September 2014

30 September 2014

Be aware of e-billing cold calls

Fareham Borough Council is warning residents to be on their guard against fake phone calls asking people to sign up for e-billing.

The fraudsters operate by pretending to be from the Council and asking if the resident has received a letter about e-billing. They then offer to set you up there and then if you give them your bank details.

Executive Member for Policy and Resources, Conservative Cllr Seán Woodward, said:” I would like to remind people to be very careful and not to give out any personal information if you receive one of these cold calls.”

If you do receive one of these phone calls please report it to the national Action Fraud hotline by ringing 0300 123 2040.

If you want to check whether a call is genuinely from the Council then please contact our Corporate Fraud Team on Tel: 01329 824667 or email [email protected]

ENDS


22 September 2014

Tell us what you think of our Council Tax Support Scheme

Fareham Borough Council would like to hear what residents think of the current Council Tax Support Scheme in a consultation running until Monday 20 October.

The Council is proposing to make a new Council Tax Support Scheme from 1 April 2015, based on the same terms as the current one. The only difference will be is that some of the allowances and support will be increased in line with Government regulations.

Executive Leader of Fareham Borough Council, Conservative Councillor Seán Woodward, said: “Before we make a new Council Tax Support Scheme we would like to know how residents think the scheme is currently working. This will help us ensure that we continue to protect the most vulnerable claimants.”

Before the current Council Tax Support scheme was introduced, the council consulted with residents and used their feedback to develop the scheme that started on 1 April 2014.

The key elements of the existing scheme are:

  • Every working age claimant pays the first 20% of their Council Tax bill
  • For those claimants living in large homes, the amount of Council Tax Support they receive is no higher than that given for a smaller house (a band C property)
  • Where claimants have other adults living with them who are not dependent upon them (for example grown up children), this non-dependent adult is expected to contribute a minimum rate of £3.70 per week towards the household council tax bill.
  • As well as pensioners, the most vulnerable working age claimants are exempt from the reductions above

You can take part in the consultation online at www.fareham.gov.uk/consultations

For more information on Council Tax Support please contact 01329 824651.

ENDS


18 September 2014

A report has praised the progress made in making Fareham Borough Council’s service more customer focused

Council Officers started working closely with the Vanguard Consultancy in 2013. The ‘Vanguard method’ considers that all services and procedures should be designed through the eyes of the customer. The following Council services have been redesigned using this method to become more customer focused, resulting in the following changes:

Benefits Service: A simpler system that is tailored to the customers’ individual needs, along with the removal of long and complex letters, has helped to considerably reduce the time it takes to process an application for housing and/or Council Tax benefit.

Housing Repairs: Instead of adopting a ‘standard fix for all’ approach, officers have been working to understand the individual needs of customers, with the freedom to solve the problem when they are at the property, however long it takes. This approach has helped to dramatically reduce the days it took to effect a repair.

Parking Enforcement: Civil Enforcement Officers have been given more freedom to talk to customers and make common sense decisions on whether to issue a penalty charge notice based on the facts in front of them. This approach has considerably reduced the number of challenges made and the amount of officer time spent dealing with them.

The Recruitment Service: The application process has moved from a ‘one size fits all’ approach towards a bespoke service that is tailored to the individual nature of the job.

All employees within the individual service areas will now learn the new methods of working.

Early work on understanding the needs of planning applicants has also resulted in a reduction in the time it takes to process a planning application. Further efforts will make sure the process is easy, quick, clear and fair.

Executive Leader of Fareham Borough Council, Conservative Councillor Seán Woodward, said: “Vanguard is a fundamental rethink of service provision through the eyes of the customer. Fareham’s “whole organisation” approach is different from most other Council interventions. It is reassuring to see that it has already made a positive difference in a number of service areas and I am looking forward to seeing how all of our other services can be made more customer focused.”

Whilst the main reason for using Vanguard has been to improve the customer’s experience, to date, efficiency savings of £168,000 a year have been identified as a result of the changes made to the way the Council delivers its services which far more than covers the costs of the consultancy.

You can read the report in full at www.fareham.gov.uk

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11 September 2014

Be aware of Council Tax scammers

Fareham Borough Council is warning residents to be on their guard against bogus companies offering Council Tax refunds or threatening them with fines.

The fraudsters operate by ringing or texting residents, pretending to be from the local council, valuation office or another company which deals with changes to Council Tax banding. They suggest that the resident is either due a council tax refund, or owe more council tax and must pay it to them to avoid a fine. They will then ask for personal and bank details to allow them to process the refund or payment.

