November 2018
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Arch Apprentices successfully obtains place on YPO’s Apprenticeship Framework

Reporter: Stacy Clarke

A contract has been awarded to leading provider Arch Apprentices from YPO, the leading public sector procurement organisation, which will afford NHS, police, schools, local authorities much greater access to acquiring much-needed apprentices.

The contract will cover public sector organisations in South East, London, North West, West and East Midlands and South West of England Two-year agreement (from 1 August 2018) also grants access to any UK public sector organisation not already involved.

The Yorkshire Purchasing Organisation (YPO), one of the UK’s leading public sector providers, has provided much greater access to much-needed apprentices for organisations such as the NHS, local government, schools and the Police, through a Framework Agreement.

The two-year contract with Arch Apprentices, will see public sector organisations already within the YPO’s jurisdiction granted much easier access to acquiring new apprentice roles, but also, thanks to the EU’s ‘combined Procurement Direction’, any public sector organisation in the UK.

Fire and Rescue services, registered charities, as well as wider UK and central government organisations will be afforded the ability to train apprentices in standards as diverse as data analysis, accountancy, digital content production, software development, networking and management amongst others.

Public Sector Specialist Corporate Account Manager, Simon Barker comments: “Arch Apprentices continue to be recognised as the stand-out provider to the UK public sector in digital, tech and corporate services apprenticeships. We are delighted that we’ve been approved and added to the YPO Apprenticeship Framework.  As you’d expect, our Grade 1 Ofsted score has helped with our tender submission, but the process required much more than that, including detailing flexibility in delivery model, experience in public sector partnerships, and a thorough social value proposition.

A number of our existing local authority customers plan to use YPO to procure further, and larger apprenticeship cohorts, and so we hope to secure continued partnerships with them and with new public sector clients.”

Lizzy Grayson, Category Manager at YPO told GPSJ: “We recognised that procuring apprenticeships can quickly become confusing for the public sector and we wanted to offer a solution for our customers. We’re thrilled that we have been able to review and accept tender bids from suppliers such as Arch Apprentices whose Ofsted scores and knowledge will reassure our customers and support them with developing their apprenticeship offering.”

GRITIT celebrates national public sector Framework status

Reporter: Stuart Littleford

Award winning firm GRITIT has secured a valuable public sector framework award for the provision of Winter Gritting, Snow Clearance and Grounds Maintenance services.

Following a competitive tender process, GRITIT has been awarded a place on the YPO 827 Winter Maintenance Products and Services Framework for Lot 4 – Winter Gritting, Snow Clearance and Grounds Maintenance Services.

YPO is a leading public sector procurement organisation that supplies products and services to a wide range of customers including schools, local authorities, charities, emergency services, public sector and other businesses such as nurseries and care homes.

The Framework enables YPO’s members to run OJEU compliant competitions for some or all of the services; this is the first time YPO has included services as well as products for Winter Maintenance, reflecting increasing demand from members for access to best in class service provision.

Inclusion onto the Framework now formally positions GRITIT as a leading provider of FM services to the public sector and will further widen its net to attracting new business wins. Currently GRITIT counts a number of public sector organisations among its clients, including Her Majesty’s Prison Service (HMP), the Fire Service, as well as a number of Housing Associations and hospital and healthcare contracts.

Steve Webb, GRITIT Commercial Director said:  “We are one of only a select few companies in the UK to have successfully gained a place on the YPO Framework and we are pleased to be among some of the industry’s biggest FM providers in doing so.

“This demonstrates the significance of the achievement and is testament to the technical capabilities of our talented team.

“This is an exciting time at GRITIT as we continue to grow and diversify.  Winning a place on the YPO Framework gives us a fantastic opportunity to further grow our public sector portfolio, working in partnership and delivering high-quality value for money services.  We are looking forward to a productive and positive relationship with YPO and their customers.”

GRITIT provides award winning Winter Gritting, Snow Clearance and Grounds Maintenance across the UK, keeping sites operational, safe and in pristine condition throughout the year. For more information on managing your grounds call GRITIT on 0800 0432 911 or visit

For further information on the full range of products and services offered by the YPO, please visit


Heavily corroded midsoles, leave them open to risk of penetration

Neil Murray, Head of Public Sector at Arco discusses the unseen risks for your business

Although we enjoy the benefits of working in one of the safest places in the world, with the lowest incident rates of work related deaths in the EU, there’s a gap in the compliance process that is putting UK workers at risk of injury, even though they are using CE-marked PPE they believe will protect them.

As a health and safety manager, you may believe that you and your people are fully protected and compliant when you specify or buy PPE.  The reality is that some CE marked PPE is failing, putting wearers at risk of injury and businesses and individuals at risk of loss of reputation, fines and even possible imprisonment.

The evidence is undeniable, particularly in the area of a number of CE marked safety footwear and gloves that are freely available on the market.  Independent laboratory testing in 2017 showed that around 40% of non-metallic footwear and 30% of rigger gloves failed surveillance testing, despite carrying the CE mark.

Midsoles must resist a force of 1100 Newtons (2)

With around 600,000 workers each year reporting that they have suffered an injury at work, the consequences of failing to apply due diligence to PPE purchasing are huge.  Without a robust process in place, accidents and injuries could be life changing and not just for end users but for the individuals (and the businesses they work for) who are involved in specifying and purchasing the equipment.

If you are concerned about the risks of failing CE marked PPE leaving you and your business exposed, click here to watch a short film about this important issue.  CE markings do not guarantee compliance and as an employer or health and safety manager, you have an obligation to ensure that whatever you buy is compliant.


