DWPWith the average gross wage around £25k some might argue that even £21k is too generous - New Housing Benefit rules came into force last week ‘bringing fairness back to the Local Housing Allowance system’ and cutting the cost of the Housing Benefit bill which has been rising continuously for a decade.

From 1st April 2011 the Coalition Government is capping Housing Benefits for private sector tenants from a staggering £104,000 in some cases to an absolute maximum of £20,800 a year for a 4 bedroom property.  A  Discretionary Housing Payment Fund will provide a safety net for those who need it, with an additional £190m being invested over 4 years to smooth the transition.

The measures coming into force apply to new claimants.  Existing claimants will be protected at their Local Housing Allowance rate for up to 6 months from the date their claim is reviewed by their local authority.  This will allow claimants time to adjust to any reduction in Housing Benefit entitlement and in practice means many existing claimants will not be affected until after January 2012.

Disabled people with a long-term health condition (who need overnight care or live with someone with similar needs) may now be able to claim Housing Benefit for a private rented property which has an additional bedroom for a non-resident carer.
Press release ~ Directgov: Important changes to Housing Benefit ~ DWP: Impact of changes to Local Housing Allowance from 2011 ~ Previous DWP press release ~ Housing Benefit Regulations ~ Homeless Link response PR ~ Related previous PR regarding out of work claimants ~ Homeless Link ~ W&P Cttee report: Changes to Housing Benefit announced in the June 2010 Budget ~ DWP: An evaluation of the sanction of Housing Benefit ~ CAB: Help with your rent – Housing Benefit ~ National Homelessness Advice Service ~ Previous Universal Benefit PR ~ The White Paper – Universal Credit: Welfare that Works ~ Work Foundation PR ~ TUC PR ~ CBI PR ~ Adam Smith Institute PR ~ CAB PR ~ ippr PR ~ PCS union PR ~ iea PR

CLGAfter all, a council newspaper does not really qualify as a frontline service - Measures by Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles to ‘preserve a strong, vibrant, independent local press’ are now in force as new rules governing taxpayer funded town hall ‘freesheets’ & council publicity have been agreed by Parliament.

In recent years there has been a marked growth in the frequency & scope of council publicity techniques funded by taxpayers' money, whilst local papers have struggled in a saturated news environment.  A new publicity code strengthening the rules for English councils on what can be considered appropriate spending of taxpayers' money is now in force after approval by Parliament.

Seven fundamental principles set out in the revised Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity will make sure that council publicity is lawful, objective, appropriate, even handed & cost effective, with regard to equality & diversity and periods of heightened sensitivity.
Press release ~ Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity ~ Related previous PR ~ CLGC Report: Proposed Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity ~ Future for local and regional media Volume 1 ~ Future for local and regional media Volume 2 ~ Previous PR highlighting excesses ~ Tax Payers Alliance (then click; HERE and HERE) ~ AC: Council periodicals and other communication with the public

DWPBetter news for some, but others will lose out - Plans that will see the ‘biggest shake up of the state pension system for generations’ have been unveiled for consultation (closes on 24 June 2011) by the Pensions Minister, Steve Webb. 

In the Green Paper ‘A state pension for the 21st Century’ options are set out on how to simplify the system for future pensioners.  It includes a single-tier state pension currently estimated at around £140 a week, set above the current guarantee element of Pension Credit.  This would replace the existing combination of entitlements that make up the present state pension.

This redesign, still based around the contributory principle, would over time ‘lift millions out of means testing and also put an end to inequalities in the current system that penalises women, low earners and the self-employed’. The Old Age pension was set up in 1908 when the average life expectancy was 41.  In 1981 an average 65-year-old man could expect to live for another 14 years, today it’s over 21 years, by 2050 it will be over 25 years.

State pension reform would underpin existing plans to automatically enrol people into workplace pensions from 2012, bringing between 5-8m into saving for the first time.  A state pension for future pensioners would not involve increases in public spending dedicated to state pensions.  Any contributions accrued by people under the current pension system would be honoured.
Press release & related links ~ 'A state pension for the 21st Century’ consultation

HCA more representative NHS needed - The Government's plans to reform NHS commissioning 'need to be significantly changed', warn MPs in a report published on 5 April 2011.  The MPs propose that representatives of nurses, hospital doctors, public health experts and local communities should all be involved as decision makers alongside GPs in NHS commissioning.  

They believe it is vital to make these changes to enable the NHS to meet the unprecedented challenge it faces of finding 4% annual efficiency savings over the next 4 years.
Press release & links ~ TKF response ~ PX comment

MoDFreeing up of the promotion ladder, or waste of required trained assets? - The Royal Navy and the Army have released the details of their redundancy programmes to their personnel.  The specific trades & branches of each Service affected by the first tranche of their redundancy programmes, along with the numbers being sought from each area, have also been announced.

While some of these reductions will be achieved through a decrease in recruiting and not replacing those who leave, there will still need to be around 11,000 redundancies.  Each Service will run a number of redundancy tranches over the next 4 years with reductions planned to be fully achieved by April 2015.  Although this is a compulsory programme, volunteers will be sought.
Press release & related links

White PaperProtective Monitoring of Public Sector ICT Systems and CESG Compliance - To help government agencies and the companies that interact with them handle information security risks effectively, the Communications–Electronics Security Group (CESG) has created a framework for protective monitoring.
Following the requirements of the GPG13 protective monitoring framework will help your organization achieve the levels of log management, real-time monitoring and reporting that will increase its security, improve incident management, enable forensic analysis — and provide evidence of compliance to auditors. In addition, adherence to GPG13 is increasingly becoming a requirement for companies that wish to do business with public sector bodies.
A recent white paper explores how your organisation can fulfill all 12 of the GPG13 protective monitoring controls — and much more besides. Simply click here to view and download the paper, ‘Protective Monitoring of Public Sector ICT Systems’.

Please choose from the links below to view individual sections of interest: