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					Proper Gander: Issue No. 157 (13/02/09)

All that gritters is not gold ....................................................... 2
Love is in the air... ..................................................................... 3
Watts On? Energy Awareness Campaign ............................... 3
Read all about it... ..................................................................... 4
FEAST on this… ........................................................................ 5
Benedict Allen charity fundraising night ................................ 5
Wihan String Quartet ................................................................ 6
Somerset ‘Scores on the Doors’ scheme ............................... 6
Top 100 Best Play Spaces in Somerset! ................................. 7
Cancer Research charity event ................................................ 8
Valentine’s walk is good for the heart ..................................... 8
Do you have a disability? Know your rights... ....................... 9
The greatest of them all .......................................................... 10
Pregnant? – Apply for your grant today! .............................. 10
What’s going on in Wellington?............................................. 11
30 seconds with... Round 3 winners - The Land Girls ......... 12
Further Information ................................................................. 13
What is Proper Gander? ......................................................... 13
How do I submit a comment or question? ............................ 14
View previous editions ........................................................... 15

All that gritters is not gold

Last week I wrote about the snow and its unforeseen and perhaps
unremembered ability to distract us from the tyrannies of modern life and
put us back in touch with some simple pleasures; such as a walk with the

That was written on Thursday and was referring to the snow of the
previous Monday.

The snow that arrived Thursday night was much more serious and whole
communities were cut off and, in some cases, were left without power,
supplies or services. (It is not true that it was more serious because snow
had finally reached County Hall!) An email I received this week from
Steve Jackson, the Head Teacher of The Blue School, Wells, described a
„snowbound‟ situation not unlike my own last Friday morning.

Steve is happy for this to be quoted as long as I emphasise these
services have not been developed in isolation by the school, but are the
product of our partnership with ELIM and IT Services.

“Blackberry alarm set to 5.30am. Switched on Eee PC and explored three
meteorological sites whilst listening to local radio announcements via
Internet. Leadership Team exchange sharing news on local area
conditions via Blackberry. Checked bus services via SMS. Patched into
school CCTV via web and undertook site inspection. Blackberry
conversation with Chair of Govs to agree closure.

“Blackberry group lists used to instruct Leadership Team to trigger
cascade of news to all staff. Blackberry pre-programmed numbers used to
communicate decision to radio stations, county officers and key service

“School website updated with details of closure. Patched into school
telephone system to change initial greeting to pre-programmed message
confirming closure. Remote access via VPN to SIMS to send over 1600
SMS text messages to parents confirming closure. All users outlook web
access email sent to all staff confirming arrangements. I may even get up

Perhaps the snow had not entirely distracted us from the tyrannies of
modern life ….
As I was writing this, the power went down at County Hall. This morning
we are almost back to normal thanks to a huge effort by staff and
colleagues in Southwest One. A special commendation to those staff in
Facilities Management, who have been working for the last 24 hours! Well


Love is in the air...

As some of you are aware, it is Valentine‟s Day this Saturday.

So, Proper Gander has delved deep into the history and myths of this now
popular (or not so popular depending on who you are) tradition.

The origins of St. Valentine‟s Day are not clear. Some trace it to an
ancient Roman festival called Lupercalia.

Other experts connect the event with one or more saints of the early
Christian church. Still others link it with an old English belief that birds
choose their mates on 14 February.

The tradition probably came from a combination of all three!

But who is St. Valentine?

The most popular legends state that just before his beheading for refusing
to deny Christ, Valentine wrote a letter to his beloved, which was, signed
„From Your Valentine.‟ And the tradition begins...

If you‟re thinking of sending your loved one flowers this Valentine‟s Day,
you may want to brush up on the language of flowers... but watch out for
the yellow carnations!

Red Rose – Passionate love
Red Carnation – My heart aches for you
Daffodils – You‟re the only one for me
Blue Hyacinths – Our love is constant
Sunflower – I adore you
Yellow Carnation – You disappoint me!

Happy Valentine‟s Day!

Watts On? Energy Awareness Campaign

A big thank you to everyone who completed the Energy Awareness
Campaign, we had over 300 responses.

The £50 Marks and Spencer‟s gift voucher that was up for grabs went to
Mhairi Law from the Supporting People Team.

The results showed that 68 per cent of you have heard of the Watts On?
Campaign and 70 per cent are very motivated to save energy and do
what you can, which is brilliant news.

Impressively, 82 per cent think it‟s very important for individuals to save
energy in the workplace, but the most common reason for not doing more
is lack of awareness of how to do it (52 per cent) or simply forgetting (20
per cent).

