Statement to the annual meeting of the council
WE ARE all aware of the difficult financial position faced by Europe and indeed a large part of the western world.
We can debate and disagree on the causes of this and apportion the blame and responsibility, but it will not change what has happened. This country is massively in debt and local authorities are continuing to see reductions in funding for services and facilities.
As a borough we are without doubt in a far stronger position than other local authorities and that is as a result of a number of things: the right policies, a strong administration, good directors and heads of services, good management and a front-line staff that any council leader would be proud of.
It was not always so – over the years that I have been leader of this council, I have witnessed a sea change in professionalism and performance at all levels.
As an administration we are passionate about putting residents first, but I believe that is a driving force for every member of council, regardless of political party. We are all here to serve the residents of the borough in varying capacities – from cabinet members to those who serve on our planning, licensing and overview and policy committees, and many, I know, do a huge amount in their wards.
As we start a new municipal year, can I thank all members of council, for the service they give as individuals to the borough and its residents.
In my 12 years as council leader, there have been seven leaders of the opposition, but I would like to pay particular tribute to Councillor Mo Khursheed, who held that post for three years.
Of all the opposition leaders I have dealt with, I feared him the most. He has the respect of residents and most of my own party, for his calm, professional, gentlemanly approach with a sense of reality rather than political knockabout. He is his own man and a man of integrity, and that is needed in politics.
Mo, you have my respect and personal good wishes.
So, what does the future hold?
Last year I began formulating a plan to change the directorate structure. What I did not envisage was the degree of upheaval to council responsibilities. Changes to benefits, housing, education, health and the localism act will necessitate a review of director responsibilities. This will have a knock-on effect to cabinet portfolios and the make-up of the cabinet, which in turn will lead to a review of the policy and overview function.
Our structure to date had served us well, but we must now look to the next two years and beyond. I intend to bring a proposed new structure to council in September.
At the November council meeting, schemes of delegation and the changes to cabinet and scrutiny functions can be formalised, along with the appointment of the new chief executive. The new structure will function from December 1, and will be robust enough to take us through the next two years.
Mr Mayor, you have tonight become the First Citizen of a borough in a sound financial position with expertise and ability, now in place to continually adapt to the challenges I am sure we will continue to face.