More than 300 residents and businesses got involved in the latest ‘Pride in Day’ in Houghton Regis on Tuesday, 24 July 2012.
Organised by Bedfordshire’s Community Safety Partnership, Pride in Days are opportunities for the community to get involved and talk about local issues.
Following the success of a number of other Pride In days, the sixth event in Houghton Regis got off to a fantastic start with representatives from the Town Council, Central Bedfordshire Council’s Waste, Environmental Protection and Highways teams and Community Payback from the Probation Service working on clearing overgrown vegetation, trees, branches, graffiti and litter in Westminster Gardens and Elm Park Close.
Local young people from Make a Difference (MAD) consulted in advance with the Council about how they could be involved and decided to make smoothies and toasties on the day, with food provided by Morrisons and Tesco. Nisa supermarket arranged for two Olympic Torch runners to attend for people to have their photographs taken with them.
The newly-refurbished local library got involved with a coffee morning to promote the new self service facility to borrow books and the Fire Service spoke to individuals about the need for fire alarms and fitted fire alarms for free on the day.
Bedfordshire Police ran Operation Vision focusing on recruiting for the new Streetwatch initiative in the area. Streetwatch involves local residents taking an active and dynamic role in their community and it has proven to be a great success elsewhere at reducing crime and disorder.
Cllr Brian Spurr, Executive Member for Sustainable Communities Services at Central Bedfordshire Council, said: "The Pride in Houghton Regis day was a resounding success - it was great to see so many of the local community coming together to discuss local issues and their pride in the area was clear to see.
"Engaging with communities across Central Bedfordshire is very important to the council. It offers us the chance to get information to the public, but it is also an opportunity for residents to raise issues and get much needed help that they may not have realised was available."
Local Policing Sergeant, Clare Thomas said: "It was a wonderful day to be out and about in Houghton Regis and the team did an excellent job engaging with the public. With the school summer holiday in full swing and the sun beating down, this was a great opportunity to hear the concerns of the public and local businesses.
"Everyone worked extremely hard throughout the day and feedback from the public has been very positive. I am very grateful for the dedication and commitment the teams showed in Houghton Regis – a big thank you to all involved."
The Pride of Houghton Regis Day event joined with the Houghton Regis Development Consortium's Public Exhibition, with displays of proposals for the land to the north and the east of the town. Over five days the exhibition had over 1000 attendees, with the Pride of Houghton Regis Day being one of their busiest and most successful days.
Central Bedfordshire will be ringing with the sound of drums this summer. Children can try their hand at African drumming, samba drumming or play the ukulele at Central Bedfordshire libraries over school summer holidays.
The Council’s Inspiring Music team has joined forces with local libraries to offer fun musical workshops which run alongside the annual Summer Reading Challenge. The challenge encourages children to read for fun and collect prizes as they go.
Inspiring Music is the service run by the Council which offers tuition and music making opportunities in schools and in the community.
CllrBrian Spurr, Executive Member for Sustainable Communities (Services), said: “We know the Summer Reading Challenge is really popular in our libraries and this music making opportunity gives parents another way of making sure their children get creative over the summer.”
The sessions are free and are for children aged four years upwards. No booking is required – just drop in to have a go!
Dunstable Library, 9.30-10.30am
African Drumming, 7 August
Samba, 21 August
Ukulele, 4 September
Houghton Regis Library, 11.30 – 12:30pm
African Drumming, 7 August
Samba, 21 August
Ukulele, 4 September
Sandy Library, 10 – 11am
African Drumming, 3 August
Samba, 17 August
Ukulele, 31 August
Shefford Library, 2 -3pm
African Drumming, 3 August
Samba, 17 August
Ukulele, 31 August
Toddington Library, 2.30 – 3.30pm
African Drumming, 7 August
Samba, 21 August
Ukulele, 4 September
For more information about Inspiring Music activities, visit the service's website, www.inspiringmusic.co.uk. For information on libraries and the Summer Reading Challenge, visit the Council’s Virtual library at www.centralbedfordshire.gov.uk/libraries
Tastes of Bedfordshire is a one stop shop for discovering exactly which food, drink and craft producers are on your doorstep. Central Bedfordshire Council, which maintains the brand, is now seeking a new partner to take this forward in promoting local food, drink and crafts across the area.
The Council has been approached by a number of organisations and individuals who have expressed an interest in taking over the operation of Tastes of Bedfordshire in the last few months. The selection of the right partner has now formally been launched to invite tenders from all interested parties by the end of August 2012.
Tastes of Bedfordshire was set up by Bedfordshire County Council around 7 years ago to help local residents develop a better awareness of the diverse range of producers Bedfordshire has on offer.
Central Bedfordshire Council took over operation in 2009 and has continued to maintain the brand through the website (visit www.tastesofbedfordshire.co.uk) and other marketing material.
Cllr Nigel Young, Executive Member for Sustainable Communities - Strategic Planning and Economic Development - at the Council said: ‘The interest in the future operation of Tastes of Bedfordshire shows how strong the brand has become. By inviting bids from interested parties the Council can make an open, sound judgement about who is best placed to develop the initiative for the benefit of our residents and the local economy.
"Within the wider Bedfordshire area we have well over 150 businesses who are producers, growers or retailers of locally produced goods. Tastes of Bedfordshire provides a great marketing platform to raise awareness of this."
All those who wish to tender to take on this service are invited to contact Vicky Hlomuka email@example.com for a copy of the bidding documents. Completed bids are requested by noon on Friday, 31 August 2012.
More than 100 local children flocked to Baulk Wood, Henlow for the grand unveiling of a new wildlife sculpture trail.
Officially opened by Cllr Rita Drinkwater from Central Bedfordshire Council, the trail is one of the recent improvements at Baulk Wood.
It was launched at the annual ‘Run Wild’ play event on Wednesday 25 July, by Central Bedfordshire Council and Bedfordshire Rural Communities Charity (BRCC), who run the event to encourage the local community to enjoy the countryside in the area.
The launch was a fun-packed afternoon which included den building, duck races and a story telling session from Jane Lambourne who enthralled the children with a tale of how the animal sculptures came to be in the wood. The sculpture trail includes a badger, fox, hare, rabbit, snail, woodpecker and tawny owl all carved from wood.
Cllr Brian Spurr, Executive Member for Sustainable Communities (Services) at Central Bedfordshire Council, said: "Baulk Wood is a great place to visit all through the year. Along with this fantastic new sculpture trail, there are natural play areas, picnic tables, beautiful wildflower areas and paths suitable for pushchairs.
"We hope that the new sculpture trail will be enjoyed by our regular visitors and also attract those who have never visited the site before. It is well worth a visit in the school summer holidays."
