I love this time of year. It’s a time when the wonder of nature is so visible all around us – and where better to experience it than here in Derbyshire where our beautiful countryside paints its own picture, turning slowly from luscious green to autumnal hues.
Derbyshire certainly has a lot to offer visitors at this time of year and with the half-term school holidays fast approaching, we’ve been working closely with partners to extend the tourist season and entice visitors through October and into November.
One such project being staged to attract visitors from both within Derbyshire and further afield is Shine A Light – an extravaganza of light and sound set against the backdrop of Chatsworth House and Arkwright’s Mill at Cromford.
I’m really excited to see two of our county’s iconic buildings transformed in this spectacular series of night-time experiences which promise to provide a great evening out for all the family.
To book tickets or find out more visit derbyshire.gov.uk/shinealight
It’s the first of what we hope will become a regular series of signature projects as part of a wider plan to support culture and creative industries across the county.
We’ve set aside £1m as part of our Covid recovery scheme to support Derbyshire’s creative and cultural economy. Alongside the wider visitor economy, this sector has been devastated by Covid with businesses that rely on attracting audiences and visitors some of the very last to return to normal operation.
Derbyshire’s vibrant creative community and rich cultural heritage are key to the county’s identity and unique story and this extra funding will help support these businesses which make a valuable contribution to the vibrancy and vitality of our county.
I was delighted to be able to present a very well-deserved Beacon of Hope award recently to representatives from Derbyshire Emergency Volunteers at County Hall.
It was wonderful to be able to meet some of the people who make up Derbyshire Emergency Volunteers and congratulate them on the amazing work they’ve done, not only during the pandemic but at other times of crisis too, including the incident at Whaley Bridge in 2019.
The group was originally formed to assist emergency responders during incidents like flooding and snow, but during the pandemic their members have gone above and beyond.
The Beacon of Hope awards were launched by Derbyshire’s High Sheriff and Lord Lieutenant to recognise tireless work and dedication through the coronavirus situation, and both the county and city councils have given the awards their full backing.
Presentations like the one to the Derbyshire Emergency Volunteers have been happening across the county and city as more than 175 groups and individuals receive their awards.
I’m delighted to be a part of it and to be able to personally thank just some of the people involved in the tremendous, countywide effort that has helped to pull us all through.
Well done to the Derbyshire Emergency Volunteers and well done to everyone who has received a Beacon of Hope award.
Becoming Leader of Derbyshire County Council four years ago was one of the proudest moments of my life – so it’s a great honour and a privilege to be leading the Council again, this time into its second administration.
We have some very ambitious plans for the next four years, with a new mantra `Delivery at Pace’ – and we’ll be putting all we’ve learned from the last four years and over the course of the pandemic into action.
Local government will never be the same again for all sorts of reasons, and we’ll be clearly demonstrating that we can move at pace in all areas and across all our services.
We know our residents are aspirational for themselves, for their families and for their communities, and the strong team I have working with me will strive to make these aspirations a reality and ensure Derbyshire is an even better place to live, work and play.
There are several large tasks at hand and we aim to hit the ground running.
One of those tasks is driving forward our Covid recovery – economically and socially. We will support our county to rebuild, and build back better, ensuring a recovery which is greener and more resilient, putting communities back on their feet and strengthening our economy.
We’ll be committing £10million to our Green Entrepreneurs Scheme focussing on delivering community energy projects, developing skills and creating jobs. We’ll be planting one million trees by 2030 and installing more electric vehicle chargers countywide.
And we’ll be working closely with our district and borough colleagues and others on meeting our net zero carbon targets – for the council’s estate by 2032 or sooner, and the county by 2050 – and we’ll be ensuring grants for business start-ups, emphasising the creation of green jobs.
We’ve already agreed to team up with the Peak District National Park Authority to work on innovative public transport solutions there and we’re keen to see the transformation of public transport as a whole.
