Wes Streeting reflects on Labour's first six months in power in Redbridge and looks ahead to 2015...
Since Labour won control of Redbridge Council in May, Wes has been Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing on Redbridge Council. He writes:
In May, Labour won control of Redbridge Council for the first time in the borough's history, winning a majority of seats with representation across the borough. With trust in politics and politicians at rock bottom, we developed our manifesto over a two year period by knocking on doors and talking to people about the issues that concern them and the priorities they wanted us to adopt. Our manifesto - Ambitious for Redbridge - responded to those concerns with a series of practical pledges that we knew we'd be able to deliver during the course of our four years in office, even in tough times for local government.
During our first six months in office, we've delivered a majority of those pledges already, with progress already underway on the rest. High street businesses and shoppers are benefitting from 30 minutes' free parking. We've starting clamping down on dirty streets by reversing Tory cuts to street cleansing and introducing free bulky waste collection for all residents to avoid fly-tipping. We've cut £250,000 from councillors' allowances and reduced the number of Council committees. We've delivered on our promise to provide free swimming for the over 60s. And we've announced that we'll not only be building a new community swimming pool, at Mayfield School, we're also funding improvements to Loxford School's pool to open it up for community use. Two new community swimming pools will have a huge impact on reducing waiting lists for swimming lessons at Fullwell Cross. We've kept Council Tax frozen for the first year and our forthcoming budget proposes to freeze Council Tax for a second year - as promised.
If you voted for us in May, I hope that the speed with which we're implementing our manifesto makes you feel that your vote was justified. If you didn't vote for us, or if you've given up on politics in recent years, I hope you might start giving Labour a second look.
Labour is delivering for residents right across Redbridge and I'm proud of the impact we're making in and around Ilford North. There are a number of projects I'm proud to have championed as Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing. We've refurbished the pitches at Ashton Playing Fields, won funding for enhanced facilities at Redbridge Cycling Centre (and for ownership of the land), commissioned improvements at Claybury Park, made funding available for the Christmas tree and fair in Hainault, refurbished South Woodford Library and installed a new gym. I'm really pleased that funding for new public toilets for Barkingside High Street has been approved (in spite of Tory opposition) and I'm taking forward plans to install new high rope activity facilities at Fairlop Waters in early January.
There are difficult years ahead. We've got a £70million hole in the Council's budget. Tory budget cuts look set to make the situation even more challenging. We're working hard to meet rising demand for school places and care for the elderly. We desperately need new homes for young people wanting to get on the housing ladder and purpose-built accommodation for older people wanting to downsize to something more manageable. These are just some of the reasons why we've carried on the conversation with residents beyond the election - with major Council consultations on our budget and development options, as well as regular conversations on the doorstep. There will inevitably be some changes to services and some cut backs that we won't be able to avoid. That's why we've set up a Fairness Commission to make sure that we're making decisions in the fairest way possible.
I've been out knocking on doors week in week out since I was first elected to the Council in 2010 and I'll be out on the doorstep in the new year. Please do get in touch about any issues of concern. I'm sure you won't agree with every decision the Council takes, but it's important that we keep up the conversation.
It's not too late to tell the Council about your budget priorities: