Well, our Annual General meeting of Council is over for another year and, as Leader of the Council, I have appointed my Cabinet, who I would like to introduce to you.
I have discussed over the last year the significant financial challenges we face, probably the most testing in the living memory of local government. I have also set out priorities for the Council, which you have told us are important such as fly-tipping, keeping our streets clean, tackling homelessness, looking after vulnerable children and older people and building a strong economy. The Cabinet and I are determined to work timelessly to deliver these priorities for you and so without further ado, here they are!
So firstly Councillor Wayne Fitzgerald retains the role as Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care and Health with the addition of public health. In the last year he has overseen effective work to tackle the significant demand we have for adult social care services. In doing so, we have avoided leaving people unnecessarily in hospital enabling them to get back to their own homes as soon as possible.
Councillor David Seaton remains as Cabinet Member for Finance. Over the last few years, the Council, under his leadership has been able to deliver a balanced budget against an ever growing rise in demand. This year we have to fill a gap of £23 million so his work will be to focus solely on how we can do this.
Councillor Peter Hiller will be the Cabinet Member for Strategy Planning, Commercial Strategy and Investment. Building on the successful completion of the council’s local plan and the completion of highways and public realm improvements last year, he is looking forward to delivering an unrelenting focus to tackle our financial challenges and to develop opportunities to bring in more income to the Council to support front line services.
Councillor Mohammed Farooq joins the Cabinet for the first time and will be responsible for Digital Services and Transformation. We live in a fast moving world where digital technology can increase efficiency but also support and enhance vital services
Councillor Lynne Ayres is the Cabinet Member for Children Services, Education, Skills and the University, with Councillor Shazia Bashir as a Cabinet Adviser for Children’s Services. Their work will build on last year’s success under the leadership of Cllr Sam Smith which saw the city council’s Children Services receive a “good” rating from Ofsted. We also saw increased funding for safeguarding children. In Education, ‘A’ level passes and Key Stage 2 outcomes rose steadily, and an increased number of children received their first preference for a school place at both primary and secondary level.
Councillor Irene Walsh remains as Cabinet Member for Communities – marking a successful year which saw the council attract £1.6m of additional government funding as one of only five areas nationally working on ambitious plans to integrate our diverse communities. This year she will be leading our “Think Communities” approach so that the Council can work more effectively in supporting communities.
Councillor Marco Cereste will be the Cabinet Member for Waste, Street Scene and the Environment. Last year he successfully led the launch of our new trading company, Aragon Direct Services, giving the council greater control over those services that really matter to most residents like street cleaning, grass cutting and bin collections. He will be looking at how more services can be transferred into the new company. He also takes on responsibility for the council’s environment strategy, helping the council focus on the growing issue of climate change.
Councillor Steve Allen becomes the new Cabinet Member for Housing, Culture and Recreation. Homelessness and rough sleeping is an absolute priority of this administration, and so his portfolio has been expanded to give a focus to this. Cllr Allen also retains responsibility, for ensuring that arts, culture and recreation thrive in this city, which was part of his previous role as a Cabinet Advisor.
I would also like to express my gratitude to Councillor Diane Lamb and former Councillors Howard Fuller and Sam Smith who have left the Cabinet, paying tribute to their tireless work in their respective areas, and offering the thanks of the entire council.
Finally, I sincerely hope we will be able to work with other Councillors of different political persuasions on these vital priorities. My plea to these councillors is that challenge must be constructive and respectful and we will welcome their suggestions and ideas as to how we might do things better. I hope that we can all work together for the residents of this great city in this, our most challenging year.