Get In Touch

If you've got a story or event for the GPSJ website, e-mail Stuart Littleford at


Winter/Spring 2015

July 2015
« Jun    

Hat-trick of public sector frameworks for Comensura

Jamie Horton

Jamie Horton

comensura_BLK-220x220Comensura, a labour supply management specialist, expands its leadership in helping the UK public sector procure and manage temporary staffing needs, with three places on new frameworks –MSTAR2, the Cirrus Consortium and National Procurement Service for Wales.

Comensura has retained its position on the highly successful Managed Services for Temporary Agency Resources (MSTAR2) national framework as a ‘best value’ provider in both lots it tendered for. The first lot is Neutral Supply Chain Management, where public sector organisations can call off directly with Comensura for a neutral vendor managed service without the need for further competition. The second lot is Supply Chain Optimisation (Hybrid), new with MSTAR2, where public sector organisations can define a sourcing strategy using a combination of procurement models depending on their temporary resourcing objectives.

Achieving an impressive score of 93%, Comensura has been appointed to Lot 11: Neutral Vendor of the new Cirrus Consortium Framework, which enables members – Registered Providers of Social Housing, Local Authorities, ALMOs and NHS Trusts to appoint a provider without the need for lengthy and expensive tender processes.

Finally, achieving the highest score out of the three appointed providers, Comensura has also been appointed to the National Procurement Service (NPS) for Wales new managed services framework for the provision of agency staff, through which it will give many public sector organisations across Wales access to temporary staff.

Jamie Horton, Managing Director of Comensura, said: “We’re delighted to have secured our place on three key frameworks in the public sector. Our appointment to the frameworks and the high scores that we achieved are testimony to the high quality, yet excellent value for money service we can provide to public sector organisations.

“Public sector organisations require access to temporary staff to enable them to deliver public services cost effectively. We have proven experience of procuring temporary labour from recruitment suppliers in an efficient and cost-effective manner for public sector organisations.”

The Cirrus Consortium Framework runs until March 2019; the MSTAR2 Framework runs until at least April 2017; and the NPS for Wales Framework runs until at least April 2018.

Councils urged to tread carefully on signage

LOCAL authorities are being warned to stay on the right side of the law in the battle to keep traffic on the move.

New guidance laid down by the Department for Transport (DfT)* spells out the legal requirements for variable message signs.

And councils are being urged to ensure all roadside units capable of displaying changing text or pictograms make the grade.

Brian Lyus, of the Association for Road Traffic Safety and Management (ARTSM), said: “Increasing numbers of authorities are now using digital signs to get their message across.

“But compliance and quality can sometimes be neglected in the face of price pressure.

“Guidance issued by the DfT recently spells out the requirements for variable message signs laid down in the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2002 (TSRGD).

“It’s a reminder that councils must tread very carefully to ensure they don’t break the rules.”

Variable message signs hit national headlines last year when a unit showing a temporary speed limit was found to contravene the DfT guidelines.

Mr Lyus says traffic displays must conform to the regulations or those using them face the risk of non-compliance and the creation of an unenforceable sign.

He added: “Some councils may still be unaware of legal requirements for the form of the displays as well as the messages, fonts and colours to be used on UK roads.

“And permanently-installed variable message signs must conform to EN 12966 and be CE marked.

“It’s obviously important to get signing right, both for maximum prominence and from aspects of safety and compliance.”

The DfT Traffic Advisory Leaflet spells out requirements for the signs on aspects including form of display, sign housing and messages.

And David Skinner, of Rennicks UK, believes anyone involved in the delivery of services for the road network should familiarise themselves with it.

He said: “The guidance enables local authorities and other highways operators to clearly see their obligations when it comes to signage.

“There’s no longer any ambiguity and, as the requirements are laid down in black and white, there’s also no excuse for getting it wrong.

“Our signs are a significant step forward in terms of technology and yet, importantly, they’re all fully compliant with DfT guidelines.

“Ultimately, it’s our customer who controls the displayed message, but at Rennicks, we also offer advice surrounding the lawful creation of road traffic signage.”

Don’t risk a lopsided public service

Paul Connolly is Director of the MCA Think Tank

Paul Connolly is Director of the MCA Think Tank

2015 is a crucial year for the public sector. The General Election has passed, and economic growth continues, but still the looming threats of Brexit, Grexit and Scoxit remain. If the challenges of the last Parliament were significant, going forward they will be even greater.

