In the News
PC&PE: Smallholders are possibly more beautiful than the Agro Industry when it comes to food security - MPs on the International Development Committee are calling for 'concerted action to curb food wastage in the UK and for expansion of DFID’s bilateral nutrition programmes with a particular focus on pregnancy and early years', as part of wider efforts to improve global food security.
Launching a report on Global Food Security as world leaders assemble in London to attend an international nutrition summit hosted by the UK government, Sir Malcolm Bruce, chair of the IDC warned:
…. " UK aid to help smallholders increase food production in the developing world is of direct benefit to UK consumers as rising world food prices will reduce living standards of hard-pressed UK consumers. ….. A number of tangible measures set out in our report could, if implemented, have a significant impact on global food security and directly benefit UK consumers".
DfE: However ‘sickened’ society is each time, incidents still occur - Education Secretary Michael Gove has established a new independent panel to ‘help ensure that lessons are learned when a child dies or is seriously harmed and there are signs of abuse or neglect’.
Its members will advise & challenge local safeguarding children boards (LSCBs) to ‘initiate & publish high-quality serious case reviews (SCRs) in order that, nationally, lessons can be learned to drive up the quality of child protection services and avoid mistakes being repeated’.
The government’s statutory guidance on child protection, ‘Working together to safeguard children’ makes clear that LSCBs should have regard to the panel’s advice when making decisions about SCRs.
The independent panel will:
* bring rigorous independent scrutiny to the system
* help LSCBs apply the criteria for initiating SCRs when a child dies or is seriously harmed and there are signs of abuse & neglect
* advise - and where appropriate challenge - LSCBs when they decide not to initiate a SCR or intend not to publish a report
The panel cannot take enforcement action. Its role will be an advisory one. However, DfE expect LSCBs to have due regard to its advice. The panel will become operational on 1 July 2013 and LSCBs will be informed before then how to communicate with the panel.
IEA: The outlook for UK public expenditure possibly wouldn’t look so black if the black economy could be taxed - New research published recently by the Institute of Economic Affairs reveals that high tax rates have resulted in a shadow economy equivalent to a staggering 10% of GDP, worth in excess of £150bn.
The report, The Shadow Economy, finds overwhelming evidence that punitive tax regimes have led to the shadow economy employing 30m people across the EU. In Italy, Greece & Spain, illicit activity makes up around 20% of national income.
PC&PE: No magic bullet alternative to culling yet then? - In a report published recently on progress to develop a vaccine solution for bovine TB, the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee warns that 'vaccination is expensive, offers no guarantee of protection and will provide little benefit in the immediate future'.
TfL: Young artists invited to ‘find their way to fame’ - Transport for London’s Art on the Underground programme is calling on 5 to 18-year-olds to create a poster which celebrates the Tube's 150th anniversary. The competition draws on Labyrinth, a major project by artist Mark Wallinger who has created an artwork for each of the 270 Tube stations for the anniversary.
To enter, schools must register and then teachers may then submit the artwork entries on behalf of the students. The posters can be any style from abstract to cartoon, use any colours and any medium from collage to painting. The Labyrinth Teacher Pack provides a wealth of creative ideas for classroom activities and inspiring ideas for the competition entries. The deadline for entries is 28 June 2013.
FSCS: Put not your trust in Cybertrust - The Financial Services Compensation Scheme is warning consumers about a firm based in Switzerland (Cybertrust FX) that claims on its website to be part of the FSCS Scheme but is not. The firm is not UK regulated and FSCS does not protect its customers.
STFC: Astronomy journalists could win VLT (very long trip) - The European Astronomy Journalism Prize 2013 launched recently has been expanded to now include entries from Europe & South America. The inaugural competition in 2012 was open only to entries published or broadcast in English in the UK, but has now been extended to entries in English from any ESO member state.
Entries for the Prize (a trip to the world’s most advanced optical instrument: ESO’s Very Large Telescope in Chile) must reflect European interests and they can be online, written or broadcast. They must have been published or broadcast during the period 1 July 2012 to 31 July 2013 inclusive. Applications close on Wednesday 31 July 2013.
DECC: Promoting the positive commercial impact of green energy - In the UK Energy Efficiency Strategy, published last year, DECC identified a need to raise the strategic profile of energy efficiency so that the importance of energy management & energy managers is recognised at the board level within UK business.
One way to do this is through awards ceremonies, so that is why DECC is sponsoring 3 new energy efficiency awards at the 2013 Green Economy Awards.
The awards represent a great opportunity for businesses to boost their profile, celebrate success and showcase how they have used energy efficiency measures to drive a positive commercial impact. The closing date for entrants to the awards is 21 June 2013 and the awards are free to enter so please go online to apply.
