Hampton Ward Newsletter
Many of you will have heard by now of the serious shortcomings of Herefordshire Council’s Children’s Services Department, in respect of two cases dealt with recently by the courts.
The cases relate in the first instance to two children who were made the subject of care orders back in 2008, but who were never placed for adoption. Mr Justice Keehan stated in his recent judgement that the care planning for both of these young people by Herefordshire Council has, over the past 10 years, been woeful.
The second case related to a pair of twins who were proposed to be adopted by different families. Mr Justice Keehan stated he was satisfied that the proposed adoption of the twins into two different homes was due to the incompetence and serial failings of Herefordshire Council and the egregious behaviour of some of its former staff.
A number of other issues were highlighted by the Judge and Herefordshire Council have taken them all on board. Some senior staff members have been replaced and the young people involved, along with their adopters, have been invited to meetings to find out what can be done to improve the Council’s services, from their perspective.
New weekly meetings of the Placement Panel have been scheduled to review individual child cases and these meetings will be chaired by a newly appointed Senior Social Worker. The legal team will also carry out a review of all children under placement orders and the Independent Reviewing Officers Service will ensure that care plans fully reflect an individual child’s current needs. Their other extremely important role is to challenge poor corporate parenting.
There are currently 326 ‘looked after’ children in the County and 117 with Child Protection Plans in place. Finally, over the past 5 years there have been 94 adoption orders granted for Herefordshire children. It’s comforting to note that no children were in danger of harm during this period and another High Court Judge has since commended the Council on the efforts being made to make the necessary changes to the systems.
Elected Members of the Council have been provided with briefings on these subjects and I attended one such meeting. As far as I’m concerned, the officers providing the briefing admitted to the Council’s failings and were extremely open and honest in their presentations and answered all our questions in a similar manner.
I’m now confident that our Children’s Services will vastly improve as a result of these recent court judgements, but an extraordinary meeting of the Full Council has been called for 10.00am on 18th January, to discuss these matters further.
Details of the meeting will be reported in the local paper and on the Council’s web site.Cllr Bruce Baker
Hampton Ward Newsletter
The first Parish Council Summit was held on 17th October and was an opportunity for Parish Councillors to discuss how Herefordshire council and the parish and town councils can work together to provide the best services for residents. Around 100 people from across the county attended and the council collected a wealth of thoughts and ideas that will be shared with ward councillors in the near future. The next summit will be held early in the new year.
Domestic abuse has a huge cost, both socially and financially and to the children affected by it. Last year 1,294 referrals were made to the Council’s domestic abuse support service and 3,877 calls were made to the helpline. It’s essential that victims of domestic abuse and their children are safe with ready access to good quality advice and support and it’s interesting to note that around 4% of domestic abuse victims are male. This has been recognised by our support service who provide specialist help to male victims.
Further to the earlier Ofsted inspection of the council’s children’s services, there was a much stronger focus on looking at good practice and outcome, rather than processes, which has been welcomed by professionals. The inspection report recognised a number of areas of good practice, with the recent £1.6m investment already making improvements to the service.
Most importantly, Ofsted found that no children were at risk of immediate harm. However, the report also highlighted poor management within some areas of the service, which is unacceptable and is something we’re determined to change and will form part of the agenda for the Children’s and Young People’s Scrutiny Committee, who will regularly review progress.
The Fostering and Adoption Services received positive feedback from the inspection, which highlighted good practice within the service in finding timely placements and providing post adoption support. The rate of adoption from care in the years 2014 to 2017 was higher in Herefordshire than with other comparable councils and we still have a serious shortage of foster carers due to an increase in the number of children needing placement. Additional training for foster carers will be a priority for the coming year.
The council’s cabinet has just received a progress report into our Corporate Parenting Strategy. ‘Corporate Parenting’ means the collective responsibility of the council, elected members, employees and partner agencies for providing the best possible care and safeguarding for every child in council care. We currently have 335 children in our care and we also support 180 recent care leavers, six of whom are now studying at university.
he council, in partnership with the CCG and the Herefordshire Partnership Board, have co-produced the autism strategy for 2019-2022, which spans all age groups from young children to adults. The strategy sets out a clear framework for improvements in a range of areas to ensure that people with autism have the same opportunities for health and the same quality of life as everyone else.
Finally, the 2018/19 budget outturn is £1.42m which is far more positive than in many other areas of the country. This projected overspend reflects the unexpected increase in looked after children in residential placement and additional residential placements for people with learning difficulties. However, following a recent statutory independent balance sheet review, it was reported that the council’s balance sheet is ‘very robust’.
Cllr Bruce Baker
Dear Cllr Baker,
Apologies for the delay in our response.
I’ve collated the rollout data for your ward and the coverage percentage are shown below. In total 91% of the premises in your ward have been enabled or are part of a Fastershire rollout contract to access faster broadband.
