoption of cloud computing in the public sector, boosting business – and furthering savings & efficiencies – through the government CloudStore, which is a quicker, cheaper & more competitive way for the public sector to buy IT, Francis Maude, Minister for the Cabinet Office, said recently.
In future, when procuring new or existing services, public sector organisations should consider & fully evaluate potential cloud solutions first – before they consider any other option. This approach is mandated to central government & strongly recommended to the wider public sector. Off-the-shelf products from the Cloud can be up to 30% of the cost of bespoke solutions.
The announcement came on the same day that the third G-Cloud supplier framework went live providing more choice for buyers through CloudStore, the online marketplace for cloud IT services, and more business opportunities for companies. In all, there are 708 companies on the new framework – of which more than 80% are SMEs – including 368 firms new to G-Cloud.
The launch of an expanded G-Cloud framework, with more companies offering an even greater range of products and services, will only enhance the cost and innovation benefits of a more competitive marketplace.
EU News: Europe cannot count on cheap cover from NATO’s umbrella if it keeps cutting its own contribution - "Soft power alone is no power at all," NATO Secretary General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, told foreign affairs, security & defence MEPs and national MPs recently.
Speaking in favour of ‘holding the line on defence spending’ in Europe, he said Europeans must also "have the political will to use" the right capabilities. MEPs called for more co-operation between the EU and NATO in times of austerity.
CSJ: Failing to educate even when the ‘fees’ are more than those for Eton - Young Offenders’ Institutions (YOIs) in England are not providing the most basic education requirements, new data from the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) shows. It found that just 1 in 9 state-run YOIs are delivering their minimum requirement of 15 hours of education to each teenager per week.
Edward Boyd, Deputy Policy Director of the CSJ, said: “The youth justice system is being treated as a dumping ground for youngsters that no one knows how to help. Education is one of the best ways to reduce re-offending – but YOIs are failing to do this. …….. We know only too well the link between educational failure and crime. Half of those entering YOIs aged 15-17 have literacy levels you would usually find in primary schools.
…… What will also shock many policy makers is that this failure is not because of insufficient money. A place in custody for a young offender costs on average £100,000. More than sending a young person to Eton.”
Responding to a Government consultation on the possible introduction of Secure Colleges, the CSJ is highly critical of the current system, which fails to provide even the basic schooling.
NAO: Another MoD project that was ‘all at sea’ with its costing and will be delivered late - The National Audit Office has reported that the Ministry of Defence acted quickly once it realized, in early 2012, the extent to which its 2010 decision to procure the carrier variant of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) had been based on immature data & flawed assumptions. In May 2012, the MoD announced that it was reverting to procuring the short take-off & vertical landing (STOVL) variant of the fighter.
By February 2012, the estimated cost of converting the aircraft carrier for the carrier variant of the JSF, requiring the ship to be fitted with catapults & arrestor gear (‘cats & traps’), had increased by 150%: from £800m to about £2bn. As a result, the MoD estimated that, over the next 10 years, the STOVL option would be £1.2bn cheaper than the carrier variant. This difference halves to £600m over 30 years.
EU News: End of ‘free’ banking in UK? - Consumers often pay above the odds for the services they receive from their bank and struggle to have clarity on the various fees charged. It is in this context that the European Commission has published its proposal for a Directive on the ‘transparency and comparability of payment account fees, payment account switching and access to a basic payment account’.
UKOC: Can you twist you tongue around this communication challenge? - If you couldn’t use your hands to send a text message, what would you do? This is the question AbilityNet will be asking the nation from Monday 13 May to Friday 17 May 2013.
The task is simple: just text 'look132' without using your hands to 70070 to donate £2 towards AbilityNet to help transform the lives of thousands of people with a disability through the use of computers and the internet.
Press release & links
Forthcoming event: Gartner IT Infrastructure & Operations Management Summit 2013 | 3 – 4 June | Berlin, Germany - Delivering more for less in an age of new complexity
The pressure on IT to take cost out of the business has never been more intense. The IT Infrastructure & Operations (I&O) budget is a significant part of the overall IT budget and hence under the spotlight to optimize costs to free up money for innovation.
At the conference this year we not only discuss how to lower costs, but also discuss how I&O can become more relevant to the business by enabling agility — the ability to change at the pace of the business, without breaking something else.
