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APT SKIDATA Launches ‘Parking-as-a-Service’ to Provide Premium Parking Performance with Affordability

APT SKIDATA, the parking solutions business, is launching a new parking solution which gives public sector bodies and private sector organisations a new way of delivering a hassle-free parking experience with high quality, reliable technology but on a monthly subscription.

APT SKIDATA’s ‘Parking-as-a-Service’ solution is a combination of technology and service, where APT SKIDATA takes responsibility for installing and maintaining the parking equipment and the operator pays an agreed, monthly fee for five-years.

PaaS instantly removes the need for capital expenditure and the fixed, monthly subscription cost is better for cashflow. All of the service, maintenance and software upgrades are included in the cost, and PSP and banking is also handled by APT SKIDATA.

Steve Murphy, Managing Director of APT SKIDATA, says the new subscription-based model gives car park owners and operators a cashless, pay on exit solution that delivers the best of all worlds: “Parking-as-a-Service (PaaS) gives owners/occupiers the chance to have the best performing technology for their car park where they might have ordinarily opted for a cheaper alternative.

“We know that parking is an important revenue generator for both public and private organisations,” he says, “but operating a car park brings with it a collection of challenges. The first hurdle being the initial capital expenditure required to procure parking equipment which controls and collects parking revenues. This no longer needs to be a barrier.”

For a simple one entry/one exit solution for a car park of 200 spaces, the monthly subscription could be as low as £1250 per month. The revenues generated by such a car park, however, could be as high as £16,000 per month, giving a return on investment of eight times the monthly fee.

At a practical level, PaaS is a cashless solution and the operator can configure the system to best meet the car park need. They have a choice of gates and barriers of different sizes, and ANPR camera mount and packages can include intercom, alongside a maintenance package and transaction (i.e payment) bundles. Once the technology is chosen, the customer is connected to APT SKIDATA’s cloud parking platform.

Operators can build on their current car park usage, potentially working with entertainment venues in town centres, or patient and visitor reservations in hospitals, by adding a reservations platform or by offering discounts on parking through validations. EV charging can also be easily integrate with the parking infrastructure to allow drivers to pay both for parking and EV charging in the same, single transaction upon exit.

A key advantage to PaaS will be the opportunity for smaller car parks to become more competitive within their locality, says Steve: “With a highly reliable high quality parking system that puts the customer experience at its heart, smaller car parks will be able to deliver the same levels of sophistication that the larger car parks are able to offer, but at a fraction of the price.

“Our Parking-as-a-Service has the ability to transform the way public sector bodies and owners of smaller private car parks see, experience, and procure parking systems,” Steve continues. “They will be able to realise new revenue streams, and provide a better customer experience without taking on a challenge and a cost that is beyond their comfort zone. What is required is a little imagination, and the willingness to embrace a new way of thinking.”

The risks of quantum computing: why governments need to protect their communications today

Alan Duric

Despite the buzz around quantum computing, the technology today is still in its infancy; to put it into perspective, pioneering quantum computing providers such as IBM will only be able to hire out time on a quantum computer to enterprises in the next few years, and the concept of ubiquitous quantum computing is still at least 10 -15 years away even by the most optimistic of industry experts. So with the rise of quantum and its associated risk being still relatively ‘far off’, why does quantum pose a threat to the security of data in current systems and why should enterprises and governments be concerned about implementing post quantum resistance security technology today?

The promise of quantum

Quantum computing uses the properties of quantum physics to store data and perform complex operations. While today’s ‘classical’ computers currently encode information in binary “bits” that can either be 0s or 1s, a quantum computer uses quantum bits or qubits as its basic unit of memory. Due to a phenomenon called quantum speed-up, qubits enable complex calculations or operations that would take bits or classical computers years to solve, to be done in seconds or tenths of seconds.

The power of quantum computing therefore promises to unleash a whole host of new possibilities. In the field of chemical and biological engineering, quantum will speed up modelling processes such as DNA and RNA. It has the potential to open up new opportunities in artificial intelligence; through combinatoric processing of very large quantities of data, enabling for example better predictions and decisions to be made from facial recognition or fraud detection technology. And in financial services and investments, where millisecond speed advantages in obtaining price information can be fundamental, quantum algorithms stand to bring significant disruption and progression in this field.

The threat to current data security

Together with promising huge progression across industries through enabling laser-quick calculations and combinatoric data processing, quantum computing does however have a significantly worrying downside; it holds the power to ‘crack’ even the highest standard of data security encryption codes within seconds.

