DCLG: Final salary stays but it will probably cost you more - A ‘new look’ Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) has been proposed by Local Government Minister Phil Woolas in a Ministerial Written Statement to Parliament. Marking the beginning of a 12-week consultation, he outlined the government's proposed regulatory changes to the LGPS, which will include:
· Employees will pay 5.5% on the first £12,000 of their pensionable pay and 7.5% above this figure.
· A final salary scheme based on 1/60th of salary for each year of membership
· The flexibility to commute part of the pension in order to receive a tax free lump payment
· Revised & targeted ill-health retirement package
· The extension of survivor benefits for spouses, civil partners, and children to co-habiting partners
· An increase in death in service lump sum from two times to three times salary
· A facility to make extra savings to provide a further maximum extra pension of £5,000 per year
The draft regulations to give effect to the new look proposals will be available in early December and the new provisions will be in place in April 2007. The new scheme will come fully into effect on 1 April 2008.
Press release ~ DCLG – LG Pension website ~ LG Pension Forum ~ Unison Pension Campaign ~ Unison call for strike action ~ Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) ~ Local Government Pensions Division ~ Employers Organisation for Local Government – update to LGPS ~ The Pensions Service
NAO: Success factors re-identified along with, for a nice change, some IT project success stories - A report published by the National Audit Office identifies common threads in IT-enabled programmes & projects, to pinpoint the key success factors and how they can be replicated in future by the public sector.
The NAO report features some two dozen IT-enabled programmes & projects, from both the public & the private sectors, within the UK & overseas, which demonstrate how success can be achieved.
The report identifies what Government can do to enhance the chances of bringing about IT success and represents a clear challenge to departments to take action to reduce the risk of failure & embrace innovation, while safeguarding the taxpayer.
From analysing these examples of IT-enabled change, the NAO identified three core principles which contribute to delivering successful IT programmes and projects:
· Ensuring senior level engagement
· Acting as an “intelligent client”
· Realising the benefits
Press release ~ Delivering successful IT-enabled business change – Volume I ~ Vol II Case Studies ~ Executive Summary ~ Centres of Excellence data tables ~ Senior Responsible Owner data tables ~ Chief Information Officer Council ~ OGC Gateway Review process ~ Gate 5 Review ~ Government IT Profession ~ Transformational Government – Enabled by Technology ~ NAO: Improving IT procurement: The impact of the Office of Government Commerce's initiatives on departments and suppliers in the delivery of major IT-enabled projects ~ BCS: The Challenges of Complex IT Projects ~ Presentation on Challenges of complex IT projects ~ Professional Skills for Government - Programme and Project Management
ESRC: Men still keep best frocks for themselves in C of E - Whether or not ordained women have had a significant impact over the past decade, they will save the Church from sinking in the future, according to ESRC-sponsored research at the University of Manchester.
Dr David Voas, a senior researcher at the university’s School of Social Sciences said: “Nearly half of all priests ordained in recent years have been women. Close to a quarter of male parish priests are 60 or older, and their average age is 54. Without women, the pulpits would become as de-populated as the pews in the years to come.”
The Church is far from being an equal opportunity employer, however, as most of the men who became priests in 2005 went into paid, ‘stipendiary’ ministry, while most of the women are in voluntary posts – ‘non-stipendiary or ‘ordained local ministers. In addition well over half of women ministers in all denominations serve in rural areas, with very few found in the flagship city centre churches.
Old-fashioned Anglo-Catholics don’t want women to be priests, and so the plum jobs mostly go to men. At the other end of the theological spectrum, evangelicals tend to be patriarchal, so the growing ethnic minority and Pentecostal churches typically have male leaders. Women are left with the dregs. Their congregations are often small, rural, old or liberal: the kind of churches that need nursing care.
Press release ~ ESRC Society Today ~ Contact Dr David Voas ~ English Church Census 2005 ~ Christian Research ~ Cathie Marsh Centre for Census and Survey Research ~ 'The dynamics of religious change: An international comparative analysis' ~ 'Local culture and the maintenance and transmission of religious practice'
DCLG: Government plans to standardise applications - From October 2007, the National Standard Planning Application Form (1APP) will become the only official method of submitting a local planning application for most types of consent (except for Minerals consent and building control applications) in England.
