Archives for April 1998

Drugs strategy for a decade

Headlines, PublicNet: 29 April, 1998

The new drugs strategy announced by Ann Taylor, MP, Leader of the House of Commons, focuses on education and prevention. It also signals a shift of resources away from enforcement and towards preventing drug mis-use in the first place.The ten year strategy, set out in the White Paper “Tackling Drugs to Build a Better Britain” was drawn up following extensive research by Keith Hellawell, UK Anti-Drugs Co-ordinator and his deputy, Mike Trace. They interviewed over 2,000 people to assess the current situation. The main themes of the strategy are: young people, communities, drugs treatment and drugs availability. Key objectives are:

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Strategy and communications merger at DfEE

Headlines, PublicNet: 27 April, 1998

The Department for Education and Employment is taking a corporate approach to the development and presentation of strategy by creating a Strategy and Communications Directorate. By bringing the two areas together, the Department will ensure that policy development and presentation across the Department is coherent, consistent and effective, and that its partners, customers and the public have the best possible access to information about its work. The new Directorate will, for the first time in Whitehall, bring together long-term strategic planning and the whole range of external communications – press, publicity, speeches and briefing.Peter Wanless, formerly Head of Policy at the Treasury’s Private Finance taskforce, will head the Directorate. Julia Simpson, currently Assistant Chief Executive (Quality and Communications) at Camden London Borough, will be the Secretary of State’s official spokeswoman and lead the Press Office.

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UK public services take international lead in benchmarking

Headlines, PublicNet: 24 April, 1998

Benchmarking is to be adopted throughout the public sector to improve services and motivate staff. Trials in more than 100 public bodies over the last 18 months have shown that benefits come from comparing performance with other organisation, including those in the private sector. The trials have been carried out mainly in Executive Agencies, but local government, the health service, police forces and education services are being encouraged to launch benchmarking projects.The Organisation for Economic Co-operation is setting up an international Benchmarking Network for public service and the UK will play a leading role in the project. There will also be collaboration with the European Commission in making international comparisons.

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Government network launched

Headlines, PublicNet: 22 April, 1998

A private intranet for government offices throughout the UK has been launched by Public Service Minister Dr David Clark. Although only a limited number of people currently have access, it is expected that all major departments will be connected by the end of the year. At the end of the three year connection programme some 400,000 people will be able to talk to each other electronically.The network, which is known as the ‘Government Secure Intranet’ or GSI provides an e-mail facility with connections both to other people using the GSI and to the outside world. It also provides access to the Internet. The security features of the system have been tested by the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ). Although the security is complex and effective, it does not cramp the style of network users. For example, the sender of an e-mail within a government office receives a security warning screen which must be completed with a password before transmission is allowed. The input of the password sets up an audit trail so that senders of messages can be traced.

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Reinventing Government Masterclass

Headlines, PublicNet: 20 April, 1998

Ted Gaebler, the co-author of Reinventinting Government is staging a masterclass in London on 18 and 19 June 1998. The class is based on the theme Transforming Governments Through Entrepreneurial Thinking and World Class Performance.Through his many contacts with public sector organisations throughout the world he seeks to banish bureaucracy and develop empowering, flexible and catalytic government. The Masterclass will draw on his international work, but to ensure a United Kingdom focus delegates will be given questionnaires at the time of booking so that the two days can be structured to their needs.

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Spotlight turned on watchdog

Headlines, PublicNet: 17 April, 1998

The taxpayers’ watchdog of local government and the health service, the Audit Commission, is being subjected to review. The Commission appoints auditors to audit the accounts of councils and health service bodies and carries out studies to assess the economy, efficiency and effectiveness of services.The review team will be led by Paul McQuail, a retired senior civil servant in the former Department of the Environment. An Advisory Group, with representatives from the Audit Commission, the health service and local and central government,  will be set up to oversee the review.

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Office of public Service gets IiP accreditation

Headlines, PublicNet: 15 April, 1998

The Office of Public Service has achieved Investor in People status which is the national standard for effective investment in the training and development of people in order to achieve organisational goals. The Government is committed to a target that by the year 2000 all civil servants will be employed in organisations recognised as Investors in People. The newly acquired status will give added weight to the OPS in its role of promoting the importance of IIP across Government.IiP status is given to organisations demonstrating a planned approach to setting and communicating organisational goals, developing people to meet those goals and measuring the impact of developments. The approach is designed to lead to a culture of continuous business improvement.

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Merger of day care and education for under eights

Headlines, PublicNet: 8 April, 1998

The Department for Education and Employment is taking over responsibility for day care of children under eight from the Department of Health. The new remit for the DfEE includes regulation of nurseries and childminders.The move is aimed at removing the division and inconsistencies which resulted from previous arrangements and fostering growth and development of services needed by young children and their families. The policy transfer will not directly alter the work of local education and social services departments.

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Council performance shows Best Value is needed

Headlines, PublicNet: 6 April, 1998

Continuous improvement is a key element of the Best Value initiative launched last year. To achieve this councils will have to set up a rolling programme to review services which last year cost each household in the UK some £1800. Council performance has been tracked for the past four years by the Audit Commission in the annual publication of Performance Indicators. The latest indicators show that continuous improvement across the board is not happening and urgent action is needed by elected members and managers to improve services.The Performance Indicators show that the worst performing councils continue to do better. Council tax benefit applications should be processed within 14 days and the poorest performers have been able to double the proportion of claims cleared within the target. It is clear that being the focus of attention is a powerful motivation.

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New prescription for public service Millennium Bug

Headlines, PublicNet: 3 April, 1998

Concern about the potentially devastating effect of the Millennium Bug is growing as the Year 2000 gets closer. More evidence is emerging that the scale of the problem is much greater that earlier estimates showed. The fear is that many computers and chips embedded in a whole range of devices, such as traffic lights, will fail because they will be unable to recognise the date when the last two digits are 00. This concern has triggered action across public service.A new Year 2000 team headed by Mandy Mayer from the Communications and Information Industries Directorate at the DTI has been set up to co-ordinate the action being taken by the responsible Government Departments. It will ensure that the right questions are asked, and action is driven forward, across the national infrastructure as a whole. The team been drawn from other government departments to ensure maximum expertise and will be part of the Central IT Unit. It will draw on private sector experience.

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