Cllr Allen Clarke was elected to Nottinghamshire County Council in June 2009 to represent the Carlton East electoral division. Prior to this, he worked as a secondary school teacher in the Mansfield area for 35 years, specialising in vocational subjects such as Leisure & Tourism and Health & Social Care. He pioneered the introduction of CPVEs and GNVQs to the school curriculum.
Between 2009 and 2012 Allen served as a Deputy Cabinet Member for Children & Young People’s Services, with a particular focus on Childrens’ Social Services. Following Nottinghamshire County Council's change to a committee system of governance in May 2012, he became Vice Chairman of the Children & Young People's Services Committee. He is also Chairman of the Corporate Parenting Sub-Committee.
Allen has been married for more than 20 years and has one step-daughter and four grandchildren. He has lived in the Carlton/Gedling area all of his life. He was a part-time youth leader in Bestwood, Netherfield and Calverton for 25 years. Outside of his council work, Allen enjoys gardening, travelling and playing golf.
Allen'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 Carlton East 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.
Allen'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.
New telephone number for Nottinghamshire County Council
Nottinghamshire County Council has launched a new telephone number 0300 500 80 80 which is cheaper than the previous 08449 number. The change to 0300 500 80 80 means that wherever you live in Nottinghamshire, you'll pay a local call rate when you get in touch with the Council. Calls to 0300 numbers are included in all-inclusive minutes and discount schemes offered by telecoms and mobile phone providers, meaning that some calls are even free of charge.
To celebrate, the County Council's Customer Service Centre has revealed some of the strangest requests it has received since it was launched in 2008, including a lady requesting an audience with The Queen and someone asking if it's okay to exercise their kestrel at a local tip!
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.
Court injunction tackles car crusing
A court injunction introduced nearly five months ago has put the brakes on car cruising in Netherfield and Colwick. More than 200 vehicles had been known to gather at Victoria Retail Park, in Netherfield, on Sunday evenings with groups also meeting during the week. The noise and antisocial behaviour generated by the cars prompted scores of complaints to both Nottinghamshire Police and local authorities.
In response, South Nottinghamshire Community Safety Partnership successfully applied for an injunction banning drivers and passengers from taking part in a "car cruise" in an area stretching from Burton Joyce down to Colwick.
Councillor Mick Murphy, Chairman of the Community Safety Committee at Nottinghamshire County Council, said: "The every day lives of local people in Netherfield and Colwick have been blighted by the activities of car cruisers and I am delighted for the residents and businesses that our action appears to have successfully tackled the issue.
"Prior to this injunction, the County Council and its partners have been proactive in dealing with a similar problem near to Junction 27 of the M1. Our action in both cases should send a clear message to those drivers who continue to behave irresponsibly that, wherever they surface, we will continue to drive this problem out of Nottinghamshire all together."
A-level overall pass rate increases
As Vice-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%.
Having sat on a number of additional Adoption Panel meetings in the past twelve months, I am delighted to report that as a result of these extra panels 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.
Cllr Allen Clarke and wife Cheryl with Amber (left) and Ben Lawton in front of the new scout hut gates
1st Gedling Scout & Guide Group
During the Jubilee celebrations I was please to visit 1st Gedling Scouts & Guides to see the new gates which have recently been installed outside their scout hut. They have made a fabulous job of incorporating the design of competition winner Ben Lawton (aged 8) from the Cubs Unit.
The new gates will enable the groups to have a safer area to play outside and also make the hut more secure as theirs was one of a number of premises that were recently broken into in the Gedling area. The gates have been paid for by a number of donations including a Councillors' Divisional Fund donation from myself.
Details of this and other Councillors' Divisional Fund (CDF) awards can be found by visiting our Councillors' Divisional Fund web page.
Refurbished play park in Burton Joyce
The newly refurbished play park on the Roberts Recreation Ground in Burton Joyce has been given the seal of approval by local schoolchildren. The £100,000 revamp has seen a zip wire, basket swing, assault wall and trampolines installed as well as a large area landscaped.
