12 months has passed since I became Leader of the Council, and having just come through another local election and a re-shuffle of my Cabinet I feel that we have achieved a lot – but as I always say, there is still plenty more to do!
I talked in my last post, before the elections, about some of the things I’ve been really proud of over the last year. I’ve also spoken many times of the need to continue delivering high quality services for our residents even within the confines of the ever diminishing funding we get from central Government.
At the local election, our new ward boundaries came into effect, reducing the number of councillors that we have from 63 to 45. It meant we said goodbye to some long-time colleagues who have given a lot of time and effort into this borough over the years – 363 years service in total, to be exact. Among them was my predecessor as leader of the council, Ron Round. Ron has been a great friend and valued colleague to me over the years, and has been a loyal and dedicated servant to this borough and its people. He had decided the time was right for him to take a break, and having given 29 years loyal service to Knowsley he certainly deserves a happy and healthy retirement.
The council also gained three Liberal Democrat Councillors at the election – so at least we can’t be accused of being a one party state anymore! I wish them the best and look forward to debating with them over the coming months and years. I’m sure we can work together constructively for the best interests of our residents.
But of course, election time is not quite over as we look ahead to the EU referendum on June 23, and the upcoming vote for Metro Mayor of the Liverpool City Region. The outcome of both polls will be significant for Knowsley, and I would urge people to engage with both debates and make sure that whatever their view, they make sure they have their say when the time comes.
Since devolution of powers to the City Region by Government at the end of last year, there has been a growing momentum to get moving on our most important priorities. I have been tasked with looking at ways in which we can more effectively deliver and improve adult social care across the region, and that work is well underway. I’m sure there’ll be more of that to come in my blog soon.
Closer to home, there are big priorities too and certainly here in Knowsley there is plenty of work for me and my Cabinet colleagues to push ahead with. Education, improving adult and childrens’ social care and supporting growth & investment in Knowsley are just some of our top priorities. And of course, we also have the task of implementing the Local Plan which will be a major priority for us. Contrary to some views, this isn’t about us waving through planning applications but rather ensuring that the land we have released for development is used in the right way to create the right kind of schemes that will be of benefit to Knowsley and its communities. There will certainly be more hard work ahead and tough decisions to be made in the coming months but we won’t shy away from that.
So in summary, it’s certain to be a busy year for us in Knowsley with plenty of updates and news to be shared in my blog and also online through our new news site www.knowsleynews.co.uk.
And finally, in a blog that has not only looked to the future but paid tribute to former colleagues I would like to mention Eddie O’Hara, who sadly passed away on Saturday, aged 78. Eddie was MP for Knowsley South for 20 years and in that time I’m sure many of you will have had dealings with him. Born and raised in Huyton, Eddie was also a lecturer in Knowsley and served as a councillor before being selected as a Parliamentary candidate. My condolences go to Eddie’s wife, Margaret, and all his family.