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March 2020
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Medi-Immune Ltd Announce Covid19 Tests

Reporter: Stuart Littleford

Medi-Immune Ltd have revealed their ProtectivAir® compact, wearable, breathing device which will protect front-line healthcare staff and those

ProtectivAir® in use on a medical professional

working in biologically-compromised environments. ProtectivAir® is currently awaiting testing against the Coronavirus at PHE Porton Down. ProtectivAir® has proven extremely effective against a range of viral and bacterial pathogens and is extremely likely to be similarly effective against SARS-Cov-2 (Covid-19).

ProtectivAir® provides four crucial protections:

  • Disables airborne pathogens before they are inhaled
  • Immediately protects the user from infection
  • Does not use a filter, this allied with an optional, small positive air pressure generated by the device, provides far better protection from leakage than existing mask systems
  • Tests to date indicate the resulting antigens trigger the body’s immune response

Public Health England – at their Porton Down laboratories, have validated the test results – confirming both protection and the initiation of an immune response.** ProtectivAir® is now fully developed, and could be in production in weeks, providing protection and saving lives long before production and deployment of a vaccine. Medimmune believe that with appropriate resources, ProtectivAir® could be in full production within weeks.

ProtectivAir® offers superior operator protection over N95/99 and FFP3 face masks as well as much improved breathability and ease of use for the wearer. There is no requirement for fit testing. ProtectivAir® is completely reusable, internally self-sterilising (the outside can be surface decontaminated) and does not suffer from reduced efficacy over time (like conventional face masks).

Infectious diseases emerge at a frequency of one every 8 months of which a proportion are pathogens, transmitted as aerosols. Emerging respiratory diseases do, and will, continue to cause havoc within the world’s population, as is happening now with Covid-19. ProtectivAir®’s long shelf-life means it can be stockpiled for use in future outbreaks.

ProtectivAir® is an all-British invention, patented internationally, and represents a paradigm shift in respiratory protection. UVc has long been known and used as a way to sterilise surfaces and instruments but this novel application harnesses this technology to sterilise breathing air to protect users/wearers of the device.

PHE test results HERE

Explanatory video HERE

Medi-Immune web site HERE

We have proven the protective efficacy of ProtectivAir® but further investigation is required into the parameters surrounding the additional immune stimulation effect. This effect has been observed in studies using the Influenza virus but as yet uncharacterised; this immune stimulation effect offers a rapid solution to emerging pathogens as it does not require development, manufacture and dissemination of a conventional vaccine.

CIoJ calls on government to provide emergency support for freelance journalists

CIoJ President, Professor Tim Crook

Reporter: Stuart Littleford

The Chartered Institute of Journalists is calling for the emergency government measures to help businesses cope with the COVID-19 crisis to be extended to individual freelance journalists known as ‘sole-traders.’

The Institute says individual freelances are already experiencing substantial cancellation of contracts, assignments and projects and face catastrophic social consequences and argues that self-trading freelances urgently need a wide-ranging additional support package such as the suspension of Council Tax and HMRC income tax debt payments and VAT liability.

CIoJ President, Professor Tim Crook told GPSJ: “The Chancellor and Prime Minister have declared that the Government ‘will do whatever it takes to support businesses and individuals…’ during this period of uncertainty. Please make sure that this is the case with individual freelance journalists.”

He argues that; “If Pubs, clubs, restaurants and theatres with a rateable value of less than £51,000 are eligible for a non-repayable cash grant of £25,000, there should be a similar non-repayable cash grant for self-trading freelance journalists who can show that they have lost a substantial proportion of their previous year’s income.”

The Institute has been urged by its members to call on the Government to extend its grant support for businesses based in home settings that also employ freelances.

President Tim Crook says: “We would recommend the availability of an emergency cash grant of up to £5,000 in addition to any sickness or universal credit welfare benefits being claimed,” and called on the government to extend its three-month mortgage holiday provision to private renters, and an emergency law to prevent evictions and repossession proceedings.

The Institute also urges media businesses and publishers to do all they can to support their freelance employees, to continue honouring the commissioning of projects that had been planned for, and to find creative and laterally thought out online methodologies that support ongoing research and publication.

Professor Crook adds: “The massive changes in our media and cultural industries in recent years mean that a much larger proportion of employment is freelance. These vital industries will not be able to survive without sustaining and supporting its freelance expertise.”

Government must give clearer guidance on building sites says British Safety Council

GPSJReporter: Stuart Littleford

As the UK heads into at least three weeks of lockdown, concerns are being raised across the country as thousands of construction workers headed out to work, including on packed London Underground trains.

Last night the Prime Minister gave an instruction that everyone should stay at home for all but the most essential reasons. This morning the Cabinet Secretary Michael Gove said all major construction work should go ahead but jobs carried out at close quarters in someone’s home would not be appropriate. A tweet from the Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said: “If you are working on site, you can continue to do so. But follow Public Health England guidance on social distancing.”

Construction workers have raised concerns that they are not able to practice social distancing and stay at least two metres apart from one another on site.

The Chair of the British Safety Council Lawrence Waterman told GPSJ from his home today:

“The construction sector needs clarity from the government – on most sites social distancing will be impossible or simply unsafe. All non-essential construction should end now so that construction workers can go home and stay home like everyone else.”

“Some building work will be deemed essential – for example, building work that will improve access to hospitals or road access which will help tackle the virus. It is also the case that half-built buildings need to be made safe and workers should prioritise work that can safely suspend construction for as long as necessary.”

He went on to say:

“Many thousands of construction workers are self-employed and don’t get paid if they don’t go to work. The government and developers need to work together to ensure that workers are protected when their building sites are shut down. We can’t have scenes like this morning when the country is told to stay at home, but the tubes are crammed full of people setting off to work on a building site.”


The Specialist Engineering Contractors’ (SEC) Group – representing the largest value sector in UK construction – has expressed major concerns over the impact of COVID-19 on SMEs (which comprise 99% of firms in the construction industry).

SEC Group is highlighting a number of concerns relating to sharp practices, disruption to repair and maintenance contracts (which represent more than half of construction industry output) and the weak balance sheets of the large tier 1 contractors with implications for payment security along the supply chain.

Sharp practices

Some evidence is beginning to emerge of supply chains being informed that they will have to bear the risk of any disruption or delay caused to construction works as a result of COVID-19.  This means that SMEs may have to bear the brunt of any liquidated damages passed down to them.  This is generally facilitated by onerous contracts which are par for the course in construction.

Repair and maintenance contracts

There is increasing disruption to repair and maintenance contracts especially those involving planned maintenance to mechanical, electrical, plumbing and lift installations.  Many contracts have termination at will clauses which often enable contracts to be brought to an end without compensation.  Moreover, there are safety implications to be considered.  Lifts, for example, require regular servicing to comply with statutory safety requirements.  SEC Group is asking for clear guidance to be issued from both government and the Health and Safety Executive.

Payment security

Whilst public sector clients are being urged to ensure that all their payment obligations to their tier 1 contractors are discharged quickly there is concern that this will not be followed through along the supply chain.  Moreover, any disruption or delay to projects could result in severe payment delays to supply chain firms which will be exacerbated by the fragile

balance sheets of the large companies.  Supply chain contracts often allow for tier 1 contractors to suspend works without necessarily compensating their sub-contractors.

SEC Group’s chairman Trevor Hursthouse called on all clients of the UK’s construction industry to be on the look-out for distressed firms in their supply chains and ensure that, as much as possible, measures are put in place to alleviate such distress.  He added:

“The UK construction industry is on a financial knife-edge.  We need to ensure that the industry will still have the capacity and resources to deliver the construction and infrastructure needs that will be required when some level of normality returns.”

UK Government’s measures including the COVID-19 Procurement Policy Note, business loans, grants and other support measures are welcome – the challenge is turning out to be understanding precisely how and where the support is accessed.  SEC Group will be monitoring access difficulties amongst members and will continue to support Government initiatives whilst also identifying delivery difficulties if they persist.

IT Pros and Automation: A Match Made in Heaven

Sascha Giese, Head Geek™, SolarWinds

By Sascha Giese, Head Geek, SolarWinds 

Once upon a time, automation was mainly associated with manufacturing assembly lines and little else. Fortunately, we’ve moved past assembly lines; automation today plays a critical role within an optimised IT environment in everything from robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) to electrical engineering and instrumentation.

In fact, automation is increasingly becoming one of the cornerstones of an optimised public sector organisation. If you’re a public sector IT professional, you may be wondering if automation can make your job easier. The response would certainly be “yes,” as automation can save time and money and dramatically enhance overall agency performance on multiple levels. The question is: how?

Step-by-step guide to automation 

A good starting point is automating network configurations, which can help public sector IT professionals be more effective in the following ways:

  1. Meet compliance requirements, particularly when it comes to regular network audits. This includes monitoring and auditing network devices from a single view, tracking unauthorised and erroneous configuration changes, and automating inventory reporting and policy violation scans.
  2. Implement configuration changes quickly and efficiently.
  3. Automate firmware upgrades.
  4. Save time and increase productivity.

This can all be achieved by automating network configurations. Consider automating workflows, which can dramatically free up time for public sector IT pros. It’s even possible to automate mobile-device-initiated tasks, if your organisation allows this type of interaction.

These examples are only the tip of the proverbial iceberg when it comes to automation, which offers opportunities beyond ordinary IT tasks. Public sector IT programmers can automate back-office human resources tasks, procurement tasks, and financial tasks, and they can even use AI to add context to collected data. This data can then be used to automate nearly any task from responding to threats to addressing citizen inquiries.

In fact, AI will likely be the foundation for myriad automation possibilities. Take cybersecurity as an example. AI can help IT security pros more efficiently understand the severity of potential threats and remediate them through automated responses.

Adding automation means enhancing job skills 

As you might imagine, implementing automation throughout an organisation—for a range of processes—requires a different skill set than the one required in nonautomated environments. Traditional public sector IT roles will require more “soft skills,” such as the ability to write and communicate effectively, in addition to problem-solving, critical thinking, and leadership skills.

As part of its Government Transformation Strategy policy, the U.K. government made it a priority to ensure the “Civil Service is world-leading in terms of digital transformation” by 2020. This includes having one of the most digitally skilled civil service populations. According to the strategy, this means “making the best use of the tools, techniques, technologies, and culture of the internet age. It means having a generation of public servants of all professions who are confident working across organisational boundaries, understand the broader public policy context, and who are equipped to identify and lead opportunities for radical digital change and reinvention.”

With more automation and AI, public sector IT pros are transitioning from service managers to service brokers. Because provisioning storage and answering end-user service requests will soon be automated (if they’re not already), these individuals will instead be identifying data interactions, designing policies, and implementing new technologies requiring a depth of understanding beyond coding or IT management.

Embracing change is necessary if organisations are going to successfully implement automation. However, this requires teams to recognise and prepare for the impact these changes will have. Automation can have vast benefits for the public sector if you integrate it carefully and consider the way it alters workplace dynamics. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing—it just requires preparation.

Freemasons are inviting the whole country to toast ‘absent friends, and those working on the frontline in the NHS’ at 9pm tonight

Dr David Staples, Chief Executive of the United Grand Lodge of England

Reporter: Stuart Littleford

Freemasons are calling for the whole community to ensure no one feels alone, even if they are physically self-isolating, by remembering them in a toast at 9pm tonight.

The 200,000 strong membership organisation traditionally toasts ‘absent Brethren’ to remember those who are unable to attend their meetings in person at the dinner that takes place afterwards.

The organisation is adapting the usual 9pm toast it makes during its dinners and inviting everyone to join in to toast ‘absent friends, and those working on the frontline in the NHS’.

Dr David Staples, Chief Executive of the United Grand Lodge of England, has called for the Freemasons’ regular toast to be a ‘virtual’ toast – using #TimetoToast online – and extended to all those we cannot meet with, yet remain close in our thoughts.

He said: “We want everyone to join in at 9pm tonight and raise a glass to those we cannot be with in person due to the huge challenges facing the country. Stay safe, self-isolate but know that you are not alone.

“We are all unable to do those things we previously took for granted, that are so precious to us all – meeting with friends at the pub or for a coffee, enjoying each other’s company. Being social, in its small way, is something we can still all share. We invite everyone to raise a glass to help raise spirits.”

Christine Chapman, Head of Freemasonry for Women, added: “We must combat loneliness by ensuring that, even if we are all in our own homes, we are still connecting across the country. Dr Staples and I urge everyone to charge their glass at 9pm and say a toast to absent friends, and those working on the frontline of the NHS.”

GPSJ Exclusive: Top Five Tech Trends Impacting the UK Public Sector

GPSJ Government & Public Sector Journal

George Brasher

George Brasher, Managing Director, HP UK and Ireland talks exclusively to GPSJ

Talking to GPSJ editor, Stuart Littleford, George said: “With the new decade well underway, government departments are rightly continuing to explore new digital frontiers. From recent conversations with industry and government leaders.”  He has identified five public sector trends to keep an eye on:

  1. Quantum Computing Takes a Quantum Leap

The Government will continue to explore the possibilities around quantum computing in the coming year. Whereas traditional computers are built around 1s and 0s, or what we call “bits,” quantum computers will use subatomic quantum bits or “qubits” that can simultaneously exist as a one and zero. This nascent technology could eventually solve problems in minutes rather than thousands of years.

In fact, Google claimed it achieved “quantum supremacy” in October 2019, with its chip completing a task in 200 seconds that researches estimated would take a current supercomputer 10,000 years or more. This could dramatically accelerate how people create everything from drugs to cars to new food sources.

Last June, the Government announced a fresh £153 million investment in efforts to commercialise quantum computing, increasing its total commitment to its 6-year-old National Quantum Technologies Programme to more than £1 billion. Former Science Minister Chris Skidmore also announced £94 million of funding for the UK’s Quantum Technologies Research Hubs, located at Oxford, Birmingham, Glasgow and York.

According to the University of Oxford, quantum research under way already includes technologies to help fire crews see through smoke and dust, construction projects to visualise unmapped terrain such as the innards of old mines and cameras that let motor vehicles to peer around corners.  Government interest in quantum computing is expected to rise and intensify as new applications for the technology become inescapably apparent.

  1. Everything-as-a-Service Goes Mainstream

We’re continuing to see rapid momentum towards subscription-based consumption models in both commercial and consumer capacities. Public bodies appear to be far more open today to service models than they were just a few years ago, mirroring a global trend in which more than 80 percent of new technology solutions adopted by governments are expected to be delivered and supported by service models as early as 2023, according to Gartner.

This is significantly changing the way technology purchases are managed within organisations. Previously, when a business purchased PCs or a fleet of printers, it tended to purchase in bulk all at once, meaning there was a large investment upfront. They then had to either staff up internally to manage and secure those devices or hire outside maintenance teams to manage the fleet.

With a Device-as-a-Service (DaaS) or Managed Print Services (MPS) approach, computer and printer purchases become a monthly operating expense, so the investment is spread out over time. These services ensure customers always have access to the latest devices—which are maintained and secured by outside experts—and business leaders can better predict costs and reduce downtime. IT personnel are then free to focus on more strategic matters, such as critical management and operations functions beyond device maintenance.

  1. Supply Chain Security Becomes Critical

One of the greatest concerns of any supply chain — especially for technology purchased by the Government from international vendors — is the potential for parts suppliers to be compromised by foreign governments.

This is an issue of national security because every part of the supply chain can be attacked, including emerging 5G networks. This is why public sector technology purchasing decisions are so critical. In the past, many budget-minded government agencies have defaulted to purchasing lowest priced technically acceptable (LPTA) computers and printers because that’s how they’ve always done it. But with cyberthreats against government institutions increasing in frequency and maliciousness, every department should only be purchasing equipment from vendors with trustworthy supply chains.

More progress around government legislation is expected – such as the Telecoms Supply Chain Review, which aims to toughen cybersecurity controls over the telecommunications supply chain and developing 5G infrastructure.

  1. AI Continues Its March in the Public Sector

The way some people talk about it, artificial intelligence often sounds like a magical technology that can cure almost any societal ill. But the fact is AI algorithms are great at certain things and not so good at others, such as accurately recognising objects.

For government purposes, though, AI is becoming increasingly interesting because of its ability to automate time-consuming and repetitive tasks, such as data research and citizen support. At the same time, it also presents amazing opportunities for instinctively detecting and guarding against unknown — or zero day — cyberattacks that many IT security professionals might not otherwise catch.

  1. Comprehensive Security at the Edge

The news of the next major security breach barely registers as a shock given how ubiquitous cybercrime has become. In the public sector, the statistics are grim: 18 percent of the UK’s public organisations suffered more than 1,000 cyberattacks in 2018 alone, exposing millions of potentially sensitive records. As cybercriminals become smarter, faster and better at deploying new methods of attack, yesterday’s security protocols will no longer suffice.

In the same way the private sector is rethinking comprehensive security, so too must government entities. Networks are only as strong as their weakest point—whether it be a PC, printer, phone, tablet or other connected device—and cybercriminals have become masters at probing for and exploiting these soft spots. Embedded security in endpoint devices is an investment small business and enterprises alike must consider to properly protect data, detect malware and recover potentially compromised data.

But what is most important among government leaders is to create a culture of education and security literacy within their organisations, especially as the UK determines if they will continue adhering to EU security protocols post-Brexit. Looking ahead, one thing is certain: government agencies need to ditch the old LPTA procurement model and focus, instead, on options offering better operational efficiency, productivity and security.

