Friday, 29 December 2017

Is Your Small Business Affected by the Staircase Tax?

The Communities Secretary Sajid Javid has today published draft legislation to reverse the impact of the ‘staircase tax’ which has unfairly affected many small businesses.

The publication of the new draft legislation follows a decision in the Supreme Court which has resulted in businesses who occupied more than one property in a shared building receiving a separate rates bill for each unit - dubbed the 'staircase tax'. 

The ruling overturned an established and widely understood practice where businesses occupying two adjoining floors or two rooms separated by a wall only received a single bill.

Some businesses are now paying more overall due to the loss of small business rate relief – a 
discount applied to the bills of certain businesses with a lower rateable value.

Subject to Parliamentary approval of the Bill, those businesses who have been directly impacted by the Supreme Court judgement can ask the VOA to recalculate valuations based on previous practice. 
If successful they can then have their bill recalculated and if they choose to stick with the old method of calculation, backdated. This includes those firms who lost small business rate relief.

The department will now consult with stakeholders and experts, with a view to introducing the Bill shortly. See the consultation document.

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Visa Pilot Scheme for International Masters Students Extended

The Home Office has announced plans to extend the scheme which streamlines the visa application process for international Masters students wanting to study a course of 13 months or less in the UK.

The pilot scheme, previously restricted to students wanting to study at Oxford, Cambridge, Bath and Imperial College London, now includes an additional 23 universities:
  • Cardiff University
  • Goldsmiths University of London
  • Harper Adams University
  • Newcastle University
  • Queen’s University Belfast
  • The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama
  • University of Bristol
  • Durham University
  • University of East Anglia
  • University of Edinburgh
  • University of Essex
  • University of Exeter
  • University of Glasgow
  • University of Leicester
  • University of Liverpool
  • University of Manchester
  • University of Nottingham
  • University of Reading
  • University of Sheffield
  • University of Southampton
  • University of Wales Trinity St. David (Swansea Campus)
  • University of Warwick
  • University of York
The scheme also provides greater support for students who wish to switch to a work visa and take up a graduate role, by allowing them to remain in the UK for 6 months after they have finished their course.

The universities taking part are given responsibility for eligibility checks, meaning that students can submit fewer documents than required in the current process alongside their visa applications.

All students will continue to require Home Office security and identity checks and applicants that do not meet immigration rules will be refused.

The 23 additional universities will be able to apply the pilot to their 2018/19 intake. The universities were selected as their visa refusal rates are consistently the lowest in their area or region.

Friday, 22 December 2017

Care Homes Encouraged to Apply for Free Books as Part of World Book Night

Each year The Reading Agency host World Book Night, giving away 1000s of books to 'hard to reach/reluctant readers'.

2018's event is being held on 23 April 2018 and this year the organisers want care homes to get involved!

The varied titles, donated by publishers from Penguin Random House and Hachette to small presses Nine Arches and Cassava Republic, include a diverse selection of commercial and literary fiction, poetry, non-fiction and young adult, each selected to inspire people who don’t regularly read to pick up a book and get reading.

With 1 in 4 people in the UK experiencing a mental health problem each year, The Reading Agency’s research shows that reading can increase empathy, improve relationships with others and reduce the symptoms of depression. The charity aims to harness this with several titles exploring mental health and wellbeing on the list, including:

  • Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World by Mark Williams and Danny Penman, 
  • The Recovery Letters by Olivia Sagan & James Withey (eds.) and Open by Gemma Cairney. Other titles include British Book Awards Book of the Year 2016 
  • The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley, poetry collection 
  • Kith by Jo Bell and 
  • My Name is Leon by Kit de Waal.

The Reading Agency working with public libraries, prisons, colleges, care homes, youth centres, mental health groups and other charities to get books into the hands of new readers and organisations can apply to take part at

The books

The complete list of titles donated by publishers for World Book Night 2018:

  • Kith by Jo Bell (Nine Arches)
  • Our Summer Together by Fanny Blake (Orion)
  • Open by Gemma Cairney (Pan Macmillan)
  • Dangerous Lady by Martina Cole (Headline)
  • Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey (Penguin)
  • After the Fire by Will Hill (Usborne)
  • The Woman in Black by Susan Hill (Vintage)
  • The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley (John Murray)
  • Gilded Cage by Vic James (Pan Macmillan)
  • The Beach Wedding by Dorothy Koomson (Cornerstone)
  • Satellite by Nick Lake (Hachette Children’s)
  • Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart (Bonnier)
  • You Don’t Know Me by Imran Mahmood (Michael Joseph)
  • Like A Mule Bringing Ice Cream to the Sun by Sarah Ladipo Manyika (Cassava Republic)
  • My Everything by Katie Marsh (Hodder)
  • One of us is Lying by Karen M McManus (Penguin Random House Children’s)
  • At My Mother’s Knee by Paul O’Grady (Transworld)
  • The Recovery Letters, Olivia Sagan & James Withey (Eds.) (Jessica Kingsley)
  • The Detective’s Daughter by Lesley Thomson (Head of Zeus)
  • My Name is Leon by Kit de Waal (Penguin)
  • What the Dog Knows by Cat Warren (Scribe)
  • Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World by Mark Williams and Danny Penman (Piatkus)
  • Carry on Jeeves by PG Wodehouse (Cornerstone)

