Our defence in the Cyber (not so Cold) War
On 14 February 2017, the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) was officially opened by Her Majesty The Queen.  A new NCSC report is intended as a snapshot in time that dives into the past, present & future of cyber security in the UK rather than a comprehensive testimony of the work that they will do.
Researched Links:

National Cyber Security Centre:  The launch of the NCSCNCSC:  Director GCHQ welcomes HM the Queen at the official opening of the NCSC

NCSC:  Britain to enter 'new era of online opportunity'

NCSC:  Ciaran Martin outlines how the NCSC aims to reduce the cyber threat

HMT:  Chancellor's speech at the NCSC opening

Office of the Secretary of State for Wales:  UK’s national cyber security centre to help improve skills in Wales

FCO:  "Not intent simply with killing innocents, terrorists seek to destabilise, demoralise, and disrupt our way of life"

BCS warns SMEs to protect themselves as cyber-attacks rise

HP Enterprise White paper – The Business of Hacking

QUALYS - One-Click Website Vulnerability Healthcheck: How Safe & Secure is Your Website?

Need to take action?

Not an obvious target, but data could provide access to more important systems

And the results cannot come a moment too soon

One hopes the training will include how to stay ‘cyber-secure’

ICT security costs money, but lack of it costs even more

Less physical violence but emotionally the damage is just as great and can ‘ruin’ retirement plans, etc.

AXELOS - My passwords are as old as I am (almost): a brief reflection on a LinkedIn hack

Unisys:  Government Data is Under Siege: Latest Industry Insight on Challenges Facing Public Sector

Constant threat is the new norm for digital organisations; even charities!

If it works and is ‘secure’

Ensuring the safety of the UK

Some terrorists don’t need guns & bombs

Not all terrorist threats involve violence

Global trade requires global standards of security

Not if, but when

Should the cost of National Cyber Defence be classified as part of the Armed Services?

   Choose a water supplier
   for your organisation

   New framework available soon

From April 2017, organisations, businesses and other ‘eligible’ non-household customers in England will be able to choose their supplier of water, wastewater and ancillary services.

ESPO is collaborating with Crown Commercial Service (CCS), YPO, North East Procurement Organisation (NEPO), West Mercia Energy, The Energy Consortium and the Ministry of Defence to bring to market the largest public sector water framework agreement in the UK.

Click here below find out more about choosing your own water supplier.

Channel their enthusiasm at a young age

Thousands of teenagers are to be given intensive cyber security training & mentoring in extracurricular clubs as part of plans to address the risk of a future skills shortage, as the need for cyber security experts is set to skyrocket.

The Cyber Schools Programme aims to support & encourage schoolchildren to develop some of the key skills they would need to work in the growing cyber security sector and help defend the nation’s businesses against online threats.

Up to £20m is available to deliver an extracurricular school programme which will see an army of expert external instructors teaching, testing & training teenagers selected for the programme, with a comprehensive cyber curriculum expected to mix classroom & online teaching with real-world challenges and hands-on work experience.
Researched Links:

DCMS:  Extracurricular cyber clubs to inspire and identify tomorrow’s cyber security professionals

BCS Apprenticeships: Gender diversity & inclusion will help bridge post Brexit Britain's digital skills shortage

Big muscles not required!

Campaign targets UK’s youngest cyber criminals

A ‘Connected World’ only if you have good reception

NIC Chair, Lord Adonis, writes about the commission's latest report and the UK's connected future:

 “One call after another they came. Complaints from all over the UK about mobile phone reception so poor that even basic conversation is impossible.  Yesterday, (Wednesday 14 December) I spent my morning on regional radio besieged by news of digital deserts from across the country”.
Researched Links:

National Infrastructure Commission:  Our Connected (5G) Future

NIC launch technology study call for evidence

Our urban ‘lungs’ are at risk
A Communities & Local Government (CLG) Committee report on public parks warns that parks are at a tipping point and face a period of decline with potentially severe consequences unless their vital contribution to areas such as public health, community integration and climate change mitigation is recognised.
Researched Links:

