General Reports and Other Publications
HC: Two independent watchdogs have called for a renewed drive to improve public health services after analysing the success of policies over the past decade. A new report by the Healthcare Commission and Audit Commission assesses the impact government policy has had on:
* narrowing health inequalities
* improving sexual and mental health
* reducing smoking, alcohol misuse and obesity
While there have been some major improvements (ex. premature deaths in under-75s from circulatory diseases (fall of 45%), cancer (dropped 15%) and advances in tackling smoking & improving sexual health) these rates of improvement have not been matched in the areas of alcohol misuse and obesity.
Press release ~ Are we choosing health? The impact of policy on the delivery of health improvement programmes and services ~ Healthcare Commission ~ Audit Commission ~ DH – Alcohol Misuse ~ DH - Obesity
NAO: According to a new National Audit Office report, the further education capital programme is enabling colleges in England to make good progress in renewing & rationalising their estate, replacing poor quality buildings with high quality, more suitable facilities.
Most new buildings are of a high standard, meeting the needs of colleges and learners, and they have been completed on or close to their budget. The earlier projects did not perform well when judged against environmental sustainability criteria, but since 2007 the Learning and Skills Council has required higher environmental standards in new college buildings.
Press release ~ Renewing the physical infrastructure of English further education colleges ~ Executive Summary ~ Learning and Skills Council ~ LSC sustainable development strategy ‘From Here to Sustainability’ ~ From here to Sustainability – main messages from consultation ~‘Building for Skills: A prospectus for the Learning and Skills Council’s capital programme’ ~ Sustainable Building Sources
PADA: The Personal Accounts Delivery Authority has published a summary of the responses to its consultation on possible charging structures for personal accounts. The document also sets out how the responses received will help the delivery authority shape its recommendations.
The delivery authority intends to provide advice to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions on a potential approach for the charging structure for personal accounts before the start of the procurement process. There was no clear consensus view on the most appropriate charging structure for personal accounts, but the majority of respondents were in favour of either:
* An annual management charge (AMC)-only structure, or
* A contribution charge with an AMC
Press release ~ Response document ~ Personal Accounts Delivery Authority ~ Pensions Act 2007 ~ DWP – Pensions reform ~ Personal accounts
OFT: The market in personal current accounts is not working well for consumers, the Office of Fair Trading has said in its report 'Personal current accounts in the UK' which looks at the £8bn industry. The report found that much of banks' revenue from current accounts is derived opaquely, with 81% of income coming from two sources:
* insufficient funds charges (£2.6bn) and
* net credit interest income (£4.1bn)
Overall, the report finds that the personal current account market may be stuck in an equilibrium that does not work well for consumers. Limited understanding of key account elements, combined with low confidence in switching, means that banks have less incentive to provide better offers on charges and interest. But without better offers from banks, consumers have little incentive to switch.
NAO: The O2, a central part of plans to regenerate the Greenwich Peninsula, opened on time in June 2007 and has become a highly successful entertainment venue which has boosted local employment. According to the National Audit Office, however, housing development on the rest of the Peninsula is taking longer than originally expected and financial returns to the taxpayer are likely to be lower as a result.
The report found that the number of houses built, making up most of the project, is two years behind original forecasts. English Partnerships’ oversight of the regeneration can influence the quality of the project, but it cannot easily speed up delivery by house-builders. The delay increases the risk that English Partnerships might not meet its forecast of 4,250 housing units by 2016.
Delays to the housing programme have, however, freed up capacity and brought forward the development of schools & commercial space. This development will benefit the growing community on the Peninsula, as it will allow them to live, work and use recreational facilities on the Peninsula from the day they move in.
Press release ~ The Regeneration of the Greenwich Peninsula: A Progress Report ~ Executive Summary ~ English Partnership ~ The Anschutz Entertainment Group Europe (AEG)
HEFCE: The Higher Education - Business and Community Interaction (HE-BCI) survey, published last week, revealed that higher education's contribution to the economy continued to grow in 2006-07, reaching record levels. UK higher education institutions (HEIs) received £2.64bn from business and community interaction in 2006-07. This is a 17% rise from the last survey (for 2005-06).
Through interacting with business and the community Universities & colleges help turn knowledge into new companies, products and services. They also deliver professional training to improve skills, provide consultancy to solve problems and undertake projects to tackle social challenges.
Cabinet Office: Three major departments of state are making good progress in building their capability to meet the demands of public service delivery in the 21st century, the Government claimed when the Cabinet Office when it published the first three new Capability Review reports, which outline the progress made by each department in question - the Home Office, Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) - since their performance was first assessed two years ago.
It is claimed that the Progress and Next Steps reports show that all three departments have improved on their previous scores and are delivering key improvements in their business areas. The publication of these reports marks the start of the second round of Capability Reviews for all government departments which will be undertaken during 2008/9.
Press release ~ Capability review website & reports ~ NSG: Take-off or Tail-off evaluation of Capability Reviews
CLG: The best parks and green spaces across the country have been announced by Baroness Andrews. A record 743 green spaces across the country, all freely accessible to the public, have received a Green Flag Award - the national standard for quality parks and green spaces. Winners are judged to be welcoming and well maintained with the support and involvement of the local community.
The Green Flags scheme is currently expanding nationally and internationally - three parks in Northern Ireland, 1 park in the Republic of Ireland, 5 parks in Scotland and 2 parks in Holland have this year also received a Green Flag Award due to ambitious pilot projects.
Press release ~ Green Flag Award ~ Green helps to regenerate London borough ~ Deal with developers establishes community park for all ~ Civic Trust
DWP: New research launched by Anne McGuire, Minister for Disabled People, provides a unique snapshot of the lives of 1,860 disabled people in Great Britain. Published in the run-up to the release of a Green Paper on Welfare Reform, the report showed that nine out of ten working disabled people believe their job has a positive impact on their life, keeping them active and giving them financial independence.
Experiences and Expectations of Disabled People reports their views on a range of the issues, including employment, education, transport, health and discrimination. Commissioned by the Office for Disability Issues, the study actively involved disabled people throughout the research process.
Press release ~ Experiences and Expectations of Disabled People ~ Evidence on the effect of Pathways to Work on existing claimants ~ A cost-benefit analysis of Pathways to Work for new and repeat incapacity benefits claimants ~ The Pathways Advisory Service: Placing employment advisers in GP surgeries ~ Pathways to Work ~ Pathways to Work: Qualitative study of in-work support ~ Employ ability ~ Film ~ DWP – Employ ability ~ Workshops ~ Employers' Forum on Disability ~ Mental Health, The Last Workplace Taboo ~ Depression Alliance – Depression Awareness Week ~ Advice leaflet – Stress at work ~ Stress at work is a risk factor for depression ~ Action and Learning Sites
ESRC: Standards in stem cell research help both scientists & regulators to manage uncertainty and the unknown, according to new research funded by the Economic and Social Research Council. Efforts to standardise practices across different labs is, however, a balancing act where the autonomy of scientists and fragility of living material need to be weighed against the need for comparable data.
The ambition in many quarters to scale up the production of human embryonic stem cells and move towards clinical trials requires that different laboratories are able to produce to a standard quality of cells. Developing common standards in stem cell production is not straightforward as so much is still unknown in this science.