Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Pulling together in a time of emergency

Over the weekend the Queen put out a message in which she said, ‘it is difficult to escape a very sombre mood’.

These recent months have been the most sombre I can remember with the country witnessing a series of tragedies.

The fire at Grenfell Tower was one such appalling tragedy and, as the number of deaths increase every day, our sombre mood rightly remains. My heart goes out to all those residents who have lost their lives, their families and all those who are now homeless. It is almost too much to imagine and at this time words seem empty and inadequate.

I remember from our own, too recent, tragedy at Shoreham, that in the darkest and most terrible hour it is our amazing emergency services who are first on the scene and hold us safe in an emergency – selflessly working to help all of us.

The pictures of the incredibly brave fire men and women sitting exhausted taking a few moments break while tackling the Grenfell inferno is an image that will surely stay in all of our minds.

One of the County Council’s guiding principles is that we are there in emergency – and I am so proud and humbled that we have been able to help the London Fire and Rescue Service by sending equipment.

From my observation the Fire and Rescue Services across the land come and work together sharing experience and knowledge when they are needed – seamless collaborative working.

But of course it does not just stop there. We know there are 76 buildings within the county higher than 6 storeys, 51 of these are residential. As I write work with our District and Borough Councils is well underway. Together with our fire service they are completing assessments and will carry on working hard to make sure we can be confident that residents are safe. Of course they are working closely with neighbours in East Sussex and beyond, sharing information and supporting each other.

Much of the work our fabulous fire fighters do is about prevention. Making sure they support us so we don’t need to call them out in an emergency. So I will leave you with this very important question. Do you have a smoke alarm? If you do have you checked it recently? Test it today – just to be sure and help us all, the fire service included, to sleep safely tonight.

Best wishes,

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Why we should all take our litter home

A few weeks ago I received an email from the Chairman of Chichester Camera Club. He brought my attention to an entry into the ‘New and Aspiring Members’ category of Chichester Camera Club’s Spring Exhibition.

The photographer, Hilary Featherstone, had exhibited a large collage consisting of some 120 images of litter just discarded  into our verges, footpaths and countryside. All these images had been taken when Hilary was out walking her dog over the winter and spring.

Now they say a picture paints 1,000 words and this photo collage really does. As ever in life, it is all about timing. At the time I received the email, our Waste Services Team were working on a countywide campaign due to launch later this summer. The campaign is asking all West Sussex residents to ‘Think Before You Throw’ as we aim to increase our recycling rates to 50% and cut our mountain of waste.

The latest figures show that around 20% of items in our rubbish bins can be recycled, but instead are going to landfill. Worse still, it’s costing more than £3 million each year to dispose of those items. That’s £3 million that could be going towards supporting important public services.

We are committed to recycling and diverting as much waste as possible, but we can’t do it without your help, so we will be asking households to think about what bin they are using to throw their waste into – recycling bin or rubbish bin?

So as you can imagine, I am delighted that I was sent the email showing from just one person litter that is just discarded and that should be taken home and disposed of properly. I was lucky enough to meet with Hilary and talk to her about how we could make the most of her wonderful collage to help get that message out there.

Thanks to her kind permission, the collage will be on display in County Hall this summer and we’re looking to display it in our other buildings across the county for all to see.

Sadly, it is all too common for us to see our road verges, footpaths, countryside and beaches littered with items such as those in the collage. Often people just discard the sandwich pack, coffee cup or plastic bottle rather than taking it home. They may think it’s easier for them to do that, but in reality it leaves our beautiful coast and countryside a lot messier and these discarded items can pose a real hazard for wildlife.

So our message to everyone this summer and beyond is please ‘Think Before You Throw’ and take your litter away whether you are in your car or on a walk – please take it home and dispose of it responsibly. If you are having a picnic in the countryside,  please pack up what you haven’t eaten or used and take it home as our beautiful outdoors is there for all to enjoy.

Best wishes,

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Military Voices Past and Present: a very special project

Last Wednesday saw the launch of a very special book. Not your usual novel, nor a great biography, something far more important and special. This is about the launch of Military Voices Past and Present from West Sussex Veterans – residents’ reminiscences from the First World War, Second World War and other conflicts.

It all started back in 2014 when a gentleman named Peter Barker deposited his collection of 32 interviews with veterans of the First World War with our Records Office for safe keeping. By that time there were sadly no remaining Veterans from the First World War living, so these recordings had become even more precious.

We decided to explore the idea further to build a library of interviews from Veterans living in West Sussex or with close connections to the county.

Thanks to successful bids for money from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Military Covenant a small project team was formed. Staff from our Library and Record Office together with 45 dedicated project volunteers started on a fascinating journey of talking with and listening to the Veterans recollections.

They completed 63 new interviews with 29 Veterans from the First World War and 34 post-war Veterans. The interviews took time but for both the interviewers and Veterans they were rewarding and illuminating.

This is not about the Wars, there are plenty of military historians who have written on these conflicts. What makes this book and recordings so special is that it is a personal account - a view from the Veteran.

These, together with the original recordings, are now available on a Listening Turret, a place to listen to recordings, which is touring libraries across the county, as well as online.

On top of this they have produced a new book which is a fascinating read and one I recommend. A limited print run of the book is on sale for £10 from West Sussex libraries and West Sussex Record Office in Orchard Street, Chichester.

People who signed up and gave service whether in the First, Second World Wars or any other conflicts right up to Afghanistan have done so to protect our country for democracy and freedom of speech. Many have given their lives, others have received significant injuries and traumas that have stayed with them throughout their lives. The Military Voices project is one small way to thank all those alive and passed on who have given service to their country to protect our freedom. A fitting tribute to so many heroic men and women who have done so much, but it is the personalised accounts that makes the book a great read.

Best wishes,