Cabinet Office: ‘End of term report’ for 4 government departments - The Civil Service has published the first four Capability Reviews for the Home Office DCA, DfES and DWP, along with a summary paper on key themes emerging from them.
The government claims that the reviews are ‘based on robust, evidence based assessments of Departments' capabilities to meet these significant future challenges’.
‘Experts’ from outside the civil service have been part of each review team and each report includes a formal, published assessment of departmental capability in ten key areas. As part of each report, the Permanent Secretary of each department has outlined what action they intend to take as a result.
Press release ~ Capability Reviews website ~ Summary report + 4 individual reports ~ National School of Government ~ Civil Service Reform: Delivery and Values ~ Creating a culture of excellence
DH: Will it give proper results this time?- The DH has announced a package of developments around Payment by Results covering specialist children's hospitals, PbR supporting White Paper implementation in 2007/08 and the 2007/08 tariff.
They have recognised that while most NHS Trusts and Foundation Trusts have a balanced mix of routine and complex cases which results in losses and gains being offset, for some specialist children's hospitals, which have a smaller range of services, this does not necessarily apply.
In recognition of this, some specialist children's hospitals will get funding for 2006/07 and, if needed, similar arrangements will be put in place for 2007/08.
The Department has also commissioned the National Directors for Heart Disease and for Older People to identify clinical work, often carried out in hospitals, which might be done in community settings. With their advice, the DH says that it will put a separate indicative price on different parts of the care pathway, which can be offered in the community. This 'unbundling' will take effect from next April.
In addition, the DH has published the Review of Tariff Setting in 2006/07 which Sir Ian Carruthers commissioned following the temporary withdrawal of tariff earlier this year. The DH says that it will publish the 2007/08 tariff in mid-December after a period of testing with the NHS, as recommended in John Lawlor's report and that there will be no substantial changes to the scope & structure of the tariff for 2007/08 in order to minimise year-on-year price volatility.
Press release ~ DH PBR website ~ Review of Tariff Setting in 2006/07 ~ Audit Commission - PBR ~ Kings Fund ~ NHS Costings
Home Office: Held to account at last? - New legislation to prosecute companies whose gross negligence leads to the death of employees or members of the public has been published in the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Bill. The bill also takes the unprecedented step of lifting Crown immunity for the first time.
A proposed new criminal offence will enable the courts to consider the overall picture of how an organisation's activities were managed by its senior managers, rather than focusing on the actions of one individual.
An organisation will be guilty of the new offence if someone has been killed as a result of the gross failure of an organisation's senior managers for example to:
· ensure safe working practices for their employees and
· maintain the safety of their premises.
However, currently it will not be possible to prosecute a company where the failings are at junior management levels, but the Government will look to refine this definition during the bill's parliamentary passage, if a better way of achieving this can be found.
Press release ~ Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Bill ~ CPS guidance on CM ~ The findings and recommendations of the Expert Group report on Corporate Homicide
DTI: Eye in the sky ‘takes off’ -The Government has announced investment of £16 million to support a national programme aimed at ensuring the safe operation of unmanned aviation vehicles in civil airspace, without the need for restrictive or specialised operational conditions.
Unmanned craft could revolutionise police & fire service surveillance, coastal surveillance, power & pipeline inspections and mobile phone & broadband services, which currently rely on manned aircraft. In the future, these tasks could be undertaken by unmanned aircraft with the technology to sense & avoid other objects.
Press release ~ National Aerospace Technology Strategy implementation ~ NAT strategy ~ Aerospace Innovation and Growth Team (AeIGT) ~ Aerospace Innovation Networks
Defra: Help round up some nasty ‘critters’ - Defra are asking for the public's help to find any citrus longhorn beetles (Anoplophora chinensis) that may be in the UK as a small number of adult beetles, believed to be citrus longhorns, were found emerging from a potted Japanese acer/maple tree in a private garden in Shropshire early in July.
One of these beetles was caught, photographed and then released before the beetles' identity was discovered. Last year similar sightings were made in Hampshire and Lancashire. Although predominately a pest of citrus and apples, the beetle can also attack a number of other trees including beech, hazel, oak, maple and birch.
