On behalf of councillors and everyone working at Newham Council, I want to wish you all a happy, safe and joyous Christmas as you spend time with friends, family and loved ones.
Over the past few weeks it’s been great to see the borough light up for the festive season with trees up in the community neighbourhoods and fun in the libraries. We’ve also made sure many of our senior residents aren’t left out during a time when many can feel particularly lonely, by inviting them to Christmas lunches again this year for an afternoon of fun, laughter and entertainment with a goodie bag of festive treats.
I know that as residents you are beginning to see the positive changes and improvements that we making as a Council. While there’s been much to celebrate in 2019, there’s a lot more to do which is why I’ve been cracking on delivering the policies and pledges I promised when I was elected in May 2018.
This year, I’ve been on super-charge mode with all things Air Quality Action Plan and Climate Emergency related, including explaining to residents the merits of our Liveable Streets and Healthy School Streets pilots happening across the borough because of the poor air quality in Newham. There’s also been the pilot programme with Keep Britain Tidy to improve the cleanliness of our streets and neighbourhoods. There’s also been the vital work of the Youth Safety Board which published its report last week, which you can read here. In January we’ll be holding a public launch event with young people, residents and community organisations because the wellbeing and safety of our young people is all our responsibility.
I’ve also been focused on our housing delivery programme with significant investments to build more homes in Newham and addressing rough sleeping in the borough. That’s why I’m really pleased that earlier this month the Cabinet agreed a dedicated Homelessness and Rough Sleeper Strategy, which is the first one Newham Council has had in a decade. It’s been drawn up with the support of the homeless charity Shelter, and is another signal that we are determined to support those most vulnerable.
It’s also why once again this year, we’re supporting a project run by Stratford Seventh Day Adventist Church and Dockland Settlements, to offer shelter, food and companionship for rough sleepers at the Carpenters and Docklands Centre in Stratford. It’ll be open from today (Christmas Eve) to 2 January. Don’t forget, please also look out for your vulnerable and isolated neighbours over the holiday period.
The coming New Year will be even busier as we speed up with changes in the Council to improve our services to residents and to make sure that we are on track in delivering all the manifesto pledges I made to you and all the residents in the borough. This includes the Fair Parking Review, tackling the scourge of fly-tipping in our neighbourhoods, improving our roads and neighbourhoods, and working closely with our police partners to enhance safety on our streets and increase their visibility in our neighbourhoods.
We’ll also be considering the work of the Democracy and Civic Participation Commission as we want to see more involvement of our residents in decision-making and we’ll be launching a number of key strategies including our new Inclusive Economy Strategy. It’s a key part of our Community Wealth Building agenda, which we’ll also be launching in the New Year so that Newham becomes a borough of shared prosperity and fairness, as well as being responsive to the climate emergency. It means that our vision for raising the health, wealth and well-being of all of our citizens will continue to shine through as we welcome 2020.
The other big piece of work for 2020 will be the Council’s Budget for the next three years which is due to be set in March at Full Council. We’ve been working hard to make it fair and fit to deliver the promises I made in my election commitments. Our draft Budget proposals have been published here and I’m really excited our spending priorities and growth proposals which, if approved, stand to benefit all our residents, especially our younger ones. We’re proposing a transformative budget that will change lives for the better.
Included in our proposals is growth spending of £10m across the three years for investment in new services or enhancing existing ones. The largest proposed new investment totals almost £4.5m per annum in services directly for young people to enhance their potential and keep them safe. Another priority is housing with £1.4m each year to improve services supporting rough sleepers and £400,000 each year to bring empty properties back into use. Investment of £1m per year is proposed to tackle the climate and health emergency.
But we also have some difficult decisions too. Government austerity means we have to make £45m savings. Whatever we decide, we will make sure every penny counts and that we’ve given full consideration to how what we decide will impact on our residents.
So as you can see, there’s a lot already coming up in 2020 and I look forward to catching up with residents as I go about in driving forward our agenda of change come January. In the meantime, have a great time during Christmas, and I wish you all a Happy New Year and a great start to the new decade ahead. And thank you to those people who are working over the festive period to keep us all safe and well.