Lyons Review:  Devolving power will never mean devolving control of taxation - Sir Michael Lyons has published the final report from his independent Inquiry into the future role, function and funding of local government - Place-shaping: A shared ambition for the future of local government.


He also concludes that council tax is not ‘broken’, but is seen as unfair and has been put under too much pressure.


In the medium term the Government should:

·         revalue council tax to update the tax base and improve fairness

·         add new bands to reduce bills for those in the lowest value properties, paid for by increased bills for those in higher value properties paying more

·         consider assigning a fixed proportion of income tax to local government;

·         find ways to improve the incentives within the grant system

·         consider introducing the power to levy a tourist tax for some areas only


In the longer term, future governments could consider more radical reform options such as local income tax or re-localisation of the business rate, but these reforms may require greater public support & understanding than currently exists.


Responding to the report, Local Government Minister Phil Woolas confirmed the Government's continuing commitment to use capping powers to protect taxpayers from excessive increases and emphasised that the Government has no plans for revaluation or changing the current council tax banding structure during the life of this Parliament. 

Lyons Review press release ~ DCLG press release ~ Lyons Inquiry ~ National prosperity, local choice and civic engagement (2.8Mb) ~ Advice guide on Council Tax ~ DWP – Council Tax benefit ~ Lib-Dem Axe the tax ~ Council Tax – A guide to your Bill ~ CIPFA response to Lyons Inquiry ~ Local Government Association ~ White Paper Strong and Prosperous Communities ~ DCLG Web Discussion Forum ~ DCLG - Local Government Overview ~ Tables showing increases in formula grant ~ DCLG – Local Government Finance ~ Previous consultation on Formula Grant Distribution for Local Government ~ Local Government Association view


Cabinet Office:  ‘Best’ areas to concentrate regulatory resources on - Peter Rogers has announced five national priorities to help local authorities focus the enforcement of regulation on the greatest risks in his final report, which concludes that a national approach to regulatory enforcement will enable a greater concentration on the most important issues, a more proportionate approach to low risk issues & greater consistency across the country.


The five main priorities area where local authorities can make a real difference and control serious risks to peoples' health & the economy are:

·         Air quality, including regulation of pollution from factories and homes

·         Alcohol, entertainment & late night refreshment

·         Hygiene of businesses selling, distributing & manufacturing food and the safety & fitness of food in the premises

·         Improving health in the workplace

·         Fair trading (trade description, trade marking, mis-description, doorstep selling


 The Review also recommends an additional time-limited enforcement priority pending a government review of enforcement in Animal and public health, animal movements and identification while the responsibility for this area still lies with local government.


The Review's recommendations will hopefully help to ensure that local authorities benefit from devolution promised by the Local Government White Paper, without compromising regulatory outcomes or exposing business to inconsistent enforcement.  

Press office ~ National enforcement priorities for local authority regulatory services (3.1Mb) ~ Rogers Review website ~ Better Regulation Executive ~ Better Regulation Commission ~ BRC: Risk, Responsibility and Regulation: Whose risk is it anyway (1.5Mb) ~ 60 policy areas under review ~ LACORS


Cabinet Office:  If it’s not one thing it’s another - At the start of the government’s Families at Risk review, new data reveals what the government claims is the ‘true’ picture about socially excluded families.  It shows that over 140,000 families are at risk, suffering 5 or more indicators of social exclusion and need more family-tailored support packages at 'critical moments'.


Those indicators include;

·         Living in a workless household

·         Living in bad housing

·         Parents have no qualifications

·         Mother has mental health problems

·         Family income is 60% below median


Often no-one in a family has worked for a generation; one of the parents may be in the criminal justice system; skills are poor, aspiration low and there could be additional problems of mental health, violent or broken relationships.


The Review (which will be published in the summer) will examine how well services aimed at families with complex & entrenched problems are working together on the ground and will challenge adults' services to take a 'whole families' approach to delivering support to parents, linking better with child services.  It will also explore the role that parents themselves can play in improving prospects for their families, particularly fathers as role models.

