This weekend, our Labour Group’s annual Policy Studies Seminar comes around again. It’s an important time of the year for colleagues in Knowsley, because it gives us the chance to spend time agreeing and planning our priorities for the year ahead.
We have weathered some very tough times in recent years thanks to the Government’s unnecessarily harsh austerity programme. And the Government is still committed to attacking the most deprived areas of the country, so there are even more difficult times to come in Knowsley. By 2020, we will have had to take £100m out of our budget, and I’m really proud that we are still standing in support of those services which are most important to our communities.
The fact is that we have had to withstand a constant hammering, not only from the current heartless Government but also from its predecessor, which – we must not forget – included the Lib Dems who are now pretending that it was all nothing to do with them.
The good news is that we still have achievements to celebrate and exciting plans coming to fruition – the Shakespeare North Playhouse is planned for Prescot, and the forthcoming retail development of Kirkby town centre is another example.
But as my colleagues and I sit down at the Policy Studies Seminar this weekend, we’ll all be very conscious of the budget savings consultation that we have just been through – we know that the cuts which must be made will have implications for local people. We have to find a way to manage those cuts which minimises the impact as far as we can.
So I really welcome this chance to put our heads together and focus on the challenges ahead.
And, if you doubt the commitment of me or any of my Labour colleagues to making this event a truly worthwhile one, I want you to know that my colleagues and I have once again agreed to cover the costs of our attendance at the two-day event, including room hire and everything else which goes with it.
I’m really looking forward to seeing the results of our discussions.