A Happy New Year to all Wired-GOV and WGPlus subscribers. The next issue of WGPlus will be broadcast on Monday, January 8th 2007.


Operation Paget:  Heavy reading for conspiracy theorists - The report into the allegation of conspiracy to murder Diana, Princess of Wales and Emad El-Din Mohamed Abdel Moneim Fayed has been published. 


The Overview document has 9 pages of text.  Please be aware the full report has over 800 pages and may take a while to download.

Press release ~ Operation Paget Overview ~ Operation Paget Report ~ BBC News item


NAO:  It sounds a lot, but in reality it only represents a ‘drop in the ocean’ - The National Audit Office has reported on OGCbuying.solutions, an executive agency of the Office of Government Commerce which provides procurement services to the public sector, achieving value for money savings of £412 million in 2005-06 (up 71% from 2003-04).


The report found that there is significant potential to increase value for money savings and that, given its potential to exert significant buying power, OGCbuying.solutions should aim for its prices to be in the lowest 25% of public sector prices by:

·         securing greater volume commitment from customers when letting new framework agreements

·         reviewing its prices more regularly with suppliers

·         using eAuctions where applicable and

·         minimising the cost to suppliers of dealing with OGCbuying.solutions


However, 63% of central civil government and 73% of wider public sector customers did not consider that OGCbuying.solutions consulted them enough, which probably explains why the report found that spending through OGCbuying.solutions represents:

·         only 5% of central government procurement spending and

·         under 1% of total procurement spending for the wider public sector


The report highlights the need for greater co-ordination between the public sector bodies carrying out procurement to avoid duplication of effort and to signpost where to find the best deals.  This, combined with a remodelled OGCbuying.solutions, has the potential to increase savings by up to £660 million a year.

Press release ~ Full Report (1.6Mb) ~ Executive summary ~ Central government survey ~ Wider public sector and non-customer survey ~ NAO ~ OGCbuying.solutions ~ Office of Government Commerce ~ Supply2Gov ~ Public procurement and Race Equality ~ Reform of Public procurement in Scotland ~ OFT: Assessing the impact of public sector procurement on competition ~ Social Enterprise Coalition – Public Procurement ~ Innovation and Public Procurement ~ DTI – Public procurement ~ Using public procurement to drive skill and innovation ~ Local Government International Bureau ~ Chartered Institute of Purchasing & Supply


DTI:  WEEE deadline means Producers & Retailers have to sign up for compliance - Producers of electrical goods will from July 2007 be required to meet the environmental costs of dealing with waste products under new rules published this week - Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Regulations - and all companies who import, manufacture and rebrand electrical & electronic equipment will have to finance its treatment, recovery and environmentally safe disposal.


By 15 March 2007 producers will need to join an approved producer compliance scheme to ensure that they are able to comply with the Directive from 1 July 2007.  Also announced, is the appointment of Valpak Retail WEEE Services as the operator of the Distributor Take-back Scheme (DTS) funded by £10m from retailers.


The Directive introduces producer responsibility for waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE):

·         Producers will have to finance treatment and recycling/recovery of separately collected WEEE in the UK to specified treatment standards and recycling/recovery targets

·         Retailers have an obligation to offer take-back services to householders

·         The Directive does not place any obligations on householders and they will be not be prohibited from throwing WEEE away with general domestic rubbish


Further regulations will be laid early in the New Year to allow for producers to be charged for the collection, treatment and recycling of WEEE containing hazardous substances (for example CRTs, refrigerants and gas discharge lamps) that are sent to local authority sites between the 1 April and 30 June 2007.


These charges will be used to reimburse local authorities who separately collect & arrange the treatment and reprocessing of hazardous WEEE.  (DTI currently reimburses local authorities via new burdens payments for this activity).

Press release ~ DTI - EC Directive on Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) ~ Defra – WEEE Producer Responsibility ~ Guidance on Best Available Treatment Recovery and Recycling Techniques (BATRRT) and treatment of Waste ~ Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) - November 2006 ~ WEEE Regional Roadshows ~ Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Regulations ~ Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (Waste Management Licensing) (England and Wales) Regulations 2006 ~ Valpak Retail WEEE Services


NAO:  Can't afford them, but can't live without them - Central government spent around £1.8 billion on consultancy in 2005-06, according to new figures published by the National Audit Office, while total public sector spending on consultants is estimated at around £2.8 billion for 2005-06.


While there has been a reduction of spending in some departments (mainly the DWP, DTI and MoD), spending on consultants across the public sector has risen by 33% between 2003-04 and 2005-06, largely because of increased spending in the NHS.


