IWA uses the power of the internet to ask 'What next for Wales'?

Independent Welsh think-tank the Institute of Welsh Affairs has just started an 8-week project to engage the public in a debate about Wales’ future.  Just days after the PM, published plans to devolve extra powers to Scotland, the IWA’s ‘Constitutional Convention’ will consider what Wales wants.

Using an innovative crowdsourcing website the cross-party think-tank is aiming to reach beyond the political elites to address the question ‘What kind of Wales do you want for your children?’  The convention will begin with a focus on the role of the UK, then discuss the economy, welfare state and issues such as England, Europe and the way Wales is funded. Throughout each of these phases, there will be cross cutting themes of; performance to date, barriers to progress, capacity & calibre, and powers.

The debate will be taken up by the IWA’s partners: NUS Wales, Wales TUC, Federation of Small Businesses Cymru, Electoral Reform Society Cymru, Community Housing Cymru and Media Wales.  As well as almost £4,000 being raised from public donations for the project, the convention is being supported by the UK’s Changing Union Project.

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Bucks CC Software Review Identifies £34,000 in Unused Licences

Buckinghamshire County Council (BCC) delivers essential services to every community in the Buckinghamshire region around the clock, from over 500 locations. Software compliance has always been a priority for the council, which runs a mature IT estate comprising 4000 client devices and 350 servers.

A recent a SAM & License Review, enabled the council to quickly gain an independent picture of their Microsoft estate. Significant cost avoidance has been achieved using metering data, which identified unused licenses worth over £34,000. Introducing software re-harvesting has delivered a 1000% ROI on BCC’s investment to date.

Click here to access the full Bucks CC case study along with a quick guide to the key indicators that prompt un-planned and unwanted software vendor audits.

The potential ‘Return’ on this investment could be £bns

The £24m National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) National Biosample Centre for Biomedical & Clinical Research was opened last week in Milton Keynes and it will facilitate researchers finding treatments for conditions such as dementia & diabetes.

The Centre will help researchers & organisations overcome the challenges of establishing, running & maintaining studies that involve large volumes of biological samples.  It will be the largest facility in the UK for storing & processing biological samples and will create over 50 new skilled jobs.  It will have the capacity to store over 20m samples at temperatures as low as -196C, to keep them well preserved for many years.  Researchers will be able to monitor the samples from their laptops, wherever they are in the UK.

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HMRC 'Aspire' to unachievable transformation

HMRC faces an enormous challenge in moving to a new contracting model by 2017 and appears overly complacent given the scale of the transformation required according Public Accounts Committee's to the report - Managing and replacing the Aspire contract - published last week.

Richard Bacon MP said:  "The Aspire contract between HMRC and Capgemini is the Government’s largest technology contract, which has cost some £7.9bn over the last 10 years and generated profits for the suppliers of some £1.2bn, while enabling the collection each year of the Government’s tax revenue, amounting to over £500bn in 2013-2014.

HMRC faces an enormous challenge in moving to a new contracting model by 2017, with many short-duration contracts with multiple suppliers, and appears complacent given the scale of the transformation required.  Moreover, HMRC’s record in managing IT contractors gives us little confidence that HMRC can successfully achieve this transition or that it can manage the proposed model effectively to maximise value for money………

Although HMRC decided three years ago to move in principle to a new contracting model it still does not have a detailed business case for the change.  HMRC says it hopes to publish the business case in the spring, which will leave only two years to engage the market, recruit the skills, and procure and manage the transition of the services it will need before the existing contract expires in 2017.

HMRC expects the new arrangements to reduce its running costs by 25%. However, the Department still cannot estimate the cost of this change, in terms of moving staff, equipment and office space; it could not even provide the Committee with a range.  We do not believe that the Cabinet Office’s ‘red lines’ on IT procurement, such as its restriction on any IT contracts over £100 million, are realistic in a business as large as HMRC’s, or that transformation on this scale is achievable by July 2017."

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Health & Social care will be a key issue in General Election

Socitm has published a new guide to ‘the information & technology  challenges and opportunities arising from recent & forthcoming changes in health and social care’.  Redesigning health & social care is a 22 page document written for senior policy & decision-makers across these and related sectors.  It provides a high-level, illustrated guide to recent and forthcoming reforms, including the Health and Social Care Act 2012 and the Care Act 2014, and sets out some of the consequences, especially for IT and digital policy & activity.

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Does this ‘Disarm’ a ‘Weaponised’ Labour policy offensive?

Public satisfaction with the way the National Health Service runs has risen to its second highest level ever, according to British Social Attitudes survey data for 2014 published by The King's Fund.  With less than 100 days until voters go to the polls in a general election, where the NHS seems certain to be a central issue, the survey data provides an important barometer of how the public views the NHS.

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And at what cost to the NHS?

Roughly 1.2m adults in the UK may be wrongly receiving treatment for asthma.  The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has issued a draft guideline to set out the most effective way to diagnose asthma and how healthcare professionals can help adults, children & young people better control their symptoms.

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‘Collaboration’ needs participants

Following last year's Unusual Suspects Festival, which brought over a thousand people together to explore the relationship & intrinsic connection between social innovation and collaboration, Collaborate are delighted to launch 'Building a Coalition of Collaborators in 2015'.  Their short flyer draws on the many conversations & sessions held during the festival and highlights 6 key themes working towards successful collaboration in 2015.

They are keen to develop the concept of the unusual suspects further, to embed new learning, and continue to build a growing community of collaborators in 2015.  They invite you to share your thoughts, ideas, and comments around building a coalition this year & beyond.

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Doesn’t that work out at £3.15m per job?

The European Commission calculates that the Juncker Plan for a European Strategic Investments Fund will create 1.3m jobs.  If projects incur losses, the public share of their funding will take the first blow.  MEPs have raised concerns about the risks associated with the Fund, which is expected to trigger €315bn in investments, its possible impact on the EU budget, favourable Stability & Growth Pact treatment of national investments and the selection of the projects.

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 More contributions to the UK constitutional debate

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

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While many people were watching what Sir Jeremy Heywood had to say about the Chilcot inquiry delays, we also learned that from now on, everyone who joins the civil service will get a personal welcome note from the cabinet secretary – reminding them about the unique public sector ethos.

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When Andrew McDonald, new chair of disability charity Scope, said his former civil service colleagues had told him to hide his Parkinson's diagnosis, many people were dismayed. But writing for us last week, he describes some of the positive steps Whitehall has taken, and gives advice on how to shift attitudes towards disabled people in the workplace.

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