General News

Defra: The Department of Health, Defra and the Health & Safety Executive have advised that pregnant women who come into close contact with sheep during lambing may risk their own health (& that of their unborn child) from infections that can occur in some ewes.  Pregnant women should seek medical advice if they experience fever or influenza-like symptoms, or if concerned that they could have acquired infection from a farm environment.
 
Although these infections are uncommon, and the number of human pregnancies affected by contact with sheep is extremely small, it is important that pregnant women are aware of the potential risks and take appropriate precautions. Farmers have a responsibility to minimise the risks to pregnant women, including members of their family, the public & professional staff visiting farms.
Press release ~ HSE: Common zoonoses in agriculture ~ HPA: Infection risks during the lambing season
 
ScotGov: Ministers have backed moves to give tenants a voice in deciding to transfer 16,000 Glasgow houses into community control. Glasgow Housing Association (GHA) and the Glasgow and West of Scotland Forum of Housing Associations (GWSF) will ask tenants to consider transfer proposals in the course of 2010 & 2011, before deciding on their future.
 
A blueprint for GHA's future direction, following a year-long strategic options review, has also been finalised.  Housing & Communities Minister, Alex Neil, attended the official Second Stage Transfer Concordat signing ceremony in Glasgow last week.
Press release ~ Glasgow Housing Association (GHA) ~ Glasgow and West of Scotland Forum of Housing Associations (GWSF)
 
HEFCE: HEFCE has announced the main decisions made by the Board at its meeting on 28 January 2010 on the provisional distribution of funding to universities & colleges in 2010-11.  These decisions were taken in the light of the Secretary of State's grant letter of 22 December 2009.  The detailed approach taken by the Board and the decisions are contained in HEFCE Circular letter 02/2010.
 
The Board agreed the allocation of £7,356m for the 2010-11 academic year covering teaching, research, capital and related activities.  The grants to individual institutions will be decided by the Board at its meeting on 4 March 2010 and the full grant announcement will be published on 18 March 2010.
Press release ~ HEFCE Circular letter 02/2010
 
OFT: The Office of Fair Trading has launched its 2010 Scams Awareness Month by highlighting how scammers are targeting unsuspecting people using increasingly sophisticated & manipulative tactics. New research for the OFT reveals the scale of mass-marketed scams in Britain, which arrive by post, email, text, phone or the internet and aim to mislead people to part with their cash.
 
This year's Scams Awareness Month is seeking to raise awareness of the scale of the problem with a nationwide 'Scamnesty' run in partnership with 129 local authority Trading Standards Services.  The campaign calls on consumers to drop scam mailings they have received into designated 'Scamnesty' bins (or boxes at local libraries) and public areas across the country.
 
Consumers looking for their nearest bin can do a postcode search on the Consumer Direct scams website.  The site also features an online bin where people can send suspected scam websites & emails. The campaign is also highlighting the damaging emotional impact that scams can have on victims.
Press release ~ Consumer Direct scams website ~ Trading Standards Institute (TSI)
 
Newswire – TSA: Almost 100 young people from across London and as far away as Portsmouth & Nottingham turned out last week to have their say about their neighbourhoods, their communities and their social housing. Issues such as dangerous dogs, how younger people can have a greater say in their communities and youth centres were top of the agenda.
 
The My House, My Street, My Say! event, which was run by the Tenant Services Authority (TSA) (the socialhousing regulator) and housing association Poplar HARCA, also saw attendees talking about the TSA’s proposed new standards for social housing landlords and recording messages about what they want the next Prime Minster to do to bring about change in their communities.
 
Clips from the Big Brother-style diary room, where attendees participated in a ‘Dear Prime Minister’ initiative, will be posted on www.socialbreakfast.org – a new independent discussion forum for young people set up by Ashram Housing Association and Social Media Partnership.  The messages will be delivered to the new PM in his first week in office.
Press release ~ Tenant Services Authority (TSA) ~ Poplar HARCA ~ Ashram Housing Association ~ Social Media Partnership
 
MoD: British Engineer troops installing a bridge in Nad-e Ali had to dive into a ditch they had just dug as they laid the bridge foundation when they came under fire from Taliban insurgents. They were pinned down for an hour while Afghan National Army soldiers & British infantrymen engaged the enemy in a fierce ‘firefight’.
 
