General News

CIOB: In response to the Government’s consultation for changes to the LocalAuthorityBuilding Control charging regime, the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) has called for a payment system that rewards good builders with lower Building Control fees and penalises poor quality & building control non-compliance.

The CIOB seeks greater clarity & definition of any fee regulations that act as an incentive for ‘green’ building and the implementation of these in a fairer way.  In addition, it is highly desirable that fee regulations promote quality builders, whilst exposing the ’cowboy builder' as a more expensive alternative.
Press release ~ CIOB submission and other related submissions ~ Local Authority Building Control charging regime consultation (now closed)
ScotGov: An updated Homecoming Scotland guide featuring 44 new events was launched by First Minister Alex Salmond recently at the Scottish Traditional Boat Festival, at Portsoy. The 40-page guide showcases the updated list of events taking place throughout Scotland over the rest of 2009.
The new additions include the Edinburgh Mela Festival, Ice Hockey's Homecoming: The Gardiner Cup and the Clan Cameron Gathering. Thousands of Homecomers have already taken part in events across Scotland since the programme launched with the year's programme now totalling more than 400 events.
Press release ~ Homecoming 2009 ~ Events Guide ~ Scottish Traditional Boat Festival ~ Edinburgh Mela Festival ~ Ice Hockey's Homecoming: The Gardiner Cup ~ Clan Cameron Gathering
LSIS:   The Learning & Skills Improvement Service has launched a new web service and announced that  the Excellence Gateway registrations are up 88%. In addition the online portal for the learning & skills sector, has added a new research section to its site.  
The new research section enhances the existing resources in Excellence Gateway with easier access to research materials, links to other useful sites and the opportunity to use discussion forums & collaborative workspaces to raise research queries & discuss individual research projects.
Press release ~ Learning & Skills Improvement Service ~ Excellence Gateway - Research 
PCS: An overtime ban involving 70,000 PCS members working for Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) began last week week, as the department allegedly spends £ms on the use of overtime to mask the true impact of job cuts. The union is calling on HMRC to employ permanent staff rather than relying on routine overtime to cover the loss of just under 19,000 jobs over the last 3 years.
During that period the department have become increasingly reliant on using overtime & temporary staff to clear backlogs of work & post which have built up due to job cuts. Just in the processing area of HMRC alone, £4.5m (or 10% of the area’s budget) was spent in the last financial year on overtime. This is money which the union argues would be better invested in permanent staff to provide a better service and to chase the £25.8bn of uncollected tax.
Press release ~ Public and Commercial Services Union
WAG: On the first day of the Llangollen International Eisteddfod, the Heritage Minister pledged the Welsh Assembly Government’s support for one of Wales’ cultural jewels by making £1m available for maintenance & refurbishment of the Llangollen Royal Pavilion.
The Welsh Assembly Government is making this investment alongside Denbighshire County Council, who has pledged an additional £600K, to upgrade the Pavilion and secure the festival’s long-term future as one of Wales’ high profile cultural events.
Press release ~ Llangollen International Eisteddfod ~ Llangollen Royal Pavilion ~ WAG - Culture and sport ~ One Wales: A progressive agenda for Wales
ScotGovIntrallect, a Linlithgow-based software design company, has won the contract to develop Scotland's National Assessment Resource, Minister for Schools & Skills, Keith Brown, has announced. Currently Learning and Teaching Scotland (LTS) and the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) operate a number of manual & online assessment systems, to allow teachers to judge the knowledge & understanding of young learners.
The National Assessment Resource will provide the education profession with a single online assessment system.  It will act as a store of assessment resources, a tool for the development of new resources and a coherent infrastructure for assessment within Curriculum for Excellence.
The Scottish Government has provided £1.7m over 5 years to a partnership between LTS and SQA to manage the development of this resource.  The initial phase of the development is expected to be completed by autumn 2010.
Press release ~ ScotGov - schools ~  Curriculum for Excellence ~ Intrallect ~ Learning and Teaching Scotland (LTS) ~ Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA)
HOMaintaining passport security and delivering a high quality service to customers is the ‘driving force’ behind a fee increase of £5.50 for a standard passport, the Identity and Passport Service (IPS) and Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) claimed last week.
The IPS and FCO intend to introduce an increase in the price of a 10-year adult passport from £72 to £77.50.  There will also be a rise of £3 to the cost of a child’s passport to £49.  The increase will take effect from 3 September 2009 following final approval by the Privy Council.  
The adult passport will continue to be issued for free to applicants born on or before 2 September 1929. An increase of 50p has also been announced to cover the cost of consular assistance services provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) abroad.
Press release ~ Directgov – Passports and travel ~ Identity and Passport Service (IPS) ~ FCO – Supporting British Nationals Abroad
NSG: The Cabinet Secretary, Sir Gus O’Donnell and the Dragons’ Den star & one of the UK’s leading business entrepreneurs, Peter Jones, were just 2 of the speakers lined up to attend Civil Service Live 2009 at London’s Olympia last  week.
Press release ~ Civil Service Live 2009 ~ National School of Government
LSIS: At a special ceremony held in London recently, Kevin Brennan, minister for further education, skills, apprenticeships and consumer affairs, awarded Learning and Skills Beacon status to 12 outstanding further education & skills providers.
Among the new Beacons are a wide range of providers, including general further education & sixth form colleges, work-based learning providers, adult & community learning providers and the first offender learning provider to gain Beacon status.
Press release ~ LSIS
ScotGov:   Roseanna Cunningham, Minister for the Environment, has met with organisers & producers behind the Fife Diet project. The project encourages people to sign-up to eating food from the region, monitor their progress and share their experience.  Working closely with suppliers & local farmers, the group aims to shorten the supply chain, reduce food miles, create innovative distribution services and re-localise produce.
The Fife Diet is free to join and you don't need to commit eating 100% from Fife any more, you just need to be interested in sourcing more of your food locally.  They can help with information, events and food offers.
Press release ~ Fife Diet Project
MoD: Danish military reservist field hospital staff have been training with 2 Medical Brigade at the Army Medical Training Services Centre in Strensall, Yorkshire, ahead of their 3-month deployment (beginning on 20 July) to take over the running of the Camp Bastion field hospital in Afghanistan from 202 (Midlands) Field Hospital.  256 (City of London) Field Hospital will deploy to Camp Bastion to replace the Danes in October 2009.

