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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: www.cofely-gdfsuez.co.uk

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 t.watson@sngltd.co.uk 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: www.allbeansnomonkeys.com

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 turfcare.uk@lely.com or visit www.otterbine.com.

LELY EXPANDS TRAINING OFFERING FOR GROUNDSMEN AS 2015 GUIDE RELEASED

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 www.lelyliterature.co.uk, 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.

LACK OF PHYSIO ACCESS COSTING HOSPITAL TRUSTS £200 MILLION A YEAR

New research has revealed that frontline NHS hospitals are losing an estimated £200 million1 a year due to staff being absent from work with muscle and joint injuries.

More than 60% of staff working in Acute Hospital Trusts take sick leave every year, averaging just over 20 days absence each. But that figure rises to almost 23.5 days per head for those suffering from musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) meaning that hospitals across the country lose an average of almost 14,000 staff days per year due to staff having conditions such as bad backs, sore necks or stiff joints.

But according to Physio Med, which carried out the research, faster access to physiotherapy could help to significantly reduce sickness absence, saving the NHS more than £100 million a year.

Phil Clayton, Managing Director of Physio Med, which provides occupational physiotherapy and ergonomic solutions to large organisations and a number of NHS Trusts, said: “Staff within the NHS provide vital services to the public. Many of the roles are physically demanding and therefore the prevalence of muscular and joint injuries can, understandably, be high. But when these employees are absent from work it can have a severe knock-on effect on the delivery of NHS services to the public. 

“The research2 we have carried out among Trusts across the country demonstrates that absence due to MSDs is higher than average and is costing the NHS £200 million a year – a figure that doesn’t even take into account the cost of cancelled and delayed NHS services.”

Physio Med’s research found that over a three year period:

  • An average of 60% of NHS staff took sickness absence, with the average absence being 20 days
  • Around 16.5% of all absence was due to MSDs, with the average length of absence rising to almost 24 days
  • This equates to an average of 13,842 lost days per trust, per year or 6,000 employees absent every day across all NHS acute trusts

The research reinforces the findings of the Chartered Society for Physiotherapy (CSP) Fit Enough for Patients? report3 in 2013, which identified that more than a third of trusts did not have a health and wellbeing strategy in place, and nearly one in five trusts did not offer staff rapid access to physiotherapy, despite being recommended to do so by the 2009 report, the Boorman Review4.

Phil Clayton: “We work with a number of NHS Trusts across the country, providing fast access to physiotherapy services which allows staff to be assessed by a physiotherapist within days, sometimes even hours, which has delivered significant reductions in sickness absence and improved productivity. One Trust has recorded 58% reduction in days lost in the employees that were referred to our service.”

EcoSteer: Benefits the public sector through energy measurement and monitoring

logo300dpi-flat The technology industry’s latest trend, the Internet of Things (IoT), might on the face of it appear as a daunting leap in the dark or as an overhyped consumer fad. Many examples of its use often look good on presentation slides or sound like the sort of thing dreamed up by overactive imaginations in Silicon Valley, but there are straightforward and pragmatic applications arising out of IoT.

One area of immediate interest is monitoring and measurement, especially of critical, expensive or remote resources, such as energy. This of course is not new, but recent advances are making it possible to extend energy monitoring and measurement in ways that have not been either possible in the past.

The consumer adoption of many technologies has driven down prices and shifted even industrial products towards simpler, sometimes stylish and generally more easily and readily replaceable design. For monitoring, measurement and data collection this means much broader availability of a huge range of lower cost sensing devices.

In addition, widespread connectivity through the availability of high capacity fibre networks and increasingly data capable wireless networks means that connecting sensors for monitoring precious resources at almost any remote site becomes technically achievable.

Many things are technically possible, but are they worthwhile and commercially viable, and would that include public as well as private sector applications?