The phased implementation between February 2007 and September 2007 is intended to help to ensure that the migration to 1APP is achieved smoothly, while a secure test platform will allow LPAs to:
· trial the new application service
· identify how the new form differs from current online and paper-based forms, and
· clarify the business processes required to implement the change
Full details of the timetable for the roll out of the form will be published on the Government User LPA Forum section of the Planning Portal website. To help LPAs promote the new service to local planning agents, the Planning Portal will be introducing the new Standard Planning Application Form at regional workshops across the country.
In addition, copies of the migration toolkit for the Standard Planning Application Project will be distributed to LPAs across England shortly.
Press release ~ National Standard Planning Application form ~ Government User LPA Forum ~ Planning Portal ~ DCLG – e-Planning ~ DCLG – Reform of the planning system ~ PARSOL
DCLG: Greening of the Thames Gateway - Plans for a greener Thames Gateway, with ‘more family homes, better designed buildings and stronger leadership to fulfil its economic potential’, have been unveiled.
The government claims that the Thames Gateway Interim Plan will ‘lay down the foundations to create the conditions for 180,000 new jobs and 160,000 new homes over the next ten years, with over a third of these homes - 35% - designated as affordable housing’.
The new plans for the Gateway, which stretches for 40 miles along the Thames Estuary from the London Docklands to Southend in Essex and Sheerness in Kent, have been drawn up by the Thames Gateway Strategic Partnership, which brings together all the public sector delivery bodies working in the Gateway.
Unlocking the economic potential of the Gateway, Western Europe's largest regeneration project, could contribute up to £12bn a year to the UK economy, the plan reveals and the Partnership's ambition is to make the Gateway:
· Better designed
· An economic hub
· More highly skilled
· An Olympic legacy
Press release ~ Thames Gateway: cross-Gateway priorities ~ TG Interim Plan: Key Points (Summary Leaflet) ~ TG Interim Plan: Policy Framework ~ TG Interim Plan: Development Prospectus ~ The State of the Gateway: a baseline for future evaluation - Communities and Local Government ~ REIA 5/2006: Thames Gateway Strategic Framework: Summary ~ Thames Gateway Evidence Review - Oxford Brookes University - Communities and Local Government ~ Low Carbon Gateway Feasibility Study - Communities and Local Government ~ Thames Gateway and the Olympic legacy ~ Proposed Code for Sustainable Homes ~ Review of Planning Policy Statement 22: Renewable energy policies in emerging development plans ~ Renewable Energy Association ~ Energy Performance of Buildings Directive ~ Essex Design Initiative ~ CABE ~ Sustainable Housing: A Follow-up Report (VVLF 5.0Mb) ~ Government response ~ Flooding Direction
Defra: Metering necessary in some areas but not an alternative to plugging the leaks - A public consultation is to take place early next year following a proposal by the Water Saving Group to support water metering as the best method of saving water in areas of serious water stress.
The consultation will focus on the Group's proposals to make water companies in areas of serious water stress consider compulsory meters, alongside other measures, as part of a long-term plan for water resources. However, the Water Saving Group chairman emphasised that this consultation would not propose national compulsory water metering and that metering was not an alternative to a tough approach on reducing leakage.
Water metering in this country already stands at around 28%, with around 10% savings made by a typical household, although larger households on lower incomes could find that their bills increase.
Press release ~ Water Saving Group ~ Water Saving Group Action Plan ~ Consumer Council for Water ~ Water UK ~ Waterwise ~ BBC News: Q&A Compulsory water meters ~ Defra: Water conservation ~ Water Strategy: Directing the Flow - priorities for future water policy ~ Defra - Water Resources
Industry News: Save the planet And teach children how to develop safety knowledge & skills – The Children's Safety Education Foundation (CSEF) is providing organisations with a unique opportunity to not only ‘do their bit to save the planet by recycling’, but also to directly assist in providing children, young people and families with the skills, knowledge & understanding to make informed decisions about their safety and that of the community generally.
The first aim of ‘saving the planet’ is achieved by organisations signing up with the CSEF recycling scheme (it’s completely FREE!) and allowing them to arrange the uplift of empty printer cartridges, toners, old mobile phones & PDAs on an ongoing basis.
