Contact us

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


December 2019
« Nov    

Introducing living walls to the next generation

MOBILANE – LivePanel at the Nursery in London

N Family Club is a group of early years nurseries with a brand new nursery concept in four spaces across London. Offering day care to children aged three months to five years, the facilities create a family feel and offer support to parents, grandparents and carers in an ever-more fragmented community in a city environment.

Nurture and Nature in unison

The London Fields nursery opened in June 2019.  As the doors opened and the first children took their first N Family steps, they were greeted by a beautiful living wall, courtesy of Oasis Plants and the Mobilane LivePanel. Installed on the roof level of the nursery, the 13 square metre LivePanel extends the roof garden’s nautical natural theme and is planted with Pachysandra, Carex Morrowii, Carex Ice Dance, Hedera Helix White Wonder and Euonymus Fortunei. This infusion of grasses, climbers, colour, foliage and form draws varied interest from its young patrons. The children are encouraged at play to take notice of the plants, to spot when they need a little care and to learn about plant science, growth and nature.

A healthy, clean air environment

Maximising green elements in an otherwise grey urban environment, the LivePanel plants are also working hard on improving the air quality. Renowned for their pollution-busting qualities, the leaf cover not only forms a naturally beautiful wall of colour but is busy removing harmful particulates from the air in this intensely busy city environment. The nursery maximises the children’s outdoor time, weather permitting, with sessions taking place alongside the living wall up to three times a day. At the start of a child’s educational journey, this area is the backbone of a healthy living environment at the Club where reading, socialising, exploring, playing and learning in the fresh air is a vital element of a child’s development and preparation for school.

Flourish and grow

“We are thrilled with the LivePanel living wall, as are the children.” explains Paige Francis, Operations Manager at N Family Club. “The children particularly enjoy playtime alongside the living wall. They take time out to see how it is growing and show great interest in its development.  The plant choice of grasses, climbers and different colour leaves creates a beautiful backdrop to their daily activities. We’ve been pleasantly surprised as to how quickly it has established and we’ve been impressed with how much it has already started to flourish and grow – we’ve had plenty of positive comments from parents and visitors too!”.

To find out more about N Family Clubs in the London area and to see the LivePanel wall in action, please visit the N Family Club website.

Installed and planted by Oasis Plants.

Secure I.T. Environments Completes Data Centre Build for Thurrock County Council

A range of works and 234m2 modular data centre design and build completed for Thurrock County Council, which will serve its 170,000 thousand residents.

Secure I.T. Environments Ltd, one of the UK’s leading design and build companies of modular and containerised data centres including refurbishment of existing data centres, has announced today the handover its latest data centre project to Thurrock County Council.  The new 234m2 data centre, will provide a new energy and space efficient home for an IT infrastructure serving 170,000 residents across over 160km2.

Chris Wellfair, Projects Director at Secure I.T. Environments

The data centre was required as the operational location and IT systems had reached end of life.  This led to a critical timeline to ensure handover for the new facility was achieved on time and within budget.  The project was split into two phases, the first comprising the design, build and testing (including acceptance testing) of the new data centre, the evaluation of existing critical and essential power, and decommissioning of the existing ICT infrastructure.  Phase two is an on-going five-year programme of planned preventative and reactive maintenance, including emergency call-out services.

The new data centre room includes Resilient Data Centre energy efficient air-conditioning in N+1 configuration, Riello MPW UPS, a built-in 65KVA generator, 840U of server space, raised access flooring, environmental monitoring, biometric access control, CCTV and Novec fire suppression.  The project also included all ground works and connection to existing electricity supplies and back-up generators located on other parts of the site. 

Chris Wellfair, Projects Director at Secure I.T. Environments, added “We have worked hard for over a decade to ensure that customers can trust our name when it comes to the delivery and maintenance of their data centres.  For the public sector in particular, where people rely hourly on access to council services, we take great pride in being a part of councils achieving their digital vision.” 


About Secure I.T. Environments Ltd

Secure I.T. Environments Ltd is a UK company specialising in the design and build of energy efficient internal/external secure modular data centres, containerised data centres and its infrastructure.  The company has established an enviable relationship with its clients based on trust and mutual respect by working as a team with the client and its project team.