Press release ~ Families at risk review ~ Reaching Out: An Action Plan on Social Exclusion ~ Call for evidence ~ 'Building on Progress: Public Services' ~ Cabinet Office: Facts: Social Exclusion Task Force ~ Preventing Social Exclusion of Disabled Children and Their Families ~ Life lessons for those in need ~ Social exclusion and the onset of disability ~ Principles of Welfare reform ~ Opportunity for All ~ Reducing Youth Offending Generic National Solution (RYOGENS) ~ Digital Divide network  ~ Transitions: Young Adults with Complex Lives ~ Connexions – Tackling NEETs ~ Foyer Federation ~ Prince’s Trust ’Team’ Programme ~ Fairbridge ~ CAMHS ~ DH - Mental Health services ~ Give us a chance website ~ National Offender Management Service ~ Homeless Link - ’Move On Plans’


DfES:  Will this take up all the extra funding promised in the Budget? - The Government has set out detailed proposals so that from 2015 all young people will remain in some form of education or training until their 18th birthday.  Launching the Green Paper, Raising Expectations, Education and Skills Secretary Alan Johnson said the ‘economic imperative was compelling’ and, as the  Leitch Review stated last year, British businesses will need ever more skilled employees to remain globally competitive.


The Green Paper sets out a detailed package for consultation (closes on 14 June 2007) including:

·         From 2013, young people should remain in education or training after 16 - this means the first pupils to be affected would be those entering secondary school in September next year

·         Young people would be required to work towards accredited qualifications at school, in a college, or in "on the job" training or day release

·         Apprenticeships will be expanded so that they are available to any qualified young person who wants one

·         Participation should be full time for young people not in employment for a significant part of the week and part time for those working more than 20 hours a week

·         Better advice & guidance for young people to enable them to access the provision that's right for them

·         A registration system to keep track of the education options a young person has chosen and to make sure they don't drop out

·         Building on the Education Maintenance Allowance we will consider new financial support measures to ensure young people from low income backgrounds get the support they need to overcome any barriers to participation


Young people would be supported to re-engage if they drop out through integrated Youth Support Services and the government claims that ‘Any enforcement process would be used only as a last resort if a young person refused to re-engage’.

Press release ~ Green Paper on Raising the Participation Age ~ Education Maintenance Allowance ~ Get set for life website ~ Lord Leitch's report on skills ~ Learning and Skills Council ~ LSC - Apprenticeships ~ Disengagement from secondary education: a story retold ~ Effective entry to work-based learning ~ DfES White Paper: Skills Getting on in business, getting on at work  ~ White Paper: 14-19 Education and Skills ~ Train to Gain ~ Statements of Content for Diplomas ~ DfES 14 – 19 Gateway ~ BBC news item ~ Teachernet E2E ~ Vocational ladders or crazy paving?


Defra: Yet another cash call on Londoners - A project to clean up the Thames by building a single 30km long tunnel is planned to intercept sewage & rain water discharges along the length of the river and transport the waste water for treatment in East London.  London's current sewer network system is under pressure and 52 million cubic metres of untreated sewage and rainwater pollute the Rivers Thames and Lee each year - enough to fill the Albert Hall about 525 times.  


The sewer network overflows, provide the only safety valve to prevent the overloaded system from backing up and flooding homes & streets, but the discharges kill fish, create a higher health hazard for users of the river and damage the aesthetic appeal of the Thames, reducing its attractiveness to tourists


The project is expected to be delivered by 2019/20 and the economic regulator Ofwat will be tasked with ensuring that it is delivered cost effectively.  It is estimated that it will add around £37 to Thames Water sewerage bills by 2017.


In response to the decision the Consumer Council for Water (CCWater) has raised serious concerns about the Government decision, with David Bland, Chairman of CCWater Thames, saying:  "The costs will be met wholly through increases in consumers' bills, and will be far more than most are willing or expecting to pay. For some Thames Water customers, the resulting price rises will be simply unaffordable.


Significant cost overruns typify such large construction projects, and there is no guarantee that the starting price will hold.  Remember that large-scale projects such as Crossrail and the Olympic Park will be sucking in labour, materials and equipment at the same time.  As a result of the tunnel and other investment - for example to secure supplies against drought - water charges for Thames Water customers may increase by 50% in real terms within ten years."

Defra press release ~ CCWater press release ~ Thames Water and the Tidal Thames ~ Ofwat ~ Consumer Council for Water (CCWater) ~ Jacobs Babtie report ~ ThamesWeb: Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs) ~ Defra, UK - Sewage Treatment


NAO:  Progress, but is it fast enough to maintain morale on the frontline? - The National Audit Office has reported to Parliament regarding the management of the MOD Estate and particularily accomodation for service families in the light of budgetary pressures (including having to find savings in 2006-07 of £13.5m through cuts or deferrals in planned maintenance & repair).