We are seeing signs of potentially record investment flowing into the region, including Town Deals, such as those for Clay Cross, Staveley and Long Eaton, and the potential for significant Levelling Up investment, as well as the welcome announcement of the Freeport for the East Midlands – the East Midlands Global Gateway.
All very exciting, along with our own projects like Ashbourne Airfield and bypass, and longer-term work to try to alleviate the challenges of traffic impact along the A61 and commitments to deliver schemes like the Swarkestone Causeway bypass solution.
And we’re delivering the biggest investment in our highways over the coming three years and beyond, a huge £120 million of capital schemes, aiming to give Derbyshire residents the best quality highways infrastructure we can.
We’re ambitious for our young people too, and for the first time ever we’ll be tackling two major issues in a big way – mental ill health and levelling up the opportunities for young people who find themselves disconnected from education and related opportunities which has a knock-on effect when it comes to the world of work.
We know there are pockets of deprivation in our communities and working with schools and other partners we will look at ways of addressing these issues.
We’re committing at least £350,000 to our mental ill health work as we know following the pandemic this is an increasing issue for young people that needs to be addressed, and £1 million will kick start our innovative Levelling up for Young People scheme.
We’re also turning our attentions to arts and culture, as both were hit particularly hard last year. These sectors are hugely vibrant and play an important role in supporting the wider tourism economy – so much so that we’re establishing a £1 million cultural recovery fund to support their bounce back.
Of course, we remain committed to ensuring there is the right type of care for our elderly and have reaffirmed our £30million commitment to this, underlining that no care home shall close without there being alternative local provision.
And to help our community groups and charities who have been so supportive during the pandemic, we’re again doubling the Members Community Leadership Fund to ensure our councillors can continue to support their communities.
I’m so proud of Derbyshire and I know that the next four years will make me prouder still. There’s a lot to do, but we’re all up to the challenges ahead and will work hard to ensure our county builds back stronger and our residents, businesses and communities thrive.
As we start on the road back to a more normal life, we’re working with partners to put a comprehensive phased recovery plan in place to kick-start the Derbyshire economy.
While no one could have anticipated or wished for the events of the past 12 months, it has provided an opportunity to take stock and think about the kind of world we want to live in.
That’s why our recovery plan puts the environmental agenda at its heart and sits hand in hand with our strategies to achieve our bold ambition to cut the council’s carbon emissions to net zero by 2032 and emissions from across Derbyshire to net zero by 2050.
This plan seeks to not only recover, but to use the changes the pandemic has brought as a catalyst for new sectors like hydrogen power.
The first step on this road to a more carbon-light recovery is our Green Entrepreneur Fund – a £2m grant scheme which will support new projects in heat and power generation, carbon reduction and clean fuel and will enable people to train for the green jobs of both now and the future.
We believe there is a unique opportunity to bring greater benefits to local communities and the local economic conditions to create high quality jobs driven by utilising the local skills base in engineering and manufacturing.
In all of our efforts, collaboration and partnership working will be key to transforming our economies and creating the jobs of tomorrow, with the climate change agenda squarely at the centre in mind. And I’m pleased to have the University of Derby on board as we look to diversify the skills of our residents, so they match the jobs of the future.
We’re championing business innovation and we’re excited to be able to offer businesses the financial support needed to help turn their ideas into game changing proposals to tackle climate change, positioning Derbyshire as a leader in the field in the development of green energy and impacting positively on the way we all live in the future.
*Find out more about the Green Entrepreneur Fund and how Derbyshire businesses can get involved on Derbyshire County Council’s website at derbyshire.gov.uk/gef
I’ve been extremely heartened to see so many Derbyshire businesses stepping up to help in innovative, kind-hearted and generous ways to help their communities during the pandemic.
Many of these businesses and the people who run and work in them are under extreme pressure as the effects of the pandemic continue to bite and they try to make ends meet.
Despite being under pressure themselves, they have not hesitated to offer help and support to people around them, and it’s actions like these that make me more sure than ever that we will not only get through this, but we’ll come back stronger and get our county back on its feet in no time.
I’m talking about people like businessman Steve Perez, who has thrown open the doors of his hotel – Casa in Chesterfield – to be used as a vaccination centre.
Nothing is more pivotal in getting us back to normal than getting these vaccines in to arms, and actions like these, with Steve and his team working with the NHS, will really speed things along.
Here’s what Steve said about the initiative: “It’s important for us to do our bit to help the country get back on its feet again in any way we can.”
Another great example is that of A52 Executive Cars – an executive chauffeur and airport transfer service near Derby – they’re offering to take people in their local area to and from their vaccine appointments for free – all they’re asking is that people `pay it forward’ by making somebody’s day a little brighter or making a small donation to the charity of their choice.
Boss at A52 Executive Cars David Rowen says that work dropped off during the first lockdown and he was desperate to get out and help the community in any way he could and give something back. When he heard about people struggling to get to Derby arena for their vaccines he realised he could help.
David said: “I really feel like my company is helping to achieve something again and making a difference to local people, helping us all to get through the tough times we’re all facing in any way we can.”
Costa Coffee in Matlock is also going the extra mile for the local community.
Nathan Beresford is the manager and he’s also an on-call firefighter in the town. The café’s Knit and Natter group, which usually meets there in non-covid times, is using its skills in lockdown to help vulnerable people.
The group has made lots of knitted squares, with Costa barista Shelly Wilkinson knitting all the squares together to make blankets for our Meadow View Care Home in Darley Dale.
They have also given blankets to Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service so that community safety staff can deliver them to vulnerable people in the community.
Nathan said he was proud to have made Costa in Matlock a hub for the community, especially during these tough times.
Three very different but great examples of the famous Derbyshire spirit we’re always talking about.
It’s people like this who will help to unlock the local economy and help the county to bounce back.
I know there are dozens of other brilliant examples across the county – all people doing their bit, and I take my hat off to them. You’re an inspiration and a big thank-you goes out to you all.
We’ve set our budget for the year ahead, and the huge responsibility of this is always at the forefront of my mind.
The council is a billion-pound organisation and how we spend council tax payers money – Your Money – couldn’t be more important.
Every year we have to make what we have go just that little bit further, and we’re constantly looking at enterprising ways to get the most out of every penny.
Ensuring we keep our vital services in the best shape to protect our most vulnerable residents, old and young, has never been more essential as we continue to work through the pandemic which has so affected us all.
Equally important is the need to keep council tax as low as possible, and not put additional pressure on already overstretched household budgets.
That’s why when the government gave us permission to raise extra money to pay for adult social care by 3% this year, we decided to keep this to a 1% increase.
And we’re also keeping the general increase to 1.5%, rather than the permitted 2%.
So, at 2.5%, the increase for the year ahead is half what we’re permitted to make, and it’s lower than other shire counties providing the same services.
In an ideal world we’d like no increase at all, but the pressure on all our services, especially for adults and children, means that’s just not feasible and could lead to greater challenges in the future.
Our net budget for the year ahead is just over £572 million – and we’re as ambitious as ever for the county.
We’re spending more on adults and children’s care services, we’re continuing with our £40 million programme of repairing roads and pavements, we’re investing in schools and care homes and continuing with our climate change work, as we remain determined to meet our zero carbon emission targets.
Thanks to extra Government funding to get us through the pandemic, we remain in a financially robust position, and this has been hugely welcomed.
However, we’re still looking at nearly £73 million savings over the next five years, and we will continue to work hard on innovative and enterprising ways to provide our vital services and ensure we are there for our residents when they need us.
I normally start my Christmas message by saying what a busy year it’s been and highlighting some of the reasons why.
But I think we’d all agree this year has been far from normal, and to say we’ve been busy doesn’t really cover it.