Comments to GPSJ on the 2020 Budget

Institute of Economic Development Executive Director Nigel Wilcock has told GPSJ:

“This might be the budget that brings Keynes back in vogue with the Office for Budget Responsibility expecting the expansionary measures to create a demand-led economic boost. Certainly, from the budget speech there was little not to like – some emergency fiscal loosening, some provision for the lower paid, and lots and lots of spending announcements.

Clearly the Institute for Economic Development welcomes all the measures concerning rebalancing, some of the attention to green measures (although at the same time building roads and freezing fuel duty) and the tone of the entire delivery which continued the narrative of the importance of economic development and re-balancing.

So why the caution? Well, partly because we are an Institute for economists. But partly because it is easy to get wrapped up in the headlines of the shopping list but less easy ‘in real time’ to properly grasp the materiality of some of the numbers which sound large but may amount to little – and because there was virtually nothing on taxation. It seems likely (though not mentioned) that when more detail on allowances is published they will either raise more through fiscal drag (by remaining the same) or be widely tweaked to raise more funding.

One last important thought is what happens to local authorities – we remain clueless about long-term funding and once again there were many central government promises on business rates which is a tax that local government increasingly needs for its own funding. This remains a concern, fuelling a suspicion that local decision-making and spending powers are being eroded by this government despite a rhetoric to the contrary.”

Ed Gibson, head of financial services at Shaw Gibbs, accountants and business advisers, comments on the change in tapered annual allowance thresholds in the Budget:

“The change in the tapered annual allowance thresholds will indeed take most of the NHS consultants out of the tax trap, but only by making the taper system largely irrelevant because of how few people will now be affected. By retaining a piece of complicated and poor legislation, Sunak bottled it when he should have just scrapped it.”

National Fire Chiefs Council

The National Fire Chiefs Council has told GPSJ it welcomes the budget announcement of a new £1 billion Building Safety Fund to assist with the removal of unsafe combustible cladding from private and social residential buildings, over 18 metres in height.

The announcement is precisely what NFCC has been calling for since the Grenfell Tower fire. The previous £200 million fund to remove cladding from privately owned buildings was a step in the right direction, but it did not go far enough.

This new fund will help to ease and then finally remove the financial burden on leaseholders and ensure people feel safe in their homes.

Government heat network funding must benefit housing association residents, says Insite Energy

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunaq, outlined a number of funding commitments for low carbon heat in his Budget Statement. An element of that is a £270 investment in a new Green Heat Network Fund to run from 2022 to 2025, to follow on from the Heat Network Investment Project. It is designed to ensure that heat networks adopt the most cost-effective low carbon heat sources.

Anthony Coates-Smith, managing director of Insite Energy, a London-based heat network metering and billing payment specialist, which manages approximately 250 UK heat network schemes, says:

“The announcement of a new Green Heat Network Fund is a positive reinforcement of the role that well designed and operated heat networks can play in achieving the UK’s ‘net zero’ 2050 challenge.

“However, we believe the biggest opportunity to reduce carbon emissions and importantly, to reduce fuel poverty, is to radically improve underperforming heat networks at existing sites which have had no access to improvement funds under the current Heat Network Investment Project. These sites include single building heat networks, such as those owned and/or operated by housing associations.

“Housing association stock, which represents 60% of the social housing where heat networks could and should be fitted, consists mainly or entirely of single-building sites. Their average 120 units per building is more than enough to make a heat network viable and their residents are arguably in greatest need of the financial benefits from such government support. The provision of heat to these sites is not undertaken on a profitable basis, in contrast to the ‘district heating schemes’ of two or more buildings. It is disappointing that this major constituent of the heat market being ignored yet again.

“We urge the government to address the energy efficiency of existing housing stock, 80% of which will still be around in 2050.”

Wines of Great Britain, the association for the English & Welsh wine industry in response to the duty freeze on wine in today’s Budget: 

“We are very pleased that the Chancellor has decided to hold wine duty unchanged this year, which is a fair and welcome support for our growing English and Welsh wine production industry. We will continue to make the case for more targeted relief for small producers and sales at the cellar door which will encourage growth in our industry and generate significant economic benefits (including additional tax revenues) for the UK.”

Simon Robinson, Chairman, WineGB

ADBA responds to Budget 2020

Responding to the 2020 Budget, Charlotte Morton, Chief Executive of the Anaerobic Digestion & Bioresources Association (ADBA), said:

“Whilst there is an understandable focus on addressing the coronavirus, climate change is a far greater threat, as Prof Brian Hoskins, founding director of the Grantham Institute on Climate Change, highlighted yesterday. The urgency of tackling it requires us to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions to zero as soon as possible.

As our recent report ‘Biomethane: The Pathway to 2030’ demonstrated, there is no net zero without biogas. Whilst it is good news that there is commitment to support biomethane injection into the gas grid post March 2021, the government’s ambition to see a tripling of the current level of production by 2030 is only around 38% of the AD industry’s potential.

In the year the UK hosts COP26, we encourage the government to treble its ambition so that our industry is able to fully support the decarbonisation of agriculture, heat, transport and waste management to reduce total UK emissions by 6% whilst also creating 30,000 new green jobs throughout the UK by 2030, and we look forward to continuing to work with Government to this end.”

  • The Budget introduces a third allocation of Tariff Guarantees under the Non-domestic RHI (NDRHI) that will be available for all technologies that have been eligible for the previous two allocations.
  • The Budget also introduces a Green Gas Levy on gas suppliers to support green gas injection to the grid with the aim of accelerating the decarbonisation of our gas supply. This is expected to be implemented in autumn 2021.
  • The Budget allocates £270m in total for a Green Heat Network Fund to run from 2022 to 2025, to follow on from the Heat Network Investment Project.

We will continue to work closely with Government in the coming months to continue showcasing the wide-reaching benefits of AD for the environment and the economy and to influence the outcomes of the National Infrastructure Strategy – now promised in Spring – the Spending Review and the Treasury’s Net Zero funding review, as well as responding to the imminent consultations on the RHI and green gas levy.