Latest Compliance Survey: Are Privileged Accounts the Hidden Threat to Your Organisation's IT Security? - According to the latest Privileged Account Security & Compliance Survey, 86% of large organisations either do not know, or have grossly underestimated the magnitude of their privileged account security problem. Priveleged Accounts have recently emerged as the primary target for advanced enterprise attacks and have been exploited to perpetrate some of the most devastating cyber-attacks and data breaches in recent memory.
For government and public sector organisations, the issue of Priveleged Accounts also impacts directly on compliance mandates and general best practice such as ISO 27001, GPG13 and DPA legislation.
Click here to receive a free copy of the 2013 Privileged Account Security and Compliance Survey and find out how to gauge the magnitude of any Privileged Account security risk within your organisation.
Please note that previously published newsletters can be accessed from the Newsletter Archive
TfL: Transport for London has recently launched a new Countdown Digital Sign service - providing a new way to deliver tailored live bus arrival information cheaply & effectively to a range of public locations, such as hospital waiting rooms, schools or shopping centre foyers.
The technology can be self-installed using existing equipment - so it can be delivered at minimal cost to all. The business or organisation is provided with a tailored web link via a dedicated URL - that will give information for the bus stop or stops in the immediate vicinity. An electronic map detailing the local area is also displayed, which is especially useful for passengers unfamiliar with the location.
EHRC: The Equality & Human Rights Commission has welcomed new recommendations published by a United Nations Committee to help the UK improve its human rights record.
Following the Committee Against Torture’s close scrutiny of the UK’s compliance with the Convention Against Torture, a series of recommendations have been made that include:
* maintaining the current level of human rights protection provided by the Human Rights Act
* recognising the extra-territorial application of the Convention
* tackling long standing issues such as prison overcrowding and rates of suicide in prison
NE: Experts have spent 2 weeks collecting short-haired bumblebees from farmland in southern Sweden and last week they were re-introduced to the RSPB’s reserve at Dungeness in Kent. T
he project began last year with an initial pilot re-introduction, which followed 4 years of work with local farmers to create the ideal wildflower habitat for bumblebees across Romney Marsh & Dungeness. Of the 25 native species in the UK 7 are declining and 2 are extinct - one of which is the short-haired bumblebee.
MoD: A new mobile phone app is the latest weapon in the armoury of the Defence Discount Service to help Service personnel save cash. The app offers attractive discounts to members of the military community & the civilians who work alongside them.
TfL: The Crossrail project has celebrated its biggest milestone so far, as the titanic tunnelling machine Elizabeth broke through into the shell of the new Canary Wharf station.
Monitor: Health sector regulator Monitor has opened its first investigation to take place under NHS purchasing rules designed to protect patient interests. Thornbury Radiosurgery Centre has complained about purchasing decisions taken by NHS England and its predecessor body North of England Specialised Commissioning Group in Yorkshire and Humber.
Monitor will consider whether decisions made before 1 April 2013 breach the Principles & Rules for Cooperation & Competition, and whether decisions made after 1 April breach the NHS (Procurement, Patient Choice & Competition) regulations which replaced them.
Monitor has published draft guidance for consultation on the application of the Procurement, Patient Choice & Competition Regulations and their approach to enforcement under them. Consultation closes 15 July 2013.
Defra: From 1 July 2013 the application fee to place a dog that is a banned type, such as a Pit Bull, on the Index of Exempted Dogs in England & Wales will increase from £24 per dog to £92.40 per dog. The new fees will apply to all applications received on or after this date.
TfL: Transport for London are working with the Metropolitan Police Service, British Transport Police and City of London Police on an initiative called Project Cycle Ops to crack down on cycle theft in the Capital.
It involves using various tactics, including bike marking & registration events, crime prevention advice to cyclists and enforcement. Security marking your bike deters potential thieves as it can be easily traced if it is stolen. Check out where & when free cycle security marking & registration events are taking place in your area.
TfL: The Mayor and Transport for London have published 'Safe Streets for London', a new road safety plan which ‘sets out a clear path towards helping to reduce death and serious injury on the Capital's roads’.
Policy Statements and Initiatives
Defra: A new £1.6m project to improve river health & water quality in England has been launched by the government. The new partnership scheme, called the Catchment Based Approach, will encourage local communities & environmental groups to take on more responsibility for improving the health of their local rivers, as well as the surrounding natural environment & wildlife.
HMT: New figures published last week for 2012 - 2013 show that the government has exceeded, by 25%, the £8bn savings target it set itself after the General Election. The savings of £10bn are equivalent to almost £600 for each working household across Britain.
DCMS: The government have announced that 100 companies are now supporting our Think Act Report initiative, which ‘encourages companies to report on action to improve gender equality in the workplace’. It now covers over 1.6m UK employees.