The MoD is making investments in improving houses & barrack accommodation and the report says that, assuming no further deterioration in the existing stock of accommodation, by the end of 2012-13 the number of single bed spaces at the required standard will have risen to around 75,000, but that will leave around 35,000 (32%) bed spaces below the required standard.


Sir John Bourn, head of the NAO, said:  “The effectiveness of our armed forces depends fundamentally on the quality of their living and working accommodation”.

Press release ~ MoD press release ~ MoD - Managing the Defence Estate: Quality and sustainability ~ Executive Summary  ~ BBC video report ~ Project SLAM ~ Defence Estates ~ Defence Estates Estate Strategy and Policy (ES&P) ~ Ministry of Defence Access and Recreation Web Pages ~ Defence Estates Environmental Support Team ~ Priority given to office accomodation

General News

Home Office:  The Identity and Passport Service (IPS) is commencing face-to-face interviews for customers aged 16 or over who have never had a passport, starting in a limited number of interview offices from May 2007, with the IPS progressively adding further offices through to the end of 2007.  


The IPS claims that over half the population will be within 15 minutes of an interview office and that 95% will be within an hour's travel.  For those in more remote areas, IPS will conduct interviews over a secure webcam link in premises to be made available by a partner organisation.


The IPS 2007/08 Business Plan sets out a new fraud-reduction target: to reverse rising fraud levels and reduce the rate of undetected application fraud to below its current level of 0.15%.

Press release ~ Introduction to passport interviews  ~ The Identity and Passport Service (IPS) ~ IPS 2007/08 Business Plan


Dstl:  Technology developed by the Defence, Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) will now be made more widely available to help in the battle against diseases, such as MRSA.  Acolyte Biomedica Ltd (‘Acolyte’), a spin-out company based on bio-detection technology developed at Dstl, has been sold to the 3M Company.


Acolyte used the AK Rapid® technology together with conventional microbiological methods to develop the BacLite MRSA product that can detect MRSA in only 5 hours.  Conventional methods take 48 hours.

Press release ~ Dstl ~ Acolyte Biomedica Ltd ~ Ploughshare Innovations Ltd ~ 3M UK


Met Office:  A new website, designed to warn the public of severe weather across Europe, has been launched after more than 20 European countries combined to develop meteoalarm.eu - a unique initiative from Eumetnet, the public European weather services network within the World Meteorological Organization.


The website uses a universally understood system using symbols & colour-coded maps to provide the latest warnings of expected severe weather for the next 48 hours over most of Europe.  


Each country is colour-coded on the map to represent four levels of warning: red to indicate exceptional risk from dangerous weather conditions, down through orange and yellow to green, indicating that severe weather is not expected.  The thresholds for these levels differ from region to region because, for instance, intense snowfall in the Alpine region causes less disruption & damage then in Lisbon.

Press release ~ Meteoalarm.eu ~ Eumetnet  ~ Met Office: What to do in severe weather ~ World Meteorological Organization ~ Preparing for Emergencies - Severe weather, flooding, drought ~ DTI - Natural Hazard Working Group (NHWG)

Policy Statements and Initiatives

Cabinet Office:  The Prime Minister has released the first of six papers that lay out his vision for a government review of policy.  There will be five further papers published over the coming weeks.

Full statement ~ Policy Review website ~ Building on progress: Public Services report (1.6Mb)


DfES:  Schools have been told to limit the cost of uniforms as part of new guidelines which have been published by the DfES for consultation (closes 12 June 2007), but the DfES also strongly encourages schools to have uniforms as a way of instilling discipline & pride, protecting pupils and supporting effective teaching & learning.


Pupils may be sent home to change their clothes if they do not wear the right uniform, but in cases of financial difficulty, schools should be sensitive to the needs of the pupil and give parents time & assistance to purchase the right clothing.


Schools must act reasonably in accommodating religious requirements, providing they do not pose a threat to security, safety & learning, or compromise the well-being of the whole school community.

Press release ~ ES Guidance to Schools on School Uniform Related Policies ~ Directgov – School uniforms ~ OFT report (VLF 2.5Mb) ~ Teachernet – school uniforms ~ Applying for help with cost ~ EOC – School uniform FAQs ~ Parents centre ~ QCA


HM Treasury:  The Economic Secretary, Ed Balls, has launched a consultation document (closes on 12 June 2007) on proposals to introduce an unclaimed assets scheme in the UK which will apply to bank accounts where there has been no customer-initiated activity for at least 15 years, in order to ‘allow money in dormant bank and building society accounts to be reinvested in society, without taking away consumers' rights to reclaim their money’.


