Jamie Smith-Thompson – managing director of Portal Financial
In a Ministerial Statement issued today the Government announced that it will prevent public sector workers from transferring their unfunded final salary pension to a private pension, in order to protect the Exchequer and taxpayers, leaving millions of people trapped in a scheme that may be inappropriate for their circumstances in the future.
The last Budget introduced unprecedented flexibility over pension funds, and was widely welcomed. Those with unfunded state-backed final salary schemes are now being excluded from these new freedoms, and will never have control of their fund. Although many final salary pensions provide a generous index-linked retirement income, there are those who choose to transfer the cash value to a private pension prior to retirement in order to take advantage of benefits such as 25% tax-free cash, flexibility on withdrawals and the option to leave the money to named beneficiaries.
Public sector workers affected by this change may well be asking the obvious question – why are the Government doing this now? Certainly it brings greater control back within the Treasury, but it isn’t as if there was a great glut of people already transferring public sector pensions away before this point in time. Yes, it suited some people very well, but the majority were quite happy where they were.
Do the Treasury believe that this year’s budget would see more people taking up this option if they did nothing to stop it? Maybe. Or is it a case of the Treasury closing the exit door on these schemes before they start to reduce the benefits they provide in real terms as part of a long term plan to make them affordable to maintain. Only time will tell.
The restrictions being put in place are, of course, fine as long as the benefits on offer suit you, and as long as you trust successive Governments to make good on their promise to deliver them. So that’s the key question for those affected to ask – do you trust the Government not to make unilateral decisions on public sector pensions in the future?
If you think you may be better off transferring out, or if you can’t quite bring yourself to trust the Government to do the right thing by you, then getting advice on your options early is crucial. It’s likely that an awful lot of your colleagues will be thinking the same thing…
Jamie Smith-Thompson, managing director of pensions specialist Portal Financial, comments: “We expect to see many people now choosing to transfer while they still have that option, and our experience is to act now, because it can take a while to transfer funds into a private pension and any outstanding applications that are not completed by the deadline will remain as they are.”
Patrick Crawford, CEO, Charity Bank
The value of loans approved by Charity Bank for charities and other social sector organisations almost doubled in the first half of 2014 compared to the same period last year.
Over the first six months of this year, Charity Bank approved loans worth £11 million compared to £6 million in the first half of 2013, an increase of 83%. During the same period in 2012, the Bank approved £5 million in loans.
Patrick Crawford, Chief Executive of Charity Bank, says, “Our experience is that charities and other social sector organisations are starting to regain confidence about the economy, and becoming more ready to borrow in order to grow their activities where it is prudent to do so.
“Social sector organisations can benefit if they diversify their sources of revenue and embrace mixed funding, including borrowing. By doing so they can strengthen their organisations, grow their revenues, unlock other funds and expand their impacts.
“The increase in demand for our loans has also been prompted by the effect of cuts in public sector spending on the social sector, compounded by the lack of finance for smaller charities from large commercial banks.”
Vehicle tracking specialist Ctrack has launched a new multi-comms solution to enable emergency services organisations in the UK to seamlessly switch between communication channels to meet precise operational requirements while minimising data transfer costs.
This solution takes advantage of the most appropriate mobile, TETRA or WiFi network to achieve the most cost effective real-time tracking and reporting, while ensuring complete connectivity due to the resilience provided by multiple communication networks.
This latest tracking solution will enable emergency services organisations to select alternative communication channels for data transfer to support and complement the standard use (Private APN) of the mobile network. As a result, the tracking unit can intelligently select TETRA mode when a vehicle is in an area with no mobile signal coverage, or alternatively an authorised WiFi or even Iridium Satellite network when available.
Ctrack Multi-comms will automatically selects the most appropriate channel to exchange data, helping to ensure maximum connectivity whilst potentially reducing communication costs. Meanwhile, a least-cost routing algorithm can provide users with the ability to prioritise information based on their exact needs to minimise data transfer expenditure further should this be required. This includes switching to WiFi when available to transfer low priority data not yet sent via more expensive channels.
This innovative telematics hardware supports multiple digital and analogue inputs which can easily be configured to monitor the status of on-board systems such as blue lights, seat belts, seat occupation, roller shutters and doors. It also supports the extraction of CANBus data from engine management systems supporting many types of vehicle providing metrics such as Fuel Consumption, RPM and subject to the vehicle compatibility, Odometer, MIL Lamp Indications / DTC codes.
In the event of an incident the rolling buffer provides in depth analysis of the last 12 hours of vehicle data with speed at one second intervals and g forces in three axis @ 250ms. Meanwhile the accident buffer can store 10 x events – 90sec before and 30sec after an event with Speed / RPM at one second intervals and 10 seconds before and after incident utilising the three axis accelerometer to provide 200ms data for incident reconstruction and analysis.