Furthermore, we will also be providing I&O leaders a framework to prioritize and manage their portfolio of services and investments to deliver value. This framework will be discussed in the context of the Nexus of Forces — social, mobile, cloud and information. Make sure you reserve your place at the world’s most important gathering of I&O leaders.
Click here to find out more and to register please follow the link below.
Please note that previously published newsletters can be accessed from the Newsletter Archive
HMT: In his role as Master of the Mint, the Chancellor recently attended the verdict of the ‘Trial of the Pyx’, one of the longest established judicial procedures in the country.
Dating back to the Twelfth century, the ‘Trial of the Pyx’ is an annual ceremony to check that newly minted coins are within the legal limits for metallic composition, weight & size. All of the coins submitted for testing at the trial were confirmed as within their legal limit.
ACE: The Arts Council England has announced the 62 successful applications to the £7m Catalyst Arts: building fundraising capacity scheme. All funds from the overall Catalyst Arts scheme have now been allocated.
TNA: The records of thousands of 19th century immigrants to Britain are now available to search & download online. The collection, which covers the period 1801 to 1871, includes records relating to more than 7,000 people who applied to become British citizens under the 1844 Naturalisation Act, as well as a small number of papers relating to denization, a form of British citizenship that conferred some but not all the rights of a British subject.
DCMS: A new VisitEngland campaign to encourage ‘staycationers’ has been unveiled by Tourism Secretary Maria Miller. The GREAT Adventure advert is being aired on TV from 12 May 2013.
It sees Aardman Animations’ creations Wallace and Gromit travel up & down the UK, exploring the best of what the country has to offer to inspire more Britons to holiday in the UK. It forms part of VisitEngland’s award-winning Holidays at Home are GREAT campaign.
MO: The Met Office has launched Rain or Shine, their new daily weather forecast for children, which is aimed at children in Key Stages 1 & 2. The daily forecasts provide children with a quick, fun & easily digestible view of the weather and is available via the MO Education YouTube channel and the TeacherTube website.
LSIS: The 10 colleges have received Healthy FE & Skills recognition, part of a programme supported by the Learning & Skills Improvement Service) and Skills Funding Agency, which recognises the promotion of health & wellbeing amongst learners and staff. To gain recognition providers undertake a self-review and develop a 2-year action plan they will work towards to improve health & wellbeing.
TNA: Members of the Nazi-era cultural property project met recently at The National Archives, Kew, to report on progress of the online international research portal for families, historians & researchers to access records on looted art from the Nazi era.
ICO: Police have dismantled a suspected organised crime gang believed to be cold-calling & text messaging pension holders across the UK with fraudulent offers that could destroy their retirement plans. Arrests were made as part of an operation prompted by intelligence from several agencies, including the Information Commissioner’s Office.
The ICO has seen reports of spam text messages related to reclaiming pensions more than triple in the past 6 months, and 1 in 8 spam messages sent in March are thought to relate to pensions. The office has seen a similar spike in cold calls relating to pensions.
The ICO received more than 175,000 reports of unwanted marketing texts and calls in the last year. Report spam texts & nuisance calls to the ICO. If you think you may have been a victim of pension liberation fraud, contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.
Policy Statements and Initiatives
ScotGov: Scottish retailers will receive more help to promote healthier food options in convenience stores thanks to additional Scottish Government funding. The Healthy Living Programme, jointly funded by ScotGov and Scottish Grocers Federation, provides shops with the means to display & promote fresh, healthy produce.
The extra cash will now mean that the participating retailers will be able to expand the range of produce covered by the Programme, including bread, breakfast cereals and frozen vegetables.
The Programme will also now target expansion of membership in hospital shops & restaurants. Programme members will also be encouraged to engage more with young people, helping them make healthier choices and promoting healthier ‘meal deal’ choices.
ScotGov: More than 70 patients with rare conditions are already benefiting from the Scottish Government’s new medicines fund. The £21m fund, which was created in January 2013, is for medicines not available for routine prescription that treat very rare illnesses.
An independent review of the current systems for making new medicines available across NHS Scotland was published recently. The review recommendations together with those from the Health & Sport Committee will be open for consultation over the summer. The fund is in place to cover a time period until further recommendations from the review can be put in place.
