HM Treasury: Report on Education & Skills says government ‘must try harder’ - Lord Leitch has published his final report, 'Prosperity for all in the Global Economy: World Class Skills', which examines the UK's long-term skills needs and makes clear that in a rapidly changing global economy, with emerging economies such as India and China growing dramatically, the UK cannot afford to stand still and that aspects of the UK's skills base remain weaker than those in other developed economies.
Out of 30 OECD countries, the UK lies 17th on low skills, 20th on intermediate skills and 11th on high skills, with more than one in six young people leaving school unable to read, write or add up properly.
The report projects that, even if current targets are met, by 2020 the UK's skills base will be inferior to that of many other developed nations. However, if the UK adopts the recommendation s of the report, there will be an estimated potential net benefit of at least £80 billion over 30 years, equivalent to an annual boost of £2.5 billion.
Press release ~ Leitch review website - Interim & Final reports ~ LSC - Apprenticeships ~ LSC – Entry to employment ~ Employers for Apprentices ~ WAG – Modern apprenticeships ~ Directgov – Work based learning ~ Scottish Executive – delivering Work based learning ~ Teachernet ~ Long-term challenges and opportunities for the UK: analysis for the 2007 Comprehensive Spending Review ~ About Ready For Work ~ Training Foundation ~ UFI ~ Tomorrow's Workforce: introductory booklet ~ Basic Skills Agency
HM Treasury: Will planning freedoms lead to free-for-all? - Kate Barker has published her final report on the Land Use Planning System in England, which highlights the vital role planning needs to play to deliver sustainable economic development in the context of the pressures of a growing population, rising incomes, changing demographics, climate change and the competitive challenges of changes in the global economy.
The report recognises the high costs placed on developers, businesses & communities when the planning system is unnecessarily slow, unpredictable, expensive & bureaucratic and it recommends streamlining of planning policies & processes to improve speed, transparency and efficiency, including:
· substantial rationalisation of national planning guidance
· improving local plan-making processes so plans can be drawn up in 18-24 months, not the current 36-42
· a more risk-based & proportionate approach to regulation, with a reduction in paperwork requirements
· faster processing of appeals (from 2008/09 all appeals should take place within 6 months) and the use of a new Planning Mediation Service to resolve disputes outside of appeal proceedings
· in line with the findings of the Eddington Study of Transport, a radical overhaul of the planning system for major infrastructure projects, including transport, waste and energy, to improve speed & certainty
Press release ~ Review website with Final & interim reports ~ DCLG Barker Review website ~ DCLG – Reform of Planning System ~ CPRE – Green Belts ~ Planning Policy Statement 3: Housing (PPS3) ~ Affordable Rural Housing Commission ~ DCLG - Bringing brownfield sites back into use ~ Eddington Transport study ~ Planning Portal ~ Planning Inspectorate
DH: Putting the case for Hospital Closures - Two clinicians have published individual reports into the need to change how heart & stroke and emergency care services are provided, with both arguing that traditional A&E departments are not the only option when dealing with life & death situations.
Regarding the clinical case for reconfiguration heart disease & stroke services, Professor Roger Boyle said:
"By giving life-saving drugs to heart attack victims on their doorstep and using clinical judgements to by-pass A&E to deliver heart attack and stroke patients directly to specialists, we are acting only in the best interest of the patient."
Reporting on the clinical case for reconfiguration of NHS emergency care services, National Clinical Director Sir George Alberti said:
"Every service cannot be offered by every A&E department - it never has been, and never can be - so it makes sense to create networks of care with regional specialist centres to give the best possible treatment to the sickest people. "
Press release ~ Report: Mending hearts and brains - clinical case for change ~ Report: Emergency Access - clinical case for change ~ National Service Frameworks ~ Direction of Travel for Urgent Care: a discussion document ~ DH – Urgent care website ~ NAO: Emergency Care in England - Summary Report March 2004 ~ Emergency Care Specialist Library ~ Developing Excellence in Leadership within Urgent Care - Tomorrow's Nurse Leaders Today ~ Reforming emergency care: first steps to a new approach ~ Reforming emergency care - practical steps ~ Medical Care Practitioners (MCPs) website ~ The American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA) ~ NHS Modernisation Agency - Physician’s Assistants ~ Reducing Brain Damage: Faster access to better stroke care: Full Report (1.4Mb) ~ Executive Summary ~ Kings College - economic analysis ~ DH Stroke website
MOD: White paper on UK's Nuclear Deterrent - The Prime Minister, Tony Blair, has signalled the Government's intention to maintain Britain's nuclear deterrent beyond the 2020s.
