Idox: enabling transformation, collaboration and improvement

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If you follow this blog regularly then you’ll know that we write on all areas of public and social policy. What you might not realise though is that our Knowledge Exchange team is just one part of a much wider business – Idox – providing specialist information and data solutions and services.

I’ve been working with Idox for about four years, but I’m still topping-up my knowledge about the organisation. Last week, at the company’s end-of-year get-together, my brain was like an overworked sponge as it tried to absorb a multitude of facts, figures and achievements during two days of workshops and presentations (to say nothing of the informal chats in between the working sessions).

From this wealth of information, I’ve compiled a selection that I think conveys a flavour of the depth and diversity of Idox today.

Ten things you might not know about Idox…

  1. The Reading Room, which is the newest addition to the Idox family of companies, has developed digital solutions for a wide range of customers, including Porsche and Clarence House, and this year developed a virtual reality test drive app for Skoda.
  2. Idox’s recently-launched iApply service enables planning applications and building control consent to be applied for via a single source, streamlining the application process.
  3. The Idox GRANTFinder policy and grants database contains details of over 8000 funding opportunities.
  4. Real-time information delivered by Idox’s Cloud Amber keeps the travelling public up-to-date about transport services and helps manage traffic congestion.
  5. The Idox group currently employs almost 600 people in over 10 countries, including the UK, the Netherlands, Germany, the United States, India and Australia.
  6. The Idox Elections service not only ensured the smooth management of postal voting for the 2015 UK general election, but has also supported delivery of local authority and community council elections in the UK, as well as this year’s local elections in Norway.
  7. Idox has a strong presence in the compliance sector, raising awareness among managers and employees of the importance of complying with regulations, from corruption prevention and data privacy to occupational safety and cybersecurity.
  8. Idox Engineering Information Management, provides critical engineering document management and control applications to the oil and gas, mining, pharmaceutical and transport industries in 50 countries.
  9. CAFM Explorer, Idox’s computer aided facilities management software, supports building maintenance and property management for organisations in 45 countries, and recently partnered with the Hippodrome to help maintain one of London’s most popular attractions.
  10. From food safety monitoring to licensing taxis, Idox’s regulatory services help local authorities enforce the rules that keep us safe.

One more thing…

Finally, the meeting reminded me of one thing I already knew, and it’s to do with the part of Idox where I work – the Knowledge Exchange.

Over breakfast on the second morning, a colleague from McLaren talked about the difficulties in finding the right information on the web. Search engines only go so far, he said, providing too little or too much. This is where skilled intermediaries, such as Idox’s team of Research Officers, can make a difference, identifying, sorting and presenting information that people can use to make decisions, support arguments and advance their businesses.

The Idox event was an enjoyable, if exhausting, couple of days, and it demonstrated the many ways in which the company is supporting public, private and third sector work.

Clearly, there’s much more to learn about Idox.

Our popular Ask-a-Researcher enquiry service is one aspect of the Idox Information Service, which we provide to members in organisations across the UK to keep them informed on the latest research and evidence on public and social policy issues. To find out more on how to become a member, get in touch.

Follow us on Twitter to see what developments in public and social policy are interesting our research team.

The Licensing Act ten years on: ‘ruinous excess’ or a more civilised drinking culture?

By Heather Cameron

‘Unbridled hedonism is precisely what [the Licensing Act] is about to unleash with all the ghastly consequences that will follow.’

This was what the Daily Mail declared in 2005 in anticipation of the relaxation of the licensing laws. Ten years on, a report by the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) claims that this relaxation of the laws did not have the ruinous results predicted by many at the time. On the contrary, the report’s findings suggest that the Act has actually benefited consumers and that violent crimes and other alcohol-related problems have declined.

What changed a decade ago

Introduced in 2005, the Licensing Act abolished set licensing hours in an attempt to make the system more flexible and reduce problems of drinking and disorder associated with a standard closing time, effectively allowing for ‘24-hour drinking’.

Opening hours of premises are now set locally through the conditions of individual licences. The Act gave licensing authorities new powers over licensed premises, whilst giving local people a greater say in individual licensing decisions. The aspiration was that in the longer term its provisions, together with other government initiatives, would help to create a more benign drinking culture.

Many, however, believed these reforms would lead to increased alcohol consumption, more binge-drinking, a worsening of alcohol-fuelled violence and crime, and more alcohol-related attendances to hospital A&E departments.

What actually happened

The IEA’s findings show these fears were unfounded. Key findings of the report include:

  • Alcohol consumption – the consumption of alcohol has fallen by 17% since 2005, the greatest reduction in UK drinking rates since the 1930s.
  • Binge-drinking – rates of binge-drinking have declined for every age group since 2005, with the biggest fall among 16 to 24 year olds (from 29% to 18%). Rates of teetotalism are now as high amongst 16 to 24 year olds as they are amongst pensioners.
  • Violent crime – violent crime fell in the first year following the Act and has declined in most years since. The rate of violent crime has fallen by 40% since 2004/05, incidents of crimes largely aggravated by alcohol have dropped sharply and domestic violence has declined by 28%. Although some evidence suggests that there has been a rise in violent crime between 3am and 6am, this has been offset by a larger decline at the old closing times.
  • Health outcomes – the evidence from A&E departments suggests that there was either no change or a slight decline in alcohol-related admissions after the Act was introduced. Alcohol-related hospital admissions have continued to rise, although at a slower pace than before the Act’s introduction, and there has been no rise in the rate of alcohol-related mortality. There was also a statistically significant decline in late-night traffic accidents following the Act’s enactment.

