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Cicero Lounge

Cicero Lounge has written 737 posts for Cicero's

Private Tenants in Arrears with universal credit


Nearly two-thirds of PRS tenants claiming Universal Credit in arrears #ukhousing
The Resident Landlords Association (RLA) found that one in every six landlords (61%) with tenants claiming Universal Credit have experienced them going into arrears at some point.
In 2016, the proportion of landlords experiencing arrears from Universal Credit claimants was 27%.
Furthermore, the average owed by tenants in rent arrears grew by 49% over the past year, with the figure standing at £2,400.
The RLA also found regular delays affecting the alternative payment arrangement (APA) system, with landlords applying to have housing benefit paid directly to them waiting an average of two months for these payments to be organised.
The body, which represents private landlords, has called on the government to allow tenants to choose to have the housing element of Universal Credit paid directly to their landlord.
David Smith, policy director at RLA, said: “Our research shows clearly that further changes are urgently needed to Universal Credit.
“We welcome the constructive engagement we have had with the government over these issues but more work is needed to give landlords the confidence they need to rent to those on Universal Credit.
“The impact of the announcements from the Autumn Budget last year remain to be seen. However, we feel a major start would be to give tenants the right to choose to have payments paid directly to their landlord. This would empower tenants to decide what is best for them rather than being told by the government.”

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Theresa May Cancels Council Borrowing Caps


Theresa May has freed local councils to spark a house building revival by finally lifting the strict cap on their borrowing to fund new developments.
Town halls and housing experts have fought for the freedom for years – to weaken the grip of big private developer – but the Treasury has resisted.
In her conference speech, the prime minister insisted her government was helping councils build more homes, but she admitted: “Something is still holding many of them back.”

Theresa May declares ‘austerity is over’ after eight years of cuts
“Solving the housing crisis is the biggest domestic policy challenge of our generation,” she told the audience. “It doesn’t make sense to stop councils from playing their part in solving it.
“So, today, I can announce that we are scrapping that cap. We will help you get on the housing ladder – and we will build the homes this country needs.”

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First Same-Sex Royal Family Marriage


lord-Ivar-MountbattenLord Ivar Mountbatten, a cousin of Queen Elizabeth II, married James Coyle on Saturday.

It’s the first ever same-sex marriage in the extended royal family — and I think it’s safe to say we’re way more excited about it than Mountbatten’s dog, Rosie.

The wedding took place in a private chapel at his family home in Bridwell Park, Devon, according to Pink News. There were just 60 guests, including Ivar’s three daughters — all of whom were urged to donate to Regain, a charity set up to support tetraplegics to live full, normal lives.

No members of the royal family were present, but the Independent reports that there were numerous messages of congratulations, including from Prince Edward , the Queen’s youngest son.

Mountbatten, 55, was given away by his ex-wife Penelope Thompson. They divorced in 2011, but remain very close — and Mountbatten has admitted previously that his bisexuality was a persistent issue in 17 years of marriage.

“I am a lot happier now, though I am still not 100% comfortable with being gay,” he said in 2016.

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In 2016 Prince William made history by appearing on the cover of Attitude  magazine

“Being a Mountbatten was never the problem, it was the generation into which I was born. When I was growing up, it was known as ‘the love that dare not speak its name’, but what’s amazing now is how far we have all come in terms of acceptance.”

“I have struggled with my sexuality and in some ways I still do; it has been a real journey to reach this point,” he added. “Simply talking about it in public is a huge step for me. Up to this point, I have had a heterosexual lifestyle, so living with a man is really new. One step at a time.”

While Mountbatten is not in line to reach the throne, he is a part of the Queen’s extended family. Pink News reports that a same-sex marriage from within the direct royal lineage might encounter more issues, as “centuries-old protocols that govern royal life do not generally provide for same-sex spouses.”

And around the world, LGBTQ communities often find themselves unprotected and, often, systematically discriminated against. It’s illegal to be gay in 72 countries — and punishable by death in eight, according to the Guardian.

Same-sex marriage has been legal in the UK since March 13, 2014, and on July 3, 2018, the British government approved a 75-point action plan that included a ban on so-called “gay conversion therapy.”

The plan was announced with the results of the largest national survey of LGBTQ people in the world, revealing that 40% had experienced hate crime, while nearly two-thirds feared holding hands in public.

Although Mountbatten has faced his own struggles in realizing his sexuality, he has previously said that coming out has helped reach a “place I’m happy to be” — and his marriage to Coyle is the final step.

“I suppose if we had met ten years ago a civil partnership would have been nice, but now that marriage between a man and a man is legal it seems the right thing to do,” Mountbatten told the Mail Online. “I have had the whole marriage thing — and been very happy — but James hasn’t. So I see it as a validation of my love for him.”

Related LGBT News More: The UK Will Finally Ban So-Called ‘Gay Conversion’ Therapy

 

CPAG Update: National Audit Office Report on Universal Credit


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The government’s flagship benefits system has been too slow to roll out, causes hardship, and is not delivering value for money, the National Audit Office has warned.

The National Audit Office said the £1.9bn Universal Credit system could end up costing more to administer than the benefits system it is replacing.

Some claimants waited eight months for payment amid the switch to UC, which rolls six benefits into one, it adds.

The government said UC would bring a £34bn return over 10 years.

It said more people would get into work – and stay there longer – and that it had taken a “listen and learn” approach to the introduction of the programme. The move to UC has long been criticised for its delayed and flawed implementation, with about 25% (113,000) of new claims in 2017 being paid late.

