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Coronavirus (COVID-19): updates and advice.

Dorset Council News - issue 3 - March 2020

Audio recording of issue three of the magazine

Recordings of the summarised magazine content are available to listen to.

Transcript of the recording of issue three of the magazine

This information is based on that provided in the March 2020 edition of Dorset Council News. The audio recordings were made in late March. Please note, due to current changing circumstances, some information provided below may no longer be applicable. Please check before proceeding with any information provided.

Track 1

Welcome

Welcome to the spring edition of Dorset Council News. Firstly, we hope you are keeping well during this difficult time. Below is a summary of the information contained in this latest edition of our magazine.

Track 2

Your Council Tax explained

Your Council Tax bill should have arrived, either by post or by email. Your Council Tax has increased by just under 4% to help fund the rising cost of adult social care and children’s services, protecting the most vulnerable people in society.

Social care provides essential care and assistance for children and young people at risk of harm, people living with disabilities and older people who need extra support.

The increase also protects ‘discretionary’ services which are services such as country parks, school crossing patrols and weed clearing.

Demand for both adults’ and children’s care has been rising rapidly over recent years and this is set to continue into the foreseeable future. Dorset Council is legally required to provide these services and they are often expensive to provide.

We no longer receive any Revenue Support Grant from central Government. The Government expects us to raise the funding we need through council tax. Dorset Council is very dependent on council tax for income as we get relatively low income from business rates and other sources.

Our councillors are lobbying Government for fairer funding. Last year we secured an additional £10m funding from Government. This is a fraction of the additional funding we need. The increase in council tax will help to meet the growing demand for and cost of social care.

Since the creation of Dorset Council on 1 April 2019, we have already achieved cost reductions of around £17m. All savings are reinvested into essential services for residents such as social care, highways and waste collection.

How will this affect you? If you are in a Band D property, you are looking at an extra £1.25 a week. This takes the annual total from £1,629.75 in 2019/20 to £1,694.79 for 2020/2021 for Dorset Council’s share of the council tax.

Track 3

Your feedback on Dorset Council’s draft priorities

The Dorset Council Plan sets out what the council needs to focus on in the next four years to make Dorset a great place to live, work and visit. We asked for your feedback and we have received over 1,600 responses.

We received many comments about how different individual council services operate. It is a high-level plan so it doesn’t include operational detail, for example how we maintain roads. Feedback on this detail is being carefully considered by individual council services and councillors.

Our priorities for Dorset are: Staying safe and well; Strong, healthy communities; Suitable housing; Unique environment; and Economic growth.

The Dorset Council Plan will direct the council’s work over the next four years.

The council’s medium-term financial plan for the next four years was also approved at Full Council on 18 February. This sets out how the council’s financial resources will be allocated to deliver these priorities.

Track 4

Dogs in public places

We are asking people for their views on dogs in public places, such as beaches. Your views will help enable everyone to enjoy their area with or without a dog.

The survey closed on Monday 20 April.

Help with Universal Credit

Trained volunteers can help you apply for and manage your Universal Credit claims online.
When council services return to normal, dedicated support will be available at:

  • Job Centre Plus, Weymouth - Mondays 10am to 12pm
  • Job Club, Bridport - Skills and Learning - Fridays 9.30am to 12.30pm 
  • Dorchester Library – working with Citizens Advice, Wednesdays 10am to 12.30pm

The Digital Champions also give free help with laptops, tablets and smartphones. Call 01305 221048 to book.

Track 5

Planning the bigger picture

By looking at Dorset over a 15 year period we can help create opportunities for communities to thrive, and enable our economy to grow by encouraging a skilled and growing workforce.

To shape the area we gather information by talking to businesses, residents, town and parish councils and specialists. We also work with communities, developers, central government, housing associations, builders and others to deliver benefits, including community halls, sports pitches and the management of wildlife sites.

This information will help us prepare a draft Local Plan. The plan will state where growth will happen and it helps shape an area through policies that are used to decide planning applications.

Once we have prepared the draft Local Plan, we will ask how you think Dorset should grow to meet your needs. A consultation will run this autumn.

Creating quality affordable homes

The council’s Opening Doors project works with house builders, developers, housing associations and community land trusts to build quality affordable homes, enabling more people to rent or buy.

See what’s available and find out more by calling 01305 251010.

Track 6

Understanding building regulations and planning

Making improvements to your home? Two types of approval may be needed – building regulations and planning permission.

Building regulations set standards for design and construction to ensure the safety and health of people in or near those buildings.

