Do you think you know how to solve housing issues?

Ordnance Survey’s eighth GeoVation® Challenge sees Britain’s mapping agency teaming up with Land Registry to offer £101,000 in development funding to help develop the best ideas & solutions to current housing issues into ventures.  Individuals, start-ups & existing businesses and organisations are invited to submit their innovative ideas to improve the way we do housing between now and 19 November 2014.

Standout entries will be invited to a GeoVation® Weekend Camp from 16-18 January 2015, where the innovators can work on transforming their idea into a prototype venture.  Those selected to receive funding will be announced at the end of this camp.

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Remote Working: Mandatory PSN compliant 2 Factor Authentication

As a public sector organisation, you have sensitive data that you need to protect and distribute across multiple platforms and an increasingly mobile workforce while still adhering to compliance requirements and budget constraints.

Two factor authentication is now mandated by HM Government in some situations: where a home worker connects to the Public Services Network, for example.

Public sector organisations are now opting for two factor authentication as a default process to strengthen risk management, closing the weak vulnerabilities exposed by password based authentications.

Key public sector benefits include:

  • No hard tokens for users to forget or lose – it can be installed on users’ existing mobile devices and is available 24/7 even when there’s no phone reception
  • Cloud based so no software licence or server costs!
  • Simple to manage – get the highest levels of security with the least fuss
  • Easy to buy via Cloudstore

What's the true cost compared to hard token solutions?  Click here to find out more and view full comparison data.

‘Hell have no fury’ like a parent ‘fighting’ for their child’s rights

Admissions authorities across England are being urged to remind their schools about the proper process for filling places following a complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO).

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Poor air quality is not something that you can always ‘see’

Defra provides health advice and a wide range of information to the public on air quality.  This is so everyone, especially vulnerable groups, can take appropriate action where necessary.  Their air quality forecast and health advice is updated daily and can be found on the UK Air website, uk-air.defra.gov.uk, and on the Defra air quality feed, @Defraukair.

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Can you demonstrate the ability to more than ‘chair meetings’?

The LG Challenge, an annual LGA-run contest which aims to ‘identify the next generation of local government chief executives’, is open for applications.  The winner of the LG Challenge will scoop a £10,000 career-enhancing scholarship to be used to promote localism and local government through the exchange of ideas across the UK, USA and Europe.

Ten candidates will battle it out to take top spot, demonstrating their skills (including creativity, problem-solving and ability to forward think) across 5 tasks based on key issues facing local government today.  A panel of judges will assess projects submitted by 4 finalists at the LGA's conference in July 2015, before choosing a winner.  The deadline for applications is 30 September 2014.

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Walk on the ‘Wilder side’ of London

Explore new corners of the capital with Transport for London's (TfL's), 'Autumn Ambles' weekend of 40 FREE-guided walks on Saturday 27 & Sunday 28 September, with no booking required.  The free-guided walks are spread across the capital and take in spectacular views, highlighting the contrasts of London and its ever changing landscape.  Experienced walk guides lead the way and provide fascinating facts that showcase London's curiosities and the cultural richness of one of the best cities in the world.

A wide range of walks are on offer, whether you fancy a short stroll or a challenging trek, taking in some of London's famous landmarks, parks and canals as well as many hidden gems.  All walks start and finish within easy reach of public transport and explore sections of the city's 7 popular Walk London Network routes; Capital Ring, Green Chain, Jubilee Greenway, Jubilee Walkway, Lea Valley, London Outer Orbital Path (LOOP) and Thames Path.

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Have Faith, but travel safely

With thousands of British Muslims expected to attend this year’s Hajj pilgrimage, predicted to fall between 2 - 7 October, the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) is urging those travelling to Saudi Arabia to be fully prepared and follow up-to-date travel advice before embarking on their trip.

The Hajjis or pilgrims are advised to ‘take out fully comprehensive Shariah compliant travel insurance and travel with a reputable tour operator’.  Cases of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus in people who have visited Saudi Arabia continue to be reported so getting the right vaccinations is critical as is travelling with the relevant vaccination card.

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Answering the call for greater clarity

Ofcom and the UK telephone industry are working together on a major new consumer information campaign to explain the biggest changes to calls in more than a decade.  The 6-month national campaign is planned to launch in January 2015, under the banner UK Calling. It will explain 2 important changes coming into effect on the same day in summer 2015: clearer call rates for 08, 09 and 118 calls; and Freephone (0800 and 0808) calls becoming free from all mobiles. 

