CCWater: Thames Water loses penalty shoot-out – With Thames Water’s ability to meet its leakage targets on par with the accuracy of the England penalty takers, both the Consumer Council for Water and Defra have welcomed Ofwat’s decision to legally bind Thames Water into carrying out repairs worth £150 million in addition to their normal commitments – over double the maximum imposable fine.
The undertaking will replace 368km of mains at the expense of its shareholders and commits the company to achieving demanding future leakage targets and security of supply for Londoners and other Thames customers by March 2010.
Ofwat has promised that the company's progress will be closely monitored and that subsequent failures would lead to further enforcement action, including fines if appropriate, from 2007.
Dame Yve Buckland, Chair of CCWater, said: "A deal is a deal. Yet Thames took consumers' money without delivering on their promises - it is only right that they should give back what they owe to their customers, and this is what we have been pushing for. However, this is better returned in the lasting form of improved services, rather than a financial penalty on the company which would simply swell the Treasury's coffers without directly benefiting consumers."
Thames Water has failed to meet its leakage targets for four successive years and last month admitted that it loses 894 million litres of water each day from its network - enough to fill 358 Olympic swimming pools.
Press release – CCWater ~ Press release – Defra ~ Press release - Ofwat ~ Five fast fixes for households on water saving - CCWater ~ CCWater ~ Thames Water ~ Consumer blog on the current water restrictions - CCWater ~ Leakage from public water supply – Environment Agency ~ Beat the Drought
Healthcare Commission: ‘Significant failings’ call for special measures - The Healthcare Commission has recommended special measures after widespread institutional abuse of people with learning disabilities was discovered at an NHS Trust in Cornwall.
A report published by the Healthcare Commission and the Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCI) details findings of a joint investigation into services for people with learning disabilities at Cornwall Partnership NHS Trust.
The report describes many years of abusive practices at the trust and the failure of senior trust executives to tackle this.
Investigators found evidence of institutional abuse including some staff hitting, pushing, and dragging people, withholding food, administering cold showers, an over-reliance on medication to control behaviour, as well as illegal and prolonged use of restraint.
A number of staff working in the homes were found to be caring and well intended, however, they were not working in accordance with best practice.
The investigation revealed serious and wide-reaching flaws in the local NHS Trust’s procedures for protecting adults.
Senior managers failed to identify and correct situations involving physical, emotional and environmental abuse.
Press release ~ Additional press release ~ Healthcare Commission ~ Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCI) ~ Cornwall Partnership NHS Trust ~ Protection of vulnerable adults (POVA) ~ No secrets: guidance on developing and implementing multi-agency policies and procedures to protect vulnerable adults from abuse ~ NHS Counter Fraud and Security Management Service ~ Mencap ~ Criminal Records Bureau (CRB)
JRF: Child poverty proving expensive - A study by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation has concluded that the Government’s existing policies will not be enough to reduce child poverty in line with its targets, despite its recent success in bringing child poverty down.
The wide-ranging study, the first systematic attempt to calculate what will be needed to achieve these ambitious targets, estimated the future impact of current policies and examined what it will take to halve child poverty by 2010 and end it by 2020.
The report suggests that if current policies continue unchanged, the Government’s earlier target of reducing child poverty by a quarter (by 2004/5) might not be met until 2020, and that if the original final target was to be met then it would be too expensive to rely only on state redistribution to end child poverty over this period.
The report concluded that ending child poverty in a generation can only be achieved if both benefits/tax credits become more generous and parents’ earning opportunities are improved.
However, the report’s author does acknowledge that whatever the eventual cost of ending child poverty, the cost to society is likely to be much greater in the long term if the problem is ignored, stipulating that as well as the human and social damage, there are direct costs to taxpayers.
Press release ~ Report: What will it take to end child poverty? Firing on all cylinders ~ Summary of findings ~ A series of background papers on child poverty ~ Micro-simulating child poverty in 2010 and 2020 ~ Five case studies ~ End Child Poverty coalition ~ Joseph Rowntree Foundation ~ Child Poverty Action Group ~ Save the children ~ Shelter ~ ActionAid
HSE: The end of a sick joke? - The popular view that public sector workers take more sick leave than their private sector counterparts, which has been a cornerstone of friendly rivalry between the two sectors, could be a misleading according to a HSE report.