To find out more, or to get a copy of the results in full, contact Abigail
Lamberti on (01823) 355425. We are also pleased to welcome another
seven Energy Champions to the team! Energy Champions provide a vital
role in encouraging colleagues to save energy at Somerset County

In 2010 Somerset County Council will be required to take part in a
mandatory carbon-trading scheme - The Carbon Reduction Commitment.

With demand for energy predicted to increase by seven per cent per year,
it is important that we all do our bit to save energy by switching off
electrical equipment and lighting when they do not need to be on.

If you are interested in becoming an Energy Champion, contact

Submitted by Abigail Lamberti

Read all about it...

The Six Book Challenge, a UK-wide annual incentive scheme for less
confident adult readers, has now begun.

Last year, over 7,000 adults took part through libraries, colleges,
community education, prisons and the workplace.

The Challenge, which invites adults to read six books and record their
reading in a diary in order to receive a certificate, is part of The Reading
Agency‟s Vital Link Libraries and Adult Literacy Programme. Somerset
Skills and Learning Reading Group, which meet every Wednesday at
Frome Library, have been supporting The Six Book Challenge.
Frome-based librarian, Wendy Miller-Williams, said: “It‟s great that this
group has embraced this scheme so enthusiastically.

All too often libraries are seen as irrelevant to adults with reading and
writing difficulties, whereas the team here are working hard to improve the
collections, which include books and CDs, to cater for all abilities.”

It is not too late to join this year‟s Six Book Challenge. Tutors or support
workers who have groups or individuals who would benefit from the
scheme can contact Jackie Dunn, Team Librarian Service Development,
on (01935) 431847 or email for more

Submitted by Wendy Miller-Williams

FEAST on this…

The Blue School in Wells is the first school in England to lead a FEAST
centre, which offers a range of NVQ qualifications in catering and
hospitality, including apprenticeships and Train to Gain programmes.

Somerset Skills & Learning (SS&L) work in partnership with The Blue
School, who have extensive experience of work-based learning and
training in Somerset.

The FEAST centre is available as a local training centre for both those
who work inside and outside of the education sector.

SS&L and The Blue School are looking forward to working with local
businesses and services to provide local training opportunities for anyone
with an interest in catering and hospitality.

Anyone wishing to pursue a career in catering should get in touch with
Lisa Western, Catering Manager, on (01749) 836228 or email

The next round of NVQ Level 2 qualifications in Professional Cookery and
Multi-skills Hospitality Services starts in May.

Submitted by Maureen Mead

Benedict Allen charity fundraising night

Explorer and author, Benedict Allen, is visiting the West Somerset
Community College in Minehead on Saturday 28 February to talk about
his travels across some of the most remote and treacherous places of the

Tickets cost £12.50 and early booking is advised.

Doors will open at 7pm where there will be a bar and raffle, with all
proceeds donated to the Brooke Hospital.

For tickets, contact Ali Le-Mar on 07789 880316 or email ALe-

Submitted by Ali Le-Mar

Wihan String Quartet

On Sunday 22 February, Dillington House welcomes the return of The
Wihan String Quartet, featuring works by Mozart, Schubert & Dvorak.

Since winning the London International String Quartet Competition in
1991, and a number of other major chamber music competitions, the
Wihan Quartet has developed an impressive international career.

They are regular visitors to the UK and are very much part of the chamber
music scene across Europe and considered one of Europe‟s finest string

The concert starts at 2.30pm and tickets cost £16 (under 18s £8).

For tickets, contact the Booking Office on (01460) 52427 or book online at

Submitted by Denise Borer

Somerset ‘Scores on the Doors’ scheme

It‟s official, 82 per cent of Somerset County Council‟s food premises have
been awarded four or five stars by Local Authority Environmental Health
This indicates excellent or very good food safety.

None of the premises tested have been awarded zero or one star, which
would indicate poor or adequate food safety.

Therefore, you can be assured that Somerset County Council food
premises produce food that is safe to eat.

When Local Authority Environmental Health Officers carry out an
inspection of Somerset County Council food premises, which includes
schools and premises in the community, they give it a score based on the
standard of hygiene, structural condition and the overall attitude to
compliance with food safety law. There are too many schools and
community outlets to be awarded five stars to be specifically mentioned
here, so well done to everyone involved!

Submitted by Marilyn Saunders

Top 100 Best Play Spaces in Somerset!

Why not get together with your child and contribute to Somerset‟s „Top
100 Best Play Spaces in Somerset!‟ list.

We want to know where you like to play outside, why you like it and what
makes it special.

