Consultations

WAG: A panel of experts set up to consider ways of encouraging a broader range of people to become councillors in Wales has come up with a series of recommendations for consultation (closes on 6 November 2009) which they hope will widen participation in local government in Wales.
 
The Councillors Commission Expert Panel looked at the barriers that may prevent people standing for election to councils and the support & training that councillors need to be effective in carrying out their roles as community representatives.
Press release ~ Consultation on the report of the Councillor Commission Expert Panel Wales - Are we being served? ~ WAG - Local government ~ Councillors Commission
 
OFT: The Office of Fair Trading has published proposed changes to its guidance on director disqualification orders in competition law cases. A company director can be disqualified from acting as a director for up to 15 years if his or her company is involved in a breach of competition law and the court considers he/ she is unfit to be involved in the management of a company as a result.

The OFT's guidance currently indicates that the OFT or a regulator would focus on cases where a director was directly involved in a breach of competition law, such as ‘cartel activity’.  Under the proposed changes, the guidance would indicate that the OFT or a regulator would also focus on cases where a director should have taken steps to prevent a breach or where a director ought to have known of a breach but did not.

This consultation (closes on 20 November 2009) also considers a number of other changes to the detail of the OFT's guidance.
Press release ~ Competition disqualification orders consultation
 
ScotGov: The Scottish Government have published the draft plan for consultation (closes on 13 November 2009), which details the steps Scotland needs to take on the journey towards a Zero Waste society.  
 
As well as outlining the Scottish Government's priorities & polices in relation to waste, the plan, when finalised, will comply with the requirement in Article 28 of the revised Waste Framework Directive for Member States to have a waste management plan.  It will also comply with the requirement in Article 29 for Member States to have a waste prevention programme.
Press release ~ Scotland's Zero Waste Plan: Consultation ~ Waste strategyWaste Framework Directive for Member StatesLatest provisional data from SEPA on municipal wasteWaste Aware Scotland ~ Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) – Scotland
 
MoJ: The Ministry of Justice has set out proposals to rebalance the legal aid budget to ensure that the £2bn currently spent every year goes as far as possible in favour of civil help for those who need it most. The proposals intend to make better use of the criminal legal aid budget, reform & rationalise payment structures and sustain legal aid for the next 60 years.
 
In addition, the Legal Services Commission has also been asked to find an additional 5% saving from its administrative budget this year and 10% next year. The consultation paper has been issued to stakeholders across the legal sector and will close on 12 November 2009
Press release ~ Legal aid: funding reforms consultation ~ Legal aid ~ Legal Services Commission
 
OFT: The Office of Fair Trading is to conduct a market study looking at the impact on consumers from potentially misleading advertising and pricing of goods & services, and is asking interested individuals, businesses and other organisations for their views on the scope of the study.
 
The study will look at the application of consumer law to advertising & pricing, with a particular focus on the internet.  It will evaluate which online & offline pricing and advertising practices have potential to be most detrimental to consumers, and may also look at the use of personal information in advertising & pricing - in particular, where information from a consumer's online activity is used to target the internet advertising he or she receives. 
 
The market study is expected to commence in the autumn, and the OFT will be contacting some key parties directly.  Other interested parties can submit their written views to advertisingandpricing@oft.gsi.gov.uk by 18 September 2009.
Press release ~ OFT: Advertising and pricing market study
 
BIS: The Government is seeking views on the idea of including a power, under the forthcoming Digital Economy Bill, for the Secretary of State to direct Ofcom to introduce technical measures to clamp down on piracy, if necessary.
 
This would involve an obligation on Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to take action against individual, repeat infringers - for example by blocking access to download sites, reducing broadband speeds, or by temporarily suspending the individual’s Internet account.
 
To enable stakeholders to provide feedback on the new ideas, the Government has issued an explanatory statement and extended the current consultation on unlawful P2P file sharing to 29 September 2009.
Press release ~ Explanatory statement on P2P file-sharing and consultation document
 
DECC: New rules to revamp the way power plants get connected to the UK’s power grid have been proposed by Energy and Climate Secretary, Ed Miliband. The shake-up will help new projects waiting to get a date to feed electricity into the grid to get out of the queue and will in particular help renewable energy projects such as wind farms. There is currently over 60 GW of new generation capacity – around 200 projects – that are waiting to be connected to the grid, including around 17 GW from renewable sources.
 