The collection of accurate information from a variety of sources in order to make real-time decisions – a pragmatic definition of big data – could be not only interesting, but of real benefit. According to public sector responses in the research covered in the Hitachi Data Systems’2014 Information Innovation Index study, the biggest benefits from big data would be real time access to information, leading to better planning and opportunities to save cost. Three quarters of those surveyed thought the main drivers for public sector investment in big data were to support the overall organisation’s strategy, with almost two thirds acknowledging the requirement to comply with legislation and regulation. These drivers were much higher in public sector than in other industries.

Getting to grips with monitoring overall energy usage fits directly into two of those areas of immediate need – saving costs and compliance with legislation.

Existing approaches tend to be a little patchy. Some organisations will collect data from their supply meters, but often only periodically and in any event the meter gives no insight into details or specific usage within different parts of the organisation or power hungry applications. Neither does the data contain other intelligence that might explain peaks and troughs, which might be gleaned from occupancy data or environmental sensors capturing temperature and humidity.

Where smarter meters are in place, the solutions are often supplied with their own proprietary software, meaning that different sources of data are much harder to combine, especially in anything approaching real time. Across any organisation there will be multiple locations and a legacy of existing systems in place, many different.

So there is still a significant challenge. With a diversity of systems, meters and various sensor manufacturers, how can an organisation ensure that they can gather data from all the sites they need to monitor in order to have a complete picture of energy usage? Fortunately there are solutions at hand, but costs can escalate rapidly as more monitoring points are added.

For these reasons, EcoSteer, an energy and environmental monitoring software start-up based in the UK, has taken a different approach. Its platform is open, with a logical data model configurable to directly match organisational structures and business requirements, and a web user interface. It is sensor agnostic, to accommodate any type and manufacturer of device, and designed with a distributed cloud-aware architecture, to scale to huge numbers of sensors from large numbers of sites.

These technical arrangements are useful and important to deliver an enterprise grade service, but commercially the EcoSteer pricing model is far closer to a consumer model, meaning that it is highly cost effective to start with only a couple of sensors on a single site, and scale up without changing the underlying software or losing any data already gathered.

With recent advances in sensor and networking technology, now is the right time to invest in gathering more intelligence about energy usage. EcoSteer makes it possible to start early at low cost, learn, and grow to massive scale. Its recent news of a partnership with HP, where HP will embed and resell the EcoSteer platform in HP’s energy efficiency management solution for telecoms and utilities, demonstrates that the EcoSteer monitoring solution is anticipated to deliver both big data and smaller costs. Just as other industries expect to benefit from this, so too should organisations in the public sector, and they can start by taking small pragmatic steps, not a leap of faith into the dark.

Why Demand Management is important to local government

Martin Creswell is Chief Executive of iMPOWER and a member of the MCA Think Tank

Martin Creswell is Chief Executive of iMPOWER and a member of the MCA Think Tank

Carl Jung once talked of synchronicity, of separate events connected by a form of ‘meaningful coincidence’. Such connections, difficult to explain through the standard scientific method, were somehow deliberate and that the manifestation of one was reliant on the other. This art, of seeing the irregular links and patterns in what appears to be chaos or regimented uniformity, is not unlike one’s first attempt at a behavioural analysis.

Take for example a parent using the free school transport service for their disabled children, a service which costs local authorities a small fortune in taxi fares. On the face of it a rigid and uniform system; it is right these children attend school therefore by virtue of them being considered ‘in need’ by the state they are provisioned with a service to address that need.  When iMPOWER explored this problem further we found a previously unrecognised behavioural trigger, the council we were working with was simply offering the service to any parent who qualified. When they changed to asking those same parents ‘How are you going to get your child to school?’ the numbers of people accessing that particular service fell dramatically. Behavioural analysis allowed us to look beyond the linear nature of the problem and to find an innovative and cost effective solution. By simply reframing the offer of the service we unlocked a different set of behaviours in service users. This is just the tip of a big iceberg, and an area which has received recognition today from our industry Think Tank.

The new Management Consultancies Association (MCA) Think Tank report, Local Government – Time for Reinvention highlights how effective demand management really can transform local services. The report recommends that by taking a more imaginative look at service users through the deployment of behavioural analysis (and not just the traditional assessments of socio-economic need), councils can segment and tailor services in ways which may see reduced levels of demand.

