Cllr. Simon Christopher’s Report – September 22

The photograph shows Cllr. Simon Christopher with his wife, Una at the Reading of the Proclamation by the High Sheriff of the Dorset Proclamation on Sunday, 11th September outside Dorchester County Hall.

Cllr. Simon Christopher has submitted the following report for this evening’s Meeting of Broadwindsor’s Group Parish Council at Blackdown village hall:

Dear Helen and Councillors

Una and I shared the deep sadness felt by everyone in the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth and the whole world, at the death of Her Majesty The Queen. 

The Queen was a steadfast champion of the British countryside and rural way of life.   It is also with sincere gratitude that we remember her tireless service to our nation and its rural community.  In an ever-changing world, the Queen was a constant. Her devotion and sense of duty  was an inspiration.

On Friday 22 September 2022 the new Chancellor of the Exchequer delivered his financial statement in the House of Commons. I will be pleased to discuss the statement at length but  for now will concentrate on discussion of the new proposed Investment Zones and provide you with  a message from Dorset Council leader Spencer Flower :

‘“Dorset Council has been in conversation with Government officials where we expressed our interest to be a part of the Investment Zone programme which the Chancellor has announced today as part of the mini-Budget.  At this stage we have little detail of the policy other than this is intended to drive investment and economic growth.  This is an opportunity for Dorset and sits well with our economic objectives set out in the Council Plan and Economic Development Strategy.  For this reason, I have informed Government that we would be interested to participate in the programme.  We await further detail and if we are confirmed as an Investment Zone location we expect to be working closely with officials.  I will keep you posted on this matter through my regular updates to you.

(The report continues with cut and pasted information as provided.)

Cost of living help 

 

The link below will connect you to a site which will sign-post residents to webpages which we hope will help people impacted by the cost-of-living crisis. https://www.dorsetcouncil.gov.uk/w/cost-of-living-help . 

Dorset Council secures funding to improve electric vehicle infrastructure in rural areas

 

Dorset has been announced as one of just nine areas in England to receive funding from a new government scheme which aims to improve electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure. The funding comes from the new Local Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (LEVI) pilot scheme, through which we have managed to secure £2.7million to increase the number of EV charge points in the council area

 

The project will serve a broad range of users, primarily targeting residents without access to off-street parking, while also meeting demand for en-route charging to support our tourism trade. 

 

The project aims to place chargepoints in up to 150 locations around the county for the convenience of residents and to encourage the take up of electric vehicles. This will involve the council working with local community landowners to install charging infrastructure in accessible locations which might include car parks, community halls, pubs, café’s and shops, as well as possible on-street locations where suitable. 

This pilot will also include a small number rapid or ultra-rapid (50 kW to 150 kW DC) chargers on or near main roads to support enroute charging. Some chargepoints will be located at popular tourist locations where both residents and visitors can access them.

 

To overcome user concerns over payment methods, all chargepoints will have alternative access with a minimum payment method (a non-proprietary and non-phone payment method, such as contactless) installed.

Need more landlords

 

There are several initiatives which aim to work with landlords to provide much-needed housing to families across the Dorset Council area. The housing service is appealing to willing landlords to partner the council and benefit from the assistance the council can give. Please look at the Dorset website for further information.

Foster with Dorset Council

 

A note from a foster carer “If anyone is thinking about fostering, I’d say don’t hesitate to investigate it, don’t be put off making that initial phone call. Just be open with things that you’re worried about as they probably won’t stop you being a foster carer. Just pick up the phone and make that enquiry. “Every circumstance is different from one person to another, but the process is so thorough that if you have the slightest inkling that this might be what you want to do then give it a go.”

Our fostering service puts the children who need loving, local foster homes at the heart of everything we do. The key focus is on keeping local children close to their schools, friends and birth families. Our foster carers transform the lives of children and young people by opening their hearts and homes to those who need it the most. At present, demand for foster carers in Dorset is high – especially for teenagers and sibling groups.

Find out more about fostering with Dorset Council and register your interest today. Keep up to date with the latest fostering news and subscribe to our monthly enewsletter. If you’d like to find out more in-person, the fostering team hold regular fostering drop-in events across Dorset.

The Dorset Parent Carer Council annual information event is back! Dorset SEND
Free Information Event – 4 October
 
This FREE event is for parents and carers of children aged pre-school to 14, who are disabled or have additional needs. The event brings together a wide variety of services and information all in one place. Teams and organisations from across education, health, and social care and the community sector will be attending to provide a fantastic opportunity for families to see what work is currently underway to improve services in the future.

Tuesday 4th October; 10am till 2pm; Kingston Maurward College, Dorchester, DT2 8PX 

Free parking, free entry, free refreshments. No booking required. 

Dorset County Farms

 

Dorset Council owns 41 farms (and has owned them for quite some time). These are currently managed in accordance with the County Farm Estate Management Plan of which the principal objectives are to: 

Provide a provide an initial gateway into agriculture for persons to farm on their own account whilst ensuring a financial return to us. Provide us with a direct interest in the land management of the county, promoting the integration of good environmental and farming practices as well as best practice and innovation in estate management and agriculture. Sustain rural communities whilst providing opportunities for greater public access and understanding of agriculture and the countryside

The estate is currently run on a two-tier system, with smaller ‘starter’ units providing a point of entry into the agricultural industry and larger ‘promotion’ units to allow for career progression.  Farms on the estate are predominantly livestock based, with both dairy and stock farms.