Residents should visit www.fastershire.com and use the address checker function to see if their property can already access faster broadband or where they sit in Fastershire’s plans.
|Fastershire Strategy Delivery Stage||Coverage %|
|Stage 1: Commercial delivery||26%|
|Stage 2: Fastershire’s contract with BT||49%|
|Stage 3: Fastershire’s contract with Gigaclear||14%|
|Stage 4: Fastershire’s contract with Airband||2%|
|Still requiring intervention||9%|
The stage 3 rollout delivered by Gigaclear in your ward is currently ‘in build’ and will increase coverage to 89%. This rollout will provide access to an ultrafast fibre connection and speeds up to 1000mbps. The project is awaiting a latest deployment plan and we will publish this information as soon as possible.
Under stage 4, Fastershire has recently carried out an open procurement process to engage a network supplier to provide faster broadband to some of those properties who still require access. The project intends to award a delivery contract to Airband, who will provide broadband to 10 property clusters in Herefordshire, subject to BDUK approval. The detail of the rollout for each cluster area will be available via the Fastershire website address checker once all agreements are in place.
For those properties that still require access to faster broadband and are not part of a rollout contract, the project will be exploring a number of solutions. This could be through a contract extension with an existing supplier or a bespoke grant, but this will be subject to securing additional funding. Businesses can already apply for Fastershire business broadband grant, and for residents, those premises that currently access broadband download capacity below 2Mbps can still take advantage of the Better Broadband Scheme.
As I mentioned, all information is available for residents using the Fastershire address checker at www.fatsershire.com.
Fastershire Broadband Project
Welcome to Herefordshire Council’s Annual Performance Report, a summary of the progress made by the council in 2017/18. This report also identifies our priorities in 2018/19; we hope that you find this feedback for our county’s residents both accessible and informative. That is the aim of the report.
In 2017/18, your council continued to deal with the extraordinary era of reduced funding from central government, in common with councils across the country. A number of large councils have come forward with concerns of being unable to balance their budget, with an increasing number proposing draconian cuts to services. Herefordshire Council however remained on target to deliver another balanced budget and to sustain effective and extensive services across our county. We are doing so with around £90 million less direct grant from government per annum. We have achieved this by ensuring that our priorities are clear, focussed on our key services to residents, whilst developing new and innovative ways to deliver our services, with much less cost. For example: reducing the number of buildings that we work from, with staff becoming more mobile – which reduces costs considerably. using more digital technology to support and deliver our services enabling more council staff to work closer to where it is needed across the county. developing our website and digital access to services for residents – which enables residents to access services when it suits them, often 24/7. bringing separate parts of the public sector together to simplify services to residents – which improves access for residents and also reduces costs. investing in the roll out of superfast broadband, creating a county-wide platform for residents, and for businesses wherever they are located in the county.
Your council has remained focussed on the services that we deliver to residents every day across the county, and delivering major projects that will enable the county to move forward with confidence in the future. Throughout the year we continued to look after around 3,000 vulnerable older people, providing them with support that is critical to helping them remain well and independent. This has increasingly focussed on assistive care technology, which not only assists us in early help when it is needed, but provides older vulnerable residents and their families with reassurance.
We continue to directly support around 500 children and young people who are vulnerable. Many of these young people face challenging personal or home circumstances, and your council is consistently there to keep them safe, and to ensure among many things that they can achieve their potential through education.
Educational attainment in the county’s maintained schools and academies continued to improve. This is pleasing to see, and absolutely essential for all our pupils, to ensure that they can fully achieve their potential. As the performance of our schools improves, so do the opportunities for our county’s pupils. The county received special praise from the minister of state for education, for the improved phonics performance of Herefordshire children, one of the largest increases in England.
2017/18 also saw: The council continued to support the development of the new university, NMiTE, and also the existing successful higher education establishment at the Hereford College for Arts. We are working with leaders of both organizations to consider how the council can assist their continued progress. Our newly constructed EnviRecover Energy from Waste Plant receive a formal royal opening: this plant now processes 200k tonnes of residual household waste. The council make a policy decision to dispose of the smallholdings estate, in order to develop capital source for investment in future economic growth. Our economic vision successfully launched at Eastnor Castle, providing a platform to progress further inward investment to deliver the vision. Our new Home First service launched, bringing together existing rapid response home care service with the re-ablement services. Working closely with colleagues in the NHS community services, Home First provides a managed discharge for people leaving hospital, ensuring they receive support that helps them regain the maximum level of independence. Herefordshire Council become the leading council in the country for adoption of neighbourhood development plans. Cabinet’s decision in January to continue developing a scheme for the much needed bypass for Hereford, enabled consultation regarding options for the route of the bypass to proceed. Your council secure the maximum available from Government for the maintenance of our county roads, which combined with the councils own capital investment of £3 million and a successful bid for £5 million additional funding through the Local Highways Maintenance Challenge Fund, enabled us to proceed with over 25 miles of carriageway resurfacing and 12 miles of surface dressing to some of the county’s most important routes, making this one of the largest highway maintenance scheme in the country. In Children’s Social Care, the council commission more peer review work in 2017 and in spring 2018. A Local Government Association (LGA) Peer review was conducted in November, looking at the culture of improvement in children’s wellbeing services. This provided many useful points, with good evidence of a strong culture. Our focus on continuous improvement lead to our commissioning in February, the LGA Corporate Peer Challenge. The external experts leading the Peer Challenge reported positively on the council overall, recognising the sound overall financial position, and significant progress and successes achieved by the council, along with helpful advice on how we can continue to improve. In early 2018 our announcement of the arrival of the Poppies: Weeping Window to be displayed at the Cathedral from 14th March. This followed an initiative by the council, followed by a successful joint bid and close working with key partners, including Hereford Cathedral itself. The display proved to exceed expectations as a visitor attraction for Hereford. Our new website design attracting 2,059,271 visits to and 806,271 individuals in its first year, helping Herefordshire Council win 2 National ‘Better Connected’ awards.