Reporter: Stuart Littleford

BakerHicks, the multidisciplinary design and engineering company, is celebrating the success of one of its major pharmaceutical projects, the GSK Aseptic Manufacturing Facility, at the 2018 Constructing Excellence North East (CENE) Awards. GSK won the Client of the Year category for the project, which was also a finalist in both the Offsite Project and Safety & Wellbeing categories.

The new-build project at Barnard Castle will provide state-of-the-art facilities for the aseptic filling of vials and syringes, and handling of cold chain products, securing the future of aseptic liquid filling operations at the site. BakerHicks completed the scheme design phase and is the lead designer for the delivery phase, working alongside the GSK Engineering team, SES Engineering Services, Star Refrigeration, Turner & Townsend, Daldrop and McLaughlin & Harvey.

A central element to the success of this large and complex project is GSK’s integrated project delivery (IPD) approach. This has seen a high degree of collaboration between everyone involved in delivering the project, leading to efficiencies and minimising risk. As part of this approach, BakerHicks is continuing to provide support and technical advice throughout construction stage with a dedicated lead designer and Building Information Modelling (BIM) manager based on site. This allows the company to use its experience and knowledge of designing facilities of this type to support and challenge the other IPD partners on the project to achieve the best solution.

BIM is being used to coordinate the project as well as providing digital asset management, supporting GSK’s IPD philosophy. BakerHicks manages one central, fully coordinated model which integrates models from various separate design packages and specialist equipment providers to inform the construction of the facility. This not only ensures the integration of the multi-disciplinary design but also allows the team to quickly and proactively detect and resolve any clashes and respond to any on-site questions on construction and installation.

Tom Dickinson, head of project management at BakerHicks says: “GSK is a highly innovative client who isn’t afraid to push the boundaries to drive better project delivery and this is a fantastic example of what that approach can achieve. For instance, the level of BIM integration on a project of this type is unprecedented. Making full use of this technology in this way allows for the coordination of the team and design across what is a large scale and highly complex project. It’s this industry leading approach to the project which makes GSK thoroughly deserving of the CENE Client of the Year award.”

BakerHicks have provided multi-disciplinary scheme and detailed design and management services for the aseptic manufacturing facility.

Professional planners: planning for the future?

Fisher German partner – Kay Davies

Reporter: Stuart Littleford

To the uninitiated, UK planning policy and its supporting legislation appears to be a bit like criminal law: clear rules that govern what is and is not permissible, effectively written in stone. And, just like criminal law, the reality, as a quick glance at a list of major planning legislation and policy documents released by successive governments over the past decade proves, is anything but.

With significant new planning rules – including legislation, statutory instruments, ministerial statements, case law, policy and national guidance – arriving, on average, around every 18 months, professional planners such as Fisher German partner Kay Davies are being constantly kept on their toes.

Grow with the change

In 2018, the government is making some significant revisions to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) – unwieldy document titles and impenetrable acronyms are an occupational hazard for those in the planning profession – This is policy that was itself only introduced in 2012.

“The context we operate within is frequently changing,” admits Kay. “We constantly have to be on the ball. So much of what we do has changed in the past 10 years and continues to do so.”

That can sometimes lead to awkward conversations when a land owner finds that they can’t get planning permission for a development that their neighbour was able to only a short time before.

Clarity is key

Unsurprisingly, communication skills are as important for professional planners as their technical expertise. Kay nods: “When we write a strategy letter whether for a small barn conversion or a large development scheme, we seek to ensure we provide the client with as clear an understanding of the route to achieve consent and to make the process as clear as possible.” If Kay is at all exasperated by the succession of changes affecting her job, she doesn’t show it. Instead, she focuses on the positives that have come from a decade of morphing planning legislation and policy.

“The government is trying to make the planning system, more streamlined, easier for householders, more flexible to businesses and reinforcing its commitment to delivering the right homes in the right places,” she states. “There are clear signs that local authorities are finally engaging in the process that will allow new homes to be delivered more widely.

The increasing recognition that just because you can’t walk to a local shop or a school doesn’t mean that a development is inherently unsustainable is so refreshing, and really helps land owners with small scale developments and conversions. Kay points out that while there was initial uncertainty about how Neighbourhood Planning, introduced by the 2011 Localism Act, would work in practice, Neighbourhood Plans are now taken very seriously and given significant weight. Kay encourages all those she works with to engage with them at an early stage.

Altering attitudes

“The tide is turning,” confirms Kay. “Even the most stubborn local authorities who resisted any kind of development activity are now accepting the shift in planning policy and legislation changes but this has often been driven by planning appeals.” And what of planning between now and 2028 – is Kay expecting the politicians to ease off the throttle? “I hope so!” she says. “However, given the government’s commitment to housing delivery, it is likely that there will be more changes. There will certainly be some case law arising from the revised NPPF when it is published in its final format. The last 10 years have also seen much greater recognition of rural areas and that’s likely to continue.”

How planning has changed in practice – case study

One of the areas where there has been a significant shift in planning rules since 2008 is housing. In the issue of affordable housing in rural areas is now more widely acknowledged, though some local authorities have been quicker to accept the changes in direction than others.

A landmark barn conversion project Fisher German advised on illustrates some of the issues and how these have been resolved over time.

In 2008, detailed planning permission was approved for the conversion of derelict barns near a farm in Derbyshire into three residential units. However, the local authority believed that under the then current planning rules the development would require a payment from the landowner towards providing affordable housing elsewhere in the district. The sum calculated came to nearly £80,000. This threatened the viability of the project, though the project was subsequently put on hold as a result of the global financial downturn. As work had not started three years later, the planning permission lapsed.