ScotGov: A new approach to identifying children at risk of sexual exploitation – including those in care – will be piloted in the Forth Valley area. The pilot will test new ways of identifying, recording & preventing the sexual exploitation of children & young people.
Stirling, Falkirk and Clackmannanshire councils, in partnership with the Scottish Government, will trial recently developed methods to identify young people who have been sexually abused and ensure that appropriate support services are available to them.
ScotGov: The Scottish Government recently launched its District Heating Action Plan, which ‘sets a clear roadmap for how we will support the growth of district heating networks throughout Scotland and help reduce energy bills & carbon emissions’.
The Action Plan sets how the ScotGov will work with partners to deliver major public & private sector investment in infrastructure that is needed to secure a long-term sustainable & affordable heat supply.
DfT: Plans for a new railway £11m station in Kenilworth were given a boost last week as Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin announced that he was ‘minded to fund the new station at Kenilworth, with the department providing up to £5m towards the project’.
The station would be part of £37bn worth of investment spent from 2014 to 2019, which will modernise the railways and provide massive benefits to both passengers & the UK economy. The £5m investment would represent the biggest single allocation since the launch of the government’s New Stations Fund.
Defra: A new drive to help save the elephant has been launched by the government, in the wake of the highest levels of ivory poaching since records began.
Defra: Professor Chris Elliott will lead an independent review of Britain’s food system in light of the recent horsemeat fraud, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Department of Health announced last week.
The review will look at the causes of the systemic failure that enabled the horsemeat fraud, the roles & responsibilities of businesses throughout the food supply chain to consumers and how to support consumer confidence.
Findings from the review will be used to form recommendations to Defra & the DoH on how the UK might be able to increase the resilience of its food systems.
DH: Over 800 children visit their doctor every day due to the serious effects of second-hand smoke exposure, according to research published by the Royal College of Physicians. The figures have been highlighted as the government launches a campaign to increase awareness of the hidden dangers of smoking in homes & cars.
ScotGov: Health board boundaries will be aligned with local authority areas to help ensure older people can receive the care they need at home.
ScotGov: Homeless households are to be given more support thanks to a new duty on local authorities which came into force on 1 June 2013. The new housing support duty legally requires all local authorities in Scotland to give support to those who are unintentionally homeless and believed to be in need of extra assistance.
The new duty is supported by guidance for local authorities, which was published on the Scottish Government website on 3 June 2013.
CLG: Thousands of homes at stalled housing sites will be unlocked through a multi-million pound package of government support. Major schemes at 14 sites have been earmarked for government investment, so they can start building up to 38,000 new homes, Housing Minister, Mark Prisk announced last week.
The projects will now proceed to a competitive clarification and due diligence process, to receive a share of the Local Infrastructure Fund, which has a total budget of £474m.
CQC: The Care Quality Commission is inviting 60,000 new mums to give their views on a wide range of issues, including whether they were given the pain relief they wanted, if they were left alone at a time when it worried them and whether they were offered a choice of where to have their baby.
The results will be published later this year and will show what NHS maternity care is like for women in England, identifying what is working well and what needs to improve.
EU News: The European Commission has launched a public consultation to ‘gather insights & contributions from the public further to results of the evaluation of the European Strategy on Safety and Health at Work 2007-2012’.
This should help identify current & future challenges in the occupational safety & health area, and identify solutions to address these challenges. Consultation closes on 26 July 2013.
EU News: The European Commission wants to know whether you think the recycling targets in EU waste legislation need reviewing & how. The results of the consultation will be used to help develop potential new legislation to prevent waste and boost re-use & recycling, as part of a wider review of waste policies in 2014.
Citizens, businesses, NGOs, public authorities and other interested parties are welcome to contribute their views until 10 September 2013.
DECC: Office blocks, factories & community centres could be among a number of buildings across Great Britain to benefit from more cash for renewable heat under proposals set out by the Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) recently.
DECC is consulting on increasing the tariff levels for heat generated by ground source heat pumps, large biomass and solar thermal kit accredited under the Government’s Renewable Heat Incentive scheme (RHI). The consultation closes on 28 June 2013.
PC&PE: The House of Lords recently appointed a new Select Committee to ‘consider the progress made in delivering a legacy from the London Olympic & Paralympic Games’. The Committee has published a Call for Evidence, and invite any interested parties to submit written responses by Wednesday 31 July 2013.
Ofgem: Ofgem has set out, for consultation, its proposed approach to the use of new enforcement powers relating to market abuse in wholesale energy markets, which were laid in Parliament last week. The powers are due to come into effect later this month. The consultation closes on 29 August 2013.