The company offers a “Total Solutions Package” to the private, healthcare, education and government sectors, as well as co-hosting companies in the UK and offshore, by way of design, implementation and installation management services for projects from small stand-alone computer rooms to large public sector contracts and co-hosting locations. All rooms are designed to meet the latest test standards, now regarded as the benchmark standard for modular rooms being installed throughout the UK and Europe.

Secure I.T. Environments’ primary aim is to ensure that clients’ critical infrastructure components are protected against all external threats in a suitably protected modular room or Modcel containerised environment.  To this end the company has established long-standing partnerships with its manufacturers, who are at the forefront of R&D, to ensure the highest level of physical protection and energy efficiency is maintained.

Chipside announces contract win with Bristol City Council

• Contract will include up to 2 million MiPermit digital permits per year

• Introduces MiPermit innovation to leading UK Smart City

Chipside, a provider of parking and traffic management IT to more than 160 UK local authorities, is delighted to announce it has been awarded a contract with Bristol City Council for MiPermit digital permits. The contract will enable Bristol City Council to deploy up to two million digital permits per year through Chipside’s MiPermit system – enabling city residents and visitors to buy, manage and renew permits electronically.

Paul Moorby, Founder and CEO of Chipside

Paul Moorby, Founder and CEO of Chipside, comments; “We are delighted to win a contract with Bristol City Council. It will not only strengthen MiPermit’s position in the South West as the premier digital permits brand, but also give us the ground space to contribute innovative technology to an already-celebrated connected city”.

Bristol topped Navigant Consulting’s UK Smart Cities list in 2017 and beat Barcelona, Dubai and New York to win the Smart City Award (Judges’ Choice) at the GSMA’s 2018 Global Mobile Awards (The GLOMOs). The award provided global recognition on how Bristol has raised the bar on defining the Smart City of the future. With central government funding from the Smart Cities Agenda, the city’s ‘Bristol is Open’ initiative now offers innovators a testbed to develop disruptive solutions to city challenges.

“The diversity of the issues tackled through smart city technology is an indication of the potential of connected public services to improve residents’ lives,” continues Paul Moorby. “I look forward to introducing our MiPermit technology to the city and seeing the system’s capabilities and efficiencies positively impact Bristol’s residents and visitors to the city.”

Strategies to support UK growth post-Brexit to be debated at national economic development conference

IED Annual Conference 2019

The Challenge of Change – economic strategies for a new era – Wednesday 4th December 2019 – BMA House, London

Exploring ways to deliver inclusive and sustainable growth and more effective place management will be the focus of discussion at the Institute of Economic Development (IED) Annual Conference 2019, which is being held at BMA House in London next week.

The 4th December conference, titled The Challenge of Change – economic strategies for a new era, will bring together around 200 sector leaders and economic development and regeneration practitioners representing local and regional communities. Key topics on the agenda are growth versus sustainability; inclusive growth; international trade and investment; local industrial strategies; and wellness and place.

Amongst the highlights is an opening keynote from Rt Hon The Lord Kerslake, President of the Local Government Association and Chair of The UK2070 Commission, The Centre for Public Scrutiny and Peabody; which follows opening remarks from IED Chair Bev Hurley.

Other keynote speakers are The Baroness Valentine, Chair of Heathrow Southern Rail and Director of Place at Business in the Community, who will be speaking on ‘Regenerating seaside towns and communities’; and Professor Danny Dorling, Halford Mackinder Professor of Geography at the University of Oxford, who will be reflecting on ‘How the UK can match European success’. There is also a keynote panel discussion on ‘The future of underperforming towns’, featuring Professor Cathy Parker, Chair of the Institute of Place Management; Sir Howard Bernstein, Strategic Advisor at Deloitte and Chair and Patron of the IED; and Professor Henry Overman from LSE.

This year’s IED Annual Conference, which will again incorporate the IED Annual Awards ceremony, is sponsored by Lichfields, Pegasus Group and Warwick Economics & Development; AECOM, Emsi UK and Local Government Chronicle; Grant Thornton, SignedUp Skills and the Social Value Engine.

