Tuesday, 31 March 2015

How to promote our ‘beautiful outdoors’

In previous blogs I have mentioned that the economy is one of our three key priorities as a County Council. It links closely into our two other key priorities: start of life and later life.

Much work on the economy is taking place, such as engaging with businesses and working with business organisations such as the Federation of Small Businesses and Chambers of Commerce.

Our approach as a council has significantly changed. In the past we may have produced an overarching strategy. Now we have looked in detail at what is in the county – strengths and weaknesses you might say, which we can build on and develop through our five Bold Ideas plan, which will help to build the Gross Value Added in the county to be on a par with other adjoining counties.

We have a beautiful county and the South Downs is a very special landscape, much loved by residents. It is a great place to cycle and walk, but interestingly not widely known by many of the younger generation (I mean 25 to 40-year-olds) living in London, surprising really as it is just on the doorstep.

Our Beautiful Outdoors campaign is all about encouraging this younger generation to enjoy the delights of rural West Sussex, particularly by cycling, and it is really good to have the support and commitment of the South Downs National Park who are working closely with us.

Some might ask why we are bothering with this project. Well, I think it is important as this will directly help our rural economy, and that’s not just the hospitality industry but food producers and other supporting businesses. It will also encourage the next generation, currently not resident here, to sample all that is great in West Sussex and we hope may tempt them to move into the county as well.

We know to have a really great offering we need to invest in some of our cycle ways and footpaths, which is why earlier this year we put a bid into the Coast to Capital Local Enterprise Partnership. Last Wednesday we were awarded £1.2 million – of which £450,000 goes towards those cycle and footpath improvements, which in the end will benefits residents and visitors alike.

Such campaigns need to be marketed carefully and of course be supported by local businesses. This is why we held an event for local businesses and partners last week to brief them. It was really well attended by many people who were keen to learn about our Beautiful Outdoors campaign with lots of positive comments and support.

So this is just the start –and through the blog I will keep you posted..

Best wishes,

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

A new, faster more efficient website

Living in the digital age that we do, a website is really important for any organisation.

It is the digital shop window and as such has to be inviting and easy to access and understand, with relevant information.

The County Council website has not changed much over the last few years, and although it held a lot of information - some may say too much! - often accessing that information was not that easy.

So we needed to have a really good look at our website to make sure it was user friendly , easy to navigate and up to date with relevant information.

We started on a journey of asking residents what they thought of our website, what they wanted and then developing a new website responding to the feedback from the various groups who helped us with our market testing.

It has taken a while, but there was a lot to be done including a trial test run and I am now really pleased to say that, today, (March 25), visitors to www.westsussex.gov.uk will find a site that’s quicker and simpler to use – and it looks a whole lot better too.
This redesigned website really marks the start of a new focus on customer excellence for us so it’s the first, exciting step, towards a much bigger programme of work of which you will be hearing more about over the coming year.
Having tested it myself I found it quick and efficient and finding the information you require is now a much more straightforward task – thank goodness.

At first glance you will immediately notice a huge difference to the design – it is much tidier, and cleaner therefore much easier to access the points that you really want.

Our selection of tabs, which group together the things our customer most want to do ensure that searching for things such as your local councillor, travel updates and road repairs are much more accessible.

We have completely overhauled the search function on the new website because we know people do not want to be bogged down when visiting us online. They want what they want quickly and within just a couple of clicks so we hope that you now find searching for information is as responsive as you need it to be.

With more and more people using and relying smartphones and tablets wherever they are – in the office, at home or on the go, we have made sure that the website really meets these demands and is much more effective on your smartphone or tablet device – do  try it and I am sure you will notice and immediate difference!

As I mentioned earlier the website has been designed solely around the needs of our residents as that is really important to us – so  wherever you are, whatever you are doing and whichever way you are accessing our information it should be simple and responsive to your needs .

In my view, it is a website fit for the future – thanks to the comments from residents and regular users of the current model – and we believe you will find it a really useful tool.

But it’s very much  work in progress. As I said before, it marks the start of a much wider programme of work around improving our customer service

We know that no great website should never remain static, it needs to evolve. So we’ll add to ours over the coming weeks and months with more features that will make it even easier to go about your business with us online for those who want to. So let us know what you think.

However we know that there are residents who do not use the internet and I want to reassure everyone that we’ll always make sure that people who do not have access to the internet or do not use it  are not excluded and that the customer service they receive from us is just as good as the digital service through our website.

Louise Goldsmith.
Leader West Sussex County Council
Chichester West Division.

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Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Why Child Sexual Exploitation is everyone’s problem - Say something if you see something.

Child Sexual Exploitation Awareness Day is on Wednesday, March 18 and, as a County Council we will, of course, be taking part and doing all we can to raise awareness about this really, really important issue.

One of the messages we are pushing this week (and every week because sadly this problem will not go away overnight) is that it is not just the county council’s responsibility to help protect vulnerable children from harm but it is everybody’s.

Please say something if you see something. Please alert the authorities, whether that’s us, the police or the NHS. Please don’t say nothing.

One of our key priorities as a county council is to help give children the very best start in life. Protecting them from harm has to be at the forefront of that. That’s why I am so supportive of this campaign. We support really driving home the message that protecting our young and vulnerable is everyone’s responsibility because I believe that’s the only way we can ensure that we can eradicate this from our communities.

What happened in Rotherham was truly shocking and reading the reports was extremely uncomfortable and disturbing – so we all need to learn and do our best to ensure that we do everything we can to prevent it happening again anywhere.

So our position is to look at everything.

People will often report concerns to either the police or our Children’s Services if they are worried about a child’s welfare. Any call is always looked at and, if needs be, accelerated because a child’s welfare is paramount.

We work very closely with the police and other partners, sharing our knowledge across all the different agencies who might be involved to ensure that nothing is missed.

The County Council has statutory safeguarding powers and like all other authorities has a Local Safeguarding Children’s  Board – The West Sussex Local Safeguarding Children’s Board (LSCB). This board is independently chaired and made up of members representing various bodies and interests such as police, schools and West Sussex County Council.

Each year the West Sussex LSCB prepares a report which the Chairman presents to Cabinet Board, it is also available on their website www.westsussexlscb.org

Recent work of this Board includes work on Child Sexual Exploitation, in response to Rotherham and no doubt will continue to do so.

As I said, everyone needs to play their part by keeping an eye out, sometimes it may seem rather small but that does not mean that it should be ignored.  

We appreciate that this can be such a difficult subject and there are a lot of ways that people can report their concerns without having to give their names.
To report concerns people can call the County Council’s Children’s Access Point (CAP) on 01403 229900 (9am-5pm Monday–Friday) or email cap@westsussex.gcsx.gov.uk . This is a secure email system which can only be accessed by professionals.
People can also contact the police on 101 (or 999 in an emergency). People can also contact Childline on 0800 11 11 or the NSPCC on 0808 800 5000.
More information can be found on the West Sussex Safeguarding Children’s Board website www.westsussexscb.org.uk

People can download leaflets with advice for young people and parents on the signs to look out for and what to do if you think you or someone you know is being sexually exploited.

Please say something if you see something. Not just on Wednesday, March 18 but everyday.

Louise Goldsmith.
Leader West Sussex County Council
Chichester West Division.

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