Mr Blair announced that renewing the Trident system, by replacing the submarines and extending the life of the Trident missiles, ‘was the best and most cost-effective way to maintain our ability to deter future nuclear threats to the UK’.
The Foreign Secretary, Margaret Beckett, added: "We need to maintain a minimum but credible nuclear capability to deter them if necessary.”
However, in what could perhaps be seen as a peace-offering to Labour back-benchers, the Prime Minister also announced a further 20% reduction in the number of nuclear warheads, taking the overall reduction since 1997 to 50% compared to previous plans.
Press release ~ Government Defence White Paper and factsheets ~ BBC News: Q&A - Trident System ~ Royal Navy: Ballistic Submarines (SSBN) ~ UN Non-Proliferation Treaty ~ FCO: Counter-proliferation ~ Research paper Nov 2006: The Future of the British Nuclear Deterrent ~ The Future of the UK’s Strategic Nuclear Deterrent: the Strategic Context (LF 1.92Mb) ~ Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND)
Ofsted: At last – An Education Policy that works? - London schools have improved dramatically since 2000 and there is much to celebrate, according to a new report published by Ofsted.
‘Improvements in London schools 2000-06’ finds that standards in poorly performing London schools have risen faster than in similar schools nationally, with improvements in the numbers of pupils achieving five A*-C grades at GSCE and a significantly higher proportion of London secondary schools rated as ‘good’ or ‘better’ for overall effectiveness, leadership and management and quality of teaching than secondary schools nationally.
The report finds that investment in the London Challenge, a five year partnership between the Government, schools and London boroughs to improve the quality of secondary schools in the capital, has helped schools and local authorities to improve.
Ofsted press release ~ DfES press release ~ Ofsted Report: Improvements in London schools 2000-06 ~ DfES: The London Challenge ~ Ofsted ~ DfES The Standards Site: Academies ~ TeacherNet: Academies ~ Academy Sponsors Trust ~ BBC News: Why the fuss over city academies
Home Office: English language tests for those seeking to settle - From 2 April 2007 all those seeking to live in the UK permanently will have to pass ‘English Language’ and ‘Knowledge of Life in the UK’ tests before being granted permanent settlement rights.
Applicants who already possess a good standard of English will take the Life in the UK test, consisting of 24 multiple choice questions designed to test their knowledge of life in this country, from UK traditions to the laws that govern us.
Applicants whose English is below standard can take a specially developed English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) with Citizenship course, combining language skills with information about life in the UK.
Press release ~ Life in the UK test ~ Life in the United Kingdom: A Journey to Citizenship ~ Advisory Board on Naturalisation and Integration (ABNI) ~ Persons Granted British Citizenship 2005 ~ DfES: Adult ESOL Core Curriculum ~ Directgov: ESOL ~ QCA: English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) ~ Scottish Executive study on ESOL in Scotland ~ Immigration and Nationality Directorate (IND) – Applying for British nationality
UFI: ‘Hand-holding’ develops confident users of e-government among socially excluded - New research, from UK online centres, suggests the role of intermediaries has to date been the ‘missing link’ in government plans to shift more public services from face-to-face to online channels.
Many people have little experience of using technology and little motivation to contact government online, but the right encouragement & support increases the likelihood of people from disadvantaged backgrounds using the internet and engaging with public services in the future.