DH: New measures, including financial checks on care providers, are intended to protect people receiving care if their provider fails. The first ever system of national oversight & co-ordination will give early warnings if a company is in trouble.
The Care Quality Commission (CQC) will take on the responsibility of a system of checks on the largest care companies – including those that provide care in people’s own home as well as in care homes.
The fear & upset that the Southern Cross collapse caused to care home residents & families was unacceptable. This early warning system will ‘bring reassurance to people in care and will allow action to be taken to ensure care continues if a provider fails’.
CLG: Local Growth Minister, Mark Prisk, said recently that 7 towns will receive a share of the £1m High Street Renewal Award and that they are ‘an example to communities across the country of what can be done to breathe new life into their high streets’.
WAG: The Welsh Government is extending a support programme for disabled Remploy workers in Wales, it was announced last week. Last year Ministers in London announced that a number of Remploy plants were to close under ‘Phase 1’ of their plans. In response the Welsh Government launched the Employer Support Grant to help displaced Remploy workers find new work.
The UK Government is now considering the future of the remaining Remploy plants in Wales under ‘Phase 2’, including the future of the Porth & Baglan sites with a potential 200 workers affected. Communities & Tackling Poverty Minister, Huw Lewis, has announced those workers affected by ‘Phase 2’ will also receive the same level of Welsh Government support.
WAG: An additional £76.5m funding package for housing, schools, flood protection & transport will support around 1,400 jobs & boost economic growth, Finance Minister Jane Hutt said last week.
HMT: The government’s new tax capacity building programme, the Developing Countries Capacity Building Unit, is to set up the projects working in partnerships to strengthen tax administrations. The unit is funded by the Department for International Development (DFID) and run by HMRC.
Through the new programmes HMRC and the Tanzanian & Ethiopian authorities will work together to tailor HMRC best practice to the infrastructure & resources available to help these countries in order to strengthen their tax administrations and bring in the tax that they are due.
Since 2010 there has been an annual 40% increase in revenue collection in Ethiopia, supported by the first phase of HMRC’s partnership with the Ethiopian authorities.
DH: The Department of Health, Public Health England and NHS England have announced a series of changes to the current vaccination schedule to include 3 new vaccination programmes, which protect against flu, shingles & rotavirus, as well as updating the current meningitis C vaccine schedule.
The rotavirus vaccination programme will start on 1 July 2013 when children under 4 months will be routinely vaccinated against this highly infectious illness, which is the most common cause of vomiting and diarrhoea (gastroenteritis) in infants and young children. Nearly every child will develop gastroenteritis caused by rotavirus by the time they are 5 years old.
There will also be a shingles vaccination programme introduced for people aged 70, with a catch-up programme for those aged up to, and including, 79 years. Shingles is an infection of a nerve that causes pain and a rash along a band of skin by the affected nerve.
DFID: Britain will support Somali plans to help address terrorism & piracy by tackling poverty & improving security. The UK, alongside other donors, committed international support for Somalia’s new federal government at last week’s Somalia conference.
WAG: Last week marked a key milestone in the delivery of the Education Minister’s Improving Schools plan, as reading & numeracy tests for pupils in years 2 to 9 began in Wales. The new national tests, which will be sat from 8 - 22 May 2013, will replace the commercially produced tests previously used by schools.
By tracking progress from the end of the Foundation Phase right the way through into secondary education, the tests are designed to give teachers a clearer insight into a learner’s development and progress. This will allow them to identify strengths & areas for improvement and to intervene at an earlier stage if learners are falling behind.
WAG: The Health Minister, Mark Drakeford, has launched Together for Health; A Heart Disease Delivery Plan – a framework challenging the NHS to continuously improve cardiac services in Wales. Heart Disease is a major killer in Wales, particularly affecting our poorer communities.
According to the latest figures available from the Welsh Health Survey, 20% of adults are being treated for high blood pressure and 9% for any heart condition, excluding high blood pressure. Although death rates in Wales have been falling over the last 3 decades, they remain around 15% higher than in England.
SFA: Traineeships will be available for young people aged 16-19 and for young people with Learning Difficulty Assessments up to an academic age of 25 from August 2013. The Government will look to extend traineeships to young people aged up to 24 in due course.