Cryptography is at the heart of our global internet economy from online banking to guarding intellectual property as well as secure and private communications between individuals and organisations. As the fundamental security setting for government and enterprise communications, it plays an important role in national security. Ultimately, unless measures are taken to secure current data security processes, quantum computing stands to effectively unveil a wealth of super-confidential data, including government state secrets and enterprises’ intellectual property by making this data accessible when the technology comes into force.

Why should governments act now?

Industry experts believe that it will take at least another decade before quantum computers with very large numbers of qubits – capable of decrypting data security – are available. We are therefore far from a cryptographic Armageddon but governments and enterprises still need to be aware of the threat that quantum poses to data secured by current security technology and take steps today to secure their sensitive data today so it stays safe for decades to come.

Governments are already increasingly worried about ransomware, and they should be. According to IDC’s 2021 Ransomware Study approximately 37% of global organisations said they were the victim of some form of ransomware attack in 2021. And the threat of ransom attacks is surging. A report by Verizon ransomware doubled in frequency in 2021 and accounted for 10% of all data breaches.

However, the emergence of quantum computing presents an even greater risk. Ransomware only holds data hostage – it adds another encryption layer so the attacker cannot see the actual data, which means hackers can demand ransom but not sell the data. With quantum computing, hackers will be able to actually decrypt, access and sell the data, making these attacks more profitable for hackers and extremely dangerous for governments.

Ransomware aside, governments also need to act to protect their confidential data from other nations. Only last month, a report by Tech consultancy, Booz Allen Hamilton, Chinese Threats in the Quantum Era, warned of the threat from China in stealing high-value data, in order to decrypt it once quantum computers are able to break classical encryption. The report suggested that by the end of the 2020s, Chinese threat groups will likely collect data that enables quantum simulators to discover new economically valuable materials, pharmaceuticals, and chemicals.

In summary, governments need to put technology in place that secures the data they store both for today and for threats of tomorrow. By moving to quantum-safe technology they can be assured that their data is protected for whenever quantum computing becomes available. But how do they go about that?

How to implement quantum-safe technology?

Many technology companies have been working on quantum-safe solutions for a number of years and are developing a number of diverse solutions; these include quantum key cryptography (QKC)  or post-quantum algorithms (PQA), where the principles of quantum mechanics are used to encrypt data and transmit it in a way that cannot be hacked. In reality many of these providers will update their security levels in order to stay well ahead of the threat from quantum computing, thus removing the onus of upgrading to quantum-safe solutions from their customers. However, governments need to ensure that the communications channels that they use across their organisation are ‘enterprise-grade’ and that they provide both sufficient security and assurance. They also need to ensure that employees do not use consumer apps, which do not have adequate security for government communications and which stand to compromise the systems put in place.

Already today, some dedicated secure communications platforms will have technology in place that offers a more robust protection against the threat of quantum. Such architectures could be described as being “quantum-annoying” since they would take much longer for a quantum computer to decrypt than a platform with standard security encryption. One important protocol called Messaging Layer Security (MLS) is being developed by the MLS IETF working group (which includes the likes of Oxford University, Facebook, INRIA, Google, Twitter and Wire and looks set to provide an important basis for quantum resistant technology. MLS is the first protocol to allow end-to-end encryption for large groups and thus breaks with the paradigm of a server-centric architecture, prevalent in most collaboration tools today. The use of MLS in collaboration platforms therefore will mark an important milestone in protecting data against the threat embodied by the power of quantum computing.

To sum up, the advent of quantum computing looks set to bring about exciting innovations across industry sectors but governments need to prepare today to protect their confidential data for when the technology matures. They need to implement policies that ensure their staff are using only ‘enterprise-grade’ platforms and partner with the technology experts who can provide the platforms to protect their data and offer governments peace of mind that the advances in technology do not lead to unleashing confidential governmental data or infringe on national security.

Alan Duric is CTO, COO and co-founder at Wire.

Investment helping tackle digital exclusion in Greater Manchester

  • New report from Virgin Media Business and the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) reveals the “world of difference” a multi-million pound digital investment is making for local people
  • Investment is helping assist those at risk of digital exclusion, create local jobs and tackle homelessness
  • GMCA commissioned Virgin Media Business to connect more than 1,500 public sites to full fibre in Greater Manchester as part of the UK’s largest Local Full Fibre Networks Programme (LFFN), delivering economic benefits worth £11.8m in the first year alone.

Homeless shelters, schools and local people are benefitting from a multi-million pound investment in the Greater Manchester region, a new report reveals.