The main finding is: ‘There have been improvements in using consultants, but there is some way to go before good value for money is achieved overall’ and the NAO found that departments, for the most part, do not:

·         make a proper assessment of whether internal resources could have been used instead of consultants

·         collect adequate information on their use of consultants to understand better the benefits they bring

·         actively engage with key consulting firms to understand how they work

·         plan for & carry out the transfer of skills from consultants to internal staff to build internal capabilities

Press release ~ Full Report ~ Executive Summary ~ Building client and consultant commitment ~ Market Analysis ~ Methodology ~ Catalist: Interim Management Services ~ OGC: Programmes and Projects ~ Government IT Profession ~ Professional Skills for Government ~ Using the contract to maximise the likelihood of successful project outcomes (1.1Mb) ~ Contracting strategies tool ~ Delivering successful IT-enabled business change Executive Summary ~ Chief Information Officer Council ~ OGC Gateway Review process ~ 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  


FCO:  Was it ‘greener grass’ or for some other reason - The FCO have announced that the Institute for Public Policy Research (ippr) have released a report that looks at the scale & nature of British emigration.  Lord Triesman, Foreign Office Minister for Consular Affairs, welcomed the report, saying:  "When the FCO agreed to sponsor this piece of research we had several aims in mind.  


The first was to validate our estimate that there are up to 13 million British nationals living overseas and to clarify their whereabouts…….. We now also have a reliable indication of where many of them are and how old they are.


Our second aim was to learn more about emigration trends, to help our future consular planning and strategy, including crisis management.


Our third aim was to promote discussion among as wide a group of stakeholders as possible on the role of the Government in responding to the needs of this growing group.  The IPPR report raises a number of interesting issues, many of which will be discussed at a workshop with stakeholders on 1 February 2007 (more details of this will follow in due course).


…… What we can, and can't, do for British nationals resident abroad is spelled out in the Guide to Support for British nationals Abroad ……………. Specific advice & guidance is contained in a range of publications, available from the FCO via its website or at Posts overseas. There is also a great deal of useful material on the DirectGov website."


Ippr’s report shows that almost one in ten Britons now lives abroad, that a British national emigrates every three minutes and it predicts that another one million Brits will move abroad over the next five years.  On top of the 5.5 million Brits now living abroad on a long-term basis (equivalent to 9.2% of the UK population), there are a further 500,000 Brits living overseas for part of the year.


The report identifies the ‘inability to speak the local language’ as one of the biggest barriers to settling into an overseas community.

Press release ~ Brits Abroad: Mapping the scale and nature of British emigration (scoll down for free summary pdf) ~ BBC – Brits Abroad ~ Beyond Black and White ~ BBC – Born Abroad ~ Institute for Public Policy Research ~ FCO ~ Support for British Nationals Abroad: a Guide ~ Summary version ~ Going to live abroad ~ Other Related publications (scroll down) ~ Know before you go ~ Directgov – Living Abroad


DWP:  A way of cutting Pension Credit or ensuring a financially secure retirement? - The government has released its plans for workers to be given an easy way to save for their future (complete with an employer contribution and tax relief) under new proposals published for consultation (closes on 20 March 2007) in the Government's White Paper - Personal accounts: a new way to save.


Up to 10 million people will be automatically enrolled into personal accounts, with a guaranteed employer contribution of at least 3%, in a move that the government hopes will kick-start a new savings culture in the UK and see millions of people saving around £8 billion annually into personal accounts.


The White Paper also revealed that the Government has decided the NPSS model proposed by the Pensions Commission is the best way to deliver personal accounts because of its simplicity and low cost.

Press release ~ White Paper: Personal accounts: a new way to save ~ Consultation arrangements ~ Regulatory Impact Assessment ~ DWP – Pensions and retirement ~ Pensions Bill ~ Pensions Commission ~ DWP - NPSS ~ Which? - NPSS model

Defra:  Just smell that air! -
The National Air Quality Information Archive website has been re-launched following its redesign.  The site, which is now claimed to be more user friendly, contains a huge amount of data on air quality in the United Kingdom including information on the following areas:

·         current UK and European efforts to tackle air pollution

·         current UK air monitoring networks, their objectives and methodologies

·         current UK Air Quality Objectives

·         variances in pollution levels across the country

·         major periods of elevated pollution (so called pollution 'episodes')

·         assessments of long-term trends

·         social aspects of air pollution in the UK

·         published, web and media sources for information on the

General News

DfES:  Lord Dearing has published his interim report on languages and the provisional proposals will be subject to extensive consultation with school heads, teachers and other stakeholders before he makes his final recommendations in February 2007.


The interim findings include:

·         Languages should become a standard part of the National Primary SchoolCurriculum

·         The GCSE Languages specification should be revised to make it more relevant & engaging for young people and the oral part of the GCSE also needs to be reviewed

·         There should be informal classroom assessment using the Languages Ladder at the end of Key Stage 2 (age 11) and the Ladder should be used to assess pupil's language skills at the end of Key Stage 3

·         Schools should be given more freedoms to offer languages alongside major EU languages

Press release ~ Languages Review Consultation Report December 2006 ~ Open consultation: The Languages Review (closes 31 January 2007) ~ Languages Ladder Assessment Scheme ~ Languages Ladder: Asset Languages ~ 'Languages for All: Languages for Life, A Strategy for England' ~ National Qualifications Framework ~ Common European Framework of Reference for Languages ~ DfES Languages website ~ The National Advisory Centre for Early Language Learning website


Scottish Executive: Almost 40% of routine applications from people to extend or alter their homes can be taken out of the planning system entirely, according to new research in Scotland.  At present, such requests account for half of the 52,000 planning applications received by local authorities every year in Scotland.