PC&PE:  Parks face threat of decline with severe consequences

WAG:  “A better & fairer approach” to public access for outdoor recreation

LGA responds to CLG committee report about public parks

Guardian:  UK's public parks face 'decline & neglect'

Guardian:  ‘It was awful, it smelt': the downside of making money from public parks

Guardian:  Nesta project explores how to cut costs and protect UK parks

Guardian:  Parks at risk: green campaigners launch crowdsourcing study

UK Parks at risk | Heritage Lottery Fund

Britain's Parks at Risk - 38 Degrees

Our Public Parks Are At Serious Risk Of Decline - Keep Britain Tidy

Open spaces & national parks at risk | Open Spaces Society

The future condition & health of UK's public parks are at significant risk

Walk on the ‘Wilder side’ of London

Deputy PM announces plans for a new map of accessible green space for England & Wales

Green space funding

Celebrate National Walking month this May with TfL’s free guided walks

More action required to protect soil in the city

LGA:  Premature deaths: more people need to take up grassroots sports to live longer, say councils

HCA:  Health & well-being to be at the heart of Northstowe

Green light given to over 80 pocket parks

Revitalising natural landscapes can reduce flood risk

Visits to the great outdoors reach record high, survey reveals

Restoring European rivers & lakes in cities improves quality of life

England’s largest outdoor learning project reveals children more motivated to learn when outside

PX teams up with King’s College London on major new study on how to tackle air pollution in the Capital

CLG: A slice of the Big Apple coming to a neighbourhood near you

Site of Special Scientific Interest status for London parks is confirmed

Run-down UK parks & cemeteries in National Lottery windfall

Historic London parkland gets national recognition for its nature conservation importance

Supplier Locator Spotlight
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But what are these the measures of poverty?
4m more people are living below an adequate standard of living and are just about managing at best, according to an authoritative report on living standards in modern Britain.  The new research for the independent Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) sheds light on how different kinds of household are faring, against the Minimum Income Standard (MIS).
Researched Links:

JRF:  Just about managing: 4m more people living on inadequate incomes in modern Britain

IEA:  Focus on Minimum Income Standard misses the point on poverty

ESRC:  Better measures of child poverty

Nearly 385m children living in extreme poverty, says joint World Bank Group – Unicef study

Unicef:  UK risks leaving poorest children behind

UK Social Mobility: Lessons Learnt from International Development

CSJ:  Unfortunately some families find it difficult / impossible to overcome the drivers of poverty

Big ‘City’, Big Issues

Unfortunately some families find it difficult / impossible to overcome the drivers of poverty

Child Poverty Bill published

JRF:  Growth alone will not help just managing families squeezed by rising inflation

IEA:  Oxfam’s report does nothing to help the world’s poor

JRF:  ‘Life chances postcode lottery’ - analysis shows parts of country where children fall behind by age 5

JRF:  Scotland Budget - Solving poverty must go beyond education

JRF:  Northern Powerhouse: We need a post-Brexit settlement for northern towns that have been left behind

IEA:  Former World Bank economist says advancing political & economic freedom is the way to alleviate poverty

IFS:  Living Standards, Poverty & Inequality in the UK: 2016

JRF:  Poverty costs UK £78bn per year

JRF:  Growing up in poverty detrimental to children’s friendships & family life

JRF:  1.25m people are destitute in the UK

Citizens Advice briefing - the challenges facing families who are just about managing

Helping people to achieve what they are capable of

Are there other & better alternatives than just ‘Bring back Grammar Schools’?

