Archives for July 2001

EQUALITY IN PERFORMANCE SURVEY

Abstracts, PublicNet: 26 July, 2001

This report examines staff perceptions of working in the Civil Service and views on the equality of performance appraisals. It was commissioned by the Civil Service working closely with the Council of Civil Service Unions. The research looks at factors affecting performance marks across the service and was carried out by Capita and the Institute of Employment Studies. Some 180,000 personal records were analysed and 500 people interviewed. It is being used to assess progress and identify where further action is needed.It shows that the Civil Service scores above average on questions about fairness and equality when compared with other public, private and voluntary sector employers.There were small but statistically significant differences between performance marks in relation to gender, ethnicity and disability, although women do better than men. The performance review systems are not the underlying cause of the differences in performance marks. The main issues were how people were managed, valued and developed. In some cases, negative attitudes and beliefs might have influenced both actual performance and marks.

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APPLICATION SOFTWARE SURVEY

Book News, PublicNet: 25 July, 2001

Society of IT Managers in Local GovernmentThe survey includes returns from more than half the councils in the UK as well as from a number of fire authorities. It covers functions such as applications supporting front line services including education, social services, housing, planning and leisure as well as back office systems for financial, personnel, purchasing and vehicle maintenance activities. The survey provides a comprehensive picture of the software used by each council including the supplier and operating system, installation and the planned replacement dates. It includes tables showing the “market share” of suppliers and provides councils’ satisfaction ratings with the performance of suppliers and with their products. It identifies significant scope for rationalisation in the supply of software to local authorities to benefit both suppliers and purchasers.

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PREVENTING CHILDREN FROM DROPPING OUT

Headlines, PublicNet: 25 July, 2001

Local councils in the 40 most deprived areas of the UK are being given funds to attack the causes of children dropping out of the school system. The grants, which range from 6 million pounds for a major city to 50,000 pounds for a rural area, will provide increased and better co-ordinated preventive services primarily for children and young people aged 5-13.Decisions will be taken locally on how the money will be spent but the type of schemes that have already proved successful include mentoring programmes where mentors talk to young people at risk about crime, drugs or sexual health issues. These are often based at local youth centers. Education and support can also be provided for parents and this can be delivered through parenting courses run by the voluntary sector, or support work in the home. Drop-in centres run by health services or voluntary organisations have also proved effective, as have local groups where lone parents can support each other.

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LATE DELIVERY OF E-PROCUREMENT

Headlines, PublicNet: 25 July, 2001

Failure to deliver Minister’s promises on e-procurement is a further example of the tortuous path from rhetoric to reality. March 2001 was the deadline for 90% of central government low value procurements to be carried out electronically. The Treasury estimate that departments are now about half way towards the target. This failure to deliver puts in jeopardy the Office for Government Commerce target to make savings of 1 billion pounds on central government procurement by 2005. Savings in the last three years
amounted to 100 million pounds.

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CUSTOMS SLOW TO PLUG ALCOHOL LEAK

Headlines, PublicNet: 24 July, 2001

Customs and Excise have been criticized by the National Audit Office for failure to stem the flow of duty free alcohol on to the UK market. The NAO estimates that between 1993 and 2000 some 668 million pounds of excise duty and VAT was lost by organized criminal gangs literally driving lorries through the customs controls.Duty and VAT on alcohol does not become payable until the products, mainly in this case spirits, enter the UK market. Where the alcohol is destined for countries overseas no duty or VAT is payable. The creation of the Single European Market in 1993 removed restrictions on the movement of goods between EU Member States with the aim of making trade easier. At the same time Customs discontinued their regular physical checks of goods and adopted a risk-based approach both in order to facilitate trade and target their resources better so that staff numbers could be reduced.

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INNOVATING TO GET BETTER WORK – LIFE BALANCE

Headlines, PublicNet: 24 July, 2001

Health bodies, local councils, police, prison service, schools, universities and organizations in the voluntary sector will each receive between 20,000 and 55,000 pounds to promote innovative working practices so their workers can enjoy a better work-life balance. All the organizations were successful in securing funding from the Work-Life Balance Challenge Fund which provides free consultancy support for employers in the public, private and voluntary sectors who want to develop and implement good policies and working practices for their workforce which, in turn, benefits their organization.The aim of the Challenge Fund is to promote a better quality of life and help people to cope with the demands of work with family commitments or other pursuits, while at the same time benefiting employers with a more committed workforce who are more productive and are more likely to stay with them for longer.

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CHANGING FACE OF THE CIVIL SERVICE

Headlines, PublicNet: 23 July, 2001

The effects of changes in career and incentive systems for civil servants are starting to show. Top civil servants have taken on the roles of ‘Champions’ to look at the key issues of leadership, bringing in and bringing on talent, performance management, diversity, business planning and a better deal for staff. The role of the champions is to help departments and agencies meet the exacting targets designed to produce a better, more responsive, more diverse, better equipped civil service.A performance management system for the Senior Civil Service was launched in April 2001. This is underpinned by a new competency framework and a 360 degree feedback package.

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GOVERNMENT TAKES CAUTIOUS APPROACH TO RISK MANAGEMENT

Headlines, PublicNet: 23 July, 2001

Prime Minister Tony Blair’s call for a review risk management marks another milestone in public service culture change. The Performance and Innovation Unit, the Cabinet Office think tank, has been asked to look at ways to improve the way risk is managed. It will report early in the New Year.The review is the latest in a series of attempts to move public services away from a risk aversion culture and towards managing risk. Previous attempts include the March 1999 White Paper Modernising government which included a commitment to improve the way risk is managed, a Treasury consultation draft on ‘Management of Risk – a Strategic Overview’ in February 2000, followed by seminars for Ministers and senior civil servants on risk and policy development. In August 2000 the National Audit Office published ‘Supporting Innovation: Managing Risk in Government Departments. September 2000 was the deadline for departments to set out a framework describing how they would approach risk management. The frameworks were to include details of how staff would be told about the benefits of risk management and how senior managers would show their commitment to it.

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WORTH THE RISK – IMPROVING RISK MANAGEMENT IN LOCAL GOVERNMENT

Abstracts, PublicNet: 23 July, 2001

Audit Commission paperThe paper provides practical advice to councils on how to address their key business risks. It argues that councils must identify and cope with the risks that threaten the achievement of their key strategic aims, and recognise that the process is not a one-off exercise, but an ongoing task. It is aimed at councillors and officers to help them review whether their current risk management activities are satisfactory. It contains examples of good practice and a number of suggestions for improvement that can realistically be implemented in any council.

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ACCESS TO EMERGENCY RADIO SERVICE WIDENED

Headlines, PublicNet: 20 July, 2001

Access to BT Airwave, the digital radio service restricted for use by police, fire and ambulance services, is to be extended to allow greater joined up communication. The Department of Trade and Industry has approve the extension of the service to groups which either respond to emergencies, or interact with those who do so to help agencies be better equipped to work together to enhance public safety.The new users include NHS Primary Care Groups and Primary Care Trusts. Within these groups and trusts there are community nursing teams, district nurses, midwives, psychiatric nurses and GPs with social services staff. Closed Circuit TV control rooms are also included in the extension because they need to pass information to the “blue light” services such as city centre CCTV operators to steer police or medical teams to the precise location of city centre incidents.

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