Policy Statements and Initiatives
DECC: Energy Secretary, Chris Huhne has launched a comprehensive review of the Feed in Tariffs (FITs) scheme following growing evidence that large scale solar farms could soak up money intended to help homes, communities & small businesses generate their own electricity.
WAG: Environment Minister, Jane Davidson, has confirmed the continuation of the Tidy Towns initiative for a further 3 years, until 2013/2014. £ projects 3.8m in funding will support the Tidy Towns project during 2011/12.
DfE: The Secretary of State for Education has responded to Darren Henley’s review into music in schools with a pledge to end the 'musical divide' between wealthier children with access to great musical education and children in disadvantaged areas.
To ensure young people from every background have access to quality music education, Michael Gove has announced that £82.5m will be given to music services across England next year. The money will be used to make opportunity more equal in music education and enhance the prestige & esteem of music teaching as a career route for professional musicians.
Press release ~ Darren Henley's review of music education in England ~ Government's response to DH's review of music education in England
DH: Families with young children will be offered improved help & support thanks to ambitious new plans to expand & rejuvenate the health visiting service. The Health Visitors Implementation Plan sets out the full range of services that families will be able to expect from HVs & their teams, depending on their needs. It will create a bigger, rejuvenated workforce with an extra 4,200 health visitors by 2015.
WAG: The Final Welsh Budget has now been approved by Assembly Members. Changes during the scrutiny process since the Draft Budget was published in November 2010 have been kept to a minimum. The most significant adjustment is the additional £57m for 2011/12, which has been made possible because WAG has now taken all of the in-year revenue reductions imposed on it by the UK Government last June.
ScotGov: Much more needs to be done to address problems associated with poverty & deprivation in some of our communities, Housing & Communities Minister Alex Neil said last week. A Regeneration Discussion Paper has been published to kick start a wider debate about the key challenges & opportunities for regeneration in the future.
Mr Neil said: "This paper does not provide all the answers, and we are keen to hear from others about their thoughts, ideas and aspirations for the future."
DFID: The UK is to launch a new initiative to boost African trade ‘through reduced bureaucracy, improved transport infrastructure and more efficient border crossings’. The African free trade initiative (AFTi) will see Britain provide technical experts to unblock issues that continue to hold back economic growth across the region.
This will include advising African countries on the design of border posts, infrastructure investment and analysis of major transport bottlenecks. Expected results include cutting the time it takes to travel the length of Africa's North South Corridor from 9 to 7 days and reducing the journey time for goods lorries from Mombasa to Uganda & back to Mombasa by 3 days.
Recently, Development Minister Stephen O'Brien launched Trade Mark East Africa (TMEA), which is DFID's flagship programme in East Africa. It works with the East African Community, national governments and the private sector to boost trade in the region by streamlining red tape & developing infrastructure projects.
No. 10: The Prime Minister has welcomed the publication of the Government’s Trade White Paper that sets out a strategy for driving economic recovery through exports. The paper contains 3 key points that emphasise support for SMEs in expanding their business and increasing their export activity.
DWP: Ministers have said that they are on track to implement the recommendations of the recent Harrington Review of the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) by summer 2011, and that they are pressing ahead with changes to regulations which will mean people suffering from mental health problems or going through chemotherapy will be given more leeway in the review process.
The planned improvements include a much greater personalisation of the whole assessment process, and measures to provide additional safeguards to protect the most vulnerable current claimants of incapacity benefits. The Government will also ask assessors to take into account how well claimants have adapted to their conditions before judging whether or not they can be given specialist help to get back into work.
New regulations published last week will enact some of these changes, by treating people who are waiting for or between courses of chemotherapy in the same way as those already receiving it, and also extend the criteria for people with severe disability due to mental health conditions, meaning fewer very sick people will be asked to attend an assessment.
Also published last week was a report by the Social Security Advisory Committee (SSAC), and Ministers agree with their recommendations that ‘more empathy, improved communications with claimants and better decision making will help improve the process’.
ScotGov: Health Boards across Scotland are set to share in £8.584bn in revenue funding in 2011-12, it was announced last week. This funding includes a £70m Change Fund to work with local authorities on the redesign of health & social care services. This means a total of £11.4bn will be invested in healthcare across Scotland in the next year, an increase of £191m on last year.
ScotGov: The Scottish Government will provide councils with a total funding package next year worth over £11.5bn, Finance Secretary John Swinney has confirmed.
MoD: There was widespread media coverage last week reporting claims that ‘PM David Cameron is reneging on his pledge to write into the law of the land the Military Covenant, the bond between the nation and her Armed Forces’.
The Government is committed to rebuilding the Military Covenant and is legislating to make it a requirement for the Government to make an annual report to Parliament on how it is fulfilling its commitment to the Armed Forces, as well as defining the Military Covenant for the first time. The Covenant Task Force published its report in December 2010 which contained more than 90 recommendations for consideration. The Government will publish a full response in Spring 2011.
HO: More than 9m people working or volunteering with children & vulnerable adults will no longer need to register and be monitored by the state following an overhaul of the checking regime. The government last week unveiled plans to scale back the vetting & barring scheme (VBS) and criminal records regime to common sense levels while ensuring vulnerable groups are appropriately protected.