Traineeships are designed for young people who want to work, but need extra help to gain an Apprenticeship or employment. The programme is designed to fit individual learner needs, and will last for a maximum of 6 months. The core content of the programme will be a high quality work placement, work preparation training and English & maths.
CLG: A new 1-stop-shop service for planning consents will reduce the number of bodies infrastructure developers need to consult on applications. The service, now up & running will provide dedicated support for developers of nationally significant infrastructure projects at the pre-application stage of the planning application process.
HMRC: HM Revenue & Customs has confirmed that it is working with the US and Australian tax administrations (the IRS & ATO) on data which reveals extensive use of complex offshore structures to conceal assets by wealthy individuals & companies. The data also exposes information that may be shared with other tax administrations as part of the global fight against tax evasion.
So far HMRC has identified over 100 people who benefit from these structures and a number of those individuals had already been identified and are under investigation for offshore tax evasion. They have also identified more than 200 UK accountants, lawyers and other professional advisors who advise on setting up these structures who will also be scrutinised.
ScotGov: The Scottish Government recently published proposals that should form the foundation of a healthy, diverse & competitive banking sector in Scotland which puts the needs of its customers first.
Sustainable, Responsible Banking: A strategy for Scotland, developed in consultation with industry, consumer groups & others, outlines a range of measures that can be taken in the current environment to encourage diversity in the sector and enhance professional standards.
DCMS: Bury beat competition from towns across England to secure the £1.8m of National Lottery funding from Sport England, to test what works in changing the sporting habits of women & girls. Though there has been an increase in females playing sport, men are still more active than women. As the pilot develops, Sport England hopes the lessons learnt in Bury will be rolled out across the country.
DCMS: Moves to boost the roll-out of mobile broadband, which is essential to business growth & jobs, have been published for consultation by the government. 92% of individuals in the UK have a mobile phone & 39% of individuals own a smart phone with internet access.
It is estimated the demand for mobile capacity will increase 80 fold by 2030, but regulations are holding up the roll-out of services in many parts of the country.
The proposed changes will speed up the regulatory process for mobile broadband infrastructure, while ensuring protected areas and others keep environmental safeguards already in place. The plans ensure the use & sharing of existing infrastructure is maximised, and installing new masts is avoided wherever possible. The 6-week consultation ends on 14 June 2013.
SFA: As part of the Skills Funding Agency’s recent consultation review with the sector on the publicly funded qualifications offer, they want to ensure that qualifications which they approve for funding for adults continue to be high quality & robust, with demand from learners & employers.
For the qualifications which, as a result of the review, SFA do not currently intend to fund for new starts in 2013/4, they want to make sure the sector have the opportunity for a final review. SFA are therefore extending an invitation to the sector to contact them about these qualifications that have not been added to the catalogue, with any new or additional evidence of demand. Submissions need to be in by 17.00 on Monday, 17 June 2013.
ScotGov: The first-ever overarching strategy for Scotland’s historic environment was unveiled last week for consultation. The draft strategy on the future protection, management & promotion of Scotland’s historic environment provides ‘clear direction and a long term vision in terms of economic, social & cultural benefits, within the context of tightening budgets, physical threats from climate change, and technological advances’. Consultation closes on 31 July 2013.
BCE: The Boundary Commission for England has begun an Evaluation Survey of the 2013 Review. The purpose of the survey is to review the Commission’s approach to the 2013 Review of Parliamentary Constituencies in England. The responses to the survey will be anonymous and be used to improve how the Commission conducts future reviews.
If you contributed to the 2013 Review, the BCE is inviting you to complete its online evaluation survey about the processes & procedures used during the review. The survey will close at 5pm on Wednesday 29 May 2013.
The BCE is not seeking views on the proposals for Parliamentary boundaries as part of this survey.
Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides
DH: The Local Government Association and Public Health England have produced a guide for local councillors about theNational Child Measurement Programme (NCMP), which became a duty of local government in April 2013.
The NaNCMP involves annual measurement of the height & weight of children in reception year & Year 6. Local authorities return the data to the Health & Social Care Information Centre.
