722 research outputs found

    Teaching Public Affairs – The Cinderella Subject of Journalism Courses

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    Public Affairs: Even the name of the serious part of Journalism courses is problematic. For years this absolutely essential, but often maligned, part of so many university Journalism courses, has been taught by ‘a guy from Politics’ and hated, or at best endured, by its students. But it doesn’t have to be that way. The plan was to revitalise a university’s ‘Public Affairs’ module. The aim was simple – to help students learn about politics by getting them interested in it. The result: confident, motivated students who went on to study more Politics at university – and a rise in the associated professional qualification (National Council for Training Journalists) Essential Public Affairs exam pass rate from 35% to 80%. This paper will explore the strategies undertaken by the teaching team with regard to the ways in which they engaged the students, and the delivery of the module as a whole. As it is a ‘must pass’ component for the professional qualification, the engagement levels were seen as key. Finding that important ‘hook’ for each of the components of the compulsory syllabus was phenomenally important. It was the success in doing so that resulted in the improved pass rates

    The Institute for Fiscal Studies Report: English Council Funding: What’s Happened and What’s Next?

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    The article reviews the recent Institute for Fiscal Studies (IfFS) report, English Council Funding: What’s Happened and What’s Next. The article provides an overview of the main themesand findings of the report which examines the consequences of a sustained period of austerity for English local government and the impact of austerity on certain key council services.The article explores what the report has to say about the way councils have responded to reductions in government funding and the strategies they have developed to protect certain frontline services. The article reviews the suggestions made in the IfFS report for changing English local government funding and finds that they reflect a form of centralist thinking which lacks a radical edge when it comes to reform

    Restructuring Local Government - It's not just central interference: A case study of Wales

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    This paper was presented to the European Consortium for Political Research (ECPR) annual conference at the University of Oslo, 6-9 September 2017There is an extensive literature on the different ways in which central government interferes in local government. Within the UK, there appears to be a regular interference, with restructuring in the mid-1970s, the early 1990s, and a seemingly ongoing process over the last decade or so. With a unitary constitution, any government - or, more accurately, any government using its parliamentary majority to push through legislation - can remould or even abolish local government. Yet with the introduction of devolution to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in the late 1990s, the newly created 'regional' assemblies and parliament were given varying degrees of power over local government. The Welsh Assembly and Welsh Government were originally given secondary legislative powers in a discrete list of policy sectors, which included local government. After a referendum in 2011, these secondary powers were changed to primary legislative powers. In Wales, there are a number of issues concerning restructuring local government. These include the extent to which it is a party-political concern, with the Labour Party driving the reform agenda, as opposed to a Welsh Government drive. The establishment of the Williams Commission into public sector reform, of which one component was local government, was presented as a public consultation exercise. Yet the extent to which the Williams Report was in line with the position of the Labour Party over local government restructuring needs to be examined. The implementation of the plans to restructure local government in Wales was put on hold until after the 2016 elections to the Welsh Assembly, with the clear plan from the Labour Party of winning a mandate for implementation. Interestingly, local government restructuring was not high on the election agenda. A minority Labour Government was returned to power. No potential coalition partner was willing to run with local government restructuring. For now, that agenda appears to be on hold. This paper will assess the extent to which local government restructuring in Wales is driven from a party political base, as well as from a centralising 'regional' government. Local government restructuring is not always driven from the 'national' centre, but can be driven from a 'regional' centre. Yet there may also be a party-political drive in that region as well

