Archives for September 2001

POOR NEIGHBOURHOODS GET DIRECT CONNECTION TO WHITEHALL

Headlines, PublicNet: 28 September, 2001

The poorest neighbourhoods will soon be able to express their concerns and ideas directly to the Neighbourhood Renewal Unit in the DTLR through a Community Forum. The Forum will act as a two-way channel of information enabling the people that know what is happening on the ground to influence the Government’s understanding of what works best. It will also help Government share its renewal ideas with a wider audience.A recruitment drive has been launched to find twenty individuals to form the Forum which will be chaired by the head of the Neighbourhood Renewal Unit. The adverts call for people from all walks of life, with skills and experience of living and working in England’s deprived areas. The Forum needs people who can bring a frank voice and constructive approach to the job of making neighbourhood renewal work.

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BEST VALUE FAILING TO DELIVER SAY STAFF

Headlines, PublicNet: 28 September, 2001

A survey by the GMB union of staff working in local government housing, social services, education and environment found that over half respondents believe that Best Value is not delivering results. Many of the staff feel that Best Value actually means lowest cost and that it is a route to privatization.The staff view that Best Value is not delivering the expected greater efficiency or the hoped for value for money is shared to a large extent by Audit Commission Controller Sir Andrew Foster in his Best Value Annual Statement. Although he asserts that there is much to celebrate he warns that 60 per cent of councils were judged poor or fair. It is particularly concerning that the Audit Commission has judged that half the council services inspected are unlikely or not going to improve.

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THREAT TO PUBLIC SECTOR INFORMATION

Headlines, PublicNet: 27 September, 2001

A survey to assess the scale of security breaches across the UK found that 38 per cent of public organizations experienced a violation of information security in the last six months. The national average of all organizations was 23 per cent. The survey is published jointly by certification firm, SGS, and security consultancy, Claritas. The study found that external hacking in the UK is largely restricted to the public sector. This is a consequence of the lure of confidential public records and sensitive information regarding national security. Over two thirds of security incidents involve virus infection.The public sector out performs others in terms of information security monitoring and procedures. Organisations generally make greater use of asset registers, penetration tests, internal audits, and confidentiality agreements than their private counterparts. In addition 85 per cent of public bodies have a policy for managing information security. The most difficult barrier to achieving a higher level of security was found to be organisational culture and 48 per cent of respondents to the survey gave this as the most severe hindrance to better security for their own systems. The study also revealed that 95 per cent of organisations continue to use paper to store information.

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E-GOVERNMENT GULF BETWEEN LOCAL COUNCILS WIDENS

Headlines, PublicNet: 27 September, 2001

The ‘Implementing e-Government’ statements presented by local councils to the Department for Transport, Local Government and Regions by the July deadline reveal a gulf between those at the front and the others. The statements map out visions for modern service delivery and how they plan to get there.Leading edge councils are making impressive progress across the board and have implemented transaction processing systems on the Internet for paying council tax and parking fines. They are well on the way to meeting the 2005 target to provide all services electronically. In some cases they are working in partnership with private companies to provide call centers, on stop shops and to replace existing IT systems. At the other end of the scale the DTLR found that 6 per cent of the statements for implementing e-government were unacceptable. A further 30 per cent need significant work to bring them up to standard.

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YOUR BUSINESS @ RISK

Abstracts, PublicNet: 27 September, 2001

Audit CommissionPublic bodies face growing levels of IT abuse as they implement the e-government agenda, is the main conclusion of the report. The Commission took a public service wide look at the problem and found that across 542 public sector organisations, reports of computer fraud and misuse rose by 45% from 1997 to 2000. Central government had the highest rise in reported abuse with a 60% change. In a case study of one health authority, telephone fraud was carried out using a dial-through feature in voice mail – a technique known as “phreaking”. Investigators found that a hacker had used voice mail to forward calls so that they were billed to another phone. The hacker had made international calls costing 7,780 pounds. The report makes it clear that risk assessment is not an option, but an integral part of the development process. It quotes UK Online as an exemplar with a self-assessment checklist for businesses and other organisations with sections on virus infection, hacking, misuse of personal data and unlicensed software.