Cliff Andrews, Bedfordshire Rural Communities Charity, Green Infrastructure Team Leader said: "We are very pleased that in recent years we have been able to support Central Bedfordshire Council in developing this site as a place for play. We believe that the great outdoors provides wonderful opportunities to play, and in playing, learn more about the world and ourselves."
"We are delighted with the new additions to the site – the wildlife sculpture trail. The animals really are lovely, both to look at and touch and we think they are the icing on the cake, making Baulk Wood a truly great place to come and play."
Exciting online opportunities are a step closer for residents of ten sheltered housing schemes in Leighton Buzzard, Dunstable and Houghton Regis, after a group of tenants successfully submitted a bid, securing £10,000 of lottery funding.
The Sheltered Tenants Action Group (STAG), applied for funding from ‘Lottery Awards for All’ after speaking to tenants, in a number of sheltered housing schemes, about a project called C@SH (Computer at Sheltered Housing). The application was written with support from the Tenant Participation Team within Central Bedfordshire Council’s Housing Services.
The £10,000 grant will be spent on new computers, printers and software to help residents use the internet. Part of the funding will be set aside to purchase equipment that will make using computers more accessible such as trackball mouse, large keyboards, large screen monitors and software for residents that have physical and sensory disabilities.
STAG will be re-visiting all the schemes over the coming weeks to update all the lucky residents on their success and with the support of the council they will follow up with installation of the new equipment and some basic training over the months leading up to December.
STAG member Les Ford, who lives in Dunstable said:
“We have worked very hard on this successful partnership project with Central Bedfordshire Council. From personal experience I know that this new equipment will make a big difference to residents’ lives. We are very pleased with the outcome and now the real hard work begins."
Chair of STAG Margaret Luther, added:
“We will also be using the C@SH project to promote the other work STAG do for older residents in the community including monthly meetings, sharing information, tea parties and much more."
Executive Member for Social Care, Health and Housing, Cllr Carole Hegley, said:
“This is a real success story for everyone involved. Whether it's emailing or speaking to loved ones, shopping, researching a hobby or interest or just updating social media - there's no end to what we can do online these days, so it's great that these tenants will have that opportunity.”
Three open spaces in Central Bedfordshire have been recognised as some of the best community-run green spaces in the country in the National Green Flag Awards 2012.
Linslade Wood, Studham Common and Stotfold Mill Meadows have all been awarded with the Community Award which acknowledges that the sites are well-managed and welcoming places, central to the local community and high-quality green spaces.
The areas are part of a record number of parks and green spaces receiving the Community Award this year, ensuring that even more residents now have access to well-managed, high-quality green spaces.
In 2012, 1,424 parks and green spaces will fly either the Green Flag or Community Award, a sign that the value of green space is widely acknowledged as vital to our communities.
Cllr Brian Spurr, Executive Member for Sustainable Communities for Central Bedfordshire Council, said: "It is fantastic news that three of our public spaces have been nationally recognised in the Green Flags Award scheme. As a Council, we aim to provide high quality green spaces for all residents and visitors to enjoy and it is great to see these awards acknowledging the ‘well-managed’ and ‘welcoming’ sites within Central Bedfordshire. I would encourage people to visit these wonderful areas of open space over the summer to see for themselves."
Central Bedfordshire Council works with Friends of Linslade Wood, Friends of Studham Common and The Astwick and Stotfold Environmental Link (TEASEL) to ensure the green spaces are kept in fantastic condition.
Paul Todd, Green Flag Award Scheme Manager, said: "We are thrilled to announce yet another record-breaking year for Green Flag Award parks and green spaces. A Green Flag Award provides national recognition for the achievements of all those whose hard work and dedication has helped to create these fantastic places for all to enjoy."
All award-winning sites now have the chance to receive a further award from the Green Flag Plus Partnership, the People’s Choice Award. This award is voted for by the public, and if Central Bedfordshire residents want to see their local park receive a national accolade as the People’s Choice, they can register their voted by visiting the Green Flag Award's
Motorists in Central Bedfordshire are being advised of delays along a stretch of road between Woburn Sands and Streatley on Thursday 2 August as Godiva Awakes - a double-decker bus sized puppet powered by 25 cyclists - makes its way across the area.
Godiva Awakes, part of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad, is travelling through Central Bedfordshire en route from Milton Keynes to Luton - both of which are hosting overnight stops and celebrations.
The Godiva Awakes 'Cyclopaedia' is expected to enter Central Bedfordshire late morning on 2 August. Moving at a speed of between three and five miles per hour, Godiva Awakes will travel along the A5130, A4012, Park Road, B579 (Luton Road) over the M1 into Sundon Road, Manor Road, Streatley Road, Sharpenhoe Road, Church Road and down the A6 crossing the boundary into Luton by about 2pm. Its route will take in the villages of Woburn, Milton Bryan, Toddington, Lower Sundon and Streatley.
The organisers, Coventry-based Imagineer Productions, have put up signs along the route to alert motorists to potential delays. To avoid delays, motorists are advised to find alternative routes or travel outside of the times that Godiva Awakes will be on the advertised route.
The organisers are not providing any facilities for people in Central Bedfordshire to watch Godiva Awakes. Any spectators should make sure that they can watch safely and away from the open highway as no road closures will be in place and vehicles will obviously want to get around the 'Cyclopaedia'.
Godiva Awakes will arrive in Luton town centre for a procession and evening celebration at around 3.30pm.
All timings are approximate and are based on no delays for repairs and so on.
Around twenty businesses met with local councillors and Andrew Selous MP last week, to discuss the impact of town centre improvement works to Dunstable. The companies, many of which are based in the Court Drive and Queensway, expressed concern that local people are reluctant to visit them whilst the works are going on and their profits are being directly affected.
Nigel Young, Dunstable Councillor and Member of Central Bedfordshire Council's Executive said: "We were really pleased to meet with these businesses and understand their concerns completely. We've committed to do all we can to help, including more information about potential disruption, how customers can avoid this and, most importantly of all, stressing that Court Drive and Queensway remain open for business.
Whilst business rates are set by national government, rather than by the local Council, Andrew Selous confirmed that he would write to the national valuation office to see whether temporary rate relief might be possible whilst the works are underway.
Cllr Young added, "We do understand that the disruption is frustrating and know that there were initial problems, particularly on the first day of the roadworks. However, since then measures have been put in place to alleviate congestion and, other than at peak times and when there's a problem on the M1, traffic is flowing smoothly."
Central Bedfordshire Council will be opening Creasey Park BMX track in Dunstable on a manned basis over the summer holidays.
After a final inspection which highlighted the need for a safety gate to prevent motorbike use, opening the track has been delayed.
Cllr Brian Spurr, Executive Member for Sustainable Communities (Services), said: "The gate is an important feature which will ensure that those using the track will be safe and the track will not be damaged. We opened the track on a trail basis to test the facility at half term and received very positive feedback.
"We have listened to the local community and agree it is important to open it over the summer holidays. The safety gate is being fabricated but until that arrives we are determined to make sure people can enjoy the facility during their holidays."
Confirmation of opening hours will be listed on Creasey Park’s Twitter and Dunstable Town Council's Creasey Park web page as soon as possible.
The Bedfordshire and Luton Green Infrastructure Consortium has been officially recognised by Government as a 'Local Nature Partnership'.
The Consortium is made up of members from local and national organisations, local authorities and Government Agencies and this recognition as a Local Nature Partnership will enable more local decision making.
The role of Local Nature Partnerships is to enable local leadership and operate across administrative boundaries. They will raise awareness about the services and benefits of a healthy natural environment, and contribute to the green economy and complement Local Enterprise Partnerships.
In announcing the successful applications, Richard Benyon, Parliamentary Undersecretary for the Natural Environment, welcomed the vision, energy and commitment of the Consortium and the ambition not only to safeguard nature, but to recognise its importance for economic growth and the wellbeing of communities.
Jon Balaam, acting Chair of the Green Infrastructure Consortium, said: 'I am delighted that our application for Local Nature Partnership status has been successful, as this will give the Green Infrastructure Consortium a renewed drive and sense of purpose to help protect and enhance our natural environment. We look forward to working as a partnership to break new ground and drive positive change, and to working with neighbouring Local Nature Partnerships to achieving this at a wider scale.'
Cllr Nigel Young, Executive Member for Sustainable Communities (Strategic Planning and Economic Development)at Central Bedfordshire Council, said: "This Partnership status is great news for the Consortium and it will help us as a Council to further develop and demonstrate a joined up approach, recognising how the natural environment shapes our local area, supports our communities and underpins our economy."
Plans for the next six months as a new Local Nature Partnership include working with the health sector to identify shared priorities and develop shared projects and working with the new Health and Wellbeing Boards. Work will also be undertaken with the South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership (SEMLEP) Board and the Green Economy Sub-Group to promote the role of the environment in underpinning sustainable development.
Other activities include reviewing the membership of the Consortium and addressing how it will relate to other partnerships and organisations; supporting the development of landscape scale projects, and supporting the development of catchment based approaches to managing flood and drought risk and water quality, helping to meet the objectives of the Water Framework Directive.
Four new recycling containers have been installed in Dunstable to help residents recycle even more of their household waste.
Located at Dunstable’s Household Waste Recycling Centre in French’s Avenue, these large recycling bins accept the full range of materials which are collected in residents’ orange-lidded bins including: paper, cardboard, cartons, plastic packaging, metal packaging, cans, tins, aluminium foil, empty aerosols as well as worn out clothing, shoes, household textiles and fabrics.
Cllr Budge Wells, Deputy Executive Member for Sustainable Communities at Central Bedfordshire Council said: "The addition of these new, bigger containers will enable us to recycle more household waste. Our residents are doing a fantastic job already, but these will be especially convenient for local residents who might sometimes have too much to fit in their own recycling bin. "
With a continuing effort to separate waste, Central Bedfordshire Household Waste Recycling Centres are recycling on average more than 71 per cent of the waste taken there and continue to accept a wide range of recyclable materials such as garden waste, scrap wood, car and household batteries, light bulbs, used engine and cooking oil, electrical items, white goods and scrap metal.
All of Central Bedfordshire’s Household Waste Recycling Centres are open from 9am - 5pm seven days a week, except for Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day. In addition to these sites there are over 100 local recycling sites across Central Bedfordshire where residents can recycle their glass bottles and jars. A number of these sites also have banks for textiles and clothing.
For more information about waste and recycling call Central Bedfordshire Council on 0300 300 8302 or visit www.centralbedfordshire.gov.uk/recycling
Central Bedfordshire Council and Bedford Borough Council have been granted permission to fully petition Members of Parliament about Covanta Energy’s plans for a Resource Recovery Facility at Rookery South Pit near Stewartby.
The Chairman of a specially convened Parliamentary Committee, Mr Brian Binley, has announced that the Committee will be hearing petitions in full. This means that both Councils will now be able to argue their case against all aspects of the plan when the Committee meets in the autumn, rather than a more limited range of issues that Covanta had argued for.
Cllr Nigel Young, Executive Member for Sustainable Communities (Strategic Planning and Economic Development) at Central Bedfordshire Council, said: "This is a victory for democracy and common sense. It is absolutely right that this Council should be able to put a full case to the Parliamentary Committee and we shall do so vigorously!"
The Councils had previously submitted its objections to the proposal with the two main issues being:
* the size and bulk of the proposed facility will adversely impact on the amenity of local residents and on the highway network near the site and in other parts of the authority area; and
* the size of the proposed facility means it would need to source waste from a much greater area than Bedfordshire and this goes against national and local planning policy to handle waste sustainably by using the nearest appropriate facility and to make provision for local waste disposal requirements.
Local ward Member, Cllr Sue Clark, said: "We look forward to making this case to the Committee. Whilst the final decision about this proposal is at a national level, it is absolutely right that the authorities, who have a duty to represent their communities, are given the opportunity to fully engage in the process which will ultimately determine whether or not the facility is granted permission. The combined efforts of local councillors and the MP have ensured that local people's legitimate concerns are addressed."
The Councils also maintain that the adverse impacts of the proposal far outweigh the positive benefits and on this basis the IPC will be required by National Planning Statements to refuse the application for Development Consent.
The next stage in the process is for a hearing of the Parliamentary Committee of both Houses for consideration of issues raised by both Councils. The date for the first day of the Committee Hearing is 24 October 2012.
A county NHS Trust and the owner of a former Dunstable care home have been sentenced after being found guilty of safety failings following the fatal stabbing of a care worker at a private residential care home in Dunstable.
Kathleen Bainbridge, 58, from Luton was killed at Abacus House, on Princes Street, on 24 August 2007 by resident Stephen Flatt, then aged 55, who attacked her with a knife from a kitchen. Fellow care worker Barbara Hill, from Dunstable, was also attacked when she went to help her colleague.
A joint investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and Central Bedfordshire Council found that Abacus House was not the correct care facility for Mr Flatt, who had been placed there by the Hertfordshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust.
A trial at Luton Crown Court heard he had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and that Abacus House staff had no expertise or training for dealing with people with this disorder, or for managing violent or aggressive behaviour.
Hertfordshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust was yesterday (19 July) fined £150,000 and ordered to pay costs of £326,346 for breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 for its failings in relation to the fatal incident after being prosecuted by HSE.
The council brought proceedings at the same time against the owner of Abacus House, Chelvanayagam Menna, who was fined £75,000 and ordered to pay costs of £338,996 after being found guilty of breaching Sections 2(1) and 3(1) of the same Act.
After the sentencing HSE Inspector Karl Howes said: "This was a tragic incident that left a family without a wife, mother and grandmother. No-one expects to go to work and never return home.
"Care homes have a duty not only to protect the safety of their residents but their staff as well. The NHS Trust failed to adequately assess the risks that were posed to staff and other residents from placing Mr Flatt in Abacus House.
"I hope this will make all NHS Trusts and care facilities carefully consider the procedures that they have in place during patient placement."
Councillor Budge Wells, Deputy Executive Member for Sustainable Communities, Services at Central Bedfordshire Council said: "The legal process has been long and difficult, particularly for Mrs Bainbridge’s family but also for her former colleagues - especially Mrs Hill.
"Of course the trial of Stephen Flatt had to take initial priority and once this was concluded the police instigated a further investigation of the Trust and care home owner. However the Council and HSE cooperated closely on their investigation from the outset and were in a position to progress with proceedings as soon as the police cleared the way.
"All concerned in the case hope that the right lessons are learned from this tragedy and that nothing of a similar nature occurs in future."
The summer holidays are fast approaching and fortunately for parents concerned about how to occupy their children, Central Bedfordshire Council have put together a guide to the holiday schemes in the area.
The ‘School’s out’ booklet 2012/13 contains information on a variety of holiday schemes and activities, including those for children and young people with additional needs, enabling families to balance work commitments with the school holidays.
Cllr Mark Versallion, Executive Member for Children's Services at the council, said
“Summer is a time for children and young people to have fun and explore new things – and that’s exactly what’s on offer from the wide range of activities taking place across Central Bedfordshire.
You can pick up a copy of the ‘School’s out’ booklet at any of our libraries or find it on our website - www.centralbedfordshire.gov.uk/schoolholidayschemes.”
The council can also provide details of registered childminders, who can provide childcare during the holidays. Simply call 0300 300 8119 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
From busting moves on a community dance machine to sedate countryside walks through beautiful surroundings, there really is something for everyone in Central Bedfordshire Council’s ‘Fit4Life Summer 2012’ programme. The extensive programme of activities is taking place throughout the summer, at venues across Central Bedfordshire. Highlights include:
The Community Dance Machine - Strut your stuff on our wireless dance machines and shape up at the same time. Anyone over seven years of age can take part, including adults and it’s a good way for families to have fun and get active together.
Walk4Health in Central Bedfordshire - Healthy walks are a great way to exercise and they don’t cost a thing. Explore local countryside with friends or family on walk led by the council’s Community Physical Activity Team.
Bikeability - Biking is fun, fast and keeps you fit. Improve your cycling skills and learn how to be safe on the road on a bikeability course.
Zumba - Party yourself into shape with the Latin-inspired dance exercise craze.
Alongside the activities the council are promoting the Change 4 Life campaign, run by the NHS, which encourages people to build healthy activities into their day to day routine.
Councillor Brian Spurr, Executive Member of Sustainable Communities Services at Central Bedfordshire Council said:
"This Fit4Life Summer 2012 campaign is a fantastic way of bringing whole communities together and helps them to get fit and active while having fun. All courses are lead by well trained and enthusiastic leaders, ensuring a fun and safe environment.
“Pick up a copy of the Fit4Life summer 2012 booklet at your local library or visit our website www.centralbedfordshire.gov.uk/healthierlifestyles
Other activities planned for the summer include Urban Rebounding, Fitness Frenzy and Regiment Fitness activities, Active Ranger sessions, football coaching courses with Bedfordshire Football Association and Boot camps.
For more information about these and Fit4Life please contact Central Bedfordshire Council’s Physical Activity Team on 0300 300 8072 or visit: www.centralbedfordshire.gov.uk/healthierlifestyles
or e-mail: email@example.com
Plans to open an innovative ‘Alternative Provision Free School’ in Central Bedfordshire have been given the go-ahead by the Department for Education. The new facility will offer locally based high quality education for up to 140 pupils, whose needs are not being met in mainstream schools and who require extra personalised support to help them succeed.
The proposal for the new school has been developed by the ten Upper School Head teachers in the area with support from a Middle School Head teacher, the Head Teacher of an existing local special school and from Central Bedfordshire Council.
The new school will be based over two sites – at the existing Kingsland site in Houghton Regis and the former Roecroft Lower School site in Stotfold.
Executive Member for Children’s Services Cllr Mark Versallion, said:
"We are delighted that the Department for Education has given the go ahead for the 'Alternative Provision Free School - it is a real success story for everyone involved and another innovative success for Central Bedfordshire.
“This is a great chance for everyone involved to make a big difference to the lives of pupils whose needs are not met in mainstream schools and to reduce the number of pupils falling out of the education system.
“We know that young people who are disengaged from education usually experience significant limitations to their life chances and opportunities. This is something which everyone involved with the bid believes is completely unacceptable.
“I believe this new school will provide the very best educational experience for these young people, by offering a personalised curriculum and opportunities that simply can't be delivered in mainstream schools."
Nigel Croft, Head of Redborne Upper and Chair of the Upper School Heads' Bid, said:
“This is a fantastic example of partnership working, whereby the ten Upper Schools, the Middle Schools, Barnfield College, Bedford College and Central Bedfordshire Council have come together to provide an ‘alternative curriculum provision’ for some of our most vulnerable students.
This is a great opportunity to be at the cutting edge of education reform and we look forward to continued partnership working and a successful opening in September 2013.”
Pupils at the new school will have a personalised timetable, built to meet their individual needs. They will spend some time on the school sites and some time off site, accessing opportunities that can’t be delivered in a mainstream school; for instance gaining valuable work experience in local businesses or learning new skills through vocational training courses.
Some pupils will attend for as little as half a term and will be supported to learn the skills they need to successfully access learning in their local mainstream school. The school will work closely with the ten upper schools to ensure smooth reintegration for pupils who need to access this provision. Staff will have the skills, knowledge and expertise to support these pupils in a successful educational journey to further learning and employment.
Residents and businesses are being given the opportunity to talk about local issues and get involved in their community as part of the ‘Pride in Houghton Regis’ event on Tuesday, 24 July from 10am to 4pm.
Following the success of a number of other Pride In days, Central Bedfordshire Council is encouraging residents to join forces to learn more about their area and what services are on offer from local authorities.
During the day local representatives from the Council, Make a Difference (MAD), Houghton Regis Town Council, Bedfordshire Fire and the Police will all be available to discuss any issues about local community safety matters.
Council staff will be in Bedford Square Community Centre, near the library to give advice on issues such as licensing, waste disposal and community safety. At this base, there will be youth activities including a clothes swap.
