Leader's Announcements (Agenda item 5)
To receive a verbal update from Councillor Sam Chapman-Allen, Leader of the Council.
The Leader announced that he had recently attended one of the most exciting events Manchester had seen for some time, the ‘Corridor of Life’ event.
The activity was held by the Cambridge Norwich Tech Corridor partners to showcase the breadth of opportunities across the Breckland district and the region.
With support from George Freeman MP, and a number of businesses along the corridor, including Snetterton’s Equipmake, politicians, business-leaders, and potential investors heard how the corridor, with the Breckland district at its heart, offered unique employment and growth opportunities to both existing and prospective employers.
These opportunities would provide new and better-paid jobs to the Breckland area and help create a cluster of industries. He was delighted to highlight this tremendous potential, alongside the national political Conference. He hoped it would help stimulate investment in local infrastructure, business growth, skills, and employment, which would be excellent news for residents.
Closer to home, the exciting Future Breckland programme scheme continued at pace, with attentions currently focused on Watton and Swaffham. Public engagement events were set to take place very soon, allowing people in these towns the chance to tell the Council what was great about their area, as well as what they wanted to see Breckland Council, and its partners focus on improving.
In doing so, this Council would provide the chance for the people to shape plans for their towns and the district for years to come and he urged residents to come forward with their ideas and get involved.
Members would be aware that Dereham residents had their say earlier this year and the programme was set to come to Thetford and Attleborough in due course, in early 2022.
In respect of Swaffham, he was delighted to update Members on the Swaffham Heritage Action Zone, or the HAZ, which was about to take a big step forward.
He asked Members to recall the considerable amount of money that had been secured, £380k from Historic England that had been ringfenced to protect Swaffham’s historic high street, while further enhancing the town for residents and visitors.
Contractors had recently been appointed to support this scheme, which would see some of the town’s oldest buildings repaired and brightened up, and plans put in place to complement them with modern amenities for residents and visitors.
On the subject of local investment, he was also delighted to report that this Council had secured £250,000, to be spent on some key measures to support vulnerable residents in the district.
The money from the Contain Outbreak Management Fund (or COMF) would see around £95,000 invested directly into the Council’s Housing Team, to have officers specifically focused on supporting people to avoid homelessness and to move from Temporary Accommodation support into longer-term housing solutions. Additionally, some of that money would be used to fund a new grant scheme to tackle these issues.
A proportion of the £250,000 would be allocated to the existing District Direct scheme, which would see the Council working closely with hospitals to speed up home adaptions and prevent ‘bed blocking’ – an issue whereby hospital patients were classed as medically fit enough to go home but could not because their accommodation was not deemed to be appropriate for their changing needs. This money would help tackle the issues, get people back home sooner, and release capacity within the health service.
Finally, he was pleased to inform Members that this Council was in the running for not one but two awards.
The ambitious Worksmart programme to overhaul and modernise the way the Council operated had recently attracted interest from a number of this authority’s peers who were keen to follow in its footsteps, and now Breckland Council had been named as a finalist in two categories of the national Smarter Working Live awards.
These awards celebrated innovation, collaboration and excellence in the public sector and this Council’s commitment in changing its ways of working and transforming its approach in order to create better, modern services for its residents, had now being recognised on a national stage.
The Leader then said a few words in respect of Cllr Trevor Carter who had sadly decided, due to personal reasons, to stand down as a Breckland Councillor. Former commissioned officer in the British Army, then a local teacher, Cllr Carter was first elected as a Breckland Councillor in May 2011 and had held numerous positions from Cabinet, Chairman of the Member Development Panel as well as being appointed to numerous committees. During the past 10 years he had worked hard for the residents of Hermitage Ward, and it had been a privilege to work alongside him as an elected Member. He had focused his energies in dealing with the many issues residents had tasked him with, giving a great deal of time to Council business, and had worked tirelessly for those who had needed his help over the years.
He asked all Members to join him in wishing Cllr Carter the very best for the future.
Councillor Bambridge, the Executive Director for Waste & Environment said that he had been a Member of this Council since 2003 and had been very impressed in the way in which it brought money in and listening to the Leader’s statement as he detailed the monies that was still forthcoming he had been quite surprised at how it had managed to do so well particularly throughout this pandemic and felt that it was worth a comment and congratulated the Leader and various Officers in what had been achieved.
The Chairman agreed with Councillor Bambridge’s comments.