The Varney Report - Service transformation - touches on the role of community & voluntary sector intermediaries, but the UK online centre research suggests the need to go further & faster in using them to get the hard-to-reach interacting with e-government.
The research analyses the results of a major pilot in the South West of England which supported people in the use of six central government and four local authority e-services. Over the course of the nine month pilot, around 16,000 customers were introduced to e-government services through 36 UK online centres. 97% of people engaged through the pilot felt reassured just by having staff around to support their first digital transactions and those most in need of individual help were often from socially disadvantaged groups.
Press release ~ Ufi ~ Research report ~ UK online centres – Help is at hand ~ Varney Report - Service transformation ~ UK online centres: Supporting delivery of e-government services - Research summary ~ NAO: DfES - Extending access to learning through technology - Ufi and the learndirect service ~ Enabling a digitally United Kingdom ~ The Digital Divide in 2025 ~ Inclusion Through innovation: Tackling Social Exclusion Through New Technologies (Scroll down for related docs) ~ Citizens Online ~ Alliance for Digital Inclusion ~ Digital Divide network ~ e-Government unit ~ Local e-Gov ~ e-Government strategic support unit
OFT: There’s gold in all that paperwork! - The OFT's market study into the Commercial Use of Public Information (CUPI) has found that more competition in public sector information (PSI) could benefit the UK economy around £1bn a year. Examples of PSI include weather observations collected by the Met Office, records held by The National Archives used by the public to trace their family history and mapping data collated by Ordnance Survey.
The study found that raw information is not as available as it should be, licensing arrangements are restrictive, prices are not always linked to costs and Public sector information holders (PSIHs) may be charging higher prices to competing businesses and giving them less attractive terms than their own value-added operations.
The OFT concludes that PSIHs should:
· make as much public sector information available as possible for commercial use/re-use
· ensure that businesses have access to public sector information at the earliest point that it is useful to them
· provide access to information where the PSIH is the only supplier on an equal basis to businesses & itself
· use proportionate cost-related pricing and to account separately for their monopoly activities & their value-added activities, and
· enable the regulator (OPSI) to monitor PSIHs better, with improved enforcement & complaints procedures
Press release ~ Commercial Use of Public Information (CUPI) (scroll down for report & annexes) ~ Office of Public Sector Information (OPSI) ~ Information Asset Register ~ Information Fair Trader Scheme ~ General News
HM Treasury: The following is the ‘official overview’ of Gordon Brown’s Speech:
The Government’s objective is to build a strong economy and a fair society, where there is opportunity and security for all. Key announcements in the Pre-Budget Report include:
· from April 2009 every mother-to-be will be eligible for Child Benefit from week 29 of their pregnancy
· capital investment in education to rise from £8.3bn (2007-08) to £10.2bn (2010-11)
· a new ambition of world-class skills, following the publication of the Leitch Review of Skills
· Boosted productivity & growth, promotion of research and reform of planning & transport infrastructure
· measures to promote fairness in the tax system, including action to tackle tax avoidance
· at least 3%p.a. savings across central & local government for the 2007 Comprehensive Spending Review
· increase in air passenger duty from 01/02/07 and measures to promote the use of cleaner fuels, and
· an increase in the main road fuel duties in line with inflation
Press release ~ Full details can be found HERE ~ Summary version HERE ~ Leitch review website - Interim & Final reports
DfT: The licensing system for operators of heavy goods vehicles and public service vehicles will be streamlined & modernised, Transport Minister Stephen Ladyman has announced and the proposed changes include:
· a single traffic commissioner for operators based in more than one traffic area
· a simplified fee structure with most licence fees being merged with the fee for annual roadworthiness tests
· a commitment to abolish windscreen discs after the roll-out of new enforcement technology
Press release ~ Modernising Operator Licensing (click on ‘Next’ button for responses) ~ Vehicle and Operator Service Agency (VOSA) ~ DfT - Goods Vehicle Operator Licensing
Scottish Executive: Better prevention, more local care and improved support to help aid recovery are to be the focus of mental health services in the future, according to a delivery plan report - Delivering for Mental Health.
