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Weekly News Round-Up: Secondments, shortages and sprays

Gas industry employee seconded to draft UK’s energy policy

A major state subsidy scheme for the UK’s gas-fired power stations is being designed by an employee of a gas company working on secondment to the government, according to a document released by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc).

The list of industry secondees, released to Greenpeace under freedom of information (FOI) rules, shows that the head of capacity market design at Decc is an employee seconded for two years from the Irish energy company ESB, which owns three gas-fired power plants in the UK.

A separate industry document names the employee as Fergal McNamara and describes him as the head of capacity market design at the ministry as well as being a “government representative”. However, the ESB and Decc declined to confirm his identity when contacted by the Guardian.

The document also reveals that several other employees of big gas companies are working at senior levels within Decc, prompting criticism that there is an unhealthy closeness between the government and the big fossil fuel companies. Read more

Damian Carrington and Andrew Sparrow | The Guardian | 10th November 2013

Coalition cuts blamed for shortage of 20,000 NHS nurses

Spending cuts have created a shortage of 20,000 NHS nurses, the Government has been warned, as fears grow that hospital wards may struggle to cope as winter approaches.

Freedom of Information requests submitted by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) to dozens of NHS hospitals in England have exposed a “hidden workforce crisis” that has been missed by government statistics.

While official figures say that just 3,859 full-time nurse, midwife and health visitor posts have been lost since the Coalition came to power in May 2010, the RCN said that thousands more nursing vacancies have been created because hospitals have not been replacing staff that have retired or moved on due to reduced budgets.

Staffing shortages have been highlighted in a number of reports into NHS care. Robert Francis drew attention to understaffed wards at the Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust in his report into one of the worst care scandals in the health service’s history. Read more

Charlie Cooper | The Independent | 12th November 2013

Government body had ‘concerns’ over Pangbourne pesticide spray

The government body that sanctioned the use of a controversial aerial pesticide over a Berkshire woodland had “quite serious concerns” about the method, it has been revealed.

A Freedom of Information request showed Natural England’s worries about the method being used to kill off the larvae of a caterpillar.

However, it still permitted spraying to take place at two copses in Pangbourne using a helicopter.

A Forestry Commission spokesman said it was the “least damaging” way to tackle a larvae that “could be a serious problem to human and tree health”.

The spraying took place at the Herridge and Broom Copses, both within a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), in an attempt to eradicate the oak processionary moth (OPM) larvae. Read more

Linda Serck | BBC News | 13th November 2013

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