Category Archives: Press Releases

Natural England’s Longest-Serving Chair Retires

Andrew Sells retires today as Chair of Natural England after five years

Andrew Sells

Andrew Sells

Reflecting on his time with the government’s adviser on the natural environment, Andrew paid tribute to colleagues and partners.

He said:

It has been a huge privilege to serve as Chair of Natural England. Protecting and enhancing the natural environment has been a considerable challenge, especially in a difficult financial climate, but I am very proud to have given it my best.

I have nothing but admiration for our knowledgeable and inspirational staff, and I have been fortunate to have the constant support of a high-calibre board. It has also been my great pleasure to work so closely with such a diverse range of partners.

Appointed in January 2014, Andrew is the third Chair of Natural England and the longest serving in its 12-year history. Sir Martin Doughty was Chair from 2006 to 2009 and Poul Christensen from 2009 to 2013.

During the last five years Natural England has:

  • Moved to a structure of area teams to ensure it takes decisions in collaboration with those closest to the environment
  • Adopted a conservation strategy – Conservation 21 – to guide its work in creating resilient landscapes and seas, growing natural capital and putting people at the heart of nature
  • Shaped the government’s 25 Year Environment Plan, particularly in areas such as Nature Recovery Networks and Net Gain, and is now leading on delivery
  • Introduced a more strategic approach to providing licences for developers, aimed at enhancing and linking the habitat of legally-protected species such as great crested newts while making it easier for developers to obtain and comply with licences
  • Provided the science and evidence that underpins a “Blue Belt” of marine conservation zones around our coast
  • Progressed the 2,700-mile England Coast Path to the point where every stretch is now open or being worked on
  • Designated the largest Site of Special Scientific Interest in the last 14 years – the 76 sq km West Pennine Moors – and defended others from development, notably Lodge Hill in Kent and Rampisham Down in Dorset
  • Licensed the trial release of beavers – the first to live wild in England for 300 years
  • Coordinated vital conservation work across a range of organisations such as the Back from the Brink project to save 20 species from imminent extinction.

Andrew said:

Natural England is a great force for good and it’s been an honour to have led the organisation for five years. I believe Natural England is well-equipped to provide the environmental leadership needed to help fulfil the government’s aim of leaving the natural world in a better state.

Farming Minister George Eustice said:

I would like to pay tribute to Andrew’s excellent work and leadership as Natural England’s chair.

He has been a tireless champion of the nation’s environment, helping Natural England, its staff and partners across the country to protect and enhance our shared natural heritage for generations to come.

Natural England’s Deputy Chair, Lord Blencathra, said:

Natural England has achieved some notable successes for the environment in the last five years, due in large part to Andrew’s drive and leadership. He has also reformed the way the organisation works, driven forward vital innovations such as in licensing and pressed hard for the introduction of net gain and conservation covenants.

I would like to thank him for all he has done, both for the organisation and for the natural environment, and wish him the very best for his retirement.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is leading the recruitment of a new Chair and an announcement is expected shortly. Lord Blencathra will chair the Board in the interim.

Chief Constable Launches New CNC Jobs Website

Civil Nuclear Constabulary (CNC) Chief Constable Mike Griffiths, CBE, has launched a new CNC recruitment website

New CNC jobs website launched

New CNC jobs website launched

Civil Nuclear Constabulary (CNC) Chief Constable Mike Griffiths, CBE, has launched a new CNC recruitment website.

The website gives an insight into what it’s like to work for the UK’s most unique police force.

The new website has been designed to highlight the wide range of career opportunities available within the CNC. It also provides applicants important information and advice about entry requirements and enables them to apply for roles in the CNC across the UK.

CNC Chief Constable Mike Griffiths said: “We attract people from a diverse range of career paths and backgrounds and this new website reflects our values and culture very well.

“The website allows people thinking about joining the police a chance to explore what we can offer them, and what we want from them.

“On the website some of my colleagues describe what they do on a day-to-day basis and this gives potential applicants a good insight into the sort of work we do.

“The CNC operates across the UK and the website allows potential applicants a chance to explore what each location has to offer them and their family.

“We are always on the look-out for talented people who want to make a contribution to keeping the country safe. If you think this could be you, have a look at the website and find out.”

