I have been asked to state my view on the main issues facing Derby and Oakwood residents. Whilst I feel that this is difficult to do without all the facts and research that would be available to a sitting councillor, in this blog post I will aim to state my position based on what I know and by try to filter out the party political spin which seems to mask much of what is reported.
Personally I like the idea of having a purpose built performance venue in Derby. I can’t say I was a frequent user of the Assembly Rooms (other than the car park), but from what I do remember it had a slightly awkward, very rectangular seating layout, wasn’t particularly big and isn’t that inviting from the outside.
That said I do not agree with the way the council have dragged their heels over getting it either reopened or replaced. I can understand the conservatives wanting to go for the cheaper option at seemingly low cost during an election period, but I would want to consider both options and look at long term investment and gain to be made. There are various different pots of money that the council can use to fund things and some projects can encourage investment from external bodies and businesses. We aren’t going to transform Derby overnight and there will undoubtedly need to be investment before the rewards can by reaped.
I’m glad that Moorways is finally being replaced. I never really used it. Again its closure, alongside the repairs needed to Queen Street baths, was badly timed and managed. Plans are still a bit vague but really feel this was a project where Labour and Conservative could have joined forces to come up with a solution the whole council could agree on.
Education Health Care Plans and Special Educational Needs Provision
The transfer of Statements of SEND into EHCPs, as required by the Code of Practice brought in in 2014, by Derby City Council has been a shambles. It has been mismanaged and, as a result, in order to meet the government deadline numerous errors have been made. To some, EHCPs may seem like a piece of paper, but they are in fact a vital part of the care process for children with SEND, they are reviewed annually and updated taking into consideration the specific needs of the pupil at that time. Making mistakes not only jeopardises the correct provision being in place at the correct time but also means extra work in putting it right.
In addition to this fiasco, there is also the proposed changes to the Enhanced Resource places available in particular schools. The changes mean that some of the most vulnerable children in our Enhanced Resource Units will have to move into mainstream education, away from the stability of familar staff who know them and into a school where staff may not have the necessary skills to provide for their needs effectively. I am not happy with any of this. I would like to know what process has been used to come to the conclusion that this is the best thing for our children.
I would make this a priority to research once in council and would use the skills I have as a teacher and SENDCO to influence the outcome.
Homelessness and Drug Use
The homeless population of Derby has grown over the last few years. I have volunteered with Derby City Churches Nightshelter for the last two winters. There has been a growing problem with Black Mamba use and the cycle of crime that these vulnerable people get caught up in. I do not want to see the streets of Derby becoming a place where we don’t feel safe. I want my children to be able to go there and enjoy the city and everything it has to offer. I think the council needs to do more to provide for these people. I don’t think a city banning order is the way to stop them, it just moves the problem into neighbouring areas and into our residential areas. I was encouraged by the new inititative announced by the council recently to work with all the groups in the city who support homeless people. I would like to make sure that this is managed effectively to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the support so that it has lasting results whereby people are turning their lives around.
There was a lot of concern recently about the future of our libraries. The council put forward a proposal to move to Community Managed Libraries and asked for volunteers to come forward. There was a lot of anger that volunteers were being recruited to replaced exisiting paid staff, but some people felt that volunteering was the only way to keep the library open. What wasn’t obvious was that the council weren’t looking for volunteers. They wanted community groups to come forward and required business plans and proposals writing, including where additional funding was going to be sourced. I felt this could have been explained more clearly to residents who felt that it was a case of turn up and run a computer system for a couple of hours a week. Labour always pledged to keep the libraries open, and a lack of interest meant they had to rethink. All the libraries are now going to be managed by a group called Direct Help and Advice. What this will look like in real terms we wait to see? Will it mean job losses? How will the library use change? Will new services be available?
My verdict is still out on this, but I would work with the councillors and DHA to ensure that Oakwood library has all the facilities we need of it and continues to be an asset to the neighbourhood.
These are just a few of the hot topics in Derby at present. If you would like me to comment on another aspect of the city then please get in touch and I will respond.