Policy Statements and Initiatives

DfT: Ministers are tackling the misery caused by lorry drivers following satnavs down narrow & inappropriate roads as part of a package of new traffic signs rules.  Under the new rules, laid before Parliament by Transport Minister Norman Baker, councils will no longer need Whitehall approval to introduce certain new signs or some existing ones that they need to use on a regular basis.
Among the new signs councils will now be able to use without needing to get Government approval are those indicating that a route is unsuitable for lorries - designed to tackle the problem of lorry drivers using inappropriate roads because they are following satnavs - and signs indicating charging points for low emission vehicles. The statutory instrument outlining the changes to the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions is expected to take effect from 30 January 2012..
Press release & links ~ Traffic Signs Policy Review (‘Signing the Way’) ~ Norman Baker calls Satnav Summit to help motorists find way
DCMS14 cities across the UK could become super-connected cities, Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt has announced. The bidding cities will have to show how they will use the status to drive growth with a particular focus on SMEs and strategic employment zones.  BT & Virgin will strengthen their networks in the winning cities to deliver 80-100Mbps broadband speeds.
Guidance for bidders has been published and proposals will have to be submitted by 13 February 2012.  Successful cities will be announced in the Budget in March 2012.
Press release & links ~ Related press release & links
HMT: The Government set out the headline agreements reached with trades unions on public service pension reform.  Heads of Agreement have been reached with the NHS Pension Scheme, the Principal Civil Service Pension Scheme, the Teachers’ Pension Scheme and the Local Government Pensions Scheme based on the enhanced offer made by the Government on 2 November 2011.
Press release & links
WAGReducing preventable Healthcare Associated Infections (HCAIs) is a priority for the Welsh Government and the NHS in Wales. They are a major cause of morbidity, mortality, excess healthcare costs – and treatment of infections is becoming more difficult due to an alarming rise in antimicrobial resistance.
The Minister for Health & Social Services, Lesley Griffiths has launched the new Framework of Actions for healthcare organisations, which aims to ensure suitable & sustainable infection prevention and control (IPC) arrangements and robust antimicrobial stewardship are in place for 2011-12 & beyond.
Press release ~ WAG: Framework of Actions for healthcare organisations
CLG: Councils will be ‘freed to generate greater levels of income, encouraged to support local firms & jobs and be well placed to reap the rewards of success’, Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said when he recently confirmed that Government will introduce major reforms enabling councils to keep a share of business rates they collect rather than paying them back to Whitehall.
Press release & links
ScotGov: Scotland's growing older population must be treated with dignity & respect in their homes, Scottish Ministers and Cosla said recently in a blueprint that looks 10 years into the future. The Older People's Housing Strategy stresses the importance of supporting people to remain at home independently for as long as possible, rather than premature or inappropriate admissions to care homes or hospitals. 
A key focus will be placed on preventative services that are crucial in helping to reduce accidents & emergency hospital admissions. The Spending Review marked a decisive shift towards preventative spending, focussing on delivering better outcomes and value for money.
Press release & links
DfE: The Government has published plans to increase the participation of 16-24 year olds in education, training & work‘Building Engagement, Building Futures' sets out the Government's strategy to improve the opportunities for young people, so they can succeed in education & training and gain the skills they need to secure an apprenticeship or employment.  It includes radical reforms to schools, vocational education, skills and welfare provision.
Press release & links
HO: A new police professional body that supports police officers at all ranks & civilian policing professionals will be set up in 2012, Home Secretary Theresa May has announced.  The new body will take responsibility for developing professional skills & leadership in the police service.  It will act in the public interest and will be a single voice for the police service with a publicly accountable board and independent chairperson.
As part of the government’s programme of policing reform, they are rationalising the landscape of the police service by phasing out the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA).  Some of the NPIA’s critical national services will be moved into the National Crime Agency (NCA), via the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA). Responsibility for delivering other national services – like the ‘non-emergency 101 phone number’ and crime mapping - will move to the Home Office.
Press release & links
CLG: Plans to radically transform the lives of the country's most troubled families’ have been announced by the PM David Cameron and Communities Secretary Eric Pickles. Almost £450m has been made available in a ‘new, determined, cross-government drive to turn around the lives of 120,000 of some of the country's most troubled families by the end of this Parliament’.