The results of the Survey on Workplace Absence, Sickness and (ill) Health (SWASH) 2005, suggest that there is evidence of higher rates of employer under-recording of employee absence within the private sector, this being concentrated within smaller businesses.
The survey, confirmed that levels of absence were higher in organisations with more than 250 employees, the argument here being that almost all public sector organisations employ more than 250 employees, whilst the majority of private sector employees work in small or medium sized organisations.
The survey also found that public sector workers are more likely to work when they are ill than those in the private sector and that stress was reported more widely amongst public than private sector respondents, the public sector citing that more of their workers work face to face with the public than their private sector counterparts.
There also appeared to be notable differences in sick pay arrangements between the private and public sectors, with over one-fifth of private sector respondents reporting that they received no pay for the first three days of continuous absence.
Press release ~ Managing sickness absence & return to work ~ Workplace Health Connect ~ Confederation of British Industry ~ Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) ~ Creating a healthy workplace ~ Reducing costs from absence ~ Work-related stress ~ UK National Work-Stress Network
DCLG: Trust me, I’m a politician! - The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Ruth Kelly, has urged Central and local government to now move into an era of mutual trust.
Announcing the direction she wants to head in the build up to the Local Government White Paper to be published in the autumn, Ms Kelly outlined a shift from the 'top down State' to the 'trusting state'; from 'earned autonomy' to 'presumed autonomy'; and from a process-driven system to a people-driven one.
Ms Kelly's comments included a vision of an “unprecedented era of devolution” in which “citizens had choice over the services, empowered communities [and] self-confident local authorities playing a key strategic and scrutiny role”.
Ms Kelly recently published a new report - Mapping the Local Government Performance Reporting Landscape - about burdens on local government.
It says that 80% of the performance reporting produced by councils is information required by Whitehall and only 20% is for direct local benefit.
In a stark admission of the nonsensical levels of red tape, Ms Kelly announced the aptly named Lifting Burdens Task Force to reduce burdens on local government.
The purpose of the task force is to tell the Government which requirements cause the most aggravation on the ground and which add the least value - and then to agree packages of burden reduction with central government through the Central Local Partnership.
Press release ~ Ruth Kelly’s speech ~ Report: Mapping the Local Government Performance Landscape ~
Local Government Association (LGA) ~ Central and Local Government Information Partnership (CLIP) ~ Local Government - DCLG ~ UK Local Government ~ Improvement and Development Agency (I&DeA) ~ New Local Government Network
CIOB: A new independent survey has confirmed the news respectable builders have been longing for and shown that a decisive 91% of homeowners were either satisfied or extremely satisfied with building work carried out within the last three years.
Perhaps more significantly, most of those questioned were found to have followed sensible procedures for choosing and working with builders, suggesting that increasingly careful behaviour is helping to drive the cowboy builder out of the market; resulting in more opportunities for builders who have developed a good reputation through high quality work and reliable behaviour.
For example, 82% had employed either a builder known to them already or because of a recommendation, with 91% getting some form of verbal or written quote prior to the work being done.
The majority (82%) made some kind of check, either following up references or checking that the builder was a member of a professional body.
The survey also put paid to the myth that customers have to wait an age for builders to begin work - most builders (76%) started work within a month of work being commissioned.
Press release ~ The Cowboy Builder: A public perspective ~ CIOB ~ Office of Fair Trading (OFT) ~ Find a building – Federation of Master Builders ~ Avoiding the Cowboys ~ buildthisway.co.uk ~ The cowboy builder comes in two disguises – UK-Builder.com ~ Customer relations for builders - UK-Builder.com
Defra: As we bask in the hot sunny weather (or seek refuge by the A/C unit) the conditions combined with pollutant emissions from the continent and locally have contributed to high concentrations of ground level ozone over most of England and Wales.
