Policy Statements and Initiatives
Defra: Travellers are being urged to check the rules on what foods they can and can’t bring back into the UK if they journey outside the EU. The Government’s ‘Don’t bring it back!’ campaign aims to increase awareness among travellers heading to countries outside the EU about what foods cannot be brought back. This is in order to minimise the risk of animal diseases like Foot & Mouth Disease and Bird Flu entering the country.
Sticking to the rules will also avoid the inconvenience of being searched by Border Force Officers or even potentially prosecuted. Key advice to travellers includes ‘Before travelling, use the ‘Can I bring it back?’ food-checker to see examples of local products which can and cannot be brought back from popular destinations outside the EU’.
ScotGov: Right To Buy for new tenants entering the social rented sector will be ended soon in Scotland. First time tenants and those returning to social housing after a break, will no longer be entitled to Right to Buy. Existing tenants will not be affected.
Since its introduction 30 years ago the Right to Buy has resulted in the sale, at a discount, of almost half a million homes for rent in Scotland. Over a 10 year period it is estimated the Right To Buy reforms will retain up to 18,000 properties in the social housing sector that otherwise would be sold off. The Housing (Scotland) Bill (to be introduced in early 2010) will do this by reforming Right to Buy and modernising regulation to improve value for tenants & taxpayers.
ScotGov: Efficiency measures which have saved the NHS almost £300m were yesterday revealed by Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon. She announced that the NHS not only met its target to make savings of 2% last year, amounting to £215m, but exceeded it, saving a total of £297m. Ms Sturgeon said every penny saved had been reinvested in front-line health services.
WAG: A new Park & Ride scheme has opened in Cardiff. Located just off the A48 in Pentwyn, the Cardiff East Park & Ride has 300 car parking spaces, with buses (taking 15 minutes) running direct to Dumfries Place in the city centre at the end of Queen Street via a dedicated bus lane.
The scheme is part of the wider Assembly Government funded initiative to make Cardiff the first SustainableTravelTown in Wales. As well as the Park & Ride other key elements of the project include a free bike hire scheme, free city centre circular buses and a package of measures to tackle congestion.
The plan includes a combination of infrastructure & service improvements which aim to cut congestion in the city and improve local & regional access. A further 3 towns in Wales, which have been chosen as the next Sustainable Travel Towns, will soon be announced.
FSA: The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has set out proposals for the major reforms required in the UK mortgage market to ensure that it works better for consumers and is sustainable for all market participants.
The proposals, published in the mortgage market review discussion paper (out for discussion until 30 January 2010), reflect the FSA’s changed approach to a more intrusive and interventionist style of regulation.
The proposals are designed to tackle the problems identified while maintaining a vibrant & sustainable market. However, the FSA has not ruled out further change if the initial proposals do not have sufficient effect, including caps on loan-to-value, loan-to-income or debt-to-income. A feedback statement will be published in March 2010. Implementation will be phased, with the focus on speed for areas of high detriment, such as arrears.
ScotGov: NHSScotland employs a number of staff in the Reserve Forces who may be mobilised to serve their country in areas of conflict and they are set to benefit from increased support. The new policy will set out arrangements for mobilisation & support for Reservists on return to work. Paid leave of two weeks per year will now be available to Reservists to attend annual camp or continuous training.
Additional unpaid leave or annual leave from the employee's normal annual allocation of up to three days may also be granted for short periods of training. The policy also aids in providing a supportive & positive work environment and will help ensure a smooth re-integration into the workplace
DECC: The Government’s 4 next steps to help low income homes deal with high energy bills have been set out, as the latest fuel poverty statistics are published:
* Action to help the poorest insulate their homes
* Provision of street by street help in low income neighbourhoods
* Action on prices for the most vulnerable
* Tougher regulation to make sure all consumers get a fair deal
Press release ~ Fuel Poverty Advisory Group 7th Annual Report ~ Community Energy Saving Programme (CESP) ~ DECC: Addressing fuel poverty page
BIS: New models to help small businesses take on greater numbers of apprentices have been launched by Apprenticeship Minister Kevin Brennan. 12 organisations have won a share of £7m of Government funding to set up new Apprenticeship Training Associations (ATAs) and Group Training Associations (GTAs).
The new models will hopefully help a range of organisations, especially small businesses, to offer over 14,000 apprenticeship places for young people over the next 3 years, with a focus on opportunities for 16 to 18-year-olds. The apprenticeships will be offered in industries vital for the country’s economic growth, including environmental, creative, engineering, manufacturing, logistics and business administration.