Claire Petricca- Riding, National Head of Irwin Mitchell’s Planning and Environment Team, told GPSJ: “Given the number of traditionally labour constituencies that lent the Conservatives their votes at the last election, it is not surprising that additional money has been found to support Johnson’s ‘levelling up’ agenda, with pledges made to invest heavily in strategic infrastructure projects, such as road and rail improvements, delivering affordable housing and improving the UK’s broadband capability. The Government has  also promised to invest in the green economy and improve our environmental credentials.

Balancing large scale infrastructure projects with the shift to a zero-carbon economy is going to be a challenge, particularly in the wake of the recent Court of Appeal ruling over the lawfulness of the Heathrow expansion. The pledge to leave our environment in a better state than we found it does not sit easily alongside a pledge to get Britain building.  More funding  for developing innovative, environmentally friendly, methods of construction will be needed to help the sector meet the Government’s obligations on climate change and carbon reduction. We need the government to take a holistic approach to development, infrastructure and the environment, if we are to find a sustainable way to deliver the housing and infrastructure that the country desperately needs.

Whilst the increased investment in affordable housing and the pledge to fund the removal of unsafe cladding from high rise buildings is be welcomed, we will have to wait until tomorrow to find out what changes are proposed to the planning system. With a bit of luck we might see a commitment to greenbelt review,  support for older people looking to ‘right size’, and changes to the residential use classes to make them more representative of an increasingly specialised and diverse housing market.”

British Safety Council welcomes government support for workers in the Budget Statement

“It is right that the Chancellor is focusing on workers affected by the Coronavirus crisis” says British Safety Council Chief Executive Mike Robinson.

The British Safety Council today welcomed measures in the government’s Budget Statement that will support workers unable to work during the Coronavirus crisis. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, has pledged £30bn to help the economy respond to coronavirus in a Budget overshadowed by the epidemic. Specific measures include a commitment that statutory sick pay will be paid to all those who choose to self-isolate, even if they do not have symptoms. There are also measures to enable self-employed people to get access to support through the benefit system. Businesses employing fewer than 250 staff will be refunded for sick pay payments for two weeks. Loans will be available to support small businesses and business rates will be abolished for some firms in the retail, leisure and hospitality sector, who are expected to lose custom in coming weeks.

Speaking to GPSJ following the budget statement the Chief Executive of the British Safety Council Mike Robinson said:

“The Chancellor is right to focus the government’s immediate efforts on addressing the coronavirus crisis. I welcome measures that mean people won’t be penalised for following advice to self-isolate. People who are unwell should never have to go to work and the government’s actions should ensure those who do fall ill are protected. I am sure many employers will also welcome the support from government to pay out sick pay.”

He went on to say:

“We are in unchartered territory when it comes the effects of the coronavirus outbreak on people and the economy. Here at the British Safety Council we are taking every step to protect our people and our customers and to put in place measures to ensure business continuity.

“While I welcome some of the specific measures announced today, this outbreak has raises important questions about the available support for workers who are unwell. Long before coronavirus, the British Safety Council called for changes to sick pay to support the lowest paid and we have been increasingly vocal about the negative impact of presenteeism and people working when they are ill. All of our focus now must be to tackle the current crisis and we will work with the government to minimise coronavirus’ worst effects – but once the crisis is over we will revisit the way we support unwell workers and stem the tide of presenteeism.”

Chris Russell, CEO and co-founder of Tonik Energy comments on the government’s incentives for the purchase of ultra-low emission (ULEZ) and zero-emission vehicles (ZEV), as set out in the March Budget 2020:

“Clarity on the benefit-in-kind (BiK) rates marks a new era of driving. After months of uncertainty, the Chancellor has given fleet managers and company car users confidence to accelerate investment into electric vehicles and green strategies. With first year allowances now only available for businesses buying ZEVs, and zero-emission company van drivers set to benefit from a nil rate of tax from April 2021, the government has initiated a big change which will undoubtedly have a rapid impact on business fleets.

“It is encouraging to hear that ZEVs will be exempt from the Vehicle Exercise Duty expensive car supplement, which up until now will have deterred consumers from committing to greener vehicles which often retail above £40,000. The investment into the Plug-in Car Grant, Plug-in Van Grant, and Plug-In Motorcycle Grant is also a clear sign that the government is committed to the UK’s green future.

“The combination of these initiatives has resulted in a Budget that has brought us closer to the UK’s Net Zero target. It is now time for the government to turn its attention to fast and convenient access to power which will be paramount for ZEV drivers. Whilst the Chancellor’s announcement that £500m will be invested to support the rollout of rapid charging hubs is, of course, a step in the right direction, we are yet to see the government acknowledge that renewable energies are the linchpin to this change.”

Commenting on the provisions outlined in today’s Budget for the self-employed and gig economy workers, Alan Lockey, head of the RSA Future Work Centre told GPSJ:

“Rishi Sunak is right to roll-out a comprehensive package of support for low paid self-employed and gig workers. It is absolutely essential that people do not face a choice between feeding their family and taking measures necessary to protect us all from Covid-19, such as self-isolating.

“Time will tell if it is enough, but in pushing on existing policies – such as Universal Credit – rather than new schemes, the Chancellor has given himself the best administrative shot at roll-out, outreach and the flexibility to expand if necessary as the situation develops.

“More broadly, this shows why we need a fundamental reform of the welfare state for modern work. Fluctuating incomes and flexible working patterns are an important part of the 21st century labour market, but we are still trapped in the 20th century mindset which sees a small group of socially excluded people with low but stable incomes as the only target group for support. The Minimum Income Floor has been hurting low paid self-employed workers for years, its reform is long overdue. But in the long-term we need to look at policies like Universal Basic Income and portable benefits which can give flexible workers a minimum entitlement or safety net to fall back on in crises of any nature – financial, social or personal.”

Polly Billington, Director of UK100, which represents councils tackling climate change and clean energy, told GPSJ:

“While support for electric cars and for councils to reduce air pollution is welcome, it is still less than 5% of the £27bn the Chancellor has found for new road investment. 700 people die every week from illegal air pollution.  In the year of COP, the Government needs to take action to arrest the climate emergency and tackle toxic air pollution.”

