Council leader: tough year but much achieved
The leader of Telford & Wrekin Council has been looking back on the past year since his administration was re-elected last May.
Councillor Shaun Davies says the past 12 months have been a tough year but that much has been achieved in the borough.
It has seen the council’s children’s services rated as outstanding by Ofsted, the only council in the West Midlands to achieve that.
But on the flip side, the council has faced two of the biggest challenges in its history - the worst flooding for 20 years in February followed less than a month later by the coronavirus pandemic.
This has seen the entire country in lockdown, with the council playing a key role supporting the Government’s response to the pandemic and to support NHS staff and businesses to cope with the effects as well as taking steps to reassure residents.
Council leader Councillor Shaun Davies said that he had barely had any time to reflect over a tumultuous past year as a result.
“It really has been one thing after another since the borough election,” said Councillor Davies.
“We also had a General Election just before Christmas, so we’ve barely had a minute to take stock.
“I was massively proud when we received the Ofsted judgement which came after a rigorous four week inspection. To go from Requires Improvement to be Good straight to Outstanding was an astonishing achievement and we are only the second council in the country to achieve that in one go.
“Prior to that we were in full crisis mode as the River Severn rose and rose and actually threatened to overwhelm the temporary flood barriers.
“As a result, we have lobbied Government for more funding to get permanent barriers installed and to ensure that every property in the borough that is next to the River Severn has some form of protection from potential flooding.
“Since then, the country has been hit by the coronavirus pandemic which has resulted in a nationwide lockdown with the council very much at the heart of the nation’s response to this.
“Nothing could have prepared us for something as all-encompassing as that and we have found ourselves living in unprecedented times. My heart goes out to everyone affected in so many different ways particularly anyone who has lost a loved one as a result.
“As a council we are doing all we can to help people during this very difficult time to ensure that we continue to protect, care and invest in our borough
“We’re calling 4,000 people in the borough each week to check they’re okay andwe’ve mobilised a fantastic 1,000 strong volunteer army to help support those who are isolated without a network to support them.
“We’ve issued the 8th highest percentage of Government grants to businesses affected by the lockdown because we know how vital it is that our economy remains as strong as possible. These are just a few of the examples of what we are doing to help.
“We are still here and will continue to provide essential services as safely and professionally as possible and in the meantime reassure residents and lobby government on behalf of the business community.
“I am enormously proud of our response to the pandemic as a borough and I would like to again say a huge thank you to NHS staff, key workers and the council’s own staff for their fortitude and resilience during this crisis.
“I am equally proud of what we as a council have achieved in the last year and how we have responded to truly unprecedented times and thank all our staff and partners who have made this possible.”
A third of the administration’s manifesto pledges were completed within six months of the election and the remainder are under way despite the pandemic.
Progress already made includes:
• A new marketing campaign to recruit local foster carers has been launched to enable children in care to live locally.
• “Stronger Families” funding secured from the Department for Education to establish a best practice model of working to improve the quality of work with families by Children’s Services.
• £35m investment in the borough’s schools to ensure adequate school place provision now and in the future including expansion plans.
• Rectified 785 potholes, cleaned over 15,000 gullies, resurfaced almost 100 miles of roads and footpaths since April 2019
• Launched Sustainable Telford and Wrekin in response to the Climate Change Emergency
• Continued to invest in businesses including the development of Ni-Park, a world leading agri tech hub in Newport
• Launched a new free weekly borough-wide food waste recycling service, collecting 55 tonnes of waste in the first three days