High ozone levels were recorded in London, Birmingham, Manchester, Newcastle, Brighton, Leicester, Portsmouth, Swansea, Midlands, north-east, north-west, south-east and south-west England, East Anglia and South Wales.
Despite the recent high levels of ozone, peak levels are generally decreasing in the UK due to tighter emission standards for road vehicles and comprehensive controls on industrial processes and domestic sources.
Press release ~ Air Quality Archive gives regular updates ~ Heat wave plan ~ Consultation on the review of the Air Quality Strategy closes 11 July 2006 ~ Ground Level Ozone ~ EU Ambient Air Quality Directives ~ Defra Air Quality ~ Defra Air Quality e-Digest statistics ~ UK Air Pollution Information System
CEOP: The Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre has announce a series of workshops designed to look at the growing phenomenon of social networking sites, inviting a cross-section of young people, parents, educators and key online industry players.
The events are to be held on the week beginning 17th July to discuss this latest online trend and how young people can stay safe in this virtual environment.
Launched on 24th April 2006, CEOP brings together law enforcement officers, specialists from children's charities and industry to work in unison under one roof, providing a unique holistic approach to the growing problem of child abuse.
In support, major corporations such as Microsoft, AOL and VISA, as well as children's charities including the NSPCC and Childnet International have put considerable resources and weight behind the new initiative.
If parents, educators, young people and industry are interested in taking part, please send an email to email@example.com
Press release ~ Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre ~ ThinkuKnow ~Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) ~ NSPCC inform ~ Child Protection Policing - Home Office ~ Child Protection on the Internet – Home Office ~ Virtual Global Taskforce ~ Childnet International
DTI: The Council for Science and Technology (CST) has been asked by Government to review progress of its commitments on nanotechnology policy and will cover the Government's actions in the two years since their response to the Royal Society/Royal Academy of Engineering report ‘Nanoscience and nanotechnologies: opportunities and uncertainties’.
Comments are being invited on:
· The extent to which the Government has taken forward the commitments described in its Response.
· The timeliness and effectiveness of the actions taken by Government.
· Whether there have been significant developments in nanoscience/nanotechnology since February 2005 which raise new issues the Government did not address in its Response, and should now.
Written submissions will be accepted until 2 October 2006, to be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The review will be published in spring 2007.
Press release ~ Call for Evidence ~ Nanoscience and Nanotechnologies: opportunities and uncertainties (VLF 3.42Mb) ~ Report broken down into individual sections ~ Government's response ~ Nanotechnology Review website ~ Office of Science and Technology Nanotechnology Policy ~ Nanotechnology - DTI ~ Institute of Nanotechnology ~ Nanotechnology: Small science, big deal – Science Museum
HO: A National Policing Board is to be created to drive improvements and strengthen the governance of policing in England and Wales, providing a national forum for communication on the challenges facing policing today.
The main functions of the Board will be to:
· Agree the Home Secretary's annual national strategic priorities for policing.
· Set key priorities for the National Policing Improvement Agency.
· Set agreed priorities for the police reform programme.
· Enable Ministers, the leaders of the police service and police authorities to monitor progress in implementing the reform programme and identify and overcome barriers to delivery.
· Provide a regular forum for joint debate and three way communication on the opportunities and challenges facing policing.
Press release ~ National Policing Improvement Agency ~ Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) ~ Association of Police Authorities (APA) ~ National Policing Plan 2005-08 ~ Police Service UK ~ Home Office police
DTI & HMRC: Employees in the childcare sector who are paid less than the minimum wage will be given a helping hand by the Government in a joint DTI and HM Revenue & Customs venture.
Teams from HMRC, which ensures payment of the minimum wage, will begin a year-long enforcement campaign after finding one in three of the nurseries paying less than the minimum wage.
The Paymaster General commented that there was a belief that misunderstanding contributes to the problem, and in response HMRC will at first focus on education and helping employers get their house in order to meet their obligations and will only resort to tougher enforcement measures where necessary.