The review of the Management Plan was delayed by the coronavirus pandemic but is now in progress.  In addition to the current objectives, we are considering how the estate can create additional economic, social and environmental value to help meet the priorities identified in the Council Plan. In particular, conversations are ongoing internally in relation to the role the Estate can plan in helping to support the Council’s climate and ecological emergency which was declared in 2019. The estate is currently run on a two tiersystem, with smaller ‘starter’ units providing a point of entry into the agricultural industry and larger ‘promotion’ units to allow for career progression.  Farms on the estate are predominantly livestock based, with both dairy and stock farms.

Dorset Council’s Road maintenance method reducecarbon emissions

 

As part of Dorset Council’s ‘green’ approach to highways maintenance, road retexturing is contributing to a reduction in emissions, the council has refreshed 67,000sqm of road surface this year – raising skid resistance to improve the safety of highway. Where appropriate, the sustainable solution used eliminates the need to resurface a road and instead uses one of two techniques to blast the road surface to regain its skid resistance to the same – or better – level of resistance it had when the material was first laid. Depending on the individual site, the road will either have small steel shots fired at the surface to improve the texture or will have water blasted at the surface to remove excess binder.

This road retexturing has helped reduce the amount of carbon dioxide produced by over 335,000kg, and saved around 6,700 tonnes of virgin aggregates from being used,It also has financial savings of over £1.2m compared to using conventional resurfacing methods to provide a new textured  surface.

 Dorset Council Commissionong for a Better Life for Older People with Support Needs. In Dorset 2022-2027

You will continue to read about the ageing Dorset Population.

It is recognised that Dorset has a higher over 65 population than anywhere else in the Country and as such it is especially important that Dorset Council provides the opportunity for a great quality of life for older people.

Dorset Council documentation that I have seen, indicates that typically older people refers to those who are no longer of working age,so traditionally 65 plus.

However with increased life expectancy an increasing number of people find themselves either having to work or wanting to work beyond what was traditionally retirement age.

In England there are 295 older people per 1000 working age population 

In Dorset there are 527 older people per 1000 working age population 

Currently there are 31,000 people  over 80 in Dorset

Council Leader Spencer Flower has written earlier this month to the new Prime Minister seeking funding from HMGovernment for Social Care to reflect cost pressures facing Dorset Council as a result of the figures quoted above and inflationary pressures.

Clearly there is a lot going on in agricultural policy terms:

Farmers are concerned about the move from the Basic Payment Scheme  with the Agricultural Transition . In 2022 direct payments will be at least 20 per cent lower than in 2020 . Where 50 % of the 2022 BPS was paid in the Summer the payment being received this December will be dramatically reduced from the usual figure and will impact on cash flow considerations for all farmers, whether County Farm tenants or not .The range of Environment Land Schemes designed to replace BPS are only slowly appearing with the Old Countryside Stewardship scheme filling the gap.

What might be called productivity/efficiency  or generally incentivising schemes are being directed at farmers. DEFRA is keen  to improve the competitiveness and productivity of Farming in England, a key part of this is capital grants for equipment and infrastructure :

40 per cent capital grants under the Farming and Investment Fund ( FIF)

Farming Equipment Technology Fund fixed payment for 120 specified items on line application minimum grant ,maximum grant £25,000

Farming Technoligy Fund larger grants £35,000 to £500,000 covering 3 areas water manage to , productivity and added value .

Finally many are pondering the Slurry Investment Scheme envisaged from this Autumn .  This is understood to be 50 per cent grant minimum £25,000maximum £250,000 for a minimum of 6 months storage .

My final comment is that I understand that a new round of farm advice under the Farm Resiliance scheme will be available from October .

The UK Government has announced a set of measures designed to boost the rural economy in England

This has had a great deal of coverage in the farming National and indeed local press

DEFRA’s Delivering for Rural England report, which includes £110m of funding to boost economic activity in the countryside,

The CLA’s campaign has become increasingly influential over the UK Government’s rural policy-making through 2022, particularly following the launch of a major report into the rural economy earlier this year.

DEFRA’s policy changes were published in the final days of Boris Johnson’s premiership, but are expected to be enacted by the new Prime Minister regardless.

The changes include:

  • Ringfencing of rural productivity funding through the Rural England Prosperity Fund (REPF) worth £110m. Funding will be available for a wide range of activities, including converting buildings for business use, supporting diversification projects and delivering digital infrastructure
  • Streamlining the process to convert disused agricultural buildings into housing in designated areas
  • A commitment to ensure the needs of the rural economy are reflected in the levelling up agenda

As one of my friends and indeed a fellow Chartered Accountant has said:

“UK Government is showing some ambition for the countryside. Improving productivity in the rural economy could add up to £43bn in GVA – so this fund is money well spent”

“We now need to see the true detail. Rural business owners are working hard to succeed, determined to create prosperity across our communities. But we need this report to deliver genuine planning reform, full connectivity and a cross-departmental policy framework from government that reflects the sheer potential of the rural economy.”

