With the tough financial pressures that councils face, combined with the increasing number of elections and local referendums taking place such as Scottish Parliament, Police Crime and Commissioner, Mayor of London, National Assembly and Local Government elections being held on 5 May as well as the EU referendum being held on 23 June. This means that the UK electorate will be going to the polls more often this year.
But what does this mean for the local authorities that will be delivering these elections? Here are just a few considerations:
- Booking potential Polling Station sites
- Obtaining, coordinating and training of temporary elections staff which includes Polling Station and Count staffing
- Provision of notices and nominations
- Compiling and keeping up to date the electoral registers
- Public awareness campaigning to encourage voter registration
- Processing new voter registrations
- Printing of electoral items such as Poll cards and Ballot papers ensuring its compliance with electoral legislation
- Issuing and Re-issuing of postal vote packs – lost/spoilt
- Postal voting opening sessions and processing
- Organising and managing the Count which will have high media interest and presence
Idox Grants’ knowledgeable team of trainers and consultants are on hand to help those working in the public, private and voluntary sectors to apply for funding – whether that be finding the right grant for your project, writing competitive bids, responding to tender opportunities, developing the skills needed to effectively manage grant projects, or exploring the opportunities available from the EU.
With over 30 years’ experience, our training courses are designed for both new and more experienced practitioners and offer proven learning outcomes to help improve funding success rates.
On April 21st, Socitm (the Society of Information Technology Management) will be having their annual spring conference. This year, the agenda reflects the challenges facing technology leaders, who are under increasing pressure to radically transform services and deliver financial savings.
The event will open with a discussion on how digital technology should be used to provide the public services of the future. In anticipation of this, I thought I’d highlight some of the issues that may be discussed.
Full article: Delivering digital differently
Last year, Reading Room became the latest company to join the Idox group.. In this article, Idox’s James Carson describes how this award-winning digital consultancy’s has gained an international reputation for innovative strategic consultancy, design, and technical delivery.
Full article: Introducing Reading Room: a trusted digital partner
The registered charity Historic England cares for over 400 historic buildings, monuments and sites across the country. There are 270 employees based at its London headquarters in a building designed by Alfred Waterhouse who was also responsible for the design of the Natural History Museum. A further 500 employees are based at a secondary office and storage facility in Swindon.
The Swindon facility is housed in a Grade Two listed building, previously the drawing offices of Isambard Kingdom Brunel. It is home to a unique archive building attached to the main office, housing 12 million historical objects. The store rooms inside are tightly temperature-controlled and accessed via an airlock. If the air conditioning in the archive breaks down, there is the risk of losing a huge collection of objects and artefacts. CAFM Explorer helps ensure that the refrigerated storage is consistently and closely monitored.
“The wider organisation is my client, and I’ve got to make sure that everyone’s experience when they come into this building is a good one – that they’ve got the right facilities, that they’ve got the right services. CAFM Explorer has given me the visibility and management control I need to deliver this.”
Full case study: Historic England
The Idox elections team delivers innovative, cost effective solutions to meet the changing needs of the UK and international electoral services market. This year, we shall again provide election management services to support the local government and Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) elections in England and Wales, and the Scottish Parliament elections.
In this article, Idox’s Rebecca Jackson looks at the reasons that may account for the poor turnout in the last PCC elections, and whether this might increase in 2016.
As part of the ‘Cutting Red Tape’ series of sector reviews, the government is looking to give housebuilders their say on what works and what doesn’t in the housing sector.
Find out more in our latest article: Cutting the red tape
Reading Room worked with the Commonwealth Secretariat to redesign and develop their new intranet, vital for communicating the strategic vision for the organisation from the Secretary General and increasing internal productivity. Reading Room worked with a wide range of stakeholders within the Commonwealth Secretariat throughout the project, which has been central to ensuring the correct approach and gaining internal buy-in.
The Commonwealth Secretariat is the main intergovernmental agency and central institution of the Commonwealth of Nations. It provides guidance on policy making, technical assistance and advisory services to Commonwealth member countries.
Idox is pleased once again to be supporting the RTPI Awards for Research Excellence for 2016.