Since 2010, the Government’s deficit reduction approach has been dogged, but not especially strategic. Health, education and overseas aid spend were protected. So every other area had to find disproportionate savings. This pattern is set to continue, resulting in an increasingly lopsided public sector.

This is just one of views expressed in the Management Consultancies Association’s (MCA) Special Edition of its Annual Report, which also argues that 2015 is pivotal year for public sector and its advisers.

MCA firms have an important role to play in the reform of the public sector, and services provided to it. They are currently developing robust standards for ethics and client satisfaction. As a result of fiscal retrenchment after 2010, spend on MCA consultants fell from £1.8bn to less than £1bn. Last year, it rose again. But officials and taxpayers can be confident the rise represents value.

The Cabinet Office has reformed how departments purchase consulting. The system isn’t perfect, but consultants and departments have taken significant steps forward to ensure a more outcome based approach. For instance, MCA member firms are keen to promote innovations such as payment by results, and departments are now more thoughtful, making more strategic buying decisions to ensure that they only buy the expertise they really need.

The MCA’s Special Edition also says that the new Government needs to develop a more principled approach to prioritisation, moving beyond the disfigurements of blanket protections combined with tactical cuts.

Take local government. The sector found around 30% savings in the last Parliament. It will need to do even better in this one. With the central Government grant to councils potentially evaporating by 2020, radical overhaul is needed. Substantial fiscal devolution to councils is being contemplated. The MCA has called for a conference on local Government’s future. This would help councils develop an understanding, in the context of scarcity, of what they should do, what they should discontinue and what citizens should do themselves.

MCA members note significant transformation appetite among local government leaders. Consultants are supporting demand management, digitisation, shared services and inter-agency collaboration.

The health sector is also gearing up for reform. Consultants are helping integrate care, redesign A&E and digitise services. Reform is urgently needed. Health spend is protected, but the NHS has grown in real terms every year bar one since its establishment. NHS England’s survival is predicated, in CEO Simon Stephens’ plans, on £8bn of new money and £22bn efficiency savings.

Moreover, given the lack of political or public appetite for additional taxation, future NHS spend increases mean reductions elsewhere. Public sector lop-sidedness will become entrenched and worsen.

To address this, the NHS must undergo radical prioritisation – a principled analysis of what is in scope and what is not. Prioritisation should be accompanied by a shift towards prevention. The NHS is a health service that sometimes looks like a sickness management service. Costs associated with lifestyle conditions like obesity, smoking and alcohol-related illness could be reduced by changing behaviour. Hospitals are expensive, reactive forms of care. Local health economies should be incentivised to move resources towards more community-based provision.

The NHS also needs relentless digitisation. Improvements in Digital management of caseloads and patient records will improve efficiency. Wearable technologies help manage long-term conditions. Analytics can promote innovations in treating genetically inherited conditions.

Improving local authority and NHS performance will require input from the private sector, including service outsourcers. So will schooling. Head teachers now enjoy significant commercial freedoms, but need support in exercising them. Yet outsourcing’s reputation is poor. Outsourcers have helped transform many services. But high-profile scandals have created a curious condition in which government publicly pillories failing providers, but continues to use others, almost surreptitiously, without promoting the case for doing so. More open and balanced debate is needed to ensure outsourcing plays a proper and valuable part in reform. Outsourcers must maintain high ethical standards and should also provide the most transformational offerings. Creating a parallel, slightly cheaper public sector of TUPE-ed staff won’t be enough. Outsourcers must help government truly reinvent services.

While consultants still assist with crises, most programmes they now support are long-term and transformational. MCA firms are currently developing robust standards for ethics and client satisfaction. Consulting firms work best where they are tackling complex problems, marshalling multi-skilled teams, then get paid by results, leaving clients in better shape through knowledge transfer. This use of consulting is becoming more commonplace. It needs to be, as the challenges ahead are enormous, especially the deficit.


Command Wall

Command Wall

Honeywell (NYSE:HON) today announced the next generation of smart building technology, Command and Control Suite, which turns complex facility data into recommendations and easy-to-implement changes that help boost business outcomes — lowering costs, minimising risk and reducing downtime.

