Monthly Archives: November 2013

Universal income – an idea whose time has come

Why not pay everyone £20k a year Universal Income?

I’ve written about this previously, as I think it is far better economics and social policy than complex bureaucratic welfare benefits such as Universal Credit. I particularly think it is a good policy for mental health reasons – if someone needs a break to paint pictures of butterflies in a shed for a few months, why not?

Essentially the Universal Income is your tax allowance, but guaranteed. Anything else you earn gets taxed, again a simpler system than now. It can also be set to sort out a Living Wage.

Ireland looked at it seriously around six years’ ago, and now Switzerland is considering it too.

I would tweak the £20k for the extra costs faced by disabled people, and the ‘old’ Disability Living Allowance is tried and tested, paid to people regardless of being in work or not working.

Countries could set different levels to adjust for cost of living or purchasing parity, so the reasons for moving to country X would not be financially driven.

Link –

timharford.com/2013/11/a-universal-income-is-not-such-a-silly-idea

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New York City – 250,000 LED Street Lights by 2017 – as shown at CUBE in Manchester in 2010

It is good to see energy-efficient LED street lights being used widely in Los Angeles and now New York.

Perhaps the first LED street light in Manchester, 84 watt, was on show by CCI in the CUBE Gallery on Portland Street, even if it was indoors!

New York:

http://singularityhub.com/2013/11/10/new-york-city-to-replace-250000-street-lights-with-leds-by-2017/

Manchester:

http://www.ccinw.com/uploads/documents/nwckh/north_west_construction_knowledge_hub__final_evaluation_2012.pdf (page 20)

ERDF, Document Retention and the use of Electronic Records

In the twenty first century, at the completion of one ERDF project I managed we archived over 80 lever-arch files in 23 large boxes. The boxes were placed on metal shelves in a storage room for the next twenty years or more. We had to book a lorry to move them. It really was like the closing scene from the film Raiders of the Lost Ark. Only, apparently the director used special effects to save money.

In the 1970s I studied computers for my first degree and we used what was called a mini computer which lined a wall. We needed a false floor for all the cable connections and ventilation to remove the heat. It had a name, the PDP-8.

Today, anyone’s smart phone has more capacity and memory than did our dear old mini computer.

But also today, we still archive boxes of paper for ERDF projects in a way that is only slightly more modern than the Dead Sea Scrolls. Or rather, the public sector does.

In the private sector, especially in larger firms, ECM (enterprise content management) is key to business efficiency. When you phone the company, all your records are on screen. Your company is invoiced electronically, which is accepted by the tax authorities. The handwritten coupons have been optically scanned into computer files, thousands at a time. The recruitment agency scans paper and electronic CVs with software which automatically recognises phone numbers, address, job titles, names of previous employers. Untouched by human hand. Deliveries are tracked with barcodes, inventories are real-time and warehouses are replaced by just in time ordering.

In the public sector … we have email. And some marketing people are allowed on Twitter. Oh, so modern.

We also, dare I say it, have some officials who seem only to trust an A4 sheet of paper. Not wishing to be unkind, but I sometimes wonder about the conversations they might have with younger family members. "So, you can do updates on a website like Facebook using your phone while on a bus?" "Yes Pops, like, everyone does," and eyes roll.

So, just for the fun of it, you may be interested in a short paper I have written on ERDF and electronic records. Working group to consider in 2032.

Private sector – please click below to download.

Public sector – please send a large, stamped, self-addressed envelope to …

ERDF and Electronic Documents, Discussion Note (Tony Baldwinson, 2013).doc

Background Links

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enterprise_content_management

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_preservation

Usual disclaimers

I am currently on contract to DCLG on ERDF Compliance, and nothing in this blog or post represents official policy, just my personal views.

This blog and post are in the interests of general and professional discussion and nothing constitutes particular advice for any project or person.

ERDF and Electronic Documents, Discussion Note (Tony Baldwinson, 2013).doc

Free download: ERDF Independent Guide, 2nd Edition (pdf)

Please click the link below to download this book.

ERDF – An Independent Guide, 2nd Edition, 2013, by Tony Baldwinson

This is an updated version of a small guide I wrote in 2012, hoping to be useful to people who are new project managers using the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) in the UK.