There will also be a coffee morning at the newly refurbished library, an environmental clear-up in Westminster Gardens and Elm Park Close and the Police’s Bobby van providing information on home security. The Fire Service will be assessing the need for fire alarms by carrying out questionnaires and will fit free alarms if required.
Bedfordshire Police will be running Operation Vision focusing on recruiting for the new Streetwatch initiative in Houghton Regis. Streetwatch involves local residents taking an active and dynamic role in their community and it has proven to be a great success elsewhere at reducing crime and disorder.
Cllr Brian Spurr, Executive Member for Sustainable Communities Services at Central Bedfordshire Council, said: "The Pride in Houghton Regis day is a great opportunity for people to discuss any local issues with representatives from a wide range of organisations. It is also a chance for people to take steps to improve their own local environment."
"Engaging with communities across Central Bedfordshire is very important to the council. It offers us the chance to get information to the public, but it is also an opportunity for residents to raise issues and get much needed help that they may not have realised was available. We hope lots of people come along."
Central Bedfordshire Council is encouraging residents to drop into an exhibition on the draft Development Strategy in Biggleswade next week.
The Strategy is currently open for the public to have their say on and this public exhibition is part of the process. Held at Biggleswade Library on Tuesday, 24 July, the exhibition will be open between 3pm and 5pm.
The Council are encouraging residents and stakeholders to drop in to view the display material and members of staff will be present to answer any questions. The displays will show the approach to development, how sites have been assessed and selected and what allocated sites will provide.
Executive Member for Sustainable Planning and Economic Development, Cllr Nigel Young, said: “We know how much our residents love the area they live in, but we also know they are concerned about things too. Fears about job prospects have doubled in the past two years and families are worried whether it will ever be possible for the next generation to get on the housing ladder. We need to address these issues.
“Thanks to new powers we are no longer required to meet housing targets imposed by Central Government. We are masters of our own destiny and have reduced the scale of planned development, whilst also ensuring there will be enough new and affordable homes that our communities need.”
Consultation on the draft Development Strategy ends at 5pm on Wednesday 8 August. Everyone is invited to comment on the strategy, which can be viewed on the council’s website at www.centralbedfordshire.gov.uk/strategic-planning
Copies of the documents are available to view at council customer service centres and libraries. Summary leaflets will also be available in these locations.
Central Bedfordshire Council has launched a consultation on proposed changes to its walk-in Customer Service Centres in a bid to shift resources to areas of highest demand and ensure that services are cost-effective.
The consultation, which starts on 16 July and continues until 24 August follows a review of usage and resources at the five customer service centres across Central Bedfordshire.
The council is recommending replacing small customer service centres at Priory House, Chicksands and the Old Court House in Ampthill with customer access points in other nearby locations. The move would save £100,000 a year and would allow the council to transfer the staff (3.77 full-time equivalent) from the two sites to serve more customers in other face to face locations or by telephone at the council's contact centre.
Customer access points, which use special terminals to connect customers via video link to a Customer Services Advisor in the Council’s Contact Centre, have been successfully trialled in Sandy and Houghton Regis Libraries. With the Chicksands and Ampthill centre staff serving between three and four customers an hour, [costing an estimated £15 - £20 for each contact] the new access points would provide a cost effective and convenient channel for dealing with simple to moderate customer queries.
Leighton Buzzard customer service centre, at Bossard House, currently sees around six customers an hour and the proposal here is to reduce the current opening hours to three days (44 hours) a week to produce a saving of £25,000. It would remain open on the busiest days. With Job Centre Plus and the Volunteer Centre due to co-locate at this site next month - allowing customers to access a range of benefits, together with employment support and volunteering advice under one roof - the council is keen to retain this centre. Any staff time saved from closure days will be utilised in other face to face centres or in the contact centre.
No changes are recommended for the council's other customer service centres in Biggleswade and Dunstable. Both are already co-located with Job Centre Plus and have been able to deliver savings whilst maintaining excellent service provision.
Cllr Maurice Jones, Executive Member for Resources at Central Bedfordshire Council says: "We know from customer feedback that the majority of our residents lead busy lives and want to deal with council quickly, easily and when it suits them – mostly over the phone or online - and the visitor figures to our customer service centres bears this out.
"While we want to make sure that the minority of our customers who still want to visit us in person can still do so, we have a duty to provide our taxpayers with great value by making sure our services remain cost effective. Where we can reduce costs by partnering with other organisations or using new technology we will seek to do so.
"Many of the savings made through this exercise will be reinvested into our telephone channels to reduce waiting times for residents who phone us, ensuring they are able to speak to the department they need quickly.”
People will be able to respond to the consultation by filling in questionnaires which will be available in all Central Bedfordshire public libraries, Customer Service Centres, Council offices or online through the Council’s website - www.centralbedfordshire.gov.uk/consultations
The Secretary of State for Transport, the Rt. Hon Justine Greening MP, today announced that the Western section of East West Rail (EWR) will be part of the government’s strategy for rail transport, confirming not only funding for the project but also for electrification of the Oxford to Bedford part of the route. EWR will provide an electric link between the electrified Great Western, West Coast and Midland main lines. This further investment in the project upgrades it to form a key part of the new ‘Electric Spine’ passenger and freight route between the South Coast, the East Midlands and Yorkshire.
EWR is a major project to promote economic growth by establishing a strategic railway that will ultimately connect East Anglia with Central, Southern and Western England. It will be England’s first major railway re-opening with much of the route existing as freight network or disused lines. The Western Section will link Aylesbury, Oxford and Reading with Bedford and Milton Keynes. The route is planned to be open by 2017.
The project will feature in the Department for Transports High Level Output Specification (HLOS) for Control Period 5. This document sets out the rail transport projects that the government will support.
Peter Hardy, Chairman of the East West Rail Consortium Joint Delivery Board said: “This is fantastic news for the towns and cities that East West Rail will serve. In providing direct links between growth areas, East West Rail will allow for more sustained economic development for these communities, creating up to 12,000 jobs and increasing opportunities for businesses to invest.”
Today’s announcement follows the decision by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his November 2011 Autumn Statement that EWR funding of £270 million would be made available providing that the promoter of the scheme, the EWR Consortium, met two conditions. A strong business case for the route was required, and the case developed by the promoter along with the DfT and Network Rail was accepted as robust. The second condition was for a commitment by local authorities along the route to contribute to the cost; a ‘commitment in principle’ to contribute £50 million over a period of 15 to 20 years from 2014 onwards has been agreed by the western section members of the Consortium.
Rodney Rose, Deputy Chairman of the Joint Delivery Board said “The East West Rail Consortium is committed to engaging with communities at every stage of this process. We seek to ensure that residents are fully informed of progress and that we maintain transparency as the project develops.”
