Swindon Council leader Councillor David Renard writes:
In my last column of 2015 it seems a good time to reflect on the past 12 months. One of the perils of leading a large local authority with many hundreds of different services is that it hard just to pause, take a step back, and have a full perspective of the all that is happening.
Not everything has worked out as we would have wished. I had hoped to see more progress on the Kimmerfields Development in the town centre, but at least next year we will see work begin on the new, improved health centre, which is part of the first phase.
We must remember that Kimmerfields is a huge £350m project that will take many years to complete. The private sector must resolve this problem; it is outside the Council’s hands. The good news is that a similar delay occurred with the redevelopment of Regent Circus, which we can all now appreciate as a fantastic success.
I would also like to have seen more progress on the North Star leisure park development, adjacent to the Oasis Leisure Centre, but I remain confident that the Borough will see a great range of new facilities on that site.
Overall, however, there were many achievements in 2015, which should encourage us. Our economic situation continues to improve. The town compares well with other, larger towns and cities on the indicators compiled by the independent think tank Centre for Cities, which reported that we have the fourth best employment rate of the 63 leading towns and cities in the UK.
We signed a contract with UK Broadband that will ensure that over 99 per cent of the Borough has access to government’s standard of high-speed internet and we have secured ministerial support for our approach. I am sure that if residents and businesses sign up to use it, they will benefit in creating new wealth and jobs.
We have not forgotten the human side of local government. I am particularly pleased that the Council has taken a new approach to improve the help we provide those who might fall into Council Tax or rent arrears. As a result of this, the Council has already reduced the number of times it use enforcement agents by over 20 per cent.
Above all, we adopted the Council’s new Vision, which sets out clearly what we are trying to achieve for the town along with providing a framework for some of the tough decisions we will need to take.
It only remains for me to wish everyone a happy, successful, and prosperous New Year. If you go out to celebrate, have plenty of fun, but make sure you are safe.