The key principles the underlying the proposed scheme are:

·         wherever possible to re-unite account holders with the assets that are rightfully theirs

·         to provide a legal right for account holders to reclaim their money at any time

·         to minimises running costs for the scheme and participating institutions, and

·         to take account of better regulation principles

Press release ~ Unclaimed assets consultation ~ British Bankers' Association ~ Building Societies Association – Lost Savings? ~ Banking Code Standards Board ~ Financial Ombudsman Service ~ About the Unclaimed Asset Register ~ NCVO - Unclaimed Assets: NCVO’s position ~ Commission on Unclaimed Assets ~ Treasury Committee Inquiry


DCLG:  A consultation paper (closes 15 June 2007) has been published on proposals to improve record keeping on the building control functions of Local Authorities (LAs).  The Building Control Information Registers aims to improve consistency in the record keeping of LAs and provide uniformity in the information & the costs provided to both the public & the property industry.


The changes aim to:

·         improve consistency in the record keeping among Local Authorities

·         provide a comprehensive record of building control activity including that of Competent Persons

·         address variations in the charge to the public for copies of documents

·         assist property search companies & surveyors in retrieving information more easily at a reasonable cost

·         promote good practice amongst LA

Press release ~ Local Authority Registers of Building Control Information Consultation ~ Local Authority Building Control - LABC ~ DCLG – Building Regulations


DTI:  The DTI has launched a consultation (closes 20 June 2007) on how to improve the way employment disputes are resolved, while preserving existing employees' rights, following the publication of an independent review.  The consultation is strongly focussed on better regulation and asks whether the current (2004) statutory dispute resolution regulations need to remain.


Among the governments proposals are:

·         a new approach for dealing with straightforward claims without the need for employment tribunal hearings

·         a reformed tribunal system with simplified processes & timings

·         the production of guidelines aimed at encouraging & promoting early resolution in the workplace

·         incentives for employers to make reasonable attempts to resolve a dispute early

·         a redesigned application process to tribunals, so potential claimants access the system through a new advice service and receive advice on alternatives when doing so

Press release ~ Resolving Disputes in the workplace ~ e-response form ~ Gibbons review ~ Statutory Dispute Resolution Procedures ~ DTI - Acas ~ Employment Tribunals


DH:  The Government has launched two consultations (both close 15 June 2007) that aim to make it easier for patients to get the medicines they need:

·         A Home Office consultation will look at whether the Misuse of Drugs Regulations should be updated to enable the prescribing of controlled drugs such as morphine for pain relief, by specially trained nurses & pharmacists

·         The Medicines & Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) will simultaneously launch a consultation on proposals for changes to the legislation governing the supply and/or administration of pain relief through morphine and diamorphine by nurses and pharmacists working under Patient Group Directions


The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) will consider the responses to both consultations, before making recommendations to Home Office Ministers.  The Commission on Human Medicines (CHM) will also consider the responses to the consultation on Patient Group Directions before making recommendations to Department of Health Ministers.


Any changes arising from the ACMD and CHM's recommendations would be introduced by Statutory Instrument, no earlier than late summer 2007.

Press release ~ Home Office: Independent Prescribing of Controlled Drugs by Nurse & Pharmacist Independent Prescribers ~ MRHA:  Consultation on Patient Group Directions ~ The Misuse of Drugs (Amendment) Regulations 2005 ~ DH – Controlled Drugs ~ Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) ~ Commission on Human Medicines (CHM) ~ NeLM - Patient Group Directions ~ DH - The Non-Medical Prescribing Programme ~ National Prescribing Centre


NICE:  In June 2006 NICE consulted on a draft version of its guideline on care during labour.  Following a significant number of comments from stakeholders covering a wide range of views and opinions NICE has launched a second consultation (closes on 3 May 2007) on the recommendations relating to places women give birth, which form part of the wider guideline.


NICE is only consulting on these recommendations, not the whole guideline.

