Fellows’ Associates: Fair National Penalties - Fellows’ Associates has called for the introduction of a national Penalty Notice Act in its response to a Defra consultation on draft guidance for the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005.


Welcoming the fair use of penalty notices to tackle environmental crime & regulatory wrong-doing, the response commends Defra’s systematic approach to environmental crime enforcement and called for a similar approach to be adopted by government as a whole.  The response also highlights Fellows’ key concerns relating both to the guidance and the way the penalty notice system is developing in the UK.


Kathy Sutton, Director of Fellows’ Associates, said:  “Penalty notices can play a role in an effective enforcement system which embraces education and communication with the public as a central part of its strategy.  The current system is confused, complex and incoherent.


Government departments are creating penalty notice offences in more and more legislation in an inconsistent fashion. If public trust in the penalty notice system is not to be undermined then it is crucial that the system is transparent and seen to be fair.


 There is a real need for a national Penalty Notice Act to provide people with the clarity, transparency and accountability that is required in a modern system of justice.  Without this in place there is a real danger that citizens will be persuaded that well-meaning pieces of legislation such as the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act are really concerned with revenue-raising through the back door.”

Press release ~ Fellows’ Associates ~ Defra Consultation ~ Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005 ~ Defra Clean Neighbourhoods & Environment website ~ Penalty notices: a guide to public policy and the law ~ The New Enforcers – Local Authorities and the penalty notice system


DH:  Choose and Book - From 1st January 2006, all eligible patients across England have had the right to exercise choice over where & when they get hospital treatment, according to the government


The government claims that patients now have the right to be offered the choice of at least four hospitals or clinics when they need to see a specialist for further treatment and that this will drive up standards across the NHS.  This of course ignores the fact that a significant part of the population only has one (or at most two) hospitals located within a reasonable travelling distance of their homes.


The concept is that, when a patient is referred to a specialist for further treatment, they will be provided with the information they need to make a choice about which hospital or clinic appointment is best for them. They can then book the appointment there and then but patients also have the option to take away information about their local hospitals and make their choice later.


Worryingly this is using the same system that, according to a NAO report last year, was supposed to have processed 200,000+ bookings in 2004 and only managed 100.


During 2006 the government claims that it will be extending choice further, and by 2008 patients will be able to choose from any hospital or provider which meets NHS standards at NHS costs.


However, a NAO report published in September 2005 found that – ‘An overwhelming majority of respondents felt that the consultation on implementation of Choose and Book was inadequate – 93% of respondents felt this’.

Press release ~ Choice & Book website ~ Choice at referral guidance ~ Demonstration Tool ~ Implementation guidance ~ NAO Report: Patient Choice at point of GP referral - Full Report ~ Summary ~ GP Survey ~ Knowledge of the Choose and Book Programme Amongst GPs in England - An update September 2005


DH:  Living longer at home - The government claims new figures show that older people are increasingly being given the chance to live independently at home, thanks to advances in technology and a ‘government commitment’ to helping older people maintain their independence.


Not only is it much cheaper for the public sector to support people at home, rather than trying to place them in one of the rapidly vanishing number of residential homes, it also puts off the day that a council can force the sale of an individual’s home, thus giving hope that they might be able to leave their children with an inheritance after a lifetime of financial prudence.

Press release ~ PTG Funding ~ Health and Social Care Information Centre's report ~ Achieving the promise of Telecare ~ NHS confederation – Telecare and new technologies ~ Building Telecare in England ~ Telecare implementation guide ~ Telecare: Using Information and Communication Technology to Support Independent Living by Older, Disabled and Vulnerable People ~ Telecare Collaborative ~ Foundation for Assistive Technology (FAST)


Ordnance Survey:  Mapping educational packages - Ordnance Survey is publishing a free teachers' guide to education packages that use its digital map data, at the educational ICT event - the BETT show at Olympia, London.  It will also be distributed directly to schools throughout Britain along with the winter edition of the mapping agency's education magazine, Mapping news.