“In the midst of an economic crisis, we need a robust and ambitious plan to create economic growth in the countryside. The UK Government has today taken its first steps towards delivering it.”

DEFRA’s report has heavily been influenced by a report published earlier this year by the All Party Parliamentary Group on the Rural Powerhouse, , entitled ‘Levelling Up the rural economy’. The report followed a year-long inquiry that took evidence from a number organisations representing the rural economy. and including those where I am an active member.

During the Summer I received the fillowing communication from Vicky Abbott  Health Programme Advisor | Locality Link for 

West Dorset at Public Health Dorset

“Colleagues in the communications team at PHD are about to embark on a promoting positive mental health for rural locations project in the West Dorset (and North Dorset) locality; Broadwindsor (including Marshwood and other surrounding villages) being the focus area for West Dorset.  They are particularly looking at working with the community settings in Broadwindsor to reach out to the village communities by way of a support network, including identifying when an individual or family may need support.”

This will move forward next month, starting with a free mental health awareness training session, on Monday 3 October 12.45-5pm, at The Comrades Hall, Broadwindsor.  I look forward to working with the Parish Council on this.

Best regards

Simon
Councillor Simon Christopher
Dorset Councillor Marshwood Vale

Hawthorne Cottage
Ryall Road
Whitchurch Canonicorum
Bridport, Dorset
DT6 6RH

Mob: 07798 833715
Email: cllrsimon.christopher@dorsetcouncil.gov.uk

#Broadwindsor,#Burstock,#Blackdown,#Drimpton,#Hursey,#Kittwhistle,#Seaborough,#Dorset,#Village,#Community,#WestDorset,#BGPC,#CllrSimonChristopher,#DorsetCouncil,#MarshwoodVale,#Covid,#PublicHealth,#CouncilTax,#DEFRA,#FIF,#SEND,#CostOfLiving,#BeKind,#BeSafe,#StaySafe

 

Cllr. Simon Christopher’s Report – July 22

Cllr. Simon Christopher has submitted the following report for this evening’s Meeting of Broadwindsor’s Group Parish Council:

Dear Helen and Councillors,

While there has been a certain amount of political disturbance and intrigue in and around the Palace of Westminster political work continues at Dorset Council under our leader Councillor Spencer Flower.

Councillor Flower has in recent times visited the West of the County including Broadwindsor and Thorncombe . I have also welcomed the leader to Charmouth and Lyme Regis. I know Spencer appreciates my direct comments as do our MP and police and Crime Commissioner who I have also  met since the last BGPC meeting at Drimpton .

I believe it is helpful to focus on the Dorset Council Mission Statement under Councillor Flower.and commentary on work to assist Ukrainian Refugees.
The network continues to extend a warm welcome for Ukrainian refugees coming to Dorset. Help & Kindness (a local community interest company) is signposting people to local groups supporting refugees and sharing information.
The council’s role to support Ukrainian refugees ranges from accommodation checks, education provision for children, arranging for payments and job-seeking opportunities. We do not want to get in the way of the great work being done in communities, but contribute through our service delivery, helping to co-ordinate and facilitate activity.

Mission Statement – A two-year plan setting out our priorities for 2022 to 2024

Our Mission Statement isn’t a list of the hundreds of services that the council provides, nor does it detail all the huge progress we have made since the council was created in 2019. Achievement of our initial objectives set out in the LGR prospectus is something to be particularly proud of, because of the huge challenges during the pandemic. This is now our bold and ambitious look forward. It identifies the key priorities we want to focus on during the next two years. It is our commitment to our residents, and our partners.
As advocates for Dorset residents, we must continue to be bold and ambitious to ensure that we achieve the best outcomes for residents. We will continue to lobby Minsters and Dorset Members of Parliament on a regular basis to ensure we can achieve a fairer deal for Dorset from Government.

Our vision for 2022 – 2024

Dorset Local Plan – Take a different approach to Local Plan preparation by being far more strategic, including a two-year extension for having an approved plan. To continue to work with Homes England and the New Communities Team’ to deliver a sustainable garden town within the Dorset area.

Housing for local people– Develop progressive relationships with developing registered providers (such as housing associations) operating in Dorset, working together deliver affordable housing to rent for local people. Build on our investment in council-owned temporary accommodation to substantially reduce the dependence on bed and breakfast for those who are homeless and need our support in the short term.

Adult Social Care – Develop and deliver reform to cope with increased demand at a stable or mitigated cost level.

Children’s Services – Continue radical reforms with the roll out of the £37.5m SEND invest to save programme and commit to the 2020-2023 Children’s Plan and the Strategic Alliance for Children & Young People.

Assets and Property – Drive the disposal and repurposing programme and develop a master plan with services to maximise the potential of the Dorset Centre of Excellence in Shaftesbury.

Working with the Integrated Care System – Getting a better deal for Dorset Council as equal partners by establishing place as the key platform, bringing early intervention to social care. This will ensure the best outcomes for those who need our support and offer the best opportunity for this to come at an affordable cost to the council and the NHS.

