Archives for October 2000

SMALL BUSINESSES GO ONLINE

Headlines, PublicNet: 31 October, 2000

Small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) are now using the internet as a key business tool, according to new research by Oftel. 93 % of medium businesses and 69 % of small businesses are now connected or in the process of connecting to the Internet, and one fifth are using a form of unmetered package to gain access.The research shows that a lack of understanding of the potential benefits of the Internet is the main discouragement to businesses getting on line.Oftel has praised websites such as www.telecomsadvice.org and www.ukonlineforbusiness.gov.uk set up to encourage small businesses to make the most of telecommunications and the Internet.

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THE ROUTE TO LOCAL LEADERSHIP

Headlines, PublicNet: 31 October, 2000

Pay on a par with MPs is one of the key recommendations of a new study that tries to point the way to creating truly revitalised local government.The New Local Government Network, (NGLN) a left-leaning think tank, has spent nine months reviewing the Labour Government’s intentions in trying to modernise councils, and concludes that really useful local government will come from the following changes:a major IT push to help councils deliver services electronically’partnership contracts’ – a development on the idea of public service agreements – giving more emphasis on councils being driven by what local people say they wantstrong leadership by council leaders offered the same pension, pay and support as MPsa government department for devolution – whose job would be to limit initiatives and interventions from other central departmentsinvestment in those areas of local government which are still valued by the public but which have been underfunded.

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WHITEHALL IMPORTS CHANGEMASTER

Headlines, PublicNet: 30 October, 2000

The appointment of Susan Thomas as Director of Corporate Services with a seat on the Department for Education and Employment Board reveals that new thinking is starting to affect Whitehall. Although there have been outside appointments to top civil service posts in the past few months, such as the new chairman of Customs and Excise, this is probably the first appointment of a changemaster who is adept at the art of leading change. Her role in the new job is to drive forward the modernisation of DfEE and her appointment marks the next stage in the Department’s change management programme. She joins the Department with a track record of managing change in the Transition Team which set up the Greater London Authority, and in modernising Local Government in Lewisham.It has become clear from recent pronouncements and this appointment that the civil service has now joined other areas of the public sector in valuing people who are adept at leading change. Changemasters are still fairly thin on the ground in the public sector compared to the world of business and commerce, but it is becoming a career specialism and a fast track to the top.

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GREEN LIGHT FOR TOWN HALL SHAKE-UP

Headlines, PublicNet: 30 October, 2000

The most radical reform of local councils for a century is about to sweep through town halls. Legislation is now in place for councils to move away from the committee system of decision taking and to set up systems that separate councillors into those with an executive role and backbenchers.The committee system has long been recognised as inefficient. It has also been criticised because major decisions are often taken by the ruling political party behind closed doors and citizens have no idea who is actually taking decisions. This has led to a popular view of councils as bureaucracy laden, inefficient institutions that are open to corruption. The new arrangements give greater efficiency, they are transparent and the people who take the decisions are accountable.

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CULTURAL CHANGE

Abstracts, PublicNet: 30 October, 2000

Vermeulen W
Training for Quality, (UK), Vol 5 No 1 97
Start page: 40. No of pages: 6

Contends that the attitudes of employees will determine the ability of an organization to change, examining how the quality culture of an organization will affect the implementation of total quality management (TQM). Advocates carrying out a quality audit before planning the implementation of TQM and basing any change management strategy on the results, outlining the issues involved in managing cultural change generally. Focuses on UK universities, identifying the factors which will affect their ability to implement TQM, and the changes which they need to make to their cultures if these implementations to succeed. Uses research on changes in South African universities to illustrate the process for assessing employee attitudes when implementing a TQM programme.

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GETTING BETTER VALUE FROM BEST VALUE

Headlines, PublicNet: 27 October, 2000

Survey forms are pouring into local council offices revealing how satisfied people are with the services they receive, but it will not be possible to compare performance between councils until well into the next Best Value plan year. This is the largest public consultation exercise by local government and it will reveal what people think about local services including schools, refuse collection and recreation facilities.Some councils, including most London boroughs and the county and district councils in Essex decided to short circuit the Department for Environment Transport and Regions timetable and run joined-up surveys. This allows them to get limited comparative information before the end of 2000, in time to influence the Best Value Plan starting in April 2000.

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FROM POSTMASTER TO WEBMASTER

Headlines, PublicNet: 27 October, 2000

The Post office has started to move its 18,500 branches into the information age by signing a deal with UKVillages.co.uk, an independent company that raises revenue through sponsorship. All post offices will have their own webpage, free of charge, where they can set out their services, special offers and news. Following successful piloting the project is being extended across the UK.The success of transforming postmasters into webmasters is crucial to Government plans for the Post Office to re-invent itself and diversify by turning branches into one stop e-Government shops and Internet learning centres. This vision was published in a Cabinet Office report that described the largest retail network in the country as a ‘sleeping giant’.

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LACK OF LEADERSHIP FOR E-GOVERNMENT

Headlines, PublicNet: 26 October, 2000

Leadership is lacking in moving public services towards e-government. This is the claim made by EURIM – the European Infomatics Market, an industry- Parliament lobby group. The Group’s report, A Shock to the System – Joined up Electronic Government, is critical of progress made in developing e-government. The public sector is viewed as ‘change resistant’The Group believes that the fundamental change in the way IT is used, which is an aim of the March 1999 White Paper on Modernising government, has not happened. It attributes this to a leadership failure to influence attitudes and thinking and urges that a cabinet level minister should be given the task of driving e-government.

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STRATEGY TO CUT PUBLIC SECTOR WATER BILLS

Headlines, PublicNet: 26 October, 2000

Central and local government are each set to make an annual saving of 30m pounds on water bills as a result of strategic initiative taken by the Office for Government Commerce. Central departments and local councils spend a total of 600m pounds on water bills, but this will fall over the next three years as a new database provides benchmarks and other data.The 250m pound contract for the database has been won by Energy Metering Technology who will use a web-based version of its monitoring and targeting software to establish benchmarks and target indicators on a monthly basis. Public sector bodies will then be able to input data online to see how they compare against the published benchmark and against other organisations in their specific building group.

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IMPLEMENTING BEST VALUE

Abstracts, PublicNet: 26 October, 2000

Martin SPublic Administration, (UK), 2000 Vol 78 No 1

Start page: 209. No of pages: 19

Assesses the impact the ‘Best Value’ will have on local government in the UK. Discusses the differences between Best Value and compulsory competitive tendering, the system it replaces. Sees the change as indicating a shift in the relationship between central and local government, with locus of decision making moving away from the centre towards the localities. Examines the approaches that local authorities are taking to implementing Best Value, identifying four main approaches – the provision of in-house, functionally organized services; the contracting out of services to the private sector or delivering them through public-private partnerships; the integration of services around the needs of particular client groups; and the integration of services around the needs of local communities. Considers the future development of Best Value.

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