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.

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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.

Blog photo

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.

Dolphin Centre Poole - cinema CGI web
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