The CNC has 1,500 officers and staff and is responsible for protecting civil nuclear facilities in the UK and nuclear material in transit. All the CNC’s frontline police constables and sergeants are armed.

The new CNC jobs website can be found here.

Corporate Trustee Of The Cup Trust Responsible For ‘Clear Misconduct And Mismanagement’

Charity Commission concludes its inquiry into a charity at the centre of a tax avoidance scheme

The Charity Commission

The Charity Commission

The Charity Commission has today (18 January 2019) published a report of its statutory inquiry into The Cup Trust, a charity involved in a complex tax avoidance scheme, which, if successful, would have resulted in the charity benefiting from gift aid payments from HMRC.

The report details the Commission’s findings as to how the tax avoidance scheme was designed to operate, who stood to benefit from it, and its conclusions as to the actions and omissions of the charity’s corporate trustee.

The inquiry concludes that the charity’s trustee, Mountstar Limited, is responsible for “clear mismanagement and misconduct” and failed to fulfil its legal duties as trustee in entering the charity into the scheme and managing its participation in the scheme.

The report also details failings to address or manage serious conflicts of interest arising from relationships between the corporate trustee and individuals who devised the tax avoidance scheme and had benefited from entering the charity into it and advertising it to tax payers.

During the course of the inquiry, the Commission used its new powers to disqualify both the corporate trustee, and three individuals who served as directors of the corporate trustee, from charity trusteeship under section 181 of the Charities Act.

Harvey Grenville, Head of Investigations at the Charity Commission, said:

Our inquiry demonstrates beyond doubt that The Cup Trust was misused by the corporate trustee to assist higher-rate tax payers in reducing their tax bills, and earning individuals connected to the scheme lucrative fees. Those personal benefits were far more than incidental and the fact that the charity would, had the scheme been accepted by HMRC, have benefited from gift aid, does not legitimise these intentions or actions.

Charities rely on the public’s goodwill in supporting tax benefits designed to encourage genuine charitable donations. It is right that we take robust regulatory action where trustees’ actions abuse that goodwill. It is clear that this charity, through its involvement in an attempted tax avoidance scheme, undermined public trust in charity generally. The Commission has learnt from this case: over recent years, we have significantly strengthened our approach to identifying and dealing with risks facing charities, have improved our pre- and post-registration processes and are more proactive and robust in using our legal powers to ensure trustees comply with their legal duties and responsibilities.

We have also successfully called for our legal powers to be strengthened to help us better disrupt and stop the abuse and mismanagement of charities. Some of the new powers we asked for and are using are as a direct result of this case.

The Commission first investigated The Cup Trust in 2010, following concerns reported to it about the charity’s participation in a tax avoidance scheme. The statutory inquiry was launched in 2013, when the charity’s trustee failed to provide information to HMRC regarding its gift aid claims. The regulator then immediately appointed an interim manager (IM), granting the IM all the powers of trusteeship and excluding Mountstar from decision making at the charity.

The report sets out why the inquiry has taken 5 years to conclude, pointing to extraordinary complexity, various legal challenges by the corporate trustee to the Commission’s inquiry and its use of legal powers, and the need for the IM appointed to seek High Court approval to withdraw the charity’s gift aid applications. The report also makes clear that the publication of the report was delayed due to the diversion of Commission resources in February 2018 to deal with safeguarding matters. The report makes clear that no tax reliefs were ever granted by HMRC to the charity.

The full inquiry report is available on GOV.UK.

National Mentoring Initiative To Tackle Employment Inequality Across UK

Jobseekers across the UK are set to benefit from mentoring support designed to help them into work

Department for Works & Pensions

Department for Works & Pensions

Jobseekers across the UK are set to benefit from mentoring support designed to help them into work, as Employment Minister Alok Sharma announced the rollout of a successful initiative.

Last year around 500 jobseekers from ethnic minority backgrounds attended sessions hosted by experienced staff from large companies including KPMG, Fujitsu, HSBC and Network Rail to get help with CV writing, goal setting, job applications and interview practice.

Many participants went on to start work, while others have gone into training or further education to help them get closer to the job they want.