There are also to be a new set of high-level targets to provide better care in the community by cutting back on the increase of anti-depressant prescribing, supporting people in different ways and reducing the number of people with mental ill-health who need to be re-admitted to hospital.
There are also 14 commitments that cover areas such as:
· increasing assessments of patients' mental and physical health needs
· more mental health and suicide prevention & awareness training for key staff, and
· more community care
Press release ~ Delivering for Mental Health ~ Scottish Executive - Mental Health ~ Scotland's Mental Health First Aid ~ Doing Well by People with Depression ~ SAMH - Scotland's leading mental health charity ~ Mental Health Indicators ~ NES - Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003 – Education for frontline staff ~ Framework for mental health services in Scotland website ~ Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland ~ Review of Mental Health Nursing in Scotland ~ BBC News Item antidepressant prescribing in Scotland
DCLG: A new guide, published by Communities and Local Government, is intended to help councils take enforcement action against those who ignore or flout the rules which protect the country's most historic buildings.
The Best Practice Guidance Note on Listed Building Prosecutions, addressed principally at local authority conservation and planning officers, seeks to increase awareness of the powers held by councils and other prosecuting bodies, as part of the listed building enforcement regime.
The guide should help overcome the problem that many local authorities do not have enough heritage cases for a dedicated heritage enforcement officer and that their planning lawyers may also not have a specific expertise in heritage cases meaning an inconsistency of investigations & prosecutions across England.
Press release ~ Best Practice Guidance Note on Listed Building Prosecutions ~ English Heritage ~ Listed Buildings casework: A consultation paper (closed) ~ Planning Policy Guidance 15: Planning and the historic environment
DCLG: New planning policy has been published to help provide clarity for regional & local planners and other stakeholders on preventing & managing flood risk in new developments.
Planning Policy Statement 25: Development and Flood Risk (PPS25) strengthens & clarifies policy that flood risk should be taken into account at all stages of the planning process. It directs councils to avoid inappropriate development in areas at risk of flooding and is published alongside a flooding Direction (comes into effect on 1 January 2007), which provides scope for greater scrutiny for major developments in flood risk areas.
Press release ~ Planning Policy Statement 25: Development and Flood Risk (PPS25) ~ Flooding Direction ~ PPS3 on Housing ~ Making Space for Water ~ Water Framework Directive ~ Previous consultation & responses ~ Env. Agency - Flooding ~ Foresight – Flood and Coastal Defence ~ BBC: Holistic approach to flood plain build
Defra: The Veterinary Laboratory Agency (VLA) has announced new guidelines to help farmers protect their stock from botulism.
Incidence of suspect botulism has increased substantially since 2003 and evidence suggests that direct access to litter from broiler houses is a significant factor in most of the recent outbreaks of suspected & confirmed botulism in cattle and sheep. Litter stored or spread on neighbouring farms may also be a factor and the VLA guidelines for farmers aim to control these risks.
Press release ~ Guidelines ~ Veterinary Laboratory Agency (VLA) ~ Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food (ACMSF) ~ Report on botulism in cattle ~ Food Standards Agency (FSA) ~ Defra - Botulism
DH: Health Minister Rosie Winterton has claimed that a new electronic 'toolkit', developed to assist health care commissioners modernise their services, will help transform the lives of stroke suffers, prevent thousands of strokes in the process and save 400,000 bed days.
Aimed at Primary Care Trusts and GPs, the web-based system (called Asset 2):
· identifies levels of demand for services in an area
· benchmarks current service provision against other organisations
· identifies best practice, and
· demonstrates the impact of making changes
The guide encourages changes to four key areas: increasing stroke unit capacity, providing quicker access to Transient Ischaemic Attack (minor stroke) services, facilitating rapid scanning to enable greater use of clot-busting drugs and encouraging early supported discharge.