The beetles are large, 21-37mm long (about 1-1.5 inches), excluding the antennae, and black with variable white markings on their backs. Their antennae (horns) are longer than their bodies and are black with white or light blue coloured bands. Late July to early September is thought to be the time of year when this pest is most likely to be seen.
If you spot a beetle that you suspect is a citrus longhorn beetle, trap it if possible and report the finding to the local office of the Plant Health and Seed Inspectorate (PHSI).
Press release ~ PHSI local offices ~ Pictures ~ Defra Pest & Diseases website ~ RHS – Top 5 exotic pests ~ Review of UK and Scottish Surveillance & Monitoring Schemes for the Detection of Climate-induced Changes in Biodiversity
DCA: That Won’t Do Nicely Sir - New powers to allow banks and building societies to remove the credit cards of customers cautioned for, or convicted of, buying indecent images of children online have been agreed in Parliament.
The Data Protection (Processing of sensitive personal data) Order 2006 (comes into force on 26 July) will allow card issuers to process sensitive personal data provided to them by law enforcement authorities so that they can withdraw the card used to commit the offence. It does not require the card issuer to remove or close an account, but they will be able to make the decision on the basis of the customer's breach of contract.
Press release ~ Association for Payment Clearing Services (APACS) ~ Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) ~ Home Office – Child protection
Socitm: If these are the ‘Best’, what about the rest? - New research by a panel of disabled users for Socitm Insight has revealed that even the best websites can cause usability & accessibility problems for people with disabilities including visual problems, impaired motor skills and dyslexia.
The user testing was organised by the Usability Exchange, with a group of seven disabled testers of mixed gender, age & experience, including people with blindness, partial sight, dyslexia, profound deafness, cerebral palsy and lack of dexterity in the hands.
The tests found that, for every local authority tested, accessibility or usability problems were reported by at least one user. The best received three reported problems and the worst nineteen such problems, with the average 9.5 problems.
Press release ~ Socitm website ~ Usability Exchange ~ Publicly Available Specification 78: Guide to Good Practice in Commissioning Accessible Websites (PAS 78) ~ RNIB Campaign for Good Web Design ~ The Web: Access and Inclusion for Disabled People (Disability Rights Commission, 2004)
MOD: Veterans' Minister Tom Watson has confirmed that, from 1 April 2007, the Armed Forces Personnel Administration Agency (AFPAA) and the Veterans' Agency (VA) will merge. The VA and AFPAA provide personnel services, such as the provision of pay or pensions, to veterans, their dependants and current members of the Armed Forces.
The two current customer contact points will be retained, while unification of back office administrative support will hopefully allow the Agencies to provide a more seamless service, without reducing the quality of support they are commended for by their customers.
Press release ~ Armed Forces Personnel Administration Agency (AFPAA) ~ Veterans' Agency (VA) ~ Confederation of British Service and Ex-Service Organisations (COBSEO) ~ Joint Personnel Administration Centre
DCLG: The Government has announced plans for the introduction of Energy Performance Certificates as part of the phased roll-out of Home Information Packs to help consumers cut costs and waste when buying a home and help the environment too.
However on the basis of detailed consultations with industry and the latest market and testing information, the government has decided to phase the roll out of other aspects of Home Information Packs, introducing the rest of Home Condition Reports on a market-led basis in the first instance, in order to ‘ensure a smooth implementation with clear benefits for consumers’.
Press release ~ DCLG HIP website ~ Independent HIP website ~ Energy Savings Trust ~ Energy Performance Certificate (see page 2)
Defra: Defra has published the findings of its consultation on the first stage of the better regulation review of the local authority pollution, prevention & control regime, set up 15 years ago to ensure that some 17,000 business & industrial sites are permitted, monitored and meet local air quality standards.
The consultation, which closed on 19 May, was conducted by Defra, the Scottish Executive and the Welsh Assembly Government and sought views on draft criteria for assessing the scope for simplifying or employing alternative regulatory approaches.