The money raised through the Recycling Appeal will be used to meet the second aim of promoting Personal, Social, Health and Citizenship Education throughout the British Isles and to deliver safety education material to in excess of one million children each year.
CSEF provides children, young people and families with the skills, knowledge & understanding to make informed decisions about their safety and that of the community generally.
All CSEF resources have been designed with the co-operation of the emergency services, social services, educationalists and child protection personnel to ensure that the important safety messages are delivered in the most effective way.
So, as we head into the shopping frenzy of the Christmas period, give a thought to one deal that goes one better than the usual ‘two for the price of one’ offer to give ‘two for the price of none’.
Full article ~ Children’s Safety Education Foundation (CSEF) ~ Sign up for recycling ~ Charity Commission registration
For other Industry News please click HERE
For information on forthcoming public sector events please click HERE to visit the WGPlus Events Calendar
HO: The Immigration and Nationality Directorate (IND) is to ‘take on’ 800 intelligence specialists in an effort to bring sophisticated intelligence skills to the fight of immigration crime.
The new specialists, who will be operational from the beginning of 2007, are expected to work closely with the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA), whose operations to target criminal gangs behind trafficking are closely linked with the IND’s strategy to strengthen UK immigration controls.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that around three quarters of illegal entrants have been brought to the UK through organised crime.
Press release ~ Immigration and Nationality Directorate (IND) ~ Immigration Asylum Act 2006 ~ Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) ~ Home Office: Organised and International Crime ~ Foreign Office: Illegal immigration ~ Metropolitan Police: Operation MAXIM
Scottish Executive: Mr Jim Martin has been appointed as Scotland's first Police Complaints Commissioner. The new Commissioner, who will begin work on April 1, 2007, will provide independent scrutiny of the way the police handle non-criminal complaints from the public.
He will also have powers to direct police forces to re-examine any complaints that he considers have not been dealt with properly. Investigations of criminal allegations about the police will continue to be handled by area procurators fiscal.
The Commissioner will have powers to undertake a complaint handling review to see how a matter has been dealt with. Depending on the outcome of this, he will be able to direct the police to reconsider a complaint. The Commissioner will also have a general responsibility for ensuring that police organisations in Scotland have in place appropriate procedures for handling complaints and that these procedures are followed effectively.
Press release ~ The Role of HMIC in Police Complaints ~ Complaints against the Police ~ Quality of Service - A review of the investigation of complaints against the police in Scotland ~ Complaints Against the Police in Scotland: A Consultation Paper ~ Leaflet ~ Police, Public Order and Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2006
Arts Council England: British artist Joanna Griffin, who is the third recipient of the Arts Council England’s International Artists Fellowship, has joined the Space Sciences Laboratory at the University of Californian, Berkeley - a leading research & education facility that has participated in more than 50 NASA space science missions.
The International Artists Fellowship Programme, which is funded by the Arts Council and Space Sciences Laboratory with support from the Leonardo Network and NASA, is awarded annually and offers professional artists the opportunity to undertake practice-based research abroad free from immediate production demands of a commission, exhibition or performance.
Press release ~ Arts Council England ~ Arts Council’s International Fellowship Programme ~ Space Sciences Laboratory ~ Leonardo Network ~ NASA ~ Work produced by Semiconductor following their fellowship visit
NAO: The LSE Public Policy Group at the London School of Economics and the Oxford Internet Institute (OII) at Oxford University are carrying out a value for money study on behalf of the NAO to evaluate progress in delivering UK central government services and information online.
Press release ~ Information document ~ Research website ~ LSE Public Policy Group ~ Oxford Internet Institute (OII) ~ Cabinet Office e-Government unit ~ IDEA e-Government strategic and implementation support ~ e-Government National Awards 2006 ~ GovTalk ~ Local e-Government Standards Body
Scottish Executive: The maximum fees that the Care Commission can charge for regulating care services are to be frozen for the second year running. This means that the maximum fee levels set by Scottish Ministers in 2005 will continue to apply for 2007-08 and any shortfall in the Care Commission's costs as a result of this decision will be met by the Executive.
Care services regulated by the Care Commission include care homes, childminders and independent hospitals.