Press release ~ Updated draft recommendations ~ NICE - Intrapartum care  ~ National Collaborating Centre for Women's & Children's Health ~ BMA ~ RCOG ~ Intute: Modernising maternity care : a commissioning toolkit for England ~ National Service Framework for children, young people and maternity services


Land Registry:  A consultation (closes 21 May 2007) has been launched inviting comments on the proposed Network Access Rules, part of the Secondary Legislation required for e-conveyancing.


Topics covered are:

·         The Land Registration (Network Access) Rules, which will define who will be entitled to a Network Access Agreement, allowing access to the electronic communications network that the registrar is setting up under section 92 Land Registration Act 2003

·         The Land Registration (Electronic Communications) Order, made under Sections 8 and 9 of the Electronic Communications Act 2000, which will provide for electronic contracts for the sale of land

Press release ~ Take part electronically ~ Land Registry


DfES:  The Government has set out detailed proposals in a Green Paper for consultation (closes on 14 June 2007) so that from 2015 all young people will remain in some form of education or training until their 18th birthday – See ‘In the News’ section above.


FSA:  The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has set out proposals for consultation (closes 20 June 2007) to reform the funding of the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) relating to retail business including – See ‘Business and other Briefings’ below.

Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides

Acas:  Acas has published a free new booklet - Managing conflict at work, which is designed to help employers and employees better understand & manage conflict at work.  It is a practical guide that covers the signs, causes, management and prevention of conflict, as well as sources of help such as mediation or arbitration.


According to a recent report, the average cost associated with employment tribunal claims comes to almost £20,000 per employing organisation each year.  Employers spend an average of 15 days management time dealing with a claim.

Press release ~ Acas: Managing conflict at work ~ Acas mediators ~ Acas - Resolving disputes ~ CIPD - Managing conflict at work Survey ~ Resolving Conflict in Work Teams


Defra:  A new handbook that promotes greater conservation of hedgerows and the species that live within them in the UK has been published.  Hedgerows play a vital role in conserving biodiversity and also make an important contribution to both farming and our traditional countryside landscape.  They support a variety of plants & animals, many of which have been identified as species of conservation concern.


Until recently little was known about their condition or number, making it difficult to make decisions about what needed to be done to conserve these 'green veins' for the future.  This second edition of the Hedgerow Handbook sets out a standard method of surveying hedgerows to ensure that their biodiversity value is correctly assessed.

Press release ~ Defra - Hedgerows  (click on handbook and action plan links) ~ Ancient and Species Rich Hedgerows Habitat Action Plan ~ UK Biodiversity Action Plan ~ National Archives - Hedgerows ~ CEH School Net - Hedgerows (Advanced) ~ Hedgerow management - RSPB  ~ Hedgerow Regulations ~ CPRE – Hedgerow campaign ~ National Hedgelaying Society ~ Natural England ~ National Association for Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (NAAONB) ~ Working with the grain of nature - taking it forward’ ~ BBC - Breathing Places ~ Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act (NERC) ~ Planning Policy Statement 9: Biodiversity and Geological Conservation ~ Policy for Ancient and Native Woodlands in England ~ Woodland Creation for Wildlife ~ HA Biodiversity Action Plan ~ Butterfly Handbook


NAO:  The Department of Health has suggested that as many as 10 lives a week might be saved as a result of the Department’s accepting National Audit Office recommendations for improving stroke care.  Stroke afflicts more than 130,000 people of all ages in England every year, it is one of the top three causes of death in England and at least 300,000 people are living with disabilities as a result of stroke.


Joining forces to deliver improved stroke care highlights what works in stroke care and what more can & should be done regarding an illness that devastates families and leaves many survivors with serious disabilities.


The book is intended to be read by everyone involved in the delivery & management of stroke care; it includes clinicians and patients telling their stories about their personal experiences.  The book also includes links to a DVD of patients' stories that show what life after stroke is like and how health & social services can save lives and make a difference to a patient's quality of life after stroke.

Press release ~ Joining forces to deliver improved stroke care (2.8Mb) ~ DH - Stroke ~ Caring for people after they have had a stroke ~ National Sentinel Audit for Stroke (scroll down) ~ NAO report: Reducing Brain Damage – Faster access to better stroke care (1.4Mb) ~ Executive summary ~ Economic burden of stroke in England ~ Quality of care for stroke and TIA in General Practice ~ Different strokes website ~ The Stroke Association ~ ASSET 2 ~ UK Stroke Forum ~ Mending hearts and brains - clinical case for change


Scottish Executive:  New planning guidance for renewable energy developments published by the Scottish Executive puts a requirement on all new developments to reduce carbon emissions by at least 15%.