Climate and Ecological Strategy – Deliver on our agreed policy and commitments and establish bidding capability to attract Government funding to enable the council to progressively meet its net zero target by 2040.

Community Safety – Working closely with Dorset Police to ensure we achieve the best outcomes when dealing with local crime and anti-social behaviour. Work with the Police and Crime Commissioner to make Dorset the safest county in the country.

County Deal – Working with BCP Council, submit a bid to Government for a County Deal for the whole of the County of Dorset, in collaboration with the Dorset LEP, to enhance and drive economic development and the skills agenda and attract additional Government funding into Dorset.

Digital Innovation – Continue to pioneer new technologies and create the foundations of a longer-term economic development. Work to safeguard and encourage job retention and growth, through direct action and through positive engagement to the private sector.

Turning the mission statement into Council Policy [next steps]

  • Draft refreshed version of Dorset Plan to Place and Resources Overview Committee (7 June) and to People and Health Overview Committee (28 June)
  • Refreshed Dorset Plan to Cabinet for amendment / approval (26 July)
  • Post Cabinet: Scrutiny to review performance or specific priorities

While these timescales are tight, I firmly believe that they are achievable and we can then start to implement our plans for the people of Dorset, truly making it a place to live, work and visit.

I hope you found this insight helpful and an interesting approach to ensuring we understand and achieve our key priorities during the next two years.”  – Cllr Spencer Flower, Leader of Council

I have met with the Secretary of State at DEFRA Rt hon George Eustace MP.
I will comment further on this at the BGPC meeting.
It is clearly helpful with the Secretary Estate and ministers in the team remain in post despite the disturbances mentioned at the start of the report.
Cabinet members at Dorset Council are working closely with their counterparts at Cornwall’s Council.
Both Cornwall and Dorset have substantial County Farms Estates and we have much to learn from their pilot slurry schemes .
I have set out thoughts on how farmers need extra support in my meeting with him on 8 July 2022.
I am working with Dorset Council and officials in respect of mental health issues.
I actively engage with farming and business organisations and many professionals.
I have met with our Member of Parliament to stress the importance of local businesses and connectivity generally. There is a shared concern re local health care provision.
Further there is every prospect of a change in wider tax and benefit adjustments in the near future.
I have met with  our police and Crime commissioner to discuss his plans for stronger rural policing.
During 2022 we have already seen rapid increase in inflation. Dorset Council is trying to assist residents in financial difficulty. Please see note at the end of this short report.

We are clearly expecting a very busy summer on our roads.
I have met with Police and Crime Commissioner David Sidwick to discuss road safety and crime concerns. Dorset Police now have additional numbers dedicated to rural policing.
I have chased the lawyer Philip Crowther and ranger Russell Goff for meetings to discuss issues arising re local footpaths.
I have e mailed portfolio holder Councillor Ray Bryan for update re-funding for the Bus Service Improvement Plan.
I will provide update re the withdrawal of area based agricultural subsidies and the move towards environmental based subsidies which will impact farmers whether Dorset Council Farm tenants or otherwise at the parish council meeting. I will also report on other developments for farmers whether financial or environmental, outlined by Secretary of State George Eustace at Devon County Show last Thursday .

Now for details of financial support as a consequence of inflation:

Vulnerable people in the Dorset Council area can apply for new support to help with rising costs. Applications are being taken from pensioners and working age people in receipt of qualifying benefits or in fuel poverty.

Please note, the fund for working age people has now closed. It is still open to pensionable age residents. If you need financial support or advice, please go to the Cost of Living Help webpages to see how else you may be able to get help.

The council has been awarded the funding from the Government’s Household Support Fund to provide short-term financial assistance. The support will be via supermarket vouchers. Vouchers will be issued to residents in the Dorset Council area with savings of less than £10,000 who meet the following criteria:

Either:

  • Pensioner in receipt of Pension Credit;
  • A pensioner or working age resident not in receipt of a means tested benefit who is in fuel poverty**; or
  • Working age and in receipt of a means tested benefit* (this is now closed for working age, please see Cost of Living Help for support and advice).

 *Means tested benefits are Universal Credit, Housing Benefit, Council Tax Rebate, Income-related ESA (Employment and Support Allowance), Income Support, Working Tax Credit or Child Tax Credit.
**Fuel poverty is defined as spending 10% of household income on energy costs

Vouchers will also be provided during the school holidays to families in receipt of free school meals.

Councillor Andrew Parry, Dorset Council Portfolio Holder for Children, Education and Early Help said “The Household Support Fund is there to help those who need it most. There is a simple online application form, and if you have any difficulties completing it, or do not use the internet, our library-based volunteer Digital Champions can assist you.  Your local Citizens Advice office will also be able to help you.  If you are struggling with the cost-of-living crisis, there is a range of support available for you, so please act now.”

Apply HERE.

Residents will need their most recent bank statements, proof of benefits (if applicable), energy bill (if applicable) and identification.
The website also explains how to nominate a family member or friend if assistance is needed, or if the applicant does not have an email address.
Alternatively, applicants can get help to complete their form from a volunteer Dorset Digital Champion at their local library. To book an appointment, telephone 01305 221048 (Monday to Friday, 10am to midday).  See Digital Champion venue opening times. 