John Wisdom, Managing Director of Ctrack commented: “This latest functionality enables seamless and least cost data transfer providing emergency services organisations with even higher level of efficiency, reliability and security for their fleets and assets. Ctrack Multi-comms puts them in control to meet precise operational needs, gain added visibility and minimise overheads wherever possible.”
Student service availability and social media support key to new business wins and highlights increased focus on customer service as universities compete for paying students
Service Management Software company, Sunrise Software, today announced that three leading UK universities have selected its Service Desk platform, Sostenuto, in recent months. Plymouth University, York St John University and one other are all implementing Sunrise’s Service Desk platform across departments including IT, libraries and estate management, with extended deployments planned in areas including social media support.
“Increasingly, universities are thinking and behaving as service oriented businesses as they need to compete and attract fee paying students to their campuses,” says Geoff Rees, Sales Director at Sunrise Software. “Whilst initial deployments underpin the needs of IT, libraries and estate management, utilising the ‘platform’ capability of the software means that the universities can, and are, extending their student service offering across many of the university faculties – from registration management to catering, accommodation, resource management, health & safety and more.”
Developed using the latest HTML 5 technology, the software’s attractive and easy-to-use interface, combined with its’ ability to work on multiple devices, are two of the key attractions for universities that seek the latest in contemporary systems to demonstrate the commitment to student services. In addition, Sunrise’s capability for social media interaction will enable universities to provide support via channels such as Twitter and Facebook, which are rapidly becoming the communication channel of choice for students.
“For many students Twitter, Facebook and Instagram have replaced more traditional methods of communication such as email and telephone.” Says Geoff Rees, “our platform, Sostenuto, allows universities to embrace this shift in the use of technology, extending the Service Desk to achieve greater reach and adoption of services. For example, on average students have four different devices with which they may connect to the network. They expect to be able to ask for support from any of those devices and Service Desks need to be able to provide it.”
Sunrise allows Service Desks to proactively listen to social media channels, such as Twitter, for comments based on #hashtags, keywords, phrases or public messages sent from, or between specific users. Such automated searches provide important early warnings of potential customer service issues, even before they are communicated formally to the Service Desk.
At any point in the processing of a Service Request or Incident, the Service Desk can automatically send messages via their favoured social media channels informing the customer of progress so far. Service teams can then proactively broadcast the status of specific identified problems via social media channels.
Sunrise is in discussion with a number of other universities that are seeking to raise their standards of student support and join up their support and communication processes.
Delivering on the European Advantage ‘How European governments can and should benefit from innovative public services’ reveals an environment of ‘quantity over quality’
Paris, May 28, 2014 – The European Commission released today the 11th Benchmark Measurement of European eGovernment Services, carried out by Capgemini Group, one of the world’s foremost providers of consulting, technology and outsourcing services, and its partners. The study, Delivering on the European Advantage ‘How European governments can and should benefit from innovative public services’, provides insight on where Europe is on ICT delivery and uptake whilst delivering a call to action going forward. This year marks Capgemini’s ongoing partnership with the European Commission, after recently being awarded the mandate to deliver eGovernment benchmarking insights for a further four years.
The report, which surveyed over 28,000 citizens from across the EU member states, reveals an environment of ‘quantity over quality’ – whilst government online services are now widely in place, usage of them has slowed due to several challenges including ease of access, speed of use and lack of transparency of the service delivery process. The report offers insight into how services can be made ‘twice as good, in half the time, for half as much’, and can stimulate public service providers to respond faster and smarter.
This year a focus of the report was on uncovering benchmarks against four key pillars and how Europe needs to digitally transform in order to predict new models of public delivery, foster innovation and leverage these services and the companies that deliver them internationally, for local value and international economic advantage. As the eGov action plan concludes in 2015, there are many areas where Europe needs to adapt in order to achieve predicted targets. Key findings from the report highlight progress and gaps in the following four areas:
1) User Centricity – The indicator for online usability measures the relevant aspects of the quality of the user experience, by assessing usability (support, help, feedback functionalities), ease of use and speed of use. Although usability features are widely present on government websites (78%), this hides the fact that the user’s experience, within the customer journey, is less favorable: the evaluation of ease and speed of use comes out 20 percentage points lower (at 58%).
2) Transparency – Transparency refers to elements of service delivery in which crucial information any user needs when dealing with public administration: Informing if an application has been received through to where the application stands in the entire process are all factors. The transparency benchmark is scored at only 48%, and this is due mainly to the insufficient information provided for users during the delivery of eGovernment services: the transparency level is slightly higher for the provision of institutional information about the administrations and of personal data related with the services. However, there is still a long way to go if governments want fully open and transparent services and organizations.