With local government likely to be burdened by a further reduction of 30% in its overall spending power the sector will be in need of support and fresh thinking. If raw financial numbers behind the cuts are not enough, consider the 400,000 jobs lost in local government (according to UNISON), many of them from the councils corporate core; the critical thinking capacity if you will. What is left is essentially the front line. If local government wants to navigate its way through the next five years of fiscal contraction then it needs to start embracing new tools like behavioural analysis if it is to address the white elephant in the room that of increasing demand for public services.

The real danger to the sustainability of public services isn’t the fall in public spending; the amount we contribute to public services has fluctuated over recent history. Rather the real threat is that of unchecked (and poorly understood) increases in demand. As the MCA Think Tank point outs, managing this demand will be a significant part of most local authorities answer to their funding challenge. Behavioural analysis is one tool that will help to unlock better demand management but it is not the only. We at iMPOWER see this as a broader opportunity to expand on the orthodox socio-economic forms of analysis that have traditionally informed senior decision making in local government.

The MCAs new report into the future of local government makes this point clearly. We’re now operating in a world that is rapidly downsizing and where our populations are more mobile and increasingly transient. What this mean for ‘place based’ delivery of public services is still be decided. What is clear is that a one size fits all approach is not the answer, it’s one of the contributing factors to our current problems. We see a different public sector emerging, one where the stock in trade of local government will be the ownership of our most complex social problems, and in truth, many are not solvable. At least not by singular one shot solution. Rather, they are managed and ameliorated over time, evolving into ever more manageable versions of themselves.

Political commentator Janan Ganesh recently noted that those of who are 35 ‘have already lived through one re-imagining of the state’ and that we are now about ‘due for another’. I’m inclined to agree with him. Managing demand is not just an important part of the future of local government service delivery; it is also a gateway to the next generation of the state. 

Kirklees Council chooses Sennheiser for new Lync deployment in its council offices

SC 60 USB ML lifestyle

SC 60 USB ML lifestyle

Sennheiser, a global leader in premium headset and UC solutions, has been chosen by Kirklees Council to supply its call centre staff with over 4,000 new headsets under a new Microsoft Lync implementation. Sennheiser was chosen following an evaluation by in-house staff of four leading headset brands. Read on to find out why.

The Challenge

Kirklees Council were looking to deploy 7,000 staff under a new Microsoft Lync implementation, with a key deliverable being to establish a more mobile workforce and ensure that the best approach was adopted in terms of employee healthcare. A significant percentage uptake in headset deployment was required to replace fixed handset devices. Staff required more mobility, increased comfort and no compromise in performance at a price point that was realistic.

The solution

“We chose a large group of 200 people to participate in evaluations of four of the main headsets that fell within our tight budgets, but which offered the best audio, comfort and performance overall,” said John Clayton, Principal Officer at Kirklees Council. “Feedback was overwhelming for the Sennheiser’s solutions, the SC 30 and SC 60. The benefits were a better build, better quality feel and more robust product.

When asked for reasons why the Sennheiser headsets proved so popular, one employee who preferred to wear a headset all day stated that they are “Very light and comfortable and I don’t know that I’m wearing it.” Other important factors included the impressive audio and noise cancelling microphone, but one of the main reasons why this rollout was possible was due to the price point.

“It was envisaged that customers would more readily adapt to headset use on this product as it is light, comfortable and has a premium quality look and feel” said John. “However the price point made it very attractive against the IT budget, and its robust design means we expect fewer breakages over time and a longer product life, reducing our total cost of ownership.”

Constructed from premium materials, Sennheiser’s headsets are built to last. A real emphasis on comfort, from large ear pads and a flexible boom to HD voice clarity and noise cancelling microphones, ensures that calls can be conducted smoothly and efficiency regardless of the environment, and with built-in ActiveGard™ technology to protect against acoustic shock, deliver complete peace of mind.

