ScotGov: Scotland’s first time buyers given a lift up housing ladder - A major expansion of a scheme to help more first time buyers get into the housing market has been announced in Scotland. The shared equity scheme is part of LIFT - Low-cost Initiative for First Time Buyers - a new Government package to help people who aspire to own their home.

Speaking at Building Homes For Scotland event in Edinburgh, Mr Maxwell outlined the Scottish Government's vision of a housing system that delivers good quality, energy efficient, affordable housing across all tenures.

He spoke of the Government's progress since publication of the Firm Foundations consultation paper in October 2007 and the positive work that is underway through the Housing Supply Task Force. The consultation ended last Friday and delegates were encouraged to respond to proposals which included:
* Challenging Scotland's local authorities, developers & builders to increase the rate of new housing
* Increasing the role of local authorities as landlords by offering financial incentives to councils
* Ending the Right to Buy on new social housing built by councils and housing associations
* Establishing a Scottish Sustainable Communities Initiative
Press release ~ LIFT - Shared Equity ~ Firm Foundations: The Future of Housing in Scotland: A discussion document ~ ScotGov – Housing and Regeneration ~ Homes For Scotland ~ Scottish Housing Market Review - Evidence and Analysis 2007 ~ Scottish Federation of Housing Associations ~ Communities Scotland ~ The Joint Centre for Scottish Housing Research ~ Scott ish Government - Affordable housing ~ Scottish Government - Right to Buy Scheme

CLG: So what will be the function of a local councillor? - Communities Secretary Hazel Blears has announced plans for new 'community contracts' to be piloted in twelve areas, before being rolled out across England. The concept is that it gives communities the opportunity to agree deals & written guarantees with their council on a wide range of service standards from tackling drug dealing on estates, bin collection, clearing graffiti and street cleaning.

The contracts are ‘voluntary’ agreements between local people and town halls that will allow residents to set minimum standards, bargain with councils for extra services and put in place checks on quality. She also called for a new debate raising the question of whether in the future these should be extended & linked to new forms of 'redress' where services fall short.
Redress could range from an investigation into why service standards have not been delivered, a right of written response or a commitment from a council to rectify a problem for lower level breaches, to considering financial compensation, or funding to correct the problem in the minority of cases of serious and persistent failure.

In return, local people would be asked to play their part according to the Minister. For example, in return for council pledges on improving parks, clearing graffiti and tackling drug dealers, they will also be able to negotiate commitments by local people who could agree to:
* report incidents of anti-social behaviour
* maintain grass verges or
* even takeover the running & management of some council services

She also announced new guidance to councils on how to establish local contracts or ‘charters', which are supposed to be tailored to local needs & expectations and differ in name, scope & size, from agreements across a range of services to small scale, single issue brochures.
Press release ~ How to develop a local charter: A guide for local authorities ~ Strong and Prosperous Communities - The Local Government White Paper ~ An Action Plan for Community Empowerment: Building on Success ~ Communi ty Empowerment discussion forum ~ People and Participation.net ~ New Local Government Network

Defra: EU lays down its climate rules - The UK has ‘welcomed’ the European Commission's proposals for tackling climate change and delivering a low carbon economy in Europe. The package contains proposals to implement the decisions agreed by EU Heads of State and Government at the 2007 Spring European Council, including:
* a 20% reduction in EU greenhouse gas emissions by 2020
* increasing to 30% when there is an international climate agreement
* 20% of total EU energy consumption to come from renewables by 2020, and
* measures to support the development of carbon capture & storage including 12 demonstration projects

For the UK, the Commission's proposals include:
* A cut of 16% in UK greenhouse gas emissions from sectors not covered by the EU ETS by 2020 from 2005 levels
* For 15% of the energy consumed in the UK to come from renewable sources by 2020
* For 10% of road transport fuels to come from both renewable & sustainable sources
Press release ~ Marc h 2006 UK Climate Change Programme ~ May 2007 Energy White Paper ~ Climate Change Bill ~ The UK Renewable Energy Strategy - BERR ~ CCS Demonstration Competition - BERR ~ DfT: Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO) ~ Office of Climate Change, UK ~ EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) ~ Environment - Climate Change ~ European Climate Change Programme

DH: Weighed down by yet more advice - The latest cross-government Government ‘fitness’ strategy is intended to ‘support the creation of a healthy society - from early years, to schools and food, from sport and physical activity to planning, transport and the health service’.

This strategy is a first step and will be followed by an annual report that assesses progress, looks at the latest evidence & trends and makes recommendations for further action. A panel of experts will assist the Government, with input from a new public health obesity observatory that will hopefully develop our understanding of what changes behaviour.

The five key elements of the strategy are:
* First, the healthy growth and development of children
* Second, promoting healthier food choices
* Third, building physical activity into our lives
* Fourth, Creating incentives for better health
* Fifth, Personalised advice and support

In England alone, nearly a quarter of men and women are now obese. The trends for children are even more cause for concern, with 18% of 2 to 15 year olds currently obese and a further 14% overweight. The 2007 Foresight report on obesity, indicated that on current trends nearly 60% of the UK population will be obese by 2050.
Press release ~ Healthy Weight, Healthy Lives: A Cross Government Strategy for England ~ Foresight report, Tackling Obesities: Future Choices ~ Food : an analysis of the issues ~ National Obesity Forum - Care pathway & toolkit ~ BHF National Centre for Physical Activity and Health ~ Useful factsheet ~ NICE: Four commonly used methods to increase physical activity ~ Useful resources ~ Useful publications

CLG: Uncovering their talents - Communities Secretary Hazel Blears has called on communities and local authorities across the country to look at what more they can do to improve the opportunities available to Muslim women to play a bigger role in civic society, as well as in tackling violent extremism.

She is also sending all local authorities across England a copy of Muslim Women's good practice guide: ‘Empowering Muslim Women: Case Studies’. The case studies in the guide are grouped into four key categories:
* economic participation
* education
* civic participation
* arts culture & sports
Press release ~ Empowering Muslim Women: Case Studies' ~ CLG: Communities and neighbourhoods ~ Preventing violent extremism: upcoming Idea resource ~ Preventing Violent Extremism Pathfinder Fund 2007/2008 - Case studies ~ Preventing Violent Extremism - Winning hearts and minds ~ FATIMA Women's Network ~ Southwark Muslim Women's Association ~ Muslim Women's Advisory Group ~ Ethnic Minorities Innovation Fund ~ Ethnic minorities in the labour market: Dynamics and diversity ~ The role of higher education in providing opportunities for South Asian women ~ Poverty and ethnicity in the UK ~ 'Engaging with Muslim Women'

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