3) Cross Border Mobility – Mobility for businesses and citizens implies seamless services, without any burdensome procedures when crossing borders within the EU. Cross-border mobility is also quite low with a benchmark at 49%: the range of services offered to support citizens’ mobility within the EU is very limited, especially as regards transactional services. This is shown by the very large gap between the benchmark of online availability of domestic services and that of cross-border services (a full 30%). It shows that most countries are still not considering cross-border online services a worthwhile investment.
4) Key Enablers – key enablers and innovative technical approaches (Cloud, IPv6, SOA, big data, mobile and social media) are vitally important to fully exploit the potential of ICT; to do ‘more with less’. The key enablers benchmark clocks in at 49%, but the level of implementation of the 5 technology tools measured varies considerably, from the 35% score of eSafe to the 62% of eID. The enablers were measured in connection with the delivery of services. Even the most widely implemented of them, eID, is still far from full deployment.
Citizens expect the public sector to adapt and adopt
With technology pervading every avenue of daily lives, expectations towards government performance and quality of services is growing. Citizens now see what is possible in the private sector and await the public sector to adapt and adopt. From the commercial sector citizens now experience user friendly, intuitive, online services that work and as such now expect this of Government services. And on those occasions where citizens don’t, they generally come with supportive customer service, and are increasingly responsive to social media feedback. The commercial world starts service design from the customer’s end. It is harder to do so with public services; it is however just as important.
This gap between citizens’ satisfaction of commercial services compared to public services is significant. For example citizens are significantly more satisfied by the services provided by banks (satisfaction 8.5 out of 10) than for regular public services (satisfaction 6.5 out of 10). There is also a worrying inverse relationship between interaction and satisfaction for public services: the more interaction with government is required, the lower satisfaction results. This also results in lower usage for each of these services.
Additionally, limited collaboration between government organizations is also a barrier for full online, seamless service provision. It prevents governments and citizens from reaping the benefits of digitization of government services. As long as governments do not collaborate closely, more money will be spent on the development of the same solutions, solutions will not be interoperable and information cannot be easily exchanged between government organizations.
“With wider services now in place, governments across Europe should now focus on innovating to streamline customer communications with citizens to increase satisfaction and close the gap on expectations,” comments Dinand Tinholt, Vice President and EU Account Executive at Capgemini. “The public sector could innovate further by modelling elements of user-centricity from the commercial sector. However, this needs to be balanced with increased transparency around what citizen data is being used for, whilst collaborating more effectively between organizations.”
Neelie Kroes, Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda commented “It is great news that governments are making on-line public services more user-friendly, but we are still not enticing citizens to engage on-line with public administrations as they would with their bank or other digital service providers. Europe’s citizens and businesses are already thinking digital and living digital. Now it’s time for governments to be digital and more transparent in the service delivery, and this can be achieved by opening up their data, processes and services. There is no need to hesitate, governments can provide better services at less cost, create jobs and growth opportunities, and increase accountability and trust.”
The report insights map benchmarks against the eGov action plan that the European Commission and Member States adopted in 2011 which is due for completion in 2015. The results build from a variety research data, using different methods, with collaboration from Member States. With Europe’s vision of both the eGov action plan towards 2015 and Horizon 2020 in mind and an assessment of the current performance of the member states, action needs to be taken that clearly shows how the region must adapt and change, to exploit the untapped potential of our European advantage.
To access the full report, please go to www.capgemini.com/egov-benchmark
For more information about the EU’s digital agenda, please go to
Rail College proposed site
An artist impression of the potential HS2 rail college on the site at Lakeside – created by Bond Bryan Architects
The location of the potential HS2 rail college in Doncaster has been revealed.
The 5.1 acre site at Doncaster’s Lakeside, would see the campus located close to the town centre, motorway network and Robin Hood Airport Doncaster Sheffield.
The green field site, which already has outline planning permission in place, is on the doorstep of a number of major rail and engineering employers including DB Schenker, Volker Rail and Unipart. Hitachi who recently announced plans to take possession of a site at Doncaster Carr to build a £70m maintenance depot creating 160 jobs will also be close by.
Peter Dale, Director of Regeneration and Environment, said: “The Lakeside Campus site is a prime location. It is in the heart of Doncaster and offers easy access to road, rail and air links.
“Doncaster enjoys a rich rail heritage and this HS2 rail college would be a rocket boost for our already expanding rail and engineering sector. This ‘ready to go’ site should be an attractive proposition to the Government who by choosing Doncaster would help rebalance the national economy by spreading the benefit of the planned HS2.”