Most projects, from large developments to attic rooms and wood burning stoves, must meet the relevant building regulations. If work has taken place, evidence of building regulations approval will be required when you sell your home.

The council’s team of local surveyors can offer free initial advice, saving time
and money and giving you peace of mind.

Planning helps guide the way our towns and countryside develop, including the use of
land, appearance of buildings, road access and impact on the environment. For minor projects such as a home extension, new garage or loft conversion, planning permission may not always be required. If you live in a conservation area or your property is listed, you probably will need planning permission. There is a fee for this service.

If you build something without the required permission, this could prove troublesome or costly if you have to put it right. Applications for minor projects are usually decided by a senior council planning officer, after taking into account comments from neighbours or interested parties.

Other projects, such as larger developments, are decided by the council’s planning committee. The decision must be based on the approved development plans and policies of the council, it cannot be refused simply because many people oppose it.

You can apply for planning permission and/or building regulations approval online.

Track 7

Goodbye to the DWP logo and brand

You may notice some of your local bin collection and street cleaning crews wearing Dorset Council uniforms and driving vehicles with the Dorset Council logo. Services are not changing but we have started to retire the DWP logo and brand. Unless you hear from us directly, you don’t have to do anything. Your collection service will remain unchanged.

Household Recycling Centres

Our Household Recycling Centres are currently closed. When they re-open, they will return to their summer opening hours of 9am to 6pm daily, including bank holidays. All ten of our recycling centres are free to visit and most items that can be dropped off are not charged for.

Latest figures show that Dorset recycles 59.6% of its waste. This places Dorset Council as one of the best performing councils in the country.

Track 8

Tackling the climate emergency

The council declared a climate and ecological emergency last May. We are working hard to establish actions and policies to fulfil our ambition to be carbon neutral as soon as possible.

The first draft of our Climate and Ecological Change Strategy and Action Plan has been created with the aim of reducing the carbon footprint of Dorset Council services to help Dorset’s communities become even greener.

We are exploring the following:

  • Council-owned buildings and reducing the council’s carbon footprint
  • Natural environment
  • Waste and energy
  • Transport

Leadership and influence and increased lobbying of central government to provide better support and funding for council carbon reduction schemes. We also want to establish an information hub with guidance on best practice and work with town and parish councils, and other key partners, to tackle climate change.

Suggestions from residents, businesses, students and organisations will also contribute to the plan. The plan will be considered initially by Dorset Council Cabinet members and published for public consultation in summer 2020.

See how the work is progressing and how to get involved.

Track 9

Congratulations to Dorset’s new Youth Parliament Members

Eleven candidates stood for election, and over 11,962 students voted after weeks of campaigning.

Ted Paul and Ellie Davis have been elected as Members of the Youth Parliament and Olly Cullis and Phoebe Crutchley have been elected deputies.

These individuals will represent Dorset on a regional and national basis, helping to engage young people in politics, democracy and citizenship and improve the lives of young people.

Get help with childcare costs

Many Dorset families are missing out on childcare funding. Help is available for some families with children aged 0 to 16, for working and non-working families. Get information about choosing the right childcare and search local providers at dorsetcouncil.gov.uk/childcare

Waiting to find out if your child has their first school place?
If you applied on time, we will send you an email or a letter on 16 April detailing the offer.

Support for your mental wellbeing

Feeling stressed, worried or low is normal and we all experience these feelings at some point. If they start to impact your life, or you have more bad days than good, you can get support for your mental wellbeing from many Dorset services.

For all mental health support services available in Dorset see the Public Health Dorset website.

Heating rebate

In the last Dorset Council news, we told you about a scheme which enables residents to donate their winter fuel payment to help support vulnerable fellow residents. So far, over £80,000 has been raised from generous local residents and around 200 grants have been given to vulnerable people.

Find out more about the appeal and how to support it by calling 01202 670815.

Track 10

Looking after our verges and encouraging wildlife

The council has a duty to maintain the road network and make sure it is safe.Where we can, we allow rural roadside grasses and wildflowers to flourish which act as a food source and refuge for bees, moths, butterflies and other insects.It is cost saving too –saving around £93,000 a year.

Subject to current working arrangements, we will begin our programme of verge maintenance on the main A and B roads in late March with a final cut in late August. Other C and D class roads will have just one cut starting in June. This year, we’re using the cut and collect method on urban roads, cul-de-sacs and residential areas in Weymouth, Portland, the Isle of Purbeck, Blandford and surrounding villages.