ACE: Supporting the role of Arts Council England as an advocate for the value of arts & culture, ACE has refreshed its advocacy toolkit for the sector. The new toolkit contains updated advice & guidance on how to raise awareness & demonstrate the value of public investment in arts and culture.
Defra: Guidance for Producers on how to register a food or drink product under the EU Protected Food Name scheme; current applications, registered products and scheme contacts.
CBI: The CBI has published a statement of principles outlining how companies should conduct their tax affairs to improve transparency & understanding, which includes using narrative reporting. The CBI strongly recommends that these principles are followed by British businesses and all companies operating in the UK.
The CBI has also published a report on 12 misunderstood tax concepts.
ACE: Arts Council England has published The contribution of the arts & culture to the national economy, an independent report commissioned by ACE and conducted by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR). The report is the first comprehensive analysis to determine this value to the modern economy on a national scale.
The key findings include:
* arts & culture make up 0.4% of GDP – against less than 0.1% of government spending invested in the sector
* at least £856m p.a. of spending by tourists visiting the UK can be attributed directly to arts & culture
Socitm: Socitm has published a briefing for top teams in local authorities showing how they can take advantage of digital & mobile technologies in response to the challenges of austerity. Better connected 2013: a briefing for the top management team draws on research compiled for Socitm's latest annual survey of all council websites.
As well analysing the performance of websites, the research also examined councils' use of social media, email alerts, customer accounts and other digital tools for citizen engagement & service delivery. In a section Responding to the rise of mobile, the briefing points out that the use of mobile devices for accessing council websites is increasing rapidly (around 23% of visits to council websites are now made on mobile devices).
However, assessment of council website readiness for mobile rated just 8% of all councils as very good, and a further 17% as satisfactory. The remaining 75% were rated poor.
HMIC: Police custody provision in Hampshire was generally positive, but health care was in need of attention, said Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons, and Dru Sharpling, HM Inspector of Constabulary, publishing the report of an unannounced inspection.
The inspection was part of a national programme of joint inspections of police custody. It looked at 9 custody suites operating 24 hours a day: Aldershot, Basingstoke, Fareham, Lyndhurst, Newport (Isle of Wight), Portsmouth, Southampton, Waterlooville and Winchester. It also looked at two reserve suites, Alton and Havant. Overall there had been improvements, but some areas which still needed to be addressed.
PC&PE: In a report published last week, the Procedure Committee reviews a recent trial period in which it acted as a point of complaint for MPs about unsatisfactory or late answers to Written Parliamentary Questions (WPQs), and proposes to take on this role on a permanent basis.
DWP: Fraud & error in the benefit system stands at £3.5bn or 2.1% of total benefit expenditure, latest figures show.
General Reports and Other Publications
TUC: Universal Credit - the government's new single benefit payment - is in danger of failing to deliver on its key objectives, according to a new report published by the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) and the TUC.
The report says that although Universal Credit will improve some aspects of the benefits system, its ability to lift families out of poverty & remove barriers to working will be severely undermined by the government's wider tax credit & benefit changes - with 9 in 10 families gaining nothing overall from its introduction.
TfL: The river crossings consultation report shows there is ‘continued support for a new road tunnel between Silvertown and the Greenwich Peninsula and a new river crossing at Gallions Reach’.
Socitm: The challenges for councils sharing ICT services are set out in the latest Socitm briefing, with reference to the Aylesbury Vale & Dacorum partnership, and the East Kent Services arrangement.
Shared ICT services: more than meets the eye? points out that sharing services ranks high on the agenda of possible responses by local authorities to austerity, and that many have been established. However, a large number end before delivering the anticipated benefits, and for others the path to implementation can be far from smooth.
Demos: Analysis of the Census by the think-tank Demos reveals that almost half of ethnic minority residents in England & Wales now live in areas where white British people are in a minority. Figures from the 2011 Census show that 4.6m minority Britons (45% of the minority population) were living in these areas, defined as those where less than half of the population are white British.
The minority dominated areas are generally multi-minority, since new minorities (i.e. Somalis) take up housing vacated by established minorities (i.e. Afro-Caribbeans). This means a dissipation of ethnic concentrations, but also an increase in the number of people who have limited contact with white British people.
ESRC: New research funded by the Economic & Social Research Council (ESRC) reveals why some children are badly affected by negative family conflicts while other children survive without significant problems.