An information website - ukcalling.info – is now live, so that people can find out more before the full campaign launches next year.  The campaign will explain that, from next summer, charges will become clearer for all consumer calls to the thousands of numbers that start 084, 087, 09 or 118.

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Those who Can, should Teach

A new teacher recruitment campaign, Your future their future, has been launched by the government as part of an ongoing drive to get more high-quality teachers into England’s classrooms.  Around 35,000 trainee teachers need to be recruited every year.  To help with this, the National College of Teaching and Leadership runs an annual recruitment campaign  and this year’s campaign launches with an interactive online film featuring television’s Mr Burton.

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We are not all the same and ‘university at 18’ is not the only path to success

Passionate, dynamic & committed to changing lives through learning - NCFE is an awarding organisation with a heart. NCFE designs, develops and certificates diverse nationally recognised qualifications which have benefitted over 1m learners across the UK in the past 10 years.  NCFE is a registered educational charity with a strong heritage in learning, going back over 150 years.

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Achieving the best outcomes for the NHS requires ‘highlighting the worst’

MyNHS will bring together data from across the health & care system to improve transparency.  MyNHS will link to existing data that has already been published on:

  • patient safety
  • efficiency
  • quality
  • public health
  • social care commissioning
  • hospital food standards
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Scottish Referendum voting period special

Last contributions to the Referendum debate

More news, opinions, documents, claims & counter-claims;

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Editorial Commentary by Simon Wane (Senior Editor)
And now the other 60m+ want their ‘vote’

So it’s sort of all over and the ‘majority has ‘expressed their ‘will’, except rUK and especially England are ‘revolting’ (and no, that is not meant to describe what some Scots think of the English), with good reason.

Just a few years ago a report concluded:

The House of Lords Committee on the Barnett Formula (BF) has today labelled the Formula 'arbitrary and unfair' and recommended it should be replaced by a system that recognises changing population levels and the differing economic needs of the devolved nations. …………………

The Barnett Formula was a short-term fix which became established as the method of deciding how much money goes to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland over the last thirty years because it was easy to administer and convenient for Treasury ministers………

"When the Committee considered a range of indicators of need it became clear that Wales and Northern Ireland have greater needs per head of population than Scotland and England - the current allocations made through the Formula give Scotland more funds, per head of population, than appears to be justified when compared to Wales and Northern Ireland and their needs. …..

"There should be a clear and straightforward method of allocating funds, decided by an independent expert Commission, so that taxpayers can be certain that their money is going where it is most needed."

The SNP have not exactly helped their argument to keep the BF by claiming that they are a ‘rich country’ (it is in fact the second wealthiest part of the UK) and spending around 19% more on public services than England.  After all, the original concept of the BF was to ‘equalise’ society, not provide free prescriptions in Edinburgh & Aberdeen, while the much more deprived residents of Cornwall are expected to pay!

We should also bear in mind that the WAG Holtham report said:

A formula for calculating relative needs across the devolved administrations that combines simplicity with a high degree of completeness and is based on real world funding allocations by the UK Government and the devolved administrations finds that Wales should receive some £115 for every £100 of funding spent on comparable activities in England.  At present, Wales receives only £112 for such activities.  For Scotland and Northern Ireland, the figures generated by the formula are £105 and £121 respectively, although these estimates would need refinement to take account of different devolved responsibilities.

The SNP counter-argument is that ‘their’ oil revenue pays for the difference, so why don’t we require all politicians to ‘put their money where their mouth is’ and tie the Scottish part of the BF to oil tax receipts?

If we take the last year’s figures as a base line, then if (as the SNP claims), the revenue increases they can keep the same level of BF and even have it increased to reflect the extra revenue. 

However, if it decreases (as the rUK government believes), the BF will be reduced they will have to cut back on their ‘freebies’ (free university education, prescriptions, hospital car parking, etc.), reduce their public sector services to English levels and / or start charging for these things as in England.

As for the ‘votes only for English MPs on English matters’ there is no way that Labour or the LibDems will agree without months (or more likely) / years of ‘horse-trading’ (if even then), as we should also anticipate the reform of the House of Lords will also be thrown into the mix.