Local Citizens Advice offices are also offering assistance. Click HERE to see opening times and locations or call customer services at Dorset Council on 01305 221027 for opening times.

Food vouchers during the holidays and free school meals

In line with previous school holidays, families of children who receive free school meals during term time will be provided with food vouchers over the summer holiday. These are funded by the Household Support Fund, and Dorset schools will share information about the vouchers direct with the families who receive free school meals.

If you do not claim free school meals for your child but think you might qualify, please apply by completing the online form. You can also apply for free activities for your child during the summer holidays.

Click HERE to check whether you can get Free School Meals.

Other support

Click HERE to find out what other support, including council tax support, housing benefit and universal credit, is available

Click HERE to see where you can access food at local foodbanks, community fridges and social supermarkets

Clearly there have been some farmers who delayed the purchasing of fertiliser until after 24 February and who sold part of their cereal crop forward before that date and have had cause to regret this.
The current position is changeable with crude oil prices recently in retreat .
This may not provide reassurance to households in the short term with inflation in the UK broadly at 9 per cent  8.6 per cent in America and 8 .7 per cent in Germany.
Indeed inflation is at 12 per cent in Greece and 20 per cent in Estonia , hence the challenge of moving together in the Eurozone.
Indeed it maybe that that the Euro May hit parity with the dollar shortly reflecting concerns .
Charle Moore writer for the Daily Telegraph and indeed a former editor of the Daily Telegraph has spoken to audiences in West Dorset several times over the last couple of decades.  In  his contribution to the above paper over the weekend on inflation he wrote ( and I give you a shortened version )

As the Country emerged blinking from the Covid convalescent Ward it faced enormous, partly war driven price rises in energy and food ,growing evidence of underlying inflation well beyond the temporary costs of short supply

I look forward to meeting you again.
Best regards

Simon
Councillor Simon Christopher
Dorset Councillor Marshwood Vale

Hawthorne Cottage
Ryall Road
Whitchurch Canonicorum
Bridport, Dorset
DT6 6RH

Mob: 07798 833715

Email: cllrsimon.christopher@dorsetcouncil.gov.uk

#Broadwindsor,#Burstock,#Blackdown,#Drimpton,#Hursey,#Kittwhistle,#Seaborough,#Dorset,#Village,#Community,#BGPC,#CllrSimonChristopher,#DorsetCouncil,#MarshwoodVale,#Covid,#Buses,#CouncilTax,#ChrisLoderMP,#LocalPlan,#Health,#CostOfLiving,#householdFund,#Covid19,#Farming,#BeKind,#BeSafe,#StaySafe

Cllr. Simon Christopher’s Report – Feb 2022

Cllr. Simon Christopher submitted the following report at this evening’s Informal Meeting of Broadwindsor’s Group Parish Council:

Dear Helen and Councillors

It is wonderful thing to note the positivity of people. It has been great to see the Save the White Lion appeal exceed the £30,000 target, Una and I were pleased to support the appeal for funds. There will be work ahead and the need for continued financial backing. I noted with interest elsewhere in the County that, since we last met Dorset Council has allowed an application for a grade 2 listed building to be converted from Pub to residential.

I would like to pay tribute to Kevin, with his all his efforts at Broadwindsor Comminity Stores as manager. Kevin has always conducted matters in such a cheery way and has clearly been hugely instrumental in the Stores being so successful and a crucial community asset.

I continue my work in connection with consistent , sensible speed limits and also pressing for improved pedestrian walkways.

Una and I were pleased to attend the Annual General Meeting of the Melplash Show, again  there was much enthusiasm to  hold a show one again after the difficulties. I know that  amongst the Parish Council there are active supporters of the Show who have enjoyed activities put on by the Melplash Agricultural Society but there is nothing quite like Show day and that is what people have missed so much.

One of my first memories of Melplash Show ( many years ago) was the highlight of seeing the farming toys stand of Frost and Co of Bridport. Maybe others, such as Andrew Frampton will share those memories. Speaking of Andrew I was pleased to hear from him of plans to commemorate the Spitfire Crash on the north side of Lewesdon Hill and the death of Belgian pilot Jean Verdun Marie Aime De Cloet . History matters to me and I am pleased to be a member of the Joint Dorset Council and Bournemouth Christchurch and Poole Archives Board.

On Tuesday Dorset Council will have the first face to face Full Council meeting, This will include a discussion and voting on the budget for 2022/2023. We will soon see a new face on Dorset Council  as Daryl Turner, Dorset Councillor for Lyme Regis has, I understand, moved to Wales.

It is good to see so many events at local village halls , I will pick out just one the recent coffee morning and talk on the growing of potatoes at Drimpton Village Hall that was so well attended.Now for some really important thoughts and that concerns mental health and community events. It is I believe, very important to reflect on, and act on, the impact of Covid on mental health.

