Friday, 27 June 2014

Launch of the A27 Action campaign


 

 

It has been really busy this week and last night we launched the A27 Action campaign.

We welcomed more than 70 businesses at Worthing College, as well as Councillors and local MPs to officially kick off the campaign.

The campaign seeks the support from the many businesses, organisations and residents who would like to see the A27 a dual carriageway east to west and west to east. Time spent in traffic queues costs our businesses money and our residents irritation.  This in turn sends traffic off around the country lanes and through villages causing misery to the locals whose villages suffer high volumes of traffic and poor air quality.

There’s been really good support already from the Chambers of Commerce and the Federation of Small Businesses to this campaign which is great and last night even more organisations pledged their support.

But why now you may be asking.

Currently the Government is considering 6 highways schemes in various parts of the country with a view to funding improvements on them.

The announcement of which roads will be successful will be made once the Government has completed its work. The A27 is included in the 6 schemes, but we know the competition is really tough which is why we are seeking the business support to make the economic case to Government. Of course residents count too which is also why we are launching the ActionA27 website – www.a27action.co.uk -  and Facebook page too at Facebook.com/A27action – so please do take a look and please support. We need everyone’s help to make the case for the A27.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Finding out about fracking

In previous blogs I have written about the need to have a national debate on the issue of fracking. To date that has not happened, but on Saturday West Sussex County Council did its bit by holding its own Fracking Information Day at Pulborough Village Hall.

We know that there are residents who are very concerned about fracking and that there are also some residents who are very supportive of it. But there are also a large number of residents who just want to find out more information and come to a view themselves. That was one of the main reasons for holding this event, and we chose a Saturday to encourage as many people to attend as possible.

The process for anyone wanting to apply for a licence to frack is quite complex. It does not just rest with the County Council as the minerals planning authority. There is the Environment Agency, the Health and Safety Executive and the Department of Environment and Climate Change. Each and every one of those agencies has to be satisfied that their own specified criteria is met before any licence or permission is granted and all permissions have to be granted before anyone can start – that takes time.

Just writing about this sounds complex so it is important to try and demystify and help people to understand who does what and why.

This we aimed to do on Saturday, supported by our partners from the Environment Agency, Health and Safety Executive, our Planning Team and the Department of Environment and Climate Change. Staff gave up their time to help provide information, through displays, chatting one to one in response to people’s queries and concerns or through the various presentations which ran throughout the day.

Friends of the Earth and three Community Action Groups from Balcombe, Fernhurst, and Wisborough Green also were invited to ensure all different viewpoints on this issue were available to all residents.

Residents dropped in throughout the day and it was good to see a real interest but - even more importantly - a real respect for each other’s views.Feedback has been positive with many residents stating they had a better of the issues and the process around fracking having attended our event.

Part of what WSCC does is to help people to help themselves and this event I believe helped residents to understand more about this important issue. We’ve already had early discussions with the other agencies who attended the event to see about putting on another one.

The County Council as I see it has two roles in oil and gas exploration and extraction. As the Planning Authority we have to consider each oil and gas exploration application in accordance with the planning framework. Our stance on fracking is neutral to ensure each and every application is judged on its own merits, but our other important role is to provide clear, understandable information for the residents of West Sussex which we will continue to do as we did on Saturday.

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Tuesday, 17 June 2014

A feast for the senses

A little while ago I was introduced to Chris Allwood, who had previously started and ran the very successful Emsworth Food Festival.

He had a plan to hold an Artisan Food Festival in Chichester which he wanted to explain. Having attended Emsworth Food Festival in the past, I was really interested to learn about Chris’s plans for Chichester.

The idea for a community event that promoted greater understanding of food and gave food producers and purveyors the opportunity to showcase themselves was very much in line with the County Council’s policy around helping and supporting the economy, communities, and wellbeing. We liked what we heard and we supported the event through our Kick-Start Fund.

So last Saturday it was a real pleasure to visit the Taste Food Festival in Oaklands Park in Chichester. It was a community event so there was no entrance fee. Visitors were able to amble around learning about and tasting yummy food, listening to music and enjoying the day. There were lots of for children as well with plenty of activities to keep them amused, including a Bake Off.

