Free Parliament workshop on energy and the green economy


The Houses of Parliament is holding a free workshop for groups and organisations interested in issues relating to energy and the green economy, on how to engage with Parliament’s scrutiny of legislation.

The workshop is free to attend and open to any individual or organisation with an interest in energy and the green economy.  The workshop will be held on Friday 10 September 2010.  It will be strictly non-partisan.

Further details of what the workshop will cover can be found on this page on the Parliament website.  For more details on the workshop, please call Daniel Wood (07917 488839) or Matt Ringer (020 7219 4623) in the Parliamentary Outreach Team.

Please note that places are limited so you are asked to telephone or email parliamentaryoutreach@parliament.uk to book in advance.

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Consultation on new DFID fund for UK civil society organisations


A new fund that will benefit a range of small to large UK based civil society organisations will be launched by DFID this year.  The objective is to support poverty-fighting groups who focus on delivering the Millennium Development Goals – targets to improve the lives of the world’s poorest, adopted in 2001.  As part of developing the Fund, DFID is inviting views from those with an interest in civil society funding.

The Fund is being designed with two initial funding windows, tailored to different types and sizes of organisations:

  • Innovation Grants: for small UK-based civil society organisations (CSOs) with an annual average turnover of less than £500,000 encouraging innovative approaches to poverty reduction;
  • Impact Grants: for UK-based organisations working on poverty reduction programmes at larger scale in one or more poor countries.  This window will also be available to locally registered CSOs in countries where DFID has a country office.

If you would like further information please see the DFID press release launching the consultation.  The closing date for the consultation is 22 September 2010.

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Have your say: embracing the contribution and needs of rural communities in Big Society


At a time when organisations and individuals are encouraged to have greater involvement in the running of public services as part of the Government’s Big Society initiative, there are concerns that many organisations are experiencing or facing funding cuts including in rural England.

The Commission for Rural Communities (CRC) would like to hear your views and experiences, to help them advise Government on ways of fully embracing the contribution and needs of rural communities in the Big Society.

The Commission for Rural Communities is keen to show that rural communities and organisations have already embraced the community approach to identifying and tackling their needs that lies at the heart of the Big Society approach.  However, they also want to ensure that central and local government recognise, celebrate and more importantly support the continuation of your efforts, for the benefit of rural people.

Defra is commencing a project jointly with the CRC to ensure that we can advise government departments and their Ministers how to fully embrace the contribution and needs of rural communities in the Big Society.

One of the first opportunities, with your help, is to put something to the Rural Affairs Minister in early September, about the effect of the economic climate and current and planned changes in public spending on civil society organisations working with rural communities.  The CRC will follow this up at the beginning of October with a fuller report.

It is because of this early opportunity to inform Defra Ministers of the impact of public spending cuts on civil society organisations working in rural communities that CRC is asking for your help to answer the questions in the current call for evidence.  Any information you can provide to CRC by 27 August will be used to inform a report to the Rural Affairs Minister in early September.  For this first short report, the CRC would particularly welcome the experience of organisations working to improve economic opportunities and viability of rural areas and people.  This might include for example organisations who are working to improve the employability of young people or the unemployed, that undertake training, represent local businesses, or who are working on community development or regenerating rural and community assets.  This will allow us to alert Defra ministers to current experience and views of how the Big Society will help this work.

By the week commencing 13 September CRC would welcome information from organisations which work with any issues and communities in rural society to improve their environmental, social or economic wellbeing and future. This should include those from the first group who found that meeting the August deadline too challenging.

For further information, and to download the specific questions in the first stage of the call for evidence please see this page on the CRC’s website.

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Wildlife and Countryside Link informs Defra’s spending decisions


The Wildlife and Countryside Link have produced a paper which sets out the Link’s thoughts on how Defra might be able to reduce its budget whilst supporting the key aims outlined in the coalition programme.

The paper covers the following topics:

  • Principles for decision making;
  • Front line services which need to be protected;
  • Different ways for delivering Government’s natural environment objectives;
  • Areas of Defra spend where efficiencies might be found.

You can download a copy of the paper from the Link’s website by clicking here.

Please see this blog post if you are interested in commenting on Defra’s priorities.

You might also be interested in the Natural Environment White Paper.

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Big Society can help tackle ragwort risk

Tackling Common Ragwort can be a practical example of the Big Society in action says Agriculture Minister Jim Paice.  With the Common Ragwort season in full bloom, Mr Paice is calling on landowners, local groups and nature-lovers to work together to help control the toxic weed.  Mr Paice said:

This little flower may look like a pretty yellow daisy but it spreads easily and can poison horses and other animals – so tackling this problem can be a practical example of the Big Society working together to be part of the solution to control the spread.

Landowners, conservation and community groups can all help by being on the lookout and to help remove this weed, where there’s a risk that livestock will eat it, by following the advice in the ragwort code of practice.

If you’re worried about the risk to your livestock from ragwort on neighbouring land, get in touch with the owner to let them know. And if a local solution can’t be found, you can call Natural England if the problem looks like it’s getting out of hand.

More information can be found in the Defra press notice.  Guidance on how to identify Common Ragwort and how to control it can be found in the Code of Practice on How to Prevent the Spread of Ragwort, which can be found here on the Defra website.  More information is also avaliable on the Natural England website.

