Ski Team Sponsorship - Final Update

Our regular readers will be aware that Wired-GOV recently sponsored the alpine ski racing team from 105th Regiment Royal Artillery, the Scottish and Ulster Gunners in support of their participation in the recent Royal Artillery  Championships 2014 and Exercise Spartan Hike incorporating the Army Reserves Championships.

Whilst most of the team returned home, Captain Chris Wane, despite a spectacular crash in the Downhill Jump, qualified for the Army Championships and remained in France for an extra week.

Click here to find out how Chris got on.

Trying to keep government ICT contracts in budget and ‘out of the red’

The government has published ‘red lines’ for its IT contracts to ensure maximum taxpayer value, the Minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude has announced.  The new rules have been published to encourage competition in the sector and free the government from longstanding inflexible contracts with IT providers

The new rules are aimed at encouraging the widest possible range of suppliers to compete for public sector technology contracts and ensure the government acts as an intelligent customer.  Smarter purchasing realised savings of £3.8bn in 2012 to 2013 alone; and a tighter grip on IT spending, along with progress on the digitisation of services, saved a further £500m.  Better procurement is central to the government’s wider commercial reform plans to strip out wasteful spend and harness the government’s buying power to get the best deal for the taxpayer.

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Power to & from the people

Local communities will be able to take control of their energy bills and help transform the energy system thanks to proposals unveiled last week in Britain’s first Community Energy Strategy.  Over 50% of people surveyed by DECC said that saving money on bills would be the major motivation for getting involved with community energy schemes, and around 3.5million bill payers are ready to get together with other people in their local community to take more control of their energy.

Meanwhile while 4 in 10 respondents said they were already interested in joining a community energy group and taking part in collective switching or collective purchasing schemes.  Under the plans Government will broaden the support available for community energy projects, whereby people come together to reduce their energy use or purchase and generate their own energy.

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Good access is not ‘rocket science’, just common sense and ‘asking the user’

Accessibility improvements, including use of lighting & colour, at Swansea High Street rail station have been held up as best practice for other refurbishment projects in a new report.  Many of the elements to improve accessibility in the £7.6m refurbishment project went beyond the basic compliance standards and have been praised by disability groups for making the station easier to navigate.

As well as individual elements, such as a tactile guidance path for blind & partially sighted people, improved natural lighting, use of colour contrast and reduction of clutter around the station, the project has been commended for the way that it was managed throughout, including consulting with disability groups.

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It’s not just care of patients we need to think about in hospitals!

NHS trusts in England need to do more to support the health & mental wellbeing of their staff, an audit of NICE workplace guidance has revealed.  There is clear evidence to show that the health of NHS staff influences productivity and the quality of care delivered to patients.  

But despite this, nearly a quarter of trusts do not monitor their staff's mental wellbeing.  Only 57% have a mental wellbeing policy in place, even though mental health is one of the leading causes for long-term sickness absence among the NHS workforce.  Just 44% per cent of trusts have a policy in place for physical activity and only 28% have a plan to tackle staff obesity.  The audit focused on recommendations for employers set out in 6 pieces of NICE public health guidance.

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Will it be an EU regulation that limits expansion of Heathrow?

The member states' permanent representatives in Brussels have endorsed a compromise reached between the Council and the European Parliament concerning a regulation which harmonises & strengthens rules on how authorities take decisions to set operating restrictions at EU airports to limit nuisance from aircraft noise.

The rules are based on principles agreed by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), known as Balanced Approach to noise management.  They are designed to identify the most cost-efficient way of tackling aircraft noise at each individual airport, with operating restrictions being a last resort option only.

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Voter registration joins the e-age

The government has unveiled the new online voter registration system ahead of its launch in June 2014.  Presented at the government’s Sprint 14 conference, this is the latest stage in the major project to make the electoral register as secure & convenient as possible.  

The new online system will go live in June 2014 at the same time as Individual Electoral Registration (IER), when the old household registration forms will be phased out and everyone will register individually for the first time.  Under IER, whether registering online or using the paper forms, voters will for the first time be required to provide their date of birth and National Insurance number to minimise the potential for fraud.

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Your never too young to be an entrepreneur

Primary school children will be given chance to start their own business with a £5 loan under a new scheme to encourage young entrepreneurs.  The Fiver Challenge will give thousands of pupils aged up to 11 the chance to set up their own business and learn about the world of enterprise.  Register your pupils to take part in the Fiver Challenge!

20,000 children from 500 primary schools across the UK are expected to take part this year by creating products or services to sell at a profit – which they are allowed to keep – and then return the original loan to the Fiver Bank.  The first round of the challenge will run in June 2014 with a national award ceremony in September for top entrepreneurs.

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Just like the big supermarkets, the NAO goes ‘Local’

Following the passage of the Local Audit and Accountability Act, the National Audit Office has welcomed its role in the new arrangements for the audit of local public bodies.

The Act introduces a new responsibility for the Comptroller & Auditor General, the head of the NAO: to prepare & maintain the Code of Audit Practice setting out the framework within which auditors of local bodies carry out their work.

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Public Sector Enterprise Insights, register now! image.
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