Ed Gibson, head of financial services at Shaw Gibbs, accountants and business advisers, comments on the change in tapered annual allowance thresholds in the Budget:

“The change in the tapered annual allowance thresholds will indeed take most of the NHS consultants out of the tax trap, but only by making the taper system largely irrelevant because of how few people will now be affected. By retaining a piece of complicated and poor legislation, Sunak bottled it when he should have just scrapped it.”

TSSA Response – ‘Ten Wasted Years’ Tory Budget 

TSSA General Secretary, Manuel Cortes, has challenged the Chancellor’s claims to have set out a ‘getting things done’ Budget – describing it instead as a ‘ten wasted years Budget’. 

Rishi Sunak unveiled a £30bn package aimed at helping the economy get through the coronavirus outbreak. However, Cortes ridiculed Sunak over other measures which sought to portray the Conservatives as a public spending party. 

Speaking to GPSJ, Cortes said: “Far from being a getting things done Budget this amounts to a ten wasted years Budget. The Tories like to make grand claims, but people won’t be fooled for a minute. 

“Frankly, the only things they have got done since 2010 is to strip away vital public funds across the board and hurt millions of people in the process. 

“What the Tories’ new found love of public services shows is that all the public spending measures announced in the Budget were always possible – and that austerity was an ideological choice, none of which was necessary. 

“The claim made by Sunak that the Tories are the party of the workers is beyond parody and nothing highlights his smoke and mirrors more than the claim that Londoners have benefited ‘from a long-term transport deal that helped TfL’. The truth is Transport for London has lost its £700m operating grant and this should be reinstated without delay. 

“The Chancellor barely mentioned our railways and in fact seemed pleased as punch about a whole raft of measures encouraging travel by road – hardly what we need in a climate crisis. 

“As ever the devil will be in the detail of this Budget, but I wouldn’t trust a Tory Chancellor as far as I could throw one.” 

Garry Graham, Prospect deputy general secretary, responding to the announcement of new R&D spending n the Budget, said:

“The Government’s commitment to invest more in science and research across the country is a welcome step.

“It is vital that this money is used to rebuild vital public sector science capacity which has been eroded in recent years, and that the new funding is matched by private sector investment in key sectors like telecoms and pharmaceuticals.

“However the government must not fall into the trap of believing that investing in science and research compensates for the loss of access to EU science funding and networks. It is still vital to secure a comprehensive science partnership with the EU and the government must commit to upgrading their ambitions if we are to fulfil our science potential as a country.”

Mark Robinson, Scape Group chief executive, comments to GPSJ on the Chancellor’s Budget: 

Flood infrastructure funding

“Confirmation that the Chancellor will double the amount of funding available for flood defences to protect homes and businesses comes as welcome news. Much of our water infrastructure is from the Victorian era and desperately needs to be maintained and upgraded, but revenue expenditure had risen by just £3m over the last 10 years. This investment will be ineffective though, unless we think critically about how we work together. Harnessing the knowledge and expertise of our experts and collaborating to operate across boundaries to deliver essential infrastructure must be a priority.”

Road and rail infrastructure

“Well-maintained road and rail networks are critical to the economic productivity of the UK and our ability to be an attractive destination for businesses and holidaymakers. But construction businesses are now facing dual pressures – losing staff in the short term due to the impact of COVID-19, but also in the longer term due to tighter immigration policy post-Brexit, which will affect project pipelines. The need to address our skills shortage in the construction sector is a matter of urgency, the impact of doing nothing will have huge consequences on the UK’s ability to deliver vital improvements nationwide. If government does not take this seriously, we run the risk of our transport networks, truly grinding to a halt.

Plans to ‘level up’ the North

“I welcome fresh devolution deals for Yorkshire and plans to ‘level up’ the North. The Northern Powerhouse and the Midlands Engine have been hallmarks of a better way of working – making cities outside of London some of our most important wealth generators nationwide. More power and funding in the hands of decision makers closer to the ground can only be beneficial, by speeding up decisions on major projects as we move to ‘build a better Britain’.”

Commenting on the 2020 Budget, Peter Ford, Public Sector Industry Principal, Pegasystems has told GPSJ:

“Despite government claims that austerity is over, the budget shows that service demand will continue to exceed funding available on the supply-side in the medium to long-term. The previously announced 40 new hospital builds – which could cost £24bn according to the IFS – puts a significant dent in the budget. In our single payer healthcare system (i.e. government pays), where we have a ‘free at point of consumption’ model, a more fundamental strategic set of improvements to address process efficiency and resource utilisation (hospitals, equipment and staff) is needed. The chancellor’s £6bn in new funding into the NHS will help but only in the short term. The demand on medical and welfare services will intensify and only a ‘drains up’ review of these type of efficiency improvements will deliver a sustainable NHS that meets the growing needs of UK society.

“It is a good thing that the new funding will be put towards 50,000 more nurses and 50 million more GP surgery appointments, but the government needs to accompany this with a clear strategy to ensure it is used in the most effective way.  By this I mean getting the right systems in place to improve GP and hospital appointment scheduling and logistics before spending on one-off purchases. Furthermore with health and social care under extreme pressure as a result of a lack of skilled individuals, investing in employee upskilling to reduce the costs of recruiting new staff and encouraging existing staff to remain is imperative for safeguarding the future of the public sector.

“Automation, AI and robots will be a vital part of the journey to reach this goal. The automation of routine tasks can improve accuracy and efficiency as well as take pressure off human beings by freeing up their time and allowing them to focus on more complex activities.”

Rishi Sunak announced £175bn to boost productivity by 2.5% in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic

At yesterday’s Budget, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a £175bn investment into ‘world-class infrastructure’ over the next five years which would boost productivity by 2.5% and add 0.5% a year to GDP growth. This comes amidst a Coronavirus crisis which is causing havoc with supply chains, transports and offices across the country, causing large disruption to the economy and the global stock market. With such large scale issues across the economy, maintaining productivity is of critical importance as the UK and the rest of the world aims to navigate through this difficult period.