Child poverty is rising in the UK. This is because of, among other things, the high cost of living, inadequate wages and an insufficient social security system. You may be facing one or more of these challenges, as many families are.

For several years, the government has been overhauling social security. The biggest change to the system has been the introduction of universal credit – which will replace six benefits and tax credits when it’s fully rolled out. You may have seen that today the National Audit Office has released a damning report about universal credit, finding that the Department for Work and Pensions hasn’t listened to the hardship faced by claimants, it can’t demonstrate the effect of universal credit on employment, and universal credit may not save the government any money. The head of the NAO questioned the commitment of the DWP to listening and responding to the evident hardship faced by people claiming universal credit, which includes a rapid increase in use of foodbanks.
Read the report
We fed into the NAO’s research, using evidence from our Early Warning System. This collects cases about how families are affected by universal credit so that we can provide evidence to the government and push for improvements. If you’d like to know more about what we’re finding out, you can sign up to hear about our Early Warning System:
Sign up here

“Cathy Come Home” to Rushden!


 

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The Full Gospel Church in Rushden held a marvelous screening of Ken Loach’s film Cathy Come Home on the 13th June 2018  Ciceros.org has an exclusive interview with Mark Lees of Rushden’s local housing and community project ENCS

The film deals with the issue of homelessness and family fracture and disintegration caused by homelessness and although initially screened in 1966 as part of the BBC Wednesday Plays it caused for a legislative overhaul and examination of homelessness and housing provision which ultimately culminated in the form of greater legislation by virtue of the Homeless Persons Act 1977. Sadly years later and even with Bob Blackwood MPs Homeless Reduction Bill things are still rather bleak as the requirement for cheaper affordable homes and more housing in various areas of the country are causing a surge in rough sleeping and organizations like Shelter and Crisis who had just formed when the film was made are still calling for the building of 500,000 more homes a year for people facing or who are considered homeless.

 

 

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The event was attended by about 60 people who had come along to show support for the work that the local churches of the East Northants Faith Group, the Gospel Church being one of the churches involved in Northamptonshire in helping homeless people by means the “Night Shelter” run by staff and volunteers by the local charity ENCS (East Northants Community Service).

Mark Lees who is the local pastor and the chair of the ENCS and who organized the event also organized a lovely meal that was cooked by a local refugee family he has been working with. The night was attended by those homeless who are in the night shelter, Mark-Lees1volunteers of the shelter, local congregation and those interested in how the local parish of Rushden is making practical and pragmatic strives in combating the homelessness and housing problems in the Northamptonshire area.

In an exclusive interview with Ciceros.org; Mark Lees, when asked about what the screening of the film hoped to highlight said: “With the passage of time, homelessness is still a major issue today than it was when it was first highlighted through this film”. He added, “If ever a film needed a modern remake this would be one to show in graphic detail the plight of homelessness today and not in the polite English of the BBC of the 1960s”.

“With the passage of time, homelessness is still a major issue today than it was when it was first highlighted through this film”

Asked about what he would like to see local councils do more towards combatting homelessness and rough sleeping he said “Councils need to be more human in dealing with people” and commenting on the need to cut through bureaucratic legislation he said “they need to realize they have the ability to  cut corners as each case demands and offer help where it’s needed most and where legislation is restrictive”. He said he would like to see the Government take more of an initiative in its allocation of spending on homelessness more directly to where it’s needed “not directing money as it does presently to national quangos that purport to help the homeless but to provide local councils with budgets to allocate to local homeless projects with no strings attached”

“Councils need to be more human in dealing with people they need to realize they have the ability to cut corners as each case demands and offer help where it’s needed most and where legislation is restrictive”.

 

Mark’s vision of the future for the local housing homelessness project the “Sanctuary” night shelter in Rushden he wants to see the project short-term goal  “to move the shelter to a larger more suitable provision with better day support services”, and added on the need for the local person to “become more aware of their rights to housing provision and have agencies educate people on their legal rights with regard to housing and security of tenure”

The “Sanctuary” Night Shelter which has accommodation for six males only, is one of the main points of signposting that the local district; town and borough councils (Corby, Kettering, Wellingborough, and East Northamptonshire) within the Northamptonshire County relies heavily on for emergency housing and uses porta cabin dwellings with facilities to wash and eat. The Full Gospel also and has a purpose built kitchen and dining area for its Cornerfield Café which is a community café offering cooked breakfast for those in the local community and also a food bank, the church also offers a job club and debt advice on a weekly basis to people in the community.

For more information please visit:  encs.org.uk

 

 

 

 

Yemen Crisis – The world’s worst famine disaster


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Escalation of fighting around Yemen’s port city of Hudaydah threatens to cut off essential supplies to millions of people who are already one step away from famine, international agency Oxfam warned today.

The fighting has already forced hundreds of families to flee their homes.

Oxfam’s Country Director in Yemen said: “Yemen is already the world’s worst humanitarian crisis and is steadily slipping towards famine. If this vital route for supplying food, fuel, and medicine is blocked, the result will be more hunger, more people without health care and more families burying their loved ones.

“There has been far too much destruction, disease, and death. The international community needs to put pressure on warring parties to end the fighting and return to peace negotiations.”

Hudaydah is one of the country’s principal ports serving the essential needs of millions of people. Approximately 90 percent of Yemen’s food has to be imported and 70 percent comes through the port. About 90 percent of the country’s fuel also has to be imported, half of which comes through Hudaydah and the port of Al-Salif, Hudaydah is also crucial for the imports of medicine and other essentials.