The Executive-commissioned research by a team led by Heriot Watt University also found:

·         97% of householder developments are approved

·         They make up one third of all appeals and more than half of all enforcement cases

·         Most do not raise issues significant enough to warrant restrictive conditions on a planning permission. 

·         In general, the level of scrutiny of the planning system of such development is disproportionate to the environmental risks involved

Press release ~ Review of the General Permitted Development order 1992: Householder Report ~ Planning Helpline ~ Scottish Executive – Planning & Building ~ Modernising the Planning System ~ Planning Aid Scotland


DTI:  A pioneering programme, putting Britain at the forefront of next generation, greener, cost effective aircraft design, will be backed by £17m from the UK government.  The first phase of the £34m 'Integrated Wing' programme at the Airbus UK factory at Broughton, North Wales brings together the best UK researchers and industry to develop the aircraft wing concept of the future.


The consortium, led by Airbus UK developing the new wing concept fit for 2020 & beyond will have particular focus on sustainable air travel with more efficient wings meaning reduced fuel burn, emissions and noise.

Press release ~ NATS - National Aerospace Technology Strategy ~ Integrated Wing Aerospace Programme ~ Airbus UK ~ Aerospace Technology Steering Group ~ Aerospace Innovation and Growth Team ~ The future of flying is batwing ~ ParcAberporth


MoD:  Defence Minister Lord Drayson has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the next phase of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) programme with the US government.  The MoU sets out the framework for purchasing, supporting & upgrading it through life, but does not formally commit the UK to buying any aircraft.


JSF is a stealthy, multi-role combat aircraft which will be a key component of the UK's expeditionary capability, operating from the future carriers, for decades to come.  The MoD's current plan is to buy up to 150 of the Short Take-Off, Vertical Landing (STOVL) variant.


'Operational sovereignty' is defined as the UK having control over essential aspects of the aircraft so that it can be operated through life at the time of the UK's choosing.  The MoD need to be able to integrate JSF into the UK operating environment; operate, maintain, repair & upgrade the UK fleet to meet evolving through-life requirements and certify the aircraft as safe to fly.

Press release ~ Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) programme ~ JSF UK Industry Team ~ Lockheed Martin UK Programmes - Joint Strike Fighter (JSF)


DfES:  Schools Minister Andrew Adonis has announced that CfBT Education Trust will manage England's National Programme for Gifted and Talented Education (NPGATE) from January 2007.


The programme aims to achieve significant, measurable improvement in the attainment, aspirations, motivation and self-esteem of gifted & talented learners, especially those at risk of underachieving and those from disadvantaged backgrounds.


As a not-for-profit organisation, CfBT re-invests around £1million of its surpluses every year for practice-based educational research.  Its appointment as managing contractor of the NPGATE programme was the result of a structured offering formed in partnership with Hedra, CACI and TwoFour Communications.

Press release ~ CfBT Education Trust ~ Hedra ~ CACI ~ TwoFour Communications ~ Standards Site – Gifted & Talented ~ National Academy for Gifted and Talented Youth (NAGTY) 


DfT:  The Department for Transport has announced that it has reinstated the franchise agreement with Virgin Rail Group to operate services on the West Coast Main Line.  This replaces the 'Letter Agreement' that was put in place in 2002 following the failure of Railtrack to deliver previously agreed improvements to the main line.


Benefits due to be delivered to passengers included:

·         50% increase in frequency in London - Birmingham and London - Manchester services

·         A further 30 minutes reduction in London - Glasgow journey times

·         London - Liverpool services will be 20 minutes faster and there with extra peak time services

·         Hourly services all day between London - Liverpool; London - Preston and LondonChester

·         Improvement in weekend services

Press release ~ Virgin Trains ~ DfT West Coast Main Line


HC:  Healthcare watchdogs have called for action to address inconsistent standards of care provided by substance misuse services across England in a joint national report, which reveals the overall findings of a review carried out by the Healthcare Commission and National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse (NTA)


The Government estimates drug misuse costs between £10 billion and £18 billion a year and it is clear it affects the life of the individual, the families and the communities they live in.


The review assessed whether local services prescribed drugs safely and planned treatment & coordinated services appropriately.  It highlighted several areas of concern where there are variations in the quality of care across England.