With the current system projects get a connection date on a first come, first served basis regardless of when the project would start generating energy.  This means some wind farms were given connection dates years after when they were due to start producing electricity.  The consultation (closes on 17 November 2009) offers industry a say on three options for how the new system will work.
Press release ~ Consultation on Improving Grid Access ~ Related letter from Ofgem
 
DH: GPs & health professionals working in maternity, obstetrics, gynaecology & sexual health are being asked to take part (closes 8 October 2009) in a new study into Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in a bid to better ensure that services to protect women & girls are as effective as possible.  FGM, also known as female genital cutting, can cause long-term mental & physical suffering, difficulty in giving birth, infertility and even death.  It is illegal in the UK and the maximum penalty for committing or aiding the offence is 14 years imprisonment.
 
The study aims to increase the Government’s knowledge about women & girls affected by FGM England.  It will also look at how the training needs of key health professionals could be improved and provide information for the development of appropriate sexual & reproductive health services.  The findings will inform the forthcoming cross-government strategy on tackling Violence Against Women and Girls.
 
The Department of Health has produced a comprehensive training video for health professionals that outlines appropriate actions & guidance for dealing with FGM.  This can be made available for reproduction on third party websites
Press release ~ Take part in study (password: fgmsurvey) ~ Foundation for Women’s Health Research and Development (FORWARD) ~ If you suspect a girl is at risk of Female Genital Mutilation ~ Africans Unite Against Child Abuse (AFRUCA)
 
Defra: Defra is consulting (closes on 2 December 2009) on proposed new domestic regulations governing prevention, control & eradication of certain Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies (TSEs), including BSE & scrapie in England.
 
The proposed new regulations include amendments affecting TSE testing, the seizure of milk where TSEs are suspected or confirmed in sheep & goats and changes to the compensation system. It would update the existing Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies (England) Regulations 2008, which would be revoked. 
Press release ~ Consultation on the proposed Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy (England) Regulations 2009
 
AC: The Audit Commission wants views on whether and how rules on pay-offs to senior council staff may need to be strengthened as it launches its inquiry into severance settlements. The Communities Secretary John Denham has asked the Commission to look at the regulation of financial agreements between councils & chief executives who leave before their contracts are up, especially those who subsequently move to another local authority to take a top job.
 
The call for evidence closes on Friday 2 October 2009. Its main question is whether pay off rules & conventions adequately protect the interests of council tax payers.  Evidence should be submitted by email to severancesettlements@audit-commission.gov.uk.
 
Auditors appointed by the Commission to oversee local authority accounts already monitor individual cases.  It now wants to hear from elected members, chief executives, council audit committees and officials designated to monitor ethics in local government, as well as the public.
Press release
 
OFT: The Office of Fair Trading is issuing formal written notices to 26 retirement home firms setting out concerns over fees charged when residents sell or rent their properties. The OFT is concerned in particular about the fairness & clarity of contract terms providing for these so-called 'exit fees', charged to occupants of purpose built retirement homes which may breach the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations. The firms are being given 14 days to respond.  
 
The OFT is also seeking information & views about the terms from residents, consumer groups and other interested parties.  Those who wish to send information should email: retirementhomes@oft.gsi.gov.uk by 22 January 2010. Once all parties have provided their input the OFT will decide how to proceed.

The investigation follows voluntary undertakings secured from a major builder of UK retirement apartments, McCarthy and Stone, to remove an exit fee charging consumers 1% of the sale price when a property
Press release ~ OFT: Retirement Homes Investigation into exit fees ~ Q&As ~ McCarthy and Stone - Retirement housing company agrees to change its lease agreements
 
DfT: New technology, enabling mobile phones to double up as ‘swipe & go’ cards and bank cards to be used to pay directly for journeys could revolutionise how travellers purchase & use tickets according to a new consultation (closes on 23 October 2009) – See ‘In the News’ section for more information.
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