Three years since the escalation of the conflict in March 2015, 8.4 million people do not know where their next meal is coming from and are one step away from famine. More than 22 million people, close to 75 percent of the population, are in need of humanitarian assistance. Last year’s cholera outbreak was the world’s worst since records began, with over 1.1 million suspected cases and over 2,200 deaths.

The conflict has fueled an economic crisis, including hikes in the cost of basic food items and non-payment of public sector salaries, which is pushing millions of people to the edge.

Oxfam has been working in the area for the past 30 years, but recently have been working since 2015 during which Yemen has witnessed one of the worst famine situations ever   have the following report on the area

The humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate with fuel shortages, rising food prices and a severe lack of basic services making daily survival a painful struggle for millions.

Before this latest escalation in the conflict, more than 10 million Yemenis were already going hungry every day. Yemen was the poorest country in the Middle East and poverty and inequality were increasing.

Over four million people are malnourished, including nearly half a million children who are in a life-threatening condition.

Over 20 million people – 75 percent of the population – need some sort of humanitarian aid.

Over 14 million people are lacking adequate water and sanitation facilities.

More than 17 million people in Yemen cannot be sure of having enough to eat each day.

Almost three million people have been forced to flee their homes due to the bombing and fighting.

Oxfam works in eight governorates, trucking water and providing cash for people there to buy food and has helped over 2.8 million people since July 2015.

The organisation has provided clean water and sanitation services for more than one million people, including in hard-to-reach areas of the country, through providing water by truck, repairing water systems, delivering filters and jerry cans, as well as building latrines and organising cleaning campaigns.

Oxfam is managing to provide water to more than 126,000 people inside Taiz city, and supporting over 118,000 people in the governorate with water and sanitation services and cash.

Direct support for more than 430,000 people in response to the cholera outbreak. This includes safe water, treatment and disinfection of water wells, hygiene kits and public health promotion. In Abbs district, we are providing a Cholera Treatment Unit with 8,000 litres of water each day.

Cash or cash for work assistance to over 50,000 people.

Clean water and sanitation services to more than 500,000 people, including in hard-to-reach areas of the country, through providing water by truck, repairing water systems, d

Supporting more than 11,000 families with livestock treatment and supporting more than 35,000 people with cash for work.

21 NGOs have signed an open letter to the United Nations Security Council calling on its members to take action to bring about an immediate ceasefire in Yemen, end the humanitarian crisis and support the UN Special Envoy’s efforts towards an inclusive political solution to the conflict.

Background to Yemen

Tensions remain between the north and the south, however. A southern separatist movement was defeated in a short civil war in 1994, and tensions re-emerged in 2009 when government troops and rebels, known as the Houthi, clashed in the north, killing hundreds and displacing more than a quarter of a million people.

A fresh wave of protests in 2011, inspired by the Arab Spring uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, forced then-President Ali Abdallah Saleh to resign.

Yemen has also become a base for militant groups, like Al-Qaeda and Islamic State, adding to instability in the country. The country spiraled into civil war in 2014 and, despite peace initiatives, fighting continues.

Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi came to power in 2012, after then-President Ali Abdallah Saleh stepped down in a bid to end civil unrest. He resigned in January 2015 and fled the country after Houthis took over the capital, Sanaa. He is still supported by Saudi Arabia and loyalist forces willing to fight the Houthi rebels. He has set up a temporary capital in the city of Aden.

Yemen is currently in a state of political limbo. The Houthis claim the parliament has been dissolved and replaced by a transitional revolutionary council, headed by Mohammed Ali al-Houthi. But the UN, US and Gulf Co-operation Council refuse to recognize the Houthis’ rule.

A spokesperson for Oxfam in Yemen, said: “People desperately need food and water, medicine and health services, they need aid that can reach them – ultimately they need the conflict to end so they can rebuild their lives. All those fuelling Yemen’s tragedy need to stop being arms brokers and start becoming peace brokers. “

 

Stuart Milk – Civil Rights Campaigner


Dd2uhixUwAAYohPStuart Milk (born December 26, 1960) is a global LGBT human rights activist and political speaker. The nephew of civil rights leader Harvey Milk, he is the co-founder of the Harvey Milk Foundation.

He has engaged in domestic and international activism, including work with LGBT movements in Latin America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

Stuart Milk has promoted his uncle’s story and addressed LGBT rights in formal major addresses on multiple continents, including before the United Kingdom House of Lords in 2012, the Italian Chamber of Deputies in 2011, the Panamanian National Assembly in 2010, and Turkish Grand Assembly in 2009. Milk is frequently quoted in international news and seen on broadcast television discussing issues of LGBT inclusion and diversity.Dd5Nn-lVAAIi_Tr

He is also a featured writer and columnist for The Huffington Post, focusing on global human rights. During the 2012 U.S. elections, Milk gave public endorsements as a surrogate for Barack Obama.

In addition to being the President of the Harvey Milk Foundation’s Board of Directors, Stuart also sits as a director on boards and advisory boards of numerous human rights, LGBT rights and youth advocacy organizations including the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER), Equality California, International Conference on Disadvantaged Youth, the Coalition for Workforce Solutions, and the International Committee for Minority Justice and Equality.

Milk has been the recipient of international and national awards for his global civil rights work.