The ‘Tackling digital inequality in Greater Manchester’ report, published today by Virgin Media Business in partnership with Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA), provides an update on the positive impact the business has achieved in Greater Manchester through its social value programme, as well as its ambitious plans for the next four years.

Virgin Media Business’ social value programme began in 2020 with the rollout of the UK’s largest Local Full Fibre Networks Programme (LFFN) across Greater Manchester.

The programme included a number of bold investments in social value initiatives that supported Greater Manchester’s Digital Blueprint, including a commitment from Virgin Media Business to directly create 20 apprenticeships based in Greater Manchester, as well as investing in digital and STEM skills for young people.

Focusing on a set of key aims – creating a digital talent pipeline, empowering people with the digital skills they need to access online services, helping Greater Manchester become a global digital influencer and in addition, tackling homelessness – the report highlights the significant benefits delivered to date after the business won a major contract to connect sites across the city-region to a new full fibre network.

Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, said: “In Greater Manchester, we have a £5 billion digital ecosystem and we’re putting people at the heart of our digital ambitions. We are well known for doing things differently and collaboration is integral to what we do.

“This programme has brought local and central government together for a common goal, enhancing our digital capacity and helping our public sector sites to continue delivering the best possible services to residents across our city-region.

“It highlights the possibilities when private and public sector work side by side to level up our communities – from towns and cities to our most rural places and spaces, aligning digital ambitions to ensure that anyone, whatever their age, location, or situation, can benefit from the opportunities digital brings.”

Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, Virgin Media Business and GMCA have connected 15 homeless shelters, community centres and charities to its network since the project began and is providing free connectivity for local people, with six more sites due to be connected this year.

Community leaders have reported real benefits for local people, who can use the free connectivity in community spaces to access online services like banking and GP appointments, and have more opportunities to develop digital skills and learn how to use the internet safely. It has also given younger people more places to get online and complete their school work.

During the height of lockdown, Virgin Media Business supported the Greater Manchester Technology Fund, with a donation providing 567 school children with digital kit bundles to ensure students in Greater Manchester at risk of digital exclusion could continue learning when schools were closed.

Virgin Media Business also lent financial support to help tackle rough sleeping, donating £100,000 to the Greater Manchester Mayor’s Charity’s “A Bed Every Night” programme, funding emergency bed spaces and additional assistance for those who are currently experiencing homelessness. The report reveals its employees have donated more than 1,000 hours of time to support the community, including volunteering at vaccination centres and regenerating parks.

The partnership with GMCA has created new job opportunities and supported the community with digital skills programmes. More than 80% of the current LFFN workforce is from the Greater Manchester area, outperforming the initial local employment rate target of 50%, and Virgin Media Business has funded three digital skills programmes with the Prince’s Trust and GMCA.

St Johns Centre, Trafford

Alongside the achievements to date, the report also outlines how, over the course of the partnership, the business is committed to creating 50 apprenticeship roles, using an additional 4,000 employee volunteering hours to support community projects and helping schools to improve their digital services.

Jo Bertram, Managing Director of Business and Wholesale at Virgin Media O2 said: “Our work in Greater Manchester is not only transforming connectivity across the region – but is also helping to transform lives for the better, too. In partnership with the GMCA, we are supercharging communities and supporting those most at risk of digital exclusion.

“Whether it’s through funding projects to help those experiencing homelessness, investing in children’s futures or upgrading community connections, we’re committed to doing more for the people of Greater Manchester today and in future.”

Tina Harrison, MBE and Group Lead at Trinity Foodbank in Radcliffe, which is now benefitting from Virgin Media Business services, said: “If the last 18 months has taught us anything, it’s the importance of digital technology in helping the community stay connected.

“The work that Virgin Media Business is doing to give back is fantastic, and their commitment to providing connectivity, equipment, volunteering hours and more to help will make a whole world of difference to people here in Manchester.”

The Greater Manchester LFFN contract has seen Virgin Media Business deliver fibre optic connectivity to more than 1,500 public sector sites throughout the city-region. This new investment, plus existing local authority investments in digital infrastructure, make this the UK’s largest Local Full Fibre Networks Programme – underpinning a wide range of digital transformation and smart city projects.

This is the result of close partnership working between Greater Manchester Combined Authority, Greater Manchester’s local authorities, Fire & Rescue Services and Transport for Greater Manchester and is backed by millions of pounds of funding from central government.

In March 2021, GMCA released a report which showed the significant local economic benefits of the work to date, with £11.8m of overall local economic value (direct and indirect) created during year one.

