Published December 24, 2019 at 9:01
It’s hard to believe that it is already time to wish everyone in our great borough a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. 2019 has flown by. It’s nice to see everyone getting into the Christmas spirit and the Christmas lights across the borough are looking great.
I’m definitely looking forward to a break and spending time with my family. As you can imagine, it’s been hectic the last few weeks.
Christmas is a wonderful time of year; a time when we can reflect back on the previous year as well as look forward to the new year and in this case a new decade.
While the last 12 months have been tough for our Council and our borough because of the pressures on the budgets of public services and the tough economic conditions in general, I am proud that we, working with the partners and the community, have managed to achieve a lot.
As leader, I’m delighted of the progress we have made in our town centres. There is a growing buzz around Rawtenstall. The new bus station, which we delivered, and the great work being done with Rawtenstall Market is helping that positive vibe grow.
In Bacup, the Townscape Heritage Initiative project has delivered lasting change but we know more needs to be done so I was delighted about the progress we have made in bringing new funding into the town to achieve our vision, which has been shaped by residents and businesses.
In Haslingden, our ambitious plans, again shaped by residents and businesses, have already attracted funding for us to develop proposals. Council officers continue to work hard to bring in more funding and resources we need to make the borough a better place.
Since 2011, we have focused on our town centres. That focus is paying off. There is lots more for us to do and of course it will be tough given how the troubles facing the town centres across the country. But with a clear vision, a bit of imagination and strong partnership working we can buck those trends.
Of course, we cannot forget the other areas of Rossendale such as Whitworth, Helmshore, Rising Bridge, Edenfield, Stacksteads and Waterfoot. Next year, we will be looking at how we can work with those communities to improve them.
I am also particularly proud of the work we have done with the community to improve our green spaces. Stubbylee Park has won national recognition as one of the country’s best loved parks. That was only achieved through everyone working together. We hope to replicate that success in our other lovely parks.
I often say Rossendale is one of the friendliest and community minded places you can find. The Community Volunteer Awards showed that spirit in abundance. Meeting people who day in, day out make a difference and make their neighbourhoods tick was definitely one of the highlights of my year. They are a true credit to this borough.
I am also proud of the efforts we have made to protect our environment. For example, we have become one of the first councils to ban the use of chemical weed killer in our parks and play areas. We have brought funding in to install electric car charging points in the borough and we continue to lobby for better public transports links.
But we need to do much, much more. That is why we declared a climate emergency. We wanted to show leadership on this issue, make sure our house is in order and also raise awareness that unless we all take action, we are heading for catastrophe.
That is, of course, a difficult message to give out at Christmas. But one we must start heeding. And what better time of year to do so.
It would be great if everyone starts the New Year thinking about what we can do as individuals to tackle this emergency.
Finally, Christmas is a time for people coming together and also for thinking about others. There are lots of vulnerable people in our borough, many of them lonely and isolated. I know many of us do already, because as I say, we are a borough of folk that are community spirited but let’s all keep an eye out for those less fortunate and more vulnerable than ourselves and give help and support if we can.
I hope everyone in Rossendale has a safe and peaceful Christmas and a Happy New Year.