THIS YEAR will undoubtedly be very difficult for our residents and our businesses, and I am determined that we will do everything in our power to support local communities across the city through this very challenging time.
The council is of course not immune from the recession, and the demand for services increases as income declines.
But we will not lower our ambitions, particularly when the eyes of the world will be on us in three years' time for the 2012 Olympics.
We can only achieve the improvements we want to make through becoming even more focused and efficient.
This is the driving force for our next five-year plan, Living City, to make Westminster a place where everyone, from residents and business
owners to tourists and commuters, can live, work, thrive and prosper even in these difficult times with the council setting new standards in time for the London games.
At last week's full council meeting, I announced a programme to renew the heart of London in time for 2012, which will create a 'living city of opportunity' in which families can thrive.
The programme includes:
Revamping up to 400 main streets in Westminster, so the city looks world class in time for 2012.
Installing 1,000 extra litter bins to ensure Westminster's streets are kept clean and rubbish free.
Providing housing for the 40 most overcrowded families in Westminster by the end of the year and aiming to end overcrowding in the borough altogether by 2014.
Cleaning up Soho to help rid it of its red-light image and make it a more attractive place to live and visit.
Helping to create 1,400 apprenticeships to tackle unemployment and get people into training and jobs.
Other key measures include introducing 1,000 new resident parking spaces to make it easier for local people to park and making available around 60,000sq ft of affordable office space for small businesses in Westminster.
Those who win at the Olympics set themselves the highest ambitions and are not defeated when obstacles appear in their way.
That is how I want us to be as we create Westminster as the Olympic capital, but at the same time a Living City where everyone has the opportunity to reach their potential.
If you would like to know more about our Living City programme, please see www.westminster.gov.uk/livingcity
Cllr Colin Barrow
Leader Westminster City Council