Comrades I think we can report a series of good news for Labour in Worcester since we took control of the City Council in May.
As you know, we are supported by the 2 Green Councillors although the Tories are the largest single group – as Cllr Bayliss constantly reminds us when he is not busy closing Children’s Centres!
A key strand in our election manifesto and indeed core to our values for the last few years has been opposing the privatisation of the Clean and Green service which runs our bins collection, street cleaning and parks. I am pleased to say that after some bitter debate and calling back reports for Scrutiny, our Labour Cabinet has re-affirmed that we are not going to privatise this service. This is a triumph for the local people, the staff and the delivery of the service. C&G staff are the Council’s real ambassadors in our communities – they have more contact with the public than any other Council staff and we know that they are giving a high quality service to a standard people aspire to. We will maintain that.
This Labour Cabinet has also agreed funding in developing skills and training support, giving grants to small businesses, assisting the Play Council and Disability Sport, and championing the Summer in the City events and activities. In the pipeline we want to see progress on affordable social housing, developing and attracting investment, and promoting tourism through the writing of a new Tourism Strategy.
We are actively challenging the County Council on the wretched issue of bus services in the city as well as congestion and poor air quality. We are in discussions with the police about the possible rise in hate crimes and safety as a whole. We are working with Worcester Community Trust to ensure the future of local community development work.
We are working with the Green Party Councillors towards solutions for bio-diversity, investigating the wider use of solar panels and alternative energy providers, and focusing on using local businesses and local sources.
We are continuing talks with the City Football Club in attempting to resolve their ground issues.
We are supporting the growth bid put forward by the county-wide Local Enterprise Partnership and responding to the consultation on the next Local Transport Plan. We are keeping a weather eye on the development of a Midlands economic Engine
But the decision on C&G services means we have to still find savings across the Council due to the way in which local government funding has been slashed by central governments for years. The £400,000 annual saving that was alleged to be made by privatisation was a pipe dream – but the fact remains that on paper, the budget is short by that £400k plus the existing hole in the finances which the Tories had no answer for anyway. Our funding levels could have been a lot higher by now if previous Conservative Councils Leaders had stuck with their original commitments to make modest increases in the council tax, but dramatic changes can not be on the cards. So we will look at other ways of raising income, improving efficiencies within the services, and longer term options for funding.
Finally we are working with both Tories and Greens to produce a draft City Vision which will go to wider consultation by the end of the month. it lays out how we want to see the City improve over the next five years, while acknowledging the constraints of funding – and the opportunities that will arise from investment and development.
Please do get in touch if you want to know more or have projects and ideas that you think we could pursue or contact your ward councillors with local concerns.