Press release ~ Improving services for substance misuse: a joint review ~ National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse (NTA) ~ Drug action teams (DATs) ~ Drug Interventions Programme ~ Drug Strategy ~ Race and Diversity strategy ~ DH Substance Abuse website ~ Treatment Works website ~ Staff development toolkit for drug and alcohol services ~ DrugScope ~ Drug and Alcohol Action Programme ~ Crime reduction tool kits – Communities against drugs ~ Talk to Frank ~ Standards for Substance Misuse Services in Scotland ~ 'Hidden Harm - Next Steps' ~ Effective Interventions Unit An exploration of the role of substance misuse nurses in Scotland

Policy Statements and Initiatives

DWP:  Work and Pensions Secretary John Hutton has set out proposals to replace the Child Support Agency with a new organisation to ‘deliver a different system of child maintenance’.  Led by a new Commissioner for Child Maintenance, the government hopes that a Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission (C-MEC) would deliver a simpler & more effective way of assessing, collecting & enforcing child maintenance


The new Commission is one of the proposals set out in the Government's new White Paper -  A new system of child maintenance, which contains proposals to ‘empower & incentivise parents to make private agreements where possible, but with the confidence that C-MEC will have the powers to establish arrangements and enforce payments where they cannot agree’.


Following legislation, the Commission should be in place from 2008 and would provide a public face to reinforce the accountability of C-MEC.

Press release ~ White Paper: A new system of child maintenance ~ Summary Version ~ Sir David Henshaw's report ~ Government response to Henshaw ~ CSA Q&As ~ Summary of the findings of Stephen Geraghty's review and Operational Improvement Plan


Defra:  As part of the Government's programme to reduce red tape, Defra have published their second Simplification Plan, 'Maximising Outcomes, Minimising Burdens', which is intended to demonstrate its continued commitment to tackling administrative burdens across the agriculture and rural affairs sector.

Press release ~ 'Maximising Outcomes, Minimising Burdens' (scroll down) ~ Cabinet Office – Cross Government Simplification Initiative ~ Better regulation Commission ~ Regulation - Less is More. Reducing Burdens, Improving Outcomes


DTI:   The next step in the Government's drive to increase microgeneration has begun with the opening of Phase 2 of the DTI's Low Carbon Buildings Programme (LCBP).  Interested parties can apply online at the dedicated Phase 2 website.


The second phase of the LCBP will provide £50 million in grants over the next 18 months to help fund the installation of micropower technologies such as solar panels, micro wind-turbines and ground source heat pumps on schools, ‘not for profit’ and public sector buildings. 

Press release ~ LCBP Phase 2 ~ Building Research Establishment consultancy ~ DTI Microgeneration ~ Review of PPS 22 ~ Renewable Energy Association ~ Microgeneration Strategy: Power from the people ~ Energy Efficiency: The Government’s Plan for Action ~ Energy Performance of Buildings Directive ~ Low or Zero Carbon Energy Sources - Strategic Guide (Interim Publication)


DfES:  A new drive to cut crime by getting offenders into training & jobs has been announced by Education and Skills Secretary Alan Johnson with £500,000 funding for pilot schemes in two regions to ‘drive forward reforms to improve offenders skills and jobs prospects to stop them re-offending’.  The announcement is part of the Government's Next Steps document, which implements actions following on from last year's green paper Reducing Re-Offending Through Skills and Employment.


Under the proposals, more help will be given to offenders who show they are prepared to take action to turn away from crime and employers will be encouraged to start offender job schemes.  Offenders undertaking training will be offered interviews and employers will get extra support to give work trials leading to jobs.

Press release ~ 'Reducing Re-Offending Through Skills and Employment: Next Steps' ~ Green Paper: Reducing Re-Offending Through Skills and Employment ~ Reducing Re-offending National Action Plan ~ Related documents ~ Offender Learning and Skills Service (OLASS) ~ Learning and Skills Council ~ Corporate Alliance ~ Faith and Voluntary Sector Alliance ~ Civic Society Alliance ~ National Offender Management Service


Cabinet Office:  The Government response to the independent report by Bernard Herdan - 'The Customer Voice in Transforming Public Services' - has been published and the Government claims to fully support the main recommendation in the report that a new national standard for customer service should be developed which is based on the key drivers of satisfaction.


The report focused on the need for public services to develop the necessary skills to enable them to be more citizen-centred and responsive.


All Charter Mark holding organisations have been informed of the publication of the Government's Response and interested stakeholders and Charter Mark holders are invited to email their comments on the Government's Response to cmreviewteam@cabinet-office.x.gsi.gov.uk.

Press release ~ Response to 'The Customer Voice in Transforming Public Services' ~ The Customer Voice in Transforming Public Services ~ Summary of key recommendations  ~ Report Annexes  ~ Charter Mark ~ NVQ in customer service ~ WAG: From public sector to public service


Cabinet Office:  Cabinet Secretary, Sir Gus O'Donnell, made clear that ‘there could be no slowing down of the Civil Service reform programme’ as he published Capability Reviews for three more departments including his own, the Cabinet Office and announced the creation of a new Civil Service Steering Board.


Reviews for the Departments of Trade and Industry and Communities and Local Government were also published alongside a summary paper on the key themes emerging from all of the Reviews so far.


He also announced three major cross Government initiatives:

·         Formation of a new Civil Service Steering Board to oversee the implementation of, for example, the work of David Varney on service transformation, the need to drive sustainability  and employee relations.