By combining intelligent automation, advanced analytics and visualisation with the simplified user experience of today’s home and mobile electronics, Command and Control Suite links building automation and the enterprise. It provides a holistic view of a connected building’s video feeds, access control and fire alarms, for example, and pulls in relevant information from human resource applications. Integrating data from these disparate systems could help security personnel track occupants and make sure they exit the facility in the event of an evacuation, improving employee safety.

Investing in this type of smart building technology typically pays for itself within one or two years by delivering operational efficiencies as well as energy savings, according to a a financial and professional services firm.

Command Wall

Command Wall

“The building data currently collected in modern facilities presents a vast opportunity to reduce operations and maintenance costs,” said Benjamin Freas, senior research analyst, However, difficulties in integrating data from separate building automation systems have encumbered realising this potential. The usability of facility technologies has been a persistent challenge as well. To date, success in system performance has largely been dependent on the skill and experience of operators.”

Guided by experts in the Honeywell Design Studio, all components of the Command and Control Suitewere built with the intuitive, consumer-friendly simplicity of tablets and smartphones, making the technology accessible to both a facility manager and chief operating officer. Because virtually anyone can understand and act on the insights the command suite provides, companies can improve business continuity and efficiency, and get a higher return on investment. A refined user experience helps reduce operator training and related expenses as well.

The Honeywell Command Wall, the core of the suite, features map-based visualisation and navigation, along with integrated workflows and system-wide integration from a single, intuitive touchscreen interface.

The Command Wall presents data from multiple systems across a facility, such as utility meters and temperature sensors, while providing context for more informed decision making. Using progressive disclosure, users can access an enterprise-wide view and also easily zoom into specific areas to quickly understand and react to issues and opportunities as they arise.

“A building’s intelligence is largely influenced by those who operate it and can make the changes necessary to improve performance, so enhancing the user experience is imperative.” said John Rajchert, president of Honeywell Building Solutions “It allows organisations to extract the most value from their technology investment. Like today’s ubiquitous tablet and mobile devices, Command Wall makes connecting with information and others fast and simple.”

A supplement to the Command Wall is Incident Workflow, which guides users step by step through scripted responses to security incidents and other emergencies, helping further reduce risk and improving accuracy in mitigating issues. In addition, Enterprise Dashboards extend the suite’s real-time visualisation by presenting detailed energy data and actionable guidance to help control consumption and boost efficiency.

Command and Control Suite technologies integrate with Honeywell’s flagship building management platform, Enterprise Buildings Integrator (EBI), which helps facilitate the integration of security, comfort, life safety and energy systems, among other functions. EBI gives users a single point of access and consistent view to information and resources that enhance the ability to monitor, manage and protect a facility, campus or multi-site operation.

The Command Wall with Incident Workflow and Enterprise Dashboards will be available in the second quarter of 2015.

Town councils in fair funding plea

imagesA group of influential town councils has urged their national body, the National Association of Local Councils (NALC), to campaign for fairer funding to ensure tens of millions of pounds of Government funding is passed on to them.

NALC’s Larger Councils Committee, which represents the interests of larger parish and town councils within the organisation, expressed its anger at their recent meeting that a quarter of council tax support funding from the government was being withheld by principal (county, district, borough or unitary) councils.

Previous government ministers had written to councils asking for the money to be passed on, instructions ignored by around 30 authorities and described “as useful a chocolate fireguard” by the committee. Town council leaders have also warned that they expect the situation to get worse as long as principal authorities continue to “get away with it”.

However the committee welcomed the decision by the previous government not to extend referenda principles to parish councils, praising NALC’s campaigning on this issue, but urged continued action to ensure parish budgets are determined locally and without interference by ministers.

NALC welcomes the findings of this committee and will be campaigning on this with the new Conservative Government.

Cllr Ken Cleary, chair of NALC’s Larger Local Councils Committee, said: “It is bitterly disappointing that principal councils have ignored instructions to pass on around £40 million of government funding to parish councils. Letters from previous ministers to councils have been as useful as a chocolate fireguard, so a different approach is now needed.

“Communities have been short-changed by around £10m and this is likely to get worse if principal councils are allowed to get away with it. We need fairer funding for our parishes to ensure they can continue to improve lives and enhance communities.”

