Time for a new look at children’s services
Historically the council’s children’s services have come under criticism from Ofsted, being classified as inadequate in 2010/2011.
In 2013 almost 500 children were placed into care by Blackpool Social Services, the cost then was predicted to be £3.5m per year paid for out of the public purse.
Ofsted now confirm the service is heading in the right direction, however the number of children in care has more than doubled since 2013 and the annual cost due to additional staff etc has risen to almost £15m per year.
Blackpool has limited looked-after children spaces so most are sent to homes all over Lancashire. These are run by other local authorities charging whatever they think is appropriate. Blackpool Council also has to pay for parents’ travel expenses to visit their children even if the parents have moved away.
The council blames social deprivation and the influx of transients for rising numbers of looked-after children.
All elected councillors are corporate parents and it is our responsibility that every child in the town gets the best protection and support, whether in or out of care. Cost should not be the issue.
But it is financially stupid to continue to pay costs we have no control over to provide shelter for these children outside of the borough.
We should apply for funding or consider borrowing to build or convert our own premises to make savings would ultimately pay for our own facilities.
However the real solution is to fix the root cause.
Deprivation doesn’t mean children are being mistreated. Many low income families have loving, caring relationships.
It’s the abuse of drugs and alcohol that are the main reasons and this council, together with the police, have to take more aggressive and continuous action to eradicate the problem.
We must also step up our rehabilitation, adoption and fostering services and reach out to parents unable to cope and aim to get as many children as possible back into loving families.
Link town retail with rail
Blackpool continues to be a mixed bag of development and a town with no real central heart.
Our main retail sector is a long way from our only railway station and it doesn’t enjoy a full bus service right to its doors.
We need an entrepreneur to invest in extending the existing Houndshill Centre in order to provide a more enhanced offering that will both improve the current retail offer and attract new shoppers from out of town.
However it’s no good building new retail developments if we don’t include a much more accessible and frequent transport service.
This would be one that not only serves the local community but also provides easy access for non resident shoppers.
Blackpool desperately needs a new transport interchange and we promised to deliver this in our own manifesto.
Fortunately our efforts did attract the extra funding needed to extend the tram system up Talbot Road.
If planned right this new track can provide a smooth exchange for rail travellers arriving in Blackpool but it is essential that we also incorporate a bus interchange terminal at the same location that will provide a full blown transport service for residents and tourists.
This would this bring the Talbot Gateway Central Business District alive and perhaps the council could manage to rent out the units that are still empty in that area.
This proposed interchange was a large part of my own group’s commitment and plan to revitalise not just this part of town but to bring some common sense to our transport and retail offer.
Performing arts potential
I have long believed Blackpool could benefit from a Performing Arts School.
This could deliver a range of academically recognised courses that include drama, dance, music, vocal, theatre technology and audio-visual recording.
Research proves young individuals involved in singing, music and drama and the arts demonstrate a positive effect on their emotional behaviour and development.
Continuous study proves performing arts events have a primary function in cognitive, social, motor, emotional and language development.
Dancing for instance is recognised as an all-around exercise.
Not only can we encourage, guide and nurture our young performers of the future we can also enrich their lives and minds.
Throughout 2016 I will be personally seeking out like minded people to find out ways through the Free School Initiative to see how Blackpool can establish its own Performing Arts School of Excellence.