They need help more than most
Free online support to help Universal Credit claimants with their personal finances launched last week.  Money Advice Service’s Online Money Manager is an interactive tool that offers personalised advice, on making the most of your money while you’re on Universal Credit.  It offers help & advice on a range of money topics, including opening a bank account, keeping on top of bills and dealing with debt.
Researched Links:

DWP:  New budgeting support for Universal Credit claimants

Reforms will make financial advice and guidance work better for consumers

CSJ:  Household debt grows for 26th consecutive month, reaching £1.47tn

Tactics of some doorstep lenders causing serious hardship for borrowers, warns Citizens Advice

Debts to household bills outnumber consumer credit debts reported to Citizens Advice

People will seek help with their finances every 3 seconds in January, says Citizens Advice

New measures to protect consumers from debt claims

CAB: People with poor mental health twice as likely to be behind on bills

CAB: Payday lenders still failing to carry out credit checks on all borrowers

CAB:  People putting themselves at risk by debt decisions

Pressure mounts on Chancellor

A new report from Age UK has concluded that we are living on borrowed time to save the social care system for older people.

  • Statistics in the report highlight the immense challenges facing older people needing support, with 1 in 8 over 65s now living with unmet care needs
  • Failing care system has created a major burden for hospitals and family members
  • Age UK demands that the Government commits funds in the Spring Budget to avoid ‘imminent danger’
The report, ‘The Health & Care of Older People in England 2017’ draws on new statistics as well as new Age UK analysis.  It demonstrates the immense challenges facing older people who need care, the ever increasing numbers and the impact of the failure to provide it on their health & wellbeing, as well as the NHS.
Researched Links:

Age UK:  'Borrowed time' to save social care system from collapse

LGA responds to Age UK report on health and care of older people

NHS Confederation calls for more money for local authorities

Where is best practice being shared?

ScotGov:  Sharing dementia expertise

Trying to develop an integrated solution

Every Drug Strategy since John Major’s government has acknowledged that tackling drug dependence in isolation – without engaging with mental ill health, homelessness, offending and lack of employment – is at best a job half done and has the potential to completely undermine the effectiveness of treatment.

In May 2017, MEAM is bringing together practitioners from its 4 sectors to hold a summit over 2 days, to identify how we can collectively organise to better deliver integrated services, which make a real difference and gain political traction for multiple disadvantage.  The event is called a “summit” to reflect MEAM’s commitment to grassroots experience & expertise.  Consistent with this there will be opportunity for participants to shape the programme. 50 spaces have been set aside for the substance misuse sector to ensure that our perspective is fully reflected at the event, and in its outcomes.
Researched Links:

Homeless Link:  Help Shape the Future: Multiple Needs Summit 8-9 May 2017 in Milton Keynes

MEAM Coalition

Evidence review on drug misuse treatment published

New plans to tackle harm caused by substance misuse launched

Tackling problem drug use

Europe's cities offer valuable observation window on new drug trends

CSJ:  Charities warn against drug legalisation on eve of Clegg announcement

£50m to tackle substance misuse in Wales in 2015-16

New report sees progress being made in tackling substance misuse

IPCC investigation into death of man in Aberdare after being stopped by police

Headshops closed and offenders arrested after 'legal highs' ban

LGA responds to drug misuse death stats

LGA:  New ban on 'legal highs' which devastate lives backed by councils

Adult heroin user recovery remains a challenge in England

Government must focus support on people with complex needs

New guidance to treat people who have both a mental health and substance misuse problem in Wales

‘SORTED’ providing excellent support for young people and community

Family Drug & Alcohol Court to extend nationwide

Keeping international politics out of Local Government

Communities Secretary Sajid Javid revealed further steps which seek to prevent councils from boycotting companies and countries if it is against the government’s position.  The move aims to stop councils from introducing restrictions on the companies & countries they use – particularly by introducing boycotts on goods from Israel.

These latest plans would require local authorities by law to treat suppliers fairly and in line with the British government’s policies. It would mean no council could boycott any country or industry unless restrictions have already been put in place by the government.  This follows rules set by the World Trade Organisation requiring all member countries to treat suppliers equally and without prejudice.

