Councillor Philip Owen was first elected to Nottinghamshire County Council to represent the Nuthall division in May 2005. Upon his re-election in June 2009 he was appointed Cabinet Member for Children & Young People's Services in the new administration. Following Nottinghamshire County Council's change to a committee system of governance in May 2012 he is now Chairman of the Children & Young People's Committee.
Philip was born in Bulwell and has always been involved in education, gaining a BSc from the University of Strathclyde and a PGCE from Nottingham University. He taught at a boys' grammar school in Rugby before moving back to Nottingham to work at Eastwood Comprehensive and then Quarrydale in Sutton-in-Ashfield where he was Assistant Head Teacher until 2005. He is married to Jill, who is a councillor at Broxtowe Borough Council.
Philip holds Advice Surgeries once a month. They take place on the first Saturday of the month at the Temple Centre, Nottingham Road from 9.30 – 10.30am and on the same day from 10.45 – 11.30am at the Spinney on Laurel Crescent.
Philip's latest Councillors' Divisional Fund awards...
Each Nottinghamshire County Councillor now has an annual fund of £10,000 to support worthy initiatives in the division they represent. The Councillors' Divisional Fund aims to make use of each councillor's 'grass roots' knowledge to identify projects, events, people and clubs that work hard to benefit and promote their local area, but often lack access to resources. Even a small amount of funding can sometimes make a huge difference.
If you know of a deserving initiative in the Nuthall division that might be eligible to receive a CDF grant, please contact me. You can click the following link to read the eligibility guidance criteria.
Follow this link to the Councillors' Divisional Fund web page to see some of the latest projects I have been able to support.
Philip's latest news...
Council tax frozen for the fourth consecutive year
At the Nottinghamshire County Council budget meeting on 28th February 2013, I joined my Conservative colleagues in voting to freeze county council tax for a fourth consecutive year.
In the 2013/14 financial year, Nottinghamshire County Council will be investing: -
an extra £13.3 million in services to children and young people;
an extra £17.9 million in adult social care;
an extra £3 million on the county’s highways;
an extra £500,000 for a Youth Employment Strategy; and
an extra £700,000 for our ‘Olympic Legacy’ sports development fund.
This followed our ‘Big Budget Conversation’ consultation process, in which 65% of Nottinghamshire respondents supported a council tax freeze, with only 21% against. Further information on the results of the Big Budget Conversation can be found in Appendix A to the budget report.
Nottinghamshire County Council is now spending over £40 million more on services to vulnerable adults than it was four years ago, and over £35 million more on services to vulnerable children.
GCSE results up again in Nottinghamshire
On 23rd August young people in schools across the county received the results of their GCSE examinations.
The provisional results for Nottinghamshire based on 41 (out of 45) schools show that: -
These results show that pupils have been working extremely hard with support from their teachers and on behalf of Nottinghamshire County Council I would like to congratulate them for their hard work.
A-level overall pass rate increases
As Chairman of the Children & Young People's Services Committee I have pleasure in congratulating young people from schools across the county who received their A level and other examination results on 16th August. I know that our young people have worked extremely hard and put a great deal of effort into their examinations. It has obviously paid off with overall results up slightly on last year. The overall pass rate for Nottinghamshire schools has increased with 97.4% of entries gaining an E or above, against last year’s figure of 97.2%.
Secondary school admissions
The application process for children transferring from primary schools to secondary schools across the county in September 2013 is under way. Letters from Nottinghamshire County Council setting out the procedure for applying, key dates for noting and their child’s unique ID number are in the process of being sent out to parents and carers across Nottinghamshire.
Parents and carers can now start applying for a secondary school place and as the Council's Committee Chairman for Children and Young People’s Services I would urge as many of you as possible to apply online at www.nottinghamshire.gov.uk/admissions.
The closing date for applications is Wednesday, 31st October 2012. For more information about the application process, schools, the number of places available or how places are allocated, please visit the website at www.nottinghamshire.gov.uk/admissions or call 01623 433499.
The number of children placed with adoptive families by Nottinghamshire County Council during 2011/12 was up 25 per cent on the year before. During that year, the council placed 50 children for adoption. This figure is way ahead of the six per cent national increase in adoptions for 2011 reported by the Office for National Statistics on 7th August 2012.
The trend across the county over the last couple of years has been a sizeable increase in the number of children we’ve placed for adoption. In 2009/10, the council placed 20 children with adoptive families, but this doubled to 40 the following year. By April next year we expect to have placed around 68 children with adoptive families during 2012/13.