In a separate consultation, Ofgem is asking energy market stakeholders for their views on how they use price benchmarks produced by price reporting agencies. Ofgem wants to know whether they think current arrangements for providing price information & forming benchmark prices are fit for purpose. The consultation closes on 31 July 2013.
DCMS: Sir Terry Farrell’s independent review of Architecture & the Built Environment, established by the Department for Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS), has published a call for evidence to seek out views on 4 key themes.
As well as the workshops planned by the review team throughout the country, individuals & groups are encouraged to self-organise & issue joint responses to the Call for Evidence where appropriate. Many local stakeholders are putting together working groups and hosting roundtables or workshops to help inform their responses. Submissions should be made through the online form before 5pm on Friday 19 July 2013.
DECC: Views on how local communities can take charge of managing & generating their own energy are being sought by the Government, ahead of the UK’s first ever Community Energy Strategy (CES). This will also deliver a commitment in the Coalition Agreement to encourage community-owned renewables schemes where local people benefit from the power produced. Views on the CES should be submitted online by 1 August 2013. DECC will publish the CES in the Autumn.
WAG: How the Third Sector in north Wales will work with the Welsh Government in the future was the focus of a special event in Llandudno Junction recently, as part of a consultation asking for people’s views on how the Welsh Government and the sector can work in partnership, especially in light of the current economic climate. Consultation closes on 8 August 2013.
Monitor: Monitor has published draft guidance for consultation on the application of the Procurement, Patient Choice & Competition Regulations and their approach to enforcement under them. Consultation closes 15 July 2013 - See also ‘General News’ for more information.
Additional Consultations: Readers should be aware that many consultations are never publicised with a press release, so do not appear in either the email alerts or Wired - GOV Plus. Many of these consultations can be found at the following links:
Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides
EHRC: The Equality & Human Rights Commission has published a short guide to help businesses understand how they should deal with assistance dogs on their premises. It provides advice on the law and addresses concerns that business owners or other customers may have about assistance dogs accompanying their disabled owner onto their premises.
By law, Service Providers including restaurants, B&Bs, Taxis & Public Houses, must allow registered assistance dogs to ‘accompany their owner onto their premises or inside their vehicles’ under the Equality Act 2010.
HO: Public authority use of surveillance cameras will be subject to a new code of practice published by the Home Office last week. The code will set out new guidelines for CCTV & Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR), encourage transparency in their use and ensure public bodies such as local authorities & the police consider whether they are proportionate before erecting new cameras. It follows Andrew Rennison’s appointment as the first Surveillance Camera Commissioner last year.
FRC: The Financial Reporting Council has made a significant change to the UK’s corporate governance regime with the issue of its revised auditing standard enhancing the transparency of the auditor’s report with the aim of better communication to investors.
NICE: Licensed nicotine products, such as patches & gum, should be offered to people who smoke and are struggling to quit to help them cut down on cigarettes, NICE says. NICE recommends that stop smoking advisers & health professionals advise people to stop smoking in one go, but for those who aren't ready or are unable to stop in one step, they should suggest considering a harm-reduction approach.
ACE: Arts Council England has launched a new film, A Credit To Britain (Demonstrating the value of public investment in arts & culture). Featuring celebrated artists, organisations & locations, it showcases the world-class creativity our country is home to and the important role public investment plays in nurturing this talent.
ACE have created an advocacy toolkit which features lots of useful information & advice to help organisations demonstrate the value of public investment in arts & culture including: how to engage with local MPs, media & audiences; to inforgraphics demonstrating what public investment in arts & culture adds to the economy.
PC&PE: In a report published last week, the Commons Public Administration Select Committee (PASC) calls for a ‘wiki’ approach to policy-making, where public opinion, ideas & contributions are sought & welcome at any & all stages of the policy cycle. PASC says that Government should be able to demonstrate that it has adopted this approach alongside ministerial leadership and responsibility for policy & its outcomes.
PC&PE: The Public Accounts Committee has published the 8th Report of 2013-14 on regulating consumer credit.
Monitor: Foundation trusts must ensure they are investing adequately in health services in order to protect patients interests, says health sector regulator Monitor. Monitor is concerned following another sharp increase in the number of foundation trusts (FTs) failing to meet the national 4-hour A&E waiting times target in the last quarter.
Ofsted: Teams of Ofsted inspectors have undertaken a week of co-ordinated inspections in Bristol to find out why the city has a disproportionate number of under-performing schools – and whether the picture is improving. Around 15 focused school inspections took place in the city as a result of Ofsted’s findings that the proportion of children attending a good or better school is currently well below the national average.
The latest official data show 32% of schools in Bristol are less than good, which is more than the average for England (26%), the South West Region (22%) and 5 of its local authority demographic equivalents.
