Tag Archives: The Guardian

Maude responds to fears over data-sharing between government agencies

By David Bicknell

Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude has responded to a Guardian story which reported that ministers are planning to shake up the law on using confidential personal data to make it easier for public-sector organisations to share confidential information supplied by the public.

The article had argued that “the proposals are similar to ‘database state’ legislation abandoned by the last Labour government in 2009 in the face of fierce opposition. That legislation was intended to reverse the basic data protection principle that sensitive personal information provided to one government agency should not normally be provided to another agency for a different purpose without explicit consent.”

Maude has responded to the Guardian piece, saying, “One of the guiding principles of this Government is the restoration of civil liberties and rolling back the intrusive state; that is why one of our first legislative acts was to scrap ID cards. So it is wrong to say our proposals are similar to the previous government’s abandoned “database state” legislation.

“We want people to be able to interact with government online, for example, in applying for benefits or a disabled parking permit, in a way that is quick, easy and secure. To do this we need to give them a way of proving their identity online, but only if they choose to. This would be done without a national, central scheme.

“This is all about putting the citizen in charge, not the state. But we are still taking great care to carefully consult on our plans. Throughout all our work in this area we have proactively engaged with privacy and consumer groups including NO2ID, Privacy International, Which?, London School of Economics, Oxford Internet Institute and Big Brother Watch.

“In June the Cabinet Office will publish, in a white paper, plans for improving data-linking across government. What will not be published in this white paper are any “fast-track” proposals that would require changes to the existing legislative landscape. Any such proposals will need careful consideration with the involvement of the public and interest groups with whom we will continue to engage.

“This is not a question of increasing the volume of data-sharing that takes place across government, but ensuring an appropriate framework is in place so that government can deliver more effective, joined-up and personalised public services, through effective data-linking.”

Conference Season: The Guardian, FAST, Capita events

We’re very much into conference season with a number of up and coming events competing for attention. 

These include conferences on social enterprise organised by The Guardian on 8th November; on co-operation between IT and the business, collaboration and IT asset management organised by FAST at Twickenham on 21st November; and one by Capita on Public Service Mutuals on 7th December.

The Guardian’s one day event discusses how social enterprises are providing public sector services as well as the obstacles and practical solutions to the challenges the sector faces.” Speakers include Nick Hurd, minister for civil society at the Cabinet Office and Nick O’Donohue, chief executive of Big Society Capital.

FAST’s event, ‘Lessons from the Touchline’ has two streams: ‘finance and business’ and ‘technology and soft skills.’ Speakers include Olympic Gold Medal winner Ben Hunt-Davis, Kirstin Furber, HR Director for BBC Worldwide, Doug Clark, Head of Cloud Computing at IBM, Internet entrepreneur and Internet visionary Frank Joshi speaking on the importance of relationships and collaborative technology, and Chris Rawson, former CIO and Managing Director of Exvine.

Speakers  at the Capita event include Mutuals Taskforce chair Julian Le Grand; Carole Leslie, Director of Policy, Employee Ownership Association;  and Councillor Steve Reed, Leader, Lambeth Council.

Planning for and overcoming the challenges to mutuals in town halls’ mixed models

By David Bicknell

Two pieces written around mutuals which might be worthy of a read this morning. The first is an examination of the ‘Oldham model’  in the Guardian’s Northerner Blog, which quotes an interview with Oldham Council leader Jim McMahon discussing the pros and cons of the outsourcing of services to co-operatives and mutuals.

The other is a discussion by PA Consulting’s Karen Cherrett for the Guardian’s Public Leaders Network which argues that without preparatory work, there is a risk that the ‘current enthusiastic but rather naïve rush to establishing mutuals to transform public service delivery will lead to wide-scale mutual failure.’

Guardian Social Enterprise event to focus on solutions to move on from ‘brave new dawn’

The Guardian has published details of its Social Enterprise 2011 conference to be held in London on 8th November.

It argues that social enterprise was seen as a brave new dawn for service delivery but since the social enterprise unit was set up ten years ago, progress has been relatively slow.

The one day event “explores the facts about social enterprises providing public sector services. It provides candid discussion about the obstacles and practical solutions to the challenges the sector faces.”

The conference will discuss what the government is doing to scale up ambitious enterprises, and look at business models, finance and commissioning.  It will also take a close look at mutuals  from the point of view of service delivery rather than organisational structure. The reasons some mutuals have done so well is that they provide exceptional services and customer loyalty.  So what lessons can be learned from successful mutuals?

Here are details of the conference programme.

Mutuals: Public sector ethos + drive + vision – excess process = innovation

By David Bicknell

Moving services from direct control to employee-led mutuals is a way for staff to create their own vision for what they want to achieve for the public, free from the constraints of tortuous processes and long-winded decision-making that strangle good ideas. Procurement rules, for example, are often condemned as the greatest block on innovation, as this Guardian article discusses.

It also covers what makes a public sector ethos and discusses the importance of not only changing structure through mutuals, but changing culture as well.

