So, looking back over this County Council year I would sum it up as being all about change.
Never have I been more inundated with so much information. Local, operational information embedded with the local, operational information for other far flung parts, and also with top level strategic information.
he County Council delivers services, often in partnerships with others, in the following areas
- Transport and rights of way, some aspects of planning and environment including waste disposal
- Adult services, older people, some health and mental health
- Children's services including education but not schools
- Community services such as libraries museums and with others community safety
- Public health
- Economic Development
The charges introduced two years ago are set to be increased. One of the largest 'savings' in the budget is from this area, with very few changes being made as a result of the recent consultations with parents.
Innovation and good practice
Since 2010 the county have cut a third of their budget without total collapse of services. Instead they have won new grant funding, for roads in particular, and made far reaching changes to how services are delivered. One approach is to 'demand manage' - prevent people from needing services in future. Three programmes led by the council but in partnership with others are proving very successful in this. Families First - working with 600 families identified as high service users, Prevention Matters - helping keep older people independent, and a programme to reduce the impact of the welfare reforms on services and the users of those services.
This year has been the first year that the Council has had full responsibility for the public health service. Although the Council was shortlisted by the Local Government Chronicle for how the service was being embedded in to service delivery, the Peer review singled the service out for criticism, saying it used its budget very much in the old medical model rather than on improving health outcomes for people through other services, such as education, economy and environment.
LGA (Local Government Association) Peer review
A recently completed review of BCC by a team officers and councillors from other similar local authorities, praised these innovative programmes, as well as the County's use of the Better Care Fund to provide joint community health and social care services.
In a programme called 'Future Shape' more and more functions will be transferred to independent or semi independent bodies like the new Bucks Learning Trust, Buckinghamshire Care, and Transport for Bucks, a new Museum Trust is being formed, a Country Park Trust. Not forgetting the majority of secondary schools are already Academies.
This new, indirect, method of service delivery, even if clear governance structures are in place challenges the transparency and accountability of public services.
Roads and Potholes
Dissatisfaction with the state of the roads is constant. Over £500K has been spent in this division (Ivinghoe) on road repairs and improvements from the revenue budget, so that is in addition to any capital expenditure. Each member can nominate three roads for repair. I asked for a full breakdown for the county by member division and some of the biggest spend was in Ivinghoe, Wing, and Great Brickhill.
In January TfB repaired 4,431 potholes across the whole County, of which 2,381 were in need of urgent repair. In February all resources were diverted to flooding.
More money still has come in to the budget last week, for more piecemeal schemes, but at last the County is considering a more fundamental approach to upgrading the road network with capital spending - lessons learned from the success of the prevention programmes elsewhere I hope.
Grass Cutting comes under this area. Last year the verge cutting was distinctly unsatisfactory. This year the same contractors have been engaged for some reason, for 3 cuts outside village signs and 10 cuts within. Please be vigilant to see that happens. Parishes should consider taking this work on themselves.
Local Area Forum (LAF)
We have yet to see how our LAF will manage without Jackie Wesley to ensure things happen. She will be sorely missed and I thank her for the fantastic work she has done for the three divisions of Wing, Great Brickhill and Ivinghoe. Paul Hodson has been assigned to our area and we will be working with him at the workshop now scheduled for April 26 in Edlesborough. We have also had a change in our Local Area Technician. We will miss Paul Foot, but his replacement Rob Anderson, is up for the challenge.
Community Leaders Fund
This year the fund was divided between the Ivinghoe Village centre, to complete the internal decorations, BBOWT at College Lake to support the publication and launch of Graham Atkins book on the creation of College Lake, and The Villager, Slapton's newsletter which is on line as well as on paper.
April 2014 Avril Davies
County Councillor Ivinghoe Division
Mrs Avril Davies, Buckinghamshire County Councillor’s Annual Report April 2014 was published on April 28, 2014