ODPM:  Award for Sustainable Communities - Four local projects have been recognised in the ODPM’s Award for Sustainable Communities, which recognises projects & initiatives that contribute to making towns, cities & communities, including those in rural areas, better places in which to live & work.


The four finalists are:

·         The Regeneration of Attwood Green, Birmingham

·         Springhill Co-housing Community, Stroud, Gloucestershire

·         A New Deal for Braunstone, Leicester

·         From Survival to Sustainability: Taking Pride In Gravesham (part of the Thames Gateway), Gravesend, Kent


John Prescott will announce the overall winner at an award ceremony at the LGA Delivering Sustainable Communities Conference on 14 February, while last year's winner and finalists will be sharing their expertise at a one day national conference - Sustainable Communities: Vision Into Reality at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, Westminster on Friday 31 March 2006.

Press release ~ Award for Sustainable Communities ~ Optima Community Association ~ Estate Renewal Challenge Fund ~ Springhill Co-housing Community, Stroud ~ Architype ~ Sustainable Urban Drainage System (SUDS) ~ New Deal for Communities Fund ~ Braunstone Community Association (BCA) ~ FAB Fit and Active Braunstone project ~ 'Taking Pride in Gravesham' project


Defra:  The government ‘gives a 4x’ - The government has published two documents that provide advice on the maintenance of byways and the illegal use of motor vehicles on rights of way.


The first document - 'Regulating the use of motor vehicles on public rights of way and off road'  - is the first step in providing information to Local Authorities, the Police and Community Safety Partnerships on getting the most out of existing legislation, and to encourage the formation of local partnerships to tackle the continuing abuse.


The second document - 'Making the Best of Byways' - provides a practical reference manual for those involved in the maintenance of unsurfaced vehicular routes.   Among other things, it provides advice on dealing with:

·         conflicts between users

·         poor surface conditions, and

·         increasing pressure of use

Press release ~ Relevant documents ~ Natural Environment and Rural Communities Bill ~ Ramblers Association view ~ National Federation of Bridleway Associations ~ Yorkshire Dales Green Lanes Alliance ~ Trail Riders Fellowship ~ National Trust


DTI:  Providing an economic edge - The government launched a new partnership between businesses, research & technology organisations and universities, which is intended to help give UK manufacturing an edge as global markets become ever more competitive.


The Department of Trade and Industry will provide more than £11 million, over the next three years, for the Materials Knowledge Transfer Network, an organisation aimed at making cutting-edge science available on the factory floor.  The network will have sections dedicated to each class of material, for example, metals, composites, plastics, ceramics, minerals and smart materials.

Press release ~ Materials Knowledge Transfer Network ~ National Composites Network ~ National Metals ~ Technology Centre ~ DTI – Knowledge transfer networks ~ Technology Strategy


DH:  Re-branding Social Care - According to a government statement, brand new roles in social care could be created as part of a government review of the social care workforce called Options for Excellence.   The review's aim is to develop a workforce that can deliver personalised, user-led services and safeguard the well-being of vulnerable people.


The social care workforce is around one million people, approaching 5% of the working population of England, and provides support to around 1.5 million members of the public at any time


The Review will work in three linked phases:

·         By contributing to the DH's White Paper on care outside of hospitals & the DfES Children's Workforce Strategy.


·         Secondly, in spring 2006 it will produce proposals that will best tackle current short term problems and workforce reforms ahead of the Government CSR spending rounds.


·         Thirdly, it will model the social care workforce of the future & draft proposals to help employers change over the next 15 years. This work will be completed in Autumn 2006.

Press release ~ Skills for Care ~ Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) ~ British Assoc. of Social Workers (BASW) ~ DH Social Care website ~ DfES Children's Workforce Strategy ~ Your Health, your care, your say


Defra:  Cute but deadly - Biodiversity Minister, Jim Knight, has announced a new 3-year action plan to control grey squirrels, focusing on areas where they are damaging woodland and preventing red squirrels from becoming established, saying:  "Many people love grey squirrels, but the reality is that they are a real problem for some of our most threatened native species, like the red squirrel and dormouse.


It is not realistic, practical or even desirable to completely eradicate grey squirrels - but we must control them effectively now or there will be serious consequences”.


Grey squirrels are estimated to outnumber reds by approximately 66:1, with the majority of the red population confined to larger conifer woods in Cumbria and Northumbria.  They are largely responsible for the decline of the red squirrel in England because they are stronger & more adaptable than the red and they carry the Squirrelpox virus, which is lethal to red squirrels.