Press release ~ The Regulation of Care (Fees) (Scotland) Order 2005 ~ Care Commission ~ Care Scotland ~ Older People and Community Care in Scotland ~ JRF: Financial Care Models in Scotland and the UK ~ Scottish Executive – Community care
TfL: The Mayor of London and the London Transport Commissioner have launched a Transport for London consultation (closes 30 January 2007) asking people for their views on potential routes for the proposed Cross River Tram (CRT).
The CRT would run between Euston and Waterloo, with branches to Camden Town and King’s Cross in the north, and Brixton and Peckham in the south. Trams would arrive every 2 minutes at central stops (Euston to Waterloo), and every 4 minutes at outer stops (Camden, King's Cross, Peckham and Brixton). Subject to future funding, the tram could be operational by 2016.
In the New Year, TfL will be consulting on proposals for a depot in Peck to service & house vehicles for the Cross River Tram.
Press release ~ London Trams ~ South London Trams ~ West London Tram ~ UK Commission for Integrated Transport ~ Nottingham Express Transit (NET) ~ Trams.co.uk
DTI: The DTI and Ofgem have launched a joint consultation on the licensing regime for the transmission of power from future offshore wind farms to the electricity networks. The Government announced in March 2006 that a licensing regime qas needed so that the links for transporting electricity ashore can be built in the most cost-effective way for generators and customers.
The consultation examines two options for licensing offshore transmission:
· Non-exclusive system - enabling competition between many licensed transmission owners to provide offshore grid connections.
· Exclusive system - licensing a number of transmission owners in different areas to provide offshore grid connections.
Press release ~ Consultation ~ Ofgem: Offshore Electricity Transmission (contains a number of useful documents) ~ DTI: Offshore Transmission ~ Lord Truscott’s full speech ~ Government Response to the joint DTI/Ofgem Public Consultation on the Regulation of Offshore Electricity Transmission ~ Our Energy Future - creating a low carbon economy (VLF 1.9Mb) ~ Collaborative Offshore Wind Research Into The Environment (COWRIE) ~ British Wind Energy Association (BWEA) ~ BWEA response (October 2005)
Scottish Executive: A consultation (closes 26 January 2007) has been launched discussing regulations that will protect & increase parental involvement in the appointment process of Headteachers, in the latest step in the Executive's drive to give parents more of a say in education.
Currently, councils are under no obligation to consult with parents when they begin the recruitment process and parental representation is only required at the final interview where they are expected to make up 50% of the appointment panel.
The proposed regulations will:
§ ensure that parent councils are consulted before any recruitment process begins
§ give parents a legal right to be involved in the short listing process
§ guarantee parents make up at least one third of any appointment panel
Press release ~ Consultation on Draft Parental Involvement in Headteacher and Deputy Headteacher Appointments Regulations 2007 ~ Scottish Executive: Scottish Schools ~ ParentZone ~ Learning and Teaching Scotland ~ Scottish Schools (Parental Involvement) Act 2006 ~ School Boards (Scotland) Act 1988 ~ Scottish Executive: School Boards guide to the legislation
Highways Agency: The Highways Agency has published an environmental statement on a £66m road scheme near Dartford, Kent and is seeking public views (by 14 February 2007) on the scheme and its potential environmental implications. The purpose of the new scheme is to provide extra lanes on the M25 between Junctions 1b – 3, which provide important links to the east and south east of London.
Work is due to start in summer 2007 and will include:
· Widening the M25 between Junction 2 (south slip road) and Junction 3 (M20 link) from three lanes to four in each direction.
· Widening the M25 going south between Junctions 1b and 2 from two lanes to three
· Building new lanes using the existing hard shoulders and building new hard shoulders except under bridges.
Press release ~ Details ~ Non-technical summary
HM Treasury: The Economic Secretary to the Treasury, Ed Balls, has launched the Travel Insurance Review public ‘call for evidence’ (closes on 22 February 2007) and highlighted the need for travel insurers to be clear & transparent about consumers' cover in the event of a terrorist incident.
The call for evidence follows the launch of the Review of Travel Insurance in August this year which highlighted the different regulatory approach taken with the selling of travel insurance sold alongside a holiday and standalone travel insurance.