IED Executive Director Nigel Wilcock said: “Predictably the ‘rhetoric’ building up to the General Election has touched on left-behind UK regions and how best to address those areas of the country which, for structural economic reasons, have fallen behind in terms of income and employment and struggled to find a new raison d’etre.

“The focus of this year’s IED Annual Conference could therefore not be better, as we explore issues around growth and place and the role of economic development. Purely from a structural perspective, the situation is a mess and it is small wonder economic development has failed to deliver in so many places. Our message to the incoming government is simple: the landscape needs to be simplified, there needs to be certainty of funding over the medium term and whatever is selected as an approach it needs to be in place for the long term.

“We would like to thank our speakers, sponsors and partners for their support in making the IED Annual Conference the ‘must-attend’ event that it is for anyone with an interest in economic development and regeneration issues.”

Full details of the conference, organised by Regen Events, can be found here:

Sustainability: is it time to view economic development through a different lens? 

The General Election campaign has been positioned, by many commentators and politicians from across the spectrum, as an opportunity for renewal and refresh. A chance to seize the economic opportunities that lie beyond the seemingly immoveable barrier that is Brexit.

However, for those who have worked with and within government for a long time, or those who are a close study of economic development know, the reality is often more vanilla. The destination rarely changes, even if the method of getting there might be subtly different.

Will it be different this time and do economic development professionals within local and regional government have an opportunity to be at the forefront of that change? The answer is yes, providing we are willing and capable of seeing beyond the narrow view that growth needs to remain the panacea of sub-regional economic policy.

I can’t count how many times I have come across – or even been involved in drafting – an economic strategy and felt that both the ambition it sets out, or the tools which will be used to deliver it, could apply to most places in the UK.

Granted the challenges faced across many sub-regional economies are broadly similar, especially across the North which continues to be dominated by low skill levels and structural underfunding in infrastructure. But that does not mean that the way we choose to approach them must be the same. It can be different, it can be more locally-driven, and it can also help us address our most fundamental challenge of this generation. That is the need to move towards a more sustainable economic future. It is not growth at all costs, nor is growth the best measure of the success of a place.

The professional and political debate is catching up with this new reality, but perhaps not quick enough. It is time the economic development profession took a lead and began to shape the agenda. We need a new paradigm for sub-national economic development. One which addresses three key issues around growth, inclusion and sustainability, but redefines the primary lens through which everything else is viewed.

We have a choice. We can seek to continue to try (and largely fail) to balance the three, or as has been the case for many years, view inclusion and sustainability through the lens of growth. The way we approach these three factors will be defined by which one you start with. If we continue to view growth as the principle lens, inclusion and sustainability will be retrofitted around the need to achieve growth.

Barring a few isolated examples, I suggest that has largely failed as an approach to sub-national economic policy. Jobs get created, but people fail to fully benefit. Roads get built to unlock ‘growth’, and the quid pro quo is to try to minimise the impact on our natural capital.

It is time to view economic development differently. If we begin to shape future industrial strategy at a sub-national level by first looking at it through the sustainability lens, then we begin to see an opportunity for renewal and refresh. It opens the potential to address those universal social and economic challenges in a different way and could also provide a new framework for local communities to begin to take a greater sense of control and ownership through a redefined approach to devolution.

There is a growing movement which proposes redefining industrial policy through a ‘green revolution’ which also seeks to address rising inequality. This has particularly been championed in the UK by the New Economics Foundation (NEF) and the Centre for Local Economic Strategies (CLES). As the NEF defines it, it is about creating a new generation of jobs in the industries and infrastructure we need to tackle the climate crisis and taking a new approach to running our economy that guarantees decent work, greater ownership and economic democracy, with a central purpose of putting people and planet first.

Its distractors will say that some places, which lag in job creation, investment or employment, simply do not have the luxury of taking this view. They argue that the focus should be on more growth and more jobs first and foremost. After all, you can’t have inclusive growth without growth. However, in many cases the meaning of what inclusive growth is has been lost, or at best has been played lip-service to.

I would argue that addressing regional inequalities is entirely complementary and consistent with adopting a new set of social and economic reforms. If you bring people with you.

There is every reason that the sub-national government structures we currently have in place can lead the charge, thereby avoiding years of unnecessary naval-gazing and questions over economic spatial geography which blighted the end of the Regional Development Agencies and the introduction of Local Enterprise Partnerships and Combined Authorities.

If a proper and long-term devolution settlement is agreed by government, there is no reason why these sub-regional bodies cannot shape themselves as genuine agents of change. They should, by their very raision d’etre, be mission-orientated organisations focused on the ‘grand challenges’ we face. They have it in their gift to move beyond narrow and outdated thematic norms and redefine cost-benefit models which enable a broader view on the merits of public investment. By taking this strategic leadership role, it will complement the work of local authority partners who are best placed to drive, from the bottom up, a focus on community wealth-building.

This is what the approach to growth and inclusion could be if we looked at them through the lens of sustainability. This is genuinely the opportunity for renewal and refresh in our approach to economic development. This is genuine change. The upcoming election will show whether we have the leadership in place to achieve it.

Mark Lynam is a Board Member of the Institute of Economic Development, and Director of Transport, Housing and Infrastructure in Sheffield City Region’s Executive Team. On 4th December 2019 the IED is hosting its Annual Conference 2019, ‘The Challenge of Change – economic strategies for a new era’

New platform for infrastructure modelling now open

Professor Jim Hall

By Professor Jim Hall, Chair of DAFNI Governance Board

A new tool, set to transform research, planning and policymaking around infrastructure in the UK and beyond, is now in alpha testing.

DAFNI 1.0 from the Data and Analytics Facility for National Infrastructure (DAFNI) takes a significant step forward this autumn as its platform moves into alpha testing with users in eight UK universities. The platform is designed to allow a more cohesive picture of the UK’s infrastructure needs, possibilities and policies to be developed.

The result of over £1m of hardware investment and two years’ development, DAFNI 1.0 is designed to create a cohesive picture for infrastructure needs, possibilities and policies. It is already advancing research and allowing users to run models more quickly, through greater compute capacity and at greater scale and level of detail than has previously been possible.

DAFNI 1.0 has already improved the time it takes to run complex models, meaning it can be used for short-term decision-making as well as long-term planning, saving valuable researcher and computing time.

Much more than a team of developers and massive compute power, DAFNI 1.0 is underpinned by groups across industry, government and academia, and is actively seeking further collaborations. The support of the community that conducts infrastructure research and their active participation in DAFNI 1.0’s dynamic evolution ensures models driven by academia help validate and inform policy and new infrastructure developments.

We’re already working with organisations including the National Infrastructure Commission, the Alan Turing Institute, the Department for Transport, Oxfordshire County Council, the Infrastructure Transitions Research Consortium (ITRC), the University of Oxford, Southampton University and Leeds University.

A number of pilots have run on the DAFNI platform across the last year, with the models now live, including:

  • The Digital Communications Model – The implications of roll-out of 5G mobile networks across the UK
  • The Agent-based Housing Model – How different factors affect the UK’s housing prices and market forces
  • Automated Demand-forecasting Model for New Local Railway Stations – Forecasting demand and identifying the best locations for new local railway stations
  • Population Estimation and Scenario Projection Model – Mapping the UK population in terms of future growth, migration and household structures

Transport Scotland is currently evaluating DAFNI’s demand-forecasting model with a view to using it to rapidly generate forecasts of passenger trips at potential new stations under a range of future scenarios; thereby informing decisions on infrastructure requirements, efficient build and spend and most appropriate station location.

The model in its entirety can be linked to other models in DAFNI 1.0, and DAFNI 1.0’s user-friendly interface means that researchers can take a view on interconnected infrastructure networks and derive an integrated vision on infrastructure provision.