Press release ~ Forestry Commission Grey Squirrel website ~ Red Alert North England project ~ Defra  Non-native species website ~ Related article: Red squirrel week ~ Wight Squirrel Project ~ Squirrelpox virus ~ Audit of non-native species in England ~ UK Biodiversity Action Plan Website


Industry news: Monitoring not snooping - Royal London, a leading mutual Life and Pension company, is one of the first major UK employers to install innovative new security software designed by 3ami that can monitor the computer-based activity of its 2,900 staff across the UK.


Nick Harwood, Group IT Security Manager, said:  "Let's be clear: although the system will let us, we do not sit and secretly watch what people are doing day-to-day, but we do consider it our responsibility to be able to check, if we need to, how our IT is being used.  MAS is a non-intrusive system that complements existing security and enables us, in the case of a well-grounded allegation, to see what the reality was."


The real advantages of the system are in its application in monitoring actions undertaken by each PC and storing these so that its database can be interrogated, either on a daily basis or over a longer period of time.


Staff know (and are reminded when they connect that the system), that it is there to discourage:

·         theft of data files, including by emailing to a third party

·         bycopying, printing or deleting; and by saving to CD, floppy disk, USB memory stick or flash card

·         uploading/downloading of confidential files, pornography or other illegal images

·         use of racist, libellous, sexist, discriminatory, bullying or abusive language in emails or other documents

·         theft by copying applications for personal use


The result is a system that, whilst not actually preventing acts of misconduct, does offer an efficient means for organisations to respond. Investigations can produce results in a few mouse clicks, rather than the average of 2-3 man-days. 


This, when coupled with the clear communication of an organisation's security policy, provides strong controls against computer & systems misuse; and where such misuse does occur, provides clear and accurate evidence.

Full article ~ Information Commissioner EPC  and Supplementary (see Part 3) ~ News article ~ Business Link – Laws & penalties for improper monitoring ~ DTI - Lawful Business Practice Regulations


Forthcoming event: Mitigating the impact - Long-term sickness absence can have devastating effects on the productivity and the health & well being of employees. The statistics are clear, long-term sickness absence represents only 5% of absence cases, but accounts for 33% of working days lost due to sickness.


The HSE is running an event on 09 March 2006, which aims to provide delegates with examples to adapt & apply in their own sectors.


Benfits of properly managing sickness absence include holding on to valued staff, reducing unnecessary overheads, avoiding penalties for discriminating against disabled workers, maintaining service levels and improve workplace relations.


Specific issues, unions such as UNISON wants employers to address, include:

·         Reducing work-related injury, ill health and stress

·         Tackling workplace bullying

·         Providing measures to relieve pressures outside work, such as childcare and carers' leave

·         Providing an independent telephone help & counselling service which can provide financial & legal advice as well as stress counselling (Employee Assistance Programme)

·         Providing rehabilitation programmes following more serious illness, including phased returns to work, adapting work and the workplace environment, or redeployment with training if necessary

·         Providing properly resourced, independent occupational health services

Further details ~ HSE – Managing sickness & absence from work ~ HSE – Back pain in workplace ~ HSE – case study ~ Managing sickness absence in the public sector ~  Health, work and well-being – Caring for our future ~ Lone Parents, Health and Work (report series number 214) ~ Example policy & procedure ~ Seven steps to managing absence in the workplace ~ New approaches to cutting staff absence ~ Rehabilitation: the missing link in workplace safety and sickness absence ~ Outline report from the Chief Medical Officer for Wales on workplace health promotion ~ Stress-related absenteeism ~ Managing absence ~ Dos and don'ts for employers ~ The continuing cost of absenteeism


General News

FSA:  The UK's financial watchdog, the Financial Services Authority (FSA), is urging consumers to review their pensions arrangements and ensure they understand what the changes taking effect from April 6 2006 (A-day) could mean for them.


To help consumers understand the changes and take stock before A-day, the FSA is running a national campaign promoting a dedicated website.

Press release ~ FSA Pensions website ~ Consumer Pensions information ~ FSA Website ~ Pensions Service ~ DirectGov


NSoG:  The National School of Government has announced the appointment of the first Fellows to its Sunningdale Institute - a group (including internationally rated academics & industry figures) offering development to government & public service organisations on operational & delivery issues.


The new 'virtual academy' has been established within the National School to help officials formulating and implementing public service policy and strategy.

Press release ~ List of fellows ~ National School of Government ~ Lancaster University Management School ~ Civil Service reform website


DH:  NHS Chief Executive Sir Nigel Crisp has announced details of transition arrangements to oversee the creation of the new system over the next few months.


