Looking to the future
The foundation of any Council is its financial strength; without resource it is not able to deliver the services and the facilities that residents want and deserve.
My first hope therefore is that the strong financial legacy that has been left by the Conservative Administration is protected. The Council will need to increase its income over the next four years as Government support decreases - our strategy was to make further secure investments to deliver this. The investment in Chesterford Research Park delivered £1.7m income this year which was an important contributor to the balance sheet and this investment has been nationally recognised and is shortlisted in two categories for the MJ awards. My second hope is that sensible measures are taken to increase income rather than cutting services.
The Local Plan is contentious in some parts of Uttlesford but the strategy of starting new communities is recognised across the District as the right solution to meet the (nationally determined) housing need without over developing existing communities. My third and fourth hopes are that the Plan is approved by the Inspectors (I am sure with some modifications) so that the District has a five year land supply and therefore protection against unplanned development and that the new communities uphold the Garden Community principles and are a testimony to 21st century living. Central Government has recognised the Council’s work in this area with a £750,000 grant and I hope the money is used effectively so that further grants are given.
My fifth hope is that the work of the Local Strategic Partnership for Health and Well-Being, Children and Families, Community Safety and Economic Development/Transport/Environment is maintained particularly by working with external stakeholders and independent Chairs. Uttlesford is generally a prosperous and healthy area but there are those less fortunate and we must ensure that everyone, whatever their circumstances, receives the appropriate support. The environment must be a key focus and it is a Conservative objective to make Uttlesford an exemplar for environmental health. Working with the voluntary sector has been one of the pleasures of being in office, they are the glue that holds our society together and the Council should work in partnership to fulfil their objectives.
My sixth hope is that Julie Redfern and UDC officers’ great work for social and sheltered housing is carried forward. We must support those who are unable to afford a home of their own.
There are many other hopes but finally may the new Council listen to the whole community; it is easy to hear certain voices but that may not be the overall message.
As for fears, I am concerned the Conservatives will inherit the same financial challenge in 2023 as it did in 2007. I fear for UDC’s role as a planning authority if Councillors do not treat planning as a semi judicial process and I fear that inexperienced Councillors will not listen carefully enough to officers - of course, elected representatives make the decisions but every decision (or lack of decision) has a consequence and some of them can be foreseen.
I wish the residents of Uttlesford every future success and thank them for their support over many years.