Hundreds of rural charities are being urged to apply to a £25m fund for new minibuses before time runs out.  Vital community groups from across the country can receive additional support from the fund, which will provide new vehicles to community transport operators in rural & isolated areas.  The scheme will support voluntary organisations as they provide services for people in rural communities with limited transport choices - but applications need to be made by 15 January 2015.

The new fund, announced by Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin in November 2014, means that organisations who already provide a service to the local community can bid for a minibus.  Smaller operators and those who help out in rural areas will be favoured in the scheme.  Operators do not need to have previously expressed an interest, but must submit an application to the fund by 15 January 2015.

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Software Asset Management Solution Saves Unite £1million and Delivers Complete Compliance and Transparency Across 100 Locations

As a not-for-profit organization, Unite was eligible to purchase Microsoft licenses at reduced rates until April 2013. The withdrawal of this entitlement coincided with the need to migrate and upgrade software installed on all desktops and laptops. Unite needed a Software Asset Management (SAM) solution to help it project manage the migration efficiently and purchase the correct number of new software licenses before commercial pricing came into effect.

The provision of an accurate, single view of Unite’s current usage across the organisation in the shortest possible timeframe recently helped to save over £1m by avoiding the need to purchase new licenses at standard commercial rates.

Click here to receive the full Unite Case Study along with the latest whitepaper,"SAM in an imperfect world":

But what do many of them actually ‘do’ that justify such rewards?

By the end of last Tuesday, Britain’s top bosses had made more money in 2015 than the average UK worker earns in an entire year, according to calculations by the High Pay Centre think-tank.  FTSE 100 Chief Executives are paid an average £4.72m. The High Pay Centre found that even if CEOs are assumed to work long hours with very few holidays, this is equivalent to hourly pay of nearly £1,200.

While pay realised by FTSE 100 Chief Executives has risen by nearly £500,000 since last year, the annual pay of the average UK worker has increased by just £200, from £27,000 to £27,200.   The figures will raise doubts about the effectiveness of Government efforts to curb top pay by giving shareholders the power to veto excessive pay packages.

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An obvious diagnosis; underfunded CCGs are more likely to be in financial deficit

The slow progress towards target funding allocations for health means the Government has not fulfilled its policy objective of equal access for equal need.  The Rt Hon Margaret Hodge MP, Chair of the Committee of Public Accounts, said:

"One of the Government’s key policy objectives in allocating health funding is equal access for equal need.  Yet we found huge variations in funding for CCGs – from £137 per person below their fair share of available funding in Corby to £361 per person above their fair share in West London.

Around two-fifths of CCGs and three-quarters of local authorities are receiving more than 5% above or below their target funding allocation.

This has important implications for the financial sustainability of the health service as underfunded CCGs are more likely to be in financial deficit.  Of the 20 CCGs with the tightest financial positions at 31 March 2014, 19 had received less than their fair share of funding”.

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Applying the KISS principle to planning

A new plain English guide to how England’s planning system works, making clear the opportunities for people to get involved in the debate over what gets built in their neighbourhood has been published.  It ‘offers a quick & easy explanation of how the new planning system works, how local & neighbourhood plans are written & adopted locally, and how to go about obtaining planning permission’.

Also published was a new Plain English guide to the planning system for anyone looking to set up a free school in their area.  It makes clear the steps anyone looking to set up a free school needs to take.  It highlights the role of the Education Funding Agency in helping to secure suitable premises and obtaining the appropriate planning permission for a new free school.

It also explains how councils have up to 13 weeks to make any planning decision on a free school and, once permission is granted, development must start within 3 years.  It also explains what alterations can be made to free school premises without the need to apply for planning permission.

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Help with the ‘dreaded’  annual Tax Return

HMRC are providing a new online chat service to customers with Self-Assessment queries this January.  The service runs in an open chat forum and they have expert staff on hand to answer your questions. Their staff will not have access to your account, so for detailed account queries you should call the Helpline as normal.  To use the service, click a registration link for one of the available dates and register your details.

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‘Successful education’ is not just measured by the number of qualifications achieved

Schools & organisations are invited to apply to be recognised as a leader in character education through the 2015 DfE Character Awards.  Applicants should be able to prove their programme develops character traits, attributes & behaviours that underpin success in school & work.

The government wants to celebrate the excellence & diversity in this field, recognising that character is already being encouraged, nurtured & developed alongside academic rigour through a variety of programmes in & outside schools across the county.  Application window closes 30 January 2015.

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Targeting Foreign Aid

The Africa Prosperity fund is looking for project concepts for financial year 2015 to 2016 funding.  The Prosperity Fund is the FCO’s dedicated annual fund supporting prosperity work overseas.  Through targeted projects, it aims to support the conditions for global & UK growth: Openness, Sustainability, Opportunity and Reputation.  The deadline for submitting project concepts to ASNU is 19 January 2015.

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Register and you may reap funding

Farmers & crofters across Scotland are being invited to register for a new online system for rural funding called Rural Payments and Services.  The new system, which has replaced Rural Payments Online, launched last week and will deliver nearly £4bn of support to Scotland’s farming, food & rural sectors over the next 5 years alone.

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 More contributions to the UK constitutional debate

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

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We know it's going to be a big year for all public services, whatever the result of the general election in May. We'll be providing expert insight and analysis of public services policy to help shape what we do in 2015.

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