These arrangements include the appointment of eleven transitional leads for clusters of Strategic Health Authorities (SHAs) as an interim measure pending the outcome of consultations on proposed changes to SHA areas.


A number of changes will be made to the Departmental Board with some transitional changes from 1 February and a fully reshaped Board by July.  At which time two new posts will also be created:

·         Director of Commissioning, which will cover commissioning & performance

·         Director of Provider Development, to replace our current posts in the Delivery Group.

Press release ~ Future Healthcare network ~ NHS website

Policy Statements and Initiatives

Home Office:  The Government has announced its long-term strategy for reducing street prostitution, which rules out the idea of "managed zones" for prostitution and promises better enforcement of laws against kerb-crawling and those who exploit prostitutes; more opportunities for women to leave prostitution, including better links between police and projects that work with prostitutes; an increased focus on preventing children, particularly vulnerable children, from being lured into prostitution.


The Strategy proposes creating a new penalty for the offence of loitering or soliciting for prostitution, so that courts can direct women into services to help deal with drug or alcohol dependency treatment.


To prevent children entering prostitution, the Government will tighten up child protection guidance for social workers, focusing on those children who are most at risk of being lured into prostitution.   It will also create a guide for schools to be aware of the risks & early signs of prostitution, and help devise training for police officers, teachers & nurses to spot the signs & risks of sexual exploitation.

Press release ~ The Prostitution Strategy ~ UK Action Plan on Trafficking ~ LGA – Ahead of the game ~ Street Problems ~ Amnesty International – Sex trafficking ~ Strange situation in Germany ~ A Report of the Expert Group on Prostitution in Scotland ~ DH - Safeguarding children involved in prostitution: supplementary guidance to Working Together to Safeguard Children ~ Manchester prostitution forum ~ Barnardos ~ Capital Care project


HM Treasury:  Gordon Brown, has set out the details of his plans to increase the range of financial support & assistance from the Government to help older people keep warm, healthy & safe through the winter, that he had previously announced in December's Pre-Budget Report.

Press release ~ Defra - Warm Front ~ Applying for grants ~ DH - Keep Warm, Keep Well ~ Age Concern – Stop winter deaths ~ Heat project ~ Energy Saving Trust ~ CAB advice ~ Met Office ~ UK fuel poverty strategy ~ ACE website ~ Fuel Poverty Strategy for South Ayrshire


HSC:  The Health and Safety Commission is reminding the public & businesses that there is only just over one week left of the public consultation period on possible amendments to asbestos legislation. The consultation ends on 31 January 2006.


The draft package implements changes to the european asbestos worker protection directive and tightens statutory protections for those working with asbestos, by introducing a single, lower control limit for worker exposure to all types of asbestos and requiring specified training for all employees who are liable to be exposed to asbestos.


The consultation takes into account new research, which research shows that the risk from asbestos-containing textured decorative coatings is comparable to the risks from work with asbestos cement, something that already does not require a licence. It is proposed that work with such textured coatings will no longer require a licence.

Press release ~ Proposals for revised Asbestos Regulations and an Approved Code of Practice ~ HSE Asbestos website ~ HSL/2005/32 - An Investigation into the airborne fibre releases during the removal of textured coating from Domestic Premises (VLF 2Mb) ~ Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 2002 (CAWR)


DCA:  The government has published a consultation (closes 14 April 2006) on Lasting Powers of Attorney forms and guidance.  Under the new Mental Capacity Act 2005 Lasting Powers of Attorney will replace Enduring Powers of Attorney as the main way of choosing a decision-maker to act in the event of loss of mental capacity.


In addition to property & affairs, donors will be able to delegate decisions affecting their personal welfare, including healthcare.

Press release ~ Consultation paper: Lasting Powers of Attorney - forms and guidance ~ DCA Mental Capacity Act website ~ FAQs on Lasting Powers of Attorney, etc. ~ Planning ahead - a guide for people who wish to prepare for possible future incapacity ~ The Public Guardianship Office

Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides

Home Office:  Launching the second annual SAFE national anti-robbery week, Hazel Blears said that young people need to keep mobile phones and MP3 players safe at this time of year.


She unveiled an educational pack for use by schools, which includes interactive lesson and assembly plans aimed at giving young people the information & tips they need to stay safe, plus posters and leaflets.

Press release ~ SAFE national anti-robbery week (includes educational pack) ~ Crimestoppers ~ www.immobilise.com ~ Mobile Industry Crime Action Forum (MICAF)


WG Newswire:  News from the Government Office for the east of England, who have announced that there are a growing number of projects funded by the East of England European funding programmes, which demonstrate good practice in a number of themes.