DAFNI consists of five key parts:

  1. National Infrastructure Database (NID) This is an increasingly large library of datasets (already over 600) – some of which DAFNI holds, some of which DAFNI facilitates access to. Metadata tags are incorporated to make searching the database easier.
  2. National Infrastructure Modelling Service (NIMS) This is split into two main parts – the national modelling catalogue; and the workflow section, where you can drag and drop different models to link with each other to provide a “system-of-systems” approach to modelling and analysis. The aim is to democratise access to models whilst allowing modellers to set permissions on who can use their work.
  3. National Infrastructure Cloud Environment (NICE) Users can make use of the high-processing computing power behind DAFNI 1.0 to develop and increase the speed of their models, which may involve hundreds of gigabytes and much more. DAFNI 1.0 uses best practices in industry, such as hybrid cloud and onsite investment.
  4. National Infrastructure Visualisation Suite (NIVS) Modellers can use GPUs and CPUs to create 3D renders and 2D plots to tell effective and meaningful stories through visualisations.
  5. Data Security Service (DSS) This provides security assurances to those providing the data. Data is looked after in a secure and controlled fashion, based on industry best practices.

As one of our collaborators, Nick Cook, Senior Analyst at Tessella, explains, “DAFNI 1.0 lowers the barrier to entry for research, as users don’t need to procure expensive IT infrastructure, set up their own cloud environment or store data. It enshrines provenance and traceability and allows for reuse of workflows and models for wider community to engage with.”

Key facts about DAFNI 1.0

  • 50,000 lines of code already in the platform
  • Platform runs on Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) compute power, which hosts around 40 petabytes of data
  • 20 programming languages used
  • 20 independent services combining to create the platform
  • At the time of writing this article has 600+ datasets and the list is growing steadily

The alpha launch swiftly follows the DAFNI Conference, which was held at the Royal Society in London in June 2019 with an audience of around 200 delegates from government, industry and academia. Watch the video here: .

Web: Email:

Stockport Council reduces cost of customer response in the contact centre by 95% with Britannic Technologies

AMI Conversational Artificial Intelligence Solution Transforms Services for Citizens

Britannic Technologies, specialists in voice communications, systems integration and managed services, has deployed AMI, a conversational AI solution into Stockport Council’s contact centre to improve customer experience. AMI has enabled the council to reduce the cost of customer response in the contact centre by 95%, compared to other communication methods such as telephone calls, emails and live web chat. For a council that receives thousands of enquiries a week the potential savings are huge.

However, it is not just about the cost-savings for Stockport Council. Their priority is about improving the customer experience. Stockport Council is modernising the way people access council services, using digital technologies to meet 21st century expectations of customer service and deliver routine services more efficiently. They are committed to human centred design, putting the needs of the people who will be using the service first, rather than the business goals or technical solutions.

Councillor Kate Butler, Cabinet Member for Citizen Focus and Engagement says, “We are redesigning the way we deliver our services, based on the needs of the people who will be using them. We are significantly improving the customer experience by embracing all the opportunities digital solutions bring, including online self-service.”

For the past few years Stockport Council had been offering Contact Centre operated web chat for users who are online and need help, but they were looking for an Artificial Intelligence (AI) solution that could operate on a 24/7 basis and handle as many contacts from citizens as possible. The aim was to transfer low level enquiries to an AI solution and focus their contact centre agent support on customers who are vulnerable or have complex circumstances.

Britannic worked closely with Stockport Council through Discovery workshops to understand their needs in depth and what technology they had in place ensuring that it could be integrated into existing operations and infrastructure. They reviewed the areas where AMI could be used, where it could automate interactions and how it could help improve customer service. To assist the learning process Ami was initially focussed on environment, council tax, bins and recycling, roads and footpaths.

“In each area we studied the customers’ journeys, looking at ways that we could make it easier for them to use. The chat is so simple; they ask AMI what they are looking for and it will present them with the information they require or guide them to a relevant page or the correct form on our website. If the enquiry is too complex, then it will hand over to a contact centre agent,” says Alison Blount, Head of Revenues, Benefits and IAG.

Jonathan Sharp, Director, Britannic Technologies states, “Stockport Council has used digital transformation strategies to re-engineer business processes and modernise the workplace. They engage with customers to examine the journey they take, looking at every touchpoint with the aim to make is as seamless as possible for the users. They also look at how the processes work and flow together as an entirety rather than an isolated project.