Dr Ann Limb OBE DL, Chair of South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership (SEMLEP) said " This is great news for the SEMLEP area. The Board of SEMLEP have committed £1m of its Growing Places Fund resources to enable this project to progress to 2014/15 when construction will now start. Improving east west links across the SEMLEP area is vital to enable growth in jobs and homes."
Cllr Nigel Young, Executive Member for Sustainable Communities (Strategic Planning and Economic Development) said: “It is great to hear the news that the Government is backing this. An east-west new rail link would cut journey times (train versus car) between Oxford and Milton Keynes or Bedford by more than half, and between Winslow and Oxford by almost two thirds - providing local residents with faster, more direct access to these towns and cities.
“This can only help to benefit the area by bringing business in, promoting economic growth and can only help to strengthen local enterprise ventures.
“We look forward to further working with the Department for Transport, Network Rail, and the Consortium on this vital scheme for the area."
The Consortium is now working with Department for Transport and Network Rail to implement the necessary development work to ensure the target re-opening of the western section of the east west line is met by 2017.
More information is available on the East West Rail website. Information Sheets and FAQ’s are available on the website as well as a contact page and a mailing list for news of future information releases. East West Rail also has a Twitter account, @eastwestrail, which will be updated with news as it happens.
Local children in Sandy have a new play area in Merlin Drive. Launched on Monday, 9 July by Central Bedfordshire Council, the play area is one of the largest public open spaces for Sandy residents.
Local residents and staff and children from nearby Maple Tree Lower School were invited to celebrate the opening with local Central Bedfordshire and Sandy Town councillors, including Chairman of Central Bedfordshire Council and Mayor of Sandy, representatives from developer Kier Homes Ltd and local police officers.
A blue ribbon was cut to mark the handover of the facility from Kier Homes Ltd, the main developer of the Fallowfield Estate, to Sandy Town Council.
The area includes playing fields and activity zones with play equipment for children of different ages. Children attending also had the chance to take part in games and refreshments arranged by the Sports Development team from Central Bedfordshire Council.
Cllr Brian Spurr, Executive Member for Sustainable Communities, Services, at Central Bedfordshire Council, said: "The development, which has become the community of Fallowfield, is probably the largest single growth spurt in the town’s recent history. From early on the council has been committed to ensuring a good quality, local, public green space.
"We have worked closely with both Sandy Town Council and Kier Homes Ltd to make sure that the facility is in local public ownership and we hope that local residents really enjoy using the space."
Cllr Mrs Susan Sutton, Mayor of Sandy, said: "Sandy Town Council was pleased to accept this open space on behalf of the residents of Sandy and Beeston. Our residents have long campaigned for this area to belong to the community and at last this has come to fruition."
Central Bedfordshire Council are planning an event in every single one of their libraries to celebrate the launch of the annual Summer Reading Challenge, run by the Reading Agency, on 14 July.
Now in its 14th year, the Summer Reading Challenge has been a huge success both nationally and closer to home. In 2011 a record 5955 children took part in Central Bedfordshire reading over 60,000 books between them.
Act Out Theatre will be giving exciting and interactive performances at each library to bring books to life. Shows are aimed at children aged between 4 - 8 and they will need to sign up for free tickets to attend the shows at their nearest library.
Details of events taking place in the summer in all of the council‘s libraries and how to sign up can be found on the Virtual Library www.centralbedfordshire.gov.uk/libraries
The Summer Reading Challenge is free for all children to take part in. They are encouraged to read six or more books of their choice during the holidays with collectable incentives and rewards. They receive a certificate for reading six books, a wristband for twelve and a medal for every child who reads eighteen.
The 2012 Challenge, called Story Lab, is a truly imaginative adventure in which Professor Cortex asks the Story Lab kids Will, Rani, Evie and Lex to recover three lost items to boost the imagination of the Story Lab which attracts stories from all over the world and sends them spinning throughout the city – and beyond!
Cllr Brian Spurr, Executive Member for Sustainable Communities Services at Central Bedfordshire Council, said: “This year’s Challenge sounds fantastic - there really is no excuse for children to be bored over the holidays! It gives children a personal challenge that builds their confidence and love of reading at the same time and is part of an exciting summer of activities in Central Bedfordshire’s libraries. Let’s see if we can beat last year’s record of children taking part!”
Story Lab will have a link to the 2012 Olympics and is an official project in the Cultural Olympiad's London 2012. An interactive Story Lab (www.story-lab.org.uk) website has also launched, linking children with top authors and illustrators, and giving them space to talk about their favourite books and to share reading ideas.
If you’ve got a passion for helping others in your local community, and a sprinkling of entrepreneurial spirit, why not come along to a special event, to find out about ‘micro-enterprises’.
The free event is taking place on Tuesday 24th July at Flitwick Village Hall, Dunstable Road, Flitwick from 9.30am – 1.45pm and is supported by national charity ‘Community Catalysts’, leaders in the field of micro enterprises.
Micro-enterprises are very small local enterprises (typically less than five workers) that provide a range of social and health care, supported housing or leisure services to local people who need them. These include services that help people gain a new skill or make new friends, to lead a healthy life or enjoy a leisure activity. They are offered by a wide range of people and organisations in the community, including people who themselves need some support and family carers.
There’s a huge range of different examples of micro-enterprises successfully operating up and down the country, including: domiciliary care, small care homes, yoga and holistic therapies for people with learning difficulties and mental health problems, gardening and a fantastic mobile smoothie bar in Nottingham, run by a young woman with learning difficulties and her dad.
Micro-providers transform the choices available to people needing support and services, and help them make good use of their money by providing services on a paid, barter or voluntary basis. They also provide an important source of local employment and demonstrate entrepreneurialism.
Executive Member for Social Care, Health and Housing, Cllr Carole Hegley, said: "This is a really exciting opportunity to learn more about micro enterprises and how they can help to shape a more diverse marketplace for care and support for local people in Central Bedfordshire."
Booking a place at the event couldn’t be easier, simply call 0300 300 5608 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Community Catalysts will be facilitating the event with support from Central Bedfordshire Council.
The streets of Dunstable came alive this morning as residents of Central Bedfordshire were out in force to catch a glimpse of the Olympic Torch. Thousands of smiling faces, roared on the eight amazing torchbearers as they made their way along Luton Road and High Street North.
Torchbearer Penny Green, from Eaton Bray, who was nominated for her work as Director of the national Down’s Heart Group, said: "It was absolutely amazing. The crowd was huge; I can’t believe there was so many people. Everybody was cheering and waving and my arms were aching before I even got off the bus from waving so much! There was a real party atmosphere going on.