A Which? report this summer found that only 35% of travel agents asked medical questions (compared to 81% of banks & insurers), 19% explained what the policy covered (compared to 81% of banks & insurers) and 0% explained what the policy did not cover (compared to 56% of banks & insurers). It concluded that some travel agents & tour operators were mis-selling the product. The review will investigate Issues around mis-selling
Press release ~ Call for evidence ~ August 2006 press release
DTI: The government has begun a consultation (closes 16 February 2007) on plans for having more offshore gas storage and creating new 'energy platforms' for the unloading of liquefied natural gas (LNG) in a document that sets out the:
· UK's changing gas supply situation and the implications of increased gas imports, and
· the part that new gas supply infrastructure offshore could play in securing future UK gas supplies
need for an appropriate regulatory framework to consent to such developments offshore, and
· it also seeks views on options to clarify & modernise existing legislation to provide a fit-for-purpose offshore regime covering offshore gas storage and offshore unloading of LNG.
Press release ~ Consultation document ~ DTI Oil & Gas ~ UK Promote ~ UKOOA ~ PILOT
DH: Health Minister Lord Warner has announced the publication of a consultation document on the future of Professional Executive Committees (PECs) following the recent review of PECs, the body of doctors, nurses and health professionals that guide primary care trust (PCTs) on priorities, policies and investment plans. The review, carried out by the NHS Alliance on behalf of the Department of Health, considered PECs future role, membership and support needs.
The consultation will run until 31 January 2007, with updated guidance planned for the first quarter of 2007. New arrangements will come into effect from April 2007.
Press release ~ Consultation on a Review of PCT’s Professional Executive Committees (PECs) ~ NHS Networks – PEC Chairs ~ DH - Professional Executive Committees (PECs) ~ NHS Alliance ~ NHS Act 1977: the Primary Care Trust Executive Committees (Membership) – Directions 2003 ~ Letter about review
Ofsted: Christine Gilbert has launched her first annual report as Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools, along with the outstanding providers list, which celebrates the 1,476 schools, colleges & early years providers that were judged to be outstanding in 2005/06.
· 9% of primary schools were found to be outstanding and 49% were good
· 10% of secondary schools were found to outstanding and 39% were judged to be good
· However the proportion of inadequate secondary schools, at 13%, was almost twice that of primary schools, at 7%
Christine Gilbert, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools, said: “It is unacceptable that one in 12 schools was judged to be inadequate last year”.
The report also looks at the quality of childcare, further education and the services local authorities provide for children through Joint Area Reviews and Annual Performance Assessments.
Ofsted press release ~ DfES press release ~ Annual Report of Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Schools ~ HMCI's speech introducing the Annual Report ~ Learning and Skills Council ~ Outstanding Providers List ~ Ofsted: Improving Behaviour ~ Safe & Sound mini-website ~ Early Years: Safe and sound ~ Evaluating mathematics provision for 14-19 year olds ~ NAO report - Improving poorly performing schools in England - Summary
Scottish Executive: The findings of an annual report on the progress made by NHS Boards to implement the Executive's national sexual health strategy have been published. In addition the Executive have also launched an educational DVD - '9 Months After' - created by young parents in West Dunbartonshire, which gives an insight into the challenges of young parenting and aims to help reduce unintended pregnancies.
The DVD will be distributed around secondary schools in West Dunbartonshire to generate discussions on young parenting.
The Executive has provided an additional £15 million over three years to support the delivery of the sexual health strategy and action plan which was published in January 2005. Each NHS Board has appointed an Executive Director and Lead Clinician for sexual health and every local authority has a Strategic Lead in sexual health.
Press release ~ Sexual Health Strategy first Annual Report ~ Sexual Health and Relationships Strategy ~ Key findings from the public consultation on the Strategy ~ Sex Education in schools ~ Guide to parents and carers ~ Report on the Working Group on Sex Education in Scottish Schools (2000)
NAO: The National Audit Office’s annual report on 20 of the top defence equipment projects shows the Ministry of Defence has responded to recommendations made by the National Audit Office and the Committee of Public Accounts, on controlling increases in forecast expenditure and living within its means.
The National Audit Office has also confirmed it is working with the MoD to change how it reports on the top defence equipment projects in the future. Increasing emphasis on the management of defence capability through life for projects mean it is necessary for the Major Projects Report to evolve to continue giving the most complete details on the performance, cost and timeliness of defence equipment projects.