When the plans were dusted down again in 2014, newly introduced permitted development rights, which in this case allowed the conversion of agricultural buildings for use as residential dwellings meant that, unlike in 2008, a full-scale planning application was not required.

This meant a considerable cost saving for the landowner. But the local authority refused the plans as the scheme was considered unsustainable.

Yet exactly the same development had previously been granted planning permission. When challenged, the local authority suggested that an affordable housing contribution could allow the conversion to go ahead.

In November 2014, the government issued guidance noting that local authorities were unable to demand such contributions for developments of 10 dwellings or fewer. So, Fisher German appealed the local authority’s refusal, arguing that the proposals were fully compliant with the permitted development rights and that the scheme would not be unsustainable.

A government-appointed planning inspector agreed and allowed the appeal. This set an important precedent for landowners in a similar situation.

The Derbyshire development has now been completed and is fully occupied.

For more information please visit:


Blackwall Reach

SAFETY checks have been carried out on hundreds of high rise buildings* in the last 12 months, with many having to be reclad to meet regulations*.

In June 2017, all local authorities and housing associations were told by the Department for Communities and Local Government to carry out safety checks on external cladding to ensure that any potential fire spread does not pose a risk to the health and safety of tenants*.

When recladding existing developments, it is important for councils to ensure that safety measures are met whilst still creating a modern and attractive building exterior to appeal to future tenants.

When choosing a material to replace existing cladding due to safety concerns EQUITONE is a durable fibre cement facade material. It achieves the perfect balance between aesthetics and safety, meeting the reaction to fire classification A2-s1,d0 whilst offering an extensive palette of subtle and inspiring shades in a variety of textures and finishes. EQUITONE also has a life expectancy of at least 50 years.

Constructing beauty

EQUITONE’s versatility allows the architect to put their own creative stamp on the building, making it suitable for both traditional and modern schemes. It can also be cut and fabricated into a wide range of shapes, allowing the architect to use their imagination to create striking patterns in the exterior design whilst being mindful of the surrounding environment and existing buildings.

EQUITONE in practice

EQUITONE has been specified on high rise buildings throughout the UK, with a recent example being Blackwall Reach. Around 6,400m2 of EQUITONE [natura] was specified for the £300m housing development in Poplar, East London.

Almost 1,600 new apartments were created as part of the regeneration project of Blackwall Reach, which replaced the former 1970s Robin Hood Gardens housing estate.

EQUITONE [natura], which offers a tactile, smooth surface that allows the textures of the fibre cement to show through, helped to create a modern and attractive building exterior.

Request your samples here LINK

*Information from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government’s Building Safety Programme, which was developed to ensure that residents of high rise buildings are safe now and in the future.

Digital Transformation in Government Must be Holistic and Practical

Paul Parker: SolarWinds Chief Technologist for Public Sector

By Paul Parker, Solarwinds Chief Technologist

Let’s start with the basics: the government does not exist to provide or sell IT services. It’s easy to forget this when we’re talking about public sector digital transformation, especially when current IT strategy focuses on investment in infrastructure, ROI, and innovation. That said, it’s imperative for government leaders and policy makers to keep top of mind the fact that the function of IT services in public sector is to support each organisation in delivering real services to real people, whether that be in the healthcare, protection, or civic services space.

Bearing this in mind, it’s no surprise that confusion surrounds digital transformation in the public sector. Broadly defined as the change associated with the application of digital technology to all aspects of how the organisation functions, certain recent statistics reflect how much more difficult this can be than it sounds.

For example, while the NHS has a Five Year Forward View, and has invested £4 billion in NHS digital transformation, nearly a fifth (17%) of NHS trusts and Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) have no digital transformation strategy in place. A further 24% have only just begun to develop a strategy. Similarly, the Cloud First policy is low in uptake—less than a third (30%) of NHS trusts surveyed as part of an FOI request and under two-thirds (61%) of central government departments have adopted any level of public cloud in their organisation.


This highlights one of the big differences between the U.K. and the U.S. that I have experienced: policies with clear enforcement strategies. For example, FedRAMP in the U.S. provides a clear benchmark for U.S. federal organisations—you need to shift from insecure IT to secure, nimble, and quick IT. In addition, it provides a list of accredited vendors and partners that can help organisations achieve this. In the U.K., the Cloud First policy is comparatively vague. While it sets a strong intention that the public sector should favour public cloud ahead of all other IT solutions, there are no clear ‘teeth’ to the directive, and no regimented exceptions system.

At a policy level, clearer processes are required to better define what systems need to be transformed, what should be moved to the cloud, and the rationale behind the change. Simultaneously, there needs to be consequences for trusts that choose not to comply, with the overseeing body taking a “trust but verify” approach to ensure the policy is being implemented. To support this, a clear “exception” process is needed for public sector organisations to clearly demonstrate their reasoning if they chose, for any reason, to opt for a different tactic to the public-cloud-led approach prescribed by the Cloud First policy.


Then, at the organisational level, leaders need to think about the rationale behind their digital transformation strategy. IT investment, especially in the government, can’t be about having the shiniest toy. It has to be about serving the organisation’s core function, whether that’s saving lives in the NHS or provisioning welfare benefits for citizens.

From a strategy perspective, leaders should consider what tools and services they need to better support their service function, as opposed to what technology they want to adopt. For example, is this technology or service something that will eventually save on maintenance costs and allow us to improve this offering for our public? If it doesn’t meet these two criteria, it may be worth considering if this really is the strategic priority it first seemed. This is especially important when looking at trends such as Al or blockchain. While these both hold considerable promise for security, efficiency, and ROI, it’s important to implement these for a specific use case and business need, rather than ‘just because’ it’s on trend or another trust is deploying it.