Press release ~ ASSET 2 ~ DH – Strokes ~ UK Stroke Forum ~ The Stroke Association
DH: The independent Expert Scientific Group (ESG) convened by the Secretary of State for Health to examine trials involving new types of drugs, following adverse reactions experienced by participants in the clinical trial of the drug known as TGN1412 earlier in 2006, has published its final report.
The ESG made twenty-two recommendations, which are expected to have far-reaching implications for those involved in the conduct and safety of first-in-man clinical trials, covering a number of key areas:
· the need for scientific advice from independent experts before trials of high risk substances are approved
· information about unpublished clinical trials & adverse reactions occurring in trials
· the conduct & environment of clinical trials
· the clinical trial application process
· the skills & future specialist training needs of those conducting clinical trials
· the location of trial units & the provision of adequate medical back up in case of problems arising
Press release ~ Final report ~ Interim Report used for consultation ~ National Institute for Biological Standards and Control (NIBSC) ~ Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) ~ DH Clinical trials website
Defra: A new study examining how the Defra manages & uses science as part of its planning and policy-making has been published by Sir David King, the Government's Chief Scientific Adviser.
The report, among other things:
· Recommends improvements in Defra's processes for the commissioning & management of science
· Emphasises that Defra should actively maintain & make best use of the scientific expertise and infrastructure it needs, both in-house & externally
Press release ~ Full report ~ Government's Chief Scientific Adviser (CSA) Sir David King ~ Defra: Science ~ Defra Science Advisory Council ~ Defra Science and Innovation Strategy 2003-06
NAO: According to a recent National Audit Office report around 700,000 new businesses start up each year and they are more likely to get their tax affairs wrong than established businesses, but if they are helped to get it right first time they are likely to continue to comply in the future.
The report puts forward a recommendations to encourage improved compliance by new businesses, including:
· making registration easier
· co-ordinating the help available through different organisations, and
· in the longer term, moving towards a unique identifier for each business
In the short-term, the NAO proposes that HM Revenue and Customs should target its help at those businesses most likely to benefit from it, such as those entirely new to business and encourage businesses to use the email tax alert system at Business Link.
Press release ~ NAO: Helping newly registered businesses meet their tax obligations ~ Summary Version ~ Business Link – Tax returns & Payroll ~ email tax alert system ~ HMRC – Registering a new Business ~ Consultation document: Modernising Powers, Deterrents and Safeguards ~ TaxAid ~ Money, tax and benefits - Directgov
NAO: A report published by the National Audit Office found that around 65% in a sample of 893 people who received some form of anti-social behaviour intervention did not engage in further anti-social behaviour, but for a number of perpetrators interventions had limited impact, with 20% of the people in the sample receiving 55% of all interventions issued.
The study looked at the impact of three of the most commonly used interventions: Warning Letters, Acceptable Behaviour Contracts and Anti-Social Behaviour Orders. 17% of the population perceive high levels of anti-social behaviour in their area and the cost to government agencies of responding to reports of anti-social behaviour in England and Wales is approximately £3.4 billion per year.
Press release ~ Home Office Comment ~ Full Report ~ Executive summary ~ Rand Europe report on "Interventions to Reduce Anti-social Behaviour and Crime: A Review of Effectiveness and Costs" ~ British Crime Survey 2005-06 ~ One day count of reported anti-social behaviour ~ Home Office’s Anti-Social Behaviour Unit Research ~ Home Office ASB website
HMRC: The Income Tax Bill is the fourth Bill of the Tax Law Rewrite project, the aim of which is to rewrite UK primary direct tax legislation so that is clearer & easier to use. The Bill covers:
· basic provisions about the charge to income tax, income tax rates, the calculation of income tax liability, and personal reliefs
· various specific reliefs, including relief for losses, the enterprise investment scheme, venture capital trusts, community investment tax relief, interest paid, gift aid and gifts of assets to charities
· specific rules about trusts, deduction of tax at source, manufactured payments & repos. and tax avoidance
· general income tax definitions
Press release ~ Income Tax Bill ~ Tax Law Rewrite project
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