Archives for May 2006

INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGY SALARY SURVEY

Abstracts, PublicNet: 31 May, 2006

A salary survey conducted by Computer Economics Limited on behalf of the Society of IT Management suggests that local authorities remain a good place to work if you are in ICT, with councils currently offering slightly better salary increases, better retention levels and a wider range of benefits than the private sector. However, recruitment problems in the public sector are increasing even though they are currently less of a problem than in the private sector.The survey compared local authority ICT salaries with those across all industries. Average salaries within the sample show an increase of 5%, slightly up on last years figure of 4.8%. The increase remains slightly higher than 4.8 % of the private sector. At an organisational level staff working in Fire Services have received the greatest increase of 6.7% and at a regional level authorities in Wales have benefited the most with an average increase of 6.7%. At the opposite end of the scale District Councils with an increase of 3.8% and councils within the South East with a 4.5% increase are below the average.

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WATCHDOG’S COMPUTER GETS BETTER AT SNIFFING OUT FRAUD

Headlines, PublicNet: 31 May, 2006

The Audit Commission’s National Fraud Initiative has become firmly established as the United Kingdom’s premier public sector fraud detection process. In the exercise just completed it identified 111 millions pounds fraudulently claimed from 1300 public bodies. This compares to 83 million pounds identified in the last exercise in 2002/03.The Commission uses advanced data matching techniques to tackle a broad range of fraud risks faced by the public sector such as council tenants with a council property in each of two authorities or a public sector employee on long term sickness leave from one organisation while working for another. When matches are detected they are referred to the local council or other public body potentially being defrauded and their investigators then pursue the case. The matching process does not compromise data privacy requirements. The fees charged by the Commission range from 450 to 1,900 pounds and matches now cover 100 per cent of local government expenditure.

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MOVE TRANSPORT DECISIONS TO TOWNHALLS

Headlines, PublicNet: 31 May, 2006

The most effective way to improve urban transport would be to devolve power from Whitehall and put it into the hands of local Transport Authorities. Council leaders would head up the Authorities and be able to take decisions about services which reflect the needs of local people. This is the conclusion of a report commissioned by the Local Government Association. The reform proposals, which include governance and financial arrangements, are designed to put pressure on the Government ahead of the white paper on double devolution from Whitehall to Townhall and on to communities, which is due to be published in a few weeks time.The report looks at ways for metropolitan district councils to provide democratic leadership to the wider ‘city region’ or ‘metropolitan’ areas. One option is for a new style Passenger Transport Authority to be formed from a joint executive of district leaders which in turn would appoint a board in the way the Mayor of London appoints the Transport for London Board.

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FAME IN ACTION

Features, PublicNet: 26 May, 2006

By Andrew De’ath FAME, the Framework for Multi-Agency Environments, is a national project supported by the ODPM, which provides support to help local authorities, their intermediaries and other public sector and voluntary organisations to effectively tackle issues of joint working and information sharing, in order to improve services to communities. The author describes how 25 councils have built a successful and sustainable multi-agency environment.

NICE URGED TO WITHSTAND OUTSIDE PRESSURES

Headlines, PublicNet: 26 May, 2006

Research published today says the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, which evaluates treatments for the National Health Service, needs to be insulated from external financial, political, and emotional pressures. The article in the BMJ reviews NICE’s recommendations between 1999 and 2005 and says it has faced growing pressure to influence its decisions. .The Institute was set up in 1999 as an independent and was charged with getting the best from the Health Service’s health resources in England and Wales. Since then it has examined the value of treatments and recommended whether or not they should be used. The researchers say NICE published 86 guidance notes on 117 topics. Its recommendations, they found, were fairly evenly distributed. In 22 cases- 19 per cent – it ruled a treatment should not be used, agreed to the unrestricted use of 27 (23 per cent), approved 38 with major restrictions, equivalent to 32% and gave the go-ahead to 30 treatments (28 per cent) with minor restrictions.

