I noted the other day that I had been doing the job of Leader at Horsham District Council for just over a year and it set me thinking about the things the council has been doing in that time…
In a year which has continued to be difficult for so many of us, I thought it would be in the spirit of the season to remind ourselves of some really positive things that have happened in our council district.
We started with the urgent matter of the proposed closure of Broadbridge Heath Leisure Centre. My cabinet colleague, Jonathan Chowen, was the person who ran with the baton and thankfully held onto it! As a result a new £7.3m leisure centre funded by HDC will be built to replace the old building. In addition, a replacement athletics track for the district will be built at Tanbridge House School.
Virtually all councils in the country work on a mini-Westminster cabinet style scheme where leading councillors take charge of particular areas of council activity. The previous cabinet was all male and I brought in in two women members who had both joined the council in 2011.
We took the decision to freeze the council tax rate for a third year in the belief that most of our council tax payers would want us to do this and to work instead on the ‘user pays’ philosophy, where those who use services pay for them.
Then we have had some magnificent events during 2012: The Piazza Italia festival took place at Easter in Horsham with around 15 per cent more people visiting. The District Food and Drink Festival programme in September had over 100 special offers, discounts and events. A record number of people took part in a real ale trail as part of the ‘Big Nibble’ weekend of celebrations.
Horsham District has the highest number of start-up businesses in West Sussex with the best record of long term success and in March the council ran ‘Microbiz’, an exhibition to help small businesses. It proved to be a hugely successful event with 40 exhibitors and over 500 visitors.
The council’s ‘Horsham District News’ magazine was awarded the national silver award for best publication at the recent LG Communications Reputation Awards 2012. While Horsham Museum Art Gallery had a strong summer of art with both Matisse and Off the Wall proving popular.
Meanwhile in East Street, Horsham, Tristan restaurant was awarded