Now, Mr Sharma has announced the rollout of the mentoring circles initiative beyond the black and minority ethnic (BAME) community to across the Jobcentre Plus network nationally, for all youth claimants who would benefit from such support. This will start in London in March and then roll-out across the country from April.

The mentoring circles were launched by the Employment Minister last year in response to the Race Disparity Audit and ran in 20 challenge areas across the country.

While the average employment gap between ethnic minorities and the white population is less than 10% – a record low – a number of areas with a high ethnic minority population have significantly wider ethnic employment gaps. For example Hackney, one challenge area, and has an ethnic minority employment gap of 22.0 percentage points while Leicester, another challenge area, has a gap of 16.9 percentage points.

Now with the roll-out of the mentoring circles, every jobcentre has access to a local toolkit help work coaches get to know the make-up of their micro-labour market for all claimants on all benefits and will help to determine who will benefit from an initiative of this kind.

Work coaches can also use the toolkit to improve on the personalised service they offer by finding out more about the health profile of people living in their area and the disability employment rate.

Minister of State for Employment Alok Sharma said:

The whole purpose of the Race Disparity Audit was to get us to face difficult, and sometimes uncomfortable, issues. Where there were differences in representation, participation or achievement across ethnic minorities, we were challenged to explain them – or change them.

I took the road for change.

The mentoring pilots for jobseekers from ethnic minority backgrounds have made a difference by supporting them into further training, work experience placements or jobs and I pay tribute to all employers who have taken part in the mentoring circles programme.

This support has clear value which is why I have asked jobcentres across the country to run more mentoring circles together with employers, supporting youth jobseekers, regardless of their background, to overcome the barriers they face and to find the work they want.

Rupal Karia, Head of UK&I – Public and Private Sector and Executive Sponsor of the Cultural Diversity Network at Fujitsu said:

Mentoring circles are an excellent initiative and one Fujitsu is delighted to be involved in. I am committed to this initiative and it was an honour to host the first in-house industry led mentoring circles session in our Manchester office.

This initiative helps people to maximise their potential, develop their skills and enable them to be completely themselves in the workplace. If we help one person get into work it will have been worth it.

Speaking at an event today with mentees and mentors from the initiative, Mr Sharma thanked them for their support and hard work.

New Specialists Appointed To Homes England Framework

Twenty highly skilled housing specialists have been appointed by Homes England to help speed up housebuilding across England

Parliament Street

Parliament Street

The members have been appointed to the housing agency’s new Multidisciplinary Framework to provide technical advice, services and design input to help Homes England prepare brownfield and surplus public sector land for residential development. Their expertise will help increase the pace, scale and quality of development and accelerate delivery of new homes in areas of greatest demand.

The Framework, due to be launched on 2 February, 2019, will enable procurement of £100m worth of services. It will also be available to other public sector bodies and will form part of the suite of Homes England Frameworks.

Stephen Kinsella, Executive Director for Land, at Homes England, said: “We want to work with ambitious partners who can help us accelerate housing development, deliver value for money, use their skills, knowledge and capacity to significantly increase housing delivery across the country.

“Members appointed to the new Framework bring with them a wealth of knowledge and housing expertise that will enhance the work of Homes England. This will help us meet our ambition to accelerate housebuilding and deliver the 300,000 homes needed each year by the mid-2020s.”

Homes England is supporting the private sector where development remains hindered by complex delivery and economic constraints. As part of this, Homes England aims to purchase land, remediate contaminated brownfield sites, as well as fund and deliver primary infrastructure.

The successful members of the new Multidisciplinary Framework are:

• AECOM Limited • Amey OW Limited • Arcadis Consulting (UK) Ltd • Atkins Limited • BDP • Curtins Consulting Limited • East Hampshire District Council – RegenCo • Gleeds Advisory Ltd • GVA • Jacobs U.K Limited • Karakusevic Carson Architects LLP • Mace Limited • Ove Arup & Partners Ltd • Pell Frischmann Consultants Ltd • Peter Brett Associates LLP • Tibbalds CampbellReith Joint Venture • Turner & Townsend Project Management Limited • Wood Environment & Infrastructure Solutions UK Limited • WSP UK Ltd • WYG Engineering Limited

The Framework is due to be launched on 2 February, 2019. Further information can be found here.

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