·         A radical overhaul of the unit of the Cabinet Office responsible for civil service skills

·         A review to determine how the Cabinet Office is best deployed in the management of the civil service and to work out what is best done centrally and what is best done by departments

Press release ~ Capability reviews ~ Common themes and Summaries ~ NAO Efficiency Toolkit ~ NAO:  Progress in improving government efficiency


DCLG:  The government has published measures intended to ‘help to reduce carbon emissions and bring innovation to the building industry by tackling climate change at the heart of the planning system and the way we build new homes’.  Currently, the energy used to heat, light and run our homes accounts for 27% of all of the UK's carbon emissions and the Government is proposing that all new homes be zero carbon by 2016.


Energy efficient & insulated buildings, which draw their energy from zero or low carbon technologies and therefore produce no net carbon emissions from all energy use over the course of a year, will help reduce carbon emissions as well as lowering fuel bills for households.  The overall strategy is set out in the consultation document - Building a Greener Future: Towards Zero Carbon Development


The Government has also launched a joint consultation on regulations to set minimum standards for water efficiency in new homes and new commercial buildings.  The government claims that by installing products such as low flush toilets & water efficient taps in new homes, household consumption could be reduced by 15-20%, with equivalent savings in new offices & shops.

Press release ~ Planning Policy Statement 1: Delivering Sustainable Development ~ Consultation - Planning Policy Statement: Planning and Climate Change - Supplement to Planning Policy Statement 1 (Consultation closes 8 March 2007) ~ Building a Greener Future: Towards Zero Carbon Development (Consultation closes 8 March 2007) ~ Code for Sustainable Homes ~ Minimum standards for water efficiency in new homes and new commercial buildings (Consultation closes 9 March 2007) ~ Defra – Water conservation ~ Stern Review ~ Home Builders Federation ~ WWF ~ Sustainable Development ~ Sustainable Development Commission ~ Centre for Sustainable Energy ~ Review of the Sustainability of Existing Buildings: the Energy Efficiency of Dwellings - Initial Analysis ~ Energy Saving Trust ~ Carbon Trust ~ Sample Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) ~ Sustainable Homes ~ EU Directive on the energy performance of buildings ~ EU Building Performance Directive Implementation Advisory Group (DIAG)


OFT:  The OFT has signalled its intention to refer the supply of airport services by BAA to the Competition Commission (CC) for more detailed investigation.  The conclusion is provisional and the OFT now invites comments (by 8 February 2007) before reaching a final conclusion.  It has also made a recommendation that the airports regulator advise the Government on the case for the de-regulation of Manchester airport.


The OFT market study findings include:

·         evidence of poor customer satisfaction

·         BAA's Scottish airports are not price regulated and charges to airlines are higher than Gatwick & Stansted

·         Glasgow, which faces some competition from Prestwick, has had the largest price decreases of BAA's airports in Scotland, and

·         the study also found further evidence that competition between independently owned airports - such as Liverpool and Manchester - leads to improved value for air travellers

Press release ~ OFT report (VLF 2.8Mb) ~ BAA  ~ Competition Commission (CC) ~ CAA - Airports Regulator ~ Airports Council International ~ Transport Research Laboratory ~ CAA study: An Economic Assessment of the Impacts of Granting Fifth-Freedom Rights to Passenger Services from UK Regional Airports ~ DfT Aviation website ~ Public experiences of and attitudes to air travel ~ Civil Aviation Act 2006 ~ The Future of Air Transport - White Paper and the Civil Aviation Bill


Defra:  Defra has launched a consultation exercise (closes 12 March 2007) on the principles that will help shape future policy on the sharing of responsibilities & costs in relation to animal health and welfare.  It seeks to open a discussion with the livestock industry, consumers and all those with an interest in animal health & welfare on future options of the future management of animal health policy.


This type of approach is intended to provide opportunities for improved regulation and reduce the regulatory burden in the future.  The government claims that industry will benefit from an increased involvement in the decision making process in this area which should result in a greater ability to respond & deliver efficient solutions in the future.

Press release ~ Consultation documents ~ UK Responsibility and Cost Sharing Consultative Forum ~ Current consultation a draft new Animal Welfare Delivery Strategy (closes 20 February 2007) ~ Defra: Introduction to Animal health and welfare ~ Farm Animal Welfare Council ~ Great Britain Animal Health and Welfare Strategy ~ Animal Welfare Act ~ RSPCA


DCA:  A consultation (closes 7 March 2007) on prisoner voting, to respond to the European Court of Human Rights judgment on the Hirst case, has been announced.


The consultation follows a ruling by the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) after a tariff-expired life sentence prisoner (that is one who had become eligible for parole or early release) successfully challenged the United Kingdom's current arrangements.


The Government believes that people who have committed an offence serious enough to warrant a term of imprisonment should not be able to vote while in prison (a view shared by other Council of Europe States).