When it comes to implementing that strategy, there is huge benefit for an organisation in leadership going that one step further—asking their team ‘what do you need from me to achieve this objective?’ By opening a dialogue with the IT teams actually executing the plan, leaders can ensure that the approach is feasible, affordable, and in line with organisation objectives.


For the IT teams on the ground, it’s important to ensure that the leadership strategy is realised in a scalable, agile, sustainable way. One of the most staggering observations for me is the number of IT professionals working retroactively to keep systems updated. Considering that downtime is impossible with critical services, it’s about embedding redundancy so that IT practitioners have no need to service systems on the go, especially when it’s a reactive response.

Over half (58%) of public sector respondents to the SolarWinds IT Trends 2018 survey say that their IT systems are not performing at optimum levels, while three-quarters (73%) of public sector IT professionals spend more than 25% of their time reactively working to optimise performance. This is crazy—it’s like trying to fix up a car as you drive it down the highway. You can’t effectively fix the bodywork, change the oil, or inspect the brakes while hurtling down the road at 70 mph.

In IT terms, these are tasks like patch management, system updates, updated policies, and security protocols. While they seem mundane and ‘small potatoes’ compared to the excitement around AI, the impact of not properly maintaining them is significant. The WannaCry disaster in 2017 is a case in point. Overlooking basic IT hygiene can have serious implications for patient care, service delivery, and citizen trust in public entities.

Pressure to achieve “digital transformation” with limited budgets, an unclear strategy, and ageing infrastructure is unfortunately paralysing public sector IT teams. As technology offerings mature and develop at a previously unheard of rate, it’s essential that we take a step back at a governance, leadership, and practitioner level to make sure our approach to public sector IT is really grounded in helping us deliver real services to real people.

Failure to protect data after hackers access 5.9m bank cards at Dixons Carphone

Reporter: Stuart Littleford

Dixons Carphone says it has been the victim of an “unauthorised data access” in which millions of customer bank card details were targeted over the past 12 months.

The company believes there were hacking attempts since last July but these were only discovered over the past week and is thought these have compromised around 5.9 million cards in one of its processing systems for Currys PC World and Dixons Travel stores.

Dixons Carphone told GPSJ: “As part of a review of our systems and data, we have determined that there has been unauthorised access to certain data held by the company. We promptly launched an investigation, engaged leading cyber security experts and added extra security measures to our systems. We have taken action to close off this access and have no evidence it is continuing. We have no evidence to date of any fraudulent use of the data as result of these incidents. We have also informed the relevant authorities including the ICO, FCA and the police.

Our investigation is ongoing and currently indicates that there was an attempt to compromise 5.9 million cards in one of the processing systems of Currys PC World and Dixons Travel stores. However, 5.8m of these cards have chip and pin protection. The data accessed in respect of these cards contains neither pin codes, card verification values (CVV) nor any authentication data enabling cardholder identification or a purchase to be made. Approximately 105,000 non-EU issued payment cards which do not have chip and pin protection have been compromised. As a precaution we immediately notified the relevant card companies via our payment provider about all these cards so that they could take the appropriate measures to protect customers.

We have no evidence of any fraud on these cards as a result of this incident. Separately, our investigation has also found that 1.2m records containing non-financial personal data, such as name, address or email address, have been accessed. We have no evidence that this information has left our systems or has resulted in any fraud at this stage. We are contacting those whose non-financial personal data was accessed to inform them, to apologise, and to give them advice on any protective steps they should take.

Dixons Carphone Chief Executive, Alex Baldock, told GPSJ: “We are extremely disappointed and sorry for any upset this may cause. The protection of our data has to be at the heart of our business, and we’ve fallen short here. We’ve taken action to close off this unauthorised access and though we have currently no evidence of fraud as a result of these incidents, we are taking this extremely seriously. We are determined to put this right and are taking steps to do so; we promptly launched an investigation, engaged leading cyber security experts, added extra security measures to our systems and will be communicating directly with those affected. Cyber crime is a continual battle for business today and we are determined to tackle this fastchanging challenge.”

Simon Cuthbert, Head of International at 8MAN by Protected Networks told GPSJ: “This breach is just another example of an organisation failing to protect their most important asset – data. The repercussions will likely be extensive in terms of financial damage, reputational damage and customer loyalty. Not to mention – this is the first breach case since the GDPR deadline passed on the 25 May. It will be interesting, and noteworthy, to see how the ICO respond to this breach as it will likely set a precedent for those that follow, and certainly kick others into action if they haven’t already ensured they are meeting, or at least attempting to meet, the new requirements.

If Dixons Carphone are unable to provide information on who accessed the data, when, and what they did with it, and deliver a report that evidences this, then they stand a risk of really falling foul of the regulator. Organisations need to ensure they have visibility of who has access to what data, and what they are doing with it, and demonstrate they are taking the necessary steps to protect their data.”

GPSJ asked if the data stolen had been “encrypted” at any stage but has not received a response from Dixons Carphone.

Zeta completes £2m LED upgrade for RBWM six months ahead of schedule

RBWM – Eton College background – SmartScape Macro

As part of its ‘spend to save initiative’ the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead (RBWM) awarded Bicester-based Zeta Specialist Lighting a £2m contract to replace all of its existing street lighting estate with energy-efficient LED luminaires.

The council’s overriding objective was to reduce both its carbon footprint and annual street lighting budget, by saving on maintenance costs and energy bills.