Age Uk conducted a survey of what the Charity described as older people being people aged over 60. Some 27 per cent of people said they speak less to their family now. The Charity reports that millions have lost the confidence to go out and 41 per cent described feeling lonely. Memory loss disturbed sleep and anxiety are some of the symptoms being reported by older people in what Age UK has called an “alarming” mental health crisis  The Charity is urging friends and family of older people to what it describes as “reach out for a chat. Good mental health of  residents of Dorset  is good news for the NHS and Dorset Council. It is no wonder that I am a keen supporter of our local halls, community shops , faith groups, clubs and societies. My work also encompasses lobbying for better public transport, road and rail for the benefits that can be derived for the residents of the Marshwood Vale ward. My lobbying also continues for better pavement provision, reduced and indeed consistent speed limits .

In agriculture there are big changes in agriculture policy:

National membership organisations are hosting the Low Carbon Agriculture Show at Stoneleigh, once the home of the Royal Show. This is worthy of mention as the Marshwood Vale ward is rural and we live in a time where farmers prepare their businesses for a future without the Basic Payent Scheme ie a solely area based subsidy.

The first cuts to BPS have been made , by 2024 a typical farming enterprise will have lost 50 per cent of its BPS subsidy and by 2028 the BPS will be removed altogether.

The event is being marketed as an event for forward thinking farmers and landowners to consider practical guidance on issues such as:

  • Sustainable land use
  • Renewable energy generation
  • Emission Control

Farmers will have read in the farming press of changes in farming policy to include:

  • Carbon storage
  • Soil health
  • Natural capital
  • Net zero renewable energy
  • Low emission vehicles
  • Sustainable rural architecture
  • Water health

All of this is very helpful given DEFRA has announced a number of schemes to help farmers move away from reliance on BPS.

Covid-19 update from Public Health Dorset

Following a rise in cases over the past couple of weeks, infection rates have started to fall again across Dorset. Case rates are above the national average for England but below the regional average for the South West. Infection rates remain highest amongst children and lowest amongst over 65s. The number of people in hospital in Dorset with COVID-19 remains similar to last week at 92.

Whilst there are far fewer people needing hospital treatment as a result of COVID-19 compared to last year, our local health and care services are under significant pressure. Alongside exceptional demand and the usual pressures faced every winter, COVID-19 is adding to these. Please continue to play your part by getting your jabs to protect yourself from serious illness, and taking precautions to reduce the spread of the virus.

Exceptional pressures county wide leads to Dorset CCG call for public to use services wisely

NHS and local authority social workers across Dorset are working tirelessly to keep services running to support us all – keeping our loved ones, families, neighbours, and local communities safe and well.

We would like to ask for your support to help us. You can help in the following ways:

  • Support loved ones to leave hospital so that they can be more comfortable and recover more quickly at home. The support of relatives and friends can be important in enabling patients who are medically ready to leave hospital.
  • Use NHS services wisely to get the right treatment, in the right place, at the right time. Our hospital emergency departments are under extreme pressure.  If you’re unwell and are unsure about where to go, visit nhs.uk or call 111. We’ll do our very best to answer your call as quickly as possible though it may take a little longer due to the current demand. Please be patient and kind when you speak to our teams.
  • Contact your local pharmacist or GP practice for ongoing or minor health issues.
  • Only ever call 999 in a medical emergency – this is when someone is seriously ill or injured and their life is at risk.
  • Get your jabs – protect yourself and support your local services by getting your first, second, and booster Covid-19 vaccine doses. For a full list of Covid-19 vaccine sites, visit dorsetccg.nhs.uk.

Adult Social Care recruitment

With huge pressures currently within the Adult Social Care directorate one of the ways members can help is to promote the recruitment adverts for roles which are currently vacant.

The pressures, which are being mirrored across the country, include higher demand, people with significant requirements, and a reduction in the number of staff in adult social care sector.

There is particular gap in the number of Social Workers and Occupational Therapists within the workforce for which there is a recruitment drive. However, there are also other roles within the service which residents can apply for.

Unitary council, costs are rising.

Residents often ask us ‘why don’t the savings made through creating Dorset Council in 2019 get put towards lowering our council tax?’.

We have made significant savings, but the rising demand and costs of services, particularly social care, have absorbed this. If a single unitary council hadn’t been set up, Dorset’s financial position would have been much worse.

I am struck by the cheerful nature of those who work in our local schools and those who run businesses.  The children of today may be the workers of tomorrow.

I thought I would mention that I was invited by one of our neighbouring Members  of Parliament to attend a question and answer session with local businesses . The main key difficulty that the emplyers quoted was that of difficulty in hiring skilled staff.

I have subsequently been invited it attend another event to be hosted by our own MP for those who run businesses and I also will be interested to hear his comments.

Chris Loder MP has written of his concern about the state of class rooms in Dorset , in particular classrooms which were installed decades ago on a temporary basis, which are still being used. This is an issue that I will continue to discuss with Andrew Parry the Dorset Councillor portfolio holder for education and children’s services.

Many of you  will recall that a couple of years ago Dorset Councillor Andrew Parry attended a Broadwindsor Group Parish Council meeting and is portfolio holder for children education and skills, vulnerable  families in Dorset are benefitting from a Government grant. Dorset Council will be receiving funds from the Governments Supporting Families Programme which will assist with this.
I would like to quote Andrew’s words:

The Supporting Families funded work in Dorset has helped us transform the lives of some of our most vulnerable children , young people and their families.