The finalised criteria and the comments made will now be taken forward as part of the second stage of the review, which will include an evidence-based assessment taking account of comments received and looking at the wider implications for human health and environmental protection.
Press release ~ Consultation documents and Findings ~ Defra PPC website
Defra: The Government has published its response to the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution's report 'Crop Spraying and the Health of Residents and Bystanders'.
Of the 35 recommendations in the report the Government claims it has accepted, will consider, or are already doing 25 of them and that it recognises the clearly genuine concerns of some residents and bystanders about the spraying of pesticides, Government can, and will, do more to address these concerns.
The government claims that the scientific advice received is clear that there is insufficient evidence to support the Royal Commission's recommendations for additional regulatory measures on safety grounds and has therefore decided against introducing any new regulations at this time.
Press release ~ Royal Commission for Environmental Pollution (RCEP) ~ Government's response to the RCEP report ~ Advisory Committee on Pesticides commentary on the RCEP report ~ Pesticides Safety Directorate ~ Code of plant protection products
Home Office: The Home Secretary has announced 8,000 new prison places as part of a package of measures to protect the public and further rebalance the criminal justice system in favour of the law-abiding majority. In addition, we are told that the review will examine the Human Rights Act to ‘promote a common-sense balance between the rights of individuals and the rights of the public to be protected against harm’.
Other proposals include:
· new measures to crackdown on anti-social behaviour
· longer sentences for serious offenders and
· moves to encourage more clarity & honesty into sentencing
Press release ~ Criminal Justice Review
Cabinet Office: The Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments has published its annual report for 2005-2006, which contains a range of statistics about appointments and reappointments to the Boards of public bodies and shows:
The report also details the audits of government departments carried out by external auditors on behalf of the Commissioner's office throughout the year and details how OCPA works with departments to help promote best practice.
Press release ~ OCPA Annual Report 2005/06 (1.2Mb) ~ OCPA website
Cabinet Office: First Civil Service Commissioner, Janet Paraskeva, has published the Commissioners' annual report for 2005-06. The independent Commissioners regulate recruitment to the Civil Service to ensure that appointment is made on merit on the basis of fair and open competition and also hear appeals under the Civil Service Code.
Press release ~ Commissioners' annual report 2005/06 (VLF 2Mb)
CC: The Charity Commission, the regulator for England and Wales' 190,000 registered charities, has published its annual report for 2005-06. Key highlights of the Commission's year include:
· The launch of Charity Commission Direct, our one-stop-shop for queries from charities and the public
· Their Get on Board campaign which resulted in over 2,300 people signing up to become trustees
· Over 29 million hits to their website
Press release ~ Charity Commission Annual Report 2005-06 ~ Office of the Third Sector
CCRC: According to its Annual Report, the Criminal Cases Review Commission closed 1,012 cases against an intake of 938 applications in 2005-06 and it referred 46 cases to the appeal courts between 1 April 2005 and 31 March 2006. Of the 32 cases heard, 70% resulted in a quashed conviction or varied sentence,
The rise in case completions (about 23% on 2004-05) was achieved - despite reduced funding - through the hard work of staff, better case planning and a new system to drive forward longer-term reviews. However, the report also notes that waiting times for the minority of longer and more complex cases increased despite the reduction of the overall backlog.
Press release ~ Annual Report 2005/06 (VLF 2.6Mb) ~ CCRC website
DWP: The annual report and accounts of the Disability Rights Commission (DRC) has been published.
Press release ~ Annual Report 05/06 (will appear here shortly).
DCA: The Council on Tribunals has published its 2005-06 annual report. In his preface the Chairman of the Council, Lord Newton of Braintree, describes the year past as having been particularly significant for the tribunals world, with the establishment of the new Tribunals Service under the aegis of the Department for Constitutional Affairs.
Other highlights of the past year have included the:
· publication of the Council's consultation paper on the use and value of oral hearings.
· publication of the feedback from the Council's Users Support Workshops.
· Council's facilitation of a workshop for London based admission & exclusion clerks, which led to the establishment of a new EASI group for London.