The project was jointly funded by Nottinghamshire County Council's Local Improvement Scheme and Community Spaces Big Lottery Fund. The work was carried out by Groundwork Greater Nottingham.
A group of local parents and Burton Joyce Parish Council also contributed to the funding with a number of fundraising events.
Olympic torch bearer Harry Clark attended the opening ceremony and led a procession of children from the park to the primary school.
This has been a marvellous community project with young and old getting involved in the design, equipment choice and fundraising. The park has been here since 1931 and these latest improvements have really impressed everyone who uses it.
Phase 2 of the project is due to commence in September 2012 and will focus on updating the toddler's play area, public toilets, an all weather play surface and landscaping.
Council adopts a committee system
With approval at the Council’s Annual General Meeting on 17th May 2012, Nottinghamshire County Council exercised its new power under the Localism Act 2011 to adopt a committee system of decision-making. This replaces the 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 most decision-making meetings are held in public.
Reports were taken to the Full Council meetings in January and March, with final approval being given, 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.
During November 2011, I was pleased to visit the Gedling Almshouses to see the recent restoration of footpaths which has been welcomed by both residents and trustees alike.
The £20,000 project repaired footpaths that had become chipped and broken and a safety hazard for the residents at the houses in Arnold Lane.
Built in 1936, the Almshouses were originally home to miners’ families and currently house 16 residents. The charity had waited almost 20 years to have the work carried out and were extremely grateful to the Nottinghamshire County Council Local Improvement Scheme for doing such a wonderful job. The residents are delighted with the finished look as it had been a worry for a number of years when the paths became slippery and uneven during the winter months.
The Almshouses have been a distinctive landmark in Gedling for the last 75 years and they provide such an important facility for retired, elderly people in the community that it is vital we maintain them.
Preserving heritage in Burton Joyce
During October 2011 I was pleased to attend a meeting of the Burton Joyce and Bulcote Local History Society where I presented them with a lap top, screen, projector, laminator and display case following a £4,000 grant from the Nottinghamshire County Council Local Improvement Scheme.
Councillor Allen Clarke (second left) and Councillor Richard Butler (far left) with Burton Joyce and Bulcote Local History Society members
This thriving history society meets regularly at the Carnarvon Room in Chestnut Grove and has been running for more than 30 years and hopes to keep the heritage of Burton Joyce and Bulcote alive.
The funding is also helping to produce a booklet Pub Walks from Burton Joyce, which highlights 14 walks from Burton Joyce to villages including Gedling, Lowdham, Gunthorpe, Lambley and Woodborough. It is hoped that the booklet will attract more visitors to the area.
Village life often revolves around groups like this and the artefacts that are on display give a wonderful insight into the history of the area.
Nottinghamshire County Council’s Local Improvement Scheme is proud of the projects it has funded over the years, all of which help to keep the heritage and culture of Nottinghamshire alive.
Success! The A453 gets the green light!
I am absolutely delighted by the Chancellor’s announcement that the Government is fast-tracking the widening of the A453. This is the best Christmas gift that businesses and residents in Nottinghamshire could have, bringing a £540m boost to the East Midlands economy.
In May this year, Nottinghamshire County Council pledged £20m towards the scheme if it was bought forward. Since that pledge was made, the campaign to widen the road has garnered support from the local business community and other local councils, including a pledge of £500,000 towards the scheme from Rushcliffe Borough Council in October.
The A453 has been on the Council’s wishlist since the 1970s. At last it is going to happen and I am thrilled for local businesses and commuters alike. I want to particularly thank East Midlands Airport, Boots, RH Freight, Hardstaffs, the Nottingham Post newspaper and partner authorities for their support in this campaign.
In the five years up to October 2010, there were 185 accidents involving personal injury on just the Nottinghamshire part of the A453. The Nottinghamshire section of the road is the second most congested part of the national road network after a short section of the M25. This congestion has been costing larger businesses as much as £100,000 a year because of increased fuel usage, difficulty reaching customers, abandoned journeys and accident costs.