Executive Member for Policy and Resources, Conservative Councillor Seán Woodward said, “We never cold call, text or email residents requesting bank details. If you receive one of these cold calls please do not give any personal information and end the call as quickly as you can.”

If Council Tax refunds are due or there is any change to your bill then the Council will send a statement in the post to you to explain the situation.

If you are in any doubt as to the authenticity of a call concerning your council tax account, please contact the Local Taxation Team office on Tel: 01329 824651 or e-mail [email protected]

Any genuine direct phone number given out by a Council Tax officer will be in the format “01329 824XXX”.

To report a suspected incident of the scam, please contact Hampshire County Council Trading Standards by ringing Consumer Direct on 08454 04 05 06.

ENDS


2 September 2014

Nominations for the third Solent Design Awards are now open

The third biennial Solent Design Awards are once again looking for stunning buildings, places or spaces across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight which have inspired, excited or uplifted their communities.

Sponsored by Bouygues and organised by the Partnership for Urban South Hampshire (PUSH), the Awards aim to encourage quality place-making schemes which create special places and spaces in which people want to live and work, and which add a special something to our ordinary daily lives.

As Conservative Councillor Sean Woodward, PUSH Chairman, says: “It’s not just iconic buildings and spaces that we’re looking for. Our 2012 winners included Forest Park School in Totton, Sunfield Close in Andover and the Sea City Museum in Southampton. Our judges will be looking for buildings or places of outstanding design standards, which have a positive impact on their surrounding communities.”

As in previous years, the competition invites submissions in a number of categories by designers across Hampshire. There will be a Quality Places Award for the best scheme, a new Best Urban Design Award, sponsored by the Urban Design Group, and a People’s Choice Award which will be chosen by the scheme voted top by the public.

Any building or development completed after 31st March 2012 is eligible and can be anything, from a public or commercial building to a housing development or street scene improvement scheme. These can be nominated by architects, contractors, clients or local authorities. You’ll find full details at www.solentdesignawards.org.uk External Hyperlink and submissions must be received by 4.00 pm on 30th September. The shortlist will be published on 8th October, with the Public Vote beginning on 13th October and closing on the 3rd November, in time for the Grand Awards Ceremony on the Mary Rose on the20th November.

ENDS

Editor’s Note:

1.    The main sponsor of the 2014 Solent Design Awards is Bouygues UK, an award-winning construction, development and regeneration company that delivers projects across the public, commercial and private sectors.

2.    Initiated by PUSH, the first Solent Design Awards in 2010 were held to celebrate what good building design can add to the community; the schemes entered were judged in terms of the quality they added to their location as well as building design. In the current difficult economic climate, good design matters more than ever, adding value without increasing costs.


2 September 2014

Progress on Solent Enterprise Zone praised by Council

Councillors have welcomed the progress at Hampshire’s most significant employment site and are working with partners on long-term plans to unlock more local jobs and investment.

Fareham Borough Conservative Council leader Seán Woodward praised the work taking place on the Solent Enterprise Zone at Daedalus, where major investment has been made to create new employment and training opportunities and attract new businesses to the site.

The authority is working with Gosport Borough Council, Hampshire County Council, the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) on long-term plans to transform the former airbase into a business destination with the potential to create 3,500 new jobs.
Progress being made on key developments includes:

Partners are looking to build on this progress and are considering long-term options for part of the site based within the Borough of Fareham, one of which could include the transfer of parts of the airfield and surrounding plots of land around to Fareham Borough Council.

Executive Leader of Fareham Borough Council, Conservative Councillor Seán Woodward, said: The future of the Solent Enterprise Zone and the creation of thousands of high skilled and well paid jobs is a high priority for the Council, and I am very pleased to say that the hard work and significant investment in the site by all of the organisations involved is starting to show some real and tangible evidence of success.

“CEMAST opens for business this week and the innovation centre is rapidly taking shape and the Homes and Communities Agency has been making good progress in developing a master plan for Daedalus West External Hyperlink.”

He added: “A range of options are being considered and one of these is for a major part of the site to transfer from the Homes and Communities Agency to  Fareham Borough Council. Although there is some way to go with discussions around these options a transfer would represent a very exciting opportunity should it come to fruition. We are still working on the details of these options and more information will be made available in due course.”

ENDS