Tuesday, 30 June 2015

It’s been a busy week

There is a lot going on at County Hall at present, so I thought I would take the opportunity to share a few examples from last week so you can see what I get up to in my role as Leader of the Council.

For some months we have been looking at care provision for our older population in West Sussex. Predictions show that our county’s elderly population is set to increase over the coming years. By 2034, it is predicted that our over 65’s population will almost have doubled to what it was in 1994, to 273,000. And over the same period, our over 85’s population will triple to 59,000.

Obviously the complexity of a person’s needs also increases with age and again we need to take this into account when looking at our growing population. So for example, figures show that in 2012, there were 13,000 people with dementia in West Sussex. It is predicted that by 2037 this figure will rise to almost 27,000.

So you can see that care provision in the county now and for the future is a very important issue. The majority of people who are in need of some care and support as they get older want to be cared for in their homes and the County Council helps with this provision in many ways. However, as people get very old and frail, there is often a need for either residential or nursing home care.

The County Council has the responsibility for safeguarding and for carrying out the legislation as per the Care Act, so we want to ensure there is a strong care market in the county with all care providers giving really good and safe care provision.

On Wednesday we held our first Care Market Symposium with market providers, District and Borough Councils and Surrey County Council, as we all have a part to play in meeting the care needs of the population, and working closer in partnership is very much the way forward.

The feedback from the meeting was really good – this is just the start and also reflects the new way of working together with our local authority partners on some very important and difficult issues which very much fits in with our devolution offer.

On Thursday I was in West Chiltington where Pat Arculus, our Council Chairman, was holding a thank you reception for our Fire and Rescue Service specialist firefighters who are part of the UK International Search and Rescue (UKISAR) team. This small team has undertaken highly specialised search and rescue training, and can be called at any time to join the UKISAR Team as they are on call 24/7 to help communities at home or abroad after a disaster.

The team went out recently to Nepal after the terrible earthquakes. The work they undertake is short in timescale but intensive by nature and very difficult. I am extremely proud of this team who at any time may be called away to help and assist those who are in very urgent need. The event was to thank not only this specialist team, but their families who are left at home yet support their loved ones.

After that event I went off to join a meeting of the Sussex Federation of Small Businesses. Our Council Procurement Team were at this event giving a presentation and handy hints to help small businesses tender for business with the County Council. This is really important as we want to ensure we are working closely with businesses of all sizes in the county. And I was delighted to receive a lovely glass plaque as an award for being the Best Small Business Friendly Authority for 2015.

On Friday morning I drove to Horsham to cut the ribbon and formally welcome Horsham District Council who are now co-locating at our Parkside Offices. It is believed that this is the first example of such a co-location and demonstrates we are working closely together for the benefit of the residents we serve.

Then on to Crawley to attend the Orchid View ‘One Year On’ meeting. Last year the Serious Case Review prepared a report with 34 recommendations which we and partners have been implementing throughout the year. We have worked closely with relatives who have very honestly shared their experiences, and rightly been clear that they want to do all they can to ensure that this never happens again in West Sussex or nationally, and naturally we share their concerns. One of the key points from the Serious Case Review is better sharing of information between partner organisations and considerable work has been done on this and other areas.

West Sussex County Council has a statutory responsibility for safeguarding both adults and children. I hope that anyone who has a concern would feel comfortable to contact our Safeguarding Team and discuss the issue as we do need to hear all concerns.

On Friday I was asked if I was confident Orchid View would never happen again – as a County Council I would like to assure you that we are doing all we can in our power to ensure that we minimise the risk.

Best wishes,

Monday, 22 June 2015

Building a vibrant economy in West Sussex

As I’ve mentioned before in previous blogs, the economy is one of our three key priorities at West Sussex County Council. We are very fortunate in the South East to have a strong economy – but for that to remain it is important that it is nurtured. In West Sussex we have a diverse economy with a good mix of large, small and medium sized businesses across the county.

In a way it reflects the history of the county which, when the County Council came into being in 1889, was very rural but has changed and adapted over the years. We now have a mixed economy spread across our towns and our more rural areas. For us to support our economy we also need to reflect this diverse nature.

