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
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 – firstname.lastname@example.org
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
Hampton Ward Newsletter: March 2018
The recent spell of severe weather has stretched our resources beyond the limit. With over 2000 miles of roads in the county and 600 miles designated as priority routes for snow and ice clearing, the logistics of attempting to keep our entire road network clear of snow, was challenging to say the least.
Recent years have seen some falls of snow, but never as severe as we’ve just experienced and never coupled with such high winds. This resulted in enormous snow drifts that had the effect of actually blocking some of our major roads, which was an extremely rare occurrence. The minor rural roads took an enormous hit, with some exposed sections being completely blocked with 2m high drifts.
We have access to 15 gritting trucks, that can all be adapted with snow ploughs, 3 purpose-built snow blowers and we employ 42 local contractors, mostly farmers, who have access to the necessary equipment required to help clear our more rural roads.
Unfortunately, the amount of snow that fell in such a short time, especially where it built up into large drifts, completely overwhelmed us. The snow ploughs and snow blowers were all deployed on 12 hour, back-to-back shifts.
The hard-pressed staff managed to keep most of the ‘A’ road network open, although in places it was only a single lane, but at least a large number of our shops and services were able to keep going, if only in a limited way.
Some of our more rural villages remained snowed in for longer than was expected, especially by the residents and I expect to be challenged about our shortcomings over the next few weeks when I attend your next Parish Council meetings. However, actually being able to reach these outlying areas with the necessary equipment was extremely difficult, especially when the snow ploughs encountered unreported and abandoned vehicles buried in the drifts, which were impossible to move as they had been left locked!
We were not suffering alone of course, as the main TV and radio news stations constantly reported, with many other towns and villages in the UK being equally badly hit. Fortunately, the rapid thaw has come as a blessed relief, but coupled with the heavy rain that followed, local flooding then became an additional problem.
However, at the time of writing, all is now returning back to normal. Spring is almost here and the recent problems will soon be just a memory as we look forward to seeing fresh growth in the surrounding fields and in our gardens, with time to remember just why we chose to live in this beautiful county and continue to enjoy the many benefits of country living.
Cllr Bruce Baker
Hampton Ward Newsletter – February 2018
Most of you will be aware by now of the recent commotion surrounding an ex member of the special-forces who found himself in need of a permanent home in Herefordshire.
A number of people quickly jumped on the bandwagon, having been egged on by a TV presenter and a well-known ex SAS soldier currently making a living as an author. None of these people had bothered to make any effort to discover the true facts of the case and large numbers of anonymous internet trolls immediately demanded the head of the Leader of the Council, as in their opinion the Council had failed to comply immediately with their calls to supply this man with a house.
Nothing is ever as simple as it first seems and I think it worthwhile to explain how housing is allocated in Herefordshire and of our stance with regard to our ex-service personnel.
As part of the council’s commitment to the Armed Forces Covenant, we prioritise housing for all former members of the armed services and they will always receive additional assistance to aid their applications. They’re also given an advantage on the housing waiting list by having their applications back-dated by 6 months. This will speed up the process of securing appropriate housing for them.
It’s particularly important to know that Herefordshire Council does not own any housing stock. ‘Council Houses’ are a thing of the past and all available social housing is held by a number of different housing associations, which is the preferred process used by many local authorities in the UK.
The council only operates the social housing register and will help local people to apply and bid for available homes from lists maintained by the housing associations. Once a bid has been placed for a particular house, the applicant will liaise directly with the housing association and not the council. However, the council continues to provide support for people who need to claim housing benefit.
We currently have 1,328 people and their families looking for social housing in Herefordshire and 13 of these have an armed forces background. Everyone registered for social housing is advised that the more flexible they can be with their choice of location, the quicker they are likely to receive appropriate housing. For example, there are 24 one-bed properties available across the entire county and only three of these are in Hereford city.
We know that it’s often hard for people to ask for support, especially if their personal circumstances are difficult or distressing and our staff will always be sympathetic and supportive, but they must be seen to be fair to everyone who needs help.
The council continues to provide support for armed forces veterans across the county and we work hard to find suitable accommodation for any applicant needing it and it’s vital that anyone requiring support must be prepared to supply, in confidence, all the various personal details necessary for the application to be processed in a timely manner.
Finally, the Council is currently working in partnership with the Community Self Build Agency to build new homes in Leominster, specifically for ex-service personnel.
Cllr Bruce Baker
Hampton Ward Newsletter – January 2018
I thought it would be a good idea to start the new year on a positive note to help contradict some of the negativity we read in the local press. There’s a huge amount of positive news out there, generally ignored by the press, so I’ve listed some of the achievements made by Herefordshire Council over the past few years, in spite of the enormous cuts to our overall budget.
The Council remain on course to reduce expenditure between 2001 and 2020, by £97m and still maintain our statutory services. This is one of the greatest challenges for any local authority across the UK and was described as a ‘fantastic achievement’ by the external auditor last year.
Plans are now well in place for a new city by-pass, hopefully ending 40+ years of debate and disappointment. The newly completed City Link Road has opened up valuable development land for housing and business and will allow the introduction of a new transport hub by moving the bus station to a new site alongside the railway station. Plans are also being developed to build a new ‘blue light hub’ near the junction with the A49 Edgar Street, something that’s desperately needed by the police and the fire and rescue service.
The new retail centre on the site of the old cattle market has been a huge success, despite a great deal of political opposition during the planning stages. This is now the 5th largest growing retail area in the UK.
The new ‘energy from waste’ plant, built in partnership with Worcestershire Council, was on-time and on-budget and the majority of our household waste is converted to energy, rather than being dumped in expensive land-fill sites.
The recent improvement to some of our major ‘A’ roads was due to a successful bid to central government for £5m in funding. This resulted in 328 miles of road being re-surfaced, which equates to 19% of our total road network. Our contractors, Balfour Beatty, repaired over a quarter of a million pot holes in 2017 and the recent bad weather has added to the workload, but repairs will continue, no matter what comes our way.
Plans for the new university are well on track and we’ve recently been awarded £23m funding from central government. This will be the first new university in 21 years in England.
We were removed from Special Measures by Ofsted in 2014 and we now make Children’s Wellbeing our highest priority. The Council’s Children and Adult Services continue to face difficult daily challenges and we manage to keep over 750 children and young people safe 24/7. We currently ‘look after’ some 300 children in care and we support over 3,000 older people every day of the year. A recent national social care quality of life survey judged us to be the 5th best in England.
There’s so much more to shout about and I’ll continue to spread the good news via my newsletters and our hard-working Parish Councils.
I wish you and your families all the very best for a healthy and peaceful new year.
Cllr Bruce Baker