In addition, the National Apprenticeships Service has launched its ‘Good for Business’ initiative, a campaign to raise awareness among businesses of the long & short-term benefits for employers in the public & private sector of taking on Apprentices.
Press release ~ National Apprenticeships Service ~ National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) prospectus ~ Testing Alternative Delivery Models: Group Training Associations and Apprenticeships Training Agencies ~ London Apprenticeship Company ~ New Opportunities White Paper ~ Good for Business initiative
DCSF: Education Minister Iain Wright has announced a step towards all young people continuing in education & training until 18. Trials launched in 11 areas, backed by £1m of Government investment, will pave the way for the raising of the participation age (RPA) across England in 2015.
The trials are based on three different models:
* One looks at how local authorities can best get those aged 16 & 17 who have dropped out of learning through the year, back into education or training.
* Another focuses on how local authorities can best provide the right careers advice to young people to ensure they make the most of their options and skills
* The third will see the development of strategies to enable full participation of all young people in education or training
DECC: £6m is available from to fund exploration for natural energy under the ground. Deep geothermal is a renewable energy that uses the natural heat from deep underground to produce non-intermittent electricity and heat at the surface.
The fund, part of the Department of Energy and Climate Change low carbon investment fund will help companies carry out exploratory work needed to find viable sites for this technology. There is currently one geothermal energy station in the UK - the Southampton District Energy Scheme. The station uses hot water pumped from 1,800m below ground as part of the city’s district heating network and has operated successfully for over 20 years, saving an estimated 11,000 tonnes of CO2 per year.
Press release ~ Challenge Fund for Deep Geothermal Energy – criteria for bid assessment ~
Southampton District Energy Scheme ~ Renewable Obligation ~ Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI)
CLG: Local Government Minister, Rosie Winterton, has pledged to introduce new legislative rules before the end of the year that will require councils to publish the pay & perks of their highest earning 2,500 posts - as part of action to show the taxpayer that all Government is acting fairly & responsibly in an era of constrained public expenditure.
In published consultation findings, respondents also agreed the changes would capture the 'right' senior posts including chief executives, consultants and directors. The proposals will create a new legal requirement for up to 475 local authority bodies to include detailed senior pay information covering salary, bonuses, pensions, perks & compensation pay offs in their next annual statement of accounts.
Ms Winterton also committed a further £31.7m to help councils & local service delivery partners find new ways to achieve efficiency savings, improve services, shape markets and encourage greater innovation. The funding will be distributed through the 9 council-led Regional Improvement and Efficiency Partnerships (RIEPS).
Press release ~ Recommendations of Information Commissioner's Office ~ Closed consultation ~ Regional Improvement and Efficiency Partnerships (RIEPS)
GEO: Maria Eagle, Deputy Minister for Women & Equality, has launched a national mentoring programme designed to increase the numbers of black, Asian & minority ethnic women (BAME) becoming local councillors. BAME women account for less than 1% of all local councillors in England, despite making up nearly 5% of the population. To fully reflect society, the number of women BAME councillors would have to rise nearer to 1,000.
The leadership programme and the community leadership course, to be run by Operation Black Vote and Solace Enterprises respectively, are a legacy of the Women Councillors Taskforce, which presented its final report to Harriet Harman recently, containing recommendations to further improve local representation of BAME women.
Press release ~ Government Equalities Office ~ Women Councillors Taskforce ~ Operation Black Vote ~ Solace Enterprises: Total Support for Councillors - The Community Leadership Programme
WAG: The Health Minister Edwina Hart has announced that ‘Designed to Smile’, the Oral Health Improvement Programme aimed at young children in Wales, is to be extended following 2 successful super pilot schemes in north & south Wales.
In the scheme, delivered by the Community Dental Service, dental health support workers deliver a supervised tooth-brushing programme in schools and provide toothbrushes & toothpaste to school children along with oral health advice. Part of this service is delivered via mobile dental health units that provide specialist preventive care and treatment to schools.
Press release ~ Health and social care ~ Designed to Smile ~ Dental Public Health Team ~ All Wales Special Interest Group in Oral Health Care (SIG)
DCSF: Ed Balls has signalled an end to intervention in Bradford and Hackney local authorities and has agreed they will now submit succession plans to drive forward improvements to the quality of education & services in their areas.
He has also announced plans for a National Family Intervention Strategy Group to help make the case for Family Intervention Projects (FIPs) around the country. He has asked the President of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS), Kim Bromley-Derry, to invite a small group of DCS’ to lead this work and Kim Bromley-Derry will take this forward.