Sennheiser’s noise-cancelling technology certainly proved its worth with one contact centre employee, who gave their own review of the product: “Being a busy contact centre we really struggle with background noise. We have taken many steps to reduce this, such as silent keyboards, and were also considering noise-cancelling tiles as it was difficult for the staff during their daily shift and also listening back to calls on recordings. We evaluated the Sennheiser noise cancelling headset and were immediately impressed by this key feature, we couldn’t pick up any background noise and the conversation with the customer was perfect and clear. It was like they were in a room on their own!”

“We’d certainly recommend Sennheiser’s headsets to other similar establishments,” said John Clayton. “They have helped us deliver on our requirements. Acceptance of headsets has been 95%+ with users being truly able to hotdesk; we have deployed only a small number of handsets for specialist use. In addition, Employee Healthcare is very pleased with take up as this helps with overall posture and allows people to use the computer whilst on the phone.”

Kirklees council now uses Sennheiser SC 30 USB ML and SC 60 USB ML headsets in its contact centre and have deployed over 4,000 to date on the new Microsoft Lync development, with employees also using the Sennheiser products for dictation and text to voice.

About Kirklees

Kirkless uses headsets across all Council functions to handle public, contractor and partner calls. These can be confidential calls at the desk, into call centres, staff home working, reception areas and other functions dealing with everything from child protection, bin collection and council tax enquiries to planning and short term health needs.  Call centre staff spend around six hours a day on the phone and are sat at desks when taking calls, though many work from home. Calls are often transferred, with business support in many areas who pick up calls and pass on to relevant staff.  95% of its workforce now uses headsets.

The headsets

Employees of Kirklees are now using the Sennheiser SC 30 and SC 60 noise cancelling headsets. The SC 30 is a single-sided wideband headset optimised for Microsoft Lync, with a noise cancelling microphone and extra large ear pad for comfortable long-term use. The SC 60 is a deployment-friendly dual-sided headset also optimised for Microsoft Lync with built-in noise cancelling and is designed for users requiring stereo sound and full call control in a Unified Communications environment.

Both models include ActiveGard™ to protect against acoustic shock and sudden sound surges, with a bendable boom arm to ensure optimal microphone position and 340° pivotable boom for wearing flexibility on the right or left ear, and come with a 2-year international warranty as standard.

Counter Terror Expo 2015 to cover key terror threat areas under one roof

Counter Terror Expo 2015 comes at a time when terrorism and unconventional threat levels across much of the world are at heightened levels. Recent events in France and Nigeria, to pick just two, have accentuated the myriad of different threats that have proliferated since the 1990s. And as the threats have increased and mutated, so the responses of countries, government agencies, and non-government actors have had to change almost beyond all recognition.

Counter Terror Expo 2015 covers these key terror threat areas under one roof, and uses the underlying principles that form the “UK’s Strategy for Countering International Terrorism”, to link everything. The four principles that make up what is also known as the also known as the “Contest Strategy” are: “Pursue”, “Prevent, “Protect”, and “Prepare”.

  1. Pursue: to stop terrorist attacks;
  2. Prevent: to stop people becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism;
    1. Protect: to strengthen protection against a terrorist attack;
    2. Prepare: to mitigate the impact of a terrorist attack

At Counter Terror Expo 2015, the overall scene – the “intelligence picture” – is set by the “World Counter-Terror Congress”. Presentations on topics as diverse as communications security in a “post-Snowden Age”, use of digital media by radical groups, and the impact of new terror tactics are joined together under the four “Contest Strategy” headings. More detailed intelligence updates on Al Qaeda, ISIS, Boko Haram, to name just some of the terror groups that are most frequently reported on in the media. Supporting briefings and presentations are provided by the Quillam Foundation, RUSI, University College London, the Metropolitan Police and the Home Office.The cyber terror threat is covered extensively in the exhibition’s “Cyber Threat Intelligence” strand. The past few months have given much to consider here. From the hacking of Sony Pictures – possibly by North Korean agencies – through to the hacking of the US Defense Department’s Central Command (which had its Twitter and YouTube feeds taken over by a group claiming to be aligned with ISIS), this threat has seen massive changes of late. And it isn’t just the state-on-state threats (also seen in hostile Russian cyber attacks on neighbours) that present severe challenges. The use of cyber techniques by criminal groups is an equal challenge to law enforcement agencies as well as commerce. The “Cyber Threat Intelligence” strand sees key updates from UK Government Communications HQ, Europol, and the UK’s National Cyber Crime Unit, backed up by “coal face” presentations from key industry leaders in the area.POLICE DOWNING STREET 2