New research on strategies for town centres renaissance unveiled by Institute of Economic Development and Lichfields

Nigel Wilcock

A strong independent retail offer, a year-round programme of cultural events and family-friendly activities are the key strategies for underpinning successful town centres of the future, according to a new survey published by the Institute of Economic Development (IED) and Lichfields planning and development consultancy.

Whilst 92% of economic development and regeneration professionals surveyed confirmed that town centre vacancy rates have increased in the past five years – with 71% reporting that growth in online retail has had “significant influence” – a higher than expected 49% say they are “positive” or “very positive” about the prospects of town centres strengthening their position/offer. Within this, private sector consultancy respondents (67%) are more optimistic about the future than local authority officers (47%).

To drive footfall in town centres, respondents to this survey reported that leisure and culture (48%), food and beverage (41%) and independent retail (35%) are “very important” – and to repurpose vacant space it was independent retail (34%), leisure and culture (34%) and residential (28%) carrying the highest overall weighting.

However, when asked about underpinning strategies for supporting successful town centres of the future, a strong independent retail offer (52%), a year-round programme of cultural events (48%) and family-friendly activities (45%) are perceived to be “very important”. Also scoring highly as weighted averages are improvements to the built environment and public realm, and broader economic development interventions to raise the prosperity of the local area.

In contrast, respondents are less convinced about the effectiveness of current interventions in positioning town centres for success in the future. Whilst the majority rated business support to grow independent retail/food and drink offer as “very effective” (32%), only 13% said the same about business improvement districts and 17% about the various planning levers available to local areas. Enterprise arcades, with easy in/easy out terms, low rents/rates and business support, featured more prominently as a weighted average.

Overall, 44% believe changes in Permitted Development Rights (PDR) will be “very effective or effective” in increasing town centre residential development. A further 30% feel that the introduction of Class E will be “very effective or effective” in promoting a town centre renaissance. A similar proportion, 29%, thought that PDR would have the same impact.

Ross Lillico, Economics Director at Lichfields, said: “The impact of Covid-19 on town centres has obviously caught the headlines, but this has simply accelerated longer-term shifts in the way people use and interact with town centres. Both the Future High Streets Fund and the Towns Fund recognise that financial support is needed to deliver positive change by ensuring a greater diversity of uses and repurposing vacant spaces. The value of this survey is it provides on-the-ground intelligence from economic development and regeneration professionals on key strategies for underpinning successful town centres of the future. It suggests that practitioners do not consider some of the tools and levers available to them to be effective as policy-makers might have hoped. That said, there is clearly a sense of positivity in the survey responses regarding the future outlook.”

Nigel Wilcock, Executive Director of the IED, added: “This research has identified some clear priorities for the future of town centres and approaches to driving footfall, repurposing vacant space and overall place management. We have already run successful CPD sessions on the future of town centres with Lichfields which explored some of the issues and opportunities facing town centres as the economy emerges from the aftermath of Covid-19 and examined the tools available to local authorities to support their evolution. Developing the right interventions and approaches to delivering change were part of that programme, and with the knowledge we now have from this survey we will feed this into our next round of professional development activities.”

Countering Cyberthreats: Becoming Secure by Design

By Charles Damerell, Senior Director, UKI at SolarWinds

Malicious threat actors are now targeting software vendors and IT vendors in a bid to hide zero-day vulnerabilities in legitimate software updates. Since today’s digital supply chains are becoming ever more complex and intertwined, these supply chain attacks now pose a significant threat. By tampering with back-end systems and introducing a backdoor enabling them to compromise software which is then delivered to unsuspecting customers, these highly organised criminals can achieve mass reach and disrupt at scale.

Like many other industry sectors, public sector organisations increasingly reliant on today’s technology supply chains now need to take positive action to prevent these types of supply chain attacks. As well as taking steps to secure their own software environments and development processes, they’ll need to undertake a rigorous due diligence process when evaluating which software technologies are used in their environment.

Initiate a Secure by Design Development and Build Environment

The recent attack method utilised in the attack against SolarWinds highlights how organisations now need to go beyond traditional integrity checks and single software development and build environments. This should include initiating two or more separate environments and building systems featuring separate user credentials. This will ensure the integrity of each build environment can be independently verified, and potential compromises addressed.

Similarly, developers should adopt a ‘belt and braces’ approach, undertaking source discovery/analysis and PEN testing at every stage of the design process. This will ensure the build pipeline is regularly reviewed and appropriate security controls can be applied to every asset.