Public sector still Cloud-wary but needs dynamic approach to cut costs and keep key services

By David Bicknell

I wasn’t at the Guardian’s SmartGov Live event this week, but what came out of it made for interesting reading.

For example, this article by Gill Hitchcock for the Guardian Professional Network gave an insight into the suspicion and lack of confidence  with which the public sector regards cloud computing.

According to the article, cloud computing is not a certainty to be used by public authorities, because those councils considering adopting it have to take account of the risks involved.

Chris Pope, director of transformation at Merton Council told SmartGov Live that he was “nervous” about adopting cloud computing and being infrastructure free.

“Why? Because I do not trust the supply market yet,” he said. “The number of instances of organisations taking their IT services back in-house, because the service they have got from their supplier has not been up to standard, are too frequent at the moment and there is too much risk at this stage … to be completely infrastructure free.”

Meanwhile, Steve Palmer, the chief information officer and head of ICT at Hillingdon council, was reported as saying that the aim should be to be as infrastructure free as possible.

Palmer,  who is also quoted in the Guardian report, believes the public sector is particularly vulnerable  in finding suppliers with enough capacity and resilience to be able to keep cloud services going during a major failure.

Andy Tait, who until the end of March was deputy director of the G Cloud programme at the Cabinet Office and is now head of public sector strategy for cloud services company VMware, emphasised that cloud is an approach to technology rather than a new technology.

Tait said that the UK public sector was under enormous pressure to cut costs, while maintaining critical frontline services, and IT has a significant role to play in achieving those objectives. “But it can only do that by facing the fundamental transformation to move from the direct and dedicated style of IT infrastructure to a more dynamic and shared common infrastructure that is possible through virtualisation and some cloud technologies,” he said.

Delivering innovation in sustainability through cross-industry and supply-chain collaboration

Thanks to the Guardian for putting on an excellent Sustainable Business Quarterly meeting in London last night.

There were some very good speakers: Jonathan Foot, chief environment officer, EDF Energy; Jo Fox, director, the bigger picture, Sky; Dax Lovegrove, head of business and industry, WWF-UK; and Miriam Turner, innovations director, InterfaceFLOR, all focusing on collaboration and innovation. 

We then split into different groups and had a roundtable discussion around sustainability communications and collaborating and innovating in the supply chain.

Thanks to my colleagues around the table: Stuart Singleton-White from The RainForest Alliance, Leigh O’Grady from The Carbon Trust, Toby Robins from Wiles Greenworld, Dr Magda Hercheui from the University of Westminster, Anne Ronan from Zinc, Robyn Kimber from Virgin, Nicole Lawler from Total  Eco Management and Petronella Tyson from the Guardian for an excellent and illuminating discussion.

Grasping the CRC Sustainable Innovation Opportunity

By David Bicknell

I’ve just written a piece for the Guardian Professional Network’s Sustainable Business site, which discusses some recent work by Cambium in producing a report on how both suppliers and organisations can benefit from the Government’s CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme.

You can read the article here on the Guardian’s site. And you can find about more about the report from Cambium here.

Embedded sustainability as a driver for competitive advantage

By David Bicknell

I cam across an interesting piece on the Guardian’s Sustainable Business website the other day all about the concept of ’embedded sustainability’ being used as a driver for competitive advantage.

The article, which is based on a new book by Chris Lasslo and Nadya Zhexembaveva, argues that that the incorporation of environmental, health and social values into core business activities (with no trade-offs in price or quality) is the answer for enduring profit and growth.

It adds that such embedded sustainability makes sense, leading to organisations having a “more decentralised handle on efficiency in its broadest sense, an in-depth awareness of environmental and social trends and related risks and opportunities, and may even lead to innovation and experimentation that encompass more bottom-line benefits.”

Moreover, it goes on, embedded sustainability offers employees and stakeholders new opportunities to find meaning in organisational life.

I guess the idea of embedded sustainability for competitive advantage appeals more to the private sector than the public sector, but in these times of mixed public/private sector/mutualised relationships, perhaps the concept has mileage here too.,

The Guardian view of mutualisation

By David Bicknell

There is an interesting Guardian piece on mutuals published today. It features some quotes from  Campbell McDonald, a director of the employee-owned trust Baxi Partnership, which is working with some of the public sector organisations now setting up mutuals.

“If you are going to do it, there has got to be a set of things that are in place,” he says. Strong leaders will be needed to steer the new organisations, as well as support from government and from those commissioning services at a local level. But mutuals could transform services, he believes. “The prize is that you see big gains in productivity and huge rises in employee motivation. That tends to trigger innovation and will free up the organisation to make things happen more quickly.”

 “If any of this is going to succeed on scale, we cannot allow new organisations to be set up to fail,” he adds. “The mutual option is not a silver bullet, and without a decent number of success stories to point to in two years’ time this movement will struggle to really get off the ground. The most worrying factor right now is that with so many groups of employees considering a mutual way forward, a huge number are still struggling to get the right support and advice at the right time to give them the best chance of survival.”