The awards are intended to:
- recognise the best spatial planning research from RTPI accredited planning schools
- highlight the implications of academic research for policy and practice
- recognise the valuable contribution of planning consultancies to planning research
- promote planning research generally
Submitted research and its potential implications for planning policy and practice can relate to anywhere in the world (not just the UK and Ireland). The five award categories are:
- Academic Award
- Early Career Researcher Award
- Student Award
- Sir Peter Hall Award for Wider Engagement
- Planning Consultancy Award
As the UK’s leading provider of planning and building control solutions to local authorities, Idox actively engages with issues affecting the planning profession. We see our core mission as improving decision making in public policy, by improving access to research and evidence, and we are proud to be playing a part in these awards to promote academic, researcher and student excellence in this area.
This is the second time that Idox has given its support to the RTPI Awards for Research Excellence. In 2015, we sponsored the Student Award, won by Emma Thorpe, a student in the School of Planning and Geography at Cardiff University. Idox also sponsored the Sir Peter Hall Award for Wider Engagement Award, won by Dr Paul Cowie from Newcastle University’s School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape. Next month, Paul Cowie will be making a guest contribution to our blog to describe the impact of winning the RTPI award.
This year, Idox will again be sponsoring the Student and Wider Engagement awards, as well as the Planning Consultancy award.
The closing date for applications to the awards is 31 May 2016. Further information and application forms are available here.
Following a recent tender, Medway Council has awarded Idox a new two year agreement to deliver an integrated solution for their Management System rationalisation project of Environmental Health, Trading Standards, Private Sector Housing, Licensing, Planning and Local Land Property Gazetteer.
The new system will replace existing Northgate systems and will be supplemented by Idox Public Access which will help the council deliver an enhanced community engagement and consultation process. In addition, Idox will also deliver the Exacom hosted solution for the administration of Section 106 agreements.
In today’s technology-led, information-saturated business environment – where energy companies can be operating on legacy document management systems or are managing data across different platforms and systems – there is a real risk of multiple versions of the same document being in play. This is particularly true when managing engineering data, where pertinent documentation may be stored in multiple folders throughout a company’s IT network – or across different systems. There is a business-critical need for multi-discipline teams to be able to link associated documents, diagrams and content together, and trust that the version of engineering data they are using is the single point of truth.
Having the confidence that everyone in the team can access the right information quickly and easily, and is working from the same up-to-date documents, has the benefit of increasing the operational efficiency and productivity of your engineers and operational staff, enabling you to respond to downward cost pressure by working smarter.
With so much information stored in different locations in multiple formats, across a myriad of digital archives and databases, it can be challenging for engineers to manage the mass of acquired data and access the information they require quickly and easily, in a format relevant to them. We’re reaching the tipping point, where the management of data can lead to it becoming too unwieldy to be easily searchable. And as version supersedes version, and the importance of tags and metadata consistency across different sources and document formats increases, it is essential that all the appropriate information is accessible, with the latest updated versions easily identifiable.
While many engineers enjoy the process of getting to the first working model, this is merely the starting point. The model then needs to be captured in engineering drawings, with supporting engineering data collated. The drawings are used to describe how to consistently reproduce the design, which forms the basis for product improvements and production efficiency. Meanwhile, the engineering data proves that the product conforms to the original design goals. Proof of conformance has business-critical importance to both internal stakeholders – from marketing, accounting and production – through to external groups, such as distributors, customers, service providers and regulatory agencies.
However, simply creating engineering drawings and recording engineering data is insufficient. To be truly useful, engineering drawings and data must be stored, reviewed and approved, published and maintained. As revisions are made, it is all too easy for different versions of the same document to be created and there is the risk of outdated, parallel versions of drawings and plans being viewed and the information used. There is also the possibility that other systems, such as ERP or asset maintenance systems, hold retained documents.
What sort of information needs to be stored?
Each engineering drawing – including technical documents such as specifications and procedures – contains extensive information. This includes who is ultimately responsible for the document content, a document numbering system to enable identification, a title or description, appropriate document revision or other indication of a specific design iteration, author(s), reviewer(s) and anyone else who contributed to the information. There is also all the appropriate technical information necessary to fulfill their purpose.