Adopt Zero-Trust/Least Privilege

Using compromised or stolen credentials to access an organisation’s development environment is the top approach used by cyber criminals looking to breach organisations relying on software as a service (SaaS) tools and platforms.

To proactively protect themselves, public sector organisations should implement stronger and deeper endpoint protection as well as zero-trust and least privilege access policies and mechanisms. This includes strictly enforcing requirements for multi-factor authentication in all environments and using privileged access management platforms for all administrative accounts.

Use Attack Simulations to Test Defences

Using Red Team vs. Blue team exercises to simulate full-scale tailored attacks will enable cybersecurity teams to gain first-hand experience at responding to and repudiating attacks that utilise the latest techniques and methods. Indeed, the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) recommends organisations take advantage of free-to-use platforms like the MITRE ATT&CK® framework to fine-tune their white hat intrusion simulations and find ways to disrupt an attack.

Perform Due Diligence on Suppliers

The cascading nature of today’s supply chain attacks means public sector organisations will now need to undertake detailed checks on all technology vendors. Ideally, every RFP or due diligence process should incorporate the following key seven questions to help public sector organisations explore and assess the security posture of any supplier:

1. What is your approach to the secure development lifecycle?

2. How do you secure software code and its associated infrastructure?

3. Have you implemented enterprise risk management (ERM)? If yes, please describe the programme.

4. When a threat or vulnerability is discovered by or disclosed to your organisation, what is your process for notifying your customers? Does this include providing details of possible mitigations?

5. What level of detail do your internal processes provide to identify internal threats? For example, which individuals were responsible for specific source code, software module, library, and/or hardware changes used within your products?

6. What are your internal processes to validate:

• Product changes against a traceable baseline
• When they occurred
• Attribute the changes to their source(s)
• A means to investigate changes without an established lineage

7. Does your organisation have an internal hiring screening process sufficient to identify adversarial actors, domestic/foreign terrorists, and/or candidates with criminal backgrounds?

By implementing a Secure by Design mindset in everything they do and establishing minimum security standards for their suppliers, public sector organisations can improve their overall resilience and confidently reduce the number and impact of supply chain attacks they experience.

At the end of the day, security is everyone’s business. Those public sector organisations that boost control of their supply chains and take steps to continually improve their own defences using secure design principles can minimise the risk of being compromised.

CONSTRUCTION AND HEALTHCARE: HOW BUILDING ON RELATIONSHIPS IS KEY

Gerard Toplass

DEALING with the pandemic has brought the relationship between the construction and healthcare industries into sharp focus, sparking new and innovative ways of working – and the future is looking bright. That was the key message from national framework provider Pagabo’s latest ‘Building Blocks’ podcast, hosted by executive chairman Gerard Toplass.

The construction industry was given a glimpse of how the future could look as a result of the government’s plans for major investment in healthcare over the next decade, thanks to a vastly improved, collaborative and well-integrated supply chain, which evolved during the pandemic.

The ways in which the whole industry united and problem-solved on the hoof was nothing short of impressive, adapting rapidly to ever-changing guidance to ensure as much certainty and support for clients as possible.

This was a point driven home by podcast guest Stuart McArthur, health sector lead at Sir Robert McAlpine, who was also joined by John Carson, head of capital development and planning at NTW Solutions (a subsidiary of Cumbria, Northumberland Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust), and Stephen Jenkins, director at Turner and Townsend.

Throughout the conversation, the group discussed the ramifications of COVID-19, how their various projects were affected, the lessons learned, and how that all feeds into the future – particularly in relation to the benefits of frameworks.

The challenges faced

The number one priority for any and all businesses – no matter their industry – was the health and safety of staff. This was especially true within healthcare and its associated supply chains to be able to continue to deliver critical work and services.

During the initial days of the first lockdown, many construction sites ground to a halt while clarity was provided on what work should continue. But when this clarity was provided from the government, the industry reacted with real agility, flexibility and innovation to find ways to keep schemes going, while introducing the necessary safety measures.

Stephen Jenkins recalled the agility seen on construction sites, combining with a centralised and joined-up project management approach leading the way on solving the new problems thrown up each day. This attitude towards evolving practises and procedures in a safe and sensible way is something that was echoed in the pre-construction phase as well and is something that will certainly benefit the wider industry moving to the future.

John Carson, whose team was involved in creating the NHS Nightingale Hospital North East also reiterated the personal impact. There had to be a focus on wellbeing and looking after people’s mental health. People have very different tolerance levels, and the pandemic had a detrimental effect on everyone due to the combined uncertainty and personal challenges they were facing.