    Do we need urban parish councils? The problems in England

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    The current UK government appears very keen to promote devolution through the levelling up agenda. Some of this is clearly aimed at forms of regional government, although confusingly described as devolving to the local. There is also a clear push to encourage sub-municipal organisations to get involved due to their close links with the community. In fact, the government is very keen for the establishment of sub-municipal organisations to assist in this levelling up agenda. Within the documentation, parish and town councils – the most obvious form of sub-municipal government – hardly get a mention. The creation of such bodies is not mentioned. Yet these bodies can be among the most effective routes in finding out what services are needed and how to deliver them. Such sub-municipalities are prominent in rural England. There are over 9 000 sub-municipalities, the vast majority of which are ‘rural’ or ‘semi-rural’. There are some large urban sub-municipalities – Queen’s Park (in London), the city of Salisbury, Sutton Coldfield, to name but three. Yet these are a distinct minority. The aim of this paper is to explore why such sub-municipalities are so rare in England. Some of this is down to a lack of sub-local leadership. In other instances, local councils have devolved small amounts of expenditure to the ward level, and have encouraged the creation of neighbourhood councils. There is also the issue of identity. People may, for example, describe themselves as living in a particular suburb of a town or city - but only to fellow residents of said city, or those who live nearby. This lack of identity is problematic. If central government was to push for the parishing of all of England, there would be significant issues in drawing the boundaries of the proposed parishes, as well as the allocation of powers and finances

    Economic studies showing positive competition effects on hospital performance fully controlled for the factors cited by recent critics

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    Criticisms have been made of recent influential studies that show improving performance in hospitals operating in more competitive environments compared with hospitals that have a local monopoly on care. Zack Cooper, Steve Gibbons, Simon Jones and Alistair McGuire set the record straight. The claims by Pollock et al are based either on distortions of the original research, or on an apparent lack of understanding of modern economic analysi

    Does hospital competition save lives? Evidence from the English NHS patient choice reforms

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    This paper examines whether or not hospital competition in a market with fixed reimbursement prices can prompt improvements in clinical quality. In January 2006, the British Government introduced a major extension of their market-based reforms to the English National Health Service. From January 2006 onwards, every patient in England could choose their hospital for secondary care and hospitals had to compete with each other to attract patients to secure their revenue. One of the central aims of this policy was to create financial incentives for providers to improve their clinical performance. This paper assesses whether this aim has been achieved and competition led to improvements in quality. For our estimation, we exploit the fact that choice-based reforms will create sharper financial incentives for hospitals in markets where choice is geographically feasible and that prior to 2006, in the absence of patient choice, hospitals had no direct financial incentive to improve performance in order to attract more patients. We use a modified difference-in-difference estimator to analyze whether quality improved more quickly in more competitive markets after the government introduced its new wave of market-based reforms. Using AMI mortality as a quality indicator, we find that mortality fell more quickly (i.e. quality improved) for patients living in more competitive markets after the introduction of hospital competition in January 2006. Our results suggest that hospital competition in markets with fixed prices can lead to improvements in clinical quality

    What is 'Good Governance'? A Model of 'Good Governance' for restructuring English Local Government

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    This paper was presented to the European Urban Research Association (EURA) annual conference at the University of Warsaw, 21-24 June 2017There are many problems when examining the concept of 'good governance'. There are numerous definitions, not all of which are applicable to local government. Often, there is a clear gap in perceptions between the practitioners in local government and the academic literature. There is a need, therefore, to pull together some of the different aspects of 'good governance'. This is part of a study into what is needed to restructure local government in England. The overall study is about trying to develop a model by which any future restructuring of local government can be guided. One aspect of this model is 'good governance'. A clear problem in trying to design such a model is the complexity of English local government. Wilson & Game have described it as "a dog's breakfast". There is no single uniform structure. There are both unitary and tiered authorities across England, some with elected mayors. Local authorities in London have to contend with the London Assembly - which is, effectively, a regional body. When examining what is needed to develop 'good governance', the issue of structures is clearly important. In England there is a mix of tiered and unitary authorities, not all of which appears to make sense. For the most part, the larger urban conurbations are unitary authorities. Yet beyond the structures, there are so many other practicalities to consider. There is the internal management - and again there is no uniformity in England, even across unitary urban authorities - of each local authority. How is the 'politics' carried out? What are the leadership structures of a council? Added to this are the issues around scrutiny - what is scrutinised and how is scrutiny carried out? While there is central government legislation which compels local authorities to have some form of scrutiny arrangements, there is a lack of uniformity in English local government. Within this lack of uniformity are a range of forms of good practice and, arguably, not such good (or effective) practice. Finally, and again with a lack of uniformity across England, are the relationships with other bodies, through, for example, forms of public private partnerships, quangos, and other service delivery agents. What is the role of the council (and councillors) in these relationships? What should the role be? When there are contracts of twenty years or more in length, what becomes of the role of the local authority? In many respects, where councils no longer deliver any services, they have become what Nicholas Ridley (the former-Environment Secretary in the Margaret Thatcher Government of the late 1980s, responsible for local government) termed the 'enabling authority' i.e. they enable other bodies to provide the services and utilise a very light touch form of regulation. This paper is not planning a single uniform system of 'good governance' for English local government. Such an objective is simply not achievable, noting the complexities in English local government. Rather, it is about raising the specific questions and issues which need to be addressed in any future restructuring of local government in England. In effect, it is developing some form of check list. Different councils have differing needs and requirements. Most obviously, urban centres have significantly different demands to non-urban. The emphasis in this paper will be upon the urban councils and the 'good governance' needed for their better management should any future restructuring take place