No pun intended here but it really did have all the right ingredients to make a really successful event! It promoted the incredible variety and quality of food that’s available right here on our doorstep in this area and, personally, I do hope that it runs again next year. My thanks to Chris Allwood and his Taste Artisan Food Festival team for making this lovely event happen.

Best wishes,
Louise

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Monday, 9 June 2014

Orchid View - Why we will leave no stone unturned to act upon the recommendations made in today's report

West Sussex County Council provides a wide range of services across the county.

Many are familiar and easily understood – the road network and highways, for example, along with libraries, our Fire and Rescue Service and education.

But one of the most important, yet one of the least well known, is the safeguarding role we play which is also a statutory obligation as well.

It is our responsibility to ensure that the people that need us most – the vulnerable, the weak, the frail, are cared for and protected from harm at all costs.

Safeguarding doesn’t just relate to children (our child protection duty) but also to the old, very frail and elderly, many of whom are being looked after in nursing homes. They can be people living independently and also those who are privately funding their care in nursing homes or people whose care we, as West Sussex County Council, fund.

You may have read about the Care Quality Commission (CQC). This organisation is the care regulator and watchdog and it is the responsibility of the CQC to regulate nursing homes and the standard of care within them.

But it is the county council in any given area that will always hold the safeguarding role. Our duty is to make sure all such individuals are free from the risk of harm of any kind and to deal with any risks that do arise. Our work in this area is overseen by a Safeguarding Board chaired by the County’s Director of Public Health.

It is so often the case we will work with the CQC and other partners when undertaking our safeguarding role. So what does that actually mean and what does the county council have to do?

We may get an alert from someone who is worried about either the care or treatment of a person in a care home. This alert can come from a relative, concerned person, member of staff or whistle-blower and it is the county council's duty to investigate and take necessary action.

This statutory duty applies whether we as a county council are funding a resident’s care or not. So in some cases, although we have no funding or regulatory relationship with a care home, we do have to rightly take appropriate and necessary action.

Sometimes, concerns and alerts can be dealt with relatively easily and then we monitor the situation. Sometimes it becomes clear they have been raised and reported because of fundamental inadequacies in the home, often due to poor management practices and supervision.

This is far more serious. You may, as you are reading this, think is a simple case of the county council taking over and closing the home.

However, although stringent and firm action is required, the situation is very complex because many of the residents are very old, frail and vulnerable and quickly become settled in the home - which often they hope will be their last. before they move onto their very final resting place.

Also, more often than not, residents have very complex care needs and moving them into a new home could be distressing and traumatic for them.

For the families and relatives this too could be distressing, especially if the residents are moved some distance away due to insufficient availability of places to go.

After assessing the situation we will help support and guide the home with our own teams of social workers and experts, often with very good results. When the issues have been resolved we then move out but keep a watchful eye.

Sometimes that simply does not work and problems are so serious and fundamental that they cannot be resolved. Closure is then the only option.

This was the case with a care home in Crawley known as Orchid View.

In this extremely serious case there were five deaths which the Coroner last year found were directly attributed to by neglect and substandard care at the home.

This home was privately run by Southern Cross Healthcare which no longer exists.

In such cases we commission a Serious Case Review, conducted by an Independent Chairman, to look at what happened.

In this very serious case the chairman of this review posed 4 important questions to be answered by the Serious Case Review.

Considerable time was taken talking to the relatives as well as reviewing all the information around this issue.

One can only have the greatest of respect and understanding for the relatives involved who gave their time to help with this review. It certainly could not be easy. We offer our condolences, but for these families closure is understandably difficult.

On Monday, June 9, after discussing the findings of the report with the families first, the report was published.

In the report there are recommendations for our Adults’ Safeguarding Board and for the county council.

I want to assure everyone that this will be an absolute priority for the county council and I will be blogging about this more in the future.

We will certainly be looking to the Care Act that has just been passed by Parliament to guide us through the actions that need to be done in the field of safeguarding for vulnerable adults.

There is no getting away from the facts in this Serious Case Review. No one would want this to happen anywhere. Sadly recent documentaries on TV highlighted some appalling care practices.

Our duty is to do all we possibly can to prevent this happening again, and that has to be our prime commitment in the coming months.

Personally, I find writing a blog about such an issue incredibly difficult. What the relatives are going through is difficult to comprehend which is why we will leave no stone unturned in the future to act upon the recommendations made in this report.

Best wishes,
Louise

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