We know we need to improve the West Sussex economy and as part of that we are working on our Five Bold Ideas, one of which is the Beautiful Outdoors campaign which was launched last week. We have glorious countryside, but surprisingly it is one of those ‘best kept secrets’. The Beautiful Outdoors aims to promote the natural assets of our countryside to cyclers and walkers as places for them to visit and stay. To help improve our countryside network for visitors and residents, we successfully submitted a bit to the Coast to Capital Local Enterprise Partnership’s Growth Fund Sustainable Transport for a £450,000 package for enhancements to footpaths, bridleways and cycle routes.

We want to attract people from London and the South East to see what West Sussex has to offer – so instead of working out in the gym, why not work out in the Beautiful Outdoors of West Sussex.

It’s also a very positive step to support our rural communities, whether it is tea shops, pubs, restaurants, B&B’s – not to mention cycle shops – all very much part of that rural visitor economy which is so important to our lovely West Sussex market towns and villages. Over the past six months or so we have been engaging with local businesses on this campaign, and have been really encouraged by their interest and support for which I am very grateful. You can check out the Beautiful Outdoors website here.

But of course it doesn’t stop there. Not only do we want a vibrant rural economy but also vibrant towns , and we do have some great towns in West Sussex – East Grinstead being one of them. East Grinstead has a terrific history – the High Street contains one of the longest continuous runs of  14th century timber framed buildings in England as well as the notable Sackville College.

In more recent times the Queen Victoria Hospital was the site where the pioneering and justly famed Plastic Surgeon Archie McIndoe treated World War II burns victims and formed the Guinea Pig Club (check out some fascinating info at our Records Office). In 2014 his work was celebrated by the unveiling of a magnificent statue.

I always enjoy visiting East Grinstead and last Thursday evening I drove through some of the most stunning countryside on my way to the town to attend the East Grinstead Business Association’s inaugural lecture, where Jeremy Seigal, the Chief Executive for White Stuff, was giving the lecture. In November 2014 White Stuff opened a new store in East Grinstead which was great news for the town, with the store expanding its retail offer and showing its commitment to East Grinstead.

The lecture was absolutely fascinating as it gave a real insight into how the company views a town when looking to invest. However, that was only part of the lecture and the history of the company, how it expanded, its ethos and Corporate Social Responsibility made for a truly informative evening. It was well supported by local businesses, the Town Council, and Mid Sussex District Council - showing we are all working together to support the local economy.

Well done to East Grinstead Business Association, it really was a tremendous evening. My focus on the economy continues as I am looking forward to meeting the Sussex Federation of Small Businesses this Thursday.

Best wishes,

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Supporting our small charities

Monday 15 June is the start of Small Charity Week – a national week which aims to celebrate and raise the profile of the small charity sector in the UK.

Here in West Sussex, as indeed across the country, small charities play a vital role and can really bring communities together.

What they achieve, often on a small and extremely tight budget, really is amazing. Their work is essential to so many people and they perform a vital role which isn’t always recognised. It is the dedication and commitment of the volunteers and supporters which is truly inspiring – and why I think they are true unsung heroes.

Many of our small charities started out by a few people wanting to help or make a difference. But to do that they rely heavily on voluntary help and donations for them to continue with the work they are doing.

If you’ve ever considered volunteering, then why not see if there is a role at a small charity close to your heart or in your community. Perhaps Small Charity Week could be the trigger for you to start helping out or fundraising?

At the County Council, our network of 14 County Local Committees play a role in supporting local organisations and projects with our Community Initiative Fund (CIF). This is a pot of money allocated each year to the Committees which local groups can apply for. It’s been running for a number of years now and has really helped and assisted so many community groups and projects across the county.

For example, North Mid Sussex CLC granted £958 to Kangaroos PALS. Based in Haywards Heath, Kangaroos PALS runs Saturday and holiday clubs for children with learning and physical disabilities. The grant was able to help them  purchase a ‘bubble tube’ that creates a stimulating yet calming atmosphere for the children.

And North Horsham CLC granted £250 this March to Phoenix Stroke Club in Horsham. The club has 27 volunteers and two part-time staff. What it provides is invaluable – it’s a safe environment offering support for people who have had a stroke, which helps them get their confidence back through activities. The grant will help purchase a replacement printer, for producing newsletters and other club literature.

So just a couple of examples of where a grant of a relatively small amount of money can make a real difference to so many people.

If you’re a local organisation or charity that would be interested in applying for CIF funding, then you can visit the website to find out more.

Best wishes,