The impact of everyday conflict between parents on their children's behaviour & mental health is driven by how the children understand the problems in the relationship as well as the nature of the conflict itself, the researchers found. These disagreements include; hostile relationships between parents, poor parenting practices, negative parent-child relationships and maternal depression.
IFS: New research published by the Institute for Fiscal Studies has confirmed that children born at the start of the academic year achieve better exam results, on average, than children born at the end of the academic year. It also provides new insight into what explains these differences, which is crucial in order to understand the most appropriate policy response.
PC&PE: MPs on the Transport Committee have rejected calls for a new hub airport east of London and urge the Government to permit the expansion of Heathrow where a third runway is long overdue.
Legislation / Legal
MoJ: The culture of using ‘meritless’ judicial review applications to delay immigration decisions and hold up development will be attacked by new controls announced last week by Justice Secretary Chris Grayling. The changes will tackle the soaring number of judicial review applications being made in England & Wales.
Court rules will now be put in place to implement the changes, which are expected to take effect this summer. The changes complement separate proposals being considered which would also see the fee for a Judicial Review application increase from £60 to £235.
2 of the consultation proposals have not been taken forward following consideration of responses:
* For cases based on a continuing issue or multiple decisions – clarifying the point when the time limit starts, to avoid long delays
* Scrapping oral renewals for any case which has already had a hearing before a judge on substantially the same matter, for example, at a court, tribunal or statutory inquiry
ScotGov: Legislation to create a more user-friendly, simplified structure for Scotland’s tribunals has been published by the Scottish Parliament. Tribunals are a key part of the legal system, protecting people from potentially unfair treatment in a range of specialist areas such as support for learning, health, land & housing. However, the current system – which has developed in an ad-hoc & unplanned way over many years – is long overdue for reform.
HO: The Riot Damages Act will be independently reviewed to ensure it protects the vulnerable & provides value for money, the government announced last week. The review will examine the existing criteria which determines when compensation is payable. This includes key issues such as the definition of a riot, who should be liable and what level of compensation is suitable.
The review should conclude by September 2013 and will be followed by a public consultation.
BIS: UK businesses who want to protect their products &technologies through patents & design rights will be better off as a result of a new Intellectual Property Bill tabled last week. It proposes changes that would help businesses to better understand what is protected under the law, reduce the need for costly litigation, and provide greater certainty for investors in new designs & technologies.
Defra: Legal powers for the police to tackle irresponsible dog owners & improve public safety are among legislative changes being published in the draft Dangerous Dogs (Amendment) Bill recently.
The Government announced in February 2013 that it will extend the dangerous dogs legislation to make it an offence for a dog to be dangerously out of control in any place, including all private property. However there will be no protection for trespassers such as burglars who are attacked by a householder’s dog.
EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.
EU News: The European Commission adopted a new strategy for encouraging the use of green infrastructure and for ensuring that the enhancement of natural processes becomes a systematic part of spatial planning.
Green Infrastructure is a tried & tested tool that uses nature to provide ecological, economic & social benefits. Instead of building flood protection infrastructure, for example, a green infrastructure solution would be to allow a natural wetland to absorb the excess water from heavy rain.
EU News: Ireland’s Minister for Health, Dr James Reilly, TD, has welcomed the life saving agreement reached by the Irish Presidency on the Decision on Serious Cross Border Threats to Health. The Decision is a priority for the Irish Presidency in the Public Health field and forms part of the Presidency Programme.
The Decision will help Member States prepare for and protect citizens against possible future pandemics & environmental disasters. It strengthens risk preparedness & response planning, improves access to vaccines for Member States and will result in clearer risk & crisis communication to the public & healthcare professionals.
A crucial aspect of the agreement is the establishment of a legal basis for the coordination of vaccine procurement across the EU. This will provide more equitable access to vaccines at fairer prices - a development particularly welcome for smaller Member States who simply could not afford the exorbitant prices charged during recent pandemics.
EU News: Draft rules to make it easier for national authorities to freeze & confiscate criminals' assets across the EU were beefed up by the Civil Liberties Committee on Tuesday. However, MEPs also sought to safeguard the right to a fair trial.