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Free support for community owned food businesses from Making Local Food Work


Making Local Food Work are currently offering free specialist support to any existing community-owned, local food businesses.  They are also offering a Skillshare service which gives peer to peer learning via mentoring or study visits.  The Making Local Food Work website provides more detail:

Making Local Food Work can help community food enterprises across England with some of the challenging aspects of running a business. We have a range of mentors and specialists which can help you with a range of issues whether this is developing a business plan, a marketing plan, putting in place a legal structure and governance arrangement or ensuring that you are complying with the latest legislation. We also work to map local food networks across England.

Making Local Food Work helps specific types of community food enterprises in many ways. We provide dedicated support to:

  • Farmers’ markets
  • Community Supported Agriculture
  • Country Markets
  • Food Co-operatives and Buying Groups
  • Local food hubs
  • Community-owned shops and other rural shops

For full details please see the Making Local Food Work website.

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Defra responds to the public’s comments on the Coalition Programme


The Coalition: Our Programme for Government was opened to public comment on 20 May 2010. 

Defra’s response to the public comments on the section on environment, food and rural affairs was published on 30 July 2010, and can be found half way down this page.  The three main areas commented on were hunting with dogs, the culling of badgers and food policy.  In addition to these three main areas, comments were also received on reducing waste and wildlife protection.

You can find monthly updates on Defra’s progress against its commitments in Defra’s draft Structural Reform Plan (which is the Coalition Government’s tool for ensuring that departments are accountable for the implementation of the reforms  in the Coalition Agreement) on this page of the Number 10 website.

You can see responses to all other issues raised by the public on the Coalition Programme by visiting this page.

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House of Lords call for evidence on behaviour change


The House of Lords Science and Technology Select Committee has appointed a sub-committee, chaired by Baroness Neuberger, to investigate the use of behaviour change interventions to achieve policy goals.  The call for evidence sets out the scope of the review and the opportunity for you to comment:

As governments across the world attempt to meet societal challenges such as reducing carbon emissions and alleviating the burden on health services caused by smoking, drinking and the rise in obesity, more and more attention is being focused on how behaviour can be influenced using a range of behaviour change interventions that rely on measures other than prohibition or the elimination of choice. The Committee will consider the current state of knowledge about which behaviour change interventions are effective, whether the Government’s current behaviour change interventions are evidence-based and subject to robust evaluation, and how such interventions are coordinated across departments. The Committee will also be looking at the role of industry and the voluntary sector in shaping behaviour patterns and the social and ethical issues surrounding behaviour change interventions by government. 

The sub-committee would welcome evidence covering a range of areas, both generally with regard to behaviour change interventions or specifically about those aimed at tackling obesity, in order to examine the following questions:

  • What is known about how behaviour can be influenced?
  • What are the policy implications of recent developments in research on behaviour change?
  • Should behaviour change interventions be used in isolation or in combination with other policy interventions?
  • How successful are public behaviour change interventions at changing people’s behaviour?
  • Have publicly funded behaviour change interventions been both evidence-based and subject to effective evaluation?
  • Within government, are the lessons learnt from behaviour change interventions fed back into the design of future interventions?
  • How are cross-departmental behaviour change interventions managed?
  • When is it appropriate for the state to intervene to influence the behaviour of the public?
  • What lessons can the government learn from the private and voluntary sectors in terms of effective behaviour change campaigns?

If you are interested and would like to submit evidence for consideration by the sub-committee please see this page on the House of Lords website which provides more information about the review, and the full list of questions the sub-committee will be investigating.

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National Parks Week


This week (from Monday 26 July to Sunday 1 August) is National Parks Week!

The wild open spaces of the UK’s National Parks have long inspired artists, musicians and writers and National Parks Week will celebrate some of these cultural heroes with a programme of fun filled events.

There are all kinds of adventures to enjoy during National Parks Week, from walks around stone circles and stately homes, to watching artists and glass makers in action.  Get ‘hands on’ with walling, talk to archaeologists or listen to poetry.  Many of the events are free.

For more information please see the National Parks Week pages on the National Parks website, which will allow you browse the events at each of the National Parks.

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How do you want England’s natural environment to look?


Defra has today launched a discussion document, entitled ‘An invitation to shape the Nature of England’.  The document is inviting your views and encouraging debate about how we can best protect and enhance our natural environment, and the valuable services we derive from it.  The discussion will inform the publication of a Natural Environment White Paper in Spring 2011, which is one of the commitments in Defra’s Structural Reform Plan.

The Secretary of State, Caroline Spelman launched the document at an event at Kew Gardens today, and said:

“We have the opportunity to be the generation that puts a stop to the piecemeal degradation of our natural environment.  We want to see a real positive change in the future of our natural environment – one which supports a stronger economy and better quality life.  This discussion document will allow everyone to shape the White Paper, which will aim to halt this decline and recognise that nature is our ultimate producer and supplier.”

You can submit comments online, by email or by post.  Information on how to comment, an opportunity to sign up for regular updates, and links to the discussion paper and summary can be found on this page.  The deadline for responses is 30 October and the White Paper will be published in Spring 2011.

Read More »

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