The list is to be compiled by Somerset residents, nominating brilliant play
spaces within their communities. This could be a park, a field, a wood, a
river, moorland – anywhere in fact where children are free to play.

(Please note: We are not including equipped playgrounds in this list.)

As part of the campaign to encourage outdoor play, the Somerset Play
and Participation Service, in partnership with Somerset County Council, is
developing an Outdoor Play Guide to help Somerset families‟ get
outdoors and play.

The small booklet will be distributed to all parents in Somerset and will
recommend the top 100 local outdoor spaces where children can play.

It will also give some handy tips for play activities you can do.

Somerset is the first county in the UK to undertake this exercise, and we
want the people of Somerset to lead a campaign to get children playing
outdoors again. For more information, call or text 07879 665833 or visit

Submitted by Mike King

Cancer Research charity event

In October 2007, after being diagnosed with gastric cancer, Rosemary
Chalmers invited friends to find a hat that they thought matched her
personality, which she could wear if she lost her hair.

She promised that if she didn‟t need them she‟d auction them on eBay
and donate the proceeds to Cancer Research.

She raised over £600!

To follow on from last year‟s success, this year‟s auction is called „Old Hat
- Recycle your Hats‟ for Cancer Research UK.

Rosemary has asked people to send her any „old hats‟ they have lurking
in the back of their wardrobes and has also contacted top milliners asking
for donations to the cause.

She has been inudated with support from top name designers including
Philip Treacy, James Lock & Co, Paul Smith Accessories, Jaeger, Louise
Oliver, and many more.

On Saturday 21 February at City Inn Bristol, a coffee morning has been
arranged between 10am and 12pm so potential buyers can see the hats
before they go up for auction.

The eBay auction starts on Thursday 5 March.

For further information, contact Rosemary Chalmers at

Submitted by Lauren Bentley

Valentine’s walk is good for the heart

If your heart could do with some loving care this Valentine‟s Day, a
special walk in the Blackdown Hills could be just what the doctor ordered.

The Healthy Heart Valentine Walk has been organised by the Blackdown
Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Team, in conjunction with South
Somerset District Council.

It will be a gentle introduction to countryside walking for anyone who
wants to start improving his or her health.

The friendly group will start their stroll at Cotleigh, near Stockland in East
Devon, at 11am on Saturday 14 February, and finish back at the start
point at around noon.

They will walk for approximately two miles, taking in delightful woodlands
and a stream.

The route will be mostly flat although there will be some stiles and steps.

If you would like to join in, and give your heart a little bit of exercise, call
Louise Bulmer on (01935) 462347 or email

Submitted by Katherine Findlay

Do you have a disability? Know your rights...

What do I do if I need time off related to my disability?

Employees who have a disability have been posing this question for a
number of years.

Some employers expected employees to take annual leave, self-
certificate sick leave or produce a medical certificate. The Council now
has a Disability Leave Policy.

The Policy only applies to employees who have declared to the Council
that they have a disability and also gives guidance to managers.

Employees who need to have time off work, should make a request to
their line manager, but it must be for a purely disability related reason.

Disability leave is regarded as a reasonable adjustment under the
Council‟s Disability Discrimination Act.

The manager must, therefore, give the request proper consideration.
However, each case has to be considered on its merits using the
guidance provided in the Policy.

If in doubt, managers can seek advice from their Directorate HR
department, who will involve the Employment Equalities Officer as

The Disability Leave Policy is in the HR Handbook, and can be found at
the end of the Employment Disability Policy.

If you would like a briefing for a group of employees on the Policy or
disability employment in general, contact Michelle Howell on

If you have any issues or questions relating to disability or this Policy,
please contact either Roger Tyson on or Lucy
Wilkins on, who represent The Network for
Employees with a Disability.

Submitted by Kevin Moynihan

The greatest of them all

The Dream Team Challenge coordinators have launched a quest to find
the Most Valuable Player (MVP), from the 700 members of staff taking
part in the Dream Team Challenge.

The MVP award will recognise the individual who has gone above and
beyond the call of duty to give their team the cutting edge throughout the

The winning MVP will not only receive an exciting prize, but also have the
MVP trophy named after them for other competitors to win in future
Dream Team Challenges.

To find out more, nominate the Most Valuable Player in your team or
check out the competition, visit

Submitted by Dream Team Challenge Coordinators

Pregnant? – Apply for your grant today!

HM Revenues and Customs (HMRC) are encouraging all mums-to-be to
claim a one-off, tax-free payment called the „Health in Pregnancy Grant‟.