ERDF is probably one of the most demanding funds to be involved with, with levels of penalties and fines not usually experienced within other funding streams, and therefore ERDF is not everyone’s cup of tea.

However, I feel that with care it can be used to good effect, helping communities develop and regenerate even in these austere times. Also, you could say that once you are proficient in managing an ERDF project then there is no other scheme you could not cope with. I’ve tried to be fair without glossing over the difficulties.

I would add that I learn something new about ERDF pretty much every week, sometimes realising that a section of the Guide is no longer current. Plus sometimes there are competing interpretations, where we need to wait a little longer to get a definitive answer. So, all the mistakes are mine but I also welcome feedback and comments.

Above all, I hope you find something in it that is useful.

Disclaimers:

I have worked on contracts to DCLG on ERDF Compliance, and nothing in this blog or post represents official policy, just my personal views.

This blog and post are in the interests of general and professional discussion and nothing constitutes particular advice for any project or person.

ERDF – An Independent Guide, 2nd Edition, 2013, by Tony Baldwinson

ERDF – Let’s talk about the files

First impressions do count.

Looking at the range of activities that the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) supports, I get a sense that ERDF can be seen by people in two distinct ways. For some people it is seen as a source of finance; but for others it is seen as part of a defined project. The choice made between these two approaches will largely decide the success of the venture, in my view.

The problem with seeing ERDF just as a source of finance is that the wider objectives of the fund, and the attached obligations, can become ignored. A source of finance just asks for receipts or accounts, and maybe also for repayments or dividends. The contract is purely financial.

But ERDF is more than just finance – it is a tool for economic development and therefore it comes with a wider set of conditions. To be fair, these wider obligations are sometimes hard to get a clear sense of when reading the dozen or more pages of standardised legal clauses. The National Handbook is sometimes overlooked as a source of help here.

So for me, the first impression of whether there is a sense of a project will often come from seeing how the files are organised.

Open the cupboard doors and what do you see? If there are shelves of files, numbered and labelled, from publicity to procurement, from consultations to claims, then we know we are cooking on gas.

However, if there are only boxes of receipts, maybe connected to each claim by an old rubber band, then it is time to order the strong coffee and prepare for disappointments.

Hopefully the projects you will work with are in the former category. If not, this checklist is from my ERDF Guidebook, just in case it helps.

PROJECT FILES

General

  1. Funding Agreement as signed
  2. Changes to the Project, as signed
  3. Planned and Actual Progress
  4. Organisational Status and Project Structure
  5. Contingency Plans
  6. Risk Management
  7. Insurances, Equality Policies, Health & Safety
  8. Agreements with Delivery Partners, as signed
  9. Procurement of Contractors, as signed
  10. Governance Roles, Records of Meetings
  11. Data Protection and Privacy

Finances

  1. Financial Procedures as followed
  2. Accounting Software, Cost Centres
  3. Retrieval of Original Invoices, Receipts
  4. Accounting Records, Budget Approval
  5. Scheme of Delegation
  6. Value Added Tax
  7. Claims Compilations – Claim 1 onwards
  8. Apportionment – Methods and Data Sheets
  9. Matching Funding Details
  10. Capital Costs, Valuations, Depreciation
  11. Salaries, Staffing Structure, Job Descriptions
  12. Timesheets
  13. Prior Agreement on Overheads Method, as signed

State Aid

  1. Details of System, as used
  2. Copies of Letters, Notices, Agreements

Procurement

  1. Details of All Procurement Exercises
  2. Any Single Tender Action Contracts Awards
  3. Any Preferred Supplier Contracts Awarded
  4. All Formal Tenders
  5. Any Contract Extensions

Publicity

  1. Publicity Examples by the Project
  2. Publicity Examples by Third Parties

Other Matters

  1. Defrayal by the Grant Recipient
  2. Defrayal by Named Delivery Partners
  3. Document Retention Arrangements
  4. Project Assets and Useful Economic Life
  5. Project Final Audit, if applicable
  6. Records for Cross-Cutting Themes
  7. Records for Outputs and Results.

Disclaimers:

At the time of writing I was on contract to DCLG on ERDF Compliance, and nothing in this blog or post represents official policy, just my personal views.

This blog and post are in the interests of general and professional discussion and nothing constitutes particular advice for any project or person.