The leader of Central Beds Council writes his monthly column for the Times & Citizen and Biggleswade Chronicle
A number of events over recent weeks have provided some metaphorical sunshine to brighten up what has otherwise been a disappointingly damp summer.
Recently the Olympic Flame came through Bedfordshire and I had the privilege of meeting locally born torchbearer Matt King who epitomises triumph over adversity.
The stories of our torchbearers, who have had such a big impact on their local community, together with the fact that we had such a fantastic turnout was proof that community spirit is alive and well.
And this month has also brought us other reasons to be cheerful. Earlier in July, our executive approved our financial year end report which showed that as a result of our focus on value for money and efficiency, the council ended the year in the black.
Taking a long hard look at the way we run the council, we’ve improved a number of back office processes so that we can protect public services without increasing council tax. So, for example we have increased the amount of council tax we have collected (now at almost 98 per cent), we’re processing benefits claims more quickly and paying our suppliers, many of whom are local businesses, more efficiently.
These improvements to the way we work, are matched by better performance in the frontline service areas that matter most to you, our customers.
We know crime and community safety are top priorities for many Central Bedfordshire residents, and I was delighted to hear that our local partnership has achieved a 16 per cent reduction in crimes such as domestic burglary, robbery and vehicle theft. We’ve also exceeded our target for delivering more affordable homes. 440 new homes have been created in the last year, at a time when many young people are struggling to get on the housing ladder.
And, for our more vulnerable residents, the opening this month of newly refurbished accommodation for adults with learning difficulties was another cause for celebration. Situated in the heart of Biggleswade, Benson Court is a very tangible example of how the council, working with our partner, Grand Union Housing Group, is making a real difference to the lives of the eleven residents living there. For many of these people this will be the first time in their lives they have had their own front door and the first time they have had anything approaching privacy and independence.
We’ve come a long way over the past three years, but we recognise that there is still more to do. We’ve set ourselves some ambitious targets which will mean the Council must continue to change and challenge itself. This can be difficult and in some cases quite uncomfortable, particularly when we are requiring our staff to work in new ways, often with reduced resources. However, thinking of the new residents of Benson Court, and how the council is making a real difference to their lives, is what working for Central Bedfordshire is all about!
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Weather for Bedford
Monday 20 May 2013
Temperature: 10 C to 19 C
Wind Speed: 15 mph
Wind direction: North
Temperature: 7 C to 14 C
Wind Speed: 16 mph
Wind direction: North