Get involved

If you work for a library, prison, college, care home, youth centre or other organisation who can reach people who don’t regularly read, you can apply to receive books on behalf of your organisation to celebrate World Book Night 2018.
Apply online using the link at the bottom of this page and if successful, you will receive copies of one of the titles from the list (you can choose up to 5 when you apply). 

You should select either a small (80 copies) or large (160 copies) quantity of books.

Applications will remain open until 31 January, and successful organisations will be informed in February

Apply for your organisation to take part in World Book Night 2018

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Society of Authors Warns Against Using the Internet Archive and Open Library

The Internet Archive is a San Francisco–based nonprofit digital library filled with millions of free books, movies, software, music, websites, and more.  It seeks donations of hard-copy books from libraries and individuals and then scans, digitises, and offers them for lending and downloading without paying royalties or PLR.
The Authors Guild of America has long been complaining about their work and raised the issue once more after a large quantity of scanned books (including works still in copyright) were recently published on the Open Library website.

Owners of the website argue that the Internet Archive is simply an on-line library, individuals can download books for a period of two weeks, and when booked out, each title is no longer available to any other visitors.  However once downloaded there is nothing in the software to stop you copying the electronic document, either to keep for yourself or to share with others - the site even provides download buttons to make it easy.
The British Society of Authors is now urging writers to check whether their own books have been made available in this way, reporting breaches of copyright to the following organisations:
  • Email;
  • Notify the Authors’ Guild of America by filling out this form;
  • Their own publisher and agent, asking them to send a takedown notice (usually through the Publishers Association Portal). 
  • If you are an author and would prefer to send your own takedown notice, you can download a template for free at 

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Health Education England Launches Plan to 'Future-Proof' NHS & Care Workforce

Health Education England has published its findings after reviewing the health of recruitment in the NHS and wider care sector.

The report, produced inconjunction with NHS England, NHS Improvement, Public Health England, the Care Quality Commission, National Institute for Clinical Excellence and Department of Health, concludes that the NHS needs radical action to improve working conditions, boost training and retention and become a ‘model employer’ for staff.

The report Facing the Facts, Shaping the Future, A health and care workforce strategy for England to 2027 acts as a review, consutlation and strategy document.  It looks at the challenges faced by the health and care system, charting the growth in the NHS workforce over the last five years, considering the critical workforce challenges for the next decade, and possible solutions.

The strategy is a draft document with a number of areas now be consulted upon, the final report is due to be published next July to coincide with the NHS 70 anniversary, as the first comprehensive health and care workforce strategy in over 25 years.

If no further action is taken to reduce demand through prevention, productivity and service transformation, the NHS will need to grow by 190,000 posts by 2027 to meet demand.  Proposals for managing and meeting future demand within the strategy are built around six overarching principles:

  • securing the supply of staff to deliver high quality care;
  • training, educating and investing in the workforce to give new and current staff the professional flexibility and adaptability to meet the needs of patients;
  • providing career pathways for all staff rather than just ‘jobs’;
  • ensuring that people from all backgrounds have the opportunity to contribute to, and benefit from, healthcare;
  • ensuring that NHS in its entirety is a modern model employer with flexible working patterns, career structures, and reward mechanisms; 
  • ensuring that in the future service, financial and workforce planning are intertwined.
Professor Ian Cumming, Chief Executive, Health Education England said "Continuing with a business as usual approach to workforce planning is no longer sustainable. There needs to be a major shift in the ways we plan in order to make sure we can meet the health needs of the country’s diverse and growing population in the future.

The report tells us there are some areas of strength, 6,000 more staff working in primary care, the highest-ever number of people entering GP training in the history of the NHS. However, increasing the workforce alone is not the only answer, we need to look at ways to tackle the number of vacancies and staff leaving the profession.

This much anticipated report underlines just how big the workforce challenge is and will spark debate, rightly so. I would urge key stakeholders, including patients, service users, carers, to get involved in the consultation and let us know what you think works well or what can be done better to help inform the final workforce strategy for the NHS which will be published next summer."

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Increase in Flights to and From China Welcome Boost to Businesses Big and Small

Britain’s regions are set for an economic boost after a landmark agreement for a 50% boost in the number of flights allowed between the UK and China.