Certainly, one of the biggest changes we have seen in the industry is the impact COVID-19 has had on both designs and costings as clients look to ‘pandemic-proof’ hospitals and other schemes, as well as considering how more remote working of staff can impact capital costs.

Knitting together relationships and futureproofing through frameworks

The real power of frameworks comes from the long-term relationships that can be built, which are over time continually improved to form some of the strongest working collaborations in the market.

This is something particularly pertinent in the healthcare sector, where there are hugely complex clients. With the NHS and its entities there are multi-stakeholder environments that bring together clinical and technical expertise, and there are very rigorous and complex approvals processes to navigate too.

Clients and the frameworks that projects are procured through have all evolved over time. All have evolved to put more focus on social value, wanting to demonstrate the wider benefits from schemes – particularly large-scale healthcare projects – in the wider society.

They often provide the best value to clients, but it is important to remember that best value is about more than just costs. The benefit of frameworks is the overarching platform, broader objectives and a longer-term timescale they have, which allow behaviours to be built over time and focus to be put on values and outcomes.

This bigger picture of best value brings together strands – such as technology and carbon – that have previously been looked at in silos until very recently, when they are inherently connected. The key to unlock all of this is digital and data.

For example, the right digital construction techniques and toolkits will enable better and more adoption of modern methods of construction (MMC), along with the parallel assessment of carbon impact. The Construction Playbook – which was first published almost a year ago and has provided the whole industry with direction on a number of core best practice principles – focuses heavily on MMC and digital adoption.

These methods will combine with ongoing learnings from the supply chain, such as the real value in repetitive design. For example, once a treatment room or seclusion suite has been designed, the knowledge is there and can be repeated – and through MMC methods like modular construction can be built much more quickly.

Together, the construction and healthcare sectors continue to innovate and work together to tackle combined issues – and create a better future for everyone, knitted together by a data-driven approach.

You can listen to the most recent episode of Pagabo’s ‘Building Blocks’ podcast on Anchor and YouTube, and for more information please visit www.pagabo.co.uk

TSSA response to Nicola Sturgeon’s Omicron announcement

TSSA today responded to Nicola Sturgeon’s announcement on the surge in Omicron cases in Scotland by urging Boris Johnson to reintroduce the furlough scheme.

The surge in Omicron cases has caused 60 ScotRail services to be cancelled today, and many staff at an A&E unit in Lanarkshire are isolating. Jason Leitch, National Clinical Director for Scotland stated that Omicron’s attack rate is 50% meaning that one covid positive person could infect 50 out of a hundred people in a single room.

TSSA General Secretary Manuel Cortes said, “The Omicron variant will soon become not only the dominant variant in Scotland but in the whole of Britain. It’s more contagious than any covid variant we have seen. We must act now to contain it.

“Sturgeon’s intervention today reinstating ten-day isolation on contact with the virus was welcome. But we are one island and to fight off the Omicron variant we need Britain-wide action. That’s why Boris Johnson needs to immediately reinstate the furlough scheme so businesses can send non-essential staff home without loss of income. This isn’t just about cancelling Christmas parties anymore, it’s about saving lives!”

Let’s Talk Islington: Islington residents invited to help build a more equal future for the borough

Islington Council has launched its biggest ever public engagement programme in a bid to explore local people’s experience of inequality and, with local communities, help build a more equal borough together.

Spearheaded by Council Leader Cllr Kaya Comer-Schwartz, the Let’s Talk Islington campaign will provide opportunities for people who live, work, and study in Islington to share their personal experiences of inequality and, together with the council, drive the change they want to see in the borough.

Let’s Talk Islington comes a decade after the Fairness Commission was created by Islington Council to interrogate how to make the borough a fairer place. The pioneering approach resulted in a clear vision to take the steps needed to create a fairer borough (see ‘About the Fairness Commission’ section below).

Now the Council seeks to lead the way once more in addressing some of the most complex challenges people face by putting the community firmly at the heart of its plans.

The Council wants to collaborate with residents to collectively develop and test solutions to complex issues such as disproportionate access to mental health services, the unequal effects of air pollution, and inequalities in educational attainment leading to a lack of opportunities for some of Islington’s young people.

From now until Spring 2022, the Council will work with the local community, voluntary sector, schools and others to facilitate and support a series of discussions, workshops, and creative activities, exploring in-depth how inequality affects life in Islington, and how everyone might contribute to creating a more equal future.

