The ending of one year is of course a time for reflection but this year, I have decided to look forward into 2014 a little earlier than usual.
There is definitely cause for optimism. There is strong a sense the borough is taking off as a regeneration destination of choice. A few weeks ago we announced a new developer with ambitious plans for Hounslow High Street; this week, Brentford Football Club’s planning application goes to committee for consideration, and while plans to develop the riverside have been delayed six months, they will re-emerge better for the pause; and of course, one of our most iconic buildings, Gillette Tower, has been sold and I am told there are ambitious, exciting plans for development being worked up there.
This is crucial as our future prosperity, a healthy jobs market and opportunities for young people are all created as result. It is very much the role of the local council in this day and age to help make this happen. In this borough, we’re beginning to succeed in this.
It is also the role of the council to protect and help the most vulnerable. This is where I have an equally strong sense that the years ahead will become more and more difficult. Every council in the country is bracing itself for the Chancellor’s autumn statement. It is likely to contain even deeper cuts to council funding. We are making every preparation for the coming financial storm – becoming more efficient, making savings, while making sure we have enough money in reserve to avoid reaching a crisis point in funding. It is never, ever easy. But we remain committed to preserving frontline services which the old, young, sick and vulnerable rely on.
We must hope that as we regenerate the borough and bring new jobs and opportunities here, we have enough resources to help enable those in more difficult circumstances to a better future, in work, in good quality homes, or supported to live independent lives.
As we go forward, I believe this council and this borough has every chance of getting the balance right.