In the competitive tender process, Zeta’s SmartScape range of street and area lighting solutions which are manufactured at the firm’s UK-based production facility, were deemed to offer the most competitive and efficient solution. 

The tender specified a requirement to meet precise design criteria and supply in excess of 16,000 LED luminaires that would deliver significant savings in energy consumption as well as have a guaranteed design life of one hundred thousand hours. All products were to be supplied and installed within a maximum period of 18 months.

The contract win included approximately 14,000 SmartScape Nano and Macro LED street lights which were installed in residential areas and traffic routes across the Borough. Zeta also provided over 1,000 SmartScape Heritage LED conversion kits which met RBWM’s objective to retain rather than replace heritage-style lanterns in historic positions, including in the centre of Windsor and in some local parish areas.

The legacy lighting on major roads into cities including Windsor and Ascot were upgraded with Zeta’s SmartScape Macro. Zeta supplied 2,500 of this versatile LED street light which is designed specifically for distributor and traffic routes within both urban and rural areas and consumes in excess of 70 per cent less energy compared with conventional SOX, SON and CFL luminaires.

RBWM – Windsor Eton Bridge – SmartScape Heritage

All lights were fitted with the Telensa control system which provides real-time reporting of the lights’ functionality as well as the ability to dim or increase the lighting output if required.

In addition, Zeta provided a number of other LED products including the Zeta Bespoke Retrofit Subway Kits and Zeta SignLite retrofit kits. Some 200 subway lights across the Borough were re-glazed, upgraded and retrofitted with 18W and 36W variants of Zeta Bespoke Retrofit Subway Kits, replacing energy-hungry lighting which ranged from 24W to 65W. Zeta’s SignLite retrofit kits featuring low-energy 6W LEDs, are providing long-lasting illumination for over 1,000 roads signs in cities including Ascot, Windsor and Maidenhead.

As well as manufacturing and supplying the luminaires, Zeta worked closely with all other parties involved (including CMS provider Telensa and contractor AA Lighting Ltd), to project manage and co-ordinate the rollout to ensure it ran smoothly.

Overall, Zeta’s low-energy solution will deliver in excess of a 60 per cent reduction in energy consumption and associated costs. Furthermore, Zeta’s LED systems require significantly less maintenance, which lowers the cost and time requirement for RBWM to manage and maintain the lighting.

Additionally, with CMS systems integrated within each street luminaire, light levels can now be controlled centrally; improving estate management and maintenance.

Cllr Phill Bicknell, Cabinet Member for highways, transport and Windsor and Deputy Leader of the council, Royal Borough Windsor and Maidenhead told GPSJ: “This was a major project and Zeta successfully rolled it out in the short timescale of 12 months. We made the decision to undertake this project to provide our residents with better value for money street lighting and to reduce energy usage for the benefit of the environment.”

Public servants look to the future at this year’s Public Sector Show

Exclusive research published in April, carried out by the team behind the Public Sector Show, has explored the views of over 200 public servants, gauging their views of the current state of affairs in the sector and the challenges and opportunities ahead.

Top of the list of concerns for those leading, delivering and managing public services is finance and resource, cited by seven in ten (71%) of those surveyed. So much of a concern is this for public sector employees that almost two-thirds (64%) expect the quality of public services to decline in the coming years, with a majority expecting it to get harder for the sector to provide value for money for the taxpayer.

Issues related to the skills and expertise of those working in the sector are not far behind on the list of concerns. More than three in ten cite staff shortages (38%) and staff skills (31%) as important challenges facing the public sector – perhaps unsurprising when over two-thirds (64%) believe the increased use of technology in the public sector will lead to job losses, with a majority (54%) expecting the challenge of building a workforce with the right skills to get harder.

However, among the challenges identified were also opportunities. Technology, in particular, was seen as a “double-edged sword”, with a significant majority of those surveyed predicting that its increased use would also lead to better (68%) and more efficient (65%) public services. Collaboration across public sector bodies, and to a lesser extent between public and private sectors, was identified as another opportunity to deliver better, more efficient public services.

Further research carried out by the Public Sector Show team, published in June in association with Burges Salmon, explored the views of over 200 infrastructure professionals on the country’s major building priorities for the coming years.

The research revealed that almost six in ten (59%) people involved in planning and delivering infrastructure projects across the UK think that leaving the EU will make it harder to deliver improvements to the nation’s infrastructure. With the UK’s impending departure from the EU casting uncertainty over the future, half (49%) of those surveyed called for clearer direction from central government as key to improving the nation’s infrastructure.

When it comes to infrastructure spending priorities, almost three times as many people (75%) chose digital (5G/full fibre broadband) compared to air capacity (27%), while seven in ten (72%) opted for energy over just four in ten (40%) favouring the nations roads.

These findings, and others from the report, will be used to develop the agenda for the third annual National Infrastructure Forum which, for the first time, will be held as part of the Public Sector Show, the must-attend event for those looking to deliver smarter, better and more efficient public services.

Helping public servants to navigate the challenges and capitalise on the opportunities ahead is a key theme of this year’s show. Covering four key themes (Digital & Technology; Finance & Corporate; Estates & Infrastructure and Workforce & Leadership), attendees will hear from over 140 leading speakers from across the sector, including Chris Grayling MP – Secretary of State for Transport; Jacky Wright – Chief Digital Information Officer, HMRC; Malcolm Harrison – Chief Executive, Crown Commercial Service; and John Holland-Kaye, Chief Executive of Heathrow Airport.