“Through analysing the conversations with AMI, they can continue to learn about and identify improvements to the customer journeys for each service – any gaps in her learning indicate there’s a need to revisit the web content.”

As well as extending the hours when online support is available, there are no limits on how many chats Ami can handle at one time, so citizens are no longer having to wait for their queries to be answered. Now with the AMI solution 61% of enquiries are being resolved, while just 19% of chats are being routed to an agent because they are too complex for AMI to deal with.

“We selected Britannic as they understand the requirements of digital transformation solutions for the public sector, and they are accredited by the procurement frameworks. The fact that AMI can automatically update with any changes in our website, can handle unlimited conversations and we can also analyse the chats to make improvements definitely make it stand out from the competition,” says Blount.

If you are free on the 14th November then please join us at our annual summit for business leaders, at Mercedes Benz World, in Weybridge, to see AMI in action and find out about Workplace Modernisation.

To the Ami page.

Latest edition of GPSJ is now online to read


The latest edition of the Government & Public Sector Journal is available to read online: LATEST EDITION

Drive strategic change with integrated transport solutions to create more liveable cities

Peter O’Driscoll

Peter O’Driscoll, Managing Director, RingGo

Local governments are now fully embracing digital services that benefit both their staff and constituents, slowly, but surely getting rid of paper and physical offerings. However, to see the scale of benefits that can be realised from digitising, local governments should be looking to develop new

Continue reading Drive strategic change with integrated transport solutions to create more liveable cities

‘How much bandwidth do I need?’

David Trossell, CEO and CTO of Bridgeworks

By David Trossell, CEO and CTO of Bridgeworks

Whenever a network seems to operate too slowly the conversation soon turns to how much bandwidth the network connectivity and infrastructure offers, and then it moves on to how much faster the network could be if more money

Continue reading ‘How much bandwidth do I need?’

A ‘No Deal’ Brexit will create an economic emergency

For GPSJ by Nigel Wilcock, Executive Director of the Institute of Economic Development

Photo: GPSJ

I have arrived at a clear view that a ‘No Deal’ Brexit will create an economic emergency – one that will impact economic development and regeneration professionals working for local and regional communities. It is considered likely that the

Continue reading A ‘No Deal’ Brexit will create an economic emergency

RingGo partners with Go Ultra Low to encourage electric vehicle adoption

Joining Government and industry representatives, RingGo brings its wealth of experience in how parking can encourage electric vehicle adoption to the campaign

RingGo, the UK’s leading cashless parking provider, today announced a partnership with Go Ultra Low, the national campaign for electric vehicles. Supported by a consortium of vehicle manufacturers and the

Continue reading RingGo partners with Go Ultra Low to encourage electric vehicle adoption

apT ecology team grows after new business wins

Reporter: Stuart Littleford

An ecology team at a pioneering public sector planning and development consultancy is expanding to cope with growing demand.

Telford-based apT’s team of ecological experts has trebled in two years, partly as a result of winning new consultancy work outside their home borough.

The team – made up of ecology and green

Continue reading apT ecology team grows after new business wins

SolarWinds and Kenson to attend HETT 2019

SolarWinds and its direct reseller, Kenson, will attend the annual Healthcare Excellence Through Technology (HETT) event at the ExCel in London, on October 1st and 2nd. The U.K.’s top healthcare technology event is a relevant platform for both companies to share their knowledge of, and promote awareness for, stronger cybersecurity practices in this sector.


Continue reading SolarWinds and Kenson to attend HETT 2019

SolarWinds Survey Explores the Tech Skills Gap and the Future of the IT Professional

Annual IT Pro Day survey highlights need to increase upskilling and tech pro confidence

SolarWinds (NYSE:SWI), a leading provider of powerful and affordable IT management software, today announced the findings from its IT Pro Day 2019 survey: Building Confidence for Tech Pros of Tomorrow. The survey results explore what tech pros need to build confidence

Continue reading SolarWinds Survey Explores the Tech Skills Gap and the Future of the IT Professional