General Reports and Other Publications

ESRCPerformance assessment schemes, aimed at making local authorities into more effective organisations, are having the desired effect according to new research released by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).  The project ‘Leadership Change and public services: Reinvigorating Performance or Reinforcing Decline?’ found that poor performance was likely both to be punished by voters at local elections and to lead to change among the senior management of authorities.

The researchers measured election results and managerial change in upper-tier councils over a 6-year-period (2001-7) against their ratings under the Audit Commission’s Comprehensive Performance Assessment (CPA).  
Introduced in 2002, the CPA rates councils on a scale of stars from zero (poor) to four (excellent). 
Press release ~ ‘Leadership Change and public services : Reinvigorating Performance or Reinforcing Decline ? ~ Audit Commission’s Comprehensive Performance Assessment (CPA)
MoD: The Public Accounts Committee has published a report into the Service Family Accommodation (SFA) provided to British forces personnel and their families. Quoting extracts from the CAP press release, Edward Leigh MP, Chairman of the Committee of Public Accounts, said:
"The standard of accommodation for the families of our servicemen and women is of continuing concern to this Committee.  So it is with disquiet that we learn from an NAO survey of service families that almost a third consider their houses to be in poor condition.  And nearly a quarter regard their properties as poorly maintained……………
Far too many properties are currently standing empty - almost one in five. ……… Service personnel have to move regularly but they are given very little information in advance about the houses they have been allocated. And, when they arrive, too often the property has not been cleaned properly and repairs have not been done”.
Around 90% of the Department's housing stock is within the top 2 of its 4 condition standards, which meet or exceed the Government's Decent Homes Standard.  Emerging findings from the Department's recent condition survey, however, show there are now fewer properties at Condition 1 (35%) and more at Condition 2 (59%) than previously recorded.
Press release ~ PAC press release ~ PAC: Service Families Accommodation ~ NAO: Ministry of Defence - Service Families Accommodation ~ Defence Estates (DE) 10 Year Accommodation Management Strategy ~ MODern Housing Solutions ~ 4 Tier Grading System ~ Project Slam
CRC: The Government has issued its response to the Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) Select Committee inquiry into the future of post offices.  The Commission for Rural Communities contributed its evidence to the inquiry, earlier in 2009.
The CRC are pleased to see a number of points of clarification by the Government, many of which echo the concerns they raised and that the Govt reiterates its acceptance of the important social role played by post offices and the need many individuals have for face to face contact, including those who do not have access to a computer.
Press release ~ Government response to the BIS committee's inquiry ~ Post Office ~ BIS Committee ~ The future of post offices ~ CRC evidence
CRC: The Commission for Rural Communities have submitted the 9th of their regular reports to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on the rural impacts of the recession.  CRC briefings help inform his contribution to the National Economic Council, which meets to consider impacts of the recession and recovery measures. This latest report examines how rural housing is being affected by the recession.
Press release ~ Latest CRC report to the Secretary of State ~ Previous reports
BIS: Government research claims that the benefits of regulation outweigh the burdens. The ‘Better regulation, better benefits: getting the balance right’ report, undertaken by the Better Regulation Executive, looked at the benefits regulation delivers and examined what factors help shape the public perception of regulation.
Through 6 detailed case studies, it examined how better regulation principles & practices deliver a range of positive outcomes, such as through the National Minimum Wage and the Smoke Free laws in public and working places.
Press release ~ Better regulation, better benefits: getting the balance right ~ BIS: Benefits of better regulation ~ The Benefits of Regulation – A public and business perceptions study ~ Better Regulation Executive
NAO: A survey of businesses by the National Audit Office found that, whilst businesses are reporting that individual aspects of complying with regulation have become less burdensome over the last year, and there has been some improvement in overall business perceptions of regulation since 2007, very few regard complying with regulation as having become easier or less time-consuming.  Around a third said that it had become worse.

The Administrative Burdens Reduction Programme aims to reduce by a quarter by 2010 the cost to business of complying with the administrative burdens imposed on them by government regulations. Only 1% of businesses felt that complying with regulations had become less time consuming in the last year.  In addition, fewer than a third of businesses said that government understood business well enough to regulate it.
Press release ~ Administrative Burdens Reduction Programme ~ NAO: Complying with regulation - business perceptions survey 2009
NAO: Central government could improve its day to day cash management and reduce the amount of interest it pays on debt if its departments and their sponsored bodies held less money in commercial bank accounts.  Last week’s report to Parliament by the National Audit Office recommends that these organisations use the Exchequer as their main banking provider instead.  The interest paid out by commercial bank accounts is typically lower than the rate at which central government borrows money.
The NAO points out that keeping as much money as possible in the Exchequer is one of the most important elements of good cash management in government, since it not only reduces government borrowing but also minimises risks and allows the government to plan & manage its cash flow more cost-effectively.
Press release ~ NAO: Government Cash Management
EHRC: Many British fathers are working long hours, struggling to balance work & family and fear that requesting flexible working will damage their careers, a new report from the Equality and Human Rights Commission has found.  The report’s launch, which coincided with Parents’ Week, finds that British men want to take a more active role in caring for their children, but that 40% of fathers say they spend too little time with their children.
One approach to balancing work & family commitments outlined in the report is to expand paternity and parental leave schemes.  The Commission has previously outlined a series of ‘fully costed’ policies that would help to meet the needs of businesses and modern families as part of its Working Better Initiative.
Press release ~ Working Better - Fathers, family and work ~ Working Better Initiative ~ Parents’ Week
HEFCE: A 'Review of Modern Foreign Languages provision in higher education in England' by Professor Michael Worton has been published.  The review was commissioned by the HEFCE in response to concerns about falling student numbers and the reduction in provision.
Drawing on a range of data, it surveys current trends and makes recommendations to university language departments, university senior managers, HEFCE and Government, to ensure the long-term sustainability & vitality of modern foreign languages provision.
Press release ~ Review of Modern Foreign Languages provision in higher education in England
DWP: New research published by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), shows that racial discrimination in recruitment still exists towards ethnic minority people.  The study showed discrimination occurred for those applying for jobs with a name suggesting they were from an ethnic minority, rather than white British.
For every 9 applications sent by a white applicant, an equally good applicant with an ethnic minority name had to send 16 to obtain a positive response. Applications were made to private, public & voluntary sector employers of varying sizes.
The public sector vacancies included in this study – which usually required standard application forms, did not discriminate at this initial stage of recruitment.  This suggests that discrimination might be reduced by the use of standard application forms.
Press release ~ DWP research report 607: A test of racial discrimination in recruitment practice ~ DWP research report 600: Evaluation of the Race Equality Procurement Pilots ~ Ethnic Minority Employment Task Force ~ Ethnic Minority Advisory Group ~ Race for Opportunity Case Studies
ESRC: Britain’s children & young people are potential agents of change for the development of more sustainable communities in the UK, according to new research funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.

Many children are not only passionate about environmental issues, but more than capable of driving forward sustainability initiatives, argues new research into the role of schools in developing more sustainable communities.  Children already play a key role in becoming more sustainable by encouraging changes in behaviour of those around them whether in terms of recycling, saving energy, growing vegetables and healthy eating, etc.
Press release ~ Exploring the role of schools in developing sustainable communities ~ Sustainable Schools ~ Teachernet – Sustainable Schools ~ Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) - Wales ~ UNESCO: Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) ~ SOLAR Action Research Centre at the University of the West of England ~ Education for Sustainable Development Toolkit ~ Education for Sustainable Development for Child Education and Schools ~ Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)
Newswire – AC: A new national report from the Audit Commission - Lofty Ambitions – looks at the role of councils in reducing domestic CO2 emissions and it proposes tackling homes (responsible for one third of England's greenhouse gas emissions) first as carbon emissions from houses could be cut far more quickly & cheaply, than those from industry or transport.
The best councils have been good at greening homes and have championed low carbon & renewable energy generation. They lead, oblige & subsidise social landlords and private sector homeowners to reduce domestic CO2 emissions, coordinate funding streams, and use their local knowledge to target help where it is most needed.  Actions based on good quality house-by-house & street-by-street data deliver the best value for money.
However, some councils say that the multiplicity of funding streams has created 'confusion for householders and duplication of effort' when energy suppliers & others approach the same households with competing offers.  Lofty Ambitions also brands the government's £2.7bn a year winter fuel payments as a ‘missed opportunity’ as it fails to focus on those in the greatest need and does not provide a long-term solution - spending on heating today, rather than reducing the need to heat in the future.
Press release ~ Lofty Ambitions ~ Act on CO2 ~ BBC Weather ~ Energy Saving Trust
OfstedIndependent faith schools give pupils a strong sense of personal worth and help them understand the importance of being a good citizen according to a report published by Ofsted, the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills.
The report - Independent faith schools - reveals that in all 51 independent faith schools visited this was nurtured through their ethos, the curriculum and in regular individual and communal prayers and thanksgiving.
The schools visited, which included primary & secondary schools for children from Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu religions, all taught explicitly that good citizenship was a requirement of a good believer and this meant pupils felt they belonged, as British citizens, to this country.
Press release ~ Independent faith schools ~ Teachernet - Citizenship
DECC: A new map illustrating the global consequences of failing to keep climate change to ‘under 2 degrees Celsius’ has been launched by the UK Government, with just 45 days to go before international climate change talks begin in Copenhagen.
The map was developed using the latest peer-reviewed science from the Met Office Hadley Centre and other leading impact scientists.  The poster highlights some of the impacts that may occur if the global average temperature rises by 4 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial climate average.
Press release ~ Effects on our world ~ Climate Impacts map ~ Science Museum – Prove it! All the evidence you need to believe in climate change ~ Met Office Hadley Centre

NAOOlder people are a growing group for HM Revenue & Customs and significant numbers pay too much or too little tax, according to a report released by the National Audit Office. Errors occur because many people’s tax affairs become more complicated when they reach pension age and HMRC’s systems do not cope well with their multiple sources of income.
These errors can have a disproportionate effect on older people as their net average annual income of £16,000 was around 25% below the national average in 2006-07.  The Department expects a new computer system introduced in June 2009 to reduce the level of errors.
Press release ~ NAO: Dealing with the tax obligations of older people
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