Elaine Owen, Ordnance Survey's education manager said:  "There is a growing range of software that is revolutionising how pupils use mapping data across the school curriculum.  We want to help teachers decide what is right for their particular classes and so the guide sets out the benefits & features of each software tool and summarises essential details of the packages."

Full article ~ Ordnance Survey’s educational resources ~ MapZone web site ~ EDINA Datacentre ~ Mapping news


BESA / EMAP Education:  Education, education, educationWhile some politicians have failed to deliver on their promises despite umpteen White Papers and Billions of pounds, The Education Show at the N.E.C (9th - 11th March 2006) will deliver on it promise to address key issues in education across all subject areas, with a particular focus on core curriculum areas such as English, Maths and Science.


It covers the entire education spectrum, from early learning to further education and every subject area in-between and is designed to provide all levels of teachers from all specialisms, with a unique opportunity to review the widest selection of resources required to deliver better education, from pre-school through to nineteen.  

 Full details ~ EMAP education ~ British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA)

General News

DCA:  Consumers in England & Wales who want to claim up to £15,000 compensation for poor work by solicitors will no longer have to go through the courts.  From 1 January 2006, the Law Society can order a solicitor to make a payment up to £15,000, whereas previously complainants had to go to court for compensation of more than £5,000.


Consumers seeking redress above the £15,000 ceiling will still have to take their case to court.

Press release ~ Solicitors (Compensation for Inadequate Professional Services) Order ~ Law Society – Dealing with complaints ~ Community Legal Services Direct


WG Newswire:  The Prime Minister's recommendations to The Queen for the New Year Honours List.

Press release ~ New Year Honours list ~ Ceremonial Secretariat ~ Reform of the Honours system ~ Public Administration Committee report


Defra:  All Councils have been informed of the opportunity they have to apply for 'Direct Consultancy Support' in 2006/07 and 2007/08, following the government’s decision to continue providing specialist support to help local authorities manage their waste more effectively for another two years through Defra's Waste Implementation Programme (WIP).


Initially, WIP is looking for applications to fund 'time-critical' projects that need to start by May 2006, with separate funding then being made available in October 2006.

Press release ~ Guidance and application form ~ LA support website ~ Defra Recycling website


MOD:  Four new contracts to help inform decisions on which technologies will be used for the Army's next generation of armoured fighting vehicles have been awarded by Atkins, the FRES Systems House.


BAE Systems have been awarded contracts for a Chassis Concept Technology Demonstrator Programme (TDP) and also potential light bridging concepts.


Thales UK, teamed with Boeing, has been selected to lead the Integrated Survivability (IS) programme, while the fourth contract has been awarded to Lockheed Martin UK for an Electric Armour TDP.

Press release ~ FRES ~ Chassis Concept Technology Demonstrator Programme (TDP)

Policy Statements and Initiatives

DH:  Health minister Rosie Winterton has announced the seven organisations that have been chosen to pilot the new Independent Mental Capacity Advocacy (IMCA) role.  From January 2006, pilot IMCA advocates will provide a service to people without capacity, who have no families or friends to support them.


An IMCA is someone appointed to support & represent a person without capacity, possibly because of dementia, a brain injury, a learning disability or mental health needs, who is also faced with certain decisions about serious medical treatment and long term care moves.


The IMCA (due to role out in 2007) will bring to the attention of the decision-makers all factors that are relevant to their decision and will also be able to challenge the decision-maker if appropriate.

Press release ~ Mental Capacity Act 2005 ~ Previous consultation (closed on 30 September) ~ Advocacy Matters ~ Advocacy Partners ~ Cambridge House Advocacy ~ Dorset Advocacy ~ POhWER ~ Speaking Up


DH:  A consultation (closes 10 February 2006) into care home price information has been launched by Care Services Minister Liam Byrne in response to the Office for Fair Trading (OFT) report, released in May 2005.  The National Minimum Standards and regulations for care homes already require them to provide this information, but do not specify when.