Best regards to you all

Simon
Councillor Simon Christopher
Dorset Councillor Marshwood Vale
077988 33715

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Cllr. Simon Christopher’s Report – Jan 2022

Cllr. Simon Christopher submitted the following report at this evening’s Informal Meeting of the Group Parish Council:

Dear Helen and Councillors,

A Happy New Year to you all.

As I write this it has been announced that there have now been in excess of 150,000 Covid deaths.

Despite the current HM Government advice, which continues to restrict normal living whether through advice to work from home , the wearing of masks in certain places or indeed the predominance of virtual meeting as opposed to face to face meetings there appears to be light at the end of the tunnel. This takes many forms, whether through Melplash show planning their AGM and also the Annual Dinner to tour operators for overseas travel reporting bookings returning to normal.

Clearly the vast majority of us want a return to normality as soon possible.

Before I set out the latest Covid news and report on other matters I want to write about road safety.  I have to comment that there can be few things more harrowing to receive than a road safety report after a fatality . The reports give details of road circumstances weather conditions on how an accident is perceived to have occurred and is completed after work undertaken by both Dorset Police and the Dorset Road Safety expert . I know from my discussions with our MP Chris Loder , that he is truly shocked at the number of fatalities and serious injuries as a result of accidents on the roads of Dorset.

I continue to liaise with the road safety expert at Dorset Council but also with our MP in connection with road safety, whether in connection with speed limits, speed cameras, additional payments and appropriate work on road surfaces. Particular roads of concern include Broadwindsor to Drimpton and sections of the B3165 . I have met with the safety officer prior to Christmas and have a virtual catch-up meeting on Monday 10 January .

You will see that this is continuing work and in addition to the work agreed to be instigated following the meeting with Councillor Leader, Councillor Huges and the Highways safety officer and myself, as Dorset Councillor, in November 2021.

The November 2022 meeting subsequently led to the following written commitment from the Highways Safely Officer:

Dear Cllr Christopher,

Further to our recent meeting I can confirm that we will be putting in various lining as set out below.

On Common Hill additional slow markings with yellow bars and also edge lining.

On the B3163 close to the cricket ground extras slow marking with yellow bars.

On the approach from Salway Ash extra slow markings with yellow bar markings.

I have spoken to Rob Camp regarding the SID (Speed Indicator Device) and hopefully delivery will be soon and I have given you Helen Jackson in the LTP Team as your contact to discuss possible footway link to the cricket pitch.

We will be out to mark up the various lining etc but I cannot promise when it will be done as salt is being laid on the road due to the weather so it is likely to be well into the new year but we will ask for the work to be done as soon as possible.

Any other queries please do not hesitate to come back to me.

Clearly, I will be keeping up my work with the Highway Safety Officer in the above and other areas.

FARMING

In the same way that there is concern about the financial viability of shops, retail units and pubs, there is also concern about the financial viability of farming operations.

There is, and always has been in my time as Local Authority Councillor some speculation about the Dorset Council Farms Estate. Regardless of this, what we do know is that there may never have been a greater time of change for the farming industry than now. The reason I devote so much of this report to Agriculture in this January 2022 report is a result of the following.

  1.  The lack of Dorset Council meetings since the last BGPC meeting, In the interim our waste collection service has, I believe, continued to perform very well.
  2. The importance that I am sure we place on the appearance of the country side and the survival of small family farms in particular.

Following our departure from the EU the Marshwood Vale farmers and indeed Dorset Council tenant farmers and farmers across the Country are impacted by the introduction of a new farming policy under the Agriculture Act 2020.

There is huge concentration on key farming issues succession , capital investment and profitability . Few farmers will be unaware that half of their Basic Payment Scheme ie BPS money will no longer be available by 2024. This is I would argue a man concern of the farming community .As farmers seek to diversify this will have an impact on all of our residents . Other uncertainties include whether relatively high sales prices that have prevailed in many ( but not all ) sectors will continue. if consumers change their buying habits post pandemic . There is also the requirement to be legally compliant and to address environmental issues especially climate change.

One of the greatest concerns is for small farms and tenanted farms, in particular it is my understanding that approximately 50 per cent of land is farmed by tenant farmers (including of course the tenants of the Dorset Council farm’s estate.) My concern is based on the fact that BPS is being gradually reduced this has been hugely important to all active farmers and that tenant farmers should not be excluded from receiving agri- environmental subsidies.

For those farmers amongst you there should be a concern that safeguards that exist for those who rent under the Agricultural Holdings Act 1986 should extend to Farm Business Tenancies such that tenants will not be prevented by landlords from accessing the schemes.

I will detail the concern. There are three proposed ELM (Environmental Land Management) schemes and in respect of the first 2 of them there are uncertainties as to the extent to which tenant farmers will benefit. The reasons for the uncertainties with respect to the first 2 schemes involve

1 ) The Local Nature Recovery Scheme, which will not be widely available until 2024,  that amongst other things, encourages farmers to create new habitats and plant trees.

2) The Lanscape Recovery Scheme which seeks a more dramatic approach assisting farmers and land owners who manage 500 to 5000 hectares (and note hectares not acres) and so only benefiting larger agricultural concerns.

3) The sustainable Farming Incentive which will fund sustainable farming practices and should be widely available.