Every day, Herefordshire Council’s councillors and staff are working to improve the county. Each day we support thousands of people in the county – be they older vulnerable residents, children and young people at risk or residents with learning disabilities – those residents remain our priority.
With many significant economic development projects progressing well, we remain optimistic about the county’s prospects, looking ahead. We look forward to updating you on progress throughout the year ahead and in this report, next year.
Annual Canvass 2018
Herefordshire’s Annual Canvass started on Monday 16th July. The purpose of the Canvass is to compile an accurate Electoral Register for use in 2018/19.
The Canvass will happen in a similar way to previous years. This means that every property in the county will be sent a “Household Enquiry Form”. This form will show all members of the household that are registered to vote. The form MUST be checked and completed, whether there are changes or not – it’s the law!
To make the return of these forms as easy as possible they can be completed using several different methods:
- By phone 08082 841448 (only if no changes)
- By text 07786 209348 (only if no changes)
- Online elecreg.co.uk/hfds (changes can be made)
- By post envelope sent with form (changes can be made)
N.B. Anyone in the Household aged 18 or over, can complete this – they will need the two security numbers to do this, which are printed on the form.
All response methods are free of charge to the householder. However it is cheaper for Herefordshire Council if one of the electronic methods is used, as the paper returns cost more to process. Full and clear instructions are on the forms.
Any resident aged 18 or over can complete the form on behalf of the whole household.
Whilst each household must complete their form, this process will NOT register to vote any new people. These new people MUST also register themselves to vote individually.
The simplest way to do this is online at https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote. All they need to register is their date of birth and National Insurance number.
If you have any questions, here are our contact details:
Herefordshire Council Electoral Services: phone – 01432 260107
email – email@example.com
Hampton Ward Newsletter July 2018
You may have read or heard about the processes currently underway to agree a route for the Hereford by-pass. A huge amount of work has gone into this subject and the Council has been criticised and questioned, quite rightly, at every turn, but at the end of the day decisions will be made and a by-pass will be built, which will help to reduce journey times and improve the traffic flow, in and around the city.
The first section of the by-pass, known as the Southern Link Road, was approved almost 2 years ago and is designed to link the A49 Ross Road with the A465 Abergavenny Road. This new road will make it easier for heavy traffic to access the Enterprise Zone at Rotherwas. Unfortunately, a number of objections by local landowners has resulted in a judicial review being called, which is planned to take place in October. This will result in further delays and additional costs to the project.
In January this year, the council’s Cabinet approved a short-list of route corridors for the bypass and a public consultation was carried out regarding these proposals. Additional work on the Hereford Transport Package was undertaken during February and March and since then work has progressed to assess the environmental, engineering, economic and traffic factors affecting the different routes.
The responses received to the consultation have all been analysed and detailed reports have been prepared by the council’s consultants which help to explain the results of this work.
The council’s General Scrutiny Committee (of which I’m a member) has called-in the decision for ‘pre-decision scrutiny’ and the matter will be debated by the Committee on Wednesday 18th July at 10.00am. The council’s Cabinet will consider these reports and recommendations on Friday 27th July, at 10.00am.
Both meetings will be held in public at the Shire Hall in Hereford and anyone is able to attend to observe the proceedings and an audio recording of the meetings will be broadcast live on the council’s website.
The lengthy reports for the General Scrutiny Committee to consider, including the associated technical reports and appendices, will be available to view on the council’s website from 7.00pm on 10th July 2018. The Cabinet papers, including a proposed response to any recommendations made by the General Scrutiny Committee, will be published on or before 19th July.
Once the final recommendations have been agreed by Cabinet, the council’s consultants will carry out further work to develop the detailed proposals for the design of the scheme which will then be subject to a further public consultation later this year.
I hope you all continue to enjoy the summer. I’ll be back with more news and stories in September.
Cllr Bruce Baker