Meanwhile, over 150 leading suppliers to the public sector, including Airbus, KPMG, Cisco, TechUK and Specsavers, will be exhibiting at the Public Sector Show, showcasing products and solutions that can support the public sector in delivering the services the UK relies on.

The Public Sector Show will take place at ExCel London on 26th June and is free to attend for those working in the public sector. Its sister event will be held in Manchester on 20th November. Find out more and register here.


Councils’ ability to replace homes sold under Right to Buy (RTB) will be all but eliminated within five years without major reform of the scheme, new analysis from the Local Government Association has told GPSJ today.

The current Right-to-Buy system only allows councils to keep a third of each RTB receipt to build a replacement home and prevents local authorities from borrowing to make up the shortfall.

A new analysis by Savills, commissioned by the LGA and published today, examined the impact of continued restrictions on councils’ ability to borrow to build new homes.

It reveals that:

  • Two thirds of councils will have no chance of replacing homes sold off under Right to Buy on a one-for-one basis in five years’ time unless a significant restructuring of the scheme takes place.
  • Around 12,224 homes were sold under RTB last year. Faced with ongoing borrowing restrictions and based on the levels of sales remaining consistent, the analysis estimates that in 2023 councils would only be able to replace approximately 2,000 of these homes.
  • Less than a third of councils would be able to sustain any kind of one-for-one replacement of homes sold under the scheme in five years’ time.

Additional rules applied to Right to Buy, including a significant portion of all receipts being handed over to the Treasury rather than the communities in which the homes are sold, are hampering the ability of local authorities to re-invest in housing.

The LGA said that, in the last six years, more than 60,000 homes have been sold off under the scheme at a price which is, on average, half the market rate, leaving councils with enough funding to build or buy just 14,000 new homes to replace them.

This leaves a shortfall of 46,000 homes which could have provided secure affordable housing for key workers, victims of domestic violence, veterans, people facing homelessness, and others in desperate need of a home they can afford.

The UK’s average family size is 2.4. Applying this to the number of homes sold off reveals that councils have lost enough homes to house the populations of Basingstoke, Worcester or Lincoln.

The LGA is warning that without a fundamental re-examination of how the scheme is funded, the Right to Buy, which helps families and individuals who otherwise wouldn’t be able to get on the housing ladder into home-ownership, faces becoming a thing of the past.

Councils are therefore calling for a comprehensive package of reform to the funding of Right to Buy, including allowing all councils to borrow to build new homes, enabling local authorities to keep 100 per cent of all sales receipts, and for councils to have the ability to set Right to Buy discounts locally to reflect community needs.

Cllr Martin Tett, LGA Housing spokesman, told GPSJ:

“We know that the Right to Buy changes lives – it helps people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to get on the ladder experience the security and independence of home-ownership. It is essential that it continues to do so.

“However, we are now in a situation where without fundamental reform of the way the scheme is funded, this vital stepping stone into home-ownership is under threat. Councils urgently need funding to support the replacement of homes sold off under the scheme, or there’s a real chance they could be all but eliminated. Without a pipeline of new homes, future generations cannot benefit from the scheme.

“Enabling all councils to borrow to build and to keep 100 per cent of their Right to Buy receipts will be critical to delivering a renaissance in house building by councils. However, if we’re to truly make Right to Buy sustainable, we must also move towards greater flexibility on discounts locally so we can reflect local community need.

“Councils are closest to their communities and it’s essential this money is reinvested in homes in those areas so our residents can access secure, affordable housing. This money is badly needed to deliver homes for our residents – instead of resting in an account in Whitehall, it should be sent back to where it belongs.”

More Than Two Thirds of Companies Were Not Confident of Being Fully Compliant Ahead of GDPR Deadline

Data handling is number one concern relating to non-compliance

Apricorn, the leading manufacturer of software-free, 256-bit AES XTS hardware-encrypted USB drives, recently announced new research highlighting that companies were massively ill-prepared for the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) enforcement deadline. Less than a third (29%) of surveyed organisations felt confident they would comply, and when questioned further and asked whether there were any areas they might be likely to fail, 81% could think of some area of the new requirements that might cause them to fail when it comes to GDPR compliance.

Fifty percent of organisations who know that GDPR will apply to them admit that a lack of understanding of the data they collect and process is their number one concern relating to non-compliance.  On top of this, almost four in ten (37%) believe they are most likely to fail because of gaps in employee training, and almost a quarter (23%) say their employees don’t understand the new responsibilities that come with the GDPR.

“Data or personally identifiable information (PII) is at the heart of GDPR and mapping and securing it should be every organisation’s number one priority. By now, all employees, from the top down, should have an understanding of the importance of GDPR and the role they play in keeping this data safe”, said Jon Fielding, Managing Director, EMEA Apricorn. “While we know that many organisations have provided some form of employee training, clearly in some cases this hasn’t been effective and organisations should address these gaps urgently.”

While almost one in ten still regard the GDPR as a mere tick box exercise, a substantial proportion do view it as being of some benefit to their organisation – for example 44% agree that the new regulation is a welcome opportunity to overhaul their organisation’s data handling and security processes. However, three in ten (30%) worry they could fail to comply due to mobile working, and almost a quarter (22%) of respondents are concerned they may fail due to a lack of encryption. “There is a lot more awareness amongst companies since our first survey last year, but we continue to see a huge amount of confusion amongst organisations as to what to prioritise in order to tackle the regulation,” added Fielding.

