We’ve all experienced the impact of austerity. The recent General Election showed just how many people are fed-up with seeing their public services suffer.
It’s certainly been tough at the Council, but we haven’t lost sight of our vision for Derby. That’s why we have made 50 pledges, setting out very clearly what we will do to be a safe, strong and ambitious city.
Over the last few years, this administration has been very vocal about Government cuts. But I also recognise that many people just want to see us get on with the job of running the city. I know that regardless of the political climate or the financial position of the Council, residents still rightly expect the very best public services.
From the outset, we decided to prioritise those services that protect vulnerable people. This meant that difficult decisions needed to be made about which areas were likely to face cuts.
I believe the recent inspection of Derby City Council’s children’s services, which were rated as good by OFSTED, has shown that our approach was the right one. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank our many dedicated social workers and support staff who have worked tirelessly to deliver such high standards.
The financial position we find ourselves in has proved more difficult than anyone anticipated. But we’ve done the job that has been asked of us by balancing the budget over the long term and saving £135 million since 2010.
During that time, I freely admit that we’ve not always got everything right. But we’ve always been prepared to listen to the people we serve. That’s why this year we reconsidered our plans and put money back into services that matter to local people.
In March, we set a budget that was optimistic about our city’s future. It enshrined our commitment to cleaner streets, a vibrant cultural offer and protecting our most vulnerable people. Shortly afterwards, we made our 50 Pledges and since then, we have made substantial progress in implementing our vision.
At the start of a new municipal year, I’d like to take the time to update residents on how far we’ve come and what we intend to achieve over the next twelve months in making Derby a safe, strong and ambitious city.
A central theme of our 50 Pledges was the delivery of an exciting and affordable programme of cultural events, which had unfortunately fallen victim of cuts in recent years. By working closely with our partners, we’ve started to reverse that trend.
We’re currently hosting the Women’s World Cup Cricket which I’m proud of, as one of the first major decision’s the Council took under my leadership was to loan Derbyshire Cricket Club funding to build a new media centre, and other facilities essential for a successful bid to bring the tournament to Derby.
Recently, with backing of estate agents Hannells and other local sponsors, I was delighted to announce the return of the Hannells Darley Park Concert. Over 3,000 tickets have been sold already and I’m looking forward to enjoying this highlight of Derby’s cultural calendar in September. Together with our partners at the Derby Museums Trust, the University of Derby, Derby Cathedral, Marketing Derby and Pauline Latham MP, we’ve been able to secure Paul Cummins’ iconic Weeping Window poppy display being brought to home to Derby this summer.
We’ve always said that if we want to deliver a vibrant programme of cultural events, they will need the support of the local community, so it’s great to see our city pulling together to make it a reality. This is set to continue with plans already underway for a Christmas lights switch-on.
Our 50 Pledges also enshrine our ambition to transform the city-centre and deliver flagship projects on the Assembly Rooms and Duckworth Square sites. We recently completed the purchase of the former Debenhams building and have gone straight to market in order to find a developer for the wider area and spark the regeneration that has been long overdue.
We have successfully bid for £8.6 million of regional funding to put towards a performance venue in the Market Place, taking this game-changing project a step closer to realisation. And our plans for a new 50 metre swimming pool complex at Moorways are also moving forward, with Cabinet approving designs to a value of £35 million and site clearance due to start soon.
But alongside these high profile projects, we’ve also seen our frontline services record a number of notable successes.
For example, enforcement activity by the council’s trading standards department has meant that 90 per cent of premises in the city now have a four or five star food hygiene rating. And in July, a new taxi licensing procedure will be introduced that guarantees higher standards for the public and the trade across the city.
In our schools, with the help of local philanthropists, Derby County Football Club and the charity His Church, we’ve introduced free breakfast clubs for some of our most underprivileged children. Furthermore, the Make More Music in Derby project has provided free tuition to 1,100 young people, many of whom have been able to own an instrument for the first time.
Another focus of our 50 Pledges has been about taking pride in our communities. We’ve recognised that many people judge the state of our city by how attractive our streets and green spaces look. So in the budget, we allocated £1.6 million to guarantee cleaner streets and more attractive parks.
A few weeks ago, we saw 23,000 flowers, shrubs and hanging baskets planted, putting the city back in bloom and marking an important first step in our pledge to make Derby the cleanest English city within four years. Moreover, we will soon be welcoming a number of enforcement staff seconded from Nottingham City Council to clamp down on those who blight our communities by littering and fly-tipping.
We’re investing in our housing stock too. As part of our pledge to build 500 affordable homes over the next three years, fifteen have been constructed on Coronation Avenue in Alvaston. Meanwhile, Derby Homes have launched a scheme that rewards responsible tenants who look after their homes and pay their rent on time, helping to create stronger, more cohesive communities.
In September we’ll be launching Ram Energy so that all Derby residents have the opportunity to save money on their household energy bills so please look out for that.
The 50 Pledges are the bedrock of our vision for Derby. We believe they put this city on a firmer footing and offer a positive message after seven years of cuts. You stay informed about the 50 Pledges at www.derby.gov.uk/pledges
I won’t pretend that Derby City Council does not face significant challenges, but we are working systematically to address them. With your support and by working closely with our partners, we can deliver a more prosperous future for our city.