Rules were introduced earlier last year which prevented councils from using local government pension policies to introduce boycotts.  New Cabinet Office guidance was also introduced in February 2016, which govern the procurement of goods & services by public bodies.
Researched Links:

CLG:  Putting a stop to town hall boycotts

Putting a stop to public procurement boycotts

Speech to UK Israel business annual dinner

Don’t forget to use up your ‘car parking fee’ coins in the car!
Less than 6 weeks until the historic new 12-sided pound enters circulation.  The new 12-sided £1 coin will be the most secure coin in the world.  It boasts several new security features, including a hologram, to prevent counterfeits, which cost taxpayers & businesses millions every year.  If you have a round £1 coin sitting at home or in your wallet, you need to spend it or return it to your bank before 15 October 2017.
Researched Links:

HMT:  6 weeks until the pound stops being round

Crackdown on criminals who distribute counterfeit euro notes & coins

Chancellor launches one year countdown to new £1 coin

New £1 coin announced

Counterfeit One Pound Coins | The Royal Mint

Counterfeit £2 coins

Two opportunities to equip the NHS of the future

NHS England has published IT requirements for personalised care recently, inviting suppliers to set out how they meet a number of requirements to improve personalisation in healthcare through IT.  Suppliers are invited to respond by Friday 7 April 2017.

University College Hospital, London is part of a consortia of 5 European institutions who have secured funding from the EU to run a pre-commercialisation procurement project.  The ‘Nightingale’ project will help design & deliver the next generation of monitors for patients at risk of getting sicker whether they are in hospital or at home.  The consortia are looking for highly innovative monitoring solutions and are reaching out to the UK tech sector for help.
Researched Links:

techUK:  NHS England Seeks Tech Companies to Support Personalisation of Care

techUK:  Nightingale Project Seeks Innovative Monitoring Solutions

Boost for apprenticeships

The Department for Education and the Skills Funding Agency (SFA) are encouraging large employers to sign up & register for the apprenticeship service, in readiness for the launch of the apprenticeship levy on 6 April 2017.  The apprenticeship service is an online digital system (similar to online banking) that has been set up to support the apprenticeship levy.

The levy will require employers, with a wage bill of over £3m a year, to pay 0.5% of their wage bill into the apprenticeship service, to encourage them to invest into apprentices.  The online service then allows those employers to financially manage their apprenticeship programme and help them to estimate their financial spend and recruit apprentices through their training providers.
Researched Links:

DfE:  Registration open for online apprenticeship service

NCFE:  Public sector targets for apprenticeships

NCFE:  Post-16 Skills Plan - A Monopoly on Qualifications?

NCFE:  Apprenticeships hit the mainstream

This has nothing to do with Brexit!

Digital UK have announced that, on 1 March 2017, the first Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) clearance trials will take place at the Selkirk transmitter which provides DTT services to 18,000 homes and will offer an opportunity to test proposed approaches ahead of the main programme getting underway in the north of Scotland this summer.

The full 2017 summer retune programme in Scotland is expected to cover up to 800,000 homes.  We can expect that some viewers who have narrow band aerials will require an aerial change or re-point to continue to receive DTT.
Researched Links:

techUK:  700Mhz Digital TV Clearance to Start on March 1st

Do the ‘Remainers’ really believe they could have stopped this ‘Juggernaut’?

If the EU is to boost its capacity to act, restore citizens’ trust and make the euro zone economy more resilient to outside shocks, it needs to make full use of the Lisbon Treaty.  But to go further, it needs to reform itself more fundamentally’. This was the key message of 3 resolutions exploring the future development of the EU approved by Parliament on recently.

The first resolution proposes, inter alia, that:

  • the Council of Ministers should be turned into a genuine second legislative chamber, and its configurations into preparatory bodies similar to Parliament’s committees,
  • each member state should present at least three candidates, including both genders, for the role of “its” Commissioner,
  • the Council should switch completely to qualified majority voting, wherever this is possible under the treaties, to avoid blocking important draft laws & speed up the legislative process, and
  • a permanent Council of Defence Ministers should be set up to coordinate the member states’ defence policies.