Press release ~ Consultation documents ~ Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ~ Prisoners voting Rights


DfT:  A consultation (closes 9 March 2007) on the Government's proposals for changes at the Dartford-Thurrock River Crossing has been published.  They include discounts for those who pay by an electronic 'Dart-Tag' & pre-pay account and free travel at night.


The Government is also seeking comments on suggestions from local MPs that discounts be made available for local residents and comments on proposals for reinvestment of the revenue.

Press release ~ Consultation documents ~ Highways Agency ~ Dartford – Thurrock Crossing website ~ History


DTI:  The Government has announced a consultation (closes 8 March 2007) on an ‘investment package worth up to £1.7 billion for the Post Office designed to preserve the national network, and set it on a firm footing’ (subject to European state aid approval).


The proposed new access criteria for post offices will be

·         Nationally, 99% within 3 miles and 90% of the population to be within 1mile

·         In deprived urban areas1, 99% of the population to be within 1 mile

·         In urban areas, 95% of the population to be within 1 mile

·         In rural areas, 95% of the total rural population within 3 miles

·         In remote areas, 95% of the population in postcode districts2 within 6 miles


On average the 800 smallest rural post offices served just 16 people a week at a cost to the taxpayer of £17 per visit - even if this was just to buy a stamp.  A total of 1,600 branches served fewer than 20 customers a day - losing £8 for every transaction.

Press release ~ Consultation documents ~ The Post Office Ltd. Rural Pilot Activity report ~ NAO report – DTI: Financial Support for Post Offices ~ DTI – Postal Services ~ Post Office portal ~ National Federation of Sub Postmasters ~ Postwatch ~ Countryside Alliance


Scottish Executive:  A joint consultation paper (closes on March 6, 2007) on proposals aimed at stopping fraudsters from using the identities of dead people has been issued by the Registrars General for England and Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.


Identity fraud, of which Impersonation of the Deceased (IOD) fraud is a type, costs the UK economy in excess of £1 billion a year.  Fraudsters can obtain sufficient information to impersonate the deceased before organisations with which the deceased had financial dealings become aware of the death.


Under the Police and Justice Act 2006 and the Local Electoral Administration and Registration Services (Scotland) Act 2006, the Registrars General can disclose death registration information to assist in the prevention, detection, investigation, or prosecution of offences.  The Registrars General are seeking views on how the information should be released.

Press release ~ Consultation documents ~ Registrar General for England and Wales ~ Registrar General for Northern Ireland ~ Home Office – Identity Theft  ~ CIFAS online ~ Directgov – identity theft ~ Internet Watch Foundation ~ Identity Theft – victim support ~ Identity Fraud


DfT:  Shipping Minister Stephen Ladyman has published a UK consultation paper (closes 28th February 2007) on the European Maritime Green Paper published earlier this year by the European Commission – See ‘EU legislation and Initiatives’ section below.


DWP:  New pension proposals published for consultation (closes on 20 March 2007) in the Government's White Paper - Personal accounts: a new way to save. – See ‘In the News’ section above.


DCA:  A consultation paper (closes on 8 March 2007) on draft Freedom of Information (FoI) fee regulations has been published by the Department for Constitutional Affairs, which will extend the existing provisions for charging – See ‘In the News’ section above.

Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides

DH:  The new edition of the authoritative source of information on vaccines & immunisation, known amongst health professionals as the 'Green Book' (officially called 'Immunisation against Infectious Disease) is being distributed free to primary care health professionals from last week. 


This edition is intended to be more comprehensive than previous editions and it features new sections & chapters including an index on vaccines, immunisations for people with underlying conditions,and surveillance & monitoring of vaccine safety.


If you know someone who thinks they should have received a free copy but haven't they should phone 0845 954 0000 or e-mail greenbook@broadsystem.com leaving their name, occupation, address and relevant professional registration number such as GMC, RPSGB or nursing registration number where applicable.

Press release  ~ NHS Immunisation Information ~ Latest Version ~ DH - Green Book ~ Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) ~ DH Immunisation website ~ BMA - Childhood immunisation : a guide for healthcare professionals ~ The case against

Annual Reports

NAO:  The National Audit Office has qualified the Home Office 2005-06 Resource Accounts because Accounting Standards require these accounts to include the 2004-05 results.  However, the report shows that the Home Office has worked to address many of the fundamental problems highlighted in the 2004-05 results. 


However, the Home Office has been unable to provide sufficient evidence that there is not significant duplication between the different methods of recording on its accounting system of its liabilities to suppliers.  


Many of the system & control weaknesses from 2004-05 remained present in 2005-06.  In particular, there were inadequate controls to match payroll and personnel records to determine exact staff numbers within the department.

Press release ~ Home Office Resource Accounts 2005 -06 ~ Home Office: 2004-05 Resource Account ~ NAO guidance and good practice: Financial Accounting Update January 2006 ~ NAO Efficiency Toolkit ~ Capability Reviews (includes Home Office)

General Reports and other publications

FSA:  A Financial Services Authority report shows that consumers are getting better outcomes in the way their mortgage endowment complaints are handled, but the FSA stressed that there is no room for complacency.


