Policy Statements and Initiatives

Defra: Local communities are being urged to speak up for their favourite nature areas or suggest where new ones could be created in return for a share of £7.5m to help improve them. A dozen new Nature Improvement Areas (NIAs) will be established, based on the recommendations of local people.
The areas will see rural & urban sites revitalised and turned into bigger, inter-connected networks of wildlife habitats that will range from 10,000 to 50,000 hectares in size.  The intention is to re-establish thriving wildlife populations and help species respond to the challenges of climate change. Initial applications will be due by autumn 2011 and more detailed second-stage application by the end of 2011.
Defra is also seeking expressions of interest from local authorities for its Biodiversity Offsetting pilot.  This will help developers to follow planning system rules to make good any harm to wildlife, creating new quality habitats or make existing nature sites bigger and better for wildlife. The pilot will run for 2 years from April 2012, providing an opportunity to thoroughly test the offsetting process before a decision is made about whether it could be used across England.
Press release & links ~ Related Natural England PR
BIS: Skills Minister John Hayes has pledged to provide more effective, targeted help for people who face barriers to learning the English language skills communities need. Following the publication of an equality impact assessment of provision for English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) training, which he ordered, Minister Hayes announced that BIS will work in partnership with the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) on developing new forms of support for those who need informal, community-based learning of English.
From August 2011, national provision of full funding for ESOL courses will be focussed on those actively seeking work on Jobseekers Allowance and Employment Support Allowance (Work Related Activity Group).  As part of a broader move towards rebalancing the investment in skills between Government, the employer and the learner, other eligible learners or their employers will be expected to make a contribution towards the costs of their ESOL course.
Press release & links ~ IfL comment
DfE: Education Secretary Michael Gove has accepted all the recommendations of Lord Bew’s independent review of testing, assessment and accountability at the end of primary school. He said ‘the substantial reforms would ensure that heads, teachers, pupils & parents would be able to have confidence in the new system’.
Press release & links
BIS: The Prime Minister has announced that responsibility for the Land Registry, Met Office and Ordnance Survey will pass to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). The Department’s Permanent Secretary, Martin Donnelly, welcomed the move, which marks a significant step towards establishment of a Public Data Corporation (PDC), plans for which were announced by the Government in January 2011.
Final decisions on membership, structure and commercial strategy of the Public Data Corporation will be taken later this year, following a consultation on PDC data policy, due to launch over the summer.
Press release & links ~ Related OS press release ~ Related Land Registry PR
DH: The Government will continue to develop a new value-based pricing system that will help NHS patients get better access to innovative medicines Health Secretary Andrew Lansley has confirmed.  A Written Ministerial Statement has been laid in the House.
The Government’s response to the consultation - A new value-based approach to the pricing of branded medicines - sets out our intention to work with the patients, clinicians, the NHS and the pharmaceutical industry to develop a value-based pricing system that ensures that NHS patients have consistently good access to medicines that they need.
Press release ~ A new value-based approach to the pricing of branded medicines: Government response to consultation
DfE: The Government has published the appointment letter for the new Ministerial Adviser on Adoption.  
Press release & links
MoJ: A competition strategy for the management of 9 prisons and the closure of 2 prison sites has been announced recently by the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, Kenneth Clarke.
Press release & links ~ Green Paper, Breaking The Cycle
BIS: Senior experts from the fields of finance, trade & regulation have met to provide insight on the risks caused by technological advances in computer trading for investors, businesses and the public. The meeting brought together representatives from the International Monetary Fund, Bank of England, Bloomberg and Hong Kong Stock Exchange among others and was chaired by Financial Secretary to the Treasury Mark Hoban MP.
The Group will guide the latest Foresight project ‘The Future of Computer Trading in Financial Markets’.  The project aims to make a contribution to the efficiency, integrity and resilience of financial markets by identifying options for policy makers in the UK and internationally.
