Hello and welcome to my blog. This is my first post, and the first of many I hope which I intend to increase steadily in the New Year.
It’s now 12 months or so since I became Council Leader – a good time to look both forward and back. I very much hope this blog will be a big part of the future.
I want to chat directly to people about what’s going on in the council and around the borough ….. and to hear what you think about the things that affect us all as citizens and neighbours.
It’s good to talk!
Looking back, 2010 has been a crowded year, but several things stand out.
The biggest is our battle to get the Education Minister Michael Gove to finally admit he boobed big time in scuppering nine Building Schools for the Future projects in Sandwell – after first mistakenly telling us they would go ahead.
Nothing can be more important than the education and life chances of our young people, and I’m determined to carry on fighting for these schemes.
Come on, Mr Gove: you’re big enough to put things right. Give us the cash to get the projects back on the road — and keep your promise to come to Sandwell and talk to our young people yourself.
Another theme of the past year for me has been trying to get away from the old “Sandwell MBC” way of looking at the council. Hands up, by the way, if you know what that “MBC” bit stands for!
I think of us as “Sandwell PLC”…….. with every resident a shareholder in the fortunes of the borough, entitled to vote, have their say and influence what’s happening around them.
I also promised when I became leader that I’d review the way that the council is managed – starting at the top. I’m glad to say we’re now well on the way to effectively halving the top levels of management, streamlining the way the council’s leadership works – and saving around £1 million of taxpayers’ cash. That’s useful as we now face up to a Government cash settlement for councils in the next 2011/12 financial year which has hit Sandwell hard – we’re losing around £28.5 million or around 13% of our budget.
I will do all I can to protect essential services, drive down costs and make more savings — but no organisation can cope with cutbacks on that scale without hurt. That means there has to be an impact on services and jobs, however much we want to avoid it.
I believe 2011 promises to be tough. However, let me wish you all a very Happy Christmas and a New Year full of everything you would wish for yourself.