The staff at Wired-GOV and WGPlus would like to wish everyone
a Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year
Please note that the next Newsletter is due to be published on Monday 14 January 2008
Defra: Don’t they realise 2010 might be too late? - Secretary of State for the Environment Hilary Benn, has accepted the urgent recommendations put forward in Sir Michael Pitt's interim report into the summer floods, on behalf of Government, but the current level of Environment Agency funding (£600m) will still not rise to £800m until 2010-11.
The Review makes 15 ‘urgent’ recommendations to be implemented as soon as possible to reduce the impact of any flooding that might occur in the near future. These cover the areas of managing flood risk, groundwater monitoring, local and national planning and response, public information, and public preparedness.
Additionally, the Review draws 72 interim conclusions, awaiting further information & evidence before being put forward in firm recommendations next summer.
The report is written from the standpoint of flood victims, highlighting the devastation to lives & livelihoods and the necessity for the authorities to reduce the risk and impact of future events.
With around two-thirds of the floods caused by surface water, there needs to be a new emphasis on guarding against this type of flooding. Sir Michael says the Environment Agency is best placed to develop a national approach to managing surface water flood risk, including development of surface water mapping and warning tools; and it should no longer be a right of householders & businesses to lay impermeable surfaces as they wish.
The consultation period on the Interim Report recommendations will run from January to 31 March 2008. All the information gathered during this exercise will be analysed and fed into the drafting of recommendations for the Final Report, which will be published in summer 2008.
CLG: Would political activity by senior council staff really improve local democracy? - Action to boost understanding of local government and the role of councillors, to attract new & more diverse candidates to stand in local elections and to deliver better quality support to those elected are among the proposals in a new report from the Councillors Commission.
At the heart of the recommendations from the Commission is the demand for an explicit duty to be placed on local authorities to disseminate clear information about how councils and other local agencies work as well as to promote the role of councillors and the activities of elected members, including raising interest on how to stand for election.
The report sets out 61 proposals to transform local councils as well as encourage greater participation in local elections, including lowering the voting age to 16 and creating regional Local Government Days when all seats for authorities in those areas are contested on the same day.
The Commission calls on the government to amend legislation to include councillor equalities targets in race, gender & disability equalities schemes. It also calls for changes to the ‘far-reaching’ restrictions that prevent council employees standing as councillors or engaging in political activity.
DCSF: Yet another 10 years & more billions to get it right - Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, Ed Balls has launched the 'Children's Plan' – Labour’s long term vision to improve schools and the way parents & families are supported to deal with the new challenges faced by young people in the 21st century, which aims to:
* strengthen support for all families including during the formative early years of their children's lives
* take the next steps in achieving world class schools
* seek a step-change in parents involvement in their child's learning
* help to make sure that young people have exciting things to do outside school & more places for children to play
Other key announcements include:
* a ‘root & branch’ review of the primary level
* reaffirming the Government's pledge to halve child poverty by 2010 and eradicate it by 2020
* publication of a Child Health Strategy in Spring 2008
* an action plan to be published in 2008 that will tackle housing overcrowding and prioritise children's needs in housing decisions, especially the need to stay close to services like schools
* make teaching a Masters-level profession
* a youth alcohol action plan in the Spring 2008
* a Green Paper in Spring 2008 to look at what happens when young offenders leave custody on how to improve the education they receive in custody
Defra: Nature was ‘joined–up’ before government was even invented - The government claims that its new Ecosystems Approach Action Plan signals a move away from separate natural environment policies on wildlife, water, soil, and air quality towards a more joined-up approach taking account of the natural environment as a whole.
Central to the action plan is the idea that living things and their physical environment depend on each other - changes in one part of our environment can have consequences, positive and negative, on another. It identifies 37 actions for Defra, its partners & stakeholders and is intended to deliver a number of important benefits, including:
* more effective delivery of our environmental outcomes
* better-informed decisions that take full account of environmental impacts
* better prioritisation and more efficient use of our resources
* more effective communications & greater awareness of the value of the natural environment & ecosystem services
* enabling Defra & delivery partners to better respond to changing pressures, including climate change
To guide policy-makers and economists in valuing these environmental benefits, Defra has produced an Introductory Guide to Valuing Ecosystem Services.
The Action Plan part of the government response to the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, the first global assessment of the natural environment, which warned that degradation in ecosystems will be a significant barrier to achievement of the Millennium Development goals.
