Almost a week has now gone by since last week’s local elections in Sandwell – plenty of time for the dust to settle and everyone to gather their thoughts.
Of course, I have to be upfront about how pleased I am with the results – my own re-election in Soho & Victoria and, more widely, the clean sweep for my party which saw Labour win every one of the 24 seats up for grabs.
This is no time, though, for gloating.
I have to be aware of a couple of factors which will give even the most partisan of political supporters pause for thought.
First, turn-out in the elections was low. Secondly, I and my fellow Labour councillors must continue to bear in mind that we represent not just the people who voted for us but everyone in our wards. That’s the nature of our democracy.
It’s because of this that I’m planning to strengthen the way the council’s scrutiny set-up works. This is the bit of the council which allows backbench councillors to examine what the council is doing, criticise it if they feel that’s what’s needed and make recommendations to improve things.
As far as I’m concerned, this is essential if the council is to realise its ambition to become excellent.
I believe that in recent years we have set out our vision to achieve that — and are well on our way to getting there, despite the multi-million pounds cuts in cash support the council has been faced with.
Not everything is perfect, of course, but the council’s priority remains: to protect basic council services that the people of Sandwell rely upon.
This will become increasingly hard in the face of further cuts we face in coming years, but I’m determined the basics will stay in place.
For me, that means things like cleaner streets, sorting out potholes and continuing the council’s efforts to give Sandwell’s young people a better deal (better safeguarding, better exam results, better prospects for the future) and to look after our older people who need care.
We’re well on the way to keeping our promises on new swimming pools for West Bromwich and Tipton, and we’re also now looking at a new swimming centre for Smethwick.
It’s these bread and butter things that I think the people of Sandwell want – and that the council has to concentrate on.
I like to think I’m a realistic leader of the council. We need to keep our feet on the ground – and that’s what we’ll be doing.