CLGWith a minimum 10 Year wait, action is essential - Housing Minister, John Healey, has launched a national crackdown on tenancy cheats to recover up to 10,000 council & housing association homes fraudulently sublet and release them to those in real need.  Tenancy cheats live elsewhere and can earn £0,000s a year by unlawfully subletting their properties at higher rental rates.  If caught they will lose their tenancy and could lose their right to social housing in future.

Those occupying these properties may not know about the fraud, but 80% do not qualify for a council or housing association home and instead have to find a new home through the private rented sector.  The Audit Commission have suggested that the number of social homes unlawfully acquired or sublet could range from 1% to as many as 5% in some inner-city areas – totalling as many as 50,000 homes nationwide.

Public tip-offs are vital to tackling the fraudsters – half of all homes recovered from cheats are done so after tip-offs from neighbours.  So the Minister is offering a reward/bounty of £500 to anyone whose information leads to the recovery of one of the first 1,000 homes.  The average cost of recovering a property from a tenancy cheat can be as little as £3,000 – while the total cost of building a new council or housing association home can reach well over £100,000 - See also ‘Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides’ section for related CLG Housing Allocation item.
Press release ~ Tackling unlawful subletting and occupancy: Good practice guidance for social landlords ~ National Housing Federation ~ Institute of Housing ~ AC: Protecting the public purse ~ National Fraud Initiative ~ NHS Counter Fraud Service ~ Local Government Fraud Manual ~ Social housing fraud - Housing - Communities and Local Government ~ Governance and Counter Fraud Practice - Audit Commission ~ Shelter: Over 10 Years to clear the lists

ScotGovSNP pile on election pressure - First Minister Alex Salmond has published the Scottish Government's White Paper - Your Scotland, Your Voice - which ‘paves the way for the people of Scotland to be given the right to choose their constitutional future in a referendum’

As well as setting out the case for independence, the White Paper also examines the other constitutional options open to Scotland:
* the status quo
* the proposals of the Calman Commission on Scottish Devolution
* maximum devolution including fiscal autonomy
Press release ~ Your Scotland, Your Voice ~ National Conversation website ~ Watch FM interviewed by the BBC's Nick Robinson

FSASalmonella seems to be always with us - The Food Standards Agency and Health Protection Agency (HPA) are investigating a recent increase in the number of cases of a certain type of salmonella in England & Wales.  The increase in cases of Salmonella Enteritidis phage type (PT) 14b, since mid-August 2009, was noted by the HPA as part of its monitoring of infectious diseases.

A total of 443 cases have been reported to the HPA this year, compared with 137 cases in 2008.  14 clusters of cases in England & Wales are currently being investigated to determine if there is a common source of infection.  The clusters have been linked to a number of different catering establishments and one care home.
The UK & Spanish authorities have been working in close cooperation to investigate this case and the Agency has received information from Spanish officials indicating that salmonella has been found in a particular flock on the production holding, Granja Avícola ‘El Angel’, in Spain.  Spanish authorities will ensure that no further eggs from the affected flock are distributed until they are satisfied that contamination is no longer present in the flock & barns.

The FSA has contacted companies in the UK that are known to have received eggs from the affected establishment, to ensure that they do not place these eggs on the market or that they send them to an authorised establishment to be pasteurised.  The letter sent to alert local authorities to this update and information about the companies contacted, can be found at the links below.  Since January 2009, all EU member states are required to have a Salmonella National Control Programme and carry out testing for salmonella in laying flocks. 
Press release ~ Update press release ~ FSA: Increase in cases of salmonella ~ FSA: Eggs – advice for caterers ~ Safer food, better business (SFBB) ~ HPA report of increase in Salmonella Enteritidis phage type 14b 2009 ~ Salmonella National Control Programme ~ Annexe A – Letter to Local Authorities on Salmonella Enteritidis Phage Type 14b

DCSFWill this be the answer to the perennial cry of ‘Never Again’? - Children’s Secretary Ed Balls and Health Secretary Andy Burnham have announced the Government’s acceptance of a package of recommendations from the final Social Work Task Force report, to ‘transform social work & public understanding of social workers’ crucial contribution to our society’.
Under the package, every social worker will benefit from:
* Reforms to initial training
* A new ‘licensing’ system, which will introduce an assessed probationary year
* A revamped framework for continuing professional development
* A career structure so experienced practitioners can progress in front line roles as well as in management
* A new standard for employers
* Pay reform
* A new & independent College for Social Work led & owned by the profession
The Secretaries of State announced that the package also includes:
* a new campaign to improve the public understanding of social work
* a new system to help employers better plan & forecast the demand & workload of their social workers
Press release ~ Social Work Task Force - A safer, stronger future: Final Report ~ Government’s 2020 Children and Young People’s Workforce Strategy ~ Social Work Transformation Fund ~ Children’s Workforce Development Council ~ Code of Practice for Social Care Workers ~ Laming report: index of recommendations ~ The Protection of Children in England: A Progress Report ~ Social Work Transformation package ~ Evaluation of the new social work degree qualification in England ~ Roles and tasks of social work: A consultation ~ Social work practice with depressed mothers in child and family care ~ Newly Qualified Social Workers (NQSW) pilots

