CLG: Local communities will have another chance to have their say on the eco-town proposals as Housing Minister Margaret Beckett launches the Government's second round of formal consultation (closes 19 February 2009) on the proposed locations and standards for eco-towns.
The draft Eco-towns Planning Policy Statement (PPS) published for consultation sets out the UK's ‘toughest ever’ green standards for new development, including achieving zero carbon status across all the buildings in the eco-town and allocating 40% of the area within the town to be green space.  The PPS also pledges that individual eco-towns will need to submit planning applications just as any other major development proposal.
A detailed Sustainability Appraisal on each location has also been published, which identifies & evaluates the likely impact of the proposals on the local economy, community & environment and considers reasonable alternatives.  Over the next month Communities and Local Government will also be running roadshow events in areas close to the proposed eco-town locations to encourage awareness & responses to the consultation.
Press release ~ eco-towns: living a greener future - Summary of consultation responses ~ Draft Eco-towns Planning Policy Statement (PPS) ~ Eco-towns: Sustainability Appraisal and Habitats Regulations Assessment of the Draft Eco-towns Planning Policy Statement ~ Directgov – An introduction to eco-towns ~ Have your say website ~ CLG – Eco –towns ~ Building Sustainable Transport into New Developments: A Menu of Options for Growth Points and Eco-towns
Defra: Environment Secretary Hilary Benn has launched a consultation (closes 31 December 2008) on new codes of practices for cats, dogs and horses that will offer practical advice on pet ownership and help pet owners to better understand their duties under the Animal Welfare Act 2006.
If a person fails to comply with a code of practice they will not be liable to proceedings of any kind, but failure to comply with several provisions may be used in evidence to support a prosecution for animal cruelty.
Press release ~ Code of Practice for the Welfare of Cats ~ Code of Practice for the Welfare of Dogs ~ Code of Practice for the Welfare of Equines ~ Animal Welfare Act 2006
ACE: Alan Davey, Chief Executive, Arts Council England has announced proposals for peer review & self assessment for regularly funded arts organisations and is inviting artists & arts organisations to have their say (by 23 January 2009) in how it will work. The move comes after Brian McMaster’s report on excellence urged the Arts Council to include peer review and self assessment at the heart of its decision making.

The ACE proposes using a combination of self-assessment and peer review.  A number of approaches are put forward in the consultation document, including ongoing artistic assessment, sectoral reviews and occasional one-off appraisals of individual organisations.  As well as considering written responses, the ACE will also hold 3 meetings aimed primarily at regularly funded organisations and other arts sector bodies.
Press release ~ Consultation and dates of seminars ~ Brian McMaster’s report on excellence
Ofsted: The Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted) has launched a new consultation document (closes on 26 January 2009) that proposes ‘a more focused approach to inspection of the further education (FE) and skills system’.
Under the new proposals, Ofsted would focus inspections on providers & issues which would have the greatest impact on improving outcomes for learners.  The frequency & type of inspection would be guided by the perceived capacity of colleges and other providers to improve.  The new approach will be piloted during the autumn & spring terms with selected colleges and providers, with the final version of the proposals to be implemented in September 2009.
Press release  ~ A Focus on Improvement: Proposals for FE and skills system inspections from September 2009
WAG: Plans that aim to tackle excessive environmental noise in two of the most densely populated areas of Wales and along major roads & railways have been released for public comment (by 31 December 2008).
The Noise Action Plans cover the urban areas of Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan, Swansea-Neath Port Talbot and major transport networks.  They were created as part of the EU’s Environmental Noise Directive, which aims for a common approach to environmental noise issues across Europe.
Press release ~ Environmental Noise Action Plans for major Roads, Railways and Agglomerations Consultation ~ WAG – Noise and Nuisance ~ EU’s Environmental Noise Directive
OfwatWater Services Regulation Authority (Ofwat) has provisionally decided not to allow Sutton and East Surrey Water to raise its prices by an average of 10.2% before inflation in 2009-2010. Ofwat's draft decision means the prices the company can charge will remain unchanged for now.
Sutton & East Surrey applied to increase prices due to increased energy costs and a claimed substantial & unforeseen shortfall in revenue.  They stated the shortfall came as a consequence of water restrictions due to a drought in 2006 and heavy rainfall in 2007.
There will be a consultation period until 26 November 2008 for customers and the company. Comments should be sent to: Stephen St Pier, Ofwat, CentreCityTower, 7 Hill Street, Birmingham, B5 4AUOfwat will announce the final decision in December 2008.
Press release ~ Ofwat ~ Ofwat draft determination letter ~ Sutton and East Surrey Water ~ S&ESW draft business plan ~ Setting price limits for 2010-15: Overview of companies’ draft business plans - Ofwat
CRC: The Commission for Rural Communities has been asked by the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to provide regular reports about the impacts of the economic downturn on rural businesses, employment and households. These reports will help enable the rural voice and needs to be put to the National Economic Council set up by the Prime Minister in October.
Press release ~ National Economic Council ~ Contribute to CRC reports
FSA:  The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has published a consultation paper (closes on 16 February 2009) proposing a new framework to regulate the way that banks treat their customers. Currently, the Banking Code Standards Board monitors & enforces the voluntary Banking Codes governing current accounts, personal loans & overdrafts, savings, card services and ATMs.
Next year the FSA will become responsible for regulating banks and building societies payment transactions under the Payment Services Directive (PSD).  The review considers whether it would be more effective to extend the FSA’s regulation across all aspects of banks' relationships with their retail customers.  This would exclude credit, such as unsecured loans and credit cards, which is regulated by the Office of Fair Trading.
Press release ~ CP 08/19: Regulating retail banking conduct of business ~ Banking Code Standards Board ~ Payment Services Directive (PSD) ~ Office of Fair Trading
MoJ: Those found guilty of criminal offences may have to pay towards the cost of their defence the Government announced as it published two consultation papers (both closing29 January 2009):
* One paper is a joint exercise with the Legal Services Commission consulting on the means testing of legal aid in the Crown Court, and
* The second is a Ministry of Justice consultation on the awards of costs from central funds in criminal cases
Press release ~ Means Testing and the Crown Court ~ The award of costs from Central Funds in criminal cases ~ MoJ – Legal Aid ~ Proposed means testing in the Crown Court
HMT: Ian Pearson MP, the Economic Secretary to the Treasury, has launched a consultation (closes 9 January 2009) on safeguards for exercise of the powers under the proposed Special Resolution Regime (SRR) that would be used to deal with banks in severe financial difficulty.  The safeguards - which are set out in draft secondary legislation - aim to increase the effectiveness of, and market confidence in, the 'partial transfer powers' under the Banking Bill.
Press release ~ 'Special resolution regime: safeguards for partial property transfers' ~ Banking Bill ~ Financial Stability and depositor protection: special resolution regime and other related docs ~ Financial Services Authority
DH: Health Secretary Alan Johnson has announced that, in future, the NHS should not withdraw treatment from the few patients who may still choose to pay privately for additional drugs.  But he made clear that while private care can be carried out alongside NHS care, private treatment should take place in a private facility and must not be subsidised by the NHS. The consultation on draft guidance closes on 27 January 2009 – See ‘In the News’ section for more information
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