· ongoing development of the Council's electronic magazine, Adjust, which acts as a medium for sharing ideas and good practice across the tribunals and administrative justice world
Press release ~ Annual report 2005/06 ~ Adjust newsletter
Highways Agency: The Highways Agency met or exceeded all eight of its Ministerial Targets in the year 2005-06 according to its Annual Report.
The Agency's targets included:
· Delivery of eight major road schemes and work on 68 Priority Action Sites
· Meeting accuracy targets for variable message signs and piloting workplace travel plans
· The successful introduction of variable speed limits under the M42 Active Traffic Management pilot
· Meeting environmental objectives
· An £800m maintenance programme ensured network remained safe and serviceable.
Press release ~ Annual report 2005/06 ~ Workplace Travel Plan ~ DfT WTP website
CMO: Launching his annual report On the State of Public Health, Sir Liam Donaldson highlighted that there are still wide ranging variations across the country despite the creation of the National Health Service in 1948 and the continuing developments in healthcare.
He pointed that variation is demonstrable in many areas of medical practice but particularly focuses on:
· tonsillectomy among children
· treatment for people with coronary disease and
· prescribing patterns
This year's report also draws attention to:
· Pandemic Influenza and progress of planning within the UK since the publication of the UK Influenza Plan
· The pressure of organisational change and funding on the delivery of public health
· Kernicterus - a rare but devastating disease affecting newborn babies
· Lessons the NHS can learn from the safety processes operated in the airline industry
Press release ~ Chief Medical Officer's Annual Report 2005 ~ Update to the UK pandemic flu plan ~ Securing Good Health for the Whole Population ~ Kernicterus ~ National Screening Committee ~ Award for Excellence
DWP: Following the publication of a report into the future of Remploy, Minister for Disabled People Anne McGuire has announced the company will be given support to modernise, so it can become financially sustainable and support significantly more disabled workers.
Remploy, which sets out to create independence for disabled people through work, currently supports 9,000 disabled people through a factory network and supported employment programmes.
The report, 'Remploy - Review of Future Business Options' sets out possible solutions to the challenges facing the company, ness - from 'no change' to complete closure of the factory network. Anne McGuire announced that she would not be accepting either of these options and announced the government would give Remploy additional funding in this financial year to prevent immediate closures.
Press release ~ Remploy – Review of Future Business Options ~ NAO report - Gaining and retaining a job: the Department for Work and Pensions' support for disabled people (1.6Mb) ~ Remploy ~ Workstep
DCMS: A report - Nurturing Creativity in Young People – has been published which follows an independent Review, led by the leading educationalist Paul Roberts, that sets out what more the Government can do to nurture young people's creativity.
Jointly commissioned by DCMS and DfES, the Creativity Review examines key issues such as the:
· role of partnerships between schools and the creative & cultural sector
· opportunities for creative activity in Extended Schools and Early Years' settings
· development of a Creative Portfolio to celebrate each young person's creative achievements,
education workforce's role in developing creativity
Press release ~ Nurturing Creativity in Young People ~ Creative Sparks ~ Creative Economy Programme
NAO: A report by the National Audit Office, based on research carried out by RAND Europe, found that fraud and error overpayments are a major problem for many countries, but the UK is one of few to understand the scale of the problem and is ahead of agencies in other countries when it comes to addressing these problems.
The high levels of estimated fraud & error in expenditure on benefits - £2.6 billion in 2004-05 – have led to the NAO’s qualifying the DWP’s accounts and those of the former Department of Social Security for 16 years in a row.
The problems the UK taxpayer faces are mirrored overseas, in countries such as USA, Ireland, Canada and New Zealand. But, despite regular exchanges between some countries, there is scope for improving mutual awareness of the problems and developing possible solutions.
Press release ~ International Benchmark of fraud and error in Social Security Systems (VLF 1.4Mb) ~ Executive Summary ~ Benefit Fraud Inspectorate ~ NFI web pages ~ Revised Code of Data Matching Practise ~ DWP Strategy paper - Reducing fraud in the benefit system) (VLF 1.2Mb) ~ NAO - Tackling Benefit Fraud ~ Public Accounts Committee report ~ Review of the DWP Benefit Fraud Sanctions Regime - Social Research Report No 149
NAO: According to a National Audit Office report, IT services are crucial for HM Revenue & Customs’ business and in its procurement of the £3 billion IT outsourcing contract – ASPIRE - the Department secured competition for a contract which meets its IT needs, and completed the transfer to the new supplier Capgemini without loss of service to customers.