Cofely GDF SUEZ wins contract to support Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew

RBG Kew Palm House

RBG Kew Palm House

Cofely GDF SUEZ has been awarded a contract by Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (RBG Kew) to provide services across its estates. The contract includes the world famous Kew Gardens, as well as the 465 acre Wakehurst Place.

The partnership will see Cofely delivering a wide range of fabric, mechanical and electrical maintenance. This is to include buildings such as the Palm House (a Victorian Glasshouse), the Herbarium (which houses over seven million specimens and plays a central role in research into plant biodiversity on Earth) and the Millennium Seed Bank (a new building which focuses on global plant life faced with the threat of extinction and plants of most use for the future).

Cofely will employ a site team of 27, who will travel around the extensive grounds using bespoke bicycles and electric vehicles.

Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Director of Corporate Services, Jill McLaughlin commented: “The unique nature of the RBG Kew requires a facilities management partner that truly understands our requirements and priorities – with the inherent flexibility and commitment to meet them. Cofely has demonstrated a willingness to engage at all levels, which will form the basis of a strong partnership going forward.”

Cofely’s CEO Wilfrid Petrie added: “We are delighted to have been awarded this prestigious contract, which builds on an established relationship between our two organisations. Our experience of maintaining complex environmental conditions in many other heritage establishments and the ability to adapt our service delivery to suit clients’ specific needs will prove invaluable in meeting RBG, Kew’s requirements.”

For further information visit:

HP and Microsoft Team to Deliver Digital Transformations for Industries

HP today announced it is partnering with Microsoft Corp. to deliver solutions for the automotive, public sector and financial services industries to help organizations quickly deliver differentiated products and create new revenue through mobile, web and social channels.

HP Business Process as-a-Service (BPaaS) solutions for Microsoft Dynamics® provide organizations with rapid, industry-tailored solutions that allow them to deliver digital, mobile and social interactions with the customers and citizens they serve. This builds on a 30-year strategic partnership where HP has built one of the largest and most comprehensive global Microsoft delivery capabilities and has repeatedly been awarded for delivery excellence and leadership.

“Fulfilling customer and partner expectations is our number one priority, and in the new digital age, their expectations have evolved,” said Mathew George, chief manager (Petro Chemicals), Indian Oil.  “Working with HP and their partner, Microsoft, has allowed us to transform our processes to improve customer interactions while lowering costs.  We are now extending our work with HP and Microsoft to evolve and deliver a digital client-first experience that will continue to drive and ensure customer loyalty.”

HP and Microsoft are building an extensive portfolio of business process accelerators to address industries’ most challenging business processes and are delivering them as Business Process as-a-Service solutions.  The solutions include accelerators for:

  • Case Management – Easily configured to support different types of business processes, such as license and permit management, grants management and law enforcement.
  • Social Benefits Administration – This solution set can be used to deliver a broad array of social services to citizens such as Early Care and Education, Adult and Aging Services, Remote Care Case Management, Disability Services and Wellness Assessments.
  • Citizen Services: Portals and Call Centers — A solution set that provides citizens with multi-channel access to interact with government agencies to request information and services.
  • Banking Transformation – Allows clients to modernize and automate business processes associated with a bank’s branch network, their lending systems and mobilize their sales force to sell and service customers more efficiently and provide a better customer experience
  • Loan Process Transformation – Allows clients to modernize and automate business processes associated with legacy loan origination systems and build a customer communication and data storage solution.
  • Automotive Aftersales Customer Experience Management – Enables the proactive sales of services and improving the end-customer experience.

Customers and citizens expect their interaction with businesses and government entities to be easy, personal and fast. HP helps to deliver these experiences by allowing organizations to rapidly modernize their legacy applications, get to market quickly and increase their competitive differentiation.

“No trend has impacted business and government as much or as quickly as the drive to digital,” said Anthone Withers, director and general manager, Microsoft Business Applications, Enterprise Services.  “Our BPaaS solutions allow clients to rapidly move to the digital world by modernizing existing applications and simplifying the process to deliver a better client experience.”