In addition to the formal engineering drawings, all background information – which is the basis for the engineering designs – also needs to be saved electronically. This data includes: product capabilities and functional requirements; budget estimates; production volume assumptions and development schedules; suppliers' component datasheets; product performance tests and qualification results; alternative design data; as well as notes, calculations and other written communications. This amounts to a huge mass of data, which must be accessible to anyone involved in the design, upgrade or renovation process.
What happens if the wrong version is used?
There is a potential risk when documentation is held offline, in different silos within a business, that it can lead to teams working together, simultaneously, but using different versions of a plan. In a best case scenario, if the wrong version of engineering data is used it can cause some misunderstandings, which can then lead to a delay in the project. The worst-case scenario can be that it affects the overall quality of the project and impacts on the bottom line. The quality issue can also lead to serious health and safety challenges further down the line.
Commented Phil Woodrow, McLaren Software CEO: “Oil and Gas and the Energy sector have large plants and assets, which means there is an increasing amount of engineering content that needs to be managed. With so much more information out there – compounded by compliance and regulations or deregulations – it is vital that companies recognise and understand the importance of getting their engineering document management right.”
The importance of searchability
Phil continued: “There are serious health and safety – as well as cost – implications of information not being up-to-date and easily searchable. Imagine an emergency situation, such as a natural disaster that results in an oil spill. What happens if the health and safety, and emergency processes, including the information on the pipelines is not the most current? Where there is a risk to human life or a danger to the environment, this often amounts to much more than financial penalties, and in these situations time is of the essence. Even if ultimately the outcome is not too severe, there can still be huge financial costs of retrieving documents for lengthy audits, post-event.”
In a different vein, but equally important as far as having the correct engineering drawings and plans, is planned decommissioning. According to industry experts Oil & Gas UK, between 2014 and 2023 a total of 927 oil wells on the UK continental shelf (the North and Irish Seas) will come out of production. This represents 246 topside structures to be removed from 104 platforms, weighing a total of 281,600 tonnes. Another 134,000 tonnes of subsea structures also have to be removed, while 3,277 km of pipelines will be decommissioned. The scale of this undertaking demonstrates the absolute necessity for accurate, up-to-date asset information. Without this, the assumptions made during the decommissioning design are exceedingly likely to be inaccurate, with extensive environmental and health and safety risks.
The whole truth
The ideal scenario is to have a single point of truth portal, which enhances and complements any existing Enterprise Content Management (ECM) system for searching, finding and navigating engineering content. To achieve this, a thread must link together all related and associated engineering content within different source repositories. Effective data management through technology means documentation can now be easily found and understood at the touch of a keypad. Having consistent tag and data integrity across different document types and sources, provides the confidence that when information is required, it avoids duplication and enables search results to be instantly validated. Also, with quick and easy navigation, time wasted during searches – caused by sifting through too many folders and finding several different versions of the same document – can be eradicated. By making data easy to navigate and searchable through a single point of truth portal, as well as linking associated documents, diagrams and content together with tag and hotspot links, to return a single, most recent result, everyone will be on the same page when it comes to any given project timeline.
New, exciting software is due to be launched soon that will enable this to become a reality. When introduced it will increase the operational efficiency and the productivity of engineers and operational staff, and respond to downward cost pressure by becoming more efficient, providing access to information they seek much more quickly and easily. It will leverage content through advanced tag and metadata extraction capability, to search and find key information and will introduce a step-change advancement within the industry.
For further information on the technological opportunities offered by McLaren Software, visit www.mclarensoftware.com
Vindsubsidies’ innovative online administration tool Grant Manager, received high levels of attention at ESEF 2016, the most important engineering event in the Netherlands. ESEF is held every two years in Jaarbeurs Utrecht and this year’s show attracted almost 25,000 delegates from across a wide range of industries such as High Tech, Health, Food, Automotive, Shipbuilding and Energy.
At the show, the ESEF Jury awarded Vindsubsidies with the Innovator Award for Grant Manager. The Jury described Grant Manager as a ‘robust solution designed to manage and control project-based administration’.