The bid to bring the college to Doncaster was recently submitted to Government by the private sector led Centre for Rail And Technical Excellence (CREATE), coordinated by Doncaster Council and supported by Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership, business leaders and partners across the region.
The HS2 rail college will be a research and teaching centre focussed on developing world class engineering skills. It will help businesses develop and grow, offer excellent training for local people, deliver quality jobs and drive economic growth.
People and businesses are being encouraged to join the ‘back the bid’ campaign at: www.businessdoncaster.com
Dan Allard & Ed Stevens
As the UK’s 35 probation trusts prepare to close at the beginning of June, specialist recruitment agency, Sanctuary Criminal Justice, shows support for those affected by the Ministry of Justice’s controversial ‘Transforming Rehabilitation’ (TR) agenda.
While probation professionals across the country remain unconvinced about the government’s efforts to reduce reoffending rates, which will eventually see the responsibility for approximately 220,000 low to medium risk offenders transferred to the private sector, the complex and fast-moving changes proposed are seeing their way through the protests.
As set out by the Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, probation trusts will be reorganised into a single national public sector probation service and 21 new government-run companies, which will be transferred to bidding private sector companies in 2015. This is a move Dan Allard, Team Manager of Sanctuary Criminal Justice, is determined to support their clients and candidates through. He said:
“There may be delays ahead, but the transfer will happen so we have to be prepared. It’s an unsettling time for all those working within the probation service, which is why they need support to ensure the smoothest transfer possible.
“As a specialist agency for the criminal justice sector, we understand the vital role probation professionals play in protecting the public. Working with offenders requires a unique set of skills for what can be a very difficult job. The need for this expertise must be understood and supported if we are to expect probation staff to continue providing the same dedication, regardless of which provider they are working for.”
Currently, 30 private sector and voluntary organisations are competing for the provision of services for low to medium-risk offenders across England and Wales, which will be split into 21 Contract Package Areas (CPAs). Successful bidders for the work will be paid on a ‘payment by results’ model according to how well they cut re-offending rates. A new and smaller public sector National Probation Service (NPS) will retain responsibility for the supervision of high risk offenders.
However, as the Ministry of Justice paves the way for the most radical change in the probation service’s history, an increasing number of probation officers are going on strike across the country. While many are against outsourcing services through fear of the impact it may have on public safety, concerns and uncertainty relating to their individual careers and new employment conditions are also apparent.
Dan recalls the day the news broke: “From the moment the plans to privatise probation services were announced, we were inundated with calls from probation staff, who were concerned about what this means for them and their career. It’s a huge change that is being implemented very quickly – probation staff are having to adapt fast whilst keeping up with revisions to key dates and what is expected of them. We are determined to support those affected wherever we can, including clients, one of which called us to say they needed staff immediately having lost eight members of their probation team in one day.”
Sanctuary Criminal Justice, which works closely with the country’s probation trusts, has created a dedicated online resource, www.sanctuaryprobation.com, to keep all those concerned up-to-date with the TR agenda. This includes hosting a series of live online chats, inviting probation professionals to discuss their concerns with others in the same position as well as a panel of probation experts. The first online discussion will take place on Tuesday, 13 May 2014 at 7pm.
Dan explains, “From speaking with probation officers on a daily basis, it is clear that many have the same concerns; how will the new providers taking over affect my pay? Who are the new service providers? Can my experience in probation be transferred to other disciplines like youth offending? Will there be new computer systems? Our online discussion will be a much needed platform for individuals to put their questions forward and, hopefully, ease uncertainty.”
Sanctuary Criminal Justice is also a provider of substance misuse professionals to private companies; a field of work that the public sector was previously responsible for. Ed Stevens, the agency’s Lead Consultant specialising in recruitment for the substance misuse profession, addressed the similarities: “The substance misuse sector has already experienced the transfer of some services from public sector NHS trusts to private organisations; a move that has been met with both positive and negative feedback. Similarly to many probation officers, substance misuse professionals found it an unsettling time too – many were resistant to the change and how services may vary across the private sector. However, I have since been in conversations with substance misuse nurses, who have highlighted the strong focus on recovery outcomes and how it has still provided the rewarding results they aim to achieve in their role.”
Whilst there are clearly divided views on whether the probation reforms will be an improvement or not, there is a shared goal in what the services are trying to achieve; to reduce reoffending with efficient use of taxpayers’ money. This is something Dan believes comes down to operational performance and supporting skilled practitioners to deliver. He concludes, “Part of our role as a recruitment agency is to help ensure the probation service continues to be staffed by highly educated and skilled individuals – whether they are supervising high risk or low and medium risk offenders.”
For more information on Sanctuary Criminal Justice’s recruitment service, call 0333 7000 024 to speak to a specialist consultant or visit www.sanctuarycriminaljustice.com.