The HP Business Process as-a-Service solutions are optimized to run on the HP Helion Managed Virtual Private Cloud platform, providing even faster deployment times and recognition of revenue for businesses.  HP leverages the Microsoft Dynamics platform to offer consumption-based pricing models or fixed cost per product/service based on the specific needs of the business.

“The combination of industry leading Microsoft Dynamics solutions and HP experience and expertise will result in specific industry focused IP that  represent great value and opportunity to organizations looking to accelerate the delivery of products and services to market,” said Hayden Stafford, Vice President, Enterprise Sales, Microsoft Business Solutions.   “For example, in the automotive sector, we will provide both local and global OEM’s with a rapid approach to the transition in delivering a digital first customer experience.”

SNG Commercial Launches Muvo Professional – new laundry brand with the quality of brand leaders that can add to your bottom line

PURE Senses WH Liquid

PURE Senses WH Liquid

muvo pro bio and non bio group

muvo pro bio and non bio group

SNG Commercial Ltd has launched Muvo Professional, a new range of laundry and dishwashing products which have the integrity of the brand leaders but at a more commercially viable price point.

Available in a variety of formats and sizes to cater for businesses of all sizes, the professional range will initially offer a selection of laundry detergents, fabric conditioners and dishwashing tablets. Additional products will be added to the professional range as SNG Commercial continues to develop and adapt its formulas. In addition, SNG Commercial can develop and supply own label products for a number of categories, from household cleaning and laundry to cosmetics and shampoos.

The full range includes:

      Muvo Professional liquid (bio and non-bio) – available in 5L – 25L

Muvo Professional power capsules (bio and non-bio) – available in 50 – 100 packs

Muvo Professional dishwasher tablets – available in 30 – 100 packs

Muvo Professional dishwasher cleaning fluid – available in 5L – 10L

Muvo Professional rinse aid – available in 5L – 10L

Senses Professional fabric conditioner (two-fragrance varieties including for sensitive skin)  – available in 5L – 25L

Tracey Watson, Head of Commercial Sales for Muvo Professional, said: “We’re excited to be officially launching the new range of professional products which we believe will add real value to businesses in a variety of sectors from facilities management and office products to care homes and hospitals.

“Our products have performed as well as the brand leaders in independent tests so we are confident in the quality of the formulas. We wanted to develop a range of products that not only give great results, but are more commercially viable too.”

For more information contact Tracey Watson on or 0800 098 8065.

Ecodan prepares for the toughest challenge yet

L to R: Stuart Markland; Liam Browning; James Kendall; James Timbs-Harrison, will row the Atlantic in two hours shifts

L to R: Stuart Markland; Liam Browning; James Kendall; James Timbs-Harrison, will row the Atlantic in two hours shifts

Mitsubishi Electric has sponsored All Beans No Monkeys, a team of four men who will row the Atlantic later this year when they take part in the Tallisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge.

Deemed to be one of the toughest races on earth, the Tallisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge will see the crew row 4,800km across the world’s second largest ocean from La Gomera in the Canary Islands to Antigua in the Caribbean.

Once they leave the safety of La Gomera, All Beans No Monkeys will be on their own, on the vast ocean and at the mercy of the elements. The crew will be equipped with 90 days of rations which will have to keep them going because, apart from the collection of rainwater and fishing, they won’t receive any re-supplies of food, drink or equipment during the race.

James Timbs-Harrison, crew member and Mitsubishi Electric Heating Product Manager says: “If you take into account the fact that only 500 people have ever rowed across the Atlantic but over 4,000 have climbed Everest then you can begin to see how tough this challenge really is.”

James and his fellow crew members, Liam Browning, Stuart Markland and James Kendall will depart on 15 December 2015 in their specially named ‘Ecodan’ boat and will row continuously for approximately 50 days.

James continues: “This is without doubt a challenge of a lifetime, but it is one which we are all looking forward to. A big part of this challenge is also raising money and awareness for our chosen charities and our goal is to raise £60,000, which will be split between the RNLI and Cystic Fibrosis Trust.

“We will therefore be promoting the challenge and our chosen charities over the coming months at a number of events around the country. The first event will be the BMW PGA Golf Championship where the Ecodan boat will be the main focus of the Mitsubishi Electric stand within the Championship tented village.”

