Policy Statements and Initiatives

MoD: The Ministry of Defence's 2nd Permanent Secretary, Jon Day, explains what some of Lord Levene's recommendations on Defence Reform will mean, and why we will see dramatic changes across UK Defence.
Press release & links
COPlans for a single Government web domain, which would ‘radically reduce the current bureaucracy surrounding Government websites and improve the user experience’ have moved a step closer with the Cabinet Office announced testing has progressed to the next stage - the development of a “beta” site, which will test a much wider range of features than the alpha stage and will focus on understanding & meeting user needs.
Public testing of the beta version of the site is expected in early 2012.  Final decisions on the future of the project will not be taken until the beta stage of testing is complete.
Press release & links
CLG: Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles, has introduced new planning measures to support the expansion of popular state schools and the creation of new free schools.  In a new planning statement, Mr Pickles set out new principles for councils considering proposals for the creation or development of free & other state-funded schools. 
The new planning rules set out how planning departments should operate in a positive manner when dealing with proposals for state-funded school. There should be a presumption in favour of the development of state-funded schools including free schools, as expressed in the National Planning Policy Framework.
The Government is also publishing a summary of responses to its consultation, Planning for Schools Development, and will continue to explore whether there is further scope & need for the planning system to do more to support state-funded schools, and in particular, free schools in the future.
Press release & links
DECC: A £3m scheme has been launched to help install eco-heaters in the homes of social housing tenants. Heating equipment including biomass boilers, solar hot water panels and heat pumps will be available under the new scheme.
Registered Providers of social housing, such as local authorities and social housing associations, will be able to bid for a share of the £3m, part of the £15m Renewable Heat Premium Payment budget, to make home heating improvements to tenants’ homes. The deadline for bids is 15 September 2011 and it will be managed by the Energy Saving Trust.
Press release & links
ScotGov: A collaboration of organisations, headed by Marine Scotland, is taking forward a series of marine surveys to gather information on the biodiversity of Scotland's seas. 8 surveys during 2011 are taking in a diverse range of locations around Scotland's coasts, covering some 2,200 square miles - equivalent to an area 1.25 times the size of the Cairngorms National Park.
The information gathered will build on existing knowledge and help inform plans for the creation of Marine Protected Areas, provide additional information on fish stocks, and inform plans for renewables and other marine developments.  The results will also be used to develop better maps of the seabed and improve our understanding of the species and habitats associated with our seas.
Press release & links
DCMS: As part of the Government’s £530m investment in the UK’s broadband network, Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt has announced how much money has been allocated to each English county and to Scotland.  This investment will ensure that the UK has the best superfast broadband network in Europe by 2015, with 90% of homes & businesses having access to superfast broadband and for everyone in the UK to have access to at least 2Mbps.
To access these investment pots, local authorities and the Scottish Government will need to play their parts.  In England each county council or local enterprise partnership will lead broadband roll-out in their area, draw up an effective delivery plan, and match the Government’s investment with European, their own or private funds.  In Scotland the Scottish Government will need to consider how best to use the funds.
Press release & links
Defra: The international community must take urgent action to tackle the alarming rise in the trade of rhino horn before the species is wiped out, Natural Environment Minister, Richard Benyon, said recently. The call came as the UK Government submitted proposals at a Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) meeting for all countries to clamp down on illegal sales of rhino horn and tighten restrictions on the trade in rhino products.
The trade in rhino horn has been fuelled in part by unsubstantiated claims that it can cure cancer or reverse the effects of a stroke and an increase in its black market value.  Rhino horn is now reported to be worth more than £50,000 per kilo – more profitable than diamonds, gold, heroin and cocaine. Three out of the five species of rhinoceros are critically endangered.
Press release & links
ScotGov: Scotland would be more competitive with new powers over corporation tax, Finance Secretary John Swinney said recently. The Scottish Government has published a paper on options for reforming corporation tax, highlighting how responsibility for this tax would provide a vital tool for the Government to increase sustainable growth and help bring more jobs to Scotland.
Press release & links
CLGCouncils affected by recent rioting can apply for money from a new multi-million pound fund, Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles has announced.  The measures include tax relief on council tax and business rates to help local shops and residents get back on their feet. In a letter to council leaders, Mr Pickles has given details of how councils can apply for the money and what the funding can be used for.
Individuals, homeowners and local firms can also claim compensation for property damage under the Riot Damages Act, and the Government is extending the period for claims to 42 days.  This will help provide support for uninsured buildings.
The Department has unveiled details of plans to ensure that landlords can take action against tenants who wreck communities beyond the immediate neighbourhood of their home.  A consultation has now been launched on allowing landlords to seek to evict tenants convicted of the sort of criminality seen in the recent rioting - wherever that criminality occurs.  The consultation (closes on 17 November 2011) also proposes to speed up the process for evicting offenders.
Press release ~ Consultation on anti-social behaviour in social housing
Red Hat on automation (pt 2)