Friday, 17 May 2013

An eventful week back at work

One way and another this has been a really eventful week back at the County Council.

One of the first jobs for the Leader designate after the County Council elections is to allocate Members to our various committees and Chairmen as well. This takes time, particularly with a large in-take of new Councillors, as you have to try to match needs, skills and interests of Councillors to the various Committees.

On Tuesday we had our first Full Council meeting where a new Chairman of the Council, Amanda Jupp, and Vice-Chairman, Nigel Peters, were appointed. Although new to the role, both are experienced Councillors and totally committed, and will do an excellent job. I look forward to working with them and wish them both success and enjoyment in all their future duties.

I too was confirmed as Leader, for which I was truly honoured and delighted and will do my very best in my role. Then all appointments to Committees were confirmed. So now the Council is up and running again as a new administration.

Wednesday started really well with a letter from the Minister for Children and Families, Edward Timpson MP, confirming that after our recent Ofsted inspection he was removing the Notice to Improve for our Children's Safeguarding. Of course there is a lot more to be done but I was so heartened by the acknowledgement of what we have achieved so far and the suggestion that we share our work with others who are currently trying to improve their service.

Later that day I met with Bill Murphy, managing director Next Generation Access for BT, and key members of the Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) team, where the contract for the provision of broadband roll-out across West Sussex was signed. A considerable amount of work and effort has been going on behind the scenes to get to this position. Now work starts on planning the roll-out to bring fibre broadband to around 98 percent of West Sussex homes and businesses within the next three years. You can find out more here.

On Thursday morning I met with the Adults’ Safeguarding Peer Review Team, who have been looking at our Adults’ Safeguarding within the County Council. It was a useful meeting where we went through their report looking at what we do well and what we need to do more on in the future. Children’s and Adults’ Safeguarding is at the top of our agenda, but we know we must never be complacent and there will always be work to improve, and this Peer Review has certainly helped.

With our Children's Safeguarding now no longer under Notice to Improve, the broadband roll-out now a reality, and positive comments on Adults’ Safeguarding it has been a very positive week.

Best wishes,

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Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Getting down to business post-elections

I've not written a blog for the last few weeks, having been in purdah in the run-up to the election. Now, with the election over, it's good to be able to start blogging again.

Thursday 2 May was election day for West Sussex County Council. This was the first time since 1993 that it was solely County Council elections, as usually they are in conjunction with either General or European elections. This meant a lower turn out than usual, despite the lovely weather.

The results were certainly interesting. The Conservatives in West Sussex bucked the national trend and maintained a strong majority. UKIP emerged with ten elected Councillors, all new to the County Council, and became the second largest party at County Hall.

The next step is for all elected Councillors to sign their declaration, which will take place this week. For new Councillors there is a steep learning curve in order to understand their roles and responsibilities, and becoming familiar with procedures and how the County Council works.

Over the last year an all-party task group has been busy compiling the induction programme which is there to help new Councillors. It has been designed for Councillors by Councillors, and I hope that all new Members find it helpful in assisting them in their new role.

The first seminar for new Members is this week and there is Full Council next Tuesday 14 May, where Committee Membership and other formalities are confirmed.

So a busy and exciting time ahead. The role of the County Councillor is very interesting and fulfilling - working with the community is probably one of the most important and rewarding jobs around. So I wish new Councillors well in their new role, they will certainly have a busy time ahead.

Best wishes,