Proposals for a new look MPR are being developed with the intention of introducing the new report in 2008.
Press release ~ MOD Major Projects Report 2006 (LF 1.3Mb) ~ Project Summary Sheets (LF 1.7Mb) ~ Executive Summary
Defra: The England Implementation Group (eig) has published 'Building a better future for England's kept animals', its first annual report summarising the progress being made in England on delivery of the animal health & welfare strategy for Great Britain.
The EIG is an independent advisory group appointed by the Government to drive forward delivery, in England, of the Animal Health and Welfare Strategy for Great Britain. Livestock indicators, developed by the EIG and Defra, have also been launched online.
Press release ~ England Implementation Group (eig) ~ 'Building a better future for England's kept animals' ~ Livestock indicators ~ Animal health & welfare strategy ~ SAFO ~ Welsh Assembly – AH&W ~ Scottish Executive – AH&W ~ National Office of Animal Health
Lyons Inquiry: At a recent seminar on effective public engagement co-hosted with the IDEA and LGA, Sir Michael Lyons explored the essential role for local authorities in engaging effectively with their citizens.
At the event, Sir Michael also published the results of work carried out by the Office for Public Management on behalf of the Inquiry which explores the views of a selection of the public on the role of local government.
310 people attended the nine full-day events that included large group discussions, breakout workshops and action planning sessions. Most participants came with only partial awareness of what local government currently did and felt that local government should take on a greater role in engaging with its citizens.
Press release ~ Full report ~ Executive Summary ~ Lyons Inquiry ~ Office for Public Management ~ DCLG Creating Better Communities ~ LGA on LG White Paper ~ DCLG – Civil renewal ~ Together we can
DWP: Estimates of the levels of fraud & error occurring in Income Support (IS), Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) and Pension Credit over the period October 2004 to September 2005 have been published as National Statistics and the key findings are:
· Around 5.1%, or £620m, of IS and JSA expenditure is estimated to have been overpaid
· Around 5.0%, or £320m, of Pension Credit expenditure is estimated to have been overpaid
The current position against the targets for the twelve month period ending September 2005 is:
· For IS and JSA, there has been a 48% reduction in the level of fraud & error against the PSA target (for a 50% reduction by March 2006 from a baseline of 1997/98).
· For Pension Credit, there has been a 2% increase in the level of fraud & error against the SDA target (for a 20% reduction by March 2006 from a baseline of 2001/02)
Press release ~ Fraud and Error in Claims for Income Support, Jobseeker's Allowance and Pension Credit ~ Targeting benefit Fraud website ~ Benefit Fraud Inspectorate ~ National Fraud initiative 2004 / 05 ~ NFI web pages ~ Revised Code of Data Matching Practise ~ DWP Strategy paper - Reducing fraud in the benefit system) (VLF 1.2Mb) ~ NAO - Tackling Benefit Fraud ~ Public Accounts Committee report ~ Review of the DWP Benefit Fraud Sanctions Regime - Social Research Report No 149 ~ Benefit Fraud Reporting Form ~ NAO: International Benchmark of fraud and error in Social Security Systems (VLF 1.4Mb)
DCLG: Speaking at a major stakeholder event looking at the way forward for the community empowerment agenda, Kay Andrews announced the publication of the Living Spaces Evaluation Summary.
In total, 1,087 Living Spaces projects have been completed involving nearly 100,000 people along the way. The evaluation has found that given the right support & opportunities, people are willing & capable of taking responsibility for the quality of their neighbourhoods.
Press release ~ Evaluation Summary (V VLF 5.4Mb) ~ Living Spaces ~ Cleaner Safer Greener Communities ~ Groundwork UK ~ GreenSpace ~ The Civic Trust ~ The Experience Corps ~ BTCV ~ The Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens ~ The Wildlife Trusts
NAO: According to an NAO report, the Strategic Rail Authority (and, subsequently, the Department for Transport) and Network Rail have successfully turned around the programme to modernise the West Coast Main Line.
To date, Network Rail has delivered the new strategy for the line on time, achieving benefits for passengers, including shorter journey times and improved punctuality.