It would therefore appear that the greater flexibility afforded by the Act which has allowed for increased availability of alcohol has not coincided with a surge in intemperance as predicted.

Rather, by providing greater choice, perhaps the Act has empowered the adult population to act more responsibly. At a time when working hours and patterns vary dramatically by occupation, traditional standard opening times do not accommodate much of the population. In addition, they also do not meet the needs of the growing night-time economy, which is of considerable value to the economy overall, as highlighted in our recent blog.

Other initiatives

It is doubtful, however, that the changes to the licensing laws are the only factor effecting changes in drinking culture. The Act also encouraged other initiatives that have helped to bring about more positive outcomes.

In response to the Act, the Civic Trust’s report Night vision: town centres for all, prompted a number of innovations including a new Civic Trust NightVision design award, a series of practical pilot projects and ideas. This ultimately led to the Purple Flag accreditation scheme, a voluntary scheme to raise the standard of night-time town and city centres, providing accreditation to those places that are managing their night time experience well.

Various other initiatives include: Best Bar None, Pubwatch and Community Alcohol Partnerships. Since Doncaster introduced the Best Bar None scheme in 2006, violent crime has fallen by over 40% in the town centre in the evening.

It would be fair to say that the provisions of the Act and the way they have interacted with other initiatives appear to have had a positive result and not ‘the ghastly consequences’ previously predicted.

As Christopher Snowdon, author of the IEA report, commented:

“The doom-mongers were wrong…The biggest consequence of relaxing licensing laws has been that the public are now better able to enjoy a drink at the time and location of their choice.”

Local authorities have responsibility for over 50 licensing and registration functions. Idox is a market-leading provider of licensing and regulatory services solutions which offer councils an efficient way for monitoring and enforcement.

By streamlining business processes and workflow, the solutions also allow for effective shared services and stakeholder engagement via the online digital service, Public Access for Licensing. 

The Idox Information Service can give you access to a wealth of further information on health and social issues – to find out more on how to become a member, contact us.

Further reading

Crime reduction through regulations (violent disorder and licensed trade), IN Scottish Justice Matters, Vol 3 No 2 Jun 2015

Understanding the alcohol harm paradox in order to focus the development of interventions (2015, Alcohol Research UK)

Regional alcohol consumption and alcohol-related mortality in Great Britain: novel insights using retail sales data, IN BMC Public Health, Vol 15 No 1 2015, pp1-9

Reducing the strength: guidance for councils considering setting up a scheme (tackling street drinking) (2015) Local Government Association

Alcohol interventions, alcohol policy and intimate partner violence: a systematic review, IN BMC Public Health, Vol 14 No 881 2014

Is the night-time economy waking up our town centres?

By Heather Cameron

With the extent of town centre decline in recent years, the potential of the night-time economy in the UK has arguably never been more important. Earlier this year, a new industry organisation launched to highlight the importance of nightlife to the economy – the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA). And towns and cities across the UK are continuing to gain Purple Flag accreditation, recognising excellence in the management of town and city centres at night.

Driving economic growth

Our new member briefing on managing the night-time economy highlights its potential value and the challenges which need to be addressed. It explores good practice in planning, managing and supporting the night-time economy.

The evening and night-time economy is an important driver of tourism, leisure and business growth within our towns and cities. It consists of a wide range of activity in town and city centres between the hours of 5pm and 6am, including pubs, clubs, cafes, restaurants, retail, cinemas, theatres or concerts, meeting friends or attending community events. Balancing the competing demands of economic development, public safety and quality of life can be a challenge however and requires effective partnership working and engagement with residents and businesses.

Benefits and challenges

Until recently, the value of night-time activity has often been overlooked. The first research ever to look at the value and reach of the UK’s evening and night-time economy was undertaken by TBR and night-time economy specialists MAKE in 2010. It estimated the total value of the night-time economy in the UK at an impressive £66bn, employing 1.3 million people. This figure is estimated to be about £70bn now, representing about 4% of Britain’s economic output.

The NTIA’s new report emphasises the significant economic and social contribution the night-time economy makes to the UK. According to the report, there were 1.5bn day visits to the UK in 2014, 300 million of which had a meal or night out as their focus. Spending on night-time related activities represented 21% of the £52bn spent on day visits.

Offering a range of cultural activities can attract a more diverse population to urban centres later into the evening, including families and older people. It can also enhance their international appeal.

Manchester City Council recently highlighted the benefits of the city’s 24 hour offering. It estimated that 150,000 people visit the city centre each weekend to take advantage of its nightlife.

London is set to join New York, Chicago, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Berlin and Sydney, by offering a new Night Tube service. It has been estimated that the new service will lead to a gross impact of 1,965 permanent jobs, with the net additional output equating to an additional £360m.

