Consultation: guidance to protect community groups from surface water drainage charges

Defra has launched a consultation on new guidance to water companies on concessionary surface water drainage charges.

As a result of the switch by some water companies from the rateable value to a site area method of calculating surface water drainage charges some community groups experienced unaffordable water charges. As part of the Flood and Water Management Act this new guidance will protect such community groups.

Environment Minister Richard Benyon said:

‘We want to make sure that community and voluntary groups do not face unaffordable water bills. In some cases this part of the bill had become so high that it was threatening the future of many scouts, sports and church groups. Now such bills will be fair and affordable.’

The consultation seeks your views on:

  • Identifying the need for companies to implement concessionary schemes;
  • Which community groups should benefit from any such schemes;
  • Setting an affordable charge; and
  • The impact on other customers.

A wide range of interested parties are being consulted, including water and sewerage companies, community organisations, Ofwat and the Consumer Council for Water.  If you would like to have your say please visit this dedicated consultation page on the Defra site.  You can also find more information in the press notice.  The consultation closes on 22 October 2010 and guidance will be issued later in the year.

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Help “grow your own” local services

The Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) is funded by the European Union (EU) and the Government to support a wide range of activitites in rural areas.

The Community And Social Enterprise fund is a £7m funding stream within the RDPE to support voluntary and community organisations to become more self-financing and sustainable through the develoment of community and social enterprise activities. These could include:

  • access to childcare
  • rural community shops
  • ‘multi use’ rural community facilities
  • community renewable energy projects
  • other community projects providing basic services locally

Please see this page on the RISE website if you would like more information, including whether you are eligible, how to apply, where you can get local support to help with your application, FAQs and case studies of successful applications.

Posted in 10 Enabling our delivery bodies, 11 Better commissioning, 2 Sustainable living, 3 Public services, 4 Environmental entrepreneurship, 7 Understanding the sector, 8 Joining things up, 9 Better partnerships, Social Enterprise Strategic Partnership | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

State of the countryside 2010 report now available for download

The Commission for Rural Communities has today published the ‘State of the Countryside 2010′ report.  The report provides an up to date picture of rural England, with evidence of the circumstances of people living and working in rural areas drawn from analysis using the latest official statistics.

From the website:

The report provides a comprehensive picture and benchmark at a time of economic and political change. Amongst other things, it highlights the significant contribution that rural England can make in three critical areas:

Economic recovery – High levels of entrepreneurship and the apparent resilience to the recession shown by rural based businesses emphasise the potential for rural economies to make a substantial contribution to a national return to growth. This is particularly important given the scope for rural areas to provide new ‘green jobs’ for both rural and urban residents.

Building strong communities – Rural people have a strong sense of community. They are more likely to give unpaid help, to participate in local decision-making and to feel that people in their area share values and pull together, than people living in urban areas. This evidence indicates that rural people are in a strong position to respond positively to the new agenda around community-based activity and local empowerment.

Providing the natural resources needed by the whole country – Rural land is still required for its traditional use of food production in an era of increasing concern about availability of food supplies and increasing interest in the local sourcing of food. There is also a desire to improve environmental quality and opportunities for public enjoyment of the countryside and an imperative to mitigate climate change through developing renewable energy and bio-fuels.

For more information, and to download the report, please see the press notice on the CRC’s website.

Posted in 12 Miscellaneous, 2 Sustainable living, 6 Improving communications, 8 Joining things up | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

What is freedom to you?

The Your Freedom website was launched on 1 July by the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.  The website gives you an opportunity to suggest ideas on repealing unnecessary laws and stripping away excessive regulation on businesses and third sector/civil society organisations.

The questions you are asked to respond to are:

  • Civil liberties:  Which current laws would you like to remove or change because they restrict your civil liberties?
  • Cutting business and third sector regulations:  Which regulations do you think should be removed or changed to make running your business or organisation as simple as possible?
  • Repealing unnecessary laws:  Which offences do you think we should remove or change, and why?

From the website:

Read More »

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Calling all Defra and Civil Society employees: work shadowing opportunities!

A Day in the Life is a work shadowing initiative that provides a unique opportunity for staff in central government and the voluntary and community sectors to step into each other’s shoes for a day and learn about how the ‘other side’ operates.

The scheme is open to all interested people in voluntary and community organisations, and Defra employees.  You will be able to complete a survey to ascertain the work that you do and what you’d like to gain from participating in the scheme, which will be used to allocate you to an appropriate partner.  At a convenient time during the course of a month (September 2010), you will both spend up to a day in each other’s organisation.  There you will have the opportunity to find out more about each other’s work, ranging from the day to day responsibilities through to the wider contexts in which you work and the challenges you face.  You will also have the opportunity to ask questions, offer and take advice as well as share ideas on how civil society and government can work more effectively together.

For further information please see the dedicated pages on the NCVO website:

  • If you are a member of a Civil Society organisation you can use this page to sign up;
  • If you are a Defra employee, please use this page to sign up.

Please note that the deadline for applications is 16 July 2010.

[Edited on 6 July to include detail on website for Government employees to sign up]

Posted in 6 Improving communications, 7 Understanding the sector, 9 Better partnerships | Tagged | 1 Comment

“More Trees More Good” launched by the Woodland Trust.

