Tuesday, April 01, 2008

NEWS/Commercial PR - A view from the other side

At least I didn't say the 'dark' side!

Actually it is not a press release, but an article in Marketing Week that I cannot print out for obvious reasons, but can link to: Tesco chief Richard Brasher: Why going green must appeal to the wallet

The reason I have it down as 'PR' is to cover my ethical a**e, as it is a one-sided view. But, that said, in the context of the piece (ignoring a few other Tescoploy-motivated adventures) there is not much I can disagree with.

I've already grabbed credit for inspiring the lightbulb idea for them four years ago, but here's a couple more I can only nod along with (being we've been saying it from the off - I guess that's why some get the big bucks... timing, not originality), especially as we try to flog the RE:tie concept.

'...working hard to help our customers take small steps towards living more environmentally friendly lives. Rather than preying on feelings of fear or guilt to motivate people to change their habits, we are finding simple ways to show people that greener living can be easy and cost-effective.' ... a different tack by making going green something that they will find simple – and possibly even enjoyable. We want them to feel good about their decision to save energy or reduce their waste, rather than feeling that they are being punished, or forced to give something up.'

Hope they reply to our calls soon, then:)

It's going to be a loooong day

Shell, BP and Esso combine to launch new environmental 'A Fuel' with record £5bn budget

Fun, mind:)


Gizmag - BigBelly solar-powered garbage compactor - They got me! I don't know if it is or not a wind up, I mean solar, I mea... how much energy does it take to comapct trash???!

NEWS/GO3 - What goes up... should stay up, wherever possible

As reuse/repair, rather than constantly slapping another few hundred acres of low-cost voters on greenfield sites in newbuilds, is high on our agenda, we're interested this one.

Mind you, it does rather read as getting more money into the system first, and not so much (least, as I can see) positively encouraging renovation for release to the market.

Also, I am not sure Ross-on-Wye's commercial retail market can stand the competition from many more charity shops who don't need to pay.


PR reprinted as provided, with the odd edit for length.

New reliefs in force to bring empty buildings back into use

Changes to update empty property reliefs come into force today acting as an incentive to encourage owners to bring empty properties back into productive use, increasing access to existing premises for business, helping to reduce rents and increase the competitiveness of the UK.

Until today, empty commercial property, such as office and retail properties, received 100 per cent relief from paying business rates for the first three months, and were only liable to a 50 per cent rate thereafter; whilst empty industrial properties, such as warehouses and factories, received a permanent exemption from rates. Empty property relief last year cost £1.3bn. It is not right that empty properties are subsidised by taxes elsewhere.

We can no longer justify offering tax reliefs for buildings to sit empty, subsidised by taxes elsewhere, when UK rents are among highest in the world. Manchester for example has higher office occupation costs than Manhattan and Milan, and seven UK cities are in the World's top 20 list for the most expensive office occupation costs.

From today empty commercial property will be liable for the full business rate after an initial rate-free period of three months, or six months for factories and warehouses. Charities, community amateur sports clubs and companies in administration will be granted a complete exemption from rates on their empty properties.

Businesses that rent premises will particularly benefit through an increase in the availability of properties, thereby reducing rents and increasing the UK's competitiveness.

Local Government Minister John Healey said:

"No-one wants to live or work in a ghost town of empty offices and closed-down shops. These changes will help bring empty buildings back into use, reduce rents for small independent shops and create thriving high streets and town centres."

Billing authorities already have wide ranging and tough powers in place to enforce the changes including measures to take action against deliberate dereliction to try and avoid liability such as removing roofs from buildings.

Work is underway with the Local Government Association, the Valuation Office Agency and the Institute of Revenues Rating and Valuation to monitor the impact of the reforms and assess whether new anti-avoidance regulations should be introduced in future if necessary.

The reform of empty property relief is part of a wider package designed to increase UK competitiveness and promote more efficient land and property markets. Measures such as the new 100 per cent capital allowance for renovating or converting empty business property in Assisted Areas will encourage owners to bring empty properties back into productive use and discourage deliberate dereliction.

Anti Avoidance regulations

1. Following consultation responses to the 2007 consultation Modernising Empty Property Relief last year the Government accepted that there was no substantive evidence to suggest that the risk of avoidance activity would be anything more than low. Accordingly the Government decided it would be sensible to defer making anti-avoidance regulations.

2. However, the Government will be actively monitoring the impact of the reforms, working closely with the Local Government Association, the Institute of Revenues Rating and Valuation, and the Valuation Office Agency. If, through monitoring the impact of the reforms, evidence indicates that avoidance activity is taking place, the Government will use its new powers in section 66A of the LGFA (inserted by the Rating (Empty Properties) Act 2007) to make anti-avoidance regulations.

It is, after all, April Fool's Day

I reprint this PR in full, and without comment (which, given the first para, was hard). Actually, encouraging innovation in our civil servants is fine. I just wonder whether it ever gets put into practice, especially when dealing with all in the private sector trying to suggest efficiencies. Anyway... enjoy.

Civil Service Live to inspire and showcase the best in innovation

Civil Service Live opens today, bringing together the inspirational people running today's and tomorrow's civil service, to showcase and learn from best practice and innovation across government.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who will be speaking at the event said: "I am grateful to the thousands of civil servants who work so hard, day in, day-out, to provide Britain with its vital public services.

"These services support each of us as individuals to realise our personal ambitions: for excellent education and lifelong learning, for good health and well being throughout our lives, for safety in our communities, and for security at work and in retirement.

