THERE’S a common perception that things move slowly in local government, but from where I’m sitting that’s definitely not the case.
When we were elected in May, Labour promised to hit the ground running – and that’s exactly what we did.
From day one we started delivering our 100 manifesto pledges for Plymouth that focus on key issues that people across the city have told us are the most important to them.
These include creating and protecting jobs, providing affordable housing, keeping people safe, caring for Plymouth residents whatever their age, having a vibrant cultural and sports scene on offer and taking pride in and promoting Plymouth.
We have also been developing a pioneering co-operative approach to delivering local services. That means working closely with the local community to deliver services in new ways and enabling people to have a greater say.
This involves making the council more open and transparent and accountable to the people we serve. The webcasting of key meetings and encouraging the use of social media in meetings are just two of the ways we are doing this.
I’m really proud of what we have achieved in just seven months. We’ve already delivered a quarter of our pledges and are well on track to deliver all of them by 2014.
We’ve also managed to achieve against a background of the Government’s ongoing onslaught against public services. The potential damage of government cuts to Plymouth, where the biggest employers are in the public sector, is immense.
The council alone has had to contend with government cuts that amount to £37.8 million over three years.
We are determined to do the best we can to protect the community against the worst of the Government’s onslaught against local services and its Dickensian welfare reform changes, which attack the most vulnerable in the community.
Creating and safeguarding jobs is one of the most important ways we can support the community. We’ve already set up a jobs task force, created the 1,000 Club with the aim of getting 1,000 businesses to help young people into employment and worked with partners to expand the availability and use of super-fast broadband by businesses and developers.
And in the next few weeks we’ve got some exciting announcements about a new initiative to create employment opportunities in Plymouth.
We are committed to supporting the local business community during these extremely difficult economic conditions and one way we are doing this is by changing the way we buy goods and services to provide more opportunities for local businesses.
One of our pledges is to work with the private sector to develop a new ice rink, so I was really pleased to agree a deal to redevelop the Pavilions arena and provide a new rink.
We have also developed a package of measures to enable a major redevelopment of the Theatre Royal, launched a campaign to clean up building sites, launched a pilot glass recycling scheme, worked with CityBus to re-instate school bus services and signed a community covenant to support the armed forces.
We’ve also been delivering on our pledge to support for Plymouth residents whatever their age and have developed a Charter for Older People, launched a plan for tackling domestic abuse and are now consulting on a strategy to tackle child poverty, which is a very real and urgent issue in Plymouth.
As part of developing a co-operative approach to providing services and working more closely with Plymouth residents, we have launched a new co-operative model for Plymouth schools and are now working up exciting plans to set up an energy co-operative to help Plymouth residents save money on their energy bills.
A New Year message from Tudor Evans Labour leader of Plymouth City Council.
We are also looking at co-operative approaches to managing the city’s green spaces, as well as the potential for a new Community Economic Development Trust in the city.
Plymouth has a strong track record for running big events and this summer we hosted the fantastic National Armed Forces Day and the Olympic and Paralympic torch relays. We want to build on these successes and make sure we continue to be ambitious for Plymouth and to sell our city to the world. We’ve already committed to support a potential bid for Plymouth to become a UK City of Culture in the run-up to the Mayflower 2020 celebrations.
This year, 2013, promises to be even more eventful than 2012. With the support of our new chief executive, Tracey Lee, we’ll be picking up the pace again and working even harder for Plymouth. With a government that’s determined to attack local services, it’s not going to be an easy ride but I’m really excited about the prospects and opportunities ahead for our city.