WAG: The second Annual Report from the Welsh Government allows the public to scrutinise how the WAG is delivering on the commitments made in the Programme for Government, setting out 340 indicators of performance and updating on 547 actions.
DCMS: ‘Women should not just try to fit into the economy, they should be shaping it’ is one of the key aims of the Women’s Business Council (WBC) report which was unveiled last week. The report sets out a series of recommendations on how we can make the most of women’s contribution to economic growth through all stages of their careers.
The report also highlights the need to get more women into enterprise. If women were setting up & running new businesses at the same rate as men, there could be 1m more women entrepreneurs.
ONS: The last 170 years have seen the proportion of workers who are in agriculture & fishing in England & Wales fall to 1%, down from 22% in Great Britain in 1841, according to a new report from ONS looking at long-term industrial change & some of the factors driving it. Over the same period the service sector rose from providing 33% of employment to 81%.
NO: The majority of leaders of NHS Hospital Trusts believe that they are failing to use information from complaints as well as they should because the data boards receive lacks the right quality & detail, according to new research published recently by the Health Service Ombudsman for England.
Of 165 respondents from 94 NHS trusts from across England who were surveyed:
* Only 20% review learning from complaints & take resulting action to improve services
* Less than 50% measure patient satisfaction with the way complaints are handled
* Less than 66% use a consistent approach to reviewing complaints data
EHRC: The Equality and Human Rights Commission has published its corporate plan for 2013/14.
CIPD: The CIPD has responded to National Careers Council report into careers provision for young people.
NAO: HMRC’s renewed strategy for tackling tobacco smuggling is logical and includes a wide range of complementary measures, but the Department does not yet have an integrated approach to deterring & disrupting the distribution of illicit tobacco within the UK, according to the latest National Audit Office report.
NAO: The National Audit Office has reported the results of its review of a statement by the Department of Health of costs & benefits of the programmes previously managed under the National Programme for IT in the NHS. The Department forecasts that benefits will slightly exceed costs over the whole life of the systems, £10.7bn compared with £9.8bn.
There is, however, very considerable uncertainty around whether the forecast benefits will be realised. In particular, for some programmes, future benefits rely on the successful deployment of a set number of systems at a set time. Experience over the last 10 years suggests this will be challenging to achieve, particularly in the case of the local care records systems.
TWF: A new report published by the Big Innovation Centre warns that innovative small firms – those most crucial to jobs & growth – ‘are finding it significantly more difficult than their peers to secure the funding they need to grow.
Over 1 in 3 innovative small firms that sought finance between 2010/12 did not obtain any of the funding they needed – nearly triple the rate of 2007/8.
ScotGov: Over 75% of Scottish beekeepers lost at least 1 colony last winter, according to the first Scottish bee health survey. The survey, commissioned by ScotGov, was designed to assess the health status of honey bees in Scotland and gain a better understanding of how factors such as husbandry & disease affect them.
EHRC: Police forces have reduced their unfair use of stop & search powers, while continuing to see a reduction in crime rates, after intervention by the Equality & Human Rights Commission. The details of this work are in Stop and Think Again, a new report published by the EHRC recently.
General Reports and Other Publications
ACE: Arts Council England have published the first 4 from the ‘Heads Up’ series of 8 films which have been produced as part of the Creative Case for Diversity, an artist-led set of explorations and sharing of best practise that seek to release diversity from a negative or deficit thinking. They feature a number of arts professionals & arts organisations who discuss their involvement with the Creative Case and what it means to them.
The Case invites us all to look at diversity & equality within the arts and take a creative approach to addressing barriers to creativity, participation, learning & involvement around race, disability and gender equality, instead of simply viewing it as a legal requirement.
NO: West Sussex County Council has been criticised by the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) for theway in which it assessed a woman on her contributions towards her care costs. The LGO found in its report that the council didn’t follow government guidance, and took 18 months to decide that the woman’s financial interest in a property she owned jointly with her daughter had little value.
NO: An investigation by the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) has found that Kent County Council overcharged the public for non-residential care services it provided for over 18 months. The investigation upholds a complaint from one person that the council charged for care services before a financial assessment was made, which contravenes government guidelines.
In the process of the investigation the council has revealed that there will be others affected by its provisional charging policy, which was in place between April 2011 & December 2012.
NO: Kent County Council failed to provide proper support to a boy when he became homeless after his parents had abandoned him, a report by the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) finds. The LGO has upheld a complaint from the boy that he was let down by the council, when it failed to deal with his requests for accommodation & welfare support over a 2 year period.
Ofsted: Ofsted has published a report Lessons learned from the Foundation Learning provision (FLp) for the new 16 - 19 Study Programmes to identify the lessons learned from the FLp to help FE & skills providers develop study programmes for young people who need support to further their education or training.