The BMW PGA Golf Championship will take place at Wentworth Golf Club in Surrey from 22-25 May and guests who visit the tented village will be able to challenge James and his crew members to see if they can match their drive and stamina in a head to head competition on the rowing machines.

Further information about the crew and the challenge can be found at their dedicated website:

Jon McGinty has been appointed to lead a new working partnership for Gloucester City Council

Jon McGinty

Jon McGinty

Jon McGinty has been appointed to lead a new working partnership for Gloucester City Council and Gloucestershire County Council.

The joint role is the managing director (MD) – head of paid service – for Gloucester City Council and commissioning director for Gloucestershire County Council.

Mr McGinty is currently deputy chief executive of Aylesbury Vale District Council, where he has led on business transformation and many major regeneration projects. He is also experienced in multi-agency partnerships and has a background in finance – all attributes needed to take on this new and exciting role. He was also deputy director for local government finance and head of profession for statistics at the Department for Communities and Local Government.

Cllr Mark Hawthorne, leader of Gloucestershire County Council and chair of the interview panel, said: “It is a challenging time for both authorities. I’m confident Mr McGinty has the skills and experience to help us find creative ways of working together that will benefit local people and focus our resources where they are truly needed.”

Cllr Paul James, leader of Gloucester City Council, said: “This new role will help Gloucester to be heard at the highest levels of the county council and will cement the working relationship we have been developing for some time. The city is benefiting from significant regeneration and investment and having this new post in place will help us to make the most of the great opportunities Gloucester has to reach its full potential.”

Jon McGinty, newly appointed managing director for Gloucester City Council and commissioning director for Gloucestershire County Council, said: “I’m looking forward to taking on this role and excited about the opportunities it will bring. This is a great example of local authorities working together for benefit of the community. I look forward to meeting with councillors and local people so we can start building our future together.”

Gloucester City Council’s annual revenue budget is £16 million per year whereas the county council spends at least £80million each year within Gloucester. The city council already works closely with the county council and several back office functions are already shared. Although this is not a merger of the two organisations, the joint role will help continue joint working and is expected to save in the region of £100,000.

Otterbine urges groundskeepers to pre-empt water quality issues ahead of Summer

Before and after Otterbine at Enfield Island Village

Before and after Otterbine at Enfield Island Village

While warmer weather may seem far-off, water management specialist Otterbine is advising groundskeepers to be pre-emptive when it comes to the challenges summer can throw at water hazards.

Water quality is a critical factor in successful park management all year round, but with the arrival of summer comes warmer water, plentiful sunlight and excess nutrients; a combination that, without a proper water management system in place, can leave lakes and ponds with algae, aquatic weeds and odours.

But with Britain still in the midst of winter, Roger Lupton, Otterbine sales representative at distributor Lely UK, explains why it’s vital to implement preventative measures now and not later.

“Oxygen depletion or stress situations occur for different reasons, but many lake management issues are related to both the light and heat generated by the summer sun,” says Roger.

“Although we’re a way off summer, now is the perfect time to be assessing potential challenges. Waiting until symptoms of poor water quality appear before implementing good water management could be detrimental to both the environment and groundskeepers’ budgets,” he warns.

Low oxygen levels, combined with minimal circulation, prematurely ages water and throws the natural ecosystem out of balance. Only then do symptoms of poor water quality begin to appear, which as well as algae, weeds and odours, include sludge build up and dead fish. These symptoms not only impact on the park’s reputation, but the cost of fixative programmes far outweighs preventative measures.

Roger says: “It’s vital that lake managers are fully aware of the financial implications of not acting until it’s too late – once a lake has lost its ecological balance and goes into crisis, the costs of restoring the lake increase dramatically. As well as often being more expensive to implement, reactive solutions tend to be less friendly to the environment too.”

Roger advises how to avoid an ecological imbalance, suggesting groundskeepers create an environmentally friendly programme that is preventative in nature.

“The most natural water quality management solution is to introduce aeration in to a pond or lake to eliminate stagnant water. That’s where Otterbine’s aeration systems can help,” he says.

“By increasing oxygen levels and circulating oxygen rich water throughout a lake, water quality can remain high, inhibiting algae, aquatic weeds and foul odours.”

Otterbine’s aeration systems consist of aerating fountains, industrial aerators and diffused air systems – each with unique features that should be reviewed when determining the needs of your water feature.