The Grant aims to provide additional financial support towards the costs
all women face in the latter stages of pregnancy. The Grant is available to
you, if all of the following apply:

• you are 25 weeks pregnant or more
• your expected date of delivery is on or after 6 April 2009
• you have been given health advice from a midwife or doctor
• be present, „ordinarily resident‟ and have a „right to reside‟ in the UK

If eligible, you will receive £190 for each pregnancy. You will not be asked
for your income and everyone will receive the same amount.

A claim form can be collected from your midwife or doctor.

Once the form is signed it must be sent within 31 days to the Health in
Pregnancy Office.

HMRC will pay the Grant directly into your bank or building society
account any time from April 2009 onwards.

For further information regarding the Health in Pregnancy Grant, please
visit the HMRC website at or contact the Health in
Pregnancy Grant Helpline on 0845 366 7885.

Submitted by Nicky Hartston – Corporate HR Team

What’s going on in Wellington?

Wellington is the current focus for a project called the Locality Based
Service Delivery (LBSD) project.

The LBSD project has been set up to explore better ways of delivering
public services.

To date, the project team has been looking at the needs of people in
Wellington and the services provided there by local councils, the Police
and the Primary Care Trust (PCT).

They have made a profile of the types of people living in Wellington,
including the services they use and the ways they prefer to access
services, for example face-to-face, telephone or Internet.

During the next part of the project, the team will explore whether public
services could be changed to deliver better outcomes for the residents of
The project team will produce a final report at the end of March 2009.

This report will bring together the findings and make recommendations
about how services can be improved across other parts of Somerset.

If you would like more information about the LBSD project, please contact
James Perrott, Project Manager, on or Alison
Bridgen, Operations Manager, on

Alternatively, visit

Submitted by Change Network Communications Group

30 seconds with... Round 3 winners - The Land Girls

Congratulations to The Land Girls for coming top of the leaderboard at the
end of Round 3!

We have been speaking to Team Captain, Nicola Townsend, and the
other Land Girls Julia Haldenby, Kerry Raymond, Penny Warren and Val
Bruce, to find out how the team managed to stay one step ahead of the
competition during the Council Cluedo and Numbers Game challenges.

How do you feel about winning the gold prize for Round 3, a
delicious team buffet lunch provided by our colleagues at the
Somerset Work Preparation Service, and a neon-reflective rucksack
cover for each team member?
Really pleased. One of our team members is very competitive and we
would have tried anything to keep her happy!

What made your team decide to enter the Dream Team Challenge?
We thought it would be a bit fun and different from our day-to-day
activities. It is also good for the team to get together and do something
different. Plus, the team buffet may have had something to do with it!

Tell us a bit about your team - what roles do your team members
play within Somerset County Council?
We deal with various land and property transactions on behalf of
Somerset County Council.

How have you found the challenges so far?
We have had to carry out thorough research to find some of the answers,
which has been both fun and challenging.

What is the most interesting fact that you have learnt about
Somerset County Council during the competition?
We are surprised that the Work Preparation Service make homemade
chocolates and we hope to be sampling these as part of the buffet soon!

Now for a random question…

If your team was a biscuit, what would it be and why?
If our team were a biscuit we would be a KitKat because we like our
For the full leaderboard and all the latest news from the Dream Team
Challenge, please visit

Round 4 has already begun, so don‟t forget to submit your entries by 5pm
on Friday 20 March.

Further Information

Awards and Accolades
The County Council strives towards excellence in everything we do. See
how we are achieving this here. Go to Awards & Accolades

Corporate Diary
Forward plan your diary with details of forthcoming corporate events here.
Go to Corporate Diary

Corporate Projects
Feel you‟re in the dark? Switch on the light on the major projects the
County Council is currently undertaking here. Go to ISiS Go to Local
Area Agreement
Go to CPA Corporate Assessment Inspection Go to Joint Area Review

Job Opportunities
Want a new challenge or a new career? You can find out more with a few
clicks here! Go to Job Opportunities

Our partnerships are fundamental to delivering excellent services. Go to
SSP Go to Somerset Waste Partnership

Press Releases
Keep up to date with how the County Council is getting its „Good News‟ in
the media here. Go to Press Releases

About & Help

What is Proper Gander?

Proper Gander is a key internal communications tool for all staff and

This magazine, published weekly, contains the Chief Executive‟s bulletin,
the latest news and events for staff and members, a regularly updated
collection of signposts to useful corporate information and a question and
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To submit a news story or an event you will need to use the electronic
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deadline for inclusion in each Friday‟s issue is 12:00pm Wednesday.

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