As 2018 draws to a close, Bracknell Forest Council is celebrating another bumper year of success – including being crowned Council of the Year and a momentous visit by Her Majesty The Queen.
The successful year includes a number of initiatives and accolades and also saw the council further extend its work to provide modern, cost effective services as part of its transformation programme.
In 2018, the council achieved:
- being crowned Council of the Year in March by iESE
- a once in a generation visit by Her Majesty The Queen in October to further celebrate Bracknell’s regenerated town centre
- its £11.6m transformation programme savings target – six months ahead of schedule– to save the council money but, equally important, to improve and modernise services for residents
- a new partnership with Everyone Active to run Coral Reef Waterworld, Downshire Golf Course and Bracknell Leisure Centre – which has already seen a £2.8m improvement plan of the leisure centre started
- the installation of self-service technology in all the borough’s 9 libraries to make using services, like checking in and out books, even easier and to allow librarians and skilled staff to focus on professional tasks
- safeguarding the future of Easthampstead Park Conference Centre as a community facility by selling it to Active Hospitality, which has already started work on exciting plans. This work will refurbish the existing bedrooms and create an additional 67 bedrooms, a new reception, lounge, café and afternoon tea area; a revamped restaurant and dedicated bar area and improved meeting space. A new health and fitness centre and beauty spa will also be created – all of which will be accessible to local residents
- a sell-out Bracknell Half Marathon at The Lexicon in May, where around 1,000 people pounded the streets. The start and finish line were both at The Lexicon
- the opening of a new state-of-the-art chapel at Easthampstead Park Cemetery and Crematorium in September to give families and friends more choice when saying goodbye to loved ones
- the merger of town centre based council staff in to one building – this means the majority of council staff are now in Time Square saving the council around £400,000 a year and allowing Easthampstead House to be repurposed. The council has this month (December) signed a 5 year lease with ProjeKt for Easthampstead House so that it can be transformed in to a base for more than 35 fledgling businesses – creating around 150 jobs and bolstering the local economy
- the council’s community safety team were awarded an LPA Commander’s Commendation in recognition of their work with the police in the autumn. The award recognised the team’s efforts in working with the police to reduce crime and anti-social behaviour in Bracknell Forest
- six of the borough’s parks were recognised for excellence in the Green Flag Awards. Lily Hill Park, South Hill Park, Pope’s Meadow, Snaprails Park, Westmorland Park and Shepherd Meadows & Sandhurst Memorial Park were all given the mark of quality in the summer
- Larchwood, which provides short breaks for children and young people with additional needs, was rated outstanding by Ofsted for the fifth consecutive year in March
- a new wedding ceremony room was unveiled at South Hill Park in May
- in November we launched our partnership with Dogs for Good provides residents with a community dog service to help them increase their independence and improve their wellbeing. The service is the first of its kind in the UK
This year also saw 99% of early years providers rated as good or outstanding.
2018 saw the council granted £754,000 of funding from Department for Transport to repair potholes, bridges and other necessary highway works across the borough.
Bracknell Forest’s Community Safety Partnership was the only one in the Thames Valley to show a reduction in recorded victim-based crime (for 2017/18), this is in contrast to recorded victim-based crime for the Thames Valley increasing by 8% for the same period.
In September, the council celebrated with its partners at The Lexicon that the regenerated town centre had received more than 16m visits in its first year– surpassing initial expectations by more than 1m visits.
We were awarded £50,000 funding from the Social Care Digital Innovation Programme which will be used to showcase information on locally available community groups via interactive screens across the borough. As one of only 9 authorities in the country to be awarded funding, we will be using it to help reduce social isolation by connecting more people to their community.
We were nominated as ‘Digital Council of the Year’ in the #DL100 which recognises councils that have delivered measurable digital transformation in the past year.
We launched Bracknell Forest Help Yourself, our innovative new website that everyone can use to help them stay fit, healthy and connected to their community. To complement this, we also set up two new services to support residents further, our community connectors which people can self-refer to, and social prescribers, which has been set up alongside local GPs allowing them to refer people with a health need for social inclusion. Each of these services give vulnerable residents the help they need, when they need it, enabling them to maintain their independence for as long as possible.
Additionally, in November we celebrated a year since we launched the family safeguarding model in Bracknell Forest. Since the launch of the model, which aims to keep more vulnerable children and families together, it has contributed towards a 22% decrease in the number of children needing child protection plans in the borough, which means more children are able to remain safely at home with a reduced level of council intervention.
Cllr Paul Bettison, OBE, Leader of Bracknell Forest Council, said:
“It has been another year of achievements in Bracknell Forest and I’m so pleased that we have been able to deliver all these wonderful things for our residents, businesses and visitors in 2018.
“The pinnacle has to be the visit from Her Majesty The Queen, which was a truly memorable experience for everyone involved and for everyone who turned out to see her visit our new town centre.
“I’d like to thank everyone who helped make all these successes possible. No matter how successful we are, we know we can’t be complacent so we’re looking forward to bringing our residents, visitors and businesses even greater achievements in 2019.”