The coronavirus pandemic has had a huge impact on our lives – more so than anyone could have envisaged when the first case in Derbyshire was reported back in February.
It’s obviously affected how we run the council and its services and we adapted quickly and well to the new circumstances and ever-changing situation, working closely with partners across the county.
We’ve pulled out all the stops to help and support our residents, making £1 million emergency funding immediately available to support households and businesses, and setting up our Community Response Unit to reach the most vulnerable and channel all the help offered by amazing volunteers.
Our £15 million Covid-19 Recovery Scheme has been running since late autumn, and will help to support businesses and save jobs, and we’re also running the Government’s covid winter grants scheme, making sure that families needing extra help over the next few months have access to vouchers to ensure no child in Derbyshire goes hungry.
I think we all applauded when we heard a vaccine was ready, and its roll out now is the key to us all getting some normality back. I understand some people are anxious but it’s the only way we can retrieve our lives, keep our loved ones safe and not put others at risk.
The vaccine rollout will take time, and our residents can rest assured that we will continue with our vital work to support households and businesses where we can for as long as is needed.
We are proud to say that we are ahead of the curve with community testing, being one of the first local authorities to be approved to carry this out. Along with the vaccine rollout and local tracing it’s another critical step to getting our local economy working again and our lives back, and I’m proud we’re taking the lead. This will be done in stages across the county and in time could also help us move down to the lower tiers of restriction, which we’re so desperate to do.
We know our hospitality sector and the tourism industry as a whole is being hit particularly hard, and we’ve called on the Government to provide more financial support and help to pull them through.
While the pandemic has dominated, we certainly haven’t taken our eye off the ball with other important work, and there have been some fantastic achievements over the past 12 months.
We’ve seen the opening of the new £10 million Ada Belfield Care Centre in Belper, which is now home to residents who waited patiently to move in while it was used to care for people recovering from covid-19. And on the same site we opened the wonderful new Belper Library, demonstrating our commitment to our library service now and in the future.
Our drive to ensure the best care for older people will also clearly be demonstrated when building work starts on the £13 million replacement for Hazelwood residential care home on the former Bennerley School site in Cotmanhay in the new year.
We’ve approved more than £11million for work on schools this year including improvements and maintenance which will see new windows, doors, heating systems and roofing. We’re funding the expansion of Glossopdale School and spending £1.2million on expanding John Port Spencer Academy in Etwall. We’ve also recently celebrated the opening of the new £5.3 million Highfields Spencer Academy in Littleover.
Our library service has worked wonders during the pandemic to reopen all 45 libraries and reintroduce the mobile library service safely and within the restrictions, and during lockdown staff continued to develop their extensive digital offer including access to online activities, events and eResources. Other teams have embraced digital working, with services such as Live Life Better Derbyshire now being delivered online.
And backing positive initiatives like the ShopAppy scheme, which has seen 250 local businesses register in recent weeks, and ensuring businesses know where to go for support, will also help us to weather the storm and help the county bounce back.
In the autumn we announced we’ll be spending more than £40million on improving roads and pavements across the county in the next 18 months, as well as a further £12 million on routine maintenance. We successfully bid for an extra £5 million for works on the A6 and we’re making good progress on plans for the Ashbourne by-pass, with an online consultation now completed for people to have their say on three potential routes.
One of the highlights of the year for me, which unfortunately couldn’t be marked in the way it was planned, was the opening of the Buxton Crescent, which has certainly been worth waiting for. I have been lucky enough to visit and have a guided tour and the work that has gone into it is stunning. A real jewel in Derbyshire’s crown.
We haven’t let coronavirus stop us from marking important milestones this year either, with online events marking the 75th anniversary of VE Day, and a socially-distanced Remembrance Day event at County Hall.
As the vaccine is rolled out and life begins to return to normal, we will carry on with our ambitious plans for the county, our residents, our environment and our economy.
