Welcome to tonight’s meeting. In my last statement I referenced the new Prime Minister that had been announced. Who would have believed we have, over the past week, had a new one. The same big challenges need addressing as I said in my last statement, including stability for the national economy and addressing the significant cost of living challenges.
Tonight’s agenda includes the new taxi licensing policy, a general fund budget update picking up on in-year pressures and the community governance review and the outcomes of recent consultation. I also look forward to debates on the motions put forward for tonight’s Council.
Cost of living
The cost of living pressures faced by our residents continues to impact on the demand for our services and officers have responded by putting together a comprehensive action plan to focus and co-ordinate our activity. I am pleased to report that officers convened a cost of living ‘money advice and wellbeing’ event in early October at the Meeting Rooms, Hinckley. This was a free drop-in event encouraging residents to come and find out about local support services in a friendly and informal setting. Residents had the opportunity to meet with a range of organisations to access information and advice in relation to household budgeting, managing debt, managing energy and fuel bills, housing costs and benefits. Over 30 key partners and stakeholders supported this event. The event also helped residents understand how to look after their mental health and wellbeing, as well as ideas for cooking on a budget with taster sessions.
The Council will be holding a further event in a rural location after Christmas and a “planning for winter” session to council house tenants is being held in November.
The council is also supporting voluntary sector and church organisations who are opening up their buildings for residents to spend time in to keep warm. A warm spaces grant funding programme has been launched to support voluntary and community agencies / not for profit organisations, offering a grant of £1,200 to meet associated costs of their warm space offer such as support with energy costs, food and drink and associated activities.
National funding pressures
As the report on the agenda tonight reveals, there are significant funding pressures on local authorities as a result of the cost of living crisis and energy crisis. Leicestershire County Council recently released a press statement reporting on the significant funding pressures it is experiencing along with potential implications for its services to the public and indeed local councils, such as ours.
I hope the new Prime Minister and Chancellor recognise the incredibly important role we and all local authorities play in delivering services to our communities, which was clearly illustrated and amplified during the COVID pandemic and recovery period.
This recognition must go hand in hand with government’s commitment to our future funding and sustainability, as without it our services to our communities will be impacted at the very time they need us most.
On a brighter note, the council continues to deliver an excellent programme of events, all free to our residents and visitors.
Only last weekend on 29 October the popular Spooktacular Saturday event took place. Over 200 children attended in their Halloween costumes, all receiving a special medal and a chance to win trophies in the best dressed competition. Other activities included pumpkin bowling, creepy crafts, spook stone painting, face painting and a themed stilt walker. As we have heard, the Mayor attended the event and had a lovely time.
In the lead up to Christmas we have the following key events:
Sunday, 13 November: Remembrance Sunday service in the Memorial Gardens, Argents Mead shortly before 11am with parades either side of the service. All councillors are most welcome to attend.
Friday, 18 November: Christmas lights switch on. The lights will be switched on at 6.30pm by the town crier, Joe David.
Sunday, 4 December: The festive fancy dress fun run (in partnership with Hinckley Bid) will take place throughout the town centre.
Wednesday, 7 December Christmas lights car trail where we are able to showcase our wonderful lights to residents who have disabilities and mobility difficulties.
Sunday, 11 December Festive Feast which takes place in the Market Place with a selection of food and craft stalls along with warming mulled wine, live music and entertainment.
I would like to express my thanks to the council’s events team for ensuring all our events are well coordinated, safe and free for our residents.
On Friday, 21 October the borough was host to the A5 conference facilitated by Midlands Connect. Thank you to the members who supported the event. The conference was attended by over 100 stakeholders including businesses, national highways and partner local authorities and MPs. The key purpose of this event was to highlight the important case for further significant investment in the A5. This follows significant lobbying by the council, with the support of the A5 Partnership, over the last ten years or so. The conference heard that the A5 corridor through the midlands creates £22bn of GVA annually, with traffic flows of up to 25,000 vehicles per day (with up to a third being HGVs), supporting over 1.32 million jobs and home to 2.89 million residents with significant forecast growth.
I would like to express my thanks to our Chief Executive who spoke and presented the case for investment at the conference and my colleague Cllr David Bill for highlighting the key local challenges. We are supported by MPs along the corridor and I hope our local MP, who also attended and spoke at the event, continues to lobby hard with the government to prioritise investment to the Hinckley and Tamworth section of the A5.
It has recently been reported that an application has been submitted by the Clinical Commissioning Group for Leicestershire to the NHS for a new £14.5m community diagnostic centre in Hinckley – a new one stop shop for checks, scans and tests. This is in addition to a new day case unit from the £7m announced pre-pandemic.
Whilst I welcome these announcements, members will be aware of the council’s efforts to secure an urgent day care centre in Hinckley for the benefit of its residents. I will continue to lobby for this as part of the overall investment package and have asked officers to ensure this matter continues to be considered in the development of the plans.
I’m pleased to confirm that, following Barclays’ announcement to close its Hinckley town centre branch in November, officers have been in negotiation with the bank’s representatives and secured a commercial arrangement that retains their presence in the town and we hope the new service will commence at the Atkins Building from next week. I see this as an even bigger opportunity to create a banking hub service for other banks who have left the town.
The Leader presented his position statement which included the cost of living crisis, warm spaces initiative, national funding pressures, events, the A5 conference, healthcare in Hinckley and Barclays bank.