On 1 August 2013, the FLp will move into the new 16 - 19 Study Programmes. The study programmes are for all learners aged 16 - 19 and include all levels up to level 3, including A levels. The FLp is funded by the Education Funding Agency. Its purpose is to provide learners with individualised learning programmes to support their progression to further education, training or employment.
NO: The Parliamentary & Health Service Ombudsman and the Local Government Ombudsman have published a report of an investigation into a complaint which identified service failures & maladministration by NHS Wakefield District Primary Care Trust and Wakefield Metropolitan District Council.
This report describes service failure by the care home & the nurse and finds maladministration in the way the complaint was investigated by the Council and the Trust. It illustrates the importance of effective communication between staff involved in a person’s care and highlights the need for clear ownership of complaint handling by the organisations commissioning services.
DFID: Eliminating development aid & promoting taxation among African citizens has been identified as a source for better governance in Africa. Research being conducted by the International Centre for Tax & Development (ICTD) suggests that taxation is integral to better governance and a more prosperous citizenry.
According to Mick Moore, CEO of ICTD, in his TEDx lecture ‘Why Tax Africa’ taxation is inherently very supportive of basic democratic principles. Where & how governments get their money is important in determining the behaviour of these bodies in relation to the prosperity of their citizens. Ultimately, “governments that depend on tax need their citizens to prosper” said Moore.
FSA: At last week’s Food Standards Agency open Board meeting, Professor Pat Troop presented the key findings of her review of the Agency’s handling of the adulteration of processed beef products with horse and pig meat and DNA. The final report will be published at the end of this month on the FSA website.
Overall, Professor Troop commended the Agency’s handling and recognised that this incident was very unusual in both its scale & profile. Her report highlighted 4 key points to consider. Proposals for a comprehensive action plan will be presented to the Board at its next open meeting on 16 July 2013.
IfG: Giving ministers the final say over the appointment of permanent secretaries will increase transparency & accountability at the top of Whitehall and would more closely reflect what already happens, concludes the Institute for Government (IfG) in a new report published recently, in its series on ‘accountability in Whitehall’.
Contrary to the position taken by the Civil Service Commission, the IfG concludes that giving ministers the right to make the final decision over the appointment of permanent secretaries – from a shortlist of independently-assessed candidates – would improve the appointments system by codifying what already often happens.
Demos: Workers who have made sufficient National Insurance contributions should be rewarded with a higher £95-a-week rate of Job Seeker's Allowance, according to the think-tank Demos. The proposal is one of a number of ‘fully-costed ideas’ put forward by a new policy paper that aims to restore a contributory attitude to welfare by rewarding work and tackling criticisms about a 'nothing for something' culture in benefits.
Legislation / Legal
ICO: The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has imposed a monetary penalty of £100,000 after the discovery of a large number of patient records at a site formerly owned by Stockport Primary Care Trust. The ICO’s investigation revealed 2 earlier security incidents where confidential & highly sensitive personal data had been left behind in secure buildings owned by the trust.
ICO: The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has served a monetary penalty of £70,000 to Halton Borough Council in Cheshire following a serious breach of the Data Protection Act.
The breach occurred when a council employee sent a letter about an adopted child to the birth mother, and mistakenly included a covering letter giving details of the adoptive parents’ home address. The birth mother passed this information to her parents who had been trying to obtain access to their grandchild. Subsequently they wrote to the adoptive parents seeking contact.
The ICO’s investigation concluded that the breach was caused by Halton Borough Council’s underlying failure to have a clear policy & process for checking such correspondence, and relevant training for their staff.
HO: Two groups of so-called ‘legal highs’ are to be made illegal for 12 months while government experts assess whether they should be permanently controlled. Crime Prevention Minister, Jeremy Browne has introduced a Temporary Class Drug Order (TCDO) on new psychoactive (NPS) substances known as ‘NBOMe’ and ‘Benzofury’.
MoJ: Separating couples will be legally required to find out about ways to settle disputes away from the courtroom, under new laws currently going through Parliament. New figures show that 124,420 couples filed for divorce in 2012, but instead of potentially long & costly court hearings couples opted for mediation – a quicker, cheaper option which provides better outcomes.
Last year 67% of all publicly funded couples resolved their concerns out of court with a qualified mediator.
MoJ: Anyone thinking of using a Claims management Company to help with a claim can now log on to the Ministry of Justice website and for the first time see exactly what rules the CMCs have breached and the reasons behind the action taken.
EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.
EU News: Member States will need to step up their efforts to improve childcare provisions if the EU is to reach its 75% employment rate target by 2020, said the European Commission in a report released last week.