Devolution will be high on the agenda, and we have outlined our approach in our Vision Derbyshire plan, liaising closely with our district and borough council partners on a new way of working together.
We’re also reinvigorating plans for the Festival of Derbyshire, put off in 2020, and now planned for 2021.
And our work on climate change will continue at pace as we strive to meet the targets we have set ourselves as an authority and for the county as a whole.
I’d like to thank all our residents for the resilience and amazing Derbyshire Spirit you have shown this year and I’m confident we can look to the future with optimism.
It’s not over, and we still need to ensure we are following the guidelines and restrictions and listening to the latest safety messages. I know this will be especially tough for many due to the recent changes over Christmas. We know there will be difficult times ahead too, but together we can do this and we will get our county back on track.
As you’ll be aware we’re now under a new lockdown and are being asked to follow new restrictions until December when it will be reviewed.
We’re backing this Government decision as it’s the right thing to do to try to stop the spread of coronavirus, keep us all safe, and hopefully in time, return us to some sort of normality.
Over the last few weeks we’ve seen the number of cases rising in Derbyshire and other parts of the country, and it’s clear the virus isn’t going away.
That’s why it’s so important we continue to take this seriously and stick to the restrictions.
I know this is going to be tough – maybe more so second time around. But it’s vitally important that we dig deep and follow the rules to the letter.
To people who think this doesn’t apply to them, it does. To people who think the virus won’t affect them, it will. Even if you don’t have symptoms, by breaking the lockdown you could be putting others at risk – family members or friends.
At the council we’ll be doing all we can to protect the most vulnerable members of our communities this winter and working hard to ensure our services are still there for those that need them.
We’ll be supporting efforts to ensure businesses survive and jobs are protected, and will be there for struggling families, the isolated and the lonely.
Our community response unit which supported thousands of people during the first lockdown is gearing back up and all the information about how to get help and offer help is on our website. The address is at the end of this video.
If you do go out, for shopping, exercise, or work if you can’t work from home, it’s also important you follow the advice we’re now all familiar with – wash hands, stay a safe distance apart and wear a face covering.
I’m really proud of the way Derbyshire communities are handling this and we need to continue showing our great Derbyshire spirit by doing all we can to stop the spread of this highly contagious virus and keep us all safe.
We can do this if we continue to support each other and work together. Thank you.
The historic Buxton Crescent has opened its doors following a multi-million pound redevelopment involving Derbyshire County Council and High Peak Borough Council, and I’ve already been treated to a tour to see for myself what will be on offer.
There’s no doubt the restoration of the Grade I listed building to its former glory as a Georgian spa will give the local economy a much-needed boost, and it’s anticipated it will create 140 permanent jobs across 40 different positions and occupations, in addition to supply chain contracts, boosting local tourism and putting Buxton back on the map as a leading spa town.
I’m very pleased to say there will be additional benefits for Derbyshire residents in recognition of the councils’ investment in the regeneration. International spa hotel chain Ensana, which manages the hotel and spa, has agreed discounts for anyone who lives in Derbyshire. More details can be found here https://www.ensanahotels.com/buxton/en
Residents can claim their discount which will be issued at the hotel by showing photo ID and a current council tax bill.
The Crescent really is the jewel in Buxton’s crown and I’m proud of the county council’s involvement in this complex conservation and regeneration project spanning many years to restore this Georgian gem to its rightful status as a luxury hotel and spa.
It’s been a difficult year, not least for the tourism industry, but with demand for staycations sky-rocketing, Buxton Crescent is set to be a huge draw to the Peak District for people looking to get away – and we’re pleased Ensana has recognised the local investment by offering a discount to Derbyshire residents.
The hotel really is flying the flag for economic recovery in Derbyshire, providing employment directly and indirectly through contracts with local businesses and I wish Ensana every success in this new chapter in the history of the Crescent.