In line with this, 98% of respondents recognise that they will need to continue investment in policy, people and technology even now the deadline has passed. Investing in the necessary tools to make security processes easier and more efficient is vital, particularly when taking into account that Article 32 of the GDPR requires the pseudonymisation and encryption of personal data. “The best form of defence is to make sure everything you have is as locked down as possible and all PII is encrypted in transit and at rest,” advised Fielding. “Organisations should research, identify and mandate corporate-standard encrypted devices and educate employees on their use to avoid the risk of a breach and being fined for non-compliance.”

About Apricorn

Headquartered in Poway, California, Apricorn provides secure storage innovations to the most prominent companies in the categories of finance, healthcare, education, and government throughout North America, Canada and EMEA. Apricorn products have become the trusted standard for a myriad of data security strategies worldwide. Founded in 1983, numerous award-winning products have been developed under the Apricorn brand as well as for a number of leading computer manufacturers on an OEM basis.

About the survey                                                                            

The research was conducted by Vanson Bourne, an independent specialist in market research for the technology sector. Vanson Bourne interviewed 100 IT decision makers in the UK, during April 2018. Respondents to this research came from private sector organisations with more than 1,000 employees.

Vanson Bourne’s reputation for robust and credible research-based analysis is founded upon rigorous research principles and their ability to seek the opinions of senior decision makers across technical and business functions, in all business sectors and all major markets. For more information, visit

Data governance – making sure sensitive information doesn’t end up in the wrong hands

By Jon Fielding, Managing Director, EMEA Apricorn

Jon Fielding, Managing Director, EMEA Apricorn

Deciding how an organisation’s sensitive data should be protected and who is responsible for this is an important process. A wrong decision could not only cost a company its reputation, but also result in huge financial fines.

In the third quarter of last year, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) fined the Verso Group, a lead generation and data gathering company, £80,000 due to non-compliance with data protection laws. In the same period, data security incidents rose by nearly 20 percent, with general business, education and local government reporting the most occurrences. This comes as no surprise: according to recent news, Wigan County Council had experienced more than 80 data breaches over two years. With the impending General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) promising a no-holds-barred approach to data protection negligence, and risks continuing to evolve, what can organisations do make sure they are protecting their sensitive data?

Understand your data

Companies need to carefully monitor the data that is both being created and leaving their respective organisations. For government, healthcare, finance, and education industries that generate, store and move copious amounts of sensitive information on the network, the implications are dire if the correct controls are not in place.

Is some instances, mandatory designation of a data protection officer (DPO) is required as stated in Article 37. Where this is necessary, the DPO will not only implement a security policy and strategy alongside the IT team, but will also be responsible for reporting. The DPO will need to document exactly what data is collected and how it is processed, stored, retrieved and deleted throughout its lifecycle to pinpoint where data may be unprotected and at risk. This thorough analysis will then enable them to delete all unnecessary data and to identify appropriate technologies, policies, and processes to remedy any shortcomings, allowing for a proactive rather than reactive approach. This is especially important where employees use third-party devices such as USB sticks, the Cloud, and other external devices.

Create effective policies

With the GDPR coming into effect in May 2018, it is more important than ever for businesses to ensure comprehensive security policies are in place and enforced. Data security must not only be considered internally but also when data is taken out of the office and beyond the confines of the internal corporate network.

London-based consultancy Willis Towers Watson found that 90 percent of all cyber claims stemmed from some type of human error or behaviour and a survey by Apricorn also found that 50 percent of companies did not require employees to seek permission for external USB drive usage. These two factors are risk enough for any business to fall foul of a breach, but combined, they are merely an accident waiting to happen. A case in point was when personal details of more than 130,000 current and former US Navy personnel were exposed in a breach linked to the compromise of a third-party supplier’s laptop in November 2016. This is a prime example of lax security policy, and how it can leave organisations vulnerable to data compromise and attack.

With all this in mind, companies need to start taking control of their data by implementing foolproof security policies. These should include whitelisting of allowable removable devices and blocking of all non-approved devices.

Encryption safeguards the sensitive data of organisations and their employees both at rest and in transit, protecting from human error and aiding GDPR compliance. In fact, encryption is one of the very few technical mandates in the GDPR articles; specifically Article 32. The cost of standardising on encrypted USB drives to protect data is nominal in comparison to the financial consequences of a data leak – which under the GDPR could be 20 million Euros or 4 percent of the company’s global annual turnover, whichever is higher – and their deployment offers a simple step towards GDPR compliance.

Layered defence

In today’s business environment, it is critical that companies supply employees with secure devices, including hardware and software that can defend against data breaches and cyber attacks. While employees are often the weak link in protecting data, organisations also need to make sure they’re taking a multi-layered approach to security tools.

With remote working becoming more popular, there is now not only emphasis on protecting workstations and internal networks, but also emails, browsers and removable devices. Working through a secure VPN and storing information on cloud platforms is also becoming popular with employees who are used to storage platforms such as Dropbox and Google Drive in their personal lives. These platforms are easy to use and easy to integrate with personal devices, compared to corporate tools that are sometimes user-unfriendly. However, many businesses do not have policies to cover these cloud services, which leaves data unencrypted and at risk.

While there isn’t a “one-size-fits-all” solution, organisations do need to invest time and money to establish the right security strategy for their needs. For example, using different vendors and products can increase the risk of exposing data due to incompatible solutions. Integrated approaches might not work for other organisations as they might not want to replace existing solutions or might not have the budget. Security and IT teams need to analyse the requirements of the company and implement toolkits that will make security processes easier and more efficient to follow. For example, providing employees with devices that include on-board authentication and encryption will help with data security, efficiency and cross-platform compatibility.