For more information and to donate to the Harvey Milk Foundation visit http://milkfoundation.org/

 

Harry and Meghan’s Royal Wedding 2018


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The first guests are arriving at St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle for the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle at noon today. It is expected that millions of people from around the world will watch te wedding as it is broadcast around the world. Among the guests are US television star Oprah Winfrey and actor Idris Elba. Today in Windsor Castle, thousands of excited fans gathered behind barriers. Police officers armed with semi-automatic rifles have been patrolling the streets and watching from rooftops.

Prince Henry of Wales, (better known as Prince Harry), the second son of Charles, Prince of Wales and Diana, Princess of Wales. He and Meghan Markle, an American actress have been in a relationship since June 2016.

The relationship was first acknowledged on 8 November 2016, when an official statement was released from the royal family’s communications secretary. On 27 November 2017, Clarence House announced that Prince Harry would marry Meghan Markle in the spring of 2018. They were engaged earlier the same month in London, with the Prince giving Markle a bespoke engagement ring made by Cleave and Company, consisting of a large central diamond from Botswana, with two smaller diamonds from his mother’s jewellery collection.

At the same time, it was announced that they would live at Nottingham Cottage in the grounds of Kensington Palace following their marriage.

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh expressed their delight at the news, while congratulations came in from various political leaders. After the announcement, the couple gave an exclusive interview to Mishal Husain of BBC News.

Markle will be the second American and she is the first person of mixed race heritage to marry into the British royal family. The engagement announcement prompted a lot of comment about the possible social significance of Meghan Markle becoming a proudly mixed-race royal.

The Queen consented to the marriage under the Succession to the Crown Act 2013, which allows the monarch to approve or disapprove marriages of the first six persons in the line of succession. The Queen’s consent was declared to the Privy Council of the United Kingdom on 14 March 2018.

On 6 March 2018, she was baptized and confirmed into the Church of England by the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby at St. James’s Palace she had previously been a Roman Catholic.

Prince Harry made an impromptu walkabout on Friday outside the ancient walls of Windsor Castle on the eve of his wedding. Prince Harry, 33, told crowds in Windsor he was feeling “relaxed” and Ms Markle, 36, said she was feeling “wonderful”.

 

Professor Michael Sandel


Michael SandelMichael J. Sandel (born March 5, 1953) is an American political philosopher and a political philosophy professor at Harvard University. His course “Justice” is the first Harvard course to be made freely available online and on television.

It has been viewed by tens of millions of people around the world, including in China, where Sandel was named the “most influential foreign figure of the year” (China Newsweek).

He is also known for his critique of John Rawls’ A Theory of Justice in his first book, Liberalism and the Limits of Justice (1982). He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2002.

Sandel was born in Minneapolis but his family moved to Los Angeles when he was thirteen. He was president of his senior class at Palisades High School (1971) and graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Brandeis University with a bachelor’s degree in politics (1975). He received his doctorate from Balliol College, Oxford, as a Rhodes Scholar, where he studied under philosopher Charles Taylor.

 

Philosophical views

Sandel subscribes to a certain version of communitarianism (although he is uncomfortable with the label), and in this vein, he is perhaps best known for his critique of John Rawls’ A Theory of Justice. Rawls’ argument depends on the assumption of the veil of ignorance, which he claims allows us to become “unencumbered selves”.

Sandel’s view is that we are by nature encumbered to an extent that makes it impossible even in the hypothetical to have such a veil. Some examples of such ties are those with our families, which we do not make by conscious choice but are born with, already attached. Because they are not consciously acquired, it is impossible to separate oneself from such ties. Sandel believes that only a less-restrictive, looser version of the veil of ignorance should be postulated. Criticism such as Sandel’s inspired Rawls to subsequently argue that his theory of justice was not a “metaphysical” theory but a “political” one, a basis on which an overriding consensus could be formed among individuals and groups with many different moral and political views.

 

Sandel has taught the famous “Justice” course at Harvard for two decades. More than 15,000 students have taken the course, making it one of the most highly attended in Harvard’s history. The fall 2007 class was the largest ever at Harvard, with a total of 1,115 students. The fall 2005 course was recorded and is offered online. An abridged form of this recording is now a 12-episode TV series, Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do?

What now for GDS? Announcing Sprint 2018


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Photo: GDS;  Article Source: CWS (Civil Service World)

The digital transformation of government is critical to the successful delivery of public services. As the world’s number one digital government, the UK leads the way in this.

 

The Sprint 18 event – which is coming up on 10 May – will look at how we’ve built this world-leading digital government. And it will look at the work we, both in Government Digital Service and across departments, will be doing next.

Sprint 18, at London’s Southbank Centre, will bring together ministers, colleagues from across government, international visitors, media, and industry figures. It is being organised by GDS, but it will be a chance for everyone involved or interested in digital government to celebrate the progress we’ve made, and to look to the future.

Sprint 18 will focus on three themes:

  • Transformation: what the transformation of government really means – both for government and for users
  • Collaboration: how all of government, including GDS, is working together to deliver this change
  • Innovation: how government can use cutting-edge technology to solve real problems for users

Sprint 18 will show how these themes drive our work and our purpose – to help government work better for everyone.

For example, we’ll hear from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Department of International Trade about how they’re using common components to build user-focused services. And we’ll hear from the UK Hydrographic Office about how they’re using innovative technologies to detect previously unknown shipping hazards.

The work we do around EU exit must have a long-term effect and must lead to a transformed government

Oliver Dowden, minister for implementation, will talk about building a government that works for everyone, while apolitical chief executive Robyn Scott will look at what the UK can learn from other governments to remain a global leader in digital.