The second resolution suggests various reforms of the Lisbon Treaty, in the areas of economic governance, foreign policy, fundamental rights and transparency.  In it, MEPs:

  • suggest creating an EU finance minister and giving the EU Commission the power to formulate and give effect to a common EU economic policy, backed up by a euro-area budget,
  • reiterate that the European Parliament should have a single seat,
  • propose reducing the size of the College of EU Commissioners substantially, including by cutting the number of Vice-Presidents to two, and
  • state their belief in allowing EU citizens in each member state to vote directly on the European political parties’ lead candidates for Commission President.

The third resolution proposes bringing the euro area economies closer together and making them more resilient to outside shocks. They outline a convergence strategy funded by a specific euro area budget, financed by its member states and available under clear conditions.  Key proposals include:

  • a convergence code: 5 years to meet convergence criteria on taxation, labour market, investment, productivity, and social cohesion, and
  • governance: a bigger role for the European Parliament and national parliaments, merging the functions of Eurogroup President and economic & monetary affairs Commissioner, plus a finance minister and treasury within the EC.

All these proposals are part of a package that aims to clarify Parliament’s position on the future of the EU, in time for the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome.

Researched Links:
EU News:  Parliament sets out its vision for the future of Europe
No wonder UK taxpayers think it is often a waste of their money
The International Development Committee has concluded an investigation of allegations of improper behaviour by Adam Smith International relating to the submission of written evidence to an inquiry into the allocation of resources for UK Aid.
Researched Links:

PC&PE:  Leading UK aid contractor acted improperly

Investigation into the DIFD’s approach to tackling fraud

Anti-Corruption Commission unveils ‘Pay No Bribe’ citizens' reporting platform

Will it prevent aid being spent ‘un-wisely’

Unfortunately, isolationism will not provide a ‘safe & secure future for the UK

DFID:  ‘Sticky Fingers’, the perennial problem with foreign aid (3rd item)

Editorial Commentary
Which would you choose; ‘Your Granny’ on a hospital trolley in A&E / unable to get social care, or a crying unaccompanied refugee child already in a ‘civilised’ EU country?

Emotional ‘blackmail’ is a useful tool for politicians and NGOs in order to get the government to take some action or provide extra funding and we have seen some good examples of this recently with the media crescendo regarding the latest winter crisis for the NHS and the apparent ‘halting’ of the Dubs amendment regarding taking in more unaccompanied children from the EU.

Cllr David Simmonds, Chairman of the LGA's Asylum, Refugee and Migration Task Group, has responded to the Government's announcement on the number of unaccompanied asylum seeking & refugee children resettled under the Dubs amendment – (The number of unaccompanied asylum seeking children living in England increased by more than 50% to over 4,000 in the last year!).

LGA responds to Government's statement on Dubs amendment resettlement figures ~ Unicef:  End to Dubs scheme leaves refugee and migrant children facing uncertainty ~ ScotGov:  Inhumane action by the UK Government ~ BBC:  62% Rise in lone children seeking asylum in England

What one must bear in mind though is that the kind-hearted people who offer to take one of these children into their homes is probably NOT offering to pay for all the public services they will need up to the age of 25As the LGA has previously highlighted ;  "When an unaccompanied child arrives in the UK, it is the council area where they arrive that is responsible for all costs associated with that child up until the age of 25. This includes schooling, foster care or children's homes, through to university fees and housing costs, whether they stay within the area or are moved elsewhere in the country”.

Editorial Comment: Helping refugees is not the only important issue to consider when dividing the ‘economic cake ~ £50k p.a. each up to the age of 25!

Both these causes are emotionally heart-breaking, BUT the government does not have any money!  We still have a £60bn+ deficit each year and additional funds can only seemingly come from the tax-payer – or can they!

We currently have a Foreign Aid budget of over £12bn a year which has risen from £8.63bn in 2011.