The programme’s remaining key projects will increase capacity for passengers and freight, but the industry consensus is that the line will not be able to sustain current growth levels beyond 2015-2020. There also remains uncertainty about the expected lifespan of some of the equipment on the upgraded line.
Press release ~ NAO: The Modernisation of the West Coast Main Line (LF 1.2Mb) ~ Executive summary ~ Network Rail ~ Office of Rail Regulation ~ Sustainable Development – The Railway case ~ DfT – Railways website ~ High Speed Rail
Scottish Executive: The Disability Working Group's report has made 48 recommendations, providing the Scottish Executive, local authorities, employers, educators, community care providers and others with suggested approaches to change their actions and attitudes. One in five people in Scotland is disabled.
Four areas were particularly scrutinised:
· Public sector duty to promote disability equality, mainstreaming disability equality, corporate responsibility and engaging public authorities
· Consultation, communication, education and training, citizenship and pubic attitudes
· Social inclusion; poverty; independent living; direct payments; care and support services
The UK Disability Equality Duty comes into effect on 4 December 2006 and it introduces a new duty on the public sector to promote equality of opportunity for disabled people. It is intended to lead to better service provision from the public sector, more positive attitudes towards disabled people and greater participation by disabled people in public life.
Press release ~ Report of the Disability Working Group and Executive Response ~ DRC - UK Disability Equality Duty ~ DRC Scotland ~ Disability Working Group ~ Inclusion Scotland
Scottish Executive: The Smoking Prevention Working Group's report - Towards a Future without Tobacco – has been published. Written by Dr Laurence Gruer, Director of Public Health Science at NHS Health Scotland, the report sets out 31 recommendations, mainly aimed at preventing children and young people from starting to smoke and becoming regular smokers.
Press release ~ Towards a Future without Tobacco ~ Scottish Executive Tobacco website ~ Scottish Ministerial Working Group on Tobacco Control ~ Smoking Health and Social Care (Scotland) Act 2005 ~ ASH Scotland ~ Scientific Committee on Tobacco and Health
DCA: The Legal Services Complaints Commissioner, Zahida Manzoor CBE, has released the findings of the 2006 Annual Case File Audit of the Law Society's performance in the handling of consumer complaints about solicitors conducted by her office.
Whilst the Commissioner was pleased to see that the audit found some improvements in the Law Society's approach in some areas compared to last year's audit, results show that complaints handling is still falling short of what consumers should expect.
The audit shows that the Law Society is not consistently adhering to its own policies & customer standards when dealing with complaints, with four key areas highlighted by the audit. The Commissioner is to use the findings of the Annual Casefile Audit in discussions with the Law Society when setting it targets for improvement for 2007/08.
Press release ~ Law Society Performance ~ Other reports & documents ~ Legal Services Complaints Commissioner ~ Legal Society of England and Wales ~ Consumer Complaints Board ~ Legal Services Ombudsman (LSO) ~ Law Society Complaints Procedure ~ Summary of Performance Measures and Statistics: Consumer Complaints Service January 2006
DCA: The new means test for legal aid in the Magistrates' Court, introduced on 2 October 2006, is to have important changes after concerns were raised to how means testing is operating.
The changes are intended to:
· Guarantee that representation orders will start from the date a complete form is first submitted
· Improve the Early Cover Scheme
· Provide greater flexibility around a partner's signature * Improve application forms
Ms Baird commented on her intention to change the Early Cover scheme (subject to a consultation to be launched on the 11 December 2006) to make payment available when an application form is submitted within 5 working days from the point of first instruction, provided this is no later than the first hearing.
Press release ~ Legal Services Commission: The means test ~ Early Cover Scheme ~ Legal Services Commission: Eligibility calculator ~ DCA: The legal aid impact test ~ Getting Criminal Legal Aid ~ Criminal Defence Service (CDS) Act ~ Frequently asked questions - Criminal Defence Service ~ Legal Services Commission's Hardship Unit
DfES: The newly announced Further Education and Training Bill is set to bring a new power for Further Education (FE) Institutions to award Foundation Degrees and an improved intervention regime for underperforming colleges.
The Bill aims to provide the sector with added flexibility & less bureaucracy as it moves to widen participation in FE among young people & adults and upskill the workforce, to address the nation's need for improved productivity.