The next day they returned under the cover of darkness to finish work on the bridge, but as it got light the insurgents starting firing on them again, so they created a smoke screen with grenades to give themselves cover. When the smoke cleared the insurgents were confronted with the fully installed, new bridge.
 
The men from 10 Field Squadron (Air Support) attached to 28 Engineer Regiment Group risked their lives to build the bridge (which will carry vehicles weighing up to 100 tonnes) to replace the existing crossing which could only carry foot traffic & motorcycles. Projects like this are the vital first steps towards developing the local infrastructure after the military have secured an area.
Press release ~ Corps of Royal Engineers – Bridge building video ~ 10 Field Squadron (Air Support) ~ 28 Engineer Regiment ~ Operations in Afghanistan: Reconstruction
 
FSA: The Food Standards Agency has received information relating to a possible scam to obtain UK travel visas through a UK-based food company. A food packing company based in Norfolk received a request, from a ‘Mr Henry Ezimoah’, to produce letters inviting 'inspectors' from the Nigerian National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control to visit the UK and inspect good manufacturing practice.  The letters of invitation were requested as part of the visa application process.
 
The FCO in Nigeria has advised us that there is no visit proposed to the UK food packing company from the Nigerian authorities and it does appear to be a scam to obtain visas.  The UK local authority is dealing with this information as a potential scam and has passed the relevant information onto the police & immigration officials.
 
If you are aware of, or receive, any information relating to this scam, please send details to the Agency by emailing foodfraud@foodstandards.gsi.gov.uk.  The Agency will pass on relevant information to the UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) Agency in Nigeria. You can also report any known or suspected food fraud by telephoning the food fraud hotline on 020 7276 8527.
Press release ~ Food fraud
 
FSA: The Food Standards Agency has officially launched SmallSteps4Life – an innovative approach to motivating young people to take simple steps towards improving their health & well-being, both inside & outside the classroom.  The programme also supports the Change4Life movement and is part of Get Set – the London 2012 education programme that will help deliver the lasting legacy of the Olympic & Paralympic Games.
 
SmallSteps4Life invites young people to set themselves challenges relating to the themes of eating well, getting active and feeling good, over a period of at least 4 weeks.  Examples include: eat a healthy breakfast every day, walk to & from school and get more sleep.
 
The website has been fully updated, so that all primary & secondary schools have access to the complete interactive site.  There is a variety of resources for young people on the site, such as areas where they can post their own challenge ideas, share their thoughts on how they are getting on, play games and take part in a quiz.  There are also opportunities for teachers share their schools’ successes and nominate individuals or groups who have done particularly well as SmallSteps4Life ‘champions’.
Press release ~ SmallSteps4Life ~ Get Set – the London 2012 education programme ~ London 2012 – Sustainability ~ National Children's Bureau's (NCB) ~ The Prince’s Trust ~ National Organisation for Pupil Referral Units (soon to be known as 'short stay schools') ~ ContinYou ~ Fairbridge ~ Evaluation of a pilot intervention in Kent schools
 
BIS: An extra month has been added to the deadline for the Government Scrappage Scheme, allowing manufacturers & dealers more time to prepare for & operate the exit phase of the scheme.  Previously due to complete in February, the Scheme, which is jointly run by the Government & car manufacturers, will now run until the end of March 2010 or until the money runs out, whichever is the sooner.
Press release ~ BIS: Vehicle Scrappage Scheme
 
MoJ: The Independent Advisory Panel, part of the Ministerial Council on Deaths in Custody, has launched a new website. The Panel provides independent advice to ministers on ‘deaths in state custody’.  

