Here is our local Councillor Simon Christopher’s interim report submitted to the Parish Council’s meeting last evening.
“As I write this, the number of Covid patients in Dorset hospitals is 340 ( Source Sam Crowe, Public health Dorset. 8th January 2021). A great deal of my report will be devoted to Covid matters.
Common Water Lane
I am aware of the damage to Common Water Lane and the verges.
As Councillor David Leader is aware, I have sent considerable emails and had phone calls with Dorset Police and officers of Dorset Council in connection with Common Water Lane.
- Comments of Dorset Police/Alex Bishop
My understanding from Dorset Police is that there are two points in regards to the action Police can take in these matters.
- First is the reaction to reports made to police of specific incidents, such as investigations. Alex Bishop advises me that neither the moving of the bale, nor the damage to the finger sign have been reported. He stated that over the course of the last few months that Common Water Lane has had these issues, the police have had very few reports of any offences being committed. Any police response to a report that vehicles are on the lane, will be triggered via the threat, risk and harm protocols they have in deciding how to allocate resources. I understand that it is unlikely police officers will attend unless there is an urgent need to attend.
- The second is proactive policing, such as area patrols. Dorset have advised me that some officers have attended Common Water Lane here and there whilst they have been on night duty, but it is difficult for them to spend much time there as there are other incidents to attend to.
2) Comments of Dorset Council Legal Team – Philip Crowther, Legal Business Partner.
My understanding from Philip Crowther is that Dorset Council is responsible for maintaining Common Water Lane, including the verges because it is a vehicular highway. My understanding is that Dorset Council has various powers which it could in theory use to stop irresponsible 4×4 drivers damaging the verges. I believe the Parish Council Chairman has been given the reasons via email why a number of those powers are very difficult to use in practice. My understanding of the action that is most likely to succeed is that Dorset council have the power to erect fences or bollards to prevent vehicles using the verges. However any fences or bollards must not interfere with any agricultural fence or gate or with an access to private properties. I understand that fencing was erected some years ago with some success albeit that it had to be left open at each end to allow access for the landowner to cut their hedges. This was done with the Friends of Common Water Lane (The Friends) and it allowed the verges to recover in a fairly short time. Mike Westwood (Dorset Highways) is happy to discuss working with the Parish Council and the Friends to look at erecting fencing or bollards again. It is my understanding that this is the solution which carries the most chance of resolving the problem. The need to consider the issues around maintaining any fencing and/or bollards would have to be discussed.
3) Comments of Senior Ranger (West & Coast) Russell Goff
I understand from Russell Goff that he is happy to be the liaison if the Friends would like to go down the fencing route as they use excellent contractors.
Russell also suggests that perhaps a joint press release from the parish highlighting this antisocial behaviour and damage may, in the short term prevent further damage.
My understanding is that a covert wildlife camera in order to catch those responsible in the act could be installed. The Council would need to know what the law is regarding using the footage gained from this.
Here is the the Government’s latest advice for parents and carers: Click HERE to access.
Long Description – Government information for Parents and Carers
Schools and colleges in Dorset remain open for critical workers and vulnerable children, details of who is included is HERE. Other children will move to remote learning.
Early years settings, special schools, alternative provision and learning centres in Dorset can remain open to all children. We are updating our Childcare directory, please contact your provider if you have specific enquiries.
Free school meals update – 5 Jan
Dorset Council is working with schools to make sure families who need it (including those who receive free school meals) can receive food vouchers if they are not in school. If your child gets free school meals their school will give you details. Find out more HERE.
School transport in Dorset update – 5 Jan
All school transport, including SEND transport, will continue to run. This may be reviewed in future if routes aren’t used.
Home learning resources for parents and carers
Schools are offering remote learning to families, HERE are some extra resources to help families, we are updating these at the moment too.
Dorset Council has worked closely with schools throughout the pandemic to support school leaders. Our schools have been open throughout for children of key workers and children with additional vulnerabilities.
Leader of Dorset Council Spencer Flower said: “We are proud of our schools, colleges and early years settings and our education leaders in Dorset and will continue to support them.”
You will perhaps have already seen that Dorset Council is calling for front line public sector workers to be prioritised for vaccines.
This is a particularly concerning time for our most vulnerable children and families and this continued period of restrictions will no doubt be having an increased impact. Right from the start of this pandemic all partners have been committed and continued to work incredibly hard to support the children and families. A reminder that the government guidance on safe working in education, childcare and children’s social care can be found HERE.
Children’s Centres update
Our Children’s Centre core sites will remain open for the services listed below:
- health service appointments where required
- family time
- parenting assessments
- where childcare is provided
Parenting groups will however have to move online.
IT equipment for families who are homeschooling
We are working in partnership with our school colleagues to ensure that children can access learning wherever possible through mobile devices in Dorset. The DfE have significantly increased the number of devices available for secondary schools to order for vulnerable children. We’re assisting school colleagues in getting these orders processed and out to families. A similar approach is expected for our primary school colleagues, we are awaiting information on this. Meanwhile we have been made aware of some issues in Dorset of children not being able to access IT equipment and are dealing with these on a case by case basis. Currently we’re looking at whether we can repurpose some of our old machines and issuing wireless routers to enable children to get on line. I am once again incredibly impressed by the strength and resilience shown across our Early Years, Schools and Colleges.
Finally, on a financial note.
Dorset Councillors were advised that despite an overspend during the year , the delivery of more than £10 million of savings from the reorganisation had been achieved. The executive director of corporate development has highlighted a general point about collecting council tax, in that at present we are in exceptional times and officers were tracking but not actively pursuing collections given the economic frailty. The needed to wait until a more normal time to actively pursue. Officers are forecasting around £13million worth of Council Tax and business rates could be at risk but would continue to be monitored.
Councillor Simon Christopher
Dorset Councillor for The Marshwood Vale.