The threat to infrastructure from terror groups has been a constant, but growing one. From threats to oil/petrochemical facilities (such as seen in Algeria in 2012, as well as in Nigeria and Iraq), to potential attacks on nuclear power stations, the sector presents a range of opportunities to terror groups, and thus risks to governments. So taking the “Four P’s” as the guideline, the “Critical National Infrastructure” seminar ranges across the options for identifying threats as well as solutions. Vital concept updates are given by the UK Home Office’s Security and Counter Terrorism department, GCHQ, NATO, and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe. To provide pin-point clarity about exactly what this can mean on the ground, the seminar also has feature presentations on the challenges of security at sporting facilities such as Wembley Stadium (as an example of the mass of such facilities that can seat close to 100,000 spectators), and the re-built New York World Trade Center.

Furthermore, the myriad of threats aren’t just focussed against fixed infrastructure facilities: transport networks are a regular target for terror groups’ plans and attacks. From the 9/11 aircraft hijackings, through the 2004 Madrid Atocha train bombings to the similar attack on the London Underground in 2005, transport presents ideal targets for terror groups. Although aircraft are the highest profile targets, it is often transports means such as buses that see the most attacks – Boko Haram and Al Shabab have both carried out shocking fatal attacks on buses in Nigeria and Kenya recently. But the Transport Security Live Strand at Counter Terror 2015 will cover all these areas, with key addresses from the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority, the Department for Transport, and industry players such as Boeing.

Lastly, Counter Terror Expo 2015 covers that area whose importance springs into life when terrorists strike or “things go wrong”: the Blue Light Services, the fire and ambulance/medical services. The Ambition seminar covers preparing Blue Light Services for the scale and range of terror attacks, and the building of resilience in the services. On top of this, the manner of response of responders to high scale terror attacks – whether a “Mumbai-style” gun attack, or a chemical/biological attack is also covered by speakers from leading UK and European First Responder organisations.

Ideally, governments and companies wouldn’t have to plan for such events. But the past decades have shown that – unfortunately – the risks and range of terror threats have grown ever higher. Nobody can ignore contingency plans for terror/terror-style attacks, and the recent attack on the Charlie Hebdo magazine shows that the risks to non-government bodies can be as high as those for state entities. This is why Counter Terror Expo 2015 aims to provide context, analysis and answers to the vast topic of counter-terror.>

With 300+ suppliers, from leading UK and international primes to specialist SMEs will be exhibiting their latest technology and equipment for law enforcement and security personnel. Some of the leading and innovative exhibitors will include Winkelmann UK, Tactical Electronics LLC, Alford Technologies, Digital RF and Chemring EOD which manufactures Explosive Ordnance Disposal and Counter-IED equipment; Geoquip Worldwide, Terrafix Ltd and Neosoft, producers of secure communications equipment; Counter Measure Systems which specialises in police and special forces equipment and training; ICM X-Ray which produces groundbreaking miniaturised portable X-ray equipment; and RFA Security, providers of explosive detection and sniffer dogs.

Unmanned vehicles are playing an increasingly important role today and CTX exhibitors include ICOR Technology which manufactures the CALIBER® family of robots, offers five different sized platforms providing remote capabilities for SWAT, EOD and Hazmat teams. iRobot’s unmanned ground vehicles are designed to reduce the risk to personnel, operate downrange, report data and deliver predictive intelligence. Unmanned ground vehicles are also a speciality of NIC Instruments, which develops the lightweight First Responder that can be configured to the needs of specific missions. The unit can easily be repaired in the field.

Visit www.counterterrorexpo.com