Annual report to the Parish Council 2013/14
Councillor Jill Haynes Three Valleys Division Dorset County Council
A new Council was elected in May 2013. With the increasing financial pressures from reduction in government funding it became obvious that there was the need for fundamental and radical changes to cope with the cuts. Nearly a third has been cut from the County’s government grants in the last three years and DCC is looking for savings of a further £43 M in the next 2 years to keep a balanced budget, by which time the budget will have been approximately halved.
There have been a number of changes to senior management and more to come in the next few months, with a new Chief Executive in Debbie Ward and new Directors for all the main Directorates. There has also been a new Cabinet formed by the Leader, Spencer Flower and a strong move to a Councillor led Council. I was given the cabinet portfolio of Adult Social Care. This is a serious challenge, and has responsibility for about half the County’s budget.
There is a great deal to do and it is vital that we concentrate on the areas that will make the biggest difference. We therefor are now focusing on two main areas:
Growing our local economy.
Enhancing health, wellbeing and safeguarding.
There will be a need for much closer joint working and to understand other partner organisations so that we collaborate and do not duplicate activities. Part of this change means a much greater attention to our communication and engagement with the people of Dorset and to this end the council recently had a Local Government Association review of this service and suggestions for change.
With the wettest winter on record there have been sever pressures on the environment directorate and in particular our highways section. Despite the press reports there were more homes flooded in Dorset than there were in Somerset! The poor weather has left the county needing over £12M on repairs to the roads. Recent news is that the government has provided an additional £5.8M for Dorset towards the repairs but we will be pressing for more as this is less than many other counties. Please will everyone note that despite the fact that it is a bit drier now the coast is still very dangerous with many cliffs unstable due to the saturation of the soil.
The Children’s Directorate are reviewing all their family services as well as going through a major staff restructure under the new Director, Sarah Tough. They will concentrate on how and where they should contact/engage with these most vulnerable families to help them the most.
Many of the Counties Secondary schools have now gone to Academy status but most of the primary schools are still controlled by the County Council. Dorset schools are still rated as excellent and provide some of the best education in the country for the lowest funding of any county.
Adult Social Care is the biggest future challenge to the County Council. We have a large older population and the age group that is growing fastest in the County is the over 85’s.! With this comes the rapid growth in dementia cases and the challenge of providing appropriate care for these people. The Directorate will be looking at changes and savings in several ways. We will review the way we care for people with greater focus on peoples wishes and their need to keep their independence for as long as possible. There will be a staff restructure. We are also looking at the possibility of forming a Local Authority Trading Company to take on the running of our care homes and day centres. This kind of trading company would be 100% owned by and responsible to the County Council, however could potentially charge self-funders for services. A trading company also has the ability to raise funds (loans and mortgages) and so could replace some of the buildings that are very outdated.
The new Care Bill will bring significant financial implications to the County as those people currently funding their care will need to be registered and assed so that they will know when the cap of payments of £73k comes into effect. Estimates show that this could be over 20,000 assessments needed by 2015 with no additional funding to cover the work. The Directorate supports many carers with respite care and short breaks. There are about 50,000 carers in Dorset and some 28,000 Blue Badge holders supported by staff at County Hall.
From last April the function of Public Health has moved back from the NHS to the County Council. Dorset has joined with Bournemouth and Poole to provide a joint service with one director – a first in the country. There has been the need to review many of the functions of the service to ensure that they are outcomes led and provide real information to the public.
The Health and Wellbeing Board also took up its formal role in May as the decision making board for the funding criteria for the health of our county. This covers our main hospitals, through the Clinical Commissioning Group to our GP services and the DCC social services. At the moment this board is starting to bed in and understand all the working of the partner organisations. However the board needs to be sure about its criteria as next year much of the Government funding is performance led and the performance of one organisation could affect the funding for the others.
This is just a brief snapshot of some of the big changes happening at the County Council last year and this, there is just a huge amount of work to do. I have to say many of the staff are doing a fantastic job and are ready for change and they are providing energy and innovation which should be thoroughly congratulated.