Poole’s progress

We are now a month into the new year and already 2019 is shaping up to be a momentous one with the exciting commencement of the new BCP Council on 1 April.

A time of significant change can bring a level of uncertainty into people’s lives but embracing the change and remaining informed on the future will ensure our transition into the new council will be a seamless one. Poole’s ethos will remain the same – we will continue to deliver our services to the very best of our abilities, whilst striving to be successful as a combined council. We remain committed to respecting and retaining each town’s history and heritage, so that every area can succeed in its own right as part of one team, one Council, unified.

I have been the Leader of Poole Council for nearly four years now, having been a councillor since 2007. Over the years, it has been a pleasure to see Poole prosper and flourish into the vibrant, multicultural town that it is today. Our achievements over the last four years continue to highlight our commitment to improving Poole and marking its status on the map.

Words of thanks must go to the Members and Officers who have worked tirelessly over the last four years to deliver our Corporate Strategy during a period of significant financial challenge. Our achievements – detailed in Poole’s Performance story – include the major transport schemes that continue to improve access in and around Poole, with the most recent Hunger Hill / Townside improvements receiving very encouraging feedback. Our parks and open spaces continue to attract and delight visitors every year, and in addition, Poole has achieved the highest ever recycling rate, in excess of both the UK and EU targets, showing our increasing awareness for the environment and pride in the town we live and work in. Achievements for us all to be proud of and growth that has been my privilege to have overseen.

In the coming months and years, our town centre regeneration work will see the development of the new cinema complex at the Dolphin Centre; a new bus station and better connectivity to the railway station; over 400 new homes; a new hotel; a leisure centre and swimming pool; and attractive public spaces with improved pedestrian and cycling facilities. This is all part of our ‘Poole Progress’ vision for a prosperous future, attracting more people into our conurbation to live, work and visit, whilst retaining and celebrating our unique heritage and culture. These improvements will make Poole a leading town within the South West, which will be of benefit to all.

Our budgets are balanced going forward which is a huge achievement as our ambition through our Poole2020 financial strategy was to deliver sustainable budgets that rely less on the use of reserves, and we have been committed to ensure this happens.

The next Shadow Executive Board will be a busy one with many key decisions being taken before the formation of the BCP Council. The BCP programme is on course for inauguration on 1 April, and has most recently concluded the recruitment for the Tier 2 Director posts with an experienced and robust team leading Poole into a strong and sustainable BCP future, which is something I am looking forward to experiencing alongside you all.

Thanks for reading,

Janet

 

 

 

Fostering for Poole

Christmas is fast approaching and for many it means getting together with family and enjoying the festivities.

A sense of belonging and being part of a family is so important, but not least for our children and young people in care.

Our latest Foster for Poole campaign is well underway, and with a continued demand for foster homes we are always looking for local people who have time in their lives and the compassion to foster a child or young person.

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Very often we hear that people rule themselves out as potential foster carers because they may not own their own home, they’re in a same sex relationship or they are a single person, but these should not be considered barriers.

Our dedicated and committed foster carers come from all types of backgrounds and look after children and young people with different needs. Young people with complex needs, those leaving care and particularly older children all need a supportive and loving home.

If you, or someone you know, is thinking about fostering and would like to have an informal chat then I would strongly urge you to get in touch with our friendly Fostering team on 01202 714711 or via the poolefostering website.

New year brings renewed energy and looking positively to the future and it feels like an ideal time to highlight the ambitious programme of work that is well underway to regenerate Poole.

HLP_B_150217_4463We’ve successfully launched www.pooleprogress.com and if you haven’t seen it yet I would highly recommend taking a look.

This interactive website currently showcases our priority sites for regeneration around the town centre and our plans to promote Poole’s economic growth by attracting new business, housing and jobs to the heart of Poole.  You can catch up on regeneration related news and see how our partners and developers are also investing and contributing to the town’s future prosperity.

It’s an exciting time for the town, its residents, visitors and businesses and I look forward to seeing how these schemes take shape.

May I wish you a very Happy Christmas and New Year.

Thank you for reading

Janet Walton

 

 

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.

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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

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.