Press release ~ Scottish Planning Policy (SPP) 6 – Renewable Energy  ~ SE - renewables


CRE:  The Commission for Racial Equality is urging local groups to take a 'zero tolerance' stance against racist activity that seeks to divide local communities in the run up to the election period.  The CRE feels that local partners can play an important part in monitoring organised racist activity, identifying trends, coordinating a local response to increases in racist behaviour and making sure that victims get the support they need.


A guidance & good practice pack 'Defeating Organised Racial Hatred' has been distributed by the CRE to local authorities & community groups to help them challenge misleading information & irresponsible or inflammatory rhetoric by any political groups or individual candidates hoping to boost local votes.  


The pack contains guidance on the law in combating racist activity and also includes good practice examples & guidance on promoting good race relations during the election period, as well as myth-busting briefings and links to further sources of useful information.

Press release ~ Defeating Racial Hatred information pack ~ Safe Communities Initiative ~ Community cohesion action guide ~ Elections and good race relations: guidance for council, schools and other community bodies ~ Voter engagement among black and minority ethnic communities ~ Local Government Association

Annual Reports

Healthcare Commission:  People from some black & minority ethnic groups were three times more likely than average to be admitted to mental health hospitals, results of a national census have shown. 


It is the second year that the national ‘Count Me In’ census has shown significantly higher rates of admission & detention among some black & minority ethnic groups and it has prompted calls for the introduction of mandatory reporting of ethnicity for all patients using mental health and learning disability services, not just those admitted to hospital.


The third Count Me In census is due to take place on the 30 March 2007 across all mental health and learning disabilities in-patient services in England & Wales.

Press release ~ Court me in Census 2006 ~ Count me in2007 ~ Count me in 2005 ~ Delivering race equality in mental health care: An action plan for reform inside and outside services and the Government's response to the Independent inquiry into the death of David Bennett  ~ DH – Mental health ~ Mental Health Act Commission ~ National Institute for Mental Health in England ~ 10 High Impact Changes for Mental Health Services ~ Positive Steps: Supporting race equality in mental healthcare ~ DRE Content Management System ~ DH: Black and Minority Ethnic Mental Health programme

General Reports and other publications

Defra:  The Hunter Review, a report reviewing the future of the Rural Payments Agency has been published by Defra.  The review was commissioned by Defra in March 2006 to look at the agency's current & possible future functions and the key conclusions include that:

·         RPA should remain as a Defra agency, concentrating on its core business as a paying agency

·         RPA should continue to manage the British Cattle Movement Service (BCMS)

·         Defra, RPA and the State Veterinary Service should work collaboratively to ensure that land & livestock data can be collected effectively and without multiple approaches to farmers

·         Without compromising its compliance work, the RPA inspectorate should explore the scope for playing an advisory role alongside that of enforcement;

Press release ~ Hunter review ~ Defra - RPA ~ Rural Payments Agency ~ NAO Report ~ Rural Development Service (RDS) ~ Entry Level Stewardship (ELS) ~ Rural Land Register (RLR) Briefing note ~ The Integrated Administration and Control System (IACS) - The Rural Land Register Data Capture Exercise - IACS 40: Guidance booklet (3Mb)  ~ EU Single Payment Scheme ~ Single Payment scheme ~ Land eligibility  ~ Welsh SPS ~ Scottish SPS


HC:  The Healthcare Commission (HC) has urged NHS trusts to ensure they provide accessible & high quality maternity care to all women, their babies and families.  The HC was reacting to the release of the report ‘Recorded Delivery’, the National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit (NPEU) survey on women’s experiences in maternity care, which paints a generally positive picture of the way mothers are experiencing maternity care in NHS trusts.


It shows most women are happy with the care they receive, but also provides examples of areas where trusts can improve & examine their services in more detail.  However postnatal care for women has shown a less marked improvement in some areas such as cleanliness and privacy since 1995.


The HC announced it is undertaking a major review of maternity care in England in response to concerns raised from its investigations about the quality of maternity services.  A full national report on maternity services will be released in 2008.