Since July 2005, the FSA has been looking at how 52 firms (covering 90% of the mortgage endowment market) handle complaints.  It had concerns with 22 firms and 14 of them have taken or are taking remedial action to improve the quality of their complaints handling.


As a result of this work:

·         More than 100,000 complaints previously rejected have been or are being reviewed, with around 75% of those being reviewed so far having been decided in the consumers' favour

·         The number of complaints taking more than eight weeks to resolve has fallen from 33,000 to 7,000

Press release ~ Mortgage endowments – Delivering higher standards ~ FSA - Mortgage Endowments ~ Financial Ombudsman ~ Which? ~ Financial Services Compensation Scheme ~ ABI Factsheet


DfT:  Transport Secretary Douglas Alexander has published - "Putting Passengers First" - which outlines Government proposals to ‘change the way buses are run, strengthening the working partnerships between local authorities and bus companies to attract more passengers in the long term’.


The key changes being considered in Putting Passengers First are:

·         greater partnership working between local authorities & operators, timetables and fares

·         holding not just operators but also local authorities to account for the performance of local bus services

·         making it a option for local authorities to introduce schemes tailored to local needs

·         allowing local charities and community groups to provide services in areas poorly served by other transport

·         ensuring that current bus subsidies help to support the Government's environmental objectives

Press release ~ DfT – Putting Passengers First ~ National Transport Model ~ London Buses ~ UK Bus Timetable Website Directory ~ Traveline ~ Bus Users UK ~ Community Transport Association ~ Bus Grants ~ DfT - Buses ~ Rural Bus Service Good Practice Guide


DTI:  Improving the health of the whole population and reducing health inequalities, particularly for those with the poorest health, should be an objective for the whole of government says a new report published by the independent Council for Science and Technology (CST).


The report - 'Health Impacts - A Strategy Across Government’ -  sets out a number of recommendations on how all government departments can incorporate health issues when developing & delivering their policies, including:

·         More resources should be devoted to providing the evidence base necessary for good policy-making

·         Delivering health improvements cannot be achieved if it is seen as the business of the DH alone

·         Government departments need to work with the DH to make sure the best evidence is available about health impacts, relevant to that department's policy areas.

·         Mechanisms for joining up databases across government are crucial and need to be put in place

·         Training is needed for policy-makers in the determinants of health & the use of evidence to assess them

Press release ~ Council for Science and Technology (CST) ~ 'Health Impacts - A Strategy Across Government' ~ CST: Better Use of Personal Information ~ Pilot NHS (England) Agreement ~ Ordnance Survey - Health ~ The Information Centre for Health and Social Care  ~ Central and Local Government Information Partnership (CLIP)


DfT:  Secretary of State for Transport Douglas Alexander has reported the progress made in implementing the policies & proposals set out in the Government's 2003 Future of Air Transport White Paper.


The progress report claims to ‘reaffirm the Government's commitment to the strategy set out in the White Paper, that is, support for the development of the aviation sector across the UK, predominantly through making the best use of existing capacity, and ensuring where new capacity is required its provision is in line with our environmental obligations’.


As part of this, the Department has announced a new mechanism to help inform decisions on major increases in aviation capacity.  The 'emissions cost assessment' will consider whether the aviation sector is meeting its external climate change costs.  The Government is expected to consult on the development of this assessment in the first half of 2007.

Press release ~ Air Transport White Paper Progress Report 2006 ~ Future of Air Transport White Paper ~ European Commission's Communication on aviation emissions ~ EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) ~ Sustainable Aviation website ~ A strategy towards sustainable development ~ Sustainable Travel International website ~ Aviation and the environment: Using economic instruments ~ GreenSkies website ~ CAA Environment web page ~ Skan-UK website ~ The Travel Foundation ~ Climate change: Carbon offsetting ~ Q & A on Aviation and Climate Change ~ Civil Aviation Act 2006 ~ Air traffic forecasts


DWP:  A new research report into the range of programmes being implemented across EU states and North America to help tackle low levels of ethnic minority employment has been published.  It examines whether initiatives in Northern Ireland, the Netherlands, Canada and the United States have been successful and if they could be applied to Great Britain.

Press release ~ Report 406: Developing Positive Action Policies: Learning from the Experiences of Europe and North America ~ Ethnic Minority Employment Task Force ~ DTI - Ethnic Minority Employment ~ ESRC - Ethnic Minorities in the UK ~ Ethnic minority women at work - Moving on up? ~ NRU: Floor Targets Interactive

Legislation / Legal

DCLG:  The Government's agenda to devolve power & strengthen local leadership moved forward this week, with the advent of key Parliamentary stages of two major Bills and the publication of a consultation on City Development Companies (CDC's), which are intended to provide detailed policy proposals to sustain momentum on the government’s drive to ‘enhance the health, strength and economic prosperity of local communities’:

Firstly, the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Bill has been introduced to Parliament, following on from the recent White Paper 'Strong and Prosperous Communities'.

