Councillor Danny Cook, Deputy Leader with portfolio for Community Cohesion: Good Evening Mr Mayor, Let me start by saying I sit here tonight very proudly with two hats on. I am Deputy Leader of the Council and Portfolio member for Community Cohesion. I am sure through tonight’s debate the Leader of the Council will principally cover the entity of the Council as a whole, I will of course dip in with bits and pieces but will start tonight with extracts from my portfolio angle. Community Cohesion, how important is the subject to this Council, our Partners and the people of our historic borough? Simple question really Mr Mayor. Firstly let’s start with a view of our values as an Authority. I am sure members know what these are. There are 12 personal values to this authority they encompass “Value for money and accountability will underpin the delivery of all corporate priorities. Working with others, the Council will deliver services that are well-governed, ethical, effective, efficient and economically viable”. Thus Tamworth Borough Council is the community leader of choice and will: Provide the right services Pursue innovative service delivery and improvement arrangements Provide more services for less cost Be an employer of choice Empower staff through investment Provide effective opportunity for all residents to influence outcomes Ensure access to the council's and other provider's services Communicate effectively with the public Demonstrate a link between citizen aspirations and council performance Promote equal opportunities and celebrate diversity Be open to public scrutiny & share our performance with the borough Integrate core values into all council affairs Increase strategic and political leadership capacity Basically, 9 out of those 12 directly feed into the drive for Community Cohesion, that’s how important. We have introduced many new levels of thinking into Community Cohesion over the past year and a half. We have developed a community cohesion baseline, a simple report giving us the diversity and makeup of Tamworth and issues we face. From this we created a framework to guide TBC and our partners on the LSP in ways to tackle these social inclusion barriers. But we must keep in mind that “Political Correctness is no excuse for Social Blindness”. We must face the problems head on with no fear nor small thinking. Through this we have created “Locality Working”. As I am sure members will be aware we have targeted four locality areas in Tamworth to target ours and many of our partner’s resources to tackle the deprivation and lack of opportunities within our poorer areas. Through this project and as it grows we hope to tackle many of the issues raised within the place survey. As we imbed this model into Glascote, Amington, Stonydelph and Belgrave it will give us and our partner’s better ability to dip into other areas and tackle issues key to public welfare. Through Community Cohesion we will continue to fight the battle to improve tackling ASB and crime in Tamworth. Many will know that over the past year the performance indictors for TBC and the Police in regard to crime levels have dropped drastically, bucking national trends. But the key battle is people’s fear of crime, not crime itself. We were audited recently by Government in regard to how many ASBO’s we have issued. Even though we are below average nationally for issue of ASBO’s the inspection went well and the gentleman sent to carry out the assessment realized the reason so few are given is we do not wait until it is so late to intervene. Projects like operation Turnaround are the future, multiple agency working to identify those are risk of losing their way and step in. I am pleased to say we are national leaders in this thinking. We must continue to work with our public to improve their view of Tamworth as a safe place to raise their families. Part of this battle is local environment, I can advise our street scene team continue to perform well and all can see how cleaner greener our streets and open spaces have become. Our Street Wardens are now operating under a better area arrangement to target resources more efficiently. Shortly they should receive enforcement powers to further the fight on litter and dog fouling. Civil parking enforcement Mr. Mayor, is it working? I can confirm the teams are now Tamworth based and know where to target their energies towards improving the safety of parking in Tamworth. I can demonstrate this by confirming to date this year parking income on TBC car parks is £17,000 above budget. While not an outcome target in itself, is welcome, but demonstrates the project is delivering and the transgressors are learning. Community Cohesion is delivering change for the better. But where can we improve. Difficult in my view due to the national situation we face. Lets us all be in no doubt Mr. Mayor, we are staring down the barrel of a 10% cut in our Revenue Support Grant from Government and while I hope and pray for a change to a conservative government next May, I do not see a change in this prediction should my hopes surface. Times are going to get hard at all levels of government and thus difficult decisions will have to be made. But here is a silver lining, something many of us believe, change and growth are not always to be led from governments, the people and the market can also drive this. At times far better. We are ahead of the game; we have community empowerment and engagement at the forefront of our agenda’s. Tamworth Listens, introduced by Cllr Jeremy Oates in 2005 drives the priorities of our budget setting. We have the town centre Master plan and the Tamworth Economic Partnership driving change, improvement and growth. We have a new Shopping Centre in our near future. Regeneration everywhere. But here is where our opportunity lies; we can focus more of the development on equality as well as growth. Most national economic strategies are still fixated on growth and make the mistake in assuming economic development is the same as growth. WE have an opportunity to understand that growth must be hand in hand with social development, equalities and community engagement. That the town’s regeneration must be for the benefit of all. Too many economic strategies focus on business start up’s, inward investment, land availability, but miss neighbourhood renewal, local benefit. I believe over the next couple of years we have a wonderful opportunity to Endeavour to tie together Economic regeneration and community cohesion. Nationally there is an alarming lack of relationship between the economy and social and local employment issues, including worklessness and tackling NEETS. Here is my driver, to let our local economy grow and drive Tamworth forward, but to use this tool to allow all in Tamworth to secure the benefit, to know the opportunities, to be aware that life is not to be lived the way you find it, but the want you want it, the way you earn it, the way you give the reward to others once you have it. Let us strive to give the people of this town this chance. Thank you Mr Mayor.
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