Press release ~ National minimum wage ~ HMRC national minimum wage ~ Low Pay Commission consultation (closes 20 September 2006) ~ Low Pay Commission ~ Equal Opportunities Commission ~ Directgov ~ Department of Trade and Industry
Defra: A new partnership between farmers and government to shape agriculture for the next decade and beyond has been set out today by David Miliband, Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
Mr Miliband said he wanted 'a shared agenda for farming which could not only tackle some of the world’s biggest environmental challenges, but also deliver prosperity in this country'.
Mr Miliband outlined four guiding principles for the new partnership:
· A long-term view in which the Government will provide a clear framework of funding and policy in return for clear commitments to change from the farming industry.
· A sensible financial deal shared by Government and farmers.
· More streamlined regulation which is effective, transparent, proportionate and cost-effective.
· System-wide change, especially in the key areas of the food chain and animal health and welfare.
Press release ~ David Miliband’s full speech ~ Sustainable food and farming strategy - Defra ~ Sustainable Food Procurement ~ Sustainable Development ~ Farmers Link ~ Agricultural Development and Advisory Service ~ Sustainable communities - Defra
Defra: In continuation with the Government’s push on climate change, local authorities, communities and individuals are being urged to use their energy and innovation in meeting environmental challenges and to adapt their lifestyles in order to combat climate change.
The Government hopes that by devolving power to local authorities, communities and individuals, this will allow them to use their different resources to protect what is rightfully their environment.
As part of his “one planet living” sustainability theme, Mr Miliband has highlighted three environmental challenges which he believes will require the engagement of local communities:
· The management of green spaces
Environment Secretary Mr Miliband has cited that a lack of environmental awareness and responsibility at any level of society was comparable to anti social behaviour, and that responsibility for our environment is all our business.
Press release ~ Sustainable Development ~ “I will if you will” - Sustainable Development Commission ~ Local Government – Sustainable Development Commission ~ Sustainable Communities – Improvement and Development Agency ~ Climate change and local communities: how prepared are you? – UK Climate Impacts Programme ~ The Carbon Trust ~ Climate Change - Defra ~ Climate Change - BBC
DH: NHS community hospitals are to receive extra funding worth up to £750 million over the next five years for investment in facilities offering patients more blood tests, x-rays and minor operations outside of large hospitals.
Funding will be available to support a variety of projects ranging from converting old acute hospitals into community hospitals and renovating existing community hospitals to community based chemotherapy and mobile cancer scans.
Work on building the first new clinics and community hospitals will start early next year.
The new community hospitals will offer speedy access to medical checks, day surgery and even out-of-hours GPs. Other services that the community hospitals could provide include care for minor injuries, blood and urine testing and ultrasound. There is also scope for community hospitals to be the sites of procedures such as endoscopies and biopsies.
Press release ~ White Paper: Our Health, Our Care, Our Say ~ Supporting documentation for White Paper ~ Community Hospitals Association (CHA) ~ Care Services Improvement Partnership (CSIP)
DWP: The publication of the Welfare Reform Bill has been marked as the next stage in the Government's plans to modernise the welfare state and break down the barriers that they claim have prevented people from getting into the workplace and staying in work.
The Bill contains powers to replace incapacity benefits with a new Employment Support Allowance that alongside a new Personal Capability Assessment will help give individuals more relevant support and get them into appropriate work.
It will also provide more power to tackle benefit fraud which will strengthen the "two strikes" rules so that people who commit a second benefit offence within five years of their first one can have their benefit withdrawn.
The pilots have already helped to get 25,000 people back into work and this programme will be available to all new IB claimants by April 2008.
Press release ~ Welfare Reform Bill ~ DWP Bill explanatory website ~ Job Centre Plus ~ Disability Rights Commissions ~ Benefits and Work
HM Treasury: The Government has launched a consultation on the Payment Services Directive, which once agreed will allow UK payment providers, such as credit card issuers, to significantly expand their markets by offering their services across the EU – closing 25 September 2006.
The Directive aims to deliver an EU internal market in payment services, harmonizing the legal and technical requirements for the provision of payments services and introducing a new EU-wide licensing regime for businesses which offer payment services but which are not licensed as banks or e-money issuers.
