Dorset County Council has set priorities for its services based on the feedback received over the summer by residents through the Ask Dorset project. It will be no surprise to hear that roads, rural employment and transport came out on top. There is a considerable amount of change taking place at the County Council, too much to list here, but below are a few areas which I hope will illustrate to you the way this is being addressed.
Overall across all services there is a re-organisation to try and bring about more flexible working so that officers can spend less time travelling and more time carrying out the service they are so good at.
For example, in the highways section greater use of technology has taken out some 6 processes at least for instance from reporting a highway defect to getting it fixed. This has to be a better way and more effective use of finances as well as providing a swifter service. Highways has had a larger budget this year due to successful bids for monies to be spent on potholes, gully and drain clearage, winter damage and addressing the back log of surface treatment which is so needed on C and D roads. There is a holistic review of transport, all types, to join them up, whether for children, those using social services, young people’s requirements, access to employment. Superfast Broadband is being rolled out across Dorset and as part of promoting the rural economy, reducing the need to travel to urban areas for access, rural areas have benefited from additional funding to fill in the gaps wherever possible.
Ensuring children are safe and that families have access to help if they need it is a priority for all. The focus of the service is to try and provide early help to families so that over time, we address the issues which we currently face in Dorset which is that too many teenagers are coming into care – they and their families might need early help. We want to help young families as soon as possible so they hopefully do not reach the troubled families agenda. We have a fantastic adoption service which has been nationally recognised as one of the best but Dorset still has about 360 children in care, and currently I believe it is 14 children looking for adoption families. Nearly everyday we hear on the news about different threats to child safety, such as child sexual exploitation. Working with the police, schools and community groups together is essential in order to protect young people and raise their awareness of some of the criminal activity using social media to contact them.
For adult social services plans are underway to provide a means for people to use the services even if they are not within the social services system. An authority trading company will mean that with more users, economies of scale and the services will continue to thrive.
Community Safety – I sit on the board that looks at all matters to do with safety, and the top issues at the moment are road speeds and accidents (the police are stepping up their enforcement and education messages) and the dangers of social media for children and young people which is increasing daily. School Governors and teachers are all being given extra training to spot this danger.
If you have any questions please let me know. If you need any help with local matters, again let me know. I really think that early help, early prevention assistance is so important. If you or an organisation you work for can be part of this, for all ages, please get in touch. I will write more about this next week.
Wishing everyone a Happy New Year!