Achievements
For me personally, Sprint will provide a welcome opportunity to step back and consider what GDS has achieved during the time I’ve been here. I joined GDS as director general in August 2016, coming up for two years ago. Since then, the organization has delivered a huge amount.

But before I detail these I want to talk about how GDS has become a better place to work. We’ve won awards for diversity and inclusion, including a Business in the Community award as one of the country’s best employers on race.

GDS now has a gender-balanced management team, and 42% of GDS staff declare as female – in the UK technology industry as a whole this figure is 17%.

The things GDS builds and operates are the foundation of government’s digital transformation. And we’ve seen an exponential shift in departments using these things.

There are now more than 242 services using common components like payments platform GOV.UK Pay and notifications platform GOV.UK Notify. By using these components, service teams make it easier for users to make online payments and stay up-to-date about the progress of applications.

In just over five years of live service, there have been more than 14 billion page views on GOV.UK – the single website for government, and the online home of our content and services.

Meanwhile, GOV.UK Verify has been used more than 5.4 million times to access services, while GovWifi is now available in more than 340 locations across the country, including 100 courtrooms, local councils, schools, and hospitals, as well as the UK Border Force’s fleet of boats.

Collaboration
Over the past two years, we’ve also seen a huge increase in collaboration between GDS and departments. This is particularly clear in two areas: controls and procurement.

Working with departments, we’ve updated the Technology Code of Practice so that it provides the best and most relevant guidance to the government. Also working with departments, we’ve streamlined the spend controls process to ensure that it remains rigorous, but isn’t a blocker for departments.

And we’re also taking this collaborative approach to improving procurement.

42%
Percentage of GDS staff who declare as female

37
Number of common digital, data, and technology job roles defined in the GDS-authored government framework

14 billion
the approximate number of page views on the GOV.UK site during its five-year lifespan

£3.2bn
Amount of money spent through the Digital Marketplace since its launch in 2012

242
Number of services using GDS Government-as-a-Platform companies, such as Pay, Notify and Verify

The Digital Marketplace is a partnership between GDS and the Crown Commercial Service that is transforming the way government buys technology and digital services by opening the market up to small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) suppliers.

A total of £3.2bn has been spent through the Digital Marketplace in just under six years. Of that total, 48% is spent with SMEs – that’s £1.43 of every £3.

In fact, the Digital Marketplace has been so successful that we’re now going global with it.

We’re working in partnership with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to develop the Global Digital Marketplace. This aims to help international governments make their procurement more transparent, in order to prevent corruption and to boost their digital, data, and technology sectors.

The Global Digital Marketplace is an example of how the UK is using its status as the world’s number-one digital government to work with and help other countries. We had 71 international government visits to GDS last year, and I am extremely proud of how we’re working with our global colleagues.

Brexit
I am also extremely proud of our role supporting the rest of the UK government as we prepare for EU exit. GDS is delivering and providing practical support across departments.

The work we do around EU exit must have a long-term effect as well – it must lead to a transformed government. This means several things.

The things GDS builds and operates are the foundation of government’s digital transformation. And we’ve seen an exponential shift in departments using these things.

It means continuing our work to build and maintain digital capability across government, through the expanding GDS Academy. The GDS Academy will have trained 10,000 students by October, and we’re expanding the curriculum to take in new subjects such as artificial intelligence.

And to give us an overview of digital capability across government, we’ve launched the first national framework of Digital, Data, and Technology (DDaT) job roles. This has created a structure of 37 common job roles across government.

And it means that GDS will be the place where new innovations for government digital are identified and tested. In the immediate term, we’re running the GovTech Catalyst scheme, to help private-sector innovators solve public-sector challenges.

GDS is tackling a broad range of work, but we have a set of core principles and a core mission.

We will show what good looks like, we will solve the hardest problems, we will help government transform, and we will reflect the society we serve. And by doing this we will help government work better for everyone.

About the author

Kevin Cunnington (pictured above) is director general of the Government Digital Service

The importance of the “Windrush Generation” to Britain


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The Conservative government is facing a possible backlash and vote of no confidence from its voters in the coming elections over its treatment of migrants and their children who historically came to that Britain from the Caribbean in the 1940s and who later became to be known as the “Windrush Generation” of Britain.

After the current Prime Minister, Theresa May had as home secretary said she would be tough on immigration and Amber Rudd the current home secretary has been accused of making up immigration policy ‘off the hoof’ to defuse the situation following the  embarrassing debacle that saw hundreds of citizens being faced with deportation following home office rights to remain investigations into migrants living in Britain. More than  200 MPs have signed a letter to the prime minister calling for government promises to Windrush migrants to be written into law. Labour MP David Lammy, said concerns over compensation, housing, and legal rights had not been settled and Diane Abbott MP for Hackney has called for a full inquiry into whether the home secretary has breached ministerial code from the Government’s immigration targets.

The Home Office said Amber Rudd would speak in Parliament on Monday The home secretary is accused in the letter of making up immigration policy “on the hoof” to defuse the situation.

The letter addressed to Theresa May, said any promises made by the government in response to the Windrush crisis should be enshrined in law “without delay”.

But what was the effect of the Windrush Generation – let us look at just how important this migration was and look back at the benefit to Britain from that the Windrush generation of black afro-Caribbean Britons who settled in the United Kingdom.

The Empire Windrush voyage from the Caribbean to Tilbury took place in 1948.