Grant Manager provides companies’ with an insight into the status of their ongoing grant projects and since its launch in January 2016, has received high praise from Customers who have commented that they are delighted with the online tool which allows them to easily record time, enter charges, upload important documents and process all data in a report.
Increase of market awareness of Idox Grants
Many visitors at the show took the opportunity to indulge in their own hands-on experience of Grant Manager by searching on the interactive screen for grants. Presenting Grant Manager at ESEF has helped to increase market awareness of Idox Grants and its products in The Netherlands.
Vindsubsidies is part of Idox Grants and a leading player on the Dutch funding market.
The Idox Information Service is the first port of call for information and knowledge on public and social policy and practice. For 40 years we've been saving our members time and money, and helping them to make more informed decisions, improve frontline services and understand the policy environment. In this article, Idox’s Morwen Johnson looks at the Social Policy and Practice database, a collaborative information resource that Idox has been contributing to since 2003.
Isle of Wight Council has awarded Idox a new 5 year contract under the Crown Commercial Service LASA Framework to consolidate its land and property solutions. The council has previously utilised a diverse range of land and property solutions and suppliers to manage a number of core business functions for the local authority.
Under the new agreement, Idox will provide the council with a single fully integrated solution to manage such things as Development Control, Building control, Environmental Health, Licencing, Private Sector Housing and Trading Standards. Planning, Building Control and shortly Licensing will be supported by iApply, Idox’s national portal for applications enabling applicants to apply on line, attach drawings and pay fees which will be loaded directly into Uniform and Idox DMS.
The new Idox Uniform and Document Management system will provide seamless collaboration between the departments and will help streamline processes.
In addition, Idox’s Public and Consultee Access for Planning, Enforcements Appeals, Building Control and Licensing will assist the council to improve customer self-service by enabling consultees to receive consultation requests and respond directly through a web portal whilst providing citizens and stakeholders with online access to track applications and to receive automated updates.
Finally, Idox Enterprise will be implemented to support council officers in monitoring and balancing staff workload, enabling a consistent approach to service delivery and improving productivity.
Technology has been proven to help save time and money across many industries, helping companies reach maximum efficiency and service for their customers. However, it has been recorded that local authorities have been wasting two million man hours every year due to the ineffective ways the services are being used.
It is not uncommon for council employees to be rekeying data, costing councils not only unnecessary time but also a lot of money. The rekeying of data alone costs the local authorities nearly £14 million a year, which could increase to £45 million if councils do not invest in effective digital services solutions. iApply is one of these solutions. It has been designed as an online management system for planning and building control applications. It provides a solution that ensures that the process is smooth-running and efficient, saving valuable time and money.
The planning permission process has been described as ‘on the brink’, with it being complicated and time-wasting for applicants and councils alike. This inefficiency can cause stress not just to the applicants and planners but also to council employees who process the applications. The process needs to become more accessible to the public, not off-putting or seen as increased hassle.
Appropriate technology, such as iApply, will enable authorities to stay in control of the time and money spent on these services.
With iApply, applicants have all the planning process applications and building control submissions in one place, coupled with real-time information, notifications and the ability to collaborate. However, the benefits are not just for the applicants, but also for the local authorities processing the applications. All the information is found in one place, is easy to use and informative to both the planner and authority, with no need to rekey information, thus reducing duplication of effort.
Ultimately, the process will be easier for everybody involved, eventually negating the stigma of a difficult and time-consuming submission process.
For further information on iApply, please visit www.iapply.co.uk or find out what one of iApply customers has to say about UK’s first combined online planning and building control submission service http://bit.ly/1UhPVMCTweet
As a leading developer and provider of a broad range of software solutions for UK public sector organisations, Idox has a longstanding and highly regarded role in enabling engagement between government and citizens. In this article, Idox’s Steven McGinty looks at ways in which local authorities in the UK and overseas are harnessing technology to give citizens a bigger voice in the decisions that affect them.
Bromsgrove District Council and Redditch Borough Council have awarded Idox a new contract to provide the councils with a joint shared service for their core Idox business systems within Planning, Building Control, Land Charges, Estates Management and Licensing.