CLG: Improving Social Housing and overcrowding - Councils and landlords should ensure social housing services focus on people, not just the homes they live in, Housing Minister Yvette Cooper said in a speech to the Housing Corporation and Chartered Institute of Housing last week.
Yvette Cooper announced a package of measures and extra investment aimed at making social housing ‘fairer, more effective and more personal’. The plans are claimed to re-focus social housing around the needs of tenants, such as young families needing to move to larger homes, increasing opportunities for elderly people to relocate closer to their families and grandchildren, and helping tenants back into work.
The Government's plans include the launch of a new crackdown on cramped housing, aimed at helping those living in the worst overcrowded households. A new national Overcrowding Action Plan sets out proposals for increasing the number of larger homes nationally.
The proposals include changes giving greater priority to under-occupiers, such as the elderly and middle-aged 'empty nesters' who want to move into smaller homes or nearer their families.
The measures aim to address the key challenges facing social housing today, as set out in the Hills review, which found high levels of ‘worklessness’, polarisation of estates, high concentrations of deprivation and low levels of tenant satisfaction.
DSR: Can we trust them to do it securely? - A consultation (closes on 15 February 2008) into how personal information is used & shared in the public & private sectors has been launched as part of the independent Data Sharing Review into the use & sharing of personal information announced by the Prime Minister on 25 October.
* how & why information is shared & used
* whether the Data Protection Act offers sufficient safeguards
* what impact technological advances have had on the protection of personal information, and
* whether there are lessons the UK can learn from other countries
Defra: If the government ‘knows best’ about everything else, why not on this? - Options for improving energy efficiency across the public sector have been set out in a consultation (closes 6 March 2008) document published by Minister for the Environment Phil Woolas.
The consultation encourages the public sector to lead the way in energy efficiency and asks respondents to suggest which of at least two measures linked to energy efficiency procurement should be implemented across the UK under the EU's Energy Services Directive. The Government will then decide which measures will be introduced next Spring.
The consultation will also outline the Government's preliminary views on how well the public sector currently meets the requirements of the EU Energy Services Directive (which will be implemented in May 2008) and will provide additional suggestions for further action.
Key questions that the consultation is seeking views on include:
* Exemplary role: To what extent is the public sector playing an exemplary role, as required by the EU Energy Service Directive?
* Implementation: Should it be voluntary or legislative?
* Measures: Which two of the six proposed energy-saving measures linked to procurement should be taken forwards and introduced?
Responses to a previous consultation to meet the same Directive have also just been published.
NAO: Ok so far, but with caveats - The National Audit Office has reported that the government’s 14-19 education reform programme has met its key milestones so far, but there are substantial risks which the Department for Children, Schools and Families is ‘managing’.
Effective local collaboration through the partnerships is fundamental to the successful implementation of the reforms and the NAO found wide variations in the preparedness of the local partnerships at this early stage in the reform programme.
Over two-thirds of partnerships reported problems with engaging sufficient numbers of employers to meet current work experience requirements and many expressed concerns that it will be difficult to engage the number and range of employers that will be required.
Local partnerships, individual institutions and training providers need to be confident that the reforms as a whole will be delivered effectively. It is therefore paramount that the Department gives clear funding arrangements and consistent guidance to partnerships.
Forthcoming event: Learning how to perform within the new Framework for Localities - At this pivotal time in local government, a number of key challenges face you.
One of the most critical will be the manner in which your services and their delivery are monitored & measured. Central Government has reduced the amount of targets that you abide by, which will ultimately alter the way in which you work.
Preparation is paramount when it comes to safeguarding your performance and the Local Government Chronicle, in its role as a provider of up-to-date information, brings you a one day conference: Working within the New Performance Framework to help you in that task (5 February 2008).
Responding to the need for detailed knowledge & clear guidance, they have developed a comprehensive programme to deliver just that - Get fully up to speed with the latest policy developments, enabling you to return to your council and put them into practice.
As well as hearing from Andy Burnham, Chief Secretary, Treasury, presentations include:
* Gauging your ability to deliver: The role of Comprehensive Area Assessment (CAA)
* Lifting the Burdens Review Taskforce response
* Negotiating local priorities with your Government Office
*Communicating what the new framework will mean for your organisation and partners
For information on other forthcoming public sector events please click HERE to visit the WGPlus Events Calendar
For Industry News please click HERE