Press release ~ Recorded delivery: a national survey of women's experience of maternity care ~ The Healthcare Commission's programme for maternity services ~ National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit (NPEU) ~ Information Centre for Health and Social Care ~ Royal College of Midwives  ~ National Service Framework for children, young people and maternity services


Cabinet Office:  The Futurebuilders Advisory Panel (FBAP) has published their first progress report on the Government's Futurebuilders programme - in which they welcomed its work as 'highly innovative' / 'ahead of its time' and recommended the fund should be continued into a second phase to run from 2008-2011.Press release ~ Futurebuilders Advisory Panel Report to Ministers 2006 ~ Future Builders England ~ Cabinet Office ~ Futurebuilders Advisory Panel (FBAP) (scroll down) ~ Futurebuilders Scotland ~ Office of the Third Sector ~ Partnership in Public Services action plan


NAO:  The Heritage Lottery Fund has successfully supported projects which help preserve the UK’s heritage and make it more accessible, according to a new report published last week by the National Audit Office.


In awarding £3.8 billion of lottery funding to 24,000 projects, the Fund has supported projects delivering a range of benefits, such as restoring & conserving heritage assets, providing new facilities & opportunities for learning & access and creating greater public awareness & involvement in heritage.


Its robust processes have led to better, more sustainable projects but it now needs to do more to promote swifter delivery of heritage projects and provide better support to applicants and grant recipients.

Press release ~ NAO: Heritage Lottery Fund ~ Executive Summary ~ Supporting paper: Arup: Survey of Applicants to the Heritage Lottery Fund ~ Heritage Lottery Fund

Legislation / Legal

DCA:  New safeguards to protect householders in disputes over debts have been announced by Constitutional Affairs minister Vera Baird, who has pledged that bailiffs will not be given powers to enter domestic premises until a strict new licensing regime comes into effect.


The new safeguard is one of a range of measures in the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Bill designed to protect domestic householders.  The new power of forced entry will, it is claimed, only be available in strictly controlled circumstances, and with prior approval by a judge.

Press release ~ DCA - Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Bill ~ Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Bill ~ Directgov: Rights & responsibilities when bailiffs and other enforcement agents call ~ Consultation on longer-term options for the regulation of enforcement agents (closes 25 April 2007) ~ Security Industry Authority ~ National Debtline ~ Current National Standards for Enforcement Agents ~ FSA: Money made clear ~ DTI - Over Indebtedness ~ BBC Debt Test


Defra:  Defra has published, for consultation (closes 15 June 2007), proposals for modernising the hosepipe ban legislation.  The Government made a commitment last summer to update the 62 year old legislation, when one of the worst droughts in 100 years highlighted the gap between the way water was used in 1945 and the way it is used today.  The existing hosepipe ban rules cover only watering gardens and washing cars.


The joint Defra/Welsh Assembly Government consultation outlines proposals for replacing this with a 'discretionary use' ban, which would extend the scope to activities such as the filling of domestic swimming pools and using a hosepipe for cleaning patios and drives.


Changes are also proposed to the Drought Direction 1991, which identifies the uses which can be restricted under a drought order.  The aim is that the new discretionary use would apply primarily to domestic consumers, and that drought order powers extend controls to the commercial and public sectors.

Press release ~ Consultation documents ~ Defra - Drought ~ Defra – Water issues ~ Consumer Council for Water (CCWater) ~ Ofwat ~ Ofwat: The present statutory position concerning areas of water scarcity ~ Beat the Drought  ~ Defra: Adapting to climate change - Adaptation Policy Framework ~ Waterwise ~ Vulnerable groups scheme ~ Water Saving Group ~ EA Drought web pages ~ Drought orders ~ Water Saving Group

EU legislation, initiatives, etc.

FCO:  The UK will mark the 50th anniversary of the European Union by launching a major new initiative to develop learning partnerships between UK schools and their European counterparts.


Through Learning Together, information will be made available to schools across the UK about the range of opportunities to develop learning partnerships and do joint projects with European schools, building on other school partnership programmes like Comenius and e-Twinning.

Press release ~ Learning Together ~ Comenius ~ Comenius projects ~ Global gateway to e-Twinning ~ Teachernet e-twinning ~ MFLE - Links abroad using modern languages ~ British Council


Scottish Executive:  Scotland's recent experience of public consultations, such as the one that led to the smoking ban, is to be used by Europe in its plans to engage more effectively with its citizens.


First Minister Jack McConnell and the European Commission's Vice-President Margot Wallström met recently in Brussels to launch a report on citizen engagement which draws on the Scottish experience since devolution.  They also discussed how Scotland will continue to work with the Commission to help 'build a bridge' between Europe and its citizens.


