Cllr. Simon Christopher submitted the following report at this evening’s Informal Meeting of the Group Parish Council:
Dear Helen and Councillors,
It is good to see so much physical activity in keeping our local village halls up together and meeting the aspirations of residents both in terms of their actual use, but also their environmental impact. There was much discussion of what was termed the big society a decade or so ago and evidence of collaboration is very much in my mind in terms of not just community shops, but also possible community run pubs and existing community sports clubs in the Dorset Council Marshwood Vale Ward.
Dorset Council has continued to have virtual meetings. The most recent meeting of the Cabinet was on 22 June 2021 as social distancing requirements were not lifted on 21 June 2021.
Members were advised that where a Cabinet decision was required the appropriate Portfolio holder would be the responsible individual to make the decision whilst considering the views expressed by the wider Cabinet membership
You will be aware that the 2 main budgets in Dorset Council are in respect of care for Adults and Care of Children. There are also huge challenges around mental health generally and in respect of learning difficulties .
One report that was considered was the Dorset Care, Support Housing and Community Safety Framework. Against a backdrop of an ageing population The Portfolio Holder for Adult Social Care and Health Laura Miller, advised that the Council Sought to provide high quality personalised care and support services meeting the needs of service users whilst ensuring that they are delivered and financed in a sustainable way. The current Dorset Care Framework for Older People expires on 30 November 2022 and the Dorset Care Framework for Learning Disabilities needs to be refreshed to include mental health.
Procurement is governed by the Public Contract Regulations 2015 which allows Public Sector Bodies such as Dorset Council in terms of health and social care to adopt /innovate procurement models to best meet the needs of service users.
The framework will be in place for up to 10 years and will enable providers to join at any time (provided clearly that specific criteria is met) instead of fixed opening periods.
The proposed new Framework tool is the key to delivering flexible contracting with all sectors of the provider market including ( and I believe this is absolutely crucial) micro enterprises.
It is fair to say that Dorset Council continues to be under pressure both in terms of dealing with an increase in the number of planning applications and has been attempting to deal with an increase in the level of land charges searches. Across Dorset we are seeing changes in rural property ownership and re-evaluation of business models within the rural community, (which I will write more about later), but often these changes involve the need for planning applications.
With respect to Bus Back Better which was first publicised by H M Government in March 2021, I would like to reiterate that the Dorset Council bus service improvement plan will be published in Autumn 2021.
Councillor Ray Bryan, portfolio holder for Highways Tavel and Environment ,has been working on the Dorset Council Bus Service Improvement Plan.
He is quoted as saying “In response to the Government’s new National Bus Strategy which aims to make bus services more attractive, cheaper, easier to use, Faster, more reliable and greener.
The plan, is the so called Bus Service Improvement (ie: BSIP Plan)
As a recap a plan will be a collaboration with local bus operators, community groups, and with passengers themselves.
The Council has reviewed the operations that Dorset has through the National Bus Strategy.
Their preferred approach is to develop an Enhanced Partnership for the council area.
An Enhanced Partnership is an agreement between the council and local bus operators to work together to improve local bus services. It requires an agreed vision of improvements and an action plan that will form the Bus Service Improvement Plan”
The plan will involve 5 key aspects:
- Network and services
- Passenger facilities
- Bus priority measures
Councillor Bryan has further said that
“By working in close collaboration with the operators and local groups we will develop and deliver an ambitious Bus Service Improvement Plan for Dorset that puts the passenger first, raises further the perception of bus travel, generates mode shift away from private cars, and sees decarbonisation of the local transport fleet.
As a point of record the official notice is as follows
“By executive notice dated 29 June 2021 Dorset Council gave approval to proceed with the Development of and Enhancednotice of the intention to prepare an Enhanced Partnership Plan and accompanying Enhanced Partnership Scheme,as required and set out in section 138F of the Transport Act 2000.
As part of the process to develop the BSIP, the Council will be talking with community groups ,business groups passengers and the public to collect a wide range of thoughts and ideas which will help to shape the future vision and priorities for our bus network. The BSIP will be published in the Autumn”
I make no apology for stressing the importance of the Bus Service Improvement Plan that will be published in Autumn 2021 but the importance of public transport generally to include improvements to rail services and stations.
