Short term pain for long term gain

September always heralds a sense of that back to school feeling and with it the routines and renewed energy following the end of summer. It also, as many of the travelling public will know, often signals the start of road works on our highways.

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We all know the frustration of sitting in traffic trying to negotiate our way through the cones or having to take a diversion to get to our destination. Whilst the nuisance is acutely felt it is of course a reality of life that to ensure we keep the road infrastructure moving and fit for the 21st century, we continually need to invest and upgrade the network. Congestion is increasing. There are more cars on the road, more goods being transported and we are all leading increasingly busy and complex lives.

The truth is that whilst every effort is made by the contractors and engineers to minimise the impact there is no easy way of meeting this demand and keep staff on the ground safe, without the traffic cones coming out. Putting it bluntly it is short term pain for long term benefit.

This is very much a case in point on my mind this autumn. Next Monday we will be carrying out our annual maintenance responsibilities on Poole Bridge. The work will involve closing the route for seven days to ensure the crossing is maintained in excellent working order.

Poole Bridge

Whilst this bridge, which is well over 80 years old, has been subject to recent issues which needed a closure, all of which have been addressed, it does not negate our responsibilities to service the whole structure each year just as a car needs its MOT.

And in October £11.7million worth of improvements are due to start at Townside, focused on the Hunger Hill roundabout. This is the final part to be delivered in the Port of Poole scheme funded by Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership’s Growth Deal Fund, aimed at streamlining journey times between the Port of Poole and the A31. Gravel Hill was completed in 2016 followed by Darby’s Corner and Poole Bridge.

There is no avoiding the issue, this last section involving one of the town’s major roundabouts, is going to create some delays which we will all have to try and bear with during the nine months of work. When complete, what it will bring about is more efficient journey times, improved safety and a new public open space. We will all have to remind ourselves of this and remain as patient as possible during construction.

Please use the time now to think about your journey. Can you take any alternative routes or change the time you travel? Do you have the option to work more flexibly or consider car-sharing or cycling? Whilst not everyone can do this please consider all options.

In the meantime I would like to thank everyone in advance for their patience and consideration.

Thanks for reading.

Councillor Janet Walton

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Delivering on our priorities

One of my many duties is to chair our Cabinet meetings. A key agenda item at last nights meeting was to review the end of year performance report, which highlights the Council’s performance in delivering its priorities. I’m delighted to say that our Council continues to make good progress fulfilling this.

My Cabinet colleagues presented significant findings within their portfolio areas. This information allows us to review any areas that may require improvement and focus where we need to prioritise our resources looking ahead.

One of our top priorities as a Council is to ensure all children and young people have the chance to achieve their full potential. So I’m really pleased to see there has been continued improvement at Key Stage 2. I was also delighted to see Ofsted inspectors have judged 100% of Poole’s early years childcare groups and childminders to be ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’. This is all very positive news and shows the hard work and dedication to achieve this has certainly paid off. A couple of other key points to mention are the significant increase in the numbers of children leaving care through adoption and above national numbers of 16-18 year olds in education, employment and training. It is great to have this opportunity to share all the good things we are doing.

Upton Country Park002 Mar09In my last blog, I focused on the outcomes of our Poole Residents’ Survey. A key finding from this survey was that Poole’s beaches and parks and open spaces topped residents’ satisfaction list. I believe these are amongst Poole’s greatest assets. This is clearly reflected in our annual performance report which highlights how we have retained blue flag status for four of our beaches. At the same time Upton Country Park, Poole Park and Hamworthy Park have kept their prestigious green flag awards this year. This is an outstanding achievement.

With all these outcomes from the performance report taken into consideration, we will continue to make progress and move forward in a positive and sustainable way.

Thanks for reading.
Janet

 

What makes Poole a great place to live?

I always like to hear what people think. What they really think. So, I was fascinated to see the results of last year’s Poole Residents’ Survey. This was the most extensive survey about living in Poole since 2014, and I’d like to thank everyone who took the time to share their views.

Sent out to 6,000 residents, with over 2,300 responses received, as you can imagine undertaking a full analysis of the results has been no mean feat and has, understandably, taken several months to complete.

But the results are now available, and they provide me as Leader, my Cabinet colleagues, our Overview & Scrutiny Committees and officers across the council with truly invaluable insights into what people feel about living in Poole, and their opinions about the council and our services.

Aerial view of Poole beachesI was of course delighted to read that the survey said…. 82% of people who live in Poole are satisfied with the area. And also, that satisfaction with council services generally remains high. I wasn’t at all surprised to see that Poole’s beaches, and parks and open spaces top residents’ satisfaction list at 86% and 80% respectively.

