CRC: Nice to look at, but with major underlying problems - The Government's Rural Advocate, Dr. Stuart Burgess, has launched his second report to the Prime Minister, setting out the aspirations, experiences and concerns of people living & working in rural England. During 2007 he visited rural communities up & down the country to listen to rural people about what matters most ─ the many benefits of rural living, but also some real concerns.
Speaking about his report Dr. Burgess said:
* There are over 928,000 rural households living below the official government poverty threshold of £16,492 household income per annum…...
* The lack of affordable homes to rent and to buy continues to be the single biggest issue highlighted to me on my visits. I heard about growing numbers of people not qualifying for social housing, but not earning enough to afford to buy a house either……
* There are now nearly 400,000 fewer young people aged 15-29 in rural areas than there were 20 years ago……..
* The loss of key services and their contribution to the vitality and sense of community within rural areas has been another recurring theme.
DWP: All this for just £3m extra spread over 3 years? - The Office for Disability Issues has published its ‘Independent Living Strategy', a cross-government strategy, which is intended to support disabled people to do the things non-disabled people take for granted.
It makes a series of ‘new’ commitments:
* Demonstrating how to move resources from professional assessment & care management to user-led support, advocacy and brokerage so people get the right support to make decisions for themselves
* A regional initiative to develop independent living opportunities for older disabled people with high levels of support needs
* A national strategy to enable people to remain in employment when they acquire an impairment or their condition worsens
* An awareness campaign aimed at practitioners to ensure that health, social care and other services are delivered in ways which will give disabled people more choice and control over how their needs are met
* A new toolkit to assist the development of local independent living strategies for & with older disabled people
* Good practice guidance to enable people to have choice and control over their continuing health care
DfT: Hard shoulder provides hard evidence of eco & economic benefits - The feasibility study into extending the pilot of hard shoulder running on the M42 near Birmingham has identified around 800 lane kilometres of England's motorways which could soon benefit from using the hard shoulder as an extra lane.
The pilot involved Active Traffic Management (ATM) which allows existing motorway space to be used more flexibly. It is a tool box of traffic management measures, including automated signalling & enforcement, driver information displays and comprehensive traffic monitoring, enabling rapid incident detection and response. ATM uses sensors in the road collect information to inform automatic systems and operators at the Highways Agency's West Midlands Regional Control Centre of traffic conditions.
The first six months of the full M42 trial saw average journey times fall by more than a quarter on the northbound carriageway and drivers' ability to predict their weekday journey times improved by 27%. Alongside this, overall fuel consumption reduced by 4% and vehicle emissions fell by up to 10%.
HSE: The hidden cost of building - The Health and Safety Executive has highlighted unacceptable performance by the refurbishment sector of the construction industry. Geoffrey Podger, HSE's Chief Executive, said: "Over one in three construction sites visited put the lives of workers at risk and operated so far below the acceptable standard that our inspectors served 395 enforcement notices and stopped work on 30% of the sites…….. Our inspectors were appalled at the blatant disregard for basic health and safety precautions on refurbishment sites across Great Britain.
Last year over half of the workers who died on construction sites worked in refurbishment, and the number of deaths on refurbishment sites rose by 61%.
HSE's construction division reported that basic safety precautions were being flouted and issues such as work at height remain a huge concern. Over half of the enforcement action taken during this inspection initiative was against dangerous work at height, which last year led to the death of 23 workers.
DCSF: But will the legal duty be adequately funded? - The Government has tabled an amendment to the Children and Young Persons Bill that would create a new duty on LAs to give parents caring for disabled children breaks from their caring responsibilities. Local authorities already have the ability to provide short breaks, under the Children Act 1989, but the Government believes that there should be a specific requirement for short break provision.
£359m has already been set aside for LAs, under the Aiming High for Disabled Children programme, to transform short break provision over 2008-11, with additional funding being released to Primary Care Trusts.
While providing an essential service to parents struggling to meet their caring responsibilities, short breaks also give disabled children and young people the opportunity to access enjoyable activities and mix with their peers.
PCS: They are definitely not happy - Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union members working for conciliation service ACAS, whose job it is to resolve industrial disputes, have voted for strike action in a dispute over their own pay. Staff are angry over the continued refusal by the government body responsible for mediating in industrial disputes to hold substantive negotiations on the 2007 pay offer (due for settlement in August 2007 – seven months ago).
Meanwhile, up to 9,000 members of PCS working for the Met Police, including Police Community Support Officers, Traffic Wardens, 999 Operators and admin support staff, as well as Houses of Parliament security staff will be taking part in a one-day strike this Wednesday (12 March) over a below inflation pay offer.
With the retail price index measure of inflation at 4.1% the pay offer of a 2.5% cost of living increase represents a pay cut in real terms. Staff are angry over the squeeze in pay when, for the fifth year running, there has been a massive under spend on the police staff budget.
Last week saw members in the Maritime Coastguard Agency (MCA) take part in their first ever one-day strike over pay levels that fall way behind those paid to other emergency services and below inflation cost of living increases.
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