You may wish to contact your Member of Parliament to address any particular concern you may have for the future of the countryside and indeed family farms. There are a great many who are uncertain about the future prospects for farming and would welcome clarification of eligibility, rules and payment rates for schemes 1 and 2 above.

BUSES

The portfolio holder responsible for buses is continuing his work (and this is a non-exhaustive list:) following on from the submission of the Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP) in October2021

  1.  The launch of the statutory consultation on the Enhanced Partnership Plan
  2. The legal framework through which Dorset Council will deliver the BSIP.

Before I consider these 2 points, I will repeat what the Bus Service Improvement Plan seeks to achieve

a) buses being a more attractive mode of transport for customers
b) bus journeys being more affordable
c) bus services timetables and journeys being easier to use
d) journey times being shorter
e) services being more reliable
f) buses being greener ie more environmentally friendly

The Enhanced Partnership Plan and scheme document has to be produced by 31 March 2022 and is the means by which the BSIP will be delivered. It follows a statutory process defined in the Bus Services Act 2017 and updated in the light of the National Bus Strategy.

Work on the Enhanced Partnership is continuing though there is no definite date by which the Department for Transport will respond to the request for £92million of funding both capital and revenue within the submitted BSIP .

The Enhanced Partnership Plan high level vision will have objectives which is expected to closely follow the Bus Service Improvement Plan. It is expected that the Enhanced Partnership scheme will set out the precise details of how the Bus Service Improvement Plan vision and objectives will be achieved . These details will include any commitment made by the Local Transport Authority and standards to be met bus operators.

The legal framework mentioned in (2) above will include governance and user representation.

Town and Parish councils have I understand been invited to stakeholder meetings next week.

If there are any issues arising, please e mail me.

DORSET COUNCIL LOCAL PLAN

Following the consultation last year, Dorset Council continue to gather information to inform the proposals for the plan. This will involve consideration of national planning policy including the NPPF (National Planning Policy Framework) and the expected housing need for the County. The Local Plan is an important document as it will assist in the delivery of appropriate housing facilities and employment in the long period to 2038.

Dorset Council is aiming to publish the final draft, which will be available for comments in the middle of this year. The timescale then on is for the comments on the final draft to be considered prior to submission to a planning inspector in the Autumn of this year. If all these dates are adhered to public examination will then follow on from the comments of the planning inspectorate in 2023 with adoption in late 2023.

Here is the latest Covid information

Published: 7 January 2022

This week’s overview

Case rates have continued to rise quickly over the past week across Dorset Council and Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council, and remain higher than at any other point during the pandemic. Infection rates are very high across the country.

In Dorset we have started to see hospitalisations related to COVID-19 rise, up to 74 from 55 in a week. Our hospitals and other critical services are also under increasing pressure due to staff absences related to COVID-19. The number of deaths related to COVID-19 has remained relatively stable and continue to be much lower than during previous waves of the pandemic.

Testing remains key to stopping the spread and protecting others. If you have any symptoms of COVID-19, you must get a PCR test and self-isolate whilst waiting for the result. Lateral flow tests should be used by anyone without symptoms, particularly before meeting others – if you get a positive test, you must log the result and follow self-isolation guidance. Most people no longer need to get a PCR test to confirm a positive lateral flow test.

Getting vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself from serious illness caused by COVID-19. As well as people getting boosted, it’s been great to see people in Dorset coming forward for their first and second doses in recent weeks, and we’d urge anyone who hasn’t yet had their jabs to come forward. There are plenty of opportunities to get vaccinated in Dorset.

Latest data

The visualisation below shows the seven-day case rate, people in hospital beds and deaths for the latest data periods available. There can be a time lag to allow us to report the most complete data. We provide this local update weekly, but you can find information daily on the UK Health Security Agency data page.

N.B. the dip in the number of hospital beds occupied by COVID-19 patients on 28 November is due to missing data for one of the hospital trusts.

Summary

Summary of the most recent data:

  • 7 day case rates per 100,000
    • BCP: 1,406.6 (compared to 1,087.9 in last update on 31 December)
    • Dorset: 1,190.1 (compared to 783.1 in last update on 31 December)
  • Confirmed cases in last 7 days
    • BCP: 5,584 (compared to 4,319 in last update on 31 December
    • Dorset: 4,521 (compared to 2,974 in last update on 31 December)
  • Current COVID-19 patients in hospital beds in Dorset: 74 (compared to 55 in last update on 31 December)

COUNCIL TAX

Many of you will have read reports that the Dorset Council tax budget could have been worse. In fact, Council Tax will be determined at a full council meeting in February 2022. Dorset Counci has been helped by larger than expected settlement from the Government although only for one year. I thought I would share with you some thoughts on additional Government funding. First of all, the extra funding will assist with our perceived budget in circumstances where income has been reduced as a consequence of Covid whether reduced income associated with property or through reduced use of paid for services eg reduced income from leisure centres The Council should then reflect on allocating further funds to assist with housing delivery .The Council is under an obligation to fund work to prepare for the social care market reforms In addition, funds should be earmarked for social care demand and inflationary pressures next year.
Best regards,
Simon Christopher
Dorset Councillor Marshwood Vale
077988 33715

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