A nationally representative survey across over 2000 UK adults from Theta Financial Reporting has assessed the issues that the UK workforce has faced in the past and Chris Biggs, Managing Director of Theta Financial Reporting, has outline what actions businesses can take now to ensure the disruption is as minimal as possible.

Key Outcomes

  • A third of Brits – 31% – regularly exceed the EU’s maximum working limit
  • 39% of Brits feel presenteeism means that they are less productive when they are at work
  • 37% of Britain’s workers do not have time or motivation to chase promotions/professional development due to the sheer amount of work they have to do
  • Over half (51%) of all Brits believe that the decision-makers in their workplace are out of touch with the processes required to ensure their teams work efficiently and productively
  • 1 in 3 Brits – 37% – believe that their commute ensures that they are exhausted before even beginning work
  • Nearly half (45%) of all British workers believe work laptops and mobile phones mean they never truly switch off/and have answered emails in the early/late hours of the morning/evening
  • A quarter of Brits -26% – feel that they have not received the required training to do their job efficiently

These statistics demonstrate that while UK workers are putting in the hours – often more than the EU’s Working Time Directive of 48 hours per week – we are not achieving what we should in that time due to a lack of training, poor management and vast workloads.

Speaking to GPSJ, Chris Biggs, Managing Director of chartered accountants Theta Financial said: “Brits are spending longer at work than any other workers in Europe and while our country’s time in the office is increasing, our country’s productivity has stalled. With the advice coming from various sources that working from home may be the safest option, employers and managers need to ensure that they have the necessary measures in place to ensure that their business runs as normal as possible.

“Finding solutions like using remote desktops, call redirecting and online office services are a great way to bring a remote office together as if they were all in one building. Ensuring a clear line of communication with both your team and your clients is imperative to maintaining business as normal. More so than ever before, particularly with so many Brits working away from their offices in the next few weeks, giving employees the flexibility to work hours that suit them could make them more productive, especially if their family commitments change. Keeping constant, positive conversation streams open, trusting your team, and giving them that element of freedom is a great way to promote morale, a better work-life balance, and maintain productivity away from the workplace.”


Using modular building systems to create a new community centre and preschool

When Basildon Council wanted to create a new community centre and preschool facility in Nevendon, they selected modular building systems to successfully fast track a valuable community asset with a tight construction schedule spanning just eight months from April to December 2019.

The new building replaces an existing preschool building and a nearby community centre, creating a multifunctional space located on a popular public park site. The requirement was to construct a multifunctional space, creating a totally new facility providing extended potential for the local community.

This was an open public park site in a residential area with 10 storey flats to one side of the development, presenting a number of practical and logistical challenges. Enviro Building Solutions successfully delivered a purpose-designed modular build, managing all aspects from initial demolition works and access road improvements to mains services upgrades, bringing the project in on time and to budget.

Nevendon Community Centre

The scheme, designed and built by Enviro Building Solutions, called for innovative and creative thinking combined with careful design to achieve the end result using modular construction methods. Featuring an event hall with a ceiling height of almost six metres, the project called for new methods of working including design, manufacture, transport and construction.

This section of the building was cleverly crafted for a ‘flatpack’ delivery method to overcome access issues as well as transportation restrictions. Enviro Building Solutions then used standard modular techniques to build the various sized modular bays in the factory, combining these with adapted systems on site to create varied ceiling heights within the building.

With water, electrics and gas mains upgrades all required to provide appropriate services on site, the company introduced a short time span traffic management system to minimise local disruption.

The attractive and functional construction houses a community event hall, preschool facility, full commercial kitchen, members’ bar and lounge, washrooms and storage space. Externally, Enviro Building Solutions also managed the landscaping works, creating a large car park with overflow ‘grasscrete’ area, upgrades to access roads, fencing, floodlighting, bin stores, cycle shed and a soft play area for the preschool facility. 

A complex and comprehensive specification

Nevendon Community Centre – bar in club members area

Work began in April 2019, with the entire project completed and commissioned by early December 2019. This complex community building project includes a full range of external building features with cedar cladding, contrasting brick slip finishes, aluminium windows and doors in contrasting colours, brise soleil aluminium louvres, roller shutters for security and internal rainwater gutter systems to service the differing roof levels. The hall flooring features a high end finish using Junckers Nordic Oak flooring, specified by the client to provide a hard wearing and practical solution.

In addition to the practical site challenges, the advent of the annual local carnival during the build period meant that the project had to be shut down completely for a long weekend, with a safe access route created right across the active site for heavy vehicles to deliver rides and equipment.

“It has been great working with Enviro Building Solutions Ltd on this challenging project,” stated Hazel Collins, Senior Regeneration Officer for Basildon Borough Council. “They actively engaged with the various project stakeholders effectively which helped the delivery of the project.  They have been professional and supportive at all times, with a drive to finding the best resolution to any issues arising to support the project.  This has resulted in a fantastic building that will benefit the community for many years.”

Enviro Building Solutions were on site for just eight months with this project, constructing a new and modern modular community centre far more quickly and efficiently than traditional building methods, which has been welcomed by local residents who are delighted to have a family-orientated meeting space. Both inside and out, the finished building does not have a modular look and feel; it is a solid structure creating a space where people can enjoy spending time.

This was a JCT Design & Build Contract 2016, which also involved Calford Seaden LLP and Mitton Group, who were responsible for all mechanical and electrical works including heating systems, hot and cold water provision, air conditioning, lighting, intruder alarms and CCTV. Modular building construction methods enabled the Mitton team to complete most works offsite to first fix stage plus some elements of second fix, facilitating accurate planning and scheduling, increasing efficiency and reducing time spent on site.

For further information: Enviro Building Solutions Ltd, Gate 1, Units C&D, The Ridings Business Park, Hopwood Lane, Halifax HX1 3TT.