If it hadn’t been for the Second World War, the Windrush and her passengers might not have made the voyage at all. During the war, thousands of Caribbean men and women had been recruited to serve in the armed forces.

When the Windrush stopped in Jamaica to pick up servicemen who were on leave from their units, many of their former comrades decided to make the trip in order to rejoin the RAF. More adventurous spirits, mostly young men, who had heard about the voyage and simply fancied coming to see England, ‘the mother country’, doubled their numbers.

Windrush was an important landmark in the history of modern Britain

June 22nd, 1948, the day that the Windrush discharged its 492 passengers at Tilbury, has become an important landmark in the history of modern Britain; and the image of the Caribbeans filing off its gangplank has come to symbolize many of the changes which have taken place here. Caribbean migrants have become a vital part of British society and, in the process, transformed important aspects of British life.

In 1948, Britain was just beginning to recover from the ravages of war. Housing was a huge problem and stayed that way for the next two decades. There was plenty of work, but the Caribbeans first clashed with the natives over the issue of accommodation. But alongside the conflicts and the discrimination, another process was taking place.

Excluded from much of the social and economic life around them, they began to adjust the institutions they brought with them – the churches, and a co-operative method of saving called the ‘pardner’ system. At the same time, Caribbeans began to participate in institutions to which they did have access: trade unions, local councils, and professional and staff associations.

By the start of the seventies, West Indians were a familiar and established part of the British population, and they had achieved more than mere survival. One indication of their effect on British life is the Notting Hill Carnival. the carnival took place in the same streets where West Indians had been attacked and pursued by baying crowds, but it began as a celebration, a joyous all-inclusive testimony to the pleasure of being alive. As it developed, it became clear that there was a British festival where everyone was welcome, and everyone who wished to had a part to play.

Throughout the seventies, the children of the first wave of post-war Caribbean migrants began to develop a ‘black culture’ which is now part of a black British style shared by Africans, Asians and white young people alike.

The people of the Windrush, their children and grandchildren have played a vital role in creating a new concept of what it means to be British. To be British in the present day implies a person who might have their origins in Africa, the Caribbean, China, India, Greece, Turkey or anywhere else in the spectrum of nations.

The now-familiar debate about identity and citizenship was sparked off when the first Caribbeans stepped off the Windrush. Alongside that debate came the development of arguments about the regions within the United Kingdom – Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

The British national self-image has been thoroughly remodelled in a very short time. Seen against the deadly agonies associated with ethnic conflicts in other European countries, Britain offers the example of a nation, which can live comfortably with a new and inclusive concept of citizenship. In a sense, the journey of the Windrush has never ended.

 

Liberty and Investigatory Powers Act


Our landmark legal challenge to the Investigatory Powers Act – better known as the Snoopers’ Charter – had its first victory today.

The High Court has ruled that the Government is breaking the law by forcing companies to store records of all our calls, messages, emails and our entire internet history, and then letting dozens of bodies access this private information – all with no independent oversight and no need for suspicion of crime.

Ministers now have until November to change the law.

But it doesn’t need tweaking – it needs tearing up. And we must keep fighting.
 The Government is on the run after court verdicts that have made it clear their current approach is incompatible with our rights.

We now need your help to challenge the rest of the Snoopers’ Charter and defeat it for good. Without extra funds, we can’t go to court.

We’re about to launch the next round of our legal challenge, which will take on powers to intercept our communications in bulk, hack into our computers, phones and tablets and to create vast ‘personal datasets’.

These powers undermine the values that we hold dearest and that keep us free. Our privacy and protest rights. Our free speech and our free press. Patient confidentiality, legal privilege and protections for journalists’ sources and whistle-blowers.

The Government knows it has to rethink parts of the Investigatory Powers Act. But we need to make them go back to the drawing board and create a surveillance regime with the protection of our rights at its heart. We need effective, targeted surveillance – not powers to spy on all of us, all the time.

CPAG Welfare Rights Handbook 2018


WELFARE BENEFITS AND TAX CREDITS HANDBOOK 2018/19

 

What does it cover?

Our definitive guide to all benefits and tax credits is an essential resource for all professional advisers serious about giving the best and most accurate advice to their clients.

Newly restructured, the handbook is now easier to use and it has been refocused to bring universal credit to the fore.

With detailed information on all the recent changes to the social security system, including the latest on the roll-out of universal credit and the sanctions regime, the Welfare Benefits and Tax Credits Handbook provides comprehensive advice about entitlement in 2018/19

 

This edition includes new and updated information on:

 

• who can claim benefits and tax credits

• the roll-out of universal credit

• disability and incapacity benefits, and the work capability assessment for employment and support allowance

• dealing with benefit sanctions

• challenging decisions, backdating, overpayments, income and capital, and national insurance provisions

• changes to support for mortgage interest

 

Fully indexed for ease of use and cross-referenced to law, regulations, official guidance and court decisions, Upper Tribunal and commissioners’ decisions, the handbook also offers tactical information on common problem areas and advice on how to challenge decisions.

 

Who is it for?

 

The Welfare Benefits and Tax Credits Handbook is an essential resource for welfare rights advisers, lawyers, local authority staff, social workers, union officials and claimants.

 

Cover price £61 and for CPAG members and CAB customers £51.85.

Earth Day 2018


What is Earth Day, and what is it meant to accomplish?
A message from Earth Day’s president, Kathleen Rogers

“Close to 48 years ago, on 22 April 1970, millions of people took to the streets to protest the negative impacts of 150 years of industrial development.