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PAY PROTEST WITH A DIFFERENCE

Headlines, PublicNet: 26 September, 2001

Staff at Inland Revenue have rejected 4.3 per cent pay offer by a large majority. The Public and Commercial Services Union is now urging them to make Friday 28 September a day of protest. Rather than taking strike action the Union wants the protest day to be fun by bringing friends and colleagues together in every office.Union advice for the day is to hold an office protest party at lunchtime or after work. As a symbol of solidarity, staff are asked to shake hands with everyone in their section when they arrive, go to lunch or at the party and when they go home. The Union also suggests that staff should wear casual dress with jeans on and ties off. Colour co-ordination would add weight to the protest by all members of an office wearing the same colour. Black is the most popular choice. The local media are to be invited the parties to photograph the tax workers happy protest.

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FREEING UNIVERSITIES FROM STATE CONTRO

Abstracts, PublicNet: 26 September, 2001

James Tooley

Trends in education now point firmly towards a private future for British universities is the argument of James Tooley who edits a collection of articles in Economic Affairs. Tooley points out that, though all British universities are private institutions and at present only 41 per cent of their income comes from direct government grants, they have allowed themselves to fall increasingly under government control. But he sees several reasons to expect universities to break free from the state. These include student fees and innovative student loan models being developed in other countries and private universities flourishing worldwide. He argues that the new vigour of the debate in Britain about the future of universities demonstrates that radical change may be in prospect.

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WANTED: NEXT GENERATION OF HEALTH SERVICE CHIEFS

Headlines, PublicNet: 25 September, 2001

The NHS Modernisation Agency has launched a head hunt to find chief executives for the health service of tomorrow. A national advert is about to appear inviting experienced directors of NHS trusts o apply for an intensive, week-long development programme to be run by the NHS Leadership Centre. This is part of a wider project which includes a year-long programme for directors aspiring to be chief executives which will begin in Spring 2002.The Leadership Centre has commissioned the Kings Fund, Leeds University Business School and the Nuffield Institute for Health to run the programme which starts in January 2002. During the event, directors will discuss the rapidly changing context for the NHS with high profile contributors and take part in group exercises on leading complex organizations. They will also receive support on planning their future personal development and career options.

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NEW JOBS AND BENEFITS AGENCY FACING TOUGH CHALLENGE

Headlines, PublicNet: 25 September, 2001

Job Centre Plus, the new Agency formed by the merger of the Employment Service and Benefits Agency, has found that merging the two cultures of job finding and benefit payments is fraught with difficulty. As well as union opposition to a corporate style uniform similar to that of high street banks and building societies, a new report published by the Department for Work and Pensions reveals weaknesses in management and technology.A survey found that staff felt their training was inadequate to deliver the new vision of a seamless job and benefits service. The Personal Advisors whose task is to offer clients a work-focused service, tailored to meet individuals’ needs, are consistently frustrated by routine activities and the daily throughput of clients. They feel unable to provide the tailored, client-centred service and referral activities that form the core of the vision for the new agency. Personal Advisor interviews are dominated by benefits, with benefits processing being dealt with before work-focused activities. Merging employment and benefits has also created a demand for staff to have a wide knowledge of both sets of rules, but the survey showed they lacked both the knowledge and experience of specific types of client needs and the practical interventions that might be possible.

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HANDBOOK FOR CREATIVE TEAM LEADERS

Book News, PublicNet: 24 September, 2001

Rickards T, Moger SAchieves a marriage of theory with practice. Deals with the basic principles that influence team performance, describes the authors’ well-tested method for training teams to become more creative in their behaviours and gives a range of real-life examples of creative dream teams. Offers an approach to boosting creativity that, being based on a model, has structure and coherence, but needs to be read from start to finish, rather than referred to as and when needed. Provides more than the usual ‘100 ways to boost your creativity’ lists that tend to dominate many of the texts in this field.

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