We’ve made enormous strides in the last year by investing in this area and our performance for placing children with adoptive families within 12 months is improving as a result – 67 per cent are now placed within a year of the decision that adoption is the best route for them.
We always need more adoptive families to get in touch if they feel they can offer a stable, loving home to one or more children. We particularly need families who are willing to take boys and sibling groups who are often harder to place. If you’re interested in finding out more about adopting, the council would love to hear from you. Please call its adoption team on 0845 3012288 or visit: www.nottinghamshire.gov.uk/adoptionandfostering.
Broxtowe housing proposals
There has been some misinformation spread about Nottinghamshire County Council’s response to Broxtowe Borough Council’s Core Strategy consultation. For clarity, the Nottinghamshire County Council response does not support Broxtowe’s self imposed target of 6,150 homes and does not support any specific site.
We have lodged an objection, as the consultation document makes no reference to any evidence to support the stated transport provision. As the County’s role is only to comment on the soundness of the plan proposed, we are not legally able to comment on the plan we would like to see.
Quality school catering
As Chairman of the Children & Young People's Committee I'm pleased to report that Nottinghamshire County Council has been recognised nationally for its outstanding contribution to schools’ catering across the county. It picked up the Local Authority Catering Association’s (LACA) top prize last week as Catering Business of the Year 2012.
Currently 272 of the county’s 285 primary and 30 of the 45 secondary schools use the Council’s school meals service with meal sales up nearly nine per cent in 2011/12 on the previous year. Factors which helped shape the judges’ decision included originality, an imaginative approach and actively involving the staff in the successful development of the service and introduction of change.
The service technically falls within the remit of my colleague, Councillor Andy Stewart, Chairman of the Personnel & Performance Committee. You can read more about the award on his web page.
Mini roundabout at Watnall Corner – work to improve the traffic flow at the mini-roundabout on Watnall Corner has been delayed due to the poor weather recently but is expected to be completed by the end of July.
Latest news from the Children & Young People's Services portfolio
In addition to my duties as a County Councillor for Nuthall division, I am also the Council's Cabinet Member for Children & Young People's Services. At most County Council meetings I present a report on latest developments within my portfolio. Please follow these links to see my most recent reports:-
Wednesday Club celebration to mark the Queen's Diamond Jubilee
Following the success of the Nuthall St Patrick’s Church Disney Festival which took place last summer and raised over £3,000, the Wednesday Club Group is making plans for special celebration to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.
On Saturday 9th June there is to be a Royal Tea Party to be held in the Church Hall on Back Lane in the afternoon with entertainment that will include music, singing and dancing. I am supporting the event by donating a sum of £250 from my Councillors' Divisional Fund (CDF) allowance.
Admission is by ticket only, which are priced at £10 and can be purchased from Diane Fletcher on 0115 9276109 or Margaret Squire on 0115 9385389.
Basil Russell Park
I am pleased to have supported a £60,000 refurbishment of the play park and toilet facilities at Basil Russell Park in Nuthall.
The park in Maple Drive serves the 3,000 homes in the village and is used regularly by schools, clubs, scout groups and local residents for nature walks, environmental and wildlife studies.
After years of neglect, residents applied to Nottinghamshire County Council’s Local Improvement Scheme (LIS) to upgrade and improve the facilities.
This is the only park for Nuthall so it is important that it offers well maintained facilities and is used by the whole community. The new bright and colourful equipment will attract younger children and residents’ complaints have been addressed relating to the toilet facilities.
This is one of several play parks across the county to have been refurbished under the LIS. Other examples can be found at Oxton, Papplewick, Upper Saxondale, Ranby, Sutton cum Lound and East Markham.
Council plans to adopt a committee system
Pending approval at the Council’s Annual General Meeting on 17th May 2012, Nottinghamshire County Council plans to exercise its new power under the Localism Act 2011 to adopt a committee system of decision-making. This will replace the current Leader and Cabinet model adopted under the Local Government Act 2000.
The rationale for a committee system is that it is the most democratic and transparent form of governance. It ensures all 67 democratically elected Councillors are able to fully participate in decision-making and shaping the policy of the Council. It ensures greater transparency in that all reports are publicly available prior to any decision being made, and all decision-making meetings are held in public.
Reports were taken to the Full Council meetings in January and March (Item 11), with final approval being sought, as stated above, in May.
