Wishing a happy and healthy New Year to all our readers and just a reminder that we'll be back with our first offering of 2011 on Monday, January 17th.
JRF: In work but still poor - A new report published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation shows the number of children living in poverty in working households has increased to 2.1m – the highest on record.
The report shows that, despite the recession, overall the number of children living in poverty fell to 3.7m, with the number in workless households falling to 1.6m, the lowest since 1984. But those in working families rose slightly to 2.1m, and they now account for 58% of the total.
Despite overall reductions, health inequalities between different class and/or income groups remain wide & persistent. For instance, the risk of mental illness for someone in the poorest 20% of the population is around twice the average. In addition, although there have been improvements in educational attainment, 2009 saw the first rise in the proportion of children, aged 11, not reaching basic levels of numeracy & literacy for over a decade.
OFT: Does it matter who owns UK infrastructure as long as it is adequate to support a recovering economy? - The OFT has recently published its map of who owns what across the UK's economic infrastructure. Its report also says that the potential for change of ownership through strong capital market competition can place an important discipline on firms and can put downward pressure on costs. In this context, it says foreign investment can be very positive in strengthening capital market competition.
However, the OFT found that the potential for market power exists in many infrastructure sectors and that this can affect outcomes for consumers. 4 case studies - into ports, waste, toll roads & car parks - highlight the importance of considering competition when awarding concessions and procuring infrastructure projects.
The key aims of the stock-take were to map ownership & control across the economic infrastructure sectors such as ports, airports, energy and water networks, assess how ownership of infrastructure affects outcomes for consumers in these markets and examine the different forms of ownership.
NAO: Restoring the balance as to who funds public sector pensions? - Changes made in 2007-08 to the pension schemes of civil servants, NHS staff & teachers are ‘on course to deliver significant savings & stabilise pension costs’ around their current levels as a proportion of GDP. The changes are also set to transfer, from taxpayers to employees, extra costs if pensioners live longer than currently expected.
The NAO estimates that these changes will reduce costs to taxpayers in 2059-60 by 14% compared to forecasts made without the changes. Aggregate savings over all years in the period to 2059-60 are equivalent to £67bn in 2008-09 prices.
MoD: Something all political parties can agree on (one hopes) - Prime Minister, David Cameron, has welcomed the publication of an independent report into innovative ways to support the Military Covenant - the bond between the nation and her Armed Forces, which the Government has promised to rebuild.
Professor Hew Strachan’s report looks at support that can be provided across Government & throughout society and makes many recommendations for the Government to consider. The Government will begin work immediately on two recommendations in the report:
* The first is for an Armed Forces Community Covenant, which encourages communities across the UK to volunteer support for their local Armed Forces.
* The second is for a Chief of the Defence Staff Commendation Scheme, which will allow the head of the UK's Armed Forces to thank individuals or bodies who give exceptional support to the Armed Forces.
In addition to the task force report, the Government has also committed to ensuring that progress is made on rebuilding the covenant, year-on-year. That is why it has brought forward legislation within the Armed Forces Bill for the Defence Secretary to present an Armed Forces Covenant report to Parliament every year, setting out how the Government is supporting our Armed Forces, their families & veterans in key areas such as healthcare, housing and education.
ICO: It’s legal to ‘Smile please’ at school - The Data Protection Act does not prevent family & friends from taking photographs at school concerts or plays this Christmas, according to the Information Commissioner. Information Commissioner, Christopher Graham said: “It is disappointing to hear that the myth that such photos are forbidden by the Data Protection Act still prevails in some schools”.