A new Troubled Families Team based within the Department for Communities and Local Government and headed by Louise Casey CB, has been established to join up efforts across Whitehall, provide expert help to local areas and drive forward the strategy.
Press release & links
HO: 22 areas in London, Liverpool, Manchester and the West Midlands are to receive funding & support to tackle gang & youth violence, the Home Secretary announced recently. Details of the 22 areas and the funding they will receive can be found in provisional funding allocations.
Press release & links
DfE: Schools Minister Nick Gibb has welcomed the next steps in restoring confidence to GCSEs as rigorous & valued qualifications. The independent exams watchdog Ofqual has confirmed short-term reforms to current GCSEs from September 2012.  Students starting 2-year GCSE courses starting in September 2012 will have to sit their exams at the end of the course in summer 2014.
It follows plans outlined in last year's White Paper to return exams to the end of each course and stop the culture of re-sits.  The changes also mean that students will once again be marked on the accuracy of their spelling, punctuation and use of grammar in GCSEs in key subjects.  Students will, however, be given an early opportunity to resit maths, English & English Language GCSEs every November because these are key subjects needed to progress to further study or employment.
Press release & links
BIS: An estimated 1.3m electrical items (such as MP3 players, kettles, cameras & coffee makers) will be thrown away in 2012 and 75% of them will end up in landfill.  A campaign was launched on Boxing Day, which shows the benefits of recycling and helps the public find their nearest recycling point.  The Government is backing the industry led campaign and calling on people to recycle their old electronic goods. 
Recycling Minister Lord Taylor of Holbeach said: “The old electricals we think are just destined for the scrap heap are packed with precious materials and rare metals that are worth a fortune if they are recycled properly. The amount of palladium we expect to be chucked out over the next few years from old computers, tvs and electrical alone could be worth more than £1billion”.
Press release & links
DHNHS & social care staff who have concerns about patient care will be able to access a new, free whistleblowing helpline from the 1 January 2012. The launch means that, for the first time, the helpline will be available to staff & employers in the social care sector, as well as the NHS, via a now-free phone service.
This is in addition to the introduction of a contractual duty to raise concerns, which will be enshrined in the new NHS Constitution.  A similar web-based whistleblowing service is also being developed, with further details to be announced in due course.
Press release & links
Defra: Rural business leaders will have a hotline to the heart of Government through the creation of new Rural & Farming Networks, Agriculture Minister Jim Paice has announced.  14 networks representing different areas of England have been set up to identify & feed back local issues & concerns straight to the heart of Government, in order to make policies more rural-friendly.
Press release & links ~ Related press release & links
DWP: The Government has announced a new £200m outreach service to help England's most troubled families.  Run in conjunction with local authorities and the organisations delivering the Work Programme, the new service will help families with multiple problems overcome barriers to employment.
Using funding allocated to the UK from the European Social Fund, the Minister has appointed 8 of the country’s leading welfare to work providers to work with local authorities and over 200 local organisations to identify & deliver the services & support needed. These providers will bring with them the expertise needed for the job and over 50% of the organisations are from the voluntary and social sectors.
Press release & links
DH: A new drive to free up nurses to provide the care patients & relatives expect has been announced by Prime Minister David Cameron and Health Secretary Andrew Lansley. The push will see nurses spending more time on front line care in wards and other services, a senior ward nurse with whom the buck stops, patients leading on inspections and a new 'friends & family test' to show whether nurses & patients had a good overall experience, or would want loved ones needing care to be treated at each hospital.
Press release
CLG:  The Government has published its proposals for the new arrangements for audit of local public bodies. The Government will now begin a period of ‘intense discussion’ with councils & audit firms so they can shape the practical details of the new, localised audit system. A series of workshops with council finance experts will begin in January 2012.
The Government intends to bring forward legislation to formally close down the Audit Commission and introduce the new framework as soon as Parliamentary time allows.  A draft Bill will be published for pre-legislative scrutiny in Spring 2012.
Press release & links
How Local Government organisations can improve Citizen engagement and reduce cost by embracing new technology