Archives for May 1998

Better public services for Europe

Headlines, PublicNet: 29 May, 1998

The drive is on across Europe to raise standards of public service. Initiatives to bring improvements include better access to information in Austria through hotlines, reducing contact points in Spain through a one stop counters and in Italy with the conference of services. The UK is piloting a single electronic form for advising departments about business start-ups.A meeting of ten Public Service Ministers from the UK, France, Greece, Italy,Luxembourg, Spain, Austria, Belgium and Portugal agreed a ten point action plan to improve public services.

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Boost for greener government

Headlines, PublicNet: 27 May, 1998

 All government departments, executive agencies and non-departmental public bodies are being asked to compare their plans for improving environmental performance with new guidelines issued by the Department for Environment, Transport and the Regions. The move is designed to make the process of government greener and to integrate environmental considerations into all decisions. Minister will monitor progress through target setting and monitoring results.

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Better Government starts with older people

Headlines, PublicNet: 22 May, 1998

 A key element of the Better Government White paper due in the Summer will be a focus on the needs of people for all the public services they receive. This focus will result in removing traditional boundaries between public service bodies.

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London health and social services in strategic re-alignment

Headlines, PublicNet: 20 May, 1998

The announcement by Frank Dobson, Secretary of State for Health, of boundary changes for health and social services in London, is a major step in getting the structure ready for the Greater London Authority. The new Authority and the Mayor for London would not be able to carry out their strategic role effectively if the boundaries of other public bodies did not coincide with those of the Authority.

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Job opportunity at Court Service

Headlines, PublicNet: 18 May, 1998

For those who are able to demonstrate a record of positive achievement at senior management level in a Government Department or large multi-disciplinary organisation there is an opening for a new career in the Court Service. Although the post of Chief Executive does not require any specific legal qualifications, it does need the ability to command the confidence of the judiciary and others in the judicial system.The Court Service was hived off from the Lord Chancellor’s Department in 1995 and provides support for the court system in England and Wales. The Chief Executive is responsible for 9600 staff in headquarters in London and in 450 regional centres. The annual budget is £600m and the Service collects some £300m.

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MoD projects over time and over budget

Headlines, PublicNet: 15 May, 1998

Major projects of the Ministry of Defence are three years late and in total £3b over budget. In its Annual Report the National Audit Office details where the slippage and cost escalation has taken place and analyses the causes.The Report shows a decline in the effectiveness of project management. The cost variance over the last five years shows an average increase from 2.6 to 7.5 per cent of approved costs. The time variance has moved from an average delay of 32 months to 37 months. The are two main causes of cost increases on projects. Changes to the programme resulting mainly from events which occur between project approval and main contract letting and from the operation of inflation clauses in fixed price contracts. The most common causes of delay are technical difficulties and budgetary constraints.

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Local government research to support change agenda

Headlines, PublicNet: 13 May, 1998

The research programme announced by Local Government Minister Hilary Armstrong is designed to support the Government’s modernisation agenda. The Best Value initiative is stimulating innovation across all areas of council activities and one of the key research projects will look at innovation and best practice. Although the Best Value pilot projects are being evaluated by a team from Warwick University there is a need to take an overall view to see what triggers new thinking and how ideas are taken from conception to implementation.A critical issue for local government is the apathy of the electorate which was underlined by the recent exceptionally low turnout in the local elections. Earlier research has shown that younger people tend to know less about their councils than their parents and grand parents and it is thought that lack of understanding about local government could be a factor inducing apathy. In a quest for hard evidence on this thinking a research project will explore citizens’ attitudes towards and knowledge of local government finance.

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Health inequalities – call for national targets

Headlines, PublicNet: 10 May, 1998

The public health Green Paper, Our Healthier Nation, places emphasis on health inequalities. It recognises that the causes of ill health are directly related to social and economic factors and highlights the relationship between poverty and health. In its response to the Green paper the Local Government Association calls for national methods of monitoring progress in tackling these issues and says that targets must be integral to local Health Improvement Programmes.Rita Stringfellow, chair of the LGA’s social affairs and health committee said: ‘We need to find local solutions to our national health problems and the LGA is pleased that the government has recognised the important influence local authorities have on the health of their local communities.

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Pressure builds for council trading

Headlines, PublicNet: 8 May, 1998

Local councils are barred from marketing their services to other public or private sector bodies. The legislation forbidding trading is based on the belief that it would be unfair to private companies if, for example, councils were able to offer IT services to another council or housing management services to a property company. The unfairness stems from such factors as the absence of risk in a council compared to a company and sources of cheaper finance open to councils.The introduction last year of Best Value where councils are required to continually improve their services has provoked challenges to the trading ban. Sir Jeremy Beecham, chair of the Local Government Association, said that local authorities must be free to compete on a properly regulated basis for all services including work outside their own boundaries. He argued that the process of competing for outside work in itself constitutes a form of market testing and would show just how competitive local authority service provision could be. The private sector are free to do this and he said that it is unjust to deny local authority service providers the same opportunity.

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Export boom for Britain’s public services

Headlines, PublicNet: 6 May, 1998

Ideas for delivering better public services and expertise in putting them into practice are being exported to Europe and the rest of the world. The ideas and expertise span across health strategy, finance, organisational performance and training.The European Commission plans for a community-wide framework to improve public health mirror Britain’s new public health strategy. Tackling health inequalities and promoting action across the whole range of Government responsibilities is an approach breaking new ground in Europe. Tessa Jowell, Minister for Public Health, said: “Britain is now at last leading the way and helping shape the agenda in Europe – and nowhere is this more evident than in public health. Our experience in Britain in implementing this challenging new agenda means we will be in a position to spearhead and help shape the drive to deliver a similar Europe-wide agenda.”

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