"It was just absolutely incredible and it went so quickly. It was a fantastic experience and an incredible honour to be able to run it for those with Down’s Syndrome around the world."
Cllr Angela Barker, Chairman of Central Bedfordshire Council, said: "It was fantastic - what a party atmosphere! We were delighted with the crowds in Dunstable and the minute we saw the lead vehicles, the carnival party atmosphere started. And seeing the torchbearers was fantastic. Masses of people out on the streets and people were tuning out from 6 this morning! I think it’s a really magic moment – people won’t forget being in Dunstable on 9th July 2012."
The event ran safely and roads reopened within 15 minutes of the completion of the relay.
You can see pictures, watch videos and listen to audio from the day on our social media sites: www.facebook.com/letstalkcentral, www.twitter.com/letstalkcentral and www.flickr.com/photos/centralbedfordshire.
A unique scheme will bring new homes to a group of people who receive specialist care services in Biggleswade this month (July 13) with a celebration summer party.
The £1.5m Benson Court is the first one of its kind specifically designed and built by MacIntyre Housing Association’s parent organisation, Grand Union Housing Group, for adults over the age of 55 with learning disabilities, in partnership with Central Bedfordshire Council.
Eleven residents will be joined by their families and around 50 guests for the opening ceremony of the scheme which is part of the MyPlace Campus Reprovision Programme.
Benson Court is the latest scheme to open, in a wider programme, led by Central Bedfordshire Council, to provide new homes and services to over 150 people with learning difficulties. It has been hailed as one of the most ambitious reprovision programmes in the East of England.
Aileen Evans, Managing Director of MacIntyre said: “This is a hugely significant step forward in the programme to move these extraordinary people out of their old, outdated NHS care homes into purpose built, modern accommodation where they can have their own front door and independence for the first time in their lives. “
Cllr Carole Hegley, Central Bedfordshire Council, Executive Member for Social Care, Health and Housing, added: “The people moving here have been looking forward to moving into their new homes and the new opportunities that the scheme will bring them for greater independence and a place in the heart of the community”
Benson Court is the second home in Biggleswade to be opened in the last 12 months and marks a significant step forward in the programme which is funded by the NHS.
Bedford Borough Council, Central Bedfordshire Council, Luton Borough Council, Milton Keynes Council and Northamptonshire County Council have established a Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee to review the NHS Healthier Together programme. On Thursday 12 July, at 4pm, the Committee will meet in at the Central Bedfordshire Council Offices in Shefford, as it continues to review health services across the South East Midlands.
The meeting will provide an opportunity for representatives from the Healthier Together Programme Board to discuss its engagement work, the emerging options on how acute health services could be delivered, and to consider the Healthier Together programme’s plans for public consultation in the autumn of 2012. The meeting is open to the public and residents are invited to attend the meeting to learn more about the proposals and to provide their views. This will be the first open public meeting where residents can learn more about the proposals that are being considered to rearrange acute health services in the region.
Over the last few months the Committee has scrutinised the Healthier Together programme’s public engagement plans and the Committee’s recommendations have led to new engagement work by Healthier Together.
Clinicians and patient representatives have been engaging with patients, and the public, to find out their views ahead of a public consultation later this year.
The Healthier Together vision is to move as many tests, treatments and appointments as possible out of hospital and into local settings reducing the need for people to travel to hospital and to consider how best to combine expertise and improve patient outcomes by creating centres of excellence.
People should find they can access a wider range of health services closer to home, however they may need to travel further for some more specialist or ‘one-off’ procedures.
Cllr John Mingay, Chair of the Committee, said: “The Committee is very keen that as many people as possible get involved with the Healthier Together programme and respond to the future consultation about the proposed changes. We have already had an impact on the engagement work, where the Healthier Together team has accepted the Committee’s recommendations about new ways to reach the public. The Committee plans to continue to have an influence over both the consultation and the Healthier Together proposals about health services in the region.”
Once Healthier Together has completed the consultation, the Committee will be in a position to make its recommendations and will be considered by the NHS when final decisions are made in spring 2013.
All meetings will be held in public, and the committees papers can be found via the Council website at www.bedford.gov.uk
More information about Healthier Together can be found at http://healthiertogether.northamptonshire.nhs.uk/
Central Bedfordshire Council spending came in under budget last year despite grant reductions and financial pressures, Executive councillors heard at their meeting on Tuesday (3 July).
Success in achieving efficiency savings helped the council end the financial year almost £500K in the black.
News of the council's positive financial outturn coincided with reports elsewhere on the Executive agenda that service performance is continuing to improve. Joint work by the Community Safety Partnership led to serious acquisitive crime such as theft and robbery falling by 13%. The affordable housing target was also exceeded with 440 new homes created. Performance has risen in other key areas such as increasing the amount of council tax collected (almost 98%), faster processing of benefit claims, paying suppliers on time and assessing the care needs of children, adults and their families.
Executive councillors also acknowledged achievements by the council's Adult Care Services to recover from an 'adequate' rating to having its progress nationally recognised by the Towards Excellence in Adult Social Care Board.
Leader of the Council, Cllr James Jamieson said: "These improvements have taken place against a difficult economic background that not only restricts the finances available to the council but also increases demands on some services.
"The results reported to Executive reinforce our commitment to sound management of our finances and services in order to provide our residents with great services and great value. While recognising that there is still further to go, I'm delighted that there is a steady improvement in performance. We are in a good position to respond to the challenges ahead and continue on our improvement journey."
Pete Moorhouse, the artist commissioned by Central Bedfordshire Council to create four sculptures to feature on the Dunstable and Houghton Regis sections of the Luton Dunstable Busway, is inviting local residents to look at ten draft designs.
Mr Moorhouse has been out working with schoolchildren, college students, library users and the local history society to get ideas, which he will present on Tuesday, 10 July at Houghton Regis Library between 10am and 12pm and Dunstable Library between 2pm and 4:30pm.
The aim of the sculptures is to celebrate prominent events, people, businesses and buildings in the towns during the past 100 years, and they will be in place by the opening of the Busway in March 2013.
The local community have been working with the artist since late 2011 and picked out some themes to celebrate the rich contemporary history of Dunstable and Houghton Regis. They include celebrating the market town, manufacturing industry and musical history, as well as highlighting the Dunstable Downs, local transport – especially cycling – and the strong community feeling in the area.
Residents and businesses can also look at the designs on http://buswayart.wordpress.com from 10 July, where they can vote for four of their favourite designs.
Pete Moorhouse said: "I am keen that as many people as possible, particularly those who have already helped with this project so far, will come along to have a look and give their feedback and take ownership of the work that will add to the overall regeneration of the two towns."