The progress report finds that just 8 countries have met both targets agreed at EU level for availability & accessibility of childcare services. The so-called ‘Barcelona targets’, agreed by EU leaders in 2002, say that childcare should be provided for 90% of children between 3 years old & the mandatory school age, and for 33% of children under three.
Meanwhile, a new study also released by the Commission sheds light on the phenomenon of the ‘gender pension gap’, showing that on average across the EU, women’s pensions are 39% lower than men’s.
EU News: The Schengen area of free movement allows more than 400m EU citizens from 26 European countries and an increasing number of non-EU citizens, to travel without internal border controls. Last week the Commission presented its third Schengen 'health check', a biannual overview on the functioning of the Schengen area.
EU News: The EU has EU imposed provisional anti-dumping tariffs on Chinese solar panels. A phased approach will be followed with the duty set at 11.8% until 6 August 2013. From August on the duty will be set at the level of 47.6% which is the level required to remove the harm caused by the dumping to the European industry.
The fair value of a Chinese solar panel sold to Europe should be 88% higher than the price to which it is actually sold. The dumped Chinese exports exerted undue price pressure on the EU market, which had a significant negative effect on the financial & operational performance of European producers.
EU News: Last week, the European Commission published its 2013 Convergence Report on Latvia, together with a citizen's summary that briefly explains the report and the rationale behind it. The Commission concludes that Latvia has achieved a high degree of sustainable economic convergence with the euro area and proposes that the Council decide on Latvia’s adoption of the euro as from 1 January 2014.
PC&PE: The House of Lords EU Committee calls for the UK Government to opt-in to the proposal for a Europol Regulation. In its report, the Committee considers the proposal, including concerns raised by the Government regarding some of its provisions, and concludes that the Government should opt-in to the Regulation so that it can play a full & constructive role in the negotiations.
If the Government was to decide to opt-in to this proposal then the UK’s continued participation in Europol would effectively be removed from the list of EU police and criminal justice measures that will be caught by the Government’s separate block opt-out decision, which must be made by 31 May 2014.
EU News: The European Commission has launched a public consultation to ‘gather insights & contributions from the public further to results of the evaluation of the European Strategy on Safety and Health at Work 2007-2012’ – See ‘Consultations’ section for more information,
EU News: The European Commission wants to know whether you think the recycling targets in EU waste legislation need reviewing & how - See ‘Consultations’ section for more information.
WAG: Welsh businesses & higher education organisations are to receive financial support to help access £bns in EU innovation & research funding. Businesses, universities, institutes, as well as individuals & public sector organisations involved in cutting-edge research & innovation will be able to apply for SCoRE Cymru, which can fund up to £1,000 for the travel costs incurred in building partnerships and up to £10,000 for EU bid writing costs - See ‘Business & other Briefings’ section for more information.
Charity and Voluntary Sector
CO: Recipients of the prestigious Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service 2013 have been honoured on the 60th anniversary of Her Majesty’s coronation. This unique UK national honour was created over a decade ago by Her Majesty to mark the Golden Jubilee in 2002 and to recognise the outstanding contributions made to local communities by groups of volunteers; it has an equivalent status for voluntary groups as the MBE has for individuals.
DWP: Delegates from more than 60 family charities & organisations convened in London last week as the government opened a second round of bidding for new funding to help separated families work together for the sake of their children.
Bidding for second round of the Innovation Fund opened closes at 10am on 17 June 2013. Applications for the funding can be made online.
PC&PE: The Public Accounts Committee has published its 7th report of Session 2013-14 which, on the basis of evidence from the Charity Commission and HM Revenue & Customs, examined the Cup Trust & the Commission’s procedures for regulating charities.
The Rt Hon Margaret Hodge MP, Chair of the CPA, said: “My Committee does not believe the Cup Trust ever met the legal criteria to qualify as a registered charity. Its purpose was to avoid UK tax. Despite its staggering level of ‘income’, £176m, the Trust has only ever given the paltry sum of £55,000 to charitable causes – 3p for every £100 it received in donations. Any good this did was far outweighed by the potential loss from tax avoidance, as well as the damage to the reputation of the Commission and charity sector”.
BIG: The Big Lottery Fund is seeking a lead partner to manage & deliver a new £25m UK-wide programme, Rethink Good Health, to tackle late onset of alcohol misuse amongst older people.
Alcohol misuse amongst older people is a growing concern amongst health professionals placing increasing demands on relationships, community services and the NHS:
* It is estimated that over 1.4m or over 14% of older men and women in the UK drink over safe limits
* In England in 2012/13 there were more admissions to hospital of pensioners for alcohol-related injuries and illness than of 16 to 24 year olds
NE: Natural England has received initial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) under its Skills for the Future programme for its ‘Nurturing Nature Conservation Skills using National Nature Reserves’ project.
