Broadband: On Wednesday the decision was taken by the County Council Cabinet for some extra funding to be put in place to “maximise impact and address hard to reach areas” – this area of course is hard to reach. Broadband must be the most important communication network needed for all, whether in business, at school, working from home, GPs and Vets etc – so it is a priority that West Dorset gets what it needs. There is a report on this if you would like it but the recommendation agreed was this:Cabinet is asked to agree that the Superfast Dorset programme should, subject to available funds, strive to improve speed and coverage levels, beyond current contracted targets, with the ultimate aim of near 100% coverage across the Dorset County Council area, and:
- a) Note the actions in place to manage the delivery of the partnership contract with BT and ensure value for money
- b) Make additional budgetary provision of £265k for demand stimulation activities aimed at driving earlier and higher levels of take up to maximise the re-investment pot (estimated at an additional £2.6m if a target of 30% take up is achieved)
- c) Consider further sources of local match funding in order to secure additional government funds.
- d) Agree to the submission of a full application to the Rural Community Broadband Fund in respect of the Marshwood Vale Project and, should the application be successful, delegate the approval to enter into a funding agreement with the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs to the Director for Corporate Resources after consultation with the lead member for Environment.
There is also good news on the mobile coverage front too.Roads and associated issues: highways is getting mobile – rather than different teams having to return to offices to report things that need doing, they are now using mobile technology to report problems and log them on the spot and where possible fix it right there and then. This also means that instead of only filling in a pot hole that is marked, they can do others they spot in the area. This really should speed things up and make money go further.Verge cutting – the way this is currently done is being reviewed by elected members and will include getting back to local solutions, not blanket ways of doing it which do not fit with what is needed in each area.Additionally, our area is piloting shortly the training of local volunteers to give people who would like to help clear gullies, clean signs or other things that need doing but would take months and months for DCC highways to prioritise, the proper guidance and ability to do this, insurance covered by DCC. This is called Chapter 8 training, working safely on the higher and a great deal more. If anyone is interested please let me know.
- Buses: at the beginning of this year I highlighted to you by email and my website that the County Council needed to check if those bus routes which needed local tax payer money to keep them running, because they were not commercially viable, was what you wanted. A consultation took place and now the result is through. To summarise:
– Public transport is wanted; but some supplied is not used;
– Public transport should be marketed better, people need to know there is a bus service;
– The person to place service is really wanted so that if there are say two or three in a village wanting a way to get to a town, they might not need a bus but a community service could be a better solution;
– Why run a taxpayer paid bus when few use it.
The Result from Wednesday’s vote based on local resident responses:
*More money will be invested in the person to place service, to help local volunteer drivers, who are absolute stars, but do need financial support. Great result.
*A service which is pretty unknown outside Dorchester: I reminded officers that the car share and lift scheme for Dorset was available for us in rural Dorset, not just Dorchester, so why not promote it more? The system is not Dorchester centric, it can be used for all: Broadwindsor to Bridport for instance. Any journey. I will put the link up on my website shortly but you can look for it on http://www.dorsetforyou.com
Changes to the original suggestions to subsidise cuts on some of our routes around here are as follows, in brief.
– Drimpton to Bridport, No 42. The original proposal was going to end both the Saturday and Wednesday service: it will now continue on Wednesdays.
– Marshwood via villages to Chard: No 14; original proposal was to end it. Now it will run one day a week, and the community should decide which day is best for all along the route.
– Thorncombe via many villages such as South Perrott to Yeovil – No 204. The original proposal was to stop it – the result now is to keep it running on Fridays.– Maiden Newton to Bridport – No 73 – this service will now not run on a Saturday but continues during the week.Bus route 47 – the Bridport to Yeovil College service. This one is partly commercial and the operator gave notice to end it. However, some very good discussions are taking place and I am hoping that it will continue, particularly to meet the need of those going to College and work in Yeovil. I will update you when more is known.
The overall aim was to ensure all those places which had a subsidised bus route would continue to get at least a weekly service. I would like to thank everyone who responded to the consultation, your views certainly made a huge difference to the way that the officers reviewed the options to change.
Adult Services: you will be reading shortly in the local press about a review of services for adults in Bridport in particular. The aim is to deliver services that meet the needs now and for the future which are more suitable than when set up many years ago. Here is a bit of the headline:
The council is encouraging the public to get involved and help shape the plans for a £4.7m investment in local services, including day services, care for older people and support for people to stay healthy and independent in the community for as long as possible.
The options include a new purpose-built community hub for day services, and the possible replacement of the services provided by Sidney Gale Care Home.
A second public meeting will be held towards the end of January.The Tunnel and Buckham Down: there are plans in place to tackle the Himalayan Balsam issue on the Tunnel and around the area so that the vegetation that has been planted on the slopes to help embed them will not be compromised by this very invasive weed. I have more details about it if you want. Buckham Down, there is an update on my website but the headline is that it is being given a makeover – the view up there is amazing but the site itself is in need of better seating, paths and generally made far more attractive.
Children’s Services: my Cabinet role at the County Council covers Children’s Safeguarding and Families. It is a wide brief and one which is incredibly sensitive. There are children and young people in the County who are in care and they need our focus and there are other families who also need a bit of help too, for many reasons. Providing things for young people to do or have access to lots of activities is really important and does have remarkable results in setting them on a course of achieving and opening up opportunities they might not have been able to reach without a bit of help. Dorset has one of the lowest numbers of young people not in employment or education or training (NEETS) and this must continue to be the case.There are sections on my website for individual village and parish matters. I do try and keep these updated as much as possible but sometimes matters change so suddenly, particularly road closures and fixes, it is not always possible. There is also a section about what I have been doing in my various roles for the local community and the County.