The new proposals are intended to remove this ambiguity and require homes to provide prices prior to the person moving into the home.

Press release ~  OFT report ~ Age Concern response to OFT report ~ OFT: Care Homes for older people in the United Kingdom - A guide to unfair terms in privately funded care home contracts ~ Pension Service on Care Homes ~ JRF - Calculating operating costs for care homes


Home Office: The government has launched a public consultation (closes on 5 April 2006) on a national action plan which is intended to build upon existing measures designed to tackle the appalling modern day slave trade of human trafficking.


The consultation will look at all forms of trafficking in human beings, covering labour exploitation as well as sexual exploitation and trafficking in children.  

Press release ~ Tackling Human Trafficking - Consultation on Proposals for a UK Action Plan ~ EU plan on best practices, standards and procedures for combating and preventing trafficking inhuman beings ~ EU action against trafficking in human beings and the sexual exploitation of children ~Trafficking News Monthly ~ OSCE Special Representative on Combating Trafficking in Human Beings ~ Operation Reflex – BBC news item


Defra:  Comments are invited via email to cpet@proforest.net (by 16 January) regarding the assessment of a scheme to ensure that Government contracts use only timber which meets the Government's sustainability requirements.


The assessment comes after the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification Schemes (PEFC) adopted new standards in order to meet the Government's requirements for timber and wood products to come from legal &sustainable sources.

Press release ~ CPET website ~ Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification Schemes (PEFC) ~ Public procurement of timber in EU ~ Canadian Standards Association (CSA) ~ Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)

Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides

DH:  Chief Medical Officer Sir Liam Donaldson has launched a new website providing important information for people considering cosmetic surgery, including what standards to expect from providers, what qualifications to look for and what questions to ask.

Press release ~ Cosmetic Surgery website ~ Expert Group’s report and DH’s response ~ Cosmetic Surgery Interspecialty Committee (CSIC) - Advice ~ Healthcare Commission ~ British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons ~ Independent Healthcare Forum

Annual Reports

Defra:  Defra claims that 2005 has been a positive year for England's wildlife & habitats in its annual Biodiversity Stocktake, compiled by the England Biodiversity Group, which is made up of major stakeholders from the public, voluntary and private sectors who oversee the implementation of the UK Biodiversity Strategy.


The stocktake highlights the claimed achievements & challenges across the ten workstreams of the Strategy.

Press release ~ Stocktake Report ~ Biodiversity Action Plan ~ England Biodiversity Group ~ Environmental Stewardship agreements ~ Planning Policy Statement 9: Biodiversity and Geological Conservation ~ Draft Marine Bill ~ EU Marine Strategy

General Reports and other publications

Socitm:  The Society of IT Management (Socitm) is raising the bar on what standard it expects councils to achieve in website design for modern public services.  From January 2007 a new rank will be added to the existing ranks of P (promotional), C (content), C+ (content plus) and T (transactional).


The new rank of ‘E’ - for an ‘excellent’ website that is also effective, efficient and engaging - will be positioned higher than the current T (transactional) status. 


Socitm Insight’s ‘useful, usable & used’ criteria, which are used to help rank sites, have been fully reviewed and brought up to date and version 2 of the framework is set out in Better connected: aiming high, which also provides an explanation of the criteria used by Socitm Insight to judge ’what makes a website a compelling user experience’.


Examples of twelve sites that offer a compelling user experience are provided in the report along with detailed analysis from the Better connected team of what makes them such good websites.

Press release ~ Socitm website


Home Office:  Catching criminals has evidently become easier, with the government reporting that detection of crime through DNA technology has quadrupled over the last five years.


A report shows that the DNA Expansion Programme has enhanced the ability of the police to detect serious crime - providing them with around 3,000 matches a month.

