General News

ScotGov: The Scottish Government claims that changes to the Individual Learning Accounts Scotland Scheme, which will be available to learners in the 2009-10 academic year, mean that up to 250,000 more people can now be helped to develop their learning when changing jobs or facing redundancy.
The changes are:
* the income threshold will be increased from £18k to £22k
* the minimum study requirement for the ILA £500 grant will be reduced from 50% of a full-time course to 40 SCQF Credits
* eligible students studying P/T taught postgraduate courses (SCQF level 11) will be supported through the ILA500 scheme
Press release ~ Skills Development Scotland ~ ILA500 ~ Open University ~ Open Learn Scotland ~ SCQF Credits ~ Scottish Government's six point Economic Recovery Plan ~ The Alliance of Sector Skills Councils ~ National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA)
MO: The new joint Environment Agency (EA) & Met Office Flood Forecasting Centre (FFC) for England & Wales has been officially opened by the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Hilary Benn MP. The FFChas been created to forecast river & coastal flooding, as well as extreme rainfall which may lead to flooding from surface water.
It will help provide earlier warnings of floods to local authorities and the emergency services, to give them more time to prepare for floods and reduce the risk of loss of life and damage to property. The new service combines the EA’s expertise in flood risk management and the MO's expertise in weather forecasting.
Press release ~ Flood Forecasting Centre for England and Wales ~ Environment Agency - Flood ~ Met Office: Flood forecasting and warning services ~ Sir Michael Pitt's Review into the summer 2007 floods
WAG: Funding of £500,000 for Wales’ first factory to be partially powered by its own waste has been announced by Jane Davidson, Minister for the Environment, Sustainability & Housing.  The ready meals factory will use state-of-the-art technology, to transform food waste into heat, power and compost.  It will contribute up to 10% of the factory’s power and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by an estimated 7,500 tonnes p.a.
The Welsh Assembly Government funding will contribute towards a £5m large-scale anaerobic digestion (AD) unit being developed by InSource Energy Limited.  The unit will help power the R F Brookes ready meals plant at Rogerstone, who supply major names in the retail & hospitality sector, including Marks & Spencer.
Press release ~ WAG – Waste and Recycling ~ Defra - Anaerobic digestion ~ WRAP Cymru (Waste & Resources Action Programme) ~ InSource Energy Limited ~ Marks and Spencer ‘Plan A’ - 100-point eco-plan
BSBuying Solutions has announced the creation of a new national framework agreement covering consultancy services. The collaborative arrangements, which go live on 1 December 2009, have been developed in conjunction with the needs of the 9 Improvement & Efficiency Partnerships (IEPs) and take into account the key drivers that local authorities need to transform their services.
Working in partnership with Improvement and Efficiency West Midlands, the framework agreement will be developed to reflect the needs of local government for skills in core disciplines including:
* Strategic Consultancy
* Organisational Change
* Programme & Project Management
Press release ~ Buying Solution - Consultancy ~ Improvement and Efficiency West Midlands ~ Improvement & Efficiency Partnerships (IEPs)
BERR: Motorists are being offered £2,000 towards a new car or van if they trade in their 10+ year-old vehicle for scrap under plans unveiled in the Budget. The grant is made up of £1,000 from government with matched funding from industry.  The scheme will operate from mid-May until March 2010 or until the government’s £300m has been usedNot all manufacturers or dealers may participate as the scheme is voluntary.
The conditions include:
*Trade-in passenger cars or small vans up to 3.5 tonnes first registered in UK on or before 31 July 1999
* New vehicle must be first registered in the UK or after the date the scrappage scheme is launched & declared new at first registration in the UK with no former keepers
Press release ~ BERR – Vehicle scrappage scheme
Directgov:  In the wake of the Chancellor's Budget, Directgov has launched Moneyspeak, a free simple tool which has two functions:
* A search facility for financial words or phrases, which then picks up relevant references from across the web
* It identifies information relating to the chosen search term by linking to the relevant Directgov pages
Press release ~ Moneyspeak
CLG: The Government has published a new strategy for the Ordnance Survey (OS), the business responsible for the national mapping of Great Britain, which is intended to improve ease of access to geographic data & services for both commercial and non-commercial use.
The strategy will balance the need to maintain the highest quality standards with the need to stimulate innovation in the geographical information market and make data more widely available. The OS will continue to be self-funded and earn revenue by licensing its data, but it will make sure it is easier for customers and other businesses to access its data & services.
In addition, the enhanced OS OpenSpace, the digital mapping service that enables innovators to experiment & develop their ideas for free, will be launched on 12 May 2009.
Press release ~ Ordnance Survey Business Strategy ~ OS OpenSpace ~ Shareholder Executive ~ Office of Public Sector Information
TfLiBus, the state-of-the-art system which provides passengers with useful information about their bus service, has now been fitted on all 8,000 London buses.  The on-board ‘next stop’ announcements help ensure that passengers know exactly where their bus is and what the next stop & final destination will be.
iBus uses a combination of technologies, including satellite tracking and GPRS data transfer that can pinpoint the precise location of all of the city's 8,000 buses.  It provides real time audio-visual journey information for passengers as well as more accurate predictions of arrival times at bus stop Countdown signs.  It also provides improved radio communications for drivers and allows bus controllers to improve performance & reliability.
Press release ~ iBus
MO: Climate change will have a dramatic effect on the way we build houses in the future.  At Grand Designs Live,London the Met Office will show you why new houses must be designed to reduce their carbon footprint.
Visitors can present a forecast with a difference from the Met Office TV studio, situated in the Grand Village. The forecast will show just how much climate change will affect the UK's weather in the future due to our actions today.  Met Office climate scientists will also be there to advise on what changes we can make to adapt and mitigate for climate change.
Press release ~ Grand Designs Live, London
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