The deal allows for a huge expansion in routes from regional airports – potentially boosting local economies by hundreds of millions of pounds by opening up new business and tourism opportunities.

The number of Chinese tourists visiting the UK has rocketed during the first half of this year. Between January and June, 115,000 visits were made from China to the UK, a rise of 47% on the same period last year. Spending also increased to £231 million, up 54%.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said:   "These agreements are an important part of preparing Britain for a post-Brexit world and making sure we have access to key markets in the Far East, and they come at a time when our exports are growing and we continue to attract international investment. It just underlines that Britain will do well regardless of the outcome of the Brexit negotiations.

The whole government is working to secure the best possible future relationship with the EU, and great progress has been made this week, but no one should believe that Britain’s future success depends on decisions taken in Brussels."

Under the current arrangement, agreed in October 2016, a maximum of 100 passenger flights per week can operate between the UK and China.  This figure is set to increase to 150 under the terms of the new deal.

Chinese tourists are some of the UK’s highest spenders, staying longer and travelling more than visitors from other countries.

Last year, Manchester airport launched the first direct regional flight between the 2 countries, worth an estimated £250 million in economic benefits to the UK over the next decade.

Thursday, 7 December 2017

CQC Announces Eight New Local Health and Social Care System Reviews

The CQC has been asked to carry out eight new local health and social care system reviews.

These reviews, exercised under the Secretaries of State's Section 48 powers, will look specifically at how people move between health and social care, including delayed transfers of care, with a particular focus on people over 65 years old.

The areas to be reviewed are:
  • Bradford
  • Cumbria
  • Hampshire
  • Liverpool
  • Northamptonshire
  • Sheffield
  • Stockport
  • Wiltshire
David Behan, CQC Chief Executive, said: "We know there is wide variation in how health and social care systems work together, with some local systems working together effectively to ensure people get the right care, while others struggle to do so – these reviews will seek to examine why these levels of variation exist.

"Our intention is that the review findings will highlight what is working well and where there are opportunities for improving how the system works, enabling the sharing of good practice and identifying where additional support is needed to secure better outcomes for people using services."

These reviews will be carried out between February and April 2018. On completion, the findings will be reported to each local authority area’s Health and Wellbeing Board and published at

The Process

The CQC will look at how well people move through the health and social care system, and what improvements could be made. The services they will be focusing on include:
  • NHS hospitals
  • NHS community services
  • GP practices
  • Care homes
  • Residential care services
  • Ambulance services
They will be:
  • listening to older people who use services, their families, carers and communities.
  • listening to people who commission and provide health and social care for older people.
  • analysing data about the quality of care services and outcomes for people.

These reviews follow on from the previous twelve area reviews carried out by the CQC, click here to view these online.

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

NUS Raises Concern Over Funding For New Career Hubs Designed to Improve Access to University

This week saw the launch of the governments new Careers Strategy, designed to make sure young people have the skills they need and employers want post-Brexit.

Every school and college in the country will aim to have a dedicated careers leader in place by the start of the new school year – backed by £4million of funding – who can give advice on the best training routes and up-to-date information on the jobs market, helping young people make decisions about their future.

The plan will also boost careers support in the areas of the country most in need, with £5million funding to create 20 careers hubs across the country that will link schools and colleges with local universities and employers to help broaden pupils’ horizons.

The Strategy – developed in partnership with the Gatsby Charitable Foundation and co-ordinated through an expanded role for the Careers and Enterprise Company – will help young people choose the career that is right for them, alongside the £500million investment in new T levels to deliver a world-class technical education system on par with the high-quality academic routes available.

Launching the strategy at the Careers Development Institute (CDI) annual conference in Birmingham, Skills Minister Anne Milton said "Without access to the best possible careers support, some people will miss out on the opportunities available.

They will continue to be held back if they don’t have the right advice, at the right time to make informed decisions about their future, or may not have access to the broader experiences and role models to help them develop as people."

Responding to this morning’s launch of the Careers Strategy NUS Vice President for Further Education, Emily Chapman, said "The Careers Strategy is welcome. For far too long, young people have been left to navigate the complicated careers landscape alone, or with minimal support. This support is often patchy across the country, with many having to rely on outdates websites and sometimes biased advice from parents and teachers. 

We are especially pleased to see that the four pillars of the strategy aim to ensure that young people have access to high quality, face-to-face, impartial CIAG. It is particularly promising to see that the strategy has been built in partnership with the Gatsby Foundation, and that it places the eight Gatsby benchmarks of Good Careers Guidance front and centre.

However, while the principles of the strategy are good, the minimal funding that has been allocated towards implementing it is deeply concerning. It is unclear how £4million will support over 500 schools to provide a dedicated careers leader, or how £5million will cover 20 new careers hubs across the country to support those most in need. Principles are a good place to start, but without proper investment and accountability, this strategy will flounder and fail.”