Despite the obvious potential, the NTIA argues that regulation and a culture of fear remains a barrier to realising this potential. Negative perceptions related to crime, anti-social behaviour and alcohol-related violence are often highlighted by the media as typical features of the night-time experience.

Alcohol-related anti-social behaviour has long been recognised as a challenge for the night-time economy. Nevertheless, such behaviour has actually been in decline in recent years. Recorded crime is currently 38% lower than in 2002-03 and, of all the incidents, fewer than one in five occurs in pubs.

Regulatory environment and planning

Indeed the last decade has seen much progress in the organisation, regulation and control of town centres after hours.

The Licensing Act 2003 and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005 abolished set licensing hours in England and Wales, and Scotland in an attempt to make the system more flexible and reduce problems of drinking and disorder associated with a standard closing time. The Act gave licensing authorities new powers over licensed premises, whilst giving local people more of a say in individual licensing decisions, in the hope that in the longer term its provisions, together with other government initiatives, would help to bring about a more benign drinking culture.

With regard to alcohol policy, various initiatives have been used to engage the industry in local partnerships, including: Best Bar None, Pubwatch, Community Alcohol Partnerships and Purple Flag. Since Doncaster introduced the Best Bar None scheme in 2006, violent crime has fallen by over 40% in the town centre in the evening.

Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) have also been important. The first BID dedicated to the night-time economy was created in Nottingham in 2006. By 2009, Nottingham had become a Beacon City for its work on managing the night-time economy, achieving Purple Flag status the following year, which it has successfully retained every year since 2010. The BID’s budget, paid for by a 1% levy on business rate payers, raised about £260,000 a year. It supported events like the food and drinks festival, paid for taxi marshals on Friday and Saturday nights, introduced and supported Best Bar None and commissioned murals for vacant units in the city centre.

Newcastle’s BID, NE1, launched the ‘Alive after Five’ initiative in 2010 aimed at encouraging greater use of the city centre in the early evening gap between the day-time and night-time city. It is estimated to be worth £350m and has attracted an additional 7.9m additional visitors in to the city post 5pm.

Benefits outweigh the costs

As our briefing concludes, although there are inevitable costs involved in developing the night-time economy, the evidence suggests that these are outweighed by the benefits. Research undertaken in Sydney shows that the annual principal costs of managing the night-time economy are hugely outweighed by the turnover of businesses at the heart of the city – $127m and $2.7bn dollars respectively.

The Idox Information Service can give you access to a wealth of further information on economic development – to find out more on how to become a member, contact us.

Further reading

Forward into the night: the changing landscape of Britain’s cultural and economic life. (2015) Night Time Industries Association

‘Alive after five’: constructing the neoliberal night in Newcastle upon Tyne, IN Urban Studies, Vol 52 No 3 Feb 2015

Fear of crime and affective ambiguities in the night-time economy, IN Urban Studies, Vol 52 No 3 Feb 2015, pp439-455

Evolving high streets: resilience and reinvention – perspectives from social science. (2014) University of Southampton

The ‘civilising’ effect of a ‘balanced’ night-time economy for ‘better people’: class and the cosmopolitan limit in the consumption and regulation of alcohol in Bournemouth, IN Journal of Policy Research in Tourism, Leisure and Events, Vol 6 No 1-3 Mar-Nov 2014, pp172-185

After dark (London’s night-time economy), IN Economist, Vol 413 No 8907 4-10 Oct 2014, p32

Impact of the night tube on London’s night-time economy. (2014) Transport for London

Planning to reduce the negative effects of the late night economy: Cardiff – a case study. (2014) Design Out Crime Group Wales

Charging to support the night-time economy, IN MJ, 10 Apr 2014, p21

August issue of SPEL Journal (Scottish Planning & Environmental Law) out now

Law and Legislation shutterstock_90378226The Knowledge Exchange publishes a bi-monthly journal covering all aspects of planning and environmental law in Scotland. SPEL Journal (Scottish Planning & Environmental Law) launched over 30 years ago and is one of the leading information sources on land use planning and environmental legislation across the country.

The latest edition of SPEL includes articles focusing on:

Key court cases examined in the August edition include:

An Ombudsman complaint against Highland Council (SPSO case no 200903131) is also covered.

SPEL was launched in 1980 as ‘Scottish Planning Law & Practice’, to be a journal of record of Scottish planning. When it became apparent that the emerging field of environmental law was strongly linked to land use planning, the name of our journal changed to reflect this.

Written by a wide range of subject experts, SPEL Journal includes accessible commentary on topical subjects and current issues; details of new legislation and significant court cases; expert comment on key planning appeal decisions, government circulars and guidance; as well as notes about ombudsman cases and book reviews.

SPEL Journal is read by decision makers in Scottish planning authorities, planning law practices, planning consultancies, architects, surveyors, civil engineers, environmental managers and developers across Scotland. It is also valued by many practitioners outside of Scotland who need to keep abreast of developments.

An annual subscription to SPEL Journal is £145. For further details or a sample copy, please contact Christine Eccleson, SPEL Journal’s Advertising Manager, on 0141 574 1905 or email