DECC / Ofgem:  Money saving technology or a touch of 1984? - Smart meters (SM) will be rolled out through energy suppliers to every home by the end of 2020 under final plans published by Energy & Climate Change Minister, Lord Hunt. DECC is also providing £6m to companies to continue developing smart technology, such as electricity storage.

The Government’s response to the SM consultation sets out how they will be rolled out across Britain, including:
* Making energy suppliers responsible for installing smart meters in their customers’ homes
* Supplying a standalone display device with meters to make it easy for consumers to see & understand their energy use & carbon emissions in real time
* Centrally coordinating the communications between smart meters & the utility companies to ensure easy switching between suppliers and to provide a platform for the development of smarter grids in the future

Ofgem will work with DECC & the energy industry to develop a framework to support their introduction.  The first phase of this work will see a prospectus published in summer 2010, which will set out detailed proposals for the regulatory & commercial framework, as well as define the minimum functions that all smart meters will have to deliver for consumers.  The management of the first phase of the programme will be carried out jointly between DECC and Ofgem’s delivery arm, Ofgem-E Serve.

‘Smarter Grids: The Opportunity’ makes the case for developing smart grids in the UK, as they will give operators & consumers much more information about supply & demand of electricity. Specifically smart grids will:
* Deliver electricity more efficiently & reliably
* Facilitate increased generation of low carbon electricity sources such as wind
* With smart meters, give consumers more control & choice of when they use electricity
DECC press release ~ Ofgem press release ~ Response to the consultation: Towards a Smarter Future: Government Response to the Consultation on Electricity and Gas Smart Metering ~ Smarter Grids: The Opportunity ~ Ofgem-E Serve  ~ Factsheet: Delivering Smart Meters

Pre-Budget reportWill he, Won’t he bite the bullet of reducing Debt? - If you want to access all the latest information from across government on the 2009 Pre-Budget Report on Wednesday 9 December 2009 use the following links:
* HM Treasury: Pre-Budget Report 2009: Full report, related press notices, a transcript of the Chancellor's speech and all the associated documents
* Pre-Budget Report 2009: HMT Microsite: This covers the latest news & background information
* HMRC: Pre-Budget Report 2009: For details of announcements that will affect HMRC clients

COHow Fair will the cuts feel to Civil Servants? - The government claims that substantial reforms to the Civil Service Compensation Scheme (CSCS) will save up to £500m over the next 3 years without impacting on the very lowest-paid civil servants. The scheme sets out how much compensation should be given to staff who are made redundant or who volunteer to leave under an early exit programme from 1 April 2010.

Under the new rules announced by Minister for the Cabinet Office, Tessa Jowell, a new maximum severance payment limit will be imposed for all Civil Servants and all departments will be required to follow the same rules on redundancy payments (with some flexibility to set compensation payable in other circumstances) and the minimum qualifying period for redundancy payments will be increased.
Press release ~ Fairness for All ~ Cabinet Office response to the ‘Fairness for All’ consultation ~ Putting the Frontline First: Smarter Government
Forthcoming events: 'Working Smarter’ can mitigate gloom and doom – Free Seminars - With substantial ‘efficency savings’ very much the theme of the forthcoming pre-Budget report, the immediate future looks challenging for PSO’s trying to decide how and what services they can afford to deliver next year (see previous 2 items).
Improved efficiency gains have long been believed as a means to reducing public spending as they can not only reduce costs, but also provide more efficient services. Over the last 10 years the Government has introduced a number of programmes/processes to make the most of public spending and to deliver efficient & effective services.
Asta Development is kicking off 2010 by holding two free public sector breakfast seminars.
Using case studies from Wandsworth Borough Council, The Hyde Housing Group, as well as references from their public sector client base, they will be taking a look at some of the current government programmes/processes aimed at maximising resources & delivering efficient services. They will also explain how effective project & resource management systems can support organisations in achieving these goals.
Click here to register your interest in these events and receive further information as it becomes available.

For information on more forthcoming public sector events please click HERE to visit the WGPlus Events Calendar
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