Archives for July 2006

PROPOSAL FOR NEW INCENTIVES FOR COUNCILS TO BOOST HOUSE BUILDING

Headlines, PublicNet: 26 July, 2006

Consultations have begun on planning and housing incentives designed to help local authorities to respond to the need for new homes in their communities. The new ideas have been announced by the Minister for Housing and Planning, Yvette Cooper, as the Government wants councils to benefit when they respond to local demand.Under the current framework local authorities get only limited and short-term incentives. Official figures show more than 200,000 new households are being formed each year. This is because Britain’s growing and ageing population means more people now live alone. Alongside that statistic stands the fact that only about 160,000 additional homes are being built each year. Ministers believe one reason for the short fall is that local councils do not have sufficient incentives to meet local need.

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CALL FOR REFORM OF CARE BUDGETS COMES AS COMMISSION URGES CHANGES IN NHS FINANCES

Headlines, PublicNet: 26 July, 2006

Leading figures from local government have joined colleagues from the National Health Service to call for reform of the health and social care system so further cuts can be avoided. This follows a study which shows that councils are being affected by budget deficits in NHS trusts.Meanwhile the Audit Commission is recommending major changes in the financial management and accounting regime of the NHS to help improve financial performance and lessen financial risks for individual bodies. The details are set out in a report being sent today to the Secretary of State for Health, Patricia Hewitt. Key recommendations include a move away from Resource Accounting and Budgeting towards a regime offering sharper and more appropriate incentives for good financial performance.

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SOCIAL EXCLUSION OF OLDER PEOPLE

Book News, PublicNet: 25 July, 2006

This independent report commissioned by the Department for Communities and Local Government summarizes evidence from the main report on this theme and examines how the landscape of social exclusion is likely to change over the next five to 15 years. It also sets out the policy implications of these changes and highlights the most promising policy options.The research identified seven dimensions of social exclusion. They are: social relationships, cultural activities, civic activities, access to basic services, neighbourhood exclusion, financial products and material goods. The percentage of older people defined as excluded varied across the seven dimensions between 9 and 13 per cent. Within these categories the strongest statistical associations with multiple exclusion were: depression, living alone, no living children, no private transport, living in rented accommodation, low income and benefits as the main source of income.

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AUDIT COMMISSION AIMS FOR SAVINGS THROUGH OUTSOURCED WORK

Headlines, PublicNet: 25 July, 2006

The Audit Commission Board has announced savings of 26 million pounds of public money in the next five years through the rolling forward of existing contracts for outsourced audit work. Today’s announcement follows a rigorous tendering exercise.New contracts with a projected value of 29 million pounds a year have been awarded to Deloitte, KPMG, PKF and RSM Robson Rhodes. Together the contracts make up a fifth of the Commission’s projected audit work in 2007-08. The contracts will run for five years from April next year.

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NAO SAYS GOVERNMENT DEPARTMENTS STILL NEED TO BE MORE INNOVATIVE

Headlines, PublicNet: 25 July, 2006

Government departments could still reap greater benefits from operational changes if they adopted more innovative and progressive approaches, according to the first independent report into operational innovation in central government. It found that although a deep-rooted culture of risk aversion was being tackled and improvements in quality and efficiency of service were being made, greater efficiencies could be secured.The National Audit Office report published today looks at 125 innovative developments, which were put forward by 85 government bodies, to improve their administrative and organisational practices. The study looks at a range of innovations with most involving improvements to performance management, new IT or web services or other technological changes. The average cost of the schemes was under a million pounds although some of the innovations have taken years to deliver and cost millions.

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MAXIMISING THE VALUE OF PUBLIC SECTOR INFORMATION

Abstracts, PublicNet: 24 July, 2006

The information held by local councils and other public bodies has huge untapped value for the public and for the private sector. Examples include information relating to planning, demographics, environment, and transport. A new EU Directive on the Reuse of Public Sector Information is in place to encourage public bodies to maximise the value of the information they hold. The Office for Public Sector Information (OPSI) offers a range of support initiatives to help achieve this aim. This LocalGovTV programme explains the Directive and the opportunities that reusing public sector information present. It helps to identify and evaluate key information sources and signposts the support on offer to help in realising the benefits of reusing information held within the organisation.The programme is available http://www.localgov.tv

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COUNCILS READY TO HELP BRITONS EVACUATED FROM LEBANON

Headlines, PublicNet: 24 July, 2006

Local authorities around the country are standing by to help British citizens who are evacuated from the spiralling violence in Lebanon and who return to Britain without family and friends. The Local Government Association says a number of councils, particularly around the airports that are likely to be used to receive refugees, have put a series of measures in place.The Chairman of the LGA, Sir Sandy Bruce Lockhart, said authorities had put the wheels in motion to make sure people with no family to go to will have safe and clean places to stay. “After the awful suffering they have seen and experienced the most important thing for these people is a place where they can start to get their lives back together again,” he said. “The vast majority of people evacuated from the Lebanon will have friends or family in the UK that they can stay with. However, there will be those who have nowhere to go and no-one to turn to. It is these people that councils will help as quickly, efficiently and effectively as possible to help ease some of the trauma they have undergone,” Sir Sandy added.

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NEW CPA FRAMEWORK FOR DISTRICT COUNCILS UNVEILED

Headlines, PublicNet: 24 July, 2006

Many district councils will face a less intensive inspection regime under new Comprehensive Performance Assessment arrangements announced by theAudit Commission. The new framework for district councils signals a more targeted approach to inspection in the future.The framework has been unveiled following extensive consultation with the councils and other stakeholders since last autumn. The Commission says the changes reflect the improvements made by local authorities under the previous framework.

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MPS URGED TO PROTECT COMMUNITIES’ ROLE IN PLANNING PROCESS

Headlines, PublicNet: 23 July, 2006

MPs will be alerted today to fears that deregulation of the planning system could mean large schemes being pushed through without the consent of local communities. At a special briefing they will be urged to protect the rights of individuals in the planning process.The briefing at the House of Commons will be hosted by Paul Truswell, the MP for Pudsey, and Friends of the Earth. It has been timed to take place ahead of the interim publication of a Treasury report into the impact of the planning system on businesses and the economy. A briefing paper, “The Community Voice in Planning: Does it count?”, sets out the case for involving members of the public in the planning process, with the launch of a new report, “Listen Up: Community Involvement in the Planning System”, which offers evidence from communities that have played an important role in influencing decisions.

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TEENAGERS TO DEBATE PUBLIC SPENDING IN FESTIVAL OF POLITICS

Headlines, PublicNet: 21 July, 2006

Young people will get an opportunity to air their views on how public money should be spent in Scotland as part of this year’s Festival of Politics taking place at the Scottish Parliament. Six teams of 14 to 17 year olds will be given access to real figures and the actual bills presented to MSPs.The teenagers will be asked to draw up their budgets and then debate what reforms they could afford to make if they were running the country. The budget debate in late August is one of a series of events designed to involve people from all age groups in the parliamentary process.

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