Several parish councillors are aware that I have continued to lobby Councillor Ray Bryan (mentioned above) and the lead member for Highway Surfaces Councillor, Cherry Brooks to address the need for extensive parts of our local road network to be re surfaced. There are assurances that further resurfacing , and I refer in particular to the B3165 will take place this autumn.
We are of course in the middle of the most intensive part of the farming year.
While there are many who like seeing so much agricultural machinery working in the fields the fact that the machinery has to travel on our roads causes concern to some residents who write to me in connection with damaged roads, drains and verges. Of course, some damage may for instance be caused by say buses and lorries .
I would naturally be interested to hear the further thoughts of parish councillors and residents. I say this as I have within the Marshwood Vale Ward experience receipt of communication citing oversized agricultural machinery. In my experience agricultural machinery does not appear to be any larger than that you would see across the West Country.
I am writing this as we anticipate further easing of Covid restrictions and at a time when Covid cases are rising again across Dorset.
As of 9 July 2021, hospitalisations have been increasing with there being 14 people in hospital with Covid 19 in Dorset . The vaccine programme is however assessed as having a significant impact on the number of people being seriously unwell. That is the number of people requiring hospital treatment is at a much lower level compared to when Dorset was experiencing similar case rates in previous waves.
There are several walk-in vaccine clinics taking place across Dorset as residents are encouraged to grab a jab as it is termed prior to likely further easing of Covid 19 restrictions under step 4 of HM Government roadmap.
In summary the most recent data, to 9 July 2021 is as follows:
7 day cases per 100,000.
Dorset 96.4 compared to 69.2 per previous week.
The equivalent figure for Bournemouth Christchurch and Poole was 236.8 per 100.000 compared to 147.7per previous week.
I thought I would now turn to the question of the management of Dorset Council Owned Tree Policy . It is my understanding that Dorset Council is responsible for approximately 250,000 trees . The responsible Portfolio holder stated that town and parish councils were continually consulted and also confirmed that he was working closely with the County Farms in respect of tree replacement.
This now leads to the portfolio holder being quoted as stating that it was important to plant the right tree in the right place. This may seem an obvious comment but never more relevant.
I write this as it is a HM Government target to plant 30,000 hectares a year by 2025 this is under the DEFRA England Trees Action Plan 2021-2024. As part of the plan ,it was announced that the Forestry Commission would launch a new England Woodland Creation Offer (EWCO),
There is much discussion of carbon sequestration biodiversity and timber production. And which tree species and location to assist in a fight to prevent soil erosion.
We are now seeing tickets being sold for some local agricultural shows eg: Honition at the start of August and Gillingham and Shaftesbury in the 3rd week of August . Both shows are unusually going to operate as 2 day shows due to ongoing concerns and capacity numbers appear somewhat uncertain Dorset County show in Dorchester and Melplash are both Cancelled.
These events are hugely important as are the functioning of livestock dispersal sales such as the one taking place at Frome market tomorrow (12 July ) in respect of a herd of organic dairy cows as farming is seen to operate in a manner closer to normality and a time when there is so much stress in the farming community . This stress includes the high incidence of TB in cattle and increasing testing requirements and cuts in Basic Payment ie support payments. Income is being lost in the the reduction in the Basic Payment Scheme which is being phased out Payment rates for the new sustainable farming incentive have now been set out by Defra Secretary George Eustace . This will have an impact naturally on farmers in the Marshwood Vale ward and indeed for farmers on the Dorset Council Farms Estate . Many of you will be aware that HM Government are encouraging farmers to move towards what is termed sustainable farming but also encouraging farmers to collaborate be more efficient and diversify.
In fact, with enhanced capital allowances for businesses in assisting with their tax it can be argued that HMG is being very generous in encouraging all rural business to be more efficient but increased efficiency and indeed diversification is not without broadband challenges……
Finally, within the Marshwood Vale Ward I have received notice of difficulties in respect of private drainage. You will be aware that not all of the extensive Marshwood Vale Ward is on mains drainage. The specific difficulties involve soakaways and I would welcome your thoughts by e mail as to the extent to which private drainage is a problem for individual householders and their neighbours and the wider community.
Councillor Simon Christopher
Dorset Councillor Marshwood Vale