The directive will also support the delivery of the industry-led Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) initiative, which is intended to enable cross-border payments in Euros to be made as cheaply, easily and efficiently as payments within individual Member States.
Press release ~ Consultation ~ Euro Payments Area (SEPA) – European Central Bank ~ SWIFT/SEPA article
DCLG: From Friday 7 July 2006, landlords failing to licence their properties in multiple occupation (HMOs) can be prosecuted by councils and face fines of up to £20,000.
The new measures mean if an HMO is occupied without a licence, a local housing authority has the power to seek an order for the repayment of up to 12 months' housing benefit paid out and tenants can also seek an order for recovery of rent.
In parallel with the initiative, guidance has been issued to councils on the procedures they must follow in seeking authorisation from residential property tribunals to make Empty Dwelling Management Orders (EDMOs).
There are ten exceptions in all, covering, amongst other things, temporary absence, second homes, properties on the market and inherited properties, where special rules apply and which will be exempt for a period of at least six months after grant of representation (probate) is obtained.
Press release ~ Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) ~ Licensing in the private rented sector ~ HMO - Chartered Institute of Environmental Health ~ HMO Licensing requirements ~ Empty Dwelling Management Orders (EDMOs) ~ EDMOs – Chartered Institute of Housing ~ Empty homes ~ The Empty Home Agency ~ The Housing Bill 2004 ~ Housing Act 2004
HMRC: New guidance aimed at helping businesses who want to utilise computers systems to comply with their Value Added Tax (VAT) obligations has been launched by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and the British Standards Institute (BSi).
The BSi Publicly Available Specification 76 (PAS 76 - VAT in the UK) aims to set out the essential features that HMRC believe should be incorporated in to accounting software packages. Amongst the benefits to be gained by businesses using PAS 76 incorporated software will be reductions in the cost, time and money they spend on VAT processing, auditing and reporting.
By developing the PAS 76, HMRC has enabled the Organisation for Economic and Commercial Development's international guidelines on tax functionality in accounting, to become a detailed specification.
Press release ~ PAS 76 Accounting software - Value Added Tax in the UK ~ Value Added Tax (VAT) ~ Organisation for Economic and Commercial Development ~ British Standards Institute (BSi) ~ VAT guidance and help – Businesslink
FSCS: The Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS), the UK's financial fund of last resort for customers of financial services firms, paid out £201.22m of compensation to consumers in 2005/6, compared to £174.71m in 2004/05.
The figures, revealed as part of the FSCS's annual report, show a record increase of 180% in claims completed by FSCS for compensation (26,000 completed claims in 2005/06, up from 9,220 in 2004/05).
The increase resulted from strategies put in place by FSCS to deal with surges in the number of endowment compensation claims received by the Scheme: 20,100 new endowment claims were received during the year, an increase of 131% on 2004/05 (itself a year of unprecedented numbers of new claims received by the Scheme).
Press release ~ Annual Report 2005/06 ~ Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) ~ Mortgage endowment claims - FSCS ~ FAQ on mortgage endowment complaints - Financial Ombudsman Service ~ Times Online article on mortgage endowment claims
CRE: With pre-tournament fears of racist violence against non-white football fans during the World Cup having failed to materialised, the head of the UK’s Commission for Racial Equality is urging the EU to build upon the considerable effort Germany put into ensuring that racist attacks did not blight the tournament and put tackling racist violence at the top of the political and legal agenda.
CRE chair Trevor Phillips said:
“While the tournament has been free of racist violence, there is still a great deal of work to be done, as racist incidents continue to shame international football, both on and off the pitch.
The CRE advocates the adoption of an EU-wide legal framework to offer a harmonised level of protection.”
In the months leading up to the World Cup, a number of attacks against immigrants in Germany led to some areas being unofficially declared as no-go zones for those with coloured skin.
Press release ~ Commission for Racial Equality ~ FIFA against racism ~ EU Framework Decision on Racism and Xenophobia ~ European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) ~ European Network Against Racism (ENAR) ~ ‘Germany Acts’ – BBC News