Secondly, a consultation (closes on the 7 March 2007) was published, which proposes that City Development Companies bring together key experience from the private & public sectors to improve economic development delivery across city wide regions.

Lastly the GLA Bill had its second reading in the House of Commons.

Press release ~ Additional press release ~ The Role of City Development Companies in English Cities and City-Regions - A Consultation ~ Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Bill ~ White Paper 'Strong and Prosperous Communities'  ~ Greater London Authority Bill ~ Lyons Inquiry into Local Government


ICO:  The Information Commissioner has upheld a complaint under the Freedom of Information Act against The National Archives following its refusal to disclose information relating to the 1911 census schedule, which is not due to be published until 2012.


The Commissioner has stressed that this Decision must be confined to the circumstances relating to the information requested in this case and interested parties are referred to the full decision notice

Press release ~ Decision Notice ~ IOC website ~ National Archives press statement

EU legislation, initiatives, etc.

DfT:  Shipping Minister Stephen Ladyman has published a UK consultation paper (closes 28th February 2007) on the European Maritime Green Paper published earlier this year by the European Commission.


The Green Paper - ‘Towards a future Maritime Policy for the Union: A European vision for the Oceans and Sea’ - seeks to stimulate debate on the future direction of EU policy on maritime issues and to encourage greater co-ordination between the various aspects of European legislation that impinge on maritime sectors.


The European Commission published its Green Paper on 7 June 2006 and its consultation runs until 31 June 2007.

Press release ~ UK Consultation documents ~ EU Maritime Green Paper ~ Related EU documents ~ UK Marine Bill ~ WWF Marine Act Campaign ~ Sea Vision UK - British Chamber of Shipping ~ British Marine Aggregate Producers Association ~ British Maritime Law Association


CCWater:  According to the Consumer Council for Water, European Commission proposals recently debated by the European Parliament in Brussels need changing to avoid farmers & consumers shelling out cash on expensive treatment of sewage sludge, as the by-product could be used harmlessly on local farmland.


Treated sewage sludge escaped being classified as waste under the revised European Union Waste Framework Directive last week, following an environment committee vote at First Reading. The Consumer Council for Water, together with Waterwatch Scotland, briefed MEPs to oppose Commission proposals on treating sewage sludge used in agriculture.

Press release ~ Consumer Council for Water ~ Waterwatch Scotland ~ Defra – Agricultural waste

Charity and Voluntary Sector

CC: The Charity Commission has announced its commitment to reducing the administration burden it puts on charities by at least 25% over the next three years.  Its new Simplification Plan includes not only the provisions of the Charities Act 2006 but also additional Commission proposals for further admin reductions.


These include major changes to financial thresholds, such as raising the independent examination threshold, subject to further consultation in 2007.

Press release ~ CC Simplification Plan ~ Charities Act 2006 guide


Business and other briefings

NAO:   Proposals to improve the filing of VAT and Company Tax returns have been put forward by the National Audit Office.  These proposals aim to achieve efficiency savings and reduce the amount of tax at risk.


The report recommends that the HMRC should analyse the tax at risk from failure to file correctly and identify (by sector) the businesses responsible, focusing on those late with both their VAT and Company Tax returns.  It should also track the effectiveness of any new penalty regime & incentives in changing filing patterns and improving performance.

Press release ~ Full Report ~ Executive summary ~ Oxford Internet Institute - Research into Barriers and Incentives for Businesses Filing Returns Online


FSA:  The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has published CP06/21 Investment Entities Listing Review to clarify & seek further views (by 28 February 2007) on certain aspects of the original consultation.  


This includes clarifying the importance of a company's investment policy; explaining the FSA's decision to withdraw its proposal to abolish the directive minimum regime for overseas investment companies and; introducing new listing categories to make it clear to investors what obligations a listed company is subject to.

Press release ~CP06/21 Investment Entities Listing review - Further consultation and feedback on Part 2 of CP06/4 ~ 2003 Consultation paper


Pensions Regulator:   Industry debate about corporate deals (which may lead employers to abandon their pension schemes) has been prompted by the Pensions Regulator following the concerns it raised in October.


After proposals which seek to sever the link between employers and their defined benefit pension schemes were brought to its attention, the regulator has now issued a discussion paper, alongside draft guidance, to help trustees identify such proposals and consider their implications.


In its paper, the regulator has invited the industry and other interested parties to respond to key areas it has identified.  Comments on the discussion paper should be emailed to: DBpaper@thepensionsregulator.gov.uk by 9 February 2007.

Press release ~ Pensions Regulator ~ Scheme Abandonment Paper


HMRC:  VAT Business Brief 22/06


·         New Principal EC VAT Directive

·         Definition of biodiesel in Hydrocarbon Oil Duties Act 1979: Further Guidance

·         Motor and heating fuels - Revised Public Notice 179

·         Motor and heating fuels - Revised Public Notice 179A

·         Intrastat - changes from 1 January 2007

Press release ~ Business Briefs 2006 (it sometimes takes time to appear here)

Industry News

Forthcoming Event

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