Let’s Talk Islington officially launches today in Caledonian Park, where Cllr Comer-Schwartz will meet with residents on a symbolic ‘conversation bench’ ­– one of four to be installed in parks across the borough, including in Whittington Park, Islington Green, and Spa Fields.

The Inequality Task Force  

As part of Let’s Talk Islington, the Council has assembled an Inequality Task Force of civic, academic, and business leaders with a mix of expertise across health, poverty reduction, and education, both with locally-rooted expertise and from further afield, to bring new perspectives in tackling inequality.

All Task Force members have a wealth of experience in working in partnership with communities, putting people at the centre of our plans (see below for a full list).

Islington Council Leader, Cllr Kaya Comer-Schwartz, said: “Islington is a wonderfully diverse borough, but we know access to the opportunities on offer is far from equal. The Covid-19 pandemic has shone a light on the inequalities which already existed in our society and it’s more important than ever that we listen to local people, to better understand the impact of those inequalities and how best to challenge them.

“There is an immense opportunity, especially in the wake of Covid-19, for the Council to lead the way to a more equal future by actively seeking to understand individual experiences and priorities.

“We want our residents to take the lead, and to collaborate with us to design a new era of public service delivery. Old solutions won’t work for the new challenges and greater complexities we now face. The balance of power must shift to the people in our communities, to those who live these experiences every day and are key to creating a more equal future.”

Professor Donna Hall CBE commented: “Let’s Talk Islington is an innovative approach to tackling inequality and social injustice through community power. I’m proud to be a part of it because these are things I believe in passionately and I hope I can add value to the conversation with partners and citizens.”

The engagement period will culminate in a series of workshops in Spring 2022, in which residents, community groups, and local stakeholders will be invited to build on insights gathered and develop solutions to the challenges the community faces. This will inform the Council’s strategic planning and be presented back to the public in Autumn 2022.

Residents can read more and get involved by visiting: www.islington.gov.uk/letstalk

SWARCO Smart Charging Named as GreenFleet’s Charging & Re-fuelling Infrastructure Provider of the Year

SWARCO Smart Charging has been hailed as the Charging & Re-fuelling Infrastructure Provider of the Year at the prestigious GreenFleet Awards.

The ceremony, which was held on 1 December 2021 at the British Motor Museum in Warwick, celebrates environmental excellence in the fleet and transport sector, recognising innovation and progress from fleets themselves, as well as those – like SWARCO Smart Charging – who supply them.

This industry recognition for SWARCO Smart Charging, which is one of the UK’s leading providers of electric vehicle charging infrastructure and smart charging solutions, follows similar success in 2018 when SWARCO was also named Charging & Re-fuelling Infrastructure Provider of the Year.

This category recognises the efforts of vehicle charging and refuelling infrastructure providers and the progress made in rolling out low carbon infrastructure across the UK. SWARCO Smart Charging’s win is attributed to its ongoing commitment to supporting the expansion of electric vehicle (EV) charging networks that directly benefit fleet drivers.

Justin Meyer, Managing Director of SWARCO Smart Charging is delighted to see the efforts of his team and the results of its successful partnerships rewarded: “We are immensely proud to be working with those who are at the forefront of cutting transport emissions, and who share our passion for growing the right kind of EV charging networks that support fleets up and down the UK. Decarbonising transport is a collective effort, and I am pleased to see the work of our growing team recognised at an industry level and to be named as GreenFleet’s Charging & Re-fuelling Infrastructure Provider of the Year.

“We were one of the first infrastructure providers to the market in the UK,” he says, “and our growing team embodies the same drive and enthusiasm as it did from the very start. 2021 marked a new era for us with substantial new investment in both our team and the development and expansion of our proprietary technology and charging solutions. So we are delighted to have won this award for our work this year and very much look forward to 2022 with even more successful projects on the horizon.”

SWARCO’s successful projects in 2021 have included the completion of project PACE – a joint Lanarkshire and Scottish Power Energy Network’s (SPEN) project which adopted a new, innovative funding mechanism to rapidly deliver charging hubs in urban and rural communities and triple the charger availability in North and South Lanarkshire. Each hub is strategically placed to provide access for all, including commuters, fleet operators and residents.

SWARCO continues to support the E-Bus sector, with deployment of a cost-effective solution for charging and managing 32 fully electric double-decker E-Buses operating on Manchester City centre routes. The SWARCO solution supports the E-Bus fleet to carry out two key high frequency services connecting Manchester city centre, Manchester Airport, five hospitals and two universities – saving 920,000 litres of diesel a year and reducing annual CO2 emissions by 2,400 tonnes.