In the US and around the world, smog was becoming deadly and evidence was growing that pollution led to developmental delays in children. Biodiversity was in decline as a result of the heavy use of pesticides and other pollutants.

The global ecological awareness was growing, and the US Congress and President Nixon responded quickly. In July of the same year, they created the Environmental Protection Agency, and robust environmental laws such as the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act, among many.

One billion people
Earth Day is now a global event each year, and we believe that more than 1 billion people in 192 countries now take part in what is the largest civic-focused day of action in the world.

It is a day of political action and civic participation. People march, sign petitions, meet with their elected officials, plant trees, clean up their towns and roads. Corporations and governments use it to make pledges and announce sustainability measures. Faith leaders, including Pope Francis, connect Earth Day with protecting God’s greatest creations, humans, biodiversity and the planet that we all live on.

Earth Day Network, the organization that leads Earth Day worldwide, today announced that Earth Day 2018 will focus on mobilizing the world to End Plastic Pollution, including creating support for a global effort to eliminate single-use plastics along with global regulation for the disposal of plastics. EDN will educate millions of people about the health and other risks associated with the use and disposal of plastics, including pollution of our oceans, water, and wildlife, and about the growing body of evidence that decomposing plastics are creating serious global problems.

From poisoning and injuring marine life to the ubiquitous presence of plastics in our food to disrupting human hormones and causing major life-threatening diseases and early puberty, the exponential growth of plastics is threatening our planet’s survival. EDN has built a multi-year campaign to End Plastic Pollution. Our goals include ending single-use plastics, promoting alternatives to fossil fuel-based materials, promoting 100 percent recycling of plastics, corporate and government accountability and changing human behavior concerning plastics.

EDN’s End Plastic Pollution campaign includes four major components:

Leading a grassroots movement to support the adoption of a global framework to regulate plastic pollution;
Educating, mobilizing and activating citizens across the globe to demand that governments and corporations control and clean up plastic pollution;
Educating people worldwide to take personal responsibility for plastic pollution by choosing to reject, reduce, reuse and recycle plastics, and promoting local government regulatory and other efforts to tackle plastic pollution.

Earth Day Network will leverage the platform of Earth Day and the growing interest in the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day in 2020 as a catalyst for global action.

UK, US and France strike Syria


The US, UK and France have carried out air and missile strikes in Syria in retaliation for a suspected chemical weapons attack last Saturday

The US says three targets were struck – a research facility in Damascus and storage facilities near Homs

Russia said missiles were also aimed at other targets but many were intercepted by air defences

President Trump said the allies had “marshalled their righteous power against barbarism and brutality”

Russia’s president Putin condemned the strikes and called for an urgent UN meeting

The Syrian government, which denies using chemical weapons, called the strikes a flagrant violation of international law

The US has launched military strikes alongside UK and French forces aimed at reducing Syrian regime’s chemical weapons facilities in the wake of last weekend’s gas attack on the Damascus suburb of Douma.

Moments after President Donald Trump finished his address on Friday night, reports emerged of explosions in Damascus at about 2am BST. A Pentagon briefing later confirmed three sites were hit: two in Damascus and one in Homs. The sites were all regarded as linked to the storage, or testing, of chemical weapons. Syrian air defences responded to the strikes but the US said it had suffered no losses in the initial airstrikes.

The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, has described the strikes as an “act of aggression” and said the attack would worsen the humanitarian crisis in Syria. Anatoly Antonov, the Russian ambassador to the US, said “such actions will not be left without consequences” and that Moscow was being threatened.

Trump said the attack in Douma a week ago represented “a significant escalation in a pattern of chemical weapons use” by the Assad regime, adding: “We are prepared to sustain this response until the Syrian regime stops its use of prohibited chemical agents.”
The British prime minister, Theresa May, said she authorised targeted strikes to “degrade the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons capability and deter their use”. Taking a swipe at Russia, she said: “We cannot allow the use of chemical weapons to become normalised – within Syria, on the streets of the UK, or anywhere else in our world. We would have preferred an alternative path. But on this occasion there is none.”
Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei – a staunch ally of Bashar al-Assad – has condemned the US-led airstrikes, describing the leaders of France, the UK and the US as “criminals”.
Turkey has welcomed the strikes, describing the raids as an “appropriate response” to the use of chemical weapons in Douma last Saturday.
The US defence secretary, James Mattis, said the US, UK and France had taken “decisive action” against Syria’s chemical weapon infrastructure and did not rule out further strikes. “Clearly the Assad regime did not get the message” last time, he said, referring to the response to the Ghouta chemical attack in 2017. He said the allies had “gone to great length to avoid civil and foreign casualties”.
The UK’s Ministry of Defence said four Tornado jets flew from Cyprus as part of the strikes on Homs.
French defence ministry sources have said France fired 12 missiles from fighter jets and frigates as part of the coordinated air and sea raids.

Una Cooze activist and secretary


0106This is Una Cooze, (b. 1929 – d. 2001) a woman I had the pleasure of meeting and working closely with as she briefly worked for Ken Livingstone during 1991-1992 when his own secretary was on maternity leave. Una was the constituency secretary for Michael Foot for many years dealing with the correspondence on behalf of both MPs — writing to local authorities, government departments such as the home office, foreign office, department for work and pensions (the benefits agency as it was then known) and always writing diligently to each and every constituent that met both MPs initially having discussed their individual situations.