Finally, we can look forward to smoother and safer journeys on this vital road link through Nottinghamshire from the M1 and I am immensely pleased that the Government has listened to our determined campaign.
Burton Road bus plug to be opened permanently
The Burton Road bus plug in Gedling will be opened on a permanent basis following a six month experiment.
The bus plug was introduced in 2007 as part of the A612 Gedling Integrated Transport Scheme but earlier this year, following significant public consultation, Nottinghamshire County Council introduced an experimental Traffic Regulation Order (TRO) as well as a 7.5T environmental weight restriction.
Extensive traffic counts and surveys were undertaken to check on traffic volumes and patterns in Burton Road and results showed negligible impact on bus users and a similar impact on congestion or road safety.
There has been overwhelming public support for the reopening of the bus plug in Burton Road. The recent trial has proved that congestion at the Burton Road/Shearing Hill junction has not returned to the levels experienced prior to the May 2007 opening of the relief road.
During the experimental reopening almost 600 comments were made by members of the public, with 95% in favour of making the experiment permanent. The vast majority of responses received were from Burton Joyce residents and surrounding areas.
The main reasons for supporting the reopening of the bus plug were convenience and the reduced mileage on single journeys. As well as the re-opening of the bus plug and the introduction of a 7.5T weight restriction being made permanent, it is also recommended the Burton Road carriageway narrowing and signal arrangement be retained.
£2.5 million boost for Supporting People
Despite local budget pressures and a reduced grant from central Government, Nottinghamshire County Council has invested an extra £2.5 million in its Supporting People programme.
Supporting People is a national programme that provides housing related support to help vulnerable people live independently. It will see its Government grant in Nottinghamshire reduced to £17.6 million this year, threatening the County Council’s previous year’s Supporting People spend of £22.5 million.
However, thanks to a new £1.5 million investment from the local NHS, plus a further £1 million diverted from the County Council budget, the Government’s allocation has been given a vital boost in Nottinghamshire. This limits the reduction in the County’s Supporting People budget to just over 10%, from £22.5 million to £20.11 million. The restricted budget reduction has also been made possible by the County Council’s decision early this year, following public consultation, to keep its savings on Supporting People to £10 million over the next three years rather than two higher reduction options of £12.5 million and £15 million.
These funding measures support feedback gained from a second, two-month public consultation on Supporting People services this year (in Feb/March), to form new proposals which went before Full Council on 30th June 2011. These proposals ensure that:-
- Most accommodation based services continue to be funded, albeit at reduced levels;
- ‘Floating support’ services, which offer support to people in their own homes, will be delivered consistently across issues of homelessness prevention and offender, drug and alcohol, gypsy and traveller and young people’s services;
- Mental health services are reviewed and delivered more efficiently;
- Young people’s services are reviewed for greater efficiency;
- Community alarm and warden services for older people are replaced with a new short term service targeted at helping vulnerable people to remain independent in their own homes.
We’ve talked to those who use the services, to our District Council partners, to project providers and voluntary and community groups, including church leaders, to find ways to make savings through efficiencies. We will target the money at front line services that meet the needs of those who are most vulnerable and in greatest need.
Nottinghamshire was successful in securing Government money under Supporting People when the programme first started eight years ago but we’ve seen this central funding steadily fall by nearly £11 million since that time. We believe that after the £10 million savings have been made, the level of funding in Nottinghamshire for these services will still compare well with other Council areas.
St George's Centre in Netherfield
In May 2011, I was delighted to support the St George's Centre in Netherfield with a contribution from my Councillors' Divisional Fund to enable them to provide a free WiFi in their newly refurbished coffee bar area.
The idea is that the local community can now catch up with friends and relatives on their WiFi gadgets whilst relaxing or working in the new seating area. People use the seats whilst enjoying a bacon cob or freshly cooked breakfast during the morning or waiting to take part in one of the many local community activities taking place in the centre throughout the day.
The new installation will open up wi-fi to the public and further the development of our community centre.