This is an important element of the European funding programmes - to encourage, identify and disseminate innovative forms of project design & delivery – and their website presents case study documents describing how some projects have demonstrated good practice in their design and/or delivery.

Press release ~ Case studies ~ European Funding


DCA:  Do you know how to get yourself the best possible deal from a lawyer? Market research shows that most people don't, but consumers of legal services can now obtain guidance on how to secure the deal that's best for them.

Press release ~ CLS Direct website - '7 Questions guide to choosing a legal adviser' ~ Consumer Direct website ~ DCA White Paper: The Future of Legal Services: Putting Consumers First ~ Citizens Advice ~ Law Society ~ Choosing a solicitor ~ National Consumer Council ~ Which?


Welsh Assembly Govt:  Mothers whose babies were adopted at birth, and other relatives of adopted people, are now able to receive help in seeking to contact these children, while adopted adults will also be able to receive help in tracking down their birth parents.


New Welsh Assembly Government regulations & guidelines came into force on 30 December, 2005 under powers contained in the Adoption and Children Act 2005.


Under Freedom of Information and Data Protection laws adopted persons will first have to be contacted by an agency providing this contact service, unless the adopted person has registered a wish not to be contacted.  If the adopted person has not registered such a wish the agency will seek to contact them and then, only with their permission, can their details be passed on to the parent or other relative, in most cases the mother. The adopted person has the right to veto any contact or disclosure of information.

Press release (includes guide) ~ After Adoption ~ The Fostering Network ~ Related links ~ Adoption Training - Every child matters ~ DfES Adoption website

Annual Reports

General Reports and other publications

DWP:   Research published by the Department for Work and Pensions sets out findings from research which investigates how & when differences in work behaviour between men and women develop. It focuses on the evolution of gender gaps immediately after childbirth and during the initial years of family development.


The key findings are that childbirth and school entry are critical times for women relative to men in terms of a:

·         decline in relative participation level

·         reduction in wages

·         reduction in weekly hours of work

·         movement away from permanent positions

·         movement away from supervisory positions, and

·         movement towards working at home

Press release ~ Newborns and New Schools: Critical Times in Women's Employment  - Report (VLF 2MB) ~ Summary (1Mb) ~ Institute for Fiscal Studies ~ Families and Children Study (FACS) ~ British Household Panel Survey (BHPS) 

Legislation / Legal

DfES :  Education Secretary Ruth Kelly has announced an overhaul of the current system by which schools, supply agencies and other employers vet & approve staff working in schools - to ensure that it is ‘immeasurably strengthened and fundamentally rebalanced to ensure that child safety is always the most important factor’.


A new Bill to be introduced next month is intended to integrate & upgrade the current List 99 and Protection of Children Act lists of individuals deemed unsuitable to work with children, with a centralised vetting & barring system run by a statutory body.  Any individual working with children who is convicted or cautioned for sex offences against children will be automatically entered on List 99 and barred from working in schools.


It will also be mandatory for all schools, supply agencies and other employers in the education sector to perform Criminal Records Bureau checks on all newly-appointed teachers and school workers.


Furthermore,  ahead of new legislation to remove Ministers entirely from the barring process, a high level panel of police, child protection workers and medical practitioners led by the former head of Barnados, Sir Roger Singleton, will give expert advice on every barring decision.

Press release ~ Every Child Matters website – Vetting and Barring scheme (Scroll down for Post - Bichard Inquiry progress reports) ~ Criminal Records Bureau ~ List 99 ~ DfES: The Protection of Children Act 1999 - A Practical Guide to the Act for all Organisations Working with Children (Revised September 2005) ~ Teachernet - Safeguarding Children: Safer Recruitment and Selection in Education Settings


DTI:  New government proposals that aim to improve payments to firms in the construction industry have been published by Minister of State for Industry and the Regions, Rt Hon Alun Michael MP and Edwina Hart, the Welsh Assembly Government Minister for Social Justice and Regeneration.


In total 356 responses were submitted in the 2005 consultation and the document outlines the Government’s proposals in the light of those responses and announces the Government’s planned next steps towards amending the legislation.

Press release ~ 2005 consultation analysis


Home Office:  The government has announced that it is introducing a ‘robust’ set of standard powers for Community Support Officers (CSOs) to help tackle low level crime and anti-social behaviour.  The proposed standard set is intended to ensure that ‘CSOs in all areas have the powers necessary to deal with issues they are likely to encounter on the street while leaving the designation of a number of powers to the discretion of Chief Officers’.


In addition to (but not included in) the standard set of powers, it is proposed to extend the power to take part in truancy sweeps to CSOs.  The Government believes that CSOs are well placed to undertake this activity given their local knowledge of children in their area.