How is the £12bn foreign aid budget spent? | The Week UK

People / politicians / the Media are increasingly calling for a bi-party approach to health & social care policy and a re-examination of the 0.7% of GDP set aside for Foreign Aid (FA), especially money given to third parties, where we have no control over how it is spent.  In March 2015 (as we have highlighted before),  MPs found that £6.3bn of Britain's aid budget had been handed to major agencies to help hit the target of spending 0.7% of nation's income on foreign aid (including the EU, which then ‘claimed it as their own ‘aid’ one presumes). 

Editorial comment; Points to ponder on the Syrian migration crisis

Why can’t we set up a trust (held by Unicef in Switzerland perhaps) into which the complete average long-term cost (which would vary each year according to their age) of every unaccompanied child migrant (including, physical & mental health, housing, education, translation services, etc. needs) could be paid from the FA budget each year?  The appropriate amount could then be paid direct to the Local Authority (LA) which is responsible/liable for each child and it would be liable for funding / re-funding the different service providers (including the NHS). 

One accepts that the concept is probably too simplistic as it stands, but it would maintain the concept of FA budget, while removing the conflict between either funding your ‘Granny on a trolley’ or caring for the ‘Dubs Amendment Children’.

If such a scheme could be set up it would:

*Ensure we knew how the FA was spent and that it was ‘value for money’

*Ensure the unaccompanied children got the proper care & support they needed until they reached the aid of 25

*Ensure it was spent on a ‘foreigner’ as they are currently ‘abroad’

*Relieve some of the financial pressure on LAs, NHS, etc.

*Mean that the Government did not have to find additional funds to the detriment of other (domestic) services, thus removing a source of ’conflict’

 More contributions following EU Referendum

Still a ‘hot topic’, with widely spread views, for those who put fingers to keyboard in order to ‘share their views’:

Researched Links:

10DS:  We have voted to leave the EU, but not Europe: article by Theresa May

DExEU Minister visits Welsh companies to discuss Brexit

DExEU:  Walker - Scottish views will play key part in forming EU exit plans

ScotGov:  Call for united position on Brexit rural issues

ScotGov:  Clarity on Brexit

WAG:  Clarity on Brexit - Finance Ministers voice disappointment following quadrilateral meeting

PC&PE:  Look carefully at future EU digital laws post-Brexit

PC&PE:  Too little done to support farmers hit by late subsidy payments

PC&PE:  Brexit: environment & climate change report published

WWF-UK responds to the Lord's Report on Brexit and the Environment

CBI: New report gives business tools to analyse Brexit impact on firms

STFC:  UK leads on new £8.5m European scheme to improve access to research data

Demos:  Major six-country study finds a ‘spectre of fear’ is haunting Europe

CIPD: Fall in supply of EU nationals contributing to skills and labour shortages

EU News:  Parliament sets out its vision for the future of Europe


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Please choose from the links below to view individual sections of interest:

Whitehall needs a strong centre more than ever, and the Treasury must be its pillar of strength writes David Walker, to keep the show on the road, to monitor the effects of leaving the European Union and to coordinate Theresa May’s government’s various (and variously contradictory) initiatives.
But a damning report from Lord Kerslake has exposed the yawning skills gap at the heart of government – just when we need to manage Brexit, writes Walker.
The Treasury does not take kindly to external review and scrutiny, said Kerslake, deadpan, at the launch of his report. But, as Walker writes, "maybe this time, with so much at stake, the odds are in favour of the top of the Treasury taking a deep breath and reflecting a little on past failings and future improvement."
Do you now, or have you ever, worked for the Treasury? We'd love to hear your views. Please get in touch at kirstie.brewer@theguardian.com

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News in brief
• 'The sisters are roaring': female council CEOs' riposte to male-dominated event
• Architects call for urgent inspection of all PFI buildings in Scotland
• Bernard Hogan-Howe: armed police deserve more public trust
• Watchdog Peter Riddell calls for compulsory diversity monitoring in top public sector appointments
• Ministers move to ‘shift blame for funding cuts to local councils’