Council tax frozen again in 2012/13
At the Nottinghamshire County Council budget meeting on 23rd February it was agreed to freeze county council tax for a third consecutive year. With public finances under strain across the country, the council has saved £87 million so far, £44 million of which has been reinvested directly into frontline services. In the coming financial year we will spend: -
- £2.8 million more safeguarding children;
- £5.2 million more on care for older people;
- £2.7 million more on adults with mental health & learning disabilities;
- £1.4 million more on adults with physical disabilities; and
- £1 million more to support young carers.
We are also committed to invest £289 million in capital over three years on:-
- Improving school buildings;
- Modernising day centres;
- New youth clubs;
- Improving libraries;
- Improved broadband services;
- Improved roads and pathways;
- New and improved bus stations.
Councillor Reg Adair is the council's Cabinet Member for Finance & Property. In his speech presenting the budget, he outlined the results of the council's budget consultation. In response to public feedback, we are: -
- providing additional library opening hours at 15 locations across the county;
- holding Meals at Home charges at £3.95 for 2012/13; and
- not increasing charges for Blue Badge holders in 2012/13, unlike many other local authorities.
Children's Services improving
Following this year's assessment of children's services across Nottinghamshire, Ofsted has judged the County Council as performing adequately. This marks a key improvement from last year's children's services judgement of "performing poorly" following the inadequate arrangements for safeguarding in 2010.
This year's assessment states that the improved grading reflects the better performance in local safeguarding arrangements, with steady progress in improving outcomes and a good capacity for further improvement, strengthened by a robust improvement programme.
The annual assessment of children's services is based on the inspection outcomes for all services for children provided or commissioned by Nottinghamshire County Council over the previous 12 months.
This includes the results following inspections of schools – including special schools, children's centres, fostering, adoption, child protection and safeguarding services, youth offending services and children's homes. Over the previous year, many of the services were found to be good or better, with examples of outstanding practice also being identified.
A number of strengths were identified:-
The large majority of early years and childcare continues to be good or better. Of 16 children's centres inspected for the first time during the year, almost all are good and four are outstanding;
For children under five, most early years services in nursery and primary schools are effective and more provision is good or better than in similar areas, and the national average;
Almost three-quarters of primary schools perform well with slightly more being good that last year and a higher proportion being good or outstanding than found in similar areas;
Standards are continuing to rise, and a large majority of children are making the expected progress between the ages of seven and 11;
The Council's specialist provision is almost all good or better, including all the special schools and most special sixth form provision;
For looked after children, the children's homes run buy the local authority have improved with three of the five now judged as outstanding;
A very large majority of the independent children's homes commissioned by the County Council for children in care are good or better;
Standards in GCSE examinations continue to rise, with provisional results for 2011 showing that further good improvements in the proportion of young people achieving five A* - C grades, including English and mathematics;
In addition to the improved annual assessment rating, Schools Minister Tim Loughton MP has written to the County Council to confirm that he no longer considers the previous Improvement Notice to be necessary. This was issued in June 2010 for inadequate safeguarding services.
I am delighted that our children's services are improving and I thank our staff and partners for their hard work in bringing this about. Since I became Cabinet Member in June 2009 my aim has been to improve Nottinghamshire's historically poor performance and this is a step along the way. The target now is to build on these foundations and establish Nottinghamshire children and young people's services as an example for other shire counties to follow.
Pearl Project is a success
A trail-blazing Nottinghamshire County Council initiative, which boasts blanket success in keeping girls out of the youth justice system, has received recognition from the national body which works to prevent offending and reoffending by children and young people under 18.
Last week, the Council was named as runner-up in this year’s Youth Justice Board Innovation Award for the 'Pearl Project', which looks at what works specifically for girls when it comes to keeping them out of the penal system. Part of the project, which was set up in 2008, delivers programmes in secondary schools across the county tapping into the particular needs of girls.
To date, the school programmes have had a 100% success rate in keeping girls out of the youth justice system. Research was carried out into why so many young women were breaching their statutory court orders, allowing staff to be trained on the risk factors for female offenders and the importance of gender-responsive working. Young female offenders have often had difficult early life experiences including childhood abuse such as neglect and exposure to domestic violence. This links in with issues such as low self-esteem and a lack of aspirations.
So far, 12 schools have taken part in the group sessions for 11 to 14 year olds which look at issues relevant to girls such as peer pressure, nurturing healthy relationships and friendships, sexual health and self-image. Early intervention programmes such as this are vital if we are to steer young people away from becoming involved in crime in the future.
We are delighted to have won this high profile recognition for such innovative work - there aren’t many councils across the country which have adopted such a targeted gender-specific approach with their preventative work.