Having been appointed technology provider for the rapidly expanding Motor Fuel Group network, over the course of 2021, SWARCO is deploying over 200 150kW ultra-rapid chargers. SWARCO is also working with Transport for Wales and Welsh Councils to install charging infrastructure on multiple projects to help develop the strategic road network for Transport for Wales, a rapid charger hub for Carmarthenshire, and rapid chargers for the Cardiff City Region supporting EV Taxis. Similarly, SWARCO Smart Charging and Transport North East have gone live this year with a network targeted at the taxi and private hire market, taking into account extensive research into vehicle dwell times and the most popular pick-up locations. Other significant projects have included SWARCO Smart Charging solutions in Cambridge and Kent.

2021 has also been the year that SWARCO successfully completed what is globally the largest ever EV charging network migration, taking over management of the ChargePlace Scotland network in July. The extensive network includes 2,650 charging stations, 350 hosts and eight technology suppliers and the new dedicated ChargePlace Scotland team, which has been set up in Dundee, continues to make significant improvement in performance of the network and the driver satisfaction rating.

SWARCO Smart Charging has more than 8,500 commercial charge points installed across the UK.

Conservative Party fined for inaccurate donation report

The Conservative Party has been fined £17,800 by the Electoral Commission after failing to accurately report a donation and keep a proper accounting record.

The sanction was imposed on the party, following the conclusion of a detailed investigation. The investigation looked at whether any transactions relating to works at 11 Downing Street fell within the regime regulated by the Commission and whether any such funding was reported as required.

The investigation found that the party failed to fully report a donation of £67,801.72 from Huntswood Associates Limited in October 2020. The donation included £52,801.72 connected to the costs of refurbishment to 11 Downing Street. The full value of the donation was not reported as required in the party’s Q4 2020 donation report.

The Commission also concluded that the reference in the party’s financial records to the payment of £52,801.72 made by the party for the refurbishment was not accurate.

The investigation found that decisions relating to the handling and recording of this donation reflected serious failings in the party’s compliance systems.

Louise Edwards, Director of Regulation at the Electoral Commission, said:

“Our investigation into the Conservative Party found that the laws around the reporting and recording of donations were not followed.

“We know that voters have concerns about the transparency of funding of political parties. Reporting requirements are in place so that the public can see where money is coming from, inaccurate reporting risks undermining trust in the system.

“The party’s decisions and actions reflected serious failings in its compliance systems. As a large and well-resourced political party that employs compliance and finance experts, and that has substantial sums of money going through its accounts, the Conservative Party should have sufficiently robust systems in place to meet its legal reporting requirements.”

For the offence of failing to accurately report the full value of the donation from Huntswood Associates on 19 October, the Commission has imposed a sanction of £16,250. For contravening the requirement to keep proper accounting records, a sanction of £1,550 has been imposed.

Main findings of the investigation

On 19 October 2020, Huntswood Associates Limited transferred £67,801.72 to the Conservative Party. According to the evidence, Lord Brownlow, director of Huntswood Associates Limited, indicated that £15,000 of that was for an event. He specifically identified the remaining £52,801.72 as a donation to cover an earlier payment of that value made by the party to the Cabinet Office. The Cabinet Office had paid three invoices over summer 2020, totalling £52,801.72, for the refurbishment of the private residence at 11 Downing Street. Those payments were made on the basis of an agreement that the sum would be repaid by the party, which it was on 6 August 2020. The party anticipated being repaid by a proposed trust, which was under consideration but had not at that time been created.

On 27 January 2021, the party submitted its Q4 2020 donation report to the Commission. It reported receiving £15,000 from Huntswood Associates Limited. The party did not report the remaining £52,801.72 it received.

Our investigation, launched on 28 April 2021, considered whether the £52,801.72 was a donation and reportable to the Commission. We determined that it was, and should have been reported.

In the party’s financial records and accounts, the £52,801.72 it paid to the Cabinet Office was recorded as a “blind trust loan”. The payment was not a loan and the trust had not been formed, so such references did not accurately reflect the circumstances of the expenditure.

Lord Brownlow also paid directly to the supplier a number of additional invoices relating to the refurbishment, totalling £59,747.40. We considered whether these transactions met expenses incurred directly or indirectly by the party, which would make them donations under the definition in electoral law. From the evidence gathered, we were not satisfied that the party had agreed to meet these expenses or that Lord Brownlow’s payment was meeting a cost incurred by the party. They were therefore not judged to be reportable donations, and so we found no offences in relation to those payments.

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