The eventual ‘value for money of ASPIRE will depend on how far the Department can control the volume of demand for IT services and the prices it negotiates for changes in services, as there have been significant cost increases due to the Department’s increased demand for IT services.
ASPIRE provides lessons for other government departments on preparing for the end of a contract and encouraging competition, and for managing the transition from one supplier to another and also in providing sufficient flexibility within a contract to deal with likely changes in IT requirements.
The report sets out good practice and recommends further guidance for departments on the use of incentives to encourage competition, including the circumstances in which payment of transition costs or other mechanisms might be used.
The Report also suggests the need for a mechanism by which government IT contracts can be looked at as a whole. Such horizon-scanning would ensure that IT contracts across government are managed effectively: examining overarching issues of competition, supplier capacity, exit arrangements and transition planning.
Press release ~ Full Report (VLF 1.2Mb) ~ Executive Summary
NAO: A report by the National Audit Office reports that the Pension Service has made ‘real & substantial progress since 2002 in helping pensioners to secure their entitlements using new and well thought through approaches, but will need to build on this work to improve take-up still further’.
In 2004-05, Pension Credit to 2.7 million pensioner households across England, Scotland and Wales, but the Department has reported that the target to pay Pension Credit to 3 million households in 2006 will not be met.
The report recommends that the need to focus on benefits & services for pensioners more widely than Pension Credit should be reflected in a target designed to cover the range of activity which aims to tackle pensioner poverty. 70% of pensioners who are entitled to Housing Benefit but not claiming it are living in relative poverty.
Press release ~ Full Report (1.0Mb) ~ Technical report (1.8Mb) ~ Executive Summary
DfT: Road Safety Minister Stephen Ladyman has announced that new child car restraint laws, which the government claims could save up to 2,000 child casualties per year, will come into force on 18 September 2006.
Further regulations will be introduced in due course so that:
· where seat belts are provided, the number of people carried in the rear of cars and goods vehicles may not exceed the number of seats available fitted with seat belts or child restraints (to apply from May 2009).
· modern UN ECE Regulation 44.03 (or later) type-approved child restraints must be used from May 2008.
Halfords, Mothercare and Toys R Us, and other stores are supporting the DfT's THINK! road safety campaign and the change in the law by providing special offers on car seats and booster seats from the week commencing 17 July to the end of September 2006.
Press release ~ Child Restraints - New Law ~ DfT - Child Road safety ~ THINK! road safety campaign ~ Child car safety restraints - Research report
DCLG: Tenancy Deposit Protection legislation, which is part of the Government's drive to put a stop to the situation whereby landlords can withhold deposits unfairly, will now come into force on 6 April 2007.
There will be two types of scheme:
· a single custodial scheme (where deposits will be paid into and held in a separate account), and
· one or more insurance-based schemes (where the landlord or agent will hold the deposit and any failure on his/her part to repay it to the tenant will be covered by the scheme's insurance arrangements).
The new launch date, which defers the introduction of the scheme from October 2006 to April next year, is intended to enable the Government to deal with concerns raised by key stakeholders, including tenants, landlords and letting agents, during consultation over the release of deposits where there are rent arrears and abandonment of tenancies.
Press release ~ Consultation paper, Tenancy Deposit Protection: consultation on secondary legislation responses ~ DCLG – Tenancy Deposit Schemes ~ Tenancy Deposit Protection FAQs ~ Citizens Advice (scroll down to Deposits & premiums) ~ National Union of Students – Getting your deposit back
Defra: The Commons Act, which updates laws governing common land that date back more than 700 years, has received Royal Assent. Landscape Minister Barry Gardiner said the Commons Act 2006 would protect common land in England and Wales for future generations and promote sustainable farming, public access to the countryside, and the interests of threatened wildlife and their habitats.