For more information on Otterbine aerators, contact distributor Lely UK on 01480 226948 email or visit


Toro distributor Lely UK has launched its new Turfcare Training Programme for 2015, which sees new courses and training venues introduced for the year.

Accessible via, the 12-page guide comprises all of the industry-leading courses Lely is recognised for; from certificated Toro operator training sessions to turfcare mechanic and spray technician courses.

New for 2015, however, is the introduction of tractor driving courses, added to complement the TYM range Lely distributes. “Our new TYM Compact Tractor Driving Award allows even the most experienced tractor drivers to update their knowledge and skills and get the very best out of the machinery we supply,” says Neil Adams, head of training at Lely UK. “The new course is already proving popular with experienced and novice operators alike.”

Also showing popularity early on are Lely’s sprayer technician courses; a trend thought to be affected by upcoming legislation changes. Currently, anyone born before 31 December 1964 does not need a specified Certificate of Competence (CoC) to apply professional plant protection products (PPP). As of November 2015, however, everyone will require a CoC to apply pesticides. Lely is now City and Guilds (NPTC) accredited to offer this training with its Advanced Pesticides Application course.

As well as chemical application training, Lely is able to offer City & Guilds vocational training in a variety of land-based machinery disciplines to its customers, similar to that currently offered by colleges and other training providers. This follows the appointment of The Toro Company as an approved City & Guilds training centre in Europe.

Along with being associated with a global leader in skills development, Neil says an added benefit of becoming City & Guilds accredited is a significant drop in course prices. “We’ve essentially cut out the middle man, allowing us to offer our customers some fantastic training opportunities at a lower rate than past years.”

Together with the introduction of a new course and lowered prices, Lely has also announced that they will be trialling three new training venues this year. Cutting Technology and After-cut Appearance, a course that always sees a high uptake, will now be available at Celtic Manor Resort, Newport; Elmwood Golf Club, Fife, Scotland; and ReelTech, Ireland.

Neil explains the firm’s motive for expanding their offering beyond Lely’s training base in St Neots, Cambridgeshire. “We’ve always offered the choice to deliver courses at our customers’ own premises, but often it’s more cost effective to train employees off site for the smaller companies. By making the courses more accessible UK-wide, we hope to encourage a higher participation in training,” he says.

While Lely is offering just one course at more locations currently, the company plans to expand this offering across all courses if customer feedback is positive.

Getting Localism Right

Paul Connolly

Paul Connolly

Localism: seen by many as the answer to almost every local government question.

With good reason. Councils are close to the communities they serve. They are more immediately accountable to citizens than Whitehall departments, able to respond faster to what communities want.

And localism has the wind in its sails, as evidenced by recent announcements that Manchester will get a new Mayor and Executive to control much of its local public sector, including NHS spend. Yet localist theory should be tested to the limits, not least by its adherents. We all want to get localism right. This means ensuring the theory can survive the following challenges in practice:

Cuts – Because of spending protections in other parts of the public sector, councils have suffered disproportionate pain in the initial phase of deficit reduction. And actually they have done well, reorganising back office and support services, collaborating with each other and across sectors to secure more for less. But deeper cuts are expected in the next Parliament. On current projections central government grants to local authorities will disappear by 2020, leaving many councils, especially in deprived areas, in dire straits. This may require rather more than just localist solutions.

Capacity – Many local leaders want radical devolution. But while a Manchester, benefiting from a decade of collaboration with neighbouring authorities, has the institutional muscle to manage a range of new obligations, it is questionable whether all councils, including many covering less clearly definable ‘places’ than Manchester, have the necessary infrastructure. Devolution must be accompanied by considerable transfer of money, but also of skills and capacity.

Then there is Control. Where capacity or the “identity” of a place make devolution challenging, giving responsibility for the service to another agency, to a regional or national body, might also make operational and financial sense. Indeed, some current local responsibilities, such as those concerning business regulation, may suit more national or regional delivery structure. Such structures do not necessarily mean an end to local accountability. National delivery bodies can easily develop local arms with local governance structures. Indeed, the assumption that local council service control guarantees local accountability is misleading. Low local election turnout undermines the case. While localists argue that transferring more services to local authorities would animate voters, many services already administered by local councils – aspects of social care, for example – have little bearing on local election outcomes. But they are hugely important to users. Giving councils control is not the same as giving people control.

