HO: Sympathy and Justice - Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, has announced the next steps in ensuring that ‘every person’ in the country has access to a Sexual Assault Referral Centre, which provide victims with immediate medical help, counselling, forensic examinations and the opportunity to give evidence anonymously on one site. An extra £1.6m will go towards building 10 new SARCs - with preference given to bids from local areas with the greatest need for additional services. The deadline for funding bids is 7 November 2008.
The Home Secretary also announced an additional £100,000 to create a team of experts to target areas without a SARC and increase victims' access to these facilities. The expert team will include representatives from the Police, Crown Prosecution Service, the Forensic Science Service and an experienced SARC manager.
DH: Unfortunately budgets are not expanding as fast as waistbands - New figures show the cost of obesity to every PCT in England. The figures set out the cost of diseases related to being overweight or obese in 2007 and how much it will cost at a local level in 2015 if we take no action. As last years Foresight report highlighted, nationally being overweight or obese cost the NHS £4.2bn in 2007, rising to £6.3bn in 2015.
The figures are set out in a new 'Healthy Weight, Healthy Lives toolkit: A Toolkit for Developing Local Strategies', which is available to all PCTs and LAs to help them tackle obesity in their areas. It also uses research from the up coming Change4Life campaign to give insight into why families & parents find it difficult to live healthy lives. Change4Life launches this autumn before a major publicity campaign starts in January.
CLG: Two for the price of one - The Government will seek Parliament's approval to move the 2009 local elections in England to the same date as the European elections. Next year's local elections are currently scheduled for 7 May 2009, with the European elections due to take place 4 weeks later on 4 June 2009.
The draft order laid in Parliament must be approved by both Houses no later than by 7 November 2008 if the change is to be made. It also seeks to address a number of technical matters, such as ensuring that, as in 2004, the European election is administered on local government boundaries.
WAG: A warmer welcome for children in the ‘valleys’ - Eradicating child poverty is a Welsh Assembly Government priority, so that under-achievement as a result of poverty does not get passed on, generation to generation. First Minister Rhodri Morgan and Minister for Children and Education, Jane Hutt have highlighted, whilst speaking at the International Forum on Child Welfare, the many strategies & initiatives which are in place to tackle poverty in Wales at different levels to break the cycle.
NAO: Can one regulate to decrease red tape? - The Administrative Burdens Reduction Programme aims to reduce by 25% (by 2010) the cost to businesses of complying with the administrative burdens imposed on them by government regulations. A report out by the National Audit Office found that the programme is providing an impetus across departments to reducing burdens & that the targets have created a stronger incentive to deliver.
In 2007 departments implemented over 150 specific measures to reduce administrative burdens and the majority predict that they will meet their reduction target by 2010. However, the total reported in-year savings of £800m should be treated with caution. They are only indicative estimates of the actual savings and have been subject to only limited independent validation. Only 1% of businesses believed that complying with regulation had become less time consuming in 2007 and 40% said it has become more time consuming.
Newswire-AC: It’s not easy to make outsourcing & new technology deliver real savings - A new Audit Commission report on the efficiency of English councils' back office activities, finds that they face an uphill struggle to contribute to a further £4.9bn of savings before 2010. The report - Back to Front - focuses on savings from back office council operations, such as finance, human resources, IT, procurement, legal services, facilities management, marketing and communications.
These areas were originally highlighted in Sir Peter Gershon's 2004 review and the government claims that they have contributed £1.2bn (over a quarter) of the £4.3bn efficiency savings made by English councils in the last 3 years. Despite this ‘successful’ efficiency drive, the AC warns councils against complacency.
The report also says there is no 'one size fits all' formula for achieving further savings, though examples include reviewing ICT, improving delivery processes and addressing compartmentalised 'silo' working. Back to Front offers councils a checklist of questions in each chapter to help identify where they are on the road towards sustainable back office efficiencies and there is a toolkit of other practical assistance. There will also be a special summary version of the report to help elected members challenge their own council's performance.
Defra: Let’s hope these ‘experts’ do better than the ‘financial experts’ - The establishment of a new team of advisers on food policy ‘from the farm to the fork’ has been announced by the government. The Council of Food Policy Advisers will include expertise from every sector of the food system. It will advise government on food affordability, security of supply & the environmental impact of food production and contribute to the drawing up of a policy for food security & supply (for publication later this year).
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