"But we need more reform to ensure continued high standards. I want to see Whitehall working to empower schools, hospitals, local councils and the voluntary sector to deliver the very best in public services - matching new rights for people to choose and shape services around their needs with a new professionalism from service providers."

Over the next three days civil servants across all grades and from all parts of the UK will take part in interactive seminars, tailored training programmes and hear from a range of speakers from the wider public, private and third sectors including;
* Sir Gus O'Donnell, Cabinet Secretary
* Peter Jones, TV Dragon and Entrepreneur
* Matt Dawson, member of the 2003 world cup winning England rugby team
* John Denham, Secretary of State, Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills
* Cabinet Office Minister Ed Miliband
* Lin Homer, Chief Executive of the UK Border Agency
* Lesley Strathie,Chief Executive of Jobcentre Plus

Sir Gus O'Donnell said: "Civil Service Live is an opportunity not only to showcase all that is best about the civil service but also to learn from our partners in the wider public, private and third sector.

"The Prime Minister recently set out the key challenges that the nation will face in the next 10-15 years and the civil service has a central role to play in meeting these challenges.

"The civil service is working within an ever-changing environment to deliver public services to a diverse range of users. It will be challenged to do more with less and to respond to an evolving and competitive global market. To meet these challenges we must be better at innovating. I am looking for all civil servants attending the event to take an active part and then go back to their departments and put into practice the innovative lessons they have learnt."

Earlier this year civil servants were encouraged to submit ideas, no matter how big or small, which could make an effective difference to their place of work. More than 300 people submitted ideas from which eleven were chosen. These eleven were then filmed presenting their idea to the Lions Lair panel which included Peter Jones, TV Dragon, Helen Ghosh, Permanent Secretary DEFRA, Howell James, Permanent Secretary for
Government Communications, Alan Bishop, Chief Executive COI and Robin Tye, Ernst & Young.

The film of these best eleven ideas will be shown at the event while TV Dragon Peter Jones, Sir Gus and Minister for the Cabinet Office Ed Miliband will present sessions challenging perceptions of innovation in the private and public sectors.

Peter Jones said: "The biggest asset of any organisation is its people - the Lions' Lair event was really important to give civil servants the chance to showcase and pitch their ideas for improving the public sector. It's vital for the Civil Service to use the entrepreneurial and creative skills of its employees to keep streamlining and modernising what is often seen as a slow and overly bureaucratic organisation. I've been impressed by Sir Gus' efforts to support this beyond the scope of CS Live, and I've enjoyed working alongside him sharing public sector and private sector knowledge.

"I hope this is the start of something special within the Civil Service and that the many passionate and determined employees come forward and drive positive change throughout the organisation, knowing that Sir Gus will actually help them by taking action."

The people shortlisted for their Lions Lair ideas were ;

* Kash Walayat, DCSF; Learning on the job through Supershadowing.

* Philip John, Job Centre Plus; Using technology to improve customer service through using text messages

* John McGregor, DWP; A tool to calculate arrears of benefit.

* Kathleen Lindsey, Access to Work, Job Centre Plus; Reducing water usage in departments.

* Gavin Duffy, Environment & Heritage Service; To run Government vehicles on environmentally friendly and sustainable fuel.

* Clare Merrills and David Gostelow, HMRC; Improve community understanding of policies by training staff to explain complex information in clear and understandable language and recruit staff who are multi-lingual

* Rob Murphy: Home Office, create a portal across central Government that will enable civil servants to access business directories for all Government departments. This will assist civil servants who deal with issues which cut across the responsibility of more than one Government Department or agency by enabling them to identify colleagues in other

* Jonathan Lepper, HM Treasury; A cross Whitehall on-line job share notice board to create a formal market place for job sharers accessible to all civil servants.

* Doug Roberts, HMRC; Unify the coding for Company Tax to allow all depts. to access the information they need easily.

* Rupert Cryer, Cabinet Office; Highlight success in departments through Headlines - a short, monthly note from each department setting out the key successes for each directorate.

* Geoff Bantock, HMRC; A "Unified Tax System" that can work out straightaway household's net disposable monthly income.

'Dose crazee 'mericans!

Guess which one is for real?

Once More for Gore?

Gore to recruit 10m-strong green army

Come to think of it, which would a) give him more votes or (they are different) b) more power or (they are really different) c) more opportunity to swan around the world meeting nifty folk and being adored?

Answers on a dimpled chad...

Why I try to apply the enviROI

It isn't easy, but I try to be focused when attempting to decide what might be best to support and, more importantly act upon, when it comes to my kids' futures.

To this end I have tended to commit to the enviROI, and by my assessment to the various environmental issues we face, this means (to me) priority to reducing greenhouse gasses first. Ironically Junkk.com probably does precious little in this regard, but by advocating and encouraging reduction in waste through reuse and repair, and making thinking 'eco' more fun, I figure we can hold our heads up still.

However, when I read such as this - Food miles are just a form of protectionism - I can see that the whole thing is going to be darn difficult to navigate, as the message and most media are very much in the hands of way too many whose main interest does not seem the making of this planet a better place for future generations. Green is more often than not a being used as a weapon to pursue and promote many other agendas than the ones I feel should be. It may only be a matter of time before the next Planet-Ban-it is wheeled out, and which may actually serve a very different interest to those in the headline.

Hence a rare, timely reminder to always think before you l...E-ap. Well done Mr. Lawson and the Indy.