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New operations director for PNDC

Iliana Portugues is hired by the Power Networks Demonstration Centre .

Power Networks Demonstration Centre (PNDC) has appointed Iliana Portugues as its new operations director. Portugues was previously a senior project manager at the Electric Power Research Institute in California.

PNDC, the £12.5m research centre to be launched later in 2012, is created by the University of Strathclyde, ScottishPower, and SSE, with support from Scottish Enterprise and the Scottish Funding Council.

Portugues said: “It is a pleasure to accept this appointment and be given the opportunity to drive this world-class facility forward. The Power Networks Demonstration Centre epitomises how collaboration between industry, the public sector and academia can turn great ideas into reality.”

Portugues added: "The centre will provide a unique environment to test and demonstrate these new technologies in a controlled and safe environment. This will speed up the development of the technology while reducing delivery risk."

Portugues, a chartered engineer, is also a founder of Elimpus, a university spin-out company that provides products and services for monitoring electricity sub-stations using radio frequency measurements.

Graeme Burt, director of the University of Strathclyde's Institute for Energy and Environment, and PNDC project director, said: "I am delighted to have Iliana join the team, and I am confident that under her leadership the centre will quickly earn recognition as a key facilitator of technology acceleration and adoption. This will support lower cost integration of low carbon solutions."

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Is anyone prepared to solve the NHS funding crisis?

As long as the political taboo on raising taxes endures, the service will be in financial peril. 

It has long been clear that the NHS is in financial ill-health. But today's figures, conveniently delayed until after the Conservative conference, are still stunningly bad. The service ran a deficit of £930m between April and June (greater than the £820m recorded for the whole of the 2014/15 financial year) and is on course for a shortfall of at least £2bn this year - its worst position for a generation. 

Though often described as having been shielded from austerity, owing to its ring-fenced budget, the NHS is enduring the toughest spending settlement in its history. Since 1950, health spending has grown at an average annual rate of 4 per cent, but over the last parliament it rose by just 0.5 per cent. An ageing population, rising treatment costs and the social care crisis all mean that the NHS has to run merely to stand still. The Tories have pledged to provide £10bn more for the service but this still leaves £20bn of efficiency savings required. 

Speculation is now turning to whether George Osborne will provide an emergency injection of funds in the Autumn Statement on 25 November. But the long-term question is whether anyone is prepared to offer a sustainable solution to the crisis. Health experts argue that only a rise in general taxation (income tax, VAT, national insurance), patient charges or a hypothecated "health tax" will secure the future of a universal, high-quality service. But the political taboo against increasing taxes on all but the richest means no politician has ventured into this territory. Shadow health secretary Heidi Alexander has today called for the government to "find money urgently to get through the coming winter months". But the bigger question is whether, under Jeremy Corbyn, Labour is prepared to go beyond sticking-plaster solutions. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.