Press release ~ Public & government responses to consultation ~ White Paper 'Building Communities, Beating Crime' ~ Respect Action plan ~ List of powers currently available for designation by a Chief Officer ~ Home Office CSO website ~ CSOs – the job

EU legislation, initiatives, etc.

Defra:  Environment Secretary, Margaret Beckett opened a new Defra and EU funded winery when she visited the award-winning Bookers Vineyard on the Bolney Wine Estate, in the heart of rural West Sussex.


Bookers Vineyard has benefited from a Processing and Marketing Grant (PMG) award of £62,000 under the England Rural Development Scheme (ERDP) [jointly funded by Defra and the EU], which is designed to improve the agricultural processing and marketing infrastructure in England.

Press release ~ Bookers Vineyard ~ Processing and Marketing Grant (PMG) ~ England Rural Development Scheme (ERDP) ~ Strategy for Sustainable Farming and Food ~ Rural Development Service (RDS) ~ English-wine.com ~ English wine producers

Charity and Voluntary Sector

Defra:  Work to reduce poverty in developing countries, by creating sustainable access to clean water and adequate sanitation, is delivering on-the-ground results, a UK partnership - Partners for Water and Sanitation (PAWS) – has announced.


The partnership was set up in response to the Millennium Development Goals for Water and Sanitation and has initially focussed on Africa, where the challenge is greatest.  The members met this week for their second annual forum, marking the end of a year in which the focus has shifted from scoping & testing work towards delivering measurable outcomes.

Press release ~ Partners for Water and Sanitation (PAWS) ~ WaterAid ~ Tearfund ~ Millennium Development Goals for Water and Sanitation ~ Monitoring the Goals ~ World water assessment programme ~ Millennium indicators

Business and other briefings

HMRC:  VAT Business Brief 01/06


·         VAT: Judgment of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in the joined cases of Optigen Ltd, Fulcrum Electronics Ltd and Bond House Systems Ltd

·         VAT: Company formation services with ancillary printed matter- clarification of treatment post-CPP

·         VAT: Hotel conference / function facilities - revised interpretation of law on VAT treatment

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

Industry News

Virtual world delivers savings - Your Communications was approached by four of the West Midlands region's largest NHS Trusts to help review their communications needs. The health trusts wanted a network to facilitate communications between each other and university sites such as the medical school at Manchester University. Cost-efficiency & reliability were of top priority, as well as the network's capacity for integrated, high bandwidth transmissions.


The solution provided - a sophisticated Virtual Private Network (VPN) using a fibre-optic infrastructure as a backbone for voice traffic - delivers a totally secure 'members only' service transmitting high-speed voice traffic, with calls between sites  (originally 4, but now 30 in total) all being free.


TRUSTnet has proved to be such a success that it has increased in size from 4 sites in 1997 to over 30 in 2001. The network now links hospital and university sites across Merseyside, Cheshire, Greater Manchester, Lancashire and Birmingham.


Chris Collins, clinical engineer at George Eliot, NHS Trust, said: "Were aiming to save more than 20% a year on our current phone bills.

Full article ~ Your Communications

Forthcoming Event

Date: 03 March 2006

Venue: London

Organiser: CIPFA - Introduction to Central Government Finance


The event will provide up-to-date information for those new to finance in Central Government. The course gives a clear introduction to the main issues impacting on the finance manager in Government Departments, Agencies and NDPBs.  Delegates will gain knowledge of essential tools and techniques useful for their everyday practice and have the opportunity to network with colleagues and other stakeholders.


Presentations and workshops will cover the following issues:

·         Financial management in government: - Scope & funding, Financial reporting & accounting arrangements, Resource accounting & Budgeting, Statutory & regulatory requirements and ‘Professionalising’ the Central Government finance function


·         The Financial Accounting Framework: - Accounting concepts, Resource accounting, Whole of Government Accounts and Internal & External audit


·         Financial Planning: -  The role of finance in ensuring efficiency, Expenditure planning & control, The role of Her Majesty’s Treasury, The control framework for planning & control and The resource budget


·         Performance Management: - Public Service Agreements, Department Capability Reviews, Efficiency, Targets & Measures and Agency Performance Frameworks


·         Streamed workshops covering the format of accounts and financial reporting arrangement in Departments, Agencies and NDPBs

Full details ~ CIPFA central government panel ~ Newsletters ~ HM Treasury ~ IMF government finance statistics ~ KPMG – Government’s finance agenda ~ Government Accountancy Service ~ National Statistics Economic update ~ Bank of England

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