We are already half way through January 2017. I hope it’s not too late to say Happy New Year! I hope 2017 is a great year for you, your loved ones and for the Bradford District. I intend to do everything I can to make it so!
First of all I want to thank all our staff who worked over the Christmas holiday period. Whether out gritting, refuse collecting, providing services to elderly and disabled people, or being there for individuals and families in crisis, you kept the District running. As an example of the kinds of things staff contend with, I know that we and our partners dealt with a significant spike in domestic violence incidents, which is a depressing aspect of the Christmas holiday period.
The first few weeks back have been full on – from dealing with the ripple effects of the fatal shooting on the M62, to the liquidation of the Bradford Bulls. The meeting of the Council’s Executive last week was one of the most intense and thoughtful I have been involved in. The Council Chamber was packed with residents as elected members considered the potential closure of a residential care home, changes to payments to foster carers, the potential closure of Queensbury swimming pool and the introduction of car parking charges in some of our town centres. This is what local democracy is about – taking responsibility for making difficult judgements about how the interests of the District are best served, and being prepared to be challenged in public about them. We know that there will be more meetings like this, as we work through implementation some of the tough choices that will be required in the coming year.
And in the midst of all of this there are some great things happening.
I spent much of the weekend before last in Peel Park watching the British Cycling National Cyclo-Cross Championships. It was a fantastic event and thrilling to watch as hundreds of cyclists, from teenage to over 70, careered up and down the increasingly muddy banking in the hunt for the coveted national winners’ jerseys.
I discovered that Bradford is the base for some of the brightest stars of the sport, who will undoubtedly be representing Great Britain in world championships. Thanks to our Principal Parks Manager Ian Wood and all Council staff who worked to make this event such a success – those in the know tell me that Peel Park is the best Cyclo-Cross event course in the country.
David Hockney, probably the world’s most famous living artist, and a son of Bradford, turns 80 this year. As part of the celebrations we will open a new Hockney Gallery at Cartwright Hall in July. Before that – again at Cartwright Hall – we will host items from the Royal Collection. This is a collection of extraordinary gifts given to the Prince of Wales in 1875 by over 90 rulers of the Indian sub-continent. This is the first time in 135 years that they will be collectively displayed.
Back to cycling and over the May Day bank holiday weekend the whole District will be caught up in the carnival that is the Tour de Yorkshire. The final day of racing on Sunday, 30 April begins in City Park and a large part of the route snakes its way around the District. We will be working with communities and businesses to decorate the route and get ready for a bumper holiday weekend. So plan your viewing spot and get that bunting out!
I mention these events because they offer a great opportunity to position Bradford positively with wider audiences; to bring more visitors, businesses and students to our District. This boosts the economy, creates jobs, and strengthens our tax base which provides the funding for our services.
A key objective of mine this year will be to promote the District more effectively. Some of the great things about Bradford are not well enough known or understood. This is not about spin or denying some of the challenges we face.
For the next few months my main priorities will be to support elected members to set the budget for 2017/18 and 2018/19, to get detailed delivery plans in place for the Council Plan and to get ready for the LGA (Local Government Association) peer review, which is an opportunity for experts from other councils to tell us how we are doing. I want to thank all the staff who have contributed to these agendas. In the near future we will be launching the next round of staff roadshow sessions which will give everyone more opportunities to share views and shape the delivery of our priorities.
In the last few days we have heard some promising news about the future of the Bradford Bulls. Now what would be a brilliant hat trick in 2017 would be Bradford City getting promotion into the Championship, a sustainable future secured for Rugby League in Bradford and Keighley Cougars moving up into the RFL Championship! But aside from these hopes and dreams, there are so many ways we can and do make a positive impact for the people of the district – let’s keep doing it and make 2017 a winning year for everyone.
PS, as always, for more regular updates, you can follow me on Twitter.
Royal collection images credit: Royal Collection Trust / Copyright Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017