I admit to being completely biased in considering them amongst Poole’s greatest assets, always a pleasure to visit and a wonderful place to spend some time. I was also really pleased to see that some of our most universally available services also rate really highly with our residents, with 73% satisfied with doorstep recycling, 72% with the local tip and 71% with libraries.

It’s all very well, though, being pleased with the good things – that’s not hard. A lot has changed since the last survey in 2014, most significantly a huge reduction in the Government’s revenue support grant to Poole, funding to provide day to day services, from £22.78m then to just £9.9m in 2017/18. Clearly and not unexpectedly, that has an impact on frontline services and so on people’s satisfaction with them.

Shaping poole info image for newsletterIt’s the less than pleasing results that are more telling and, perhaps, of greater value in the longer term. They tell us where we need to improve and where we need to prioritise our resources not just this year, but within the new council from April 2019.

For example, traffic congestion, road and pavement repairs, refuse collection and affordable decent housing all rate highly on the list of things that Poole’s residents consider to be important and in need of further improvement.

I hear that. I understand that. I will do all that I can to ensure these areas – already a priority for the Borough of Poole – continue to be at the forefront when planning for the new council. I remain passionate for Poole and that passion won’t subside with the replacement of the council with a new, larger unitary authority.

Thanks for reading.

 

It’s here – Poole Maritime Festival!

Taking place throughout June, it’s a real treat which is already underway. There is so much going on – for residents of all ages including families, and a really strong business programme as well – I barely know where to start!

Poole Maritime Festival lasts all month, with the highlights including the Poole Harbour Boat Show this coming weekend (8-10 June) when tall ships, taster sessions, racing and demonstrations come to Poole Quay along with entertainment including fireworks – it really is not to be missed.

There’s Harry Paye Day on 16 June, perfect for your little pirates, and a whole host of free water-based events the weekend of 23 and 24 June, including taster session for kayaking, sailing and rowing.

The Festival concludes on 30 June with a fabulous rowing regatta. All the details and programme can be found at www.poolemaritimefestival.co.uk.

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Of course, without Poole’s rich maritime heritage, which continues to this day, there would be no basis for the Festival at all. I am extremely proud to be so closely involved with the business programme, which got underway yesterday (Monday 4 June). The business programme celebrates Poole’s maritime industry and unique coastal environment, where sector professionals share developments, best practice and innovation.

Particularly exciting is our Trade Xchange (Thursday 7 June), in association with British Marine at the Lighthouse. It’s a high-level one day Conference and Exhibition, bringing together leaders and decision-makers from the UK maritime sector. You can follow @poolemaritime on Twitter for updates and information.

The line-up for this year’s festival has been achieved by the sheer hard work of our staff, a wide range of local business partners and event organisers who have come together to put on an exciting programme of activities. I’d like to express my sincere gratitude for their support.

Enjoy the Festival – I hope to see some of you there!

Opening the door of opportunity for Poole

FutureDorsetSince my last blog we’ve had the momentous news from the government giving the green light to plans to create two new unitary councils in Dorset.

This is truly an historic moment for public services in Dorset – it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to protect frontline services, champion the area nationally and to improve the quality of life and access to opportunity for people for Poole, Bournemouth and Christchurch.

I am pleased the Secretary of State Sajid Javid has approved the Future Dorset proposal. In doing so, he has opened the door of opportunity for Poole, recognising the major benefits the plans will bring for our residents.

We already have ambitious plans for the regeneration of Poole. Having a single council for the area means we will have more influence nationally to access the funds we need to achieve our aspirations. It will also make Poole an even more attractive location for business investment, and build on our town’s unique maritime history and cultural offer.

I know local councillors are committed to achieving the very best future for our residents and businesses. Our priority now is to work together with colleagues from Bournemouth and Christchurch to ensure our communities receive the services they expect and deserve.

In the meantime, we continue to have a sovereign council serving Poole residents and we recently set our budget for local services for the next 12 months. Further reductions in government funding and increasing demand for services mean we have had to take difficult decisions, including raising Council Tax for only the third time in eight years. Nevertheless, Council Tax bills in Poole will remain the lowest in Dorset, and we continue to prioritise our spending where it matters most – caring for the most vulnerable members of our community and protecting frontline services as much as we possibly can.

Councillors have been able to set a balanced budget – a significant achievement given that we have to manage a further £3.6 million reduction in annual government funding to Poole. This means Poole now receives £33 million a year less in government funding compared to than it did in 2010/11. However, through careful management of our resources and being even more efficient, we will manage to invest an additional £3 million for social care services this year and provide an extra £200,000 for homelessness services.

The reduction in central government funding means we need to bid for alternative sources of income and to date we’ve secured more than £60 million for specific projects. These will support our plans to regenerate the town centre, fund improvements to our cherished parks and open spaces, and provide much-needed investment in our roads over the next few years.