Tel:  01422 647610

UK’s first Electric Forecourt® is under construction, opening Summer 2020

Network of over 100 Electric Forecourts® across the UK will solve electric vehicle charging concerns, and pave the way for electric vehicles to become mainstream in the earliest possible timeframes

GRIDSERVE announces today that the first of a nationwide network of over 100 Electric Forecourts® is now under construction and will open this summer, offering convenient, ultra-fast, low-cost charging, with an outstanding customer experience.

The Electric Forecourt® near Braintree, Essex, can charge 24 electric vehicles at once with superchargers that can deliver up to 350kW of charging power, enabling people to charge vehicles within 20-30 minutes initially, and much faster in the future as battery technologies mature. The network of Electric Forecourts® will be powered by clean, zero carbon solar energy and battery storage projects, also constructed by GRIDSERVE®, ensuring carbon emission targets can be met, whilst also keeping prices low.

Whilst vehicles charge, drivers will be able to relax or shop in a state of the art two storey building, which will house a range of facilities including a coffee shop, convenience supermarket, and airport-style lounge with high-speed internet and meeting rooms. The facility will also function as an education centre for electric vehicles and sustainable energy, which will help people to understand, test drive, and secure vehicles that are most suitable for them, with the ultimate aim of providing the confidence, and support to transition to an all electric future.

James Cleverly, Minister of State, former Conservative Party Chairman and MP for Braintree, said: “Our government is committed to increasing the take-up of electric vehicles, to clean our air and enable us to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. GRIDSERVE’s Electric Forecourt®, close to Braintree, is pioneering the world-class charging infrastructure that we need to support our policies and will inspire people in towns and cities throughout the country to have the confidence to make the move to sustainable transport.”

As part of its £1bn programme, GRIDSERVE is developing more than 100 Electric Forecourt® sites on busy routes and near powerful grid connections close to towns, cities and major transport hubs. Supporting the UK Government’s commitment to ban the sale of new petrol, diesel and hybrid vehicles within 15-years, the company aims to have a UK-wide network operational within five years. GRIDSERVE is currently in discussions with a number of local authorities around the UK and expects to have several more sites in construction and many more into planning by the end of this year.

Toddington Harper, CEO and founder of GRIDSERVE, said: “We’ve designed our Electric Forecourts® entirely around the needs of electric vehicle drivers, updating the petrol station model for a net-zero carbon future. Many more people want to buy electric vehicles but are worried about how to charge them. We will help solve that challenge and deliver the confidence needed to make the switch to electric transport. 

“This will be the most advanced charging facility in the UK, and possibly the world. Drivers will be able to turn up and charge their vehicle at the fastest rate each vehicle can support, using 100% renewable energy, and with the best possible charging experience.”

Construction on the first Electric Forecourt® on a 2.5 acre site adjacent to Great Notley, just off the A131, is supported by a £4.86 million grant from Innovate UK, one of the largest awarded last year. The site has links to Stansted Airport, Chelmsford, Colchester and the M11.

Cllr Simon Walsh, Cabinet Member for Environment & Climate Change Action, Essex County Council, said: “Taking climate action is at the top of Essex County Council’s agenda and I intend to make Essex the most sustainable authority in the country. A rapid switch to electric vehicles is essential to respond to the climate emergency and improve public health by cleaning up our air, but it is being held back by lack of fit-for-purpose charging infrastructure. The GRIDSERVE Electric Forecourt® close to Braintree is pioneering a best-in-class new solution which will deliver businesses and private drivers the confidence to make the switch to sustainable transport.”

Graham Butland, Leader of Braintree District Council, said: “This ultramodern forecourt will provide residents and businesses in our district with access to a dependable source of green energy which will make owning an electric vehicle far more viable. The availability of this technology will put Braintree at the forefront of the low carbon transport revolution and will go a long way in helping us meet our climate targets.”

GRIDSERVE is also developing several large solar farms, supported by batteries, to supply energy to its Electric Forecourts® to ensure that 100% of the electricity is clean and low cost. The company recently completed the UK’s most advanced solar farm, a 34.7MWp project at York with bifacial panels, sun trackers, and a 30MWh battery and is completing a 25.7MWp project at Hull using similar technologies. It plans to develop Electric Forecourts® at both sites powered by the solar produced on site.

Toddington Harper said: “We want to accelerate the electric vehicle revolution, support UK climate and clean air targets and help the grid meet the challenges of the low carbon transition. We are interested in new project opportunities and are partnering with investors, developers, local authorities, EV manufacturers, retailers, fleet operators and others who share our vision.”

Full fibre broadband – balancing private and public investment

By Evan Wienberg, co-founder and CEO of Truespeed

A new year is a time for renewal and resolutions. The UK government’s plans to invest billions in infrastructure transformation in the budget on March 11 and shape up the UK’s digital economy by accelerating the delivery of full fibre broadband across the country are undoubtedly full

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IT Complexity, Insider Threats, and an Abundance of Privileged Users Plague U.S. Public Sector Cyber Readiness

Survey points to lack of cyber confidence and organisational maturity across U.S. public sector

SolarWinds (NYSE:SWI), a leading provider of powerful and affordable IT management software, today announced the findings of its sixth annual U.S. Public Sector Cybersecurity Survey Report*. This year’s survey includes responses from 400 IT operations and security decision makers, including 200

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The rise of the connected car

Paul Moorby, Managing Director, Chipside

Connected cars are one of the most hyped technologies in the ‘internet of things’ (IoT) sphere, sending and receiving real time information from the world around them. Not only can they connect with people and emergency services, they can also be connected to other cars and the road network’s

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ibml unveils world’s fastest, ultra-high-volume, intelligent scanner: the ibml FUSiON, the most comprehensive intelligent information capture solution

ibml processes high-volume government documents for stringent, mission-critical needs, meeting the highest quality and security standards across many departments in a secure, safe environment

New product offers transformative solutions for outdated information management processes

Imaging Business Machines, LLC (ibml), the leading global provider of intelligent information capture solutions, unveiled its next generation of ultra-high-volume

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