The critical concept here is Community. Councils have evolved over time, through different reorganisations and initiatives. Their identities often relate to recognisable communities. But sometimes they don’t. Councils can have odd names and odder boundaries. And they are geographically static. People, however, are not. In the Digital Age, they are especially mobile, forming fluid communities that relate imperfectly to the geographies of UK governance.

Importantly, there is also the challenge of Coherence. Localism is a ‘let many flowers bloom’ philosophy of difference. Quite. Places are different. But the local responses to austerity evidence both rational (and accountable) variations and unaccountable, preventable incoherence. This is understandable. There is no shared understanding of local government’s proper scope and responsibilities. Even informed commentators would struggle to define their council’s remit, especially in two-tier areas. Recent experimentation and innovation in local governance and delivery are welcome. But they have brought their own uncertainties.  Councils’ scope, structure and purpose, what they are really suited to and what they are ill-adapted for: there is little unanimity on these questions.

The Management Consultancies Association’s report recommends a conference, early in the next Parliament, to examine what councils are, what they should do, what their limits are, and what works best from the perspective of citizens. Comprising representatives from civil society, as well as local and central government, the conference would develop common principles against which the validity of Manchester-style devolution proposals, as well as different approaches (shared services, regionalisation or national organisation) could be tested. The Independent Commission on Local Government has recommended a review of whether councils have the resources to meet their statutory responsibilities. It is easy to see how this could be linked to a fundamental assessment of what councils are for – and what they should be for.

Indeed, the real test of localism is Citizens: what benefits them. Our report suggests that if communities are better placed to deliver services themselves, they should. New ‘free services’ could be developed by communities – of place, but also of interest, in line with how people live in the Digital Age.

Localism remains the most comprehensive answer to local government’s current challenges. But it should be based on a better understanding of what councils are for. In an era of scarcity, providing that clarity is now urgent.

Author, Paul Connolly, is Director of the MCA Think Tank.

Collecting Council Tax and helping those in debt

CTA_Logo_Official_2014-NEWThe Stour Valley & Poole Partnership (SVPP) which collects Council Tax on behalf of four Dorset Councils has teamed up with Council Tax Advisors Community Interest Company (CTACIC) to help local people with debt problems.

The initiative coincides with a rise in media attention highlighting the increasing revenues owed to councils and the need to favour affordable repayment plans over the use of enforcement action to recover debts.

CTACIC is one of a network of approved organisations that SVPP is working with supporting people in arrears with council tax, housing benefit overpayments, business rates and other sundry debts. It is a not-for-profit provider of free debt advice and mediation services, specialising in helping those who owe money to local authorities.

The two organisations have signed an agreement to provide immediate dedicated support to SVPP customers through a direct referral telephone facility.

CTACIC has a successful history of helping vulnerable people overcome their debt problems. Managing Director, Chris Richards, explains the partnership’s objectives:

“We’re excited to be working with the Stour Valley & Poole Partnership. It’s important that people who need help get the necessary help, whatever the debt, just as it is essential to treat the long term problem and not just the immediate consequence. A well-known charity recently revealed that they’ve seen a 372% increase in people contacting them with council tax arrears from 2010 to 2014, and it’s a rise we’ve experienced as well.

“We believe that in times of austerity this innovative approach will significantly improve collection rates and separate the ‘can’t pays’ from the ‘won’t pays’.”

Importantly, no financial burden is placed on local councils as CTACIC is a community interest company and its services are free of charge.

SVPP’s approach supports the ethos of the Government’s Good Practice Guide regarding the enforcement of council tax. It offers guidance on the help and support local authorities should be giving to vulnerable people.

SVPP is a partnership of authorities: Poole Borough Council, East Dorset District Council, Christchurch Borough Council and North Dorset District Council. It collects Council Tax and administers benefits for the local authorities.

Council Tax Advisors Community Interest Company is a not-for-profit organisation offering free, independent and impartial advice, and resolution services to those in debt.

Formed in 2012 as a direct result of personal experiences with bailiffs, they specialise in providing advice and guidance on how best to deal with debt situations and offer long-term sustainable solutions including the organisation of repayment plans and professional mediation services.