Finally, I would like to pay tribute to the council staff who worked hard to maintain services during the snow and ice we’ve experienced in the last couple of weeks. Many worked around the clock in challenging conditions to grit roads, keep residents safe and provide care support to the frail and vulnerable. A sterling job was done by all involved – let’s hope we have seen the back of winter and can start to forward to some warmer spring weather soon!

Thank you for reading.

Building a Poole for the future

Over the last few days I have been thinking about Poole’s exciting future and the role our children and young people will play in helping to shape and influence the town in the years ahead. It is also important to remember the past and Poole has a proud and rich heritage that needs to be preserved for the future.

My latest blog reflects on these thoughts and the important work being carried out in these areas across the borough.

It seems a long time since the preliminary school results were published last summer, but we now have the final confirmed results for all key stages. I would like to congratulate our children and young people and all those involved in their education in achieving such a significant improvement in performance.

Our results have improved across all key stages but we cannot rest on our laurels as there is still more we can do. 100% of our early years providers are currently judged good or outstanding by Ofsted. Our early years, key stage 1 and key stage 4 overall results were all well above the national average, with Poole being ranked 10th out of 152 authorities nationally for key stage 1 phonics and 12th nationally for key stage 4 attainment.

At key stage 2 the percentage of pupils reaching the expected standard has increased but not as much as schools nationally. It is really good to see the improvements being made in most areas, but we will continue to make progress between key stage 1 and key stage 2 a priority area.

We are also beginning to see exciting developments take place on Poole Quay, where Poole Museum Service are working hard to ensure that Poole’s fantastic past is preserved for future generations.

The Our Museum project has been launched by Poole Museum Service and looks to restore and open up Poole Museum’s historic buildings.

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Oakley Mill (where Poole Museum is currently located), Scaplen’s Court, the Town Cellars and Sea Music are all part of the Poole Museum Estate.

Both the Town Cellars and Scaplen’s Court are Grade 1 listed buildings and scheduled as ancient monuments, with the Town Cellars (also known as King’s Hall) being the only remaining building of its type in Northern Europe!

FOURIMAGES

The Our Museum project proposes that all of these extraordinary buildings should be restored and opened, so that the public are able to visit everyday. Not only would this ensure that all residents and visitors of Poole would have the opportunity to enjoy Poole’s fantastic maritime heritage, the additional space would give Poole Museum Service the opportunity to exhibit more of our historic artefacts and relieve the pressure on the existing museum space.

We are just at the start of this journey, which is going to take a couple of years and a lot of hard work to complete, but nonetheless, it is going to be a very exciting journey indeed.

Thanks for reading.
Janet

An exciting time for Poole

Welcome to my first blog post as Leader of the Council at Borough of Poole

I plan to use this opportunity to post my thoughts on the many exciting changes happening now and in the future at the Council and across our borough.

It’s a happy coincidence that I’m launching this blog soon after the news that Poole has been voted the happiest town in the South West and one of the top ten in the UK. With our beautiful scenery, fascinating history and heritage going back hundreds of years, low unemployment and lots of opportunities for work and leisure it’s a great place to live.

There’s been more good news in recent weeks about the redevelopment of the Dolphin Centre. This will see £26 million invested in revitalising the retail and leisure offer. The council has played a vital role in making this happen, investing in improvements to the multi-storey car park and much more. It’s great to see this investment going into our town centre – it’s a fantastic show of confidence in Poole. Many residents have already told me how excited they are at the prospect of a new cinema and the redevelopment of Falkland Square.

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CGI images credited to: LegaL & General / TP Bennett

Earlier this month, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Sajid Javid announced he was minded to approve the Future Dorset plan for reducing Dorset’s nine Local Authorities to two Unitary Authorities. A final decision is early next year, following a period of time when representations can be made to the Secretary of State. All representations should be made by 8 January.

You can find more about the proposal on the Future Dorset website or by watching the video:

Creating these new authorities by 2019 is a big task. To oversee this work, a new joint committee of councillors from Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole has been established. I was appointed Chairman of the Joint Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Committee. This committee, supported by officers of our Councils, will make the decisions necessary to move toward creating a new authority once the final decision is received. Some of this work will be done by smaller groups reporting back to the committee for decisions. To date a small group has met to begin discussing the important matter of Council Tax harmonisation across Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole.

In the weeks ahead, I will endeavour to update you on this important work and the many other issues that have an effect on our borough.

UCP dorset tourism awards
Upton Country Park staff collecting one of two silver awards

Finally, I had the pleasure of attending the recent Dorset Tourism Awards at the Lighthouse in Poole. There were many deserving winners across Dorset but I was particularly pleased Upton Country Park won two silver awards. Many congratulations to all concerned!

Thanks for reading.

Janet