Common land is often highly valuable as a habitat for wildlife, with around 55% of common land in England being designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), and only 63% of this land is in favourable or recovering condition - much lower than the 73% average for all SSSI land in England.
The new Act also sets new, clear criteria for registering town or village greens, which will give local people the ability to register places that are of value to them for recreation and green space, and protect them permanently. It also allows "missed" commons to be registered.Press release ~ Defra Common Land website ~ Commons Act 2006 ~ Common Land Policy 2002 Statement
Cabinet Office: A review set up to examine whether the UK has regulations that are stricter or more burdensome than required by European legislation has published a summary of responses to its call for evidence.
The respondents suggested a number of examples of potential over-implementation for further investigation by the Review, from a range of sectors including environmental services, farming, financial services and transport.
The summary of responses includes a table of examples including the main allegations of over-implementation, together with an initial response from the lead government department or regulator. The report also discusses the possible causes of over-implementation, including factors such as risk-management, UK legal system and culture and poor consultation practice.
The Davidson Review will publish its final report with recommendations to Government by the end of 2006 and its recommendations will comprise specific simplification proposals regarding any unnecessary regulatory burdens on the ground and best practice advice for government departments & regulators on how to avoid inappropriately over-implementing European legislation in the future.Press release ~ Davidson Review website ~ Summary of evidence ~ Better Regulation Executive
CC: The Tate purchased art from serving trustees without permission, the Charity Commission has announced today following an in-depth review. However, the Commission has found that the acquisitions were in the interests of the charity and should stand, but has highlighted deficiencies in the Tate's policies and called for significant improvements to be made.
The Tate has accepted the Commission's conclusions including that all future purchases of art from serving trustees will require the Commission's authorisation.
The Tate is an exempt charity, which means it is not required to register on the Central Register of Charities or submit accounts to the Charity Commission as it is accountable to another body, in the case of the Tate this is the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). Exempt charities are still required to abide by charity law and the Commission can offer guidance & support to exempt charities and grant legal powers where necessary.
Press release ~ Charity Commission ~ Tate Gallery
HMRC: VAT Business Brief 09/06
· Proposed change to the registered dealers in controlled oils (RCDO) scheme: Inclusion of aviation turbine fuel (AVTUR)
· VAT: Clarification of HMRC's policy following the Court of Appeal's decision in Newnham College
Press release ~ Business Briefs 2006 (it sometimes takes time to appear here)
HMRC: VAT Business Brief 10/06
· VAT - Implementation of changes to VAT accounting rules ('reverse charge') for businesses trading in mobile telephones, computer chips and certain other goods; and further consultation with affected businesses.
Press release ~ Business Briefs 2006 (it sometimes takes time to appear here)
OFT: Following referrals from "Which?, the OFT has secured the amendment or removal of a number of unfair terms from the contracts of 25 estate agency businesses. The terms in question breached the Estate Agents Act, the Estate Agents (Provision of Information) Regulations and the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations.
Amongst the terms found in a number of the contracts were those that:
· were unclear as to the duration of the contract period because of the termination provisions
· stated that the seller gives his solicitor 'irrevocable authority' to pay the agent's fees.
· Included incorrect/misleading definitions of the terms 'sole selling rights,' 'sole agency' and 'ready, willing & able purchaser.'
· placed the responsibility on the seller to declare a personal connection with the agent, whereas the law requires the estate agent to disclose any personal interest.
· required sellers to pay disproportionately high default charges on late payment of the agent's fees
Press release ~ OFT – Unfair terms website ~ Using an Estate Agent to buy or sell your home ~ Ombudsman for Estate Agents scheme ~ Estates Agents Act 1979
Pensions Regulator: The Pensions Regulator's code of practice on internal controls has been laid before Parliament and it gives guidelines to trustees and managers of occupational pension schemes on how to meet legislative requirements, as well as outlining the regulator's expectations in relation to the assessment of risk, implementation and review of adequate internal controls.
Press release ~ Internal Controls Code (scroll down)