Find out more or report a problem about a verge at www.dorsetcouncil.gov.uk/verges

Loving our verges

Look out for our hedgehog and other fun characters this spring and summer on our wildflower verges. They’re part of our campaign to explain why and how we maintain roadside verges around Dorset.

Follow #LOVEYOURVERGE on social media this spring and find out more about Litter Free Dorset.

Track 11

Paying for care – do you need financial advice?

Unlike the NHS, social care is not free and most of us will have to contribute directly towards the cost. Financial advice can help you with:
• trying to decide how to use pension benefits
• funding long-term care
• savings and investments
• considering equity release, and if there are better options for you
• a friend or family member who is pressuring you to do things with your money or property that might not be right for you.

Dorset Council can help you find an accredited adviser who specialises in funding long-term
care, such as accredited members of the Society of Later Life Advisers.

For more information about choosing an adviser see the Money Advice Service website

New advice service for carers in Dorset

Carer Support Dorset launched at the end of last year and gives information, advice and support to all unpaid carers across the county, where the person cared for is over 18.

Carer Support Dorset is a central point of contact, able to signpost to a wide range of support.

For more information call 0800 368 8349

Have your say on the new housing allocations policy

The proposed scheme makes some changes that will impact households on the current housing register. We want your comments to help shape the final version of the scheme. To provide your views on the proposed changes, complete our survey. The consultation will close on 25 May 2020.

Track 12

Now follows some eastern Dorset news

Students learn about healthy eating

Ferndown Middle School students have been learning about healthy eating and reducing sugar intake.
Dez from Flavours Cookery School showed students how much sugar is found in food and drink, and how much sugar children and adults can eat safely each day. Students also made healthy and nutritious sweet treats with Louise from the Food for Thought Cookery School. All products were dairy-free, gluten-free and refined sugar-free.

The sessions are part of the school’s work to help students understand the benefits of eating well. Further sessions are planned this year.

Volunteers wanted

We are seeking volunteers in the eastern Dorset area to support local people to get active.We have health walks, health cycle rides, and accessible cycling sessions and a community run, all led by trained health and activity volunteers.

Roles include meeting and greeting and leading groups on walks or cycle rides. Golf course volunteers are also wanted for practical tasks at Moors Valley Golf Course. No experience necessary. All you need is a friendly personality, a keen interest in helping others and a little spare time during the week.

Call the Health and Activity team on 01425 480811

Disability activities in Ferndown

Ability Counts Youth Football is great for 8 to 12-year olds who can’t access mainstream clubs. Sessions are on Thursdays, 5pm to 6pm.

Disability Cricket sessions take place on Fridays, 5pm to 6pm, and are a fun way to get involved with sport and socialise with others. Wheelchair users welcome.

For more information or to book, call Andy Sill at Ferndown Leisure Centre on 01202 877468.

Grass cutting

Weather-permitting, our eastern Dorset grass cutting schedule starts in March. You may see our team out cutting roadside verges, open spaces and play parks. We leave swathes of grass to grow long encouraging wildflowers and wildlife, while ensuring the safety of road users.

We plant wildflower areas from scratch, and don’t strim around trees as this can cause damage. Hedge cutting will take place after the bird nesting season, at the end of July.

Track 12

Now follows some northern Dorset news

Affordable homes boost for northern Dorset

Northern Dorset looks set to benefit from up to 46 new affordable homes in the near future. The council approved two developments towards the end of 2019.

Outline permission was given for 45 new houses to be built at a disused poultry farm near Okeford Fitzpaine, plus a further 118 new homes at Sturminster Newton.

Outline permission was also granted for 118 homes on land off North Fields Road on the northern edge of Sturminster Newton.

Dorset is best in Britain for food safety

Northern Dorset towns are among the cleanest places to eat out in Britain. A new hygiene map shows the DT postcode area, which includes Blandford Forum and Sturminster Newton, has the top food safety score for eating out. Restaurants, hotels and takeaways achieved an average rating of 4.85 stars out of five.

The rest of northern Dorset, covering the SP postcode area, also scored highly, achieving an average food safety score of 4.61 out of five. The national average was 4.52.

Dorset Council inspects over 4,500 food businesses and if necessary takes enforcement action.

Sign up to the LiveWell Dorset Forum

LiveWell Dorset would like to hear your thoughts on how it delivers services in the county. This will help the team shape the way it delivers future support.

Call freephone 0800 840 1628 to find out how LiveWell Dorset can support you on your journey to a happier, healthier you through FREE advice and coaching.

