The Sussex Police and Crime Panel met for the first time on Monday 26 November, and heard from newly elected Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), Katy Bourne.
The Panel is made up of councillors from each of the 15 local authorities in East and West Sussex, plus two independent members. For East Sussex County Council the two members are Cllr David Elkin and Cllr Rosalyn St Pierre.
Former chairman of the shadow panel West Sussex County Councillor Brad Watson OBE was elected as Chairman, and East Sussex County Councillor David Elkin was elected as Vice Chair. The Panel also confirmed the co-option of Graham Hill and Sandra Prail as independent members.
Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne, who officially took up her post on Thursday 22 November, outlined her vision for the role and took questions from members of the Panel.
Scrutinising the Police and Crime Commissioner's plans will be a key role of the Sussex Police and Crime Panel, and although it cannot veto her budget, it can exercise some control over the amount the Commissioner wants to raise from council tax.
The Panel also agreed how it would handle complaints against the PCC, and discussed their role in confirming senior appointments within the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner.
Chairman Brad Watson OBE said, “At this historic first formal meeting of the Police and Crime Panel, I want to thank members for their support and confidence.
“We will create an effective and dedicated panel, which will hold the Police and Crime Commissioner to account for her decisions, on behalf of the residents of Sussex.”
The Panel next meets on 11 January 2013. Meetings are webcast and open to the public, and take place at East Sussex County Council in County Hall, Lewes. You can view a webcast of the November's meeting on the Public-i website:
For the past two years the county has seen bad winter weather and heavy snowfall and so the County Council wants as many parents as possible to sign up for the warnings.
Three years ago the council provided schools with a new secure online system giving them a faster and far more efficient way of letting people know if they have no option but to close the school.
The system headteachers now use notifies the County Council, automatically alerts local radio stations including BBC Sussex and Heart FM, and updates the County Council's website – all within minutes.
It also sends an email to any parent who has signed up for closure alerts relating to their school. The alert system currently has more than 7,500 subscriptions.
Cllr Nick Bennett, the council's Lead Member for Schools and Learning Effectiveness said:
“Headteachers will do all they can to keep schools open because we don't want the education of our children disrupted any more than is absolutely necessary. However, sometimes the conditions are so bad, that they have no choice but to close.
“When that happens schools have their own mechanisms for contacting parents, but the system we have introduced makes it easy for them to get the message out quickly to those who need to know.”
If there is any sort of repeat of last year's bad weather parents can confidently rely on the County Council website as a definitive guide on which schools have had to close, Cllr Bennett added. It will be automatically and regularly updated with closure information as schools notify us.
But he added he would also encourage parents to sign up now for alerts relating to their school. “I would really urge parents not to wait until the snow starts falling but to go to our website, find their school and sign up for email alerts now. This will ensure that they will get an email from us if their school notifies us they are having to close.”
The new system was introduced after concerns raised several years ago about inconsistencies in the previous system and the speed with which parents could find out about closures. Some parents told us they were not getting the message as clearly as they could because the system relied on head teachers phoning radio stations individually.
Under the system a head teacher enters the details on to a secure special page on the council's website. This then sends the information to everyone who needs to know as well as updating a closure list on the website itself. It also emails local radio stations so they can broadcast the information.
For more information including how to sign up for closure alerts, visit www.eastsussex.gov.uk/alerts
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