By allowing FE institutions to apply for powers to award their own Foundation Degree, it is hoped that more students will benefit from the opportunities created by Foundation Degrees, while FE institutions will be able to respond more quickly to employers needs.
An effective intervention regime will be established where provision is unsatisfactory or not improving by transferring the Secretary of State's powers of intervention to the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) including the power to direct a college to remove principals and senior post holders.
Press release ~ Further Education and Training Bill ~ Further Education White Paper: Raising Skills, Improving Life Chances ~ DfES: Further Education ~ 'Realising the Potential: A review of the future of FE colleges' ~ Leitch Review: the country's long term skills needs for 2020 ~ Learning and Skills Council (LSC)
Home Office: New legislation to improve the management of offenders in prison and on probation has been published in the Offender Management Bill, which:
· makes provision for new arrangements within probation
· strengthens legislation on the smuggling of contraband into prison
· removes inconsistencies between the legal powers of private & public sector prison staff, and
· improves the delivery of youth justice
Press release ~ Offender Management Bill ~ Public & Commercial Services Union press release ~ NAPO campaign ~ National Offender Management Service
DCA: The government claims that the newly published Legal Services Bill introduces sweeping reforms in the regulation of the legal sector, brings in an independent complaints body and opens the way for consumers to buy legal & other services under one roof.
A new Legal Services Board will act as a single, independent & publicly accountable regulator with power to enforce high standards in the legal sector, replacing the maze of regulators with overlapping powers in the £19 billion industry.
The Bill also introduces:
· An Alternative Business Structure that enables consumers to get services from one business entity that brings together lawyers & non-lawyers, increasing competitiveness and improving services, and
· A single & fully independent Office for Legal Complaints to remove to remove complaints handling from the lawyers and restoring consumer confidence
Press release ~ Legal Services Bill ~ White Paper - The Future of Legal Services - Putting Consumers First ~ Clementi Review
CC: A new email scam has arrived and it's more plausible than many because it uses the names of two charities. It claims to be run in conjunction with the British Red Cross and Action Against Hunger UK - which is news to both these charities.
The scam tells recipients they've won half a million pounds and then requests personal details so it can award their 'prize'. Callers are asked for a sizeable amount of cash up front so their 'prize' can be processed.
The Charity Commission commented that ‘Any genuine correspondence from a charity will include a registered charity number and contact details, which can be checked on our website’.
Press release ~ Charity Commission ~ OFT on scams ~ Metropolitan Police's 'Fraudalert' ~ British Red Cross ~ Action Against Hunger UK ~ Useful contacts against scams ~ Factsheets on different scams ~ ICSTIS ~ 'Get Safe Online' ~ 'Countering financial crime risks in information security' ~ FSA - Scams and swindles ~ International Consumer Protection Enforcement Network (ICPEN)
BIG: Thousands of people across England who are living with polio will benefit from a £243,378 award from the Big Lottery Fund to the British Polio Fellowship for its volunteer welfare network. The money comes from BIG’s Reaching Communities programme, which supports initiatives that offer people better chances in life, build strong communities, improve local environments and promote healthy activities.
Polio can cause muscle weakness or paralysis, breathing problems, poor growth of bones & joints, pain and wear & tear from using muscles & joints differently. After the initial polio infection symptoms usually gradually improve, however years later further problems can appear, including Post Polio Syndrome.
Press release ~ Reaching Communities Programme ~ Big Lottery Fund ~ The British Polio Fellowship ~ Post Polio Syndrome (scroll down)
HM Treasury: The UK's new film tax incentives scheme has received formal state aid approval from the European Commission, allowing the Government to bring the new film tax regime fully into force and providing certainty on the detail of the new scheme to filmmakers.
The Department for Culture Media and Sport have also announced changes to the 'cultural test', which identifies culturally British films and acts as the gateway for the new film tax incentives.
The Government wishes to provide full clarity to the industry on the treatment of films currently in production and that of future productions. The Treasury therefore announces that the new films tax incentives, along with the revised cultural test, will apply from 1 January 2007.
HM Treasury press release ~ DCMS Cultural Test press release ~ Cultural test ~ UK's film tax incentives scheme ~ July 2005 consultation ~ 2006 Budget Note
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