Clive Anderson, the President of the Woodland Trust, has announced the launch of  “More Trees More Good”, a new Woodland Trust Initiative set up to provide support to help individuals and organisations to plant their own trees.

The aim of the initiative is to plant 20 million native trees per year, which will maximise the benefits to people, wildlife and the environment that come from planting trees and creating new woodland habitats.  The Woodland Trust is calling on all individuals and organisations to help rise to the challenge.

Clive Anderson said:

“The simple act of planting trees unleashes a host of benefits: in just 12 years they become beautiful woodland, home to a vast array of wildlife and places where children can play, adults reflect, birds and plant life flourish and communities come together.  They lock up carbon, are a natural defence against flooding, provide shelter from the elements and offer a sustainable supply of eco-friendly fuel”.

A public opinion survey commissioned by the Woodland Trust and completed this month shows that 72% agree the UK needs more trees.

For more information on how you can get involved please visit the More Trees More Good website.

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Defra policy update: Farming and Food Taskforce announced

Defra’s Agriculture Minister, Jim Paice, has announced a new Task Force to look at ways to reduce the burden of regulations that affect farming and related food processing businesses.

The Task Force on Farming Regulation will begin a review of current regulations and advise on how these could be streamlined and improved in the future.

Mr Paice, speaking at Cereals 2010 on 9 June in Royston, Cambridgeshire, said:

There’s too much red tape tying up our farmers and preventing them from getting on with the business of producing our food and managing our countryside. That’s why we committed in the Coalition Agreement to reduce the regulatory burden on farmers by moving to a risk-based system of regulation. The burden on farming and food manufacturing is not just the number of regulations but the emphasis on process rather than outcomes.

I’m going to ask this industry lead Task Force to look at the way we make and implement regulations right across the board, both at what’s already in place, and how we should do things in the future.

The Task Force will be chaired by Richard Macdonald, who was the NFU’s Director General from 1996 to the end of 2009.  The full membership of the Task Force will be announced shortly.  It will make its initial recommendations to Government by early 2011.  Further detail can be found in this Defra press notice.

[Edited on 12 July: further information on the taskforce has been published, including the members and terms of reference.  For the latest information please see this news release on wired-gov.]

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Defra policy update: waste review announced

The Defra Secretary of State, Caroline Spelman has announced a full review of waste policy in England.  The review will look at:

  • the effect of waste policies on local communities and how local authorities can best work with people to make the best decisions;
  • maximising the contribution of the waste and recycling industries to the UK economically and environmentally;
  • how we work towards the ‘zero waste economy’, and drastically reduce the amount of waste created and valuable resources sent to landfill, looking at the entire process from source to end of life.
  • new approaches to dealing with commercial waste and promoting ‘responsibility deals’, reducing the amount of waste generated by production and retail.

The Secretary of State made the announcement at Futuresource on 15 June 2010 in London, saying:

“There is an economic and environmental urgency to developing the right waste strategy. We have been slowly moving in the right direction with recycling rates. The direction of travel is right – it’s the pace that’s the problem. We need to go faster and we need to go further.”

“We cannot keep putting recyclable and biodegradable material into landfill. It threatens the environment and wastes what are incredibly valuable natural resources. We have an unprecedented opportunity to create the green jobs, green growth, and take our share of the green jobs of the future.”

The full press release can be found on the Defra website, here.  The terms of reference for the review will be published in the next few weeks.  If you want to be alerted when the terms of reference are published, please email:

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Waterwise’s White Paper published.

Firstly let me apologise for the hiatus in blog posts.  Hopefully we are now back on track for at least a post each day.

Waterwise, who is one of Defra’s Greener Living Fund partners, has published its White Paper for the Coalition Government.

The White Paper is focused on mainstreaming water efficiency.  In it Waterwise sets out strategic proposals for climate change adaptation and mitigation, resource efficiency, the low carbon and green economy and the big society, over the five years from 2010 to 2015.

Among the proposals set out in the White Paper are:

  • A water industry incentivised to provide services such as water efficiency to its consumers on a large scale, rather than just water supply
  • A long-term investment framework for water that responds to and helps deliver national priorities, with the full long-term value of water to the economy, people and the environment reflected
  • Water efficiency included in the Green Deal energy efficiency retrofitting scheme – at a cost of £40, alongside the £6,500 allocated for energy measures
  • Showers to be included in social housing refurbishment and new build
  • A toilet scrappage scheme to help householders trade in the 1 million toilets in England which flush at 13 litres for toilets which use a third of that water
  • A water meter in every home by 2020 – supported by measures to protect vulnerable groups
  • Water efficiency mainstreamed in government adaptation programmes and guidance to business, and linked with insurance discounts
  • Using new green financial products such as green mortgages and a renewed Energy Performance Certificate to drive water and energy efficiency measures in homes
  • Water neutrality and community-scale water provision and joint retrofitting programmes for energy, water and waste delivered through the big society
  • Tackling the economy-wide barrier to sustainability which is the investment bias towards building new plant and equipment over altering and improving existing ones.

Further information can be found in the press notice which accompanied the announcement.

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