Press release ~ Foresight: The Future of Computer Trading in Financial Markets
DH: Plans to transform the care, quality of life & health outcomes for millions of people with respiratory disease have been announced by Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley. Respiratory diseases represent a major problem in England for patients & the NHS.  Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is thought to affect more than 3m people in England and more than 5m people currently receive treatment for Asthma.
Press release & links ~ NHS Improvement: Lung
DCMS: A new framework which will allow local television services to be created across the UK was published last week by Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media & Sport Jeremy Hunt. The Government is committed to acting to address the technical & commercial barriers to developing new local TV provision broadcast on Freeview – the digital terrestrial television (DTT) platform.
To make it feasible, Mr Hunt is announcing that a package of geographic interleaved spectrum will be allocated and managed by a new licensed multiplex company.  This company will be obliged to build & operate the necessary multiplexes to carry separately licensed local TV services.  As previously announced, the infrastructure costs will be met from £25m allocated as part of the television licence fee settlement.  
Press release & links
WAG: Wales’ Transport Minister, Carl Sargeant, has announced that sustainable transport is to get a boost across Wales by confirming that sustainable travel centres will be allocated £6m over the next year. These centres deliver a range of measures that encourage people to consider using alternatives to the car – such as walking, cycling and public transport.
Press release
DCMS: Plans to give Londoners & the Mayor a bigger say in the running of the Capital’s eight Royal Parks were set out last week by Heritage Minister John Penrose in a Written Ministerial Statement.
Press release & related links
COPlans to create an expensive database of electors are to be abandoned saving taxpayers more than £11m, the Government announced last week. The Co-ordinated Online Record of Electors (CORE) was legislated for in 2006 by the Electoral Administration Act and intended to make it easier for political parties to verify the legitimacy of their donors.  The database, which would have been administered by a new independent public body, would have cost an estimated £11.4m to build and £2.7m per annum to run.
Press release
IS: Business Minister Edward Davey has published the Government’s response to the ‘call for evidence’ concerning its review of debt advice & personal insolvency.
Press release ~ Consumer Credit and Personal Insolvency: call for evidence & government response
HMT: A plan to deliver at least £1.5bn savings across the 495 operational Private Finance Initiative (PFI) projects in England has been announced. The plans follow pilot projects, which have confirmed savings opportunities of around 5% of annual payments.
A team of PFI experts and specialist negotiators will be drawn from across Government to work around the country to deliver savings.  Updated guidance & advice on how savings can be made will be published on the Treasury website to support all PFI contract holders.
Press release & links
DH: NHS patients will have more freedom to choose where they go for their healthcare from April 2012, Health Secretary Andrew Lansley announced last week. To date, choice has only been available in non-urgent hospital care, but new guidance sets out that the choice offer will be extended to community & mental health services for the first time.  

Following advice from patient groups, clinicians and voluntary organisations, there are 8 services that have been recommended as the most suitable.
The Department of Health has published 2 documents:
* guidance on how the NHS will deliver greater choice
* the Government response to the consultation on the policy delivering this; Any Qualified Provider (AQP)
Press release ~ Related documents and guidance
HMT: The Government will start formal consultations on increasing public service pension contributions in 2012-13 by the end of this month, Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander said last week, as he set out plans for talks on reform to continue into the autumn.
Press release & links ~ PCS union comment
DfE: Early years qualifications are to be reviewed to make sure they are sufficiently rigorous & high quality, Children’s Minister Sarah Teather announced last week as part of wider reforms to early education.  The Government has also confirmed that 9 local authorities will be the first to trial payment by results for children’s centres.  They will test rewards for reaching the most vulnerable families, improving family health & wellbeing, and raising attainment of children at age 5.
Press release & links
DfE: The Department for Education has launched its review of personal, social, health & economic (PSHE) education, as outlined in the Schools White Paper.  The internal review, which will report to the Secretary of State, will look at the quality of teaching of PSHE in schools, along with its content.  Heads, teachers, parents, pupils and other interested parties are invited to submit their views & evidence to the Department.
Press release & links
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