Aged between 14 and 25 and want to go for The Duke of Edinburgh Award (DofE)?

The Open Award Centres in Gillingham and Sturminster deliver the award in northern Dorset.
It’s a fantastic way to demonstrate and evidence so called ‘soft skills’, such as communication, commitment, leadership and teamwork. Find out more or ask for details by sending an email to dofe@dorsetcc.gov.uk

Cycling Without Age comes to northern Dorset

The Vale Primary Care Network has purchased a Trishaw, so people who are no longer able to ride a bike can “feel the wind in their hair” again. The network is looking for volunteers to help with trips out in the Trishaw around Sturminster Newton.

If you would like to volunteer, please contact Debbie Martin on 07738 104905

Track 12

Now follows some southern Dorset news

Investing in Weymouth Quay

Dorset Council and Weymouth Area Development Trust secured £3.79 million from central government last year to transform the quayside. The money will be used to improve harbour facilities and boost the economy.

Dorset Council has been listening to feedback about the plans and we are working with harbour users, residents and businesses.

Best in Britain for food safety

Weymouth is among the cleanest place to eat out in Britain. The research by Claims Direct shows the DT postcode area has the top food safety score. Restaurants, hotels and takeaways achieved an average rating of 4.85 stars out of five and the rest of Dorset (BH postcodes) isn’t far behind with 4.71 out of five.

Have you met your patrol officers?

Martin, Samuel, Sam and Jason are on the beat in Weymouth seven days a week to make you safer. The team wear uniforms and are specially trained to carry out certain policy and council powers.

You can email them at patrol@dorsetcouncil.gov.uk or say hello if you see them out and about.

Maintaining Weymouth’s harbour

Work has been ongoing to maintain the harbour. We’d would like to thank residents and businesses for bearing with the disruption. The work to replace 76 metres of quay wall was vital to save it from collapse.

Funding for central heating

Need affordable heating and hot water? Funding may be available if you live in Melcombe Regis, Littlemoor, Underhill, Westham East, Westham North, Westham West and Weymouth East.

Elsewhere in Dorset, help is offered if you are on a low income. Loft insulation grants and cavity wall insulation grants are also available. Call 01305 550556 for further information.

Start your spring adventures at Purbeck Park

Purbeck Park is perfectly located in the centre of the Isle of Purbeck, near Corfe Castle.Home to Norden Station for steam train travels it is also a great base for adventures throughout the Isle, on bike, bus or foot.

Parking at Purbeck Park offers the cheapest all day, peak season rates near Corfe Castle giving you the time to relax, and explore the village and beyond.

Plan your next adventure at www.dorsetcouncil.gov.uk/purbeck-park

What’s happening to the Purbeck Local Plan?

We are waiting to hear what an independent inspector thinks about the Plan. Approval may depend on some changes that were discussed at public hearings last year. We will be asking for feedback on the final plan. Call 01929 556561 if you’d like to be kept up to date.

Track 12

Now follows some western Dorset news 

West Bay Welcome Hub open

Striking new benches have been installed next to the harbour. They are curved to reflect the land and sea scape. The benches also provide a backdrop to showcase motorbikes which regularly gather at West Bay and the inner circle is free for people to relax and eat, away from traffic.

The Hub is part of a Dorset Coastal Connections project funded by a grant from the government’s Coastal Communities Fund and partner organisations.

Western Dorset is the cleanest place to eat out in the UK

The research by Claims Direct shows that the Dorchester postcode area has the top food safety score. Restaurants, hotels and takeaways across the area, which also includes Bridport, Lyme Regis, Beaminster and Sherborne, achieved an average rating of 4.85 stars out of five.

Dorset Council inspects over 4,500 food businesses and offers assistance and advice to businesses to help them meet their legal obligations.

Roman Town House boost

Dorchester’s Roman Town House will soon be easier and more fun to visit, thanks to a £248,000 grant.

The money, awarded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, will see this unique attraction improved and preserved so more people can enjoy it.

A new easy-access entrance and walkways will be created, landscaping will be carried out, the modern building will be updated and the ancient mosaics cleaned.

New amphitheatre style seating will be installed for visitors, school groups and theatre productions. A new interpretation area will tell the story of the Roman Town House as well as linking to other
ancient Dorchester sites.

Funding for central heating

Need affordable heating and hot water? Grants for gas central heating may be available, whatever your income, if you live in parts of Dorset. Loft insulation grants and cavity wall insulation grants are also available. Call 01305 550556 for further information.

 

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