Idox will work with Bromsgrove and Redditch, to consolidate their systems and data transfer, enabling the work processes for both authorities to be managed in one system. Under the contract, Idox will also provide a managed service responsible for the management and maintenance of these systems.
This shared resource, will enable the councils to make significant cost savings whilst providing a modern, competitive and flexible service that matches the needs of citizens whilst maintaining a consistent high standard of service.
Idox has developed a strong reputation for delivering the cost-effective resources and skills local government needs to serve its communities effectively. From its time-saving online planning and building control application service and its regulatory services solutions to its long-standing information and intelligence services, Idox has proved to be reliable partner for local authorities. In this article, Idox’s Heather Cameron looks at the potential impact on local government of the Chancellor’s 2016 Budget.
Full article: Budget 2016 - 5 messages for local government
North Yorkshire Building Control Partnership (NYBCP), the first Local Authority Building Control Partnership in the UK, provides a flexible and modern building control service on behalf of Hambleton, Richmondshire, Ryedale, Scarborough and Selby councils. NYBCP was one of the local authorities involved in the iApply pilot project and has since become one of iApply’s early adopters.
iApply brings some much-needed ease to the process of planning and building control submissions, increasing time-saving on the part of both applicants and local authorities, and ushering in a step-change in the way customers interact with government. It’s designed to bring greater flexibility and interactivity, providing access to every planning and building control form, including pre-application.
Les Chapman, Head of Building Control at NYBCP, explains why he favours iApply’s new approach. “We have been working with Idox since 2012 and the company has already helped us streamline our online service. The introduction of iApply seemed like an obvious next step and we were keen to be involved in the initial pilot, as it gave us the opportunity to ensure that it would work effectively for our customers. One of the things that has made iApply such an attractive proposition is how simple and intuitive the product is to use. The fact that our applicants can use iApply to collaborate with others involved in the project – from the architect to the client – is also a major benefit, as is the ability to pay online. In addition, iApply will help us become more efficient and our aim is to be able to turn building notices around within one day.”
For further information on iApply, please visit www.iapply.co.uk or find out what else Les Chapman has to say about UK’s first combined online planning and building control submissions service: view NYBCP endorsement.
Reading Room is proud to announce we have received two prestigious awards for our work with The National Archives on the Magna Carta education resource for children ages 11 to 14. At the BETT (British Educational Training and Technology) Awards, we received the top award for Free Digital Content/Open Educational Resources – single issue resource. In March, at the MEDEA Awards we were awarded the Special Jury Prize, a discretionary prize determined by the judges to recognize “exceptional innovation in pedagogic or technical design.” We are honoured to be the recipient of these awards and proud of our staff’s dedicated work on this project.
The Magna Carta is one of the most widely recognised documents in history – but few actually understand what it contains, what it meant then and what it means now. To address this challenge, The National Archives partnered with Reading Room to build a resource targeted at Key Stage 3 (ages 11-14) children. Reading Room developed an education activity focused on the creation of a ‘Chronicle’ which the children write as they move through chronological chapters featuring original videos, maps and other digital assets from the National Archives. Children can earn badges and points by answering questions about what they’ve learned in the chapters and receive instant feedback. Built in just three months, the resource helped mark the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta by King John at Runnymede. Reading Room was delighted to work with The National Archives and be a part of this important milestone in the Magna Carta’s illustrious history.
This year’s BETT awards saw the most entries ever with stiff competition in our award category from Tesco, CTVC Ltd/TrueTube, iCompute, London Grid for Learning, National Theatre and Frog Education and the Royal Society of Chemistry. The judges were most impressed with our “combination of engaging content, intuitive technology and robust pedagogic design.”
The MEDEA Awards were held in Brussels this March at the Media & Learning Conference, the awards attracted over 290 participants from 30 countries. Reading Room is especially proud to be recognised with the Special Jury Prize by the highly-qualified judging panel at the MEDEA Awards.
We would like to say thank you to the BETT and MEDEA Awards for recognising our work, The National Archives for partnering with us and our staff for their hard work and dedication.