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SURVEY SHOWS PATIENTS’ SATISFACTION AND SCOPE FOR IMPROVEMENT

Headlines, PublicNet: 26 May, 2006

The vast majority of hospital in-patients are well satisfied with their care, according to the results of the annual survey published today by the Healthcare Commission but it highlights the need for improvements in the information given to patients, cleanliness in hospitals and in some areas of care.The survey, now in its third year, is one of the biggest assessments of patients’ views, capturing the experiences of more than 80,000 adults from all 169 NHS acute and specialist trusts in England. It covers the national picture and the opinions of patients in individual areas, giving the trusts an independent view of what patients think and allowing them to compare their results to the national average and to those of similar NHS trusts. The findings are also fed into the Commission’s system for measuring the performance of NHS organisations that has replaced star ratings.

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CLOSER TO PEOPLE AND PLACES – A NEW VISION FOR LOCAL GOVERNMENT

Book News, PublicNet: 25 May, 2006

This vision of local government published by the Local Government Association sets out proposals for removing power from Whitehall and putting it into the hands of local people, voluntary organisations and local councils. The objectives underlying the proposals are to improve public services and make better use of public money; improve the quality of life and economic performance of cities, towns and villages and to give people greater power and influence over their lives, their services and the future of the places where they live.The Association’s proposals include agreement between national and local government on a list of some thirty national outcomes which local government will take responsibility to deliver, with its Local Area Agreement partners. These will be backed by locally drawn targets and a new performance management regime, enabling the removal of national targets, performance indicators, specific grants, ring-fenced funding and financial bid systems.

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YOUNG PEOPLE INVOLVED IN DESIGN OF WEST MIDLANDS YOUTH SPACES

Headlines, PublicNet: 25 May, 2006

Young people in the West Midlands have been working with a firm of architects and local authorities in the region to design their own recreational places and spaces. The “Youth Space” scheme, run by local architects MADE has seen the creation of a number of youth shelters and early indications are that these have contributed to a drop in anti-social behaviour.The Government Office West Midlands commissioned youth shelters in parks and open spaces in six areas. Young people were consulted at every stage and they worked closely with MADE designers and artists, offering their own vision of “roofs for youths”. Three have been opened already at Coleshill in Warwickshire, the Stechford area of Birmingham and at Warndon in Worcestershire.

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COMMISSION SAYS COUNCILS MUST UNDERSTAND ECONOMICS OF CHOICE TO ENSURE BENEFITS

Headlines, PublicNet: 25 May, 2006

There is no guarantee that offering more individual choice in local public services will mean either increased value for money or better quality services according to a report published today by the Audit Commission. Whether choice brings overall benefits depends on the services involved and how that choice is introduced, it says.Today’s report, “Choosing Well: Analysing the Costs and Benefits of Choice in Local Public Services”, says people as consumers want more choice and they have a clear view of which services should provide more choice but as taxpayers they are unwilling to pay more to get it. That the report says, means local authorities have to be more adept at understanding the economics of choice and competition so they maximise the benefits at the same time as minimising the costs.

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PRIORITIES AND PRIORITISATION

Abstracts, PublicNet: 24 May, 2006

This paper from the Improvement and Development Agency is about priorities and the process of prioritisation. It attempts to unpack what these mean in practice. It addresses the challenge of a continual stream of new things that need to be done. There are always new national priorities, new local priorities, or existing services that need to be developed, improved or renewed. Taking on new activity is often not balanced by dropping some of the old. The result is often too much ‘on the books’.Like a lot of aspects of performance management, setting priorities involves detailed analysis, hard thinking and careful handling. It can’t be done superficially. But getting it right can bring big rewards. The paper explores what happens to areas that aren’t on the priority list and how to respond to the stakeholders of issues that have become non-priorities. It realistically looks at the easier option of not engaging with ‘wriggly worms’

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