Future work in Scotland will include:

·         Better pre-legislative consultation on European issues - based on Scottish successes such as the smoking consultation

·         Joint communications work between the Scottish government and the European Commission

·         Bringing Europe closer to the people through regular events and visits by senior European officials

Press release ~ Report on citizen engagement  ~ Evidence review ~ Building a Bridge project  ~ What is Europe? ~ Scottish Euro Info Centres ~ The UK Office of the European Parliament (in Scotland) ~ Scotland Europa

Charity and Voluntary Sector

Business and other briefings

HMRC:  New rules making it harder for organised criminals to steal VAT from the UK taxpayer (Missing Trader Intra-Community (MTIC) fraud) will be introduced on 1 June 2007.  Called the 'reverse charge', the measure will see a new VAT accounting system applied to mobile phones & computer chips.


Under the new procedure, the supplier of the specified goods does not account for the VAT on their sales when selling to other VAT-registered businesses - instead it is the responsibility of the purchaser of the goods to account for the VAT.


Provided that the purchaser has correctly done so, they can recover this VAT in the normal way.  This means that HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) is not put in a position where it may have to make repayments of VAT where the corresponding tax on the sale has not been paid to it.

Press release ~ Missing Trader Intra-Community (MTIC) VAT fraud ~ HMRC – How to spot it ~ VAT missing trader intra-Community fraud: the effect on Balance of Payments statistics and UK National Accounts ~ Further research ~ Article on identifying MTIC ~ Chartered Institute of Taxation paper


FSA:  The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has set out proposals for consultation (closes 20 June 2007) to reform the funding of the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) relating to retail business including:

·         introducing a 'widening circle' model of funding under which the first tranche of compensation costs emerging from a particular sub-class of firms is borne by that sub-class alone, while higher costs are shared more widely, and

·         expanding the overall financial capacity of the scheme - up to a maximum of £4.4 billion per annum


Subject to the consultation process, the FSA proposes that new funding arrangements will come into effect from 1 April 2008.

Press release ~ Consultation Paper 07/05 - FSCS Funding Review ~ Discussion Paper 06/1 ~ Funding of the Financial Services Compensation Scheme ~ Funding the Financial Services Compensation Scheme Analysis of policy options ~ Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) ~ Financial Services Practitioner panel ~ Financial Services Consumer Panel ~ FSA Smaller Businesses Practitioner Panel


FSA:  An interim report published by the Financial Services Authority demonstrates that consumer experiences and risk of detriment vary substantially across the various markets for general insurance products.  The FSA has decided, therefore, to consider a differentiated and more principles-based approach to insurance conduct of business (ICOB) regulation.


The FSA is therefore looking at removing most of the ICOB requirements for firms that go beyond minimum EU Directive requirements.  The essential safeguards to protect consumers would be retained, including the Principles for Businesses.


Reflecting the greater risks with personal protection products (such as payment protection and critical illness and their sale), the FSA is also considering a small number of measures to improve selling practices of protection products.


The FSA's ideas for rebalancing its general insurance regime are at an early stage and it will publish a Consultation Paper on possible rule changes in June 2007.  Any rule changes are likely to be made in December 2007.

Press release ~ Report & related documents (scroll down) ~ Critical Illness ~ Payment Protection Insurance  ~ Insurance conduct of business (ICOB) rules ~ The FSA Principles for Businesses


HMRC:  Revenue & Customs Brief 28/07

This Brief gives details of VAT treatment of contracted out local authority leisure service.


HMRC:  Revenue & Customs Brief 27/07

This Brief gives details of VAT: Cultural exemption - clarification of 'direct or indirect financial interest' [Note 2 (c) to Group 13 of Schedule 9 to the VAT Act 1994].


HMRC:  HM Revenue & Customs Brief 26/07

This Brief gives details concerning Alternative finance arrangements – “diminishing shared ownership” cases – implications for capital allowances and capital gains


HMRC:  HM Revenue & Customs Brief 25/07

This brief is an update to brief 21/07 - Interim Penalties for 2005-06 PAYE Returns.


HMRC:  HM Revenue & Customs Brief 24/07

This Brief gives details of an article concerning: VAT – Proposed reverse charge accounting for businesses trading in mobile telephones and computer chips: announcement of targeted implementation and details of how the rules will operate in practice; and exposure of draft legislation for comment.

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