    Teaching Citizenship?

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    The file attached to this record is the author's final peer reviewed version. The Publisher's final version can be found by following the DOI link.Citizenship appears to be one of the new buzz words, not just in education, but covering many aspects of our lives. Typing the word ‘citizenship’ into the Google search engine, for example, results in over 1.7 million pages being returned. Within the context of education, it is now a compulsory element in the English education system up to the GCSE level. Thereafter, it is an option, and the AQA Examination Board are introducing a full new ‘A’ level in the subject area from 2010, with the new A/S component starting from 2009. Further, citizenship is also taught at the tertiary level, with Surrey University offering a degree in the subject area. Added to this, any non-British nationals have to sit a citizenship test as part of the process in obtaining UK citizenship. Then there are the citizenship ceremonies, where foreign nationals receive awards for passing their British citizenship exams. Thus citizenship is a key element in our education system and beyond. The problem is, how, if at all, can citizenship be ‘taught’? What is included in a citizenship syllabus? How does that which is taught in schools and colleges differ to that which is taught to immigrants seeking UK citizenship? There is a feeling that the whole concept of teaching citizenship is fundamentally flawed – and that is even before any thought goes into the assessment procedures. Despite this, the government appears willing to pump money into the teaching of citizenship at the primary and secondary level

    Probing the dusty stellar populations of the Local Volume Galaxies with JWST/MIRI

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    The Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) for the {\em James Webb Space Telescope} (JWST) will revolutionize our understanding of infrared stellar populations in the Local Volume. Using the rich {\em Spitzer}-IRS spectroscopic data-set and spectral classifications from the Surveying the Agents of Galaxy Evolution (SAGE)-Spectroscopic survey of over a thousand objects in the Magellanic Clouds, the Grid of Red supergiant and Asymptotic giant branch star ModelS ({\sc grams}), and the grid of YSO models by Robitaille et al. (2006), we calculate the expected flux-densities and colors in the MIRI broadband filters for prominent infrared stellar populations. We use these fluxes to explore the {\em JWST}/MIRI colours and magnitudes for composite stellar population studies of Local Volume galaxies. MIRI colour classification schemes are presented; these diagrams provide a powerful means of identifying young stellar objects, evolved stars and extragalactic background galaxies in Local Volume galaxies with a high degree of confidence. Finally, we examine which filter combinations are best for selecting populations of sources based on their JWST colours.Comment: 16 pages, 7 figures, 2 online tables; accepted for publication in Ap

    Does Hospital Competition Improve Efficiency? An Analysis of the Recent Market-Based Reforms to the English NHS

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    This paper uses a difference-in-difference estimator to test whether the introduction of patient choice and hospital competition in the English NHS in January 2006 has prompted hospitals to become more efficient. Efficiency was measured using hospitals' average length of stay (LOS) for patients undergoing elective hip replacement. LOS was broken down into its two key components: the time from a patient's admission until their surgery and the time from their surgery until their discharge. Our results illustrate that hospitals exposed to competition after a wave of market-based reforms took steps to shorten the time patients were in the hospital prior to their surgery, which resulted in a decrease in overall LOS. We find that hospitals shortened patients' LOS without compromising patient outcomes or by operating on healthier, wealthier or younger patients. Our results suggest that hospital competition within markets with fixed prices can increase hospital efficiency.Hospital Competition, Market Structure, Prospective Payment, Incentive Structure