Archives for November 7th, 2005

BUSINESS IMPROVEMENT DEVELOPMENT GUIDE

Book News, PublicNet: 7 November, 2005

This is the first guide to Business Improvement Development (BID) schemes specifically aimed at local authorities. A BID is a flexible method of agreeing and setting a levy to help fund improvements to the environment and management of an area. The level of the additional charge paid is agreed through consultation with businesses in the BID area. Local councils play an important role in helping develop BIDs, often contributing to the development of the BID partnership, as well as providing rating information and running the BID ballot. The Guide outlines the steps the councils need to take in assisting businesses to develop a BID right from demonstrating the need through to holding the actual ballot.The Guide, which is published by the Association of London Government, is available at: http://www.alg.gov.uk/doc.asp?doc=15496&cat=979

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THINK TANK DIRECTOR WARNS AGAINST CHOICE AT ANY COST

Headlines, PublicNet: 7 November, 2005

Chris Leslie, director of the New Local Government Network has called for the debate on choice in public services to take into account the principles of fairness and equal opportunity. Mr. Leslie’s message was that the ‘big picture’ should be kept in mind at all times when offering greater choice to service users. He said: “Choice, defined as ‘delegated decision-making’, has real potential to empower communities and individuals by devolving decisions on how public services are provided from public servants and other officials. But in developing this agenda it is imperative that fairness is not put at risk, and that the current and future needs of the wider community are safeguarded.”He argued for a more refined approach to choice particularly with the reform agenda in social housing and social care, as well as in the recent Schools White Paper. He proposed a series of ‘fair choice tests’ to examine how choice-based reforms impact on principles. A quality test should establish if choice would raise the standards of service for all users. A convenience test should consider the needs of the user rather than the provider. An opportunity test should probe whether choice would widen opportunities for all. A privilege test should determine if the policy increases or decreases the likelihood of personal wealth being able to purchase access to the best provision. A fairness test should examine if the policy relies on unequal funding or varying rules for different providers. A community test should look at the interests of the wider community and check if non-service users are protected.

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CHALLENGE TO DIGITAL DIVIDE VIEW

Headlines, PublicNet: 7 November, 2005

The traditional view that technology is widening the divide between those who have access to information and those who do not is challenged by a report from the Social Exclusion Unit. Rather than widening inequality, the report shows how technology is already improving life chances and public service delivery, and is being embraced by excluded groups.Citing successful examples of mobile phones being used by homeless people to avoid the stigma of not having a permanent address by leaving a mobile number on job applications, and the ability to receive medical results by text without someone else answering the phone. The report also shows examples of how modern technology can improve public service take-up, reconnect the isolated and provide a lifeline for those groups on the margins.

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