At Full Council on 31st March 2011 I presented to the Chairman three petitions with a total of 119 signatures from residents requesting that the Council improve road safety by placing double yellow lines at three locations in the Phoenix Ward of Gedling due to vehicles parking obstructively along Westdale Lane East.
At the Full Council meeting on 19th May 2011 the Cabinet Member for Transport & Highways, Councillor Richard Jackson, responded that at the current time all requests for waiting restrictions are being added to a list for implementation to be considered when resources become available. He said that all of the locations where the petitioners had requested restrictions were already on this list.
Councillor Jackson said that the accident records at all three locations do not reveal a specified accident problem and therefore they are not considered a priority. However, the list of sites will be monitored and reviewed and if there are any significant changes at these locations they will be assessed and prioritised accordingly.
Councillor Jackson stated that the Highways Department would also contact the Police to see if they are able to offer any assistance to reduce the obstructive parking.
Nottinghamshire early years workers praised for leading speech and language development
On 9th March 2011, in my capacity as a Deputy Cabinet Member for Children & Young People's Services I presented 15 early years workers with 'Language for Life' accreditations at a training event attended by head teachers, staff from children’s centres, teachers, health visitors and childcare workers.
The accreditations were given to childcare workers from private, voluntary and independent childcare settings across the county including staff from pre-schools, day nurseries, childminders and also staff from Sure Start children’s centres.
The accreditation shows that the workers have worked in partnership with speech and language therapists, teachers and parents to become a ‘Language Rich’ setting - where children are surrounded by talk.
Language Leads within childcare settings are part of Nottinghamshire’s 'Language for Life' strategy which was officially launched at the event to coincide with the Communications Trust 'Hello' year of communication campaign.
Jean Gross, the National Communication Champion appointed by the government spoke at the event and praised Nottinghamshire for their involvement in the 'Hello' campaign and launch of the 'Language for Life' strategy.
Jean said ‘I want every child to get the support they need as they learn to communicate. Right now, too many don’t – and the effects are lifelong.
I am therefore delighted to support Nottinghamshire’s brilliant 'Language for Life' strategy. It will help hundreds of local children, and show other areas what they too could be doing to tackle this important issue during 2011, the national year of communication and beyond.
Speech and language play a key part in young children's development and I look forward to seeing how the strategy develops in the future.
Tree planting ceremony - Jackie Bells playing fields, Netherfield
Tree-planting ceremony at Jackie Bells Playing Fields, Netherfield
On Saturday 30th January I helped with the planting of ten trees at the Jackie Bells Play Area in Netherfield. These included birch, rowan, hawthorn, an edible cherry and a Christmas tree and will help to improve the environment of the park. The planting event was organised by The Friends of Jackie Bells Play Area and Gedling Borough Council, with funding for the trees being supplied by members of Nottinghamshire County Council (through our Councillor Divisional Funds - see below), Gedling Borough Council, Netherfield Forum and Greenwood Community Forest.
The play area was reopened in May last year after new equipment had been installed and the play area redesigned following a consultation with local children. Volunteers at the planting event included children from Netherfield Primary School.
New trail for walkers and cyclists unveiled at Stoke Bardolph
Walkers can enjoy the stunning scenery along the River Trent, thanks to a new trail built near Stoke Lock in Stoke Bardolph.
Cllr Allen Clarke with project team members at the opening of the new trail
The mile long trail, called the 'multi-user route' because it can be used by walkers and cyclist, cost £175,000 to build. It can be accessed from Stoke Lock, and is great for a family day out, or simply a walk along the embankment to enjoy the great outdoors.
The route was funded by a number of organisations including Nottinghamshire County Council's Building Better Communities initiative, East Midlands Development Agency (EMDA), Severn Trent Water & Gedling Borough Council. The project was managed by Groundwork Greater Nottingham.
This new route is perfect for anyone wanting to go for a leisurely stroll or perhaps a more energetic bike ride. It provides the perfect place to enjoy the stunning scenery and I hope visitors will come along and enjoy all the site has to offer.