New Year message from leader Martin Tett
It’s fair to say 2016 has been a remarkable year.
We’ve had Brexit, Donald Trump’s victory, the Italian referendum, David Cameron’s departure and Theresa May in Number 10.
And, of course, we have lost a lot of famous people such as the irreplaceable David Bowie.
Locally in Buckinghamshire it’s been pretty amazing too.
So much has happened, including our continued campaign for fair mitigation from HS2; the local growth plans that could bring some 50,000 new houses to Bucks; the opening of the new Energy from Waste plant which turns household waste into electricity; the opening of the new Stocklake road in Aylesbury; improvements to Wycombe town centre; the decision to build a new runway at Heathrow; and proposals for a major new road through the county linking Oxford to Cambridge.
We also continue to focus on one of our top priorities of protecting vulnerable adults and children.
Financially, during 2016 the County Council has again shown how innovative and commercial it is. For example, our property investments are now bringing in more than £2 million of extra funding to help preserve the vital front line services that residents depend upon.
This is at a time when our Government grant is disappearing fast. We will be almost solely dependent on council tax and our own income to pay for services from next year.
Looking ahead to 2017, the pace will not slow.
Hopefully, we’ll hear some good news on the new East West railway line through the north of the county, the additional roll out of high speed broadband and receive confirmation from Ofsted of all the progress that has been made in Children’s Services.
We will also be focusing on how we provide more school places for a rapidly growing and changing population and working with the NHS to help with their Sustainability and Transformation Plan, which will shape the NHS for years to come.
The challenges are enormous.
We hope to hear a decision from government on our plans to modernise local government in Bucks early in the New Year.
Sweeping away the existing, bureaucratic model of five different county and district councils in the area and replacing them with a single one delivering all services, will make things far simpler, cheaper and much more locally focused, with centres in towns and villages across the county for people to actually visit.
In May residents will go to the polls for the County Council elections. And as we have all learnt from 2016, anything can happen, which makes trying to predict the future beyond the vote particularly challenging.
Lastly, may I thank all those who work so hard in Bucks to keep us all safe and well.
These include our social services staff and the fantastic staff in the NHS, fire service and police, along with the many volunteers and community members who make Bucks the wonderful place that it is.
Have a great 2017.
Leader of Buckinghamshire County Council