Press release ~ DNA Expansion Programme 2000-2005: Reporting Achievement ~ Related publications ~ Forensic Science Service DNA website  ~ Privacy fears ~ Case files ~ National DNA database

Legislation / Legal

Home Office:  From 1 January 2006, the police have had a wider range of powers to draw upon ‘giving them the tools they need to reduce crime and keep our communities safe’, including a simplified rationalised power of arrest for all ‘offences’.


This new power supposedly includes significant safeguards that enable the police to tackle crime effectively and raises, rather than reduces, accountability in the use of these powers.  Home Office Minister, Hazel Blears claims that the emphasis is now on providing justification for arrests.


The government has also published revised codes of practice related to powers of arrest under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE), which supersede the existing codes.

Press release ~ Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 ~ PACE codes revision ~ Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA)


DCA:  New measures to help limit the risk of credit being given to the wrong people have been introduced by the government in order to help provide more & better information for the purposes of credit referencing and to assist responsible lending & help reduce over indebtedness.


High Court judgements in debt cases will be available for inspection by credit reference agencies from April 2006 under new rules providing for the registration of such judgements.

Press release ~ Register of Judgments and Fines Regulations 2005 ~ Citizens Advice Bureau ~ Community Legal Services Direct – Dealing with debt ~ National Debt Line ~ Business Debtline ~ DTI - Over-indebtedness

EU legislation, initiatives, etc.

Pensions Regulator:  From January 2006, UK pension schemes wishing to operate cross-border will need to get authorisation and approval from the Pensions Regulator. The new requirements are part of the EU Directive 2003/41, commonly known as the IORP or Occupational Pensions Directive.


The Pensions Regulator has published guidance & application forms on its website.

Press release ~ Guidance and forms ~ EU Directive 2003/41


CICA:  The Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) has launched a new service for UK residents who have been injured as a result of a crime of violence in another European Union (EU) country on or after 1 July 2005.


The European Compensation Assistance Team (EUCAT) has been set up to help potential applicants from throughout the UK gain access to information about compensation in the country in which they were injured and to apply for compensation there.

Press release ~  CICA - EU Criminal Injuries Compensation Schemes ~ Contact European Compensation Assistance Team on 0845 603 2938 or e-mail eucat@cica.gsi.gov.uk ~ Your rights in EU ~ European Directive 2004/80/EC ~ The Victims of Violent Intentional Crime (Arrangements for Compensation) (European Communities) Regulations 2005 ~ Victims of crime in Scotland ~ Home Office – victims of crime

Charity and Voluntary Sector

Business and other briefings

DTI:  The Government has made an order to provide for an increase in merger fees charged by the competition authorities with effect of 1 April 2006. This increase will be phased in a two-stage process over a three-year period and the amendment also provides for foreign acquirers to be charged a merger fee for the first time.

Press release ~ OFT Substantive mergers guidance ~ DTI mergers website ~ consultation responses


HMRC:  VAT Business Brief 25/05


·         Intrastat - Changes from 1 January 2006

·         Issue of Revised Public Notice 226 Beer Duty

·         Motor and heating fuels - Relief from Excise Duty on rebated oils used to generate electricity - New Public Notice

Press release ~ Business Briefs 2005 (it sometimes takes time to appear here)

Industry News

Dstl:  Crucial research by scientists at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) could enable doctors to identify the onset of disease in their patients even before the symptoms begin to show.


To date, it has not been possible to identity pre-symptomatic infections, but Dstl can now demonstrate that distinct patterns occur in the immune system which indicates whether a patient has been infected.


This ground-breaking research stems from the desire to increase the chances of survival and recovery of UK Armed Forces personnel that may become infected with biological warfare agents.

Full article ~ DH web page ~ HPA Deliberate release website ~ Bio-terror/warfare ~ Bradford peace centre ~ SIPRI CBW Project ~ Behind the Mask: Biological Warfare ~ OMNI Biological warfare website ~ Centre for Biosecurity ~ MOD Chemical warfare papers ~ MOD Medical countermeasures ~ Management of sepsis


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