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Issue:- 17 November  2011

Biking boost for city!

LIVERPOOL is on the road to a healthier future, because more local people are getting on their bikes than ever before.  New figures show that between April 2010 and April 2011 there was a 10% increase in recorded cycle trips in Liverpool. Itís the third year in a row that the number of cycle trips in the city has grown.

The figures; which reflect the cityís on-going efforts to increase cycling rates; come from the Merseyside Cycle Monitoring report, part of the regionís second Local Transport Plan. The report also shows that between 2006 and 2011, Merseyside enjoyed an overall increase of 25% in recorded cycle trips.

Liverpool City Councilís Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Transport, Councillor Malcolm Kennedy, said:- "This is great news for Liverpool, and a fantastic boost for us during the first year of our Decade of Health and Wellbeing. These figures are really encouraging, and show that our investment in sustainable transport is having a real impact. Cycling is a fantastic form of exercise and environmentally friendly. Itís also a great way of getting around, both for commuters and for recreational purposes. We are working really hard to break down barriers to cycling, because we understand the huge benefits it can bring; so itís great to see that this work is paying dividends. We will continue to invest in cycling in Liverpool and have already committed an additional £1million over the next four years towards improving our sustainable transport infrastructure."

Cycling in Liverpool has been given a boost since 2009 by the growing success of the Cycle Aigburth and Cycle Speke schemes, which work closely with businesses, schools and community groups to encourage local people to build cycling into their daily lives. Hundreds of people of all abilities have now been bitten by the biking bug, through free events such as the Cycling Sunday guided bike rides; beginner bike rides and after-school rides for children. A 'Bike Buddy' scheme partners people with experienced cyclists who know the local cycle network, while local people are recruited as volunteer cycle leaders and given the relevant training. 

Cycle Aigburth and Cycle Speke also provide additional cycle parking outside shops and new bike shelters at primary schools, as well as improving cycling facilities to make it easier for people to bring their bikes to work, backed by the city councilís ĎBike To Workí scheme. And Cycle Aigburth is helping cyclists to be seen on dark nights this winter, by giving away free high visibility vests; reflective slaps, which stop trousers getting tangled in bike chains; and puncture repair kits. Liverpool PCT and TravelWise are also helping to boost biking in the region - providing free cycle training and bike maintenance courses for Merseyside residents; while Dr. Bike sessions at a range of community events, keep people safer on their bikes by carrying out minor repairs such as fixing punctures and adjusting brake cables.  Itís all backed-up by a range of city-wide and personalised route maps, available on the city councilís website, which help local people make the most of the cityís cycle infrastructure in the area.  Liverpool has just committed £1m in Local Sustainable Transport Funding from the Department of Transport to further boost the cycling infrastructure and sustainable transport in Liverpool between 2011 and 2014. It will be invested in, among other projects, improving east/west links, a cycle loans scheme, setting up a neighbourhood travel team, and active travel in order to promote cycling to businesses and communities in north Liverpool.

Porn SPAM attack on Facebook

THE website has been hit yet again by another wave of spam flooding users' pages with graphic pictures depicting sex and violence. It is thought the latest attack has been via an internet browser application. It spread after users installed plug-in into their browsers which executed malicious software and continues until removed from the host computer. This program then exploited a vulnerability which caused the user to unknowingly share the content, because their accounts have been hijacked. Facebook has said that:- "We would like to remind people about the dangers of using unknown code in a browser's address bar, and adding unknown software, browser bars and other applications. We recommend that users must always use up-to-date browsers, as well as report any suspicious content to us. Our team responded quickly and we have eliminated most of the spam caused by this attack. We ask users to remain vigilant and report any applications they suspect could compromise accounts. Here at Facebook, it is a top priority to stop spam and malicious content and we are now working to improve our systems to better defend against similar attacks in the future." Also check out our archived news report that we ran a few weeks back, about the UK being vulnerable to cyber attacks.

£250m pilot to give employers power over skills training!

UK Businesses will be given the power to design, develop and purchase the vocational training programme they need under a £250 million plan announced today by the Prime Minister. The move is designed to boost economic growth and ensure that the UK workforce has the skills that businesses require.

In 2012 employers will be invited to bid for a share of the new £250 million government fund. It will route public investment directly to employers, enabling them to invest in the training they actually need.

Prime Minister David Cameron said:- "I know times are tough; especially for young people; who are trying to get their foot in the door and launch their career. That is why I am determined to do all that we can to give people the very best skills, training and opportunities to succeed; and why despite tough spending decisions we are investing in record number of apprenticeships. We are seeing an incredible take up of these apprenticeship places. I want that to continue, which is why we are taking action to make it easier to take on apprentices, and now we are giving employers the power to take control of the training so that it best meets the skills they need. I hope this radical new approach will encourage even more employers to take on apprentices and ensure that the UK workforce has the skills we need to boost growth."

Business Secretary Vince Cable said:- "Skills are central to the UK economy and our long-term competitiveness. Despite some good progress our system needs more flexibility and we are treading water by international standards. We have to fundamentally alter the relationship between employers and the state; giving employers the space and opportunity for greater ownership of the vocational skills agenda, including the chance to bid for direct control of public funds. This will encourage greater competition in the market as we strive for sustainable growth."

The vision of greater employer ownership has been championed by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES), a Non-Departmental Public Body that provides strategic leadership on skills and employment issues.

Charlie Mayfield, Chairman of the UK Commission for Employment and Skills and the John Lewis Partnership, said:- "Skills are not a separate agenda but integral to growth. We have seen some progress but not enough. Too often the skills system appears to businesses as a government-led enterprise rather than one led by employers. We need more businesses working together with their supply chains, sectors or localities to develop the skills they need. The best way to do this is to route funds directly to employers, placing the responsibility and reward for how money is spent with the employer, not government."

The competitive fund will route public investment directly to employers and will be backed by significant resources from existing skills budgets. Funding for 2012/13 will be up to £50m, with an additional £200m in the 2nd year; subject to evidence of high quality proposals from employers and ongoing evaluation.

It will test different approaches, come up with new ways of engaging employees and potential employees, other firms and their supply chains to develop news ways of investing in skills, and working with the further education and skills sector.

It will be open to collaborative proposals from businesses of all sizes and from all sectors of the economy. Bids will need to demonstrate how public investment will leverage private investment, support Apprenticeships and show a commitment to raising skills levels in their sector or supply chain.

Nigel Whitehead, Group Managing Director Programmes & Support, BAE Systems:- "BAE Systems welcomes the commitment by the Government to give employers greater ownership of vocational skills. We are committed to working with other employers to maximise the impact of our investment in skills. We are aiming to provide more than 500 work experience placements throughout the UK, including in areas of high unemployment. We are also committed to continuing to run a substantial apprenticeship programme and to encouraging an expansion of apprenticeships in our supply chain."

The government expects to issue a formal prospectus on the fund jointly with UKCES early in 2012 so that projects can begin later in the year.  The announcements are part of the governmentís growth review. Building on the programme of reforms set out in the first Plan for Growth the next stage of the review is focusing on education and skills, infrastructure, logistics, mid-sized businesses, rural economy and open data. More details and actions will be announced later this month.

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