I  met her in the offices of Norman Shaw South, which along with the Norman Shaw North Building is part of UK Parliament buildings and were, of course, more famously the seat of the Metropolitan Police as Old Scotland Yard. norman-shaw-building-south

She was a long-standing member of the Labour Party and an active T.U.C  member and a lifelong socialist, this is probably why she remained an asset to the late great Michael Foot.

800px-Michael_Foot_(1981)

KenLivingstone

I have fond memories of talking with her and was amazed at her ability to recall each and every constituent in the Willesden (London Borough of Brent) area.

 

Cameron accepted for Role in First Data appointment


David_Cameron_officialDavid Cameron is taking on a new job with US electronic payments firm First Data that will see him work as a “brand ambassador” for the technology business, the company has announced.

The former prime-minister’s part-time role with the Georgia-headquartered business was cleared by anti-corruption watchdog the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments in July, according to a just-published decision letter.

Like other former ministers and senior civil servants, Cameron was required to notify ACOBA of his plans so it could offer an opinion on the job’s suitability. Last month the body voiced concern after former GCHQ director Robert Hannigan’s appointment to a role with US cybersecurity firm BluteamGlobal was publicised before it had considered his request.

ACOBA said Cameron’s request to work for First Data was acceptable, provided that he did not seek to use the privileged information he had access to as prime minister for his work with the firm, or lobby the UK government on its behalf until July next year – two years after he left office.

Committee chair Baroness Angela Browning said she had consulted Cabinet Office perm sec John Manzoni on Cameron’s appointment, which is the sixth he has successfully sought clearance for since he stood down as prime minister after failing to secure a “remain” victory in 2016’s EU referendum.

“He confirmed that the government has no links with First Data in its procurement frameworks and has no concerns about you taking up this appointment,” she said.

Source: Civil Service World 

Monarch Airlines have ceased trading


downloadMonarch Airlines has ceased trading and all its future flights and holidays have been cancelled, affecting hundreds of thousands of customers.

About 860,000 people have lost bookings and more than 30 planes will be sent by the Civil Aviation Authority to return 110,000 holidaymakers who are overseas.

Monarch employs about 2,100 people and reported a £291m loss last year.

Terror attacks in Tunisia and Egypt, increased competition, and the weak pound have been blamed for its demise.

Theresa May’s official spokesman said the prime minister “feels hugely sorry” for those affected by a “very distressing situation”.

Monarch – the UK’s fifth biggest and the country’s largest ever to collapse – was placed in administration at 04:00 BST – a time when the airline had no planes in the air.

Passengers were then sent text messages informing them flights had been cancelled – but some customers were already at airports.

Who has been affected?

Alan Jee was due to get married in Gran Canaria on Saturday and arrived at Gatwick airport with 30 members of his family.

“I have spent £12,000 on my wedding and now I can’t even go and get married,” he said. “I am gutted, absolutely gutted, and my missus is in tears, an emotional wreck.”

Meanwhile, Mike Olley had been due to fly back to Birmingham from Malaga, in Spain, on Monday.

Las Vegas Shooting one of the worst in US history


las-vegas-shooting-crowd-gty-ps-171002_4x3_992A lone gunman released a rapid-fire barrage of bullets on an outdoor country music festival in Las Vegas Sunday night, killing at least 50 people and injuring more than 400 others, police said, in the worst mass shooting in modern American history.

From his room on the 32nd floor of a glitzy hotel, the shooter, identified by law enforcement officials as Stephen Craig Paddock, 64, of Mesquite, Nevada, fired shot after shot down on the crowd of about 22,000, sending terrified concertgoers running for their lives.

“We heard what sounded like firecrackers going off. Then all of a sudden we heard what sounded like a machine gun. People started screaming that they were hit… When we started running out, there were probably a couple hundred [people] on the ground,” witness Meghan Kearney told MSNBC.

John Nettleton – Sir Arnold.


John Nettleton (born 5 February 1929) is an English actor best known for playing Sir Arnold RobinsonCabinet Secretary in Yes Minister (1980–84) and President of the Campaign for Freedom of Information in the follow-up Yes, Prime Minister (1985–88). Another political role for Nettleton was a Conservative Party Member of Parliament (Sir Stephen Baxter) in the sitcom The New Statesman. A veteran actor with a career spanning many decades, Nettleton is easily at home playing troubled or flawed aristocratic gentlemen or can be seen amongst a comic ensemble.

Other TV roles included a Ministry of Defence department chief in The Avengers (episode “The See-Through Man“, 1967), a police sergeant in Please Sir! (1969), Froggett in the office comedy series If It Moves File It (1970), Francis Bacon in Elizabeth R (1971), a Detective Superintendent in Doctor at Large in 1971, Upstairs, Downstairs (1972), The Country Wife (1977), Brideshead Revisited (1981), The Flame Trees of Thika (1981), The Citadel (1983), Martin Luther, Heretic (1983), Brass (1983), East of Ipswich (1987), Reverend Ernest Matthews in the Doctor Who serial Ghost Light (1989), Longitude (2000), Midsomer Murders (2005) and Kingdom (2008).

On stage, he has appeared in the Lyttelton Theatre of the National Theatre in the 2006 productions of Harley Granville Barker’s The Voysey Inheritance, directed by Peter Gill. He also voices Grandpa in the PC Game The Scruffs.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Nettleton was the reader of various illustrated stories on children’s television programme Blue Peter. Often these were about historical figures, such as Florence Nightingale.

He is married to actress Deirdre Doone.

 

Sky News

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