This covers deaths which occur in prisons, in or following police custody, immigration detention, the deaths of residents of approved premises and the deaths of those detained under the Mental Health Act in hospital. The new website includes details about panel members, meetings, lessons learned from deaths in custody and guidance on preventing & reducing deaths.
Press release ~ MoJ: Deaths in prison custody 2009 ~ Independent Advisory Panel on Deaths in Custody
 
FDA: The call by MPs for action to minimise pay differentials between external & internal candidates for senior posts in the civil service has been welcomed by the FDA (the union representing senior managers and professionals in the civil service).

FDA general Secretary Jonathan Baume said: It is clearly unfair that those appointed from outside should be paid often tens of thousands of pounds more than those promoted from within the civil service.  The evidence, as Public Administration Select Committee’s (PASC’s) found, is that on the whole, outside appointments do not perform better than career civil servants, and many leave the civil service relatively quickly”.
Press release ~ PASC’s report: Outsiders and Insiders: External Appointments to the Senior Civil Service ~ FDA
 
PCS: The PCS union has started a strike ballot of 270,000 PCS members working for the civil service and its related bodies over unilateral changes to the civil service compensation scheme’.  The ballot (to run between 4 - 25 February 2010) follows the insistence of the Cabinet Office to proceed with making unilateral changes to the redundancy terms of civil and public servants.
 
PCS claims that the changes will ‘see staff robbed of up to a third of their entitlements if they are forced out of their jobs’ and will lead to the government cutting jobs on the cheap. The government is looking to save £500m through these changes, based on the number of jobs it has axed over the last 3 years.  The union fears that the cuts to the scheme could lead to the government cutting up to 100,000 jobs on the cheap.
 
PCS also announced that it had lodged papers for a judicial review, arguing that the changes need to be implemented through agreement with the trade unions rather than imposed. The union also pointed to the mounting political pressure over the changes with a 131 MPs & former ministers signing an early day motion urging the government to re-examine the ‘disappointing and unfair proposals’.
 
However, the FDA union has announced that 5 civil service unions - including the FDA - have reached a deal on new civil service redundancy terms after 18 months of intensive negotiations.  The arrangements cover almost half a million civil servants from the most junior grades up to Permanent Secretaries, including industrial workers.  The FDA is the union representing senior managers and professionals in the civil service.
PCS press release ~ FDA press release ~ PCS – 4 Feb briefing ~ PCS - FAQs ~ EDM 251 ~ FDA
 
MLA: The Fab Four and more initiative (launched in November 2009 by British Pathé and the Museums, Libraries & Archives Council), which allows visitors to see historical moving footage in exhibits & displays, has been extended until 31 March 2010.  
 
British Pathé offer was simple - unlimited & instant online access to British Pathe’s 3,500 hours of historical & iconic newsreel footage & stills in instant, downloadable, broadcast quality for use in exhibitions, displays and public events – all for a monthly subscription of £60.  British Pathé and the MLA were keen to ensure that all footage & stills were completely accessible & affordable.
 
It is available to local regional museums that belong to MLA’s Accreditation Scheme, or are working towards Accreditation.  It is also available to individual public libraries & archives operated by local authorities.
Press release ~ History at the click of a button ~ MLA’s Accreditation Scheme ~ Museum strategy
 
RDPE: A local approach to delivering more than £105m of Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) funding will ensure the biggest positive difference for rural areas it was claimed last week. This message was delivered at the second national RDPE Network meeting for Local Action Groups (LAGs) held in the West Midlands, which also featured practice sharing, knowledge transfer and a series of interactive workshop sessions.
 
The Leader approach enables community-led delivery of RDPE funding in rural areas and is being implemented through LAGs, which represent public & private partners and community & voluntary groups.
Press release ~ Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) ~ Second national RDPE Network meeting for Local Action Groups (LAGs) ~ LAGs ~ Leader approach ~ Commission for Rural Communities
Keeping benefit and business grant payments flowing