They also called upon member states to use confiscated assets to fight crime and for social projects. The draft law, which must still be negotiated with national governments, is part of a broader EU strategy to fight fraud & corruption.
EU News: A provisional deal on updated watercraft rules to make them safer & greener was struck by MEPs and Irish EU presidency negotiators last Wednesday. It also scraps the misleading names of boat design categories in order to give consumers clearer information.
The updated EU rules on the safety & environmental performance of recreational craft and personal watercraft cover vessels between 2.5 & 24 meters in length, such as motor boats, sailing yachts and water scooters.
The provisionally agreed text still needs be formally approved by the Council's Committee of Permanent Representatives and Parliament's Internal Market Committee. The committee will probably vote on the deal in June 2013, paving the way for a plenary vote, probably in September 2013.
EU News: ‘3 years after it became legally binding, the impact of the European Union’s Charter of Fundamental Rights is increasingly clear. It is becoming a point of reference not only for the EU institutions when drawing up legislation but also for the European and national courts, making fundamental rights a reality for citizens in Europe’.
These are the findings of the third annual report on the application of the Charter, covering 2012, which illustrates with a wide range of fundamental rights related cases that the EU is continuing to build a more coherent system for protecting people’s fundamental rights.
EU News: Staff teams from the European Commission (EC), European Central Bank (ECB), and International Monetary Fund (IMF) visited Dublin during April 23rd – May 2nd, 2013 for the tenth review of the government’s economic programme and met with a range of stakeholders.
Ireland’s programme remains on track, the gradual recovery is continuing and there have been further improvements in market conditions for the sovereign and the banks. Mission teams discussed policies for the tenth review, completion of which is subject to EU and IMF approval processes. Teams also discussed with the Irish authorities preparations for programme exit.
PC&PE: More of the funds held by institutional investors would be invested in energy projects if there was a clear EU policy about how to deliver secure, affordable and low carbon energy, says the House of Lords EU Sub-Committee for Agriculture, Fisheries, Environment and Energy in its report, published recently.
Charity and Voluntary Sector
BIG: Over the last year young people from all walks of life have shared in the multi million Young Start scheme. Last week, Aileen Campbell MSP, Minister for Children & Young People, met 3 young people who have turned their lives around after support from a unique Edinburgh project.
Four Square (Scotland)’s SUSS IT project offers an SQA Employability Award and is developing an accredited qualification, SQA, in Tenancy Sustainment. Their Learning & Training programme helps homeless & vulnerable young people take on their own homes. The project helps their confidence & self understanding and gives them the skills & knowledge required to keep their own place and get into the job market.
CAB: Adverts glamorising payday loans are a far cry away from the reality of debt, according to Citizens Advice as the Advertising Standards Authority bans Cash Lady advert featuring Kerry Katona.
CO: The Social Action Fund has been created to support the government’s vision for a Big Society by funding proposals that will embed long term increases in giving either:
* time - volunteering, time-banking; or,
* resources - money, property, fixed assets or equipment
Business and Other Briefings
BIS: Department for Business, Innovation & Skills and Cabinet Office have asked potential suppliers to outline proposals for Growth Voucher programme. The £30m programme will try out a range of new approaches to help small firms grow their business. This includes new ways of finding & using paid-for external advice likely to have a positive impact on business growth.
The deadline for Outline Proposals is 29 May 2013. If you think your company might be suitable to deliver the programme you can apply to attend an Industry Day on 20 May 2013 at 2pm in the BIS Conference Centre, where you can find out more and ask questions about the programme. Press release & links
CLG: A new qualification to train the next generation of high street leaders was launched by the Local Government Minister, Brandon Lewis, last week. The certificate in Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) management has been designed to give students a thorough understanding of the industry so they can breathe new life into their town centres and boost local economies.
The certificate is an academic accredited postgraduate short course which covers all key aspects of working within a Business Improvement District environment. It will be delivered by industry experts & practitioners.
The government is also supporting the Love Your Local Market campaign, to celebrate the role markets can play in regenerating high streets and offer budding entrepreneurs the chance to test their business ideas; Love Your Local Market 2013 will take place from 15 - 29 May 2013.