The project aims to develop a pool of 99 recruits to look after England’s most valuable wildlife by teaching them environment heritage skills. The proposal is for a 4-year programme starting in May 2014.
10DS: The work of a network of churches, social enterprises & charities working together to help people most in need in their local communities, has been recognised by PM David Cameron with a Big Society Award.
The Cinnamon Network provides small start-up grants of up to £2,000 to churches to fund social action projects including Street Pastors in Manchester, a befriending scheme for isolated older people in Wokingham and debt advice services in Bradford.
PC&PE: The Charity Commission being asked to do too much, with too little, says the Public Administration Select Committee (PASC) in its report on the implementation of the Charities Act 2006.
However, among its findings, PASC has reported on the state of the legislation that regulates charities and their charitable status and says that: ‘One of the keys tests set by the Charities Act 2006 for determining charitable status—the public benefit test—is “critically flawed” and that charities should publish their spending on campaigning and political activity’.
Business and Other Briefings
WAG: Welsh businesses & higher education organisations are to receive financial support to help access £bns in EU innovation & research funding and increase Wales’ global competitiveness.
SCoRE Cymru (Supporting Collaborative Research and innovation in Europe) is a new £70,000 fund which will help Welsh organisations develop collaborative & more competitive bids with partners across Europe to access a range of EU funding streams such as Horizon 2020 – which is potentially worth £60bn across EU Member States from next year.
Businesses, universities, institutes, as well as individuals and public sector organisations involved in cutting-edge research & innovation will be able to apply for SCoRE Cymru, which can fund up to £1,000 for the travel costs incurred in building partnerships and up to £10,000 for EU bid writing costs.
ScotGov: Planning consent has been granted for combined heat & power biomass plant for the Port of Grangemouth. The plant is expected to generate up to 120MW of renewable electricity – the equivalent of the amount needed to power around 130,000 homes. The plant will also supply local businesses & industry with up to 200 megawatts thermal (MWth) of renewable heat.
MO: Climate Service UK, a new initiative led by the Met Office will provide users with vital information to help them manage exposure to climate variability & change. By working in partnership with users to understand vulnerability to weather & climate, the Climate Service UK will support 'climate-smart' decisions to make society more resilient.
STFC: Scientists studying tiny wood-boring beetles have taken an important step in the quest to turn old rubbish such as paper & wood into liquid fuel. Using Diamond Light Source, the UK’s national synchrotron facility on the Harwell Campus, researchers have identified a key enzyme used by the marine-borers or ‘gribble’ to break down wood.
They now hope to reproduce the effect of this enzyme on an industrial scale to create sustainable liquid biofuels – a process that is currently difficult & very expensive.
WAG: A unique marine water purification system - designed & developed by Hydro Industries in Wales – is en route to the USA for use by one of the world’s largest & most successful salvage companies.
The hi-tech system designed for T&T Salvage will be used in major marine salvage and oil spill operations throughout the USA. It has the capacity to purify contaminated sea water at a rate of up to 500 tonnes of water an hour – Hydro believe this is 6 times faster than their nearest global competitor.
This new small, lightweight system – which can be easily flown by helicopter to rescue vessels working on marine disaster recovery operations - has been designed & developed specifically for Marine Salvage operations.
HEFCE: 5 new university & business partnerships are receiving over £290m of investment in research projects to drive innovation & growth. The projects will focus on physical sciences, medical research, advanced materials, pharmaceutical manufacturing and advanced manufacturing.
They will tackle global challenges like developing new treatments for cancer, or ensuring advanced materials can cope under harsh conditions, including extracting oil and gas reservoirs.
This is the latest round of projects from the £300m UK Research Partnership Investment Fund (UKRPIF), bringing the total number of winners to 20. Successful universities have secured at least double that amount of investment from businesses or charities, together delivering more than £1bn of new funding for research.
WAG: Wales based Concrete Canvas is 1 of 3 finalists for the 2013 MacRobert Award - the premier award for UK innovation in engineering, which recognises the ‘successful development of innovative ideas in engineering and promotes the importance of engineering and the role of engineers & scientists in contributing to national prosperity & international prestige’.
Pontypridd based Concrete Canvas specialises in the production of rolls of fabric impregnated with a dry concrete mix. When sprayed with water, the fabric which has an impervious PVC membrane on one side, hardens within 24 hours to create a hard, fibre reinforced, concrete layer. It was initially used to build shelters that could be rapidly deployed for use in disaster relief & defence.
GPS: The Government Procurement Service are continuing their eSourcing Suite training programme for 2013 and have the additional dates available. If you would like to book onto one of these sessions please complete the enquiry form, stating your required date.
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