However there is one ‘quick’ interim fix that both these two parties might find it hard to resist, which is to ‘revive’ & pass into law some bits of the Electoral Registration and Administration Bill (from January 2013) that were ‘cut out’.  These were intended to amend constituency boundaries to reflect equal sized voting ‘pools’ and cut the number of MPs by 50.


2010 Election 

2013 review 










Northern Ireland






While not a ‘satisfactory’ long-term solution for any of the parties it would go some way to counter-balance Labour’s ‘use’ of Scottish MPs to push through legislation impacting on England and further changes could (don’t hold your breath!) be made after ‘detailed debate & consensus’ at a future date.

As for claims by Labour that the Conservatives are being ‘opportunistic’ by tying the two issues together we should all remember that the modern day politician is often defined as; ‘An opportunist who will do everything necessary to climb the greasy pole’.

It is worth remembering that Scotland is still due to implement some new powers gained under the Scotland Act 2012 and not due to come into force until 2016.  So talk of rushing through even more powers in 2015 seems a ‘wee bit optimistic’ (and to be realistic quite stupid)!

The latest news out of Scotland seems to indicate that the SNP is thinking of ‘ignoring the Sovereign will of the people’ with the Telegraph writing;  …. Jim Sillars, his former mentor and a former SNP deputy leader, tweeted that the nationalists should “assert” a new rule that Scotland would become independent if separatist parties won a majority of votes and seats at the 2016 Holyrood election.

This attitude seems to be a case of the pot calling the kettle black’ with their claims that the rUK is ‘reneging’ on its devolvement promises.  What happened to the SNP’s promise to accept the result of the referendum?

Finally, Gordon Brown’s timetable is open to question in that, unless the SNP accept the extra powers proposed without any negotiation, it is difficult to see how Westminster can progress them into law by early 2015.

As it is Jim Sillars seems to wants control of everything except Defence & Foreign Affairs and for the BF to continue.  This would truly be ‘snatching victory from the jaws of defeat’ as it would be ‘virtual independence’ with rUK picking up the bills as oil receipts decline and Scotland falls into fiscal deficit.

One suspects though that even Miliband & Clegg might have difficulty selling that proposal to their MPs & voters, as the injustice of the English paying for the Scots to have ‘freebies’ and also Scottish MP’s voting on laws for England would be too much for voters to accept come the May 2015 election.

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Please note that previously published newsletters can be accessed from the

Newsletter Archive

Please choose from the links below to view individual sections of interest:
22nd September 2014

This week we've summarised some of the key stories for different areas of the public sector. Birmingham council leader Sir Albert Bore has said we could be looking at the end of local government as we know it. We'd like to hear from you: send 50 words about what this end might look like to tamsin.rutter@theguardian.com.

Central Government
Why I halved my salary to join the fast stream

Why I halved my salary to join the fast stream
Latest on our careers section: fast streamer on making the switch from private to public sector

Independent Scotland could pay more for services

Independent Scotland could pay more for services
Colin Cram: a post referendum Scotland will have to make bold decisions about public procurement

News this week
• Passports blunder: Due to management failings the home affairs select committee called for the passports agency to be brought back under Home Office control.
Local Government
News this week
• Devolution dreams: The Scottish referendum has placed devolution for counties firmly on the political agenda. Save the date – Friday 17 October – for a livechat on the demands local government want make of Whitehall.

• 'End of local gov': Birmingham city council leader has said, "The next few years may well see the end of local government as we know it". Tell us (in 50 words) what you think this will look like. Send your responses totamsin.rutter@theguardian.com.

• Hardship funds: Government is to reconsider scrapping the welfare hardship fund used to provide emergency support for citizens. In March we looked into why councils were failing to spend the fund.
It's fanciful, but how about banning car ownership?

It's fanciful, but how about banning car ownership?
Latest in our big transport debate, Labour MP wants public transport to become a viable alternative to driving

Kuala Lumpur: a city in traffic gridlock, striving for sustainability

Kuala Lumpur: a city in traffic gridlock, striving for sustainability
1000 cars a day are registered in the city, which is trying to make public transport more appealing

News this week
• Smart travel: London tube passengers can now use their contactless cards to travel. Interested in smart transport? This Guardian roundtable roundup from last year explains why local authorities should get on board.