Cllr Nigel Young, Executive Member for Sustainable Communities (Strategic Planning and Economic Development) at Central Bedfordshire Council said: "These sculptures will reflect the pride that we have today in both Dunstable and Houghton Regis and the contributions from all age groups of the local community have made a real difference. We would love people to comment on the designs."
The artwork is funded by developer contributions.
Central Bedfordshire residents are being offered the opportunity to find out more about ‘Time Banks’ at event taking place on Friday 13 July at Central Bedfordshire Council’s office in Chicksands. The event kicks off at 10am, finishing at 2.30pm.
Time Banks reward local people for helping others. For every hour a person spends helping someone, they get an hour of time in return in the form of a ‘time credit’. So if you are a keen gardener, you could get an hour’s ‘time credit’ by helping a neighbour, which you could then ‘spend’ getting support to help set up your laptop.
They are a great way of trading skills, experience and helping to build social networks of people, from different backgrounds, who give and receive support from each other. They can also be developed in partnerships with local organisations.
Speaking ahead of the event, Executive Member for Social Care, Health and Housing, Cllr Carole Hegley, said:
"We want to explore the potential for developing Time Banks as another way of encouraging local people to get involved with their local communities. Anyone can get involved - age, ability, lack of finance or limited mobility are not barriers to participating in a Time Bank.
We know there’s already a strong sense of community spirit in Central Bedfordshire and this is an opportunity to strengthen it even further. If you are interested, please do come along, we’d love to see you there."
Booking a place at the event couldn’t be easier, simply call 0300 300 5608 or email email@example.com.
Central Bedfordshire Council has been praised by the national Towards Excellence in Adult Social Care Board for the substantial improvements made to its adult social care services since taking over services from Bedfordshire County Council in 2009.
Members of the council’s Executive received a report today (Tuesday 3 July) that included confirmation from the Board and the Local Government Association that the council’s adult social care services have improved from the previous adequate rating to a stable position where they are on a clear path towards excellence.
The recognition comes after over two years of hard work, since the council implemented the first phase of its ‘Adult Social Care Recovery Programme towards the end of 2009. The programme consisted of a phased approach to tackle the key areas of concern within social care, including the safeguarding of vulnerable adults. The Board commended the strong and determined leadership within the council that has overseen the recovery programme and delivered the improvements.
Executive Member for Social Care, Health and Housing, Cllr Carole Hegley, said:
"It’s great to see that the improvements we have been able to make and embed are being experienced every day by service users and carers across Central Bedfordshire. However, there is certainly no room for complacency and we will continue our hard work as we strive to provide great services that truly meet the needs of our residents.
"I would like to thank everyone involved - managers and frontline staff, elected members, partner organisations as well as our supportive service users and their carers - in helping us to reach this significant milestone."
Residents in Central Bedfordshire can look forward to even better customer service after the council’s Executive approved plans to significantly increase the amount of services offered online, which will allow the council to serve the public 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
The Customer First programme will maximise the potential of modern technology so that customers can book services, make payments, report issues and submit and track applications on the council’s website. The programme will also improve the efficiency of our telephone service, whilst we continue to provide traditional face to face channels for those who continue to want to do business with us in that way.
Executive have agreed to invest 1.689m into Customer First which will not only provide major service improvements but also deliver savings of £600,000 a year to Central Bedfordshire taxpayers from 2013/2014 onwards. The savings will be made as residents choose to use convenient online services in preference to telephoning the council, reducing the number of calls which our contact centre will need to handle and ease the flow of information internally within the Council.
Cllr Maurice Jones, Executive Member for Corporate Resources at Central Bedfordshire Council, said: "We’ve listened to our customers and understand that the majority are busy people with busy lives, who want to deal with council quickly, easily and when it suits them – and many of them want to self-serve by using the internet and even mobile phone applications.
"The plan is that residents will sign up to a customer account so that depending upon their need, they can log on to the council website and pay their council tax, apply for a range of services or report problems such as potholes.
"Rest assured though – residents who don’t use the internet will still be able to contact the council through more conventional routes, like the phone or face to face at one of our Customer Service Centres. In fact, a major focus of Customer First is to reduce waiting times for residents who do phone in, ensuring they are able to speak to the department they need quickly."
Work will now begin to put in place the technical systems required to securely set up the new online services, which will be promoted to customers as they become available in the coming months.
With just days to go to the Olympic Torch Relay, decorations are going up in Dunstable High Street to welcome the Flame on its historic journey through the town on Monday 9 July.
Torchbearers will carry the Flame along Luton Road, entering Dunstable at the Skimpot road roundabout just before 7.30am. From there with will turn right onto High Street North which will be the focus of celebrations. Lloyds TSB, one of the official sponsors, will have early morning activities and entertainment before the Torch Relay. The Torch will leave Dunstable just after 8.05am at the junction with French's Avenue where it will join a vehicle convoy heading for its next stop at Milton Keynes.
Leader of the Council, Cllr James Jamieson says, "We are looking forward to welcoming the Torch and our inspirational Torchbearers to Dunstable. We want this to be a safe and enjoyable event for everyone and I hope that residents who can conveniently get to Dunstable will line the streets to join us for this once-in-lifetime opportunity.
The whole Torch Relay route will be closed to traffic in advance of the event. From 6.45am High Street North will be fully closed from the centre of town to Brewers Hill Road and will have a partial closure up to French's Avenue. Luton Road (A505) will be closed from 7.00am. This is likely to be a rolling road closure to slow down traffic behind the Torch Relay - but it may be fully closed on the day if there is a big crowd. To keep disruption to a minimum, roads will be reopened to traffic as soon it's safe to do so.
The M1 slip roads at Junction 11 will be closed for a very short of time to coincide with the Torch Relay. For timings check the Highways Agency website.
Road closures will affect refuse collections for properties on and near the A505. Affected households have been notified and advised to leave their bin out the night before. Crews will be out from 5am collecting what they can before roads are closed and will be out again after the event. Any remaining collections will take place the next day.
Public transport will also be affected. Buses will take alternative routes while roads are closed. Notices detailing the changes have been placed at bus stops.
The best way of getting to the Torch Relay is to walk or cycle as road closures will make travel by car or public transport difficult. Anyone travelling by road should start out early and get to Dunstable by about 6.30am to avoid disappointment. There will be free parking in all council-run Dunstable car parks until 10am on 9 July.
Drivers are being advised to expect severe traffic congestion and to avoid travel in and around Dunstable from 6.45am to 9am where possible. Delays are likely throughout the morning while traffic clears so people should allow extra time for journeys throughout the area.
There is more advice for residents and businesses on the council's website. To access the latest information and announcements follow the council @letstalkcentral and follow the hashtags #OlympicTorch or #London2012TorchRelay.
To find out more about Dunstable's Torchbearers go to the London 2012 Olympic website.