CO: The formal introduction of a ‘Cloud First’ policy will drive wider adoption of cloud computing in the public sector, boosting business – and furthering savings & efficiencies – through the government CloudStore, which is a quicker, cheaper & more competitive way for the public sector to buy IT, Francis Maude, Minister for the Cabinet Office, said recently – See ‘In the News’ section for more information.
ScotGov: An agreement signed in South Korea last week will see Scotland develop its international reputation as a world leader in the marine energy sector. Finance Secretary John Swinney witnessed the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between Scottish Development International and Incheon Metropolitan City to encourage the two countries to exchange knowledge, ideas & technologies to develop their marine energy industries.
10DS: The UK’s world-leading medical science base has been boosted by £30m of government & private investment in a new research centre at the University of Oxford, PM David Cameron announced recently.
The Big Data Institute will capture & analyse extensive sets of health data for the detection, monitoring, treatment & prevention of a broad range of conditions from cancer, diabetes, stroke & high blood pressure through to pathogens & infectious diseases, such as malaria & influenza.
The project has received £10m under the second round of the UK Research Partnership Investment Fund (UK RPIF), matched by a further £20m donation from the Li Ka Shing Foundation.
WAG: Economy Minister, Edwina Hart, has officially opened the new Llanelli manufacturing facility of an entirely new clean green cooking fuel for the military, camping & leisure markets. The Fire Dragon fuel plant, run by Cardiff based BCB International, was able to start with support from the Welsh Government’s Economic Growth Fund and will initially create 6 new jobs. BCB has been developing & formulating its new fuel - over the past 5 years.
The fuel is a major advance on existing solid fuels for cooking. It is ethanol based, has the consistency of candle wax and therefore easy & safe to transport, burns clearly & cleanly. A number of other products on the market are toxic & sold with health warnings - some give off cyanide derivatives when burnt, while others release formaldehyde in certain situations.
One of BCB’s most highly publicised recent products are the Blast Boxer shorts used by many of our Armed Forces to protect them from blast & fragment injuries to the groin caused by roadside bombs better known as IEDS.
DECC: £21m has been awarded to entrepreneurs to help bring a range of new & innovative low carbon products to market.
FSA: The Food Standards Agency is joining up with the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) to co-fund innovative research on food safety through the TSB’s competition Nutrition for Life – Providing Safe and Healthy Food.
The competition will fund collaborative research & development projects and smaller feasibility studies, aimed at providing safe & healthy foods. The FSA will consider co-funding successful, innovative projects in the research call, if they fall within their strategic priorities. Registration opens 20 May & closes on 16 June 2013.
OS: National mapping authority Ordnance Survey, has released a new product which maps watercourses across Scotland including the highlands & islands, to help local authorities manage flood risk effectively and reduce the impact of flooding incidents. OS MasterMap Networks – Water Layer will be used to improve scientific understanding of water flows & water quality reporting under the statutory EU Water Framework Directive.
Combining OS MasterMap Networks – Water Layer with the topographic, address & road information published in OS MasterMap allows users to understand the impacts of flooding for individuals, businesses and essential public services, including health & education providers and the emergency services.
WAG: Work is set to start this month on a strategically important extension of the historic Penrhyn slate quarry that will help safeguard jobs and secure reserves that could last for up to 20 years at current rates of production.
Economy Minister Edwina Hart said: …. “Penrhyn Quarry is renowned the world over for the quality of slate it produces which is used on the renovation of historic properties as well as enhancing new modern developments.”
RoSPA: 60 years since he was created, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents’ retired road safety squirrel Tufty Fluffytail will feature in an exhibition exploring international state-related propaganda from the 20th and 21st centuries, which opens next week.
Tufty, a red squirrel with signature blue & yellow clothing, was created by the late Elsie Mills MBE in 1953 to help communicate simple safety messages to children. Now, the ever-popular creature, who was joined in his adventures by Minnie Mole and Willy Weasel to name a few of his companions, will feature in the British Library’s exhibition Propaganda: Power and Persuasion, from 17 May 17 – 17 September 2013.
The exhibition, which covers state-related propaganda from around the world, will be split into six sections: origins; nation; war; enemy; health; and, propaganda in the 21st century.
Socitm: Please note; A few places are still available for Socitm’s annual Learning from Better connected event which will take place on 15 May 2013 in London.
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