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.