What remains the most important aspect of successful governance of sensitive data is consistency. IT teams, C-Suite and employees all need to be educated on, and adhere to, the policies in place to ensure that sensitive data doesn’t end up in the wrong hands.

Pivot Power to work with National Grid to future-proof energy system and accelerate electric vehicle revolution

World first 2GW network of batteries and rapid charging stations planned

Pivot Power today unveiled plans to build a world-first 2GW network of grid-scale batteries and rapid electric vehicle (EV) charging stations across the UK.

The £1.6 billion programme will provide infrastructure to support the rapid adoption of EVs and underpin clean air policies, while introducing valuable flexibility into the energy system to accommodate the demands of mass EV charging and higher levels of intermittent renewable generation.

Pivot Power plans to develop 45 sites around the country, installing grid-scale 50MW batteries at electricity sub-stations connected directly to the extra-high-voltage transmission system. These will give the electricity system operator National Grid a huge resource in managing supply and demand.

The battery network will be the world’s biggest, storing enough electricity to supply 235,000 average homes for a day. It will have the ability to release or absorb two thirds the power of the planned Hinkley C nuclear power plant in response to grid balancing requirements.

Sites have been chosen near towns and major roads where they can also power rapid EV charging stations. These will be fed directly by the transmission system, and so will be able to offer mass charging at competitive rates, supporting up to 100 rapid 150KW chargers. They will also be able to support rapid 350KW chargers when they are available in the UK.

It will also be the world’s largest network of rapid charging stations, addressing the three biggest barriers to EV adoption identified by the Department for Transport: availability of chargers, distance travelled on a charge, and cost.[1] By offering affordable charging it will also lower the costs of car ownership for the next generation, the third biggest barrier.

Graeme Cooper, National Grid Project Director for Electric Vehicles, said: “We expect the use of electric vehicles to grow rapidly. This innovative solution will help accelerate adoption by providing a network of rapid charging stations across the country enabling cars to charge quickly, efficiently and as cost-effectively as possible.

“It will also give the system operator more choice and flexibility for managing the demands in the day to day running of the network, and also help mass EV charging”.

Pivot Power aims to have operational batteries at 10 sites within 18 months. Each will provide a hub that can support a variety of infrastructure such as public rapid charging stations, electric bus depots and bases for large transport fleets. A site on the south coast could be operational by the middle of 2019, subject to planning approval, and more details will be announced in the coming months.

CEO Matt Allen said: “We want to future-proof the UK’s energy system and accelerate the electric vehicle revolution, helping the UK to clean up its air and meet climate targets. Big problems require big solutions, and we are moving fast to put in place a unique network to support a clean, affordable, secure energy system and embrace the low-carbon economy.

“We are keen to hear from anyone who shares our vision and wants to ‘go electric’, particularly partners with large fleets such as local authorities, supermarkets and logistics companies.”

Pivot Power has financial backing from Downing LLP, a UK-based investment manager which has funded over 100 deals into renewable energy investments since 2010, totalling more than £500 million. Pivot Power is already in talks with institutional and strategic investors, and potential partners, such as car manufacturers, charging providers, and technology and energy companies.

Downing has provided financial support for the initial phase of the project and plans to provide further funding as the rollout of rapid charging stations progresses.  Members of the public including EV drivers will have the opportunity to invest alongside institutional investors through the Downing Crowd platform.

Colin Corbally, Partner at Downing LLP, said: “The prospects of a future ban on petrol and diesel vehicles, coupled with the threat of a potential energy crisis in the UK, mean Pivot Power is extremely well-positioned to help UK investors benefit from supporting the low-carbon transition. Through our partnership with the Pivot Power team, we have developed an exciting but robust business plan to seize this unique opportunity to play a pivotal role in the battery and electric car revolution.”

Michael Liebreich, founder of Bloomberg New Energy Finance, an advisor and investor in Pivot Power, said: “Renewables, batteries and electric vehicles are going to completely transform our power system, not just because they help clean up our horrible air quality and meet our climate targets, but because their costs are falling far faster than people realise. Pivot Power were quick to understand the scale and nature of the opportunity and have positioned themselves brilliantly.”

The core of Pivot Power’s strategy is connecting batteries and rapid charging stations directly to the extra-high-voltage transmission system. This will give it a competitive advantage over existing batteries and charging stations linked to the lower voltage regional distribution system.

  • It will be able to buy power at lower cost and it is committed to keeping prices as low as possible for drivers.
  • Its rapid charging stations will have access to abundant power – each will have a 20MW connection, enough to supply a town of 10,000 homes.
  • Combining batteries with EV charging maximises the value from each grid connection, and economies of scale should drive down building and operating costs.

Each site offers a range of revenue streams. The batteries will earn money from providing a range of services to National Grid, from sales of electricity to chargers, and from energy trading. They could also potentially provide services to energy-intensive industries. Rapid charging stations will earn income from EV drivers.

Pivot Power has assembled a high-calibre team with the specialist planning, financing, development and management skills to build this business. It was founded and is led by:

    • Matthew Allen, Chief Executive Officer. Previous experience as Global Commercial Head, Bloomberg New Energy Finance; Director at Good Energy; Chief Commercial Officer at Tempus Energy.
    • Michael Clark, Chief Technical Officer. Previous experience as Head of Network Optimisation, Tempus Energy; Low Carbon London Programme Director, UK Power Networks; Principal Electrical Engineer at Engineering Services Partnership.
    • Matthew Boulton, Chief Operating Officer. Previous experience as COO at Solarcentury and European Supply Chain Director at Sony Electronics.

[1] Public attitudes towards electric vehicles: 2016 (revised), Department for Transport.