The Training Centre has a mock-up of a field hospital to mirror the facilities in Afghanistan.  Training includes dealing with casualties who have lost limbs and learning how to treat civilian casualties who require an Afghan interpreter.
The field hospital at Camp Bastion provides emergency medicine, primary surgery, an Intensive Care Unit, general care beds, diagnostic support and a variety of clinical specialities for deployed medical care.  Some UK Defence Medical Services specialists, together with US medical personnel, will remain at Camp Bastion Field Hospital during the deployment of the Danish Hospital personnel. 
Press release ~ 202 (Midlands) Field Hospital ~ UK Defence Medical Services ~ 256 (City of London) Field Hospital ~ NAO report:  Support to High Intensity Operations
UKOnline: In the wake of Digital Britain, it’s clear one of the core challenges ahead lies not in the creation of infrastructures or content, but in winning over hearts & minds.  Recent research has revealed a significant job to do in getting stakeholders within parliament, local government and across industry on board with the report’s basic principles. 
Helen Milner, Managing Director of UK online centres said:  “Anyone who hasn’t used computers or the internet in 3 months or more is officially classed as ‘digitally excluded’ and that applies to 29% of the population………  There is a big job ahead to communicate not just Lord Carter’s plans but the basic issues to some very key stakeholders.  Without the buy-in of cross party MPs, councillors and especially businesses, the growth of a ‘digital’ Britain will continually be stunted and the opportunity Digital Britain presents will be lost”.
Press release ~ UK Online Centres ~ Digital Britain Final Report ~ Socitm Policy Briefing
MoD: The Royal Air Force Regiment, which provides essential protection to Armed Forces personnel and air assets in Afghanistan, is to be expanded, with the formation of a new Field Squadron and Force Protection Wing Headquarters later this year.  The new unit is expected to be deployed to Afghanistan, as part of Operation HERRICK, in April 2011.
The new Field Squadron will be based at either RAF Leuchars in Fife or RAF Shawbury in Shropshire and a study is currently under way to determine which of the two stations is most suitable to host the new squadron when it is formed in October 2009.  The location of the Force Protection Wing Headquarters will also be decided shortly.
The RAF Regiment’s role is to protect deployed air bases, keeping personnel, equipment & infrastructure and particularly aircraft approaching & leaving bases, safe from ground based threats.  In Afghanistan, the Regiment protects airfields at Kandahar and Bastion, while in Iraq it has recently completed 6 years safeguarding the airfield at Basra International Airport.
Press release ~ RAF Regiment
NSG: A New Deal to provide the Civil Service with the skills & training to deliver better value for money services for people was outlined at Civil Service Live 2009 last week. It brings together Permanent Secretaries, the human resources community, Government Skills and others to agree a Core Learning Programme to cover the essential areas of policy, leadership & professional development.  As the corporate learning resource for the Civil Service, the NationalSchool is responsible for its design & delivery.
Press release ~ Related press release ~ Civil Live 2009 ~ National School of Government ~ Listening to the frontline: Capturing insight and learning lessons in policy making ~ Sunningdale Institute report Engagement and Aspiration ~ Government Skills
STFC: The UK-led SPIRE instrument on board the Herschel Space Observatory has made its first astronomical observations, with spectacular results.  The first SPIRE images, together with first light observations from the other two Herschel instruments, have been released by the European Space Agency (ESA).
The SPIRE camera responds to light at wavelengths between 250 and 500 microns (500-1000 times longer than the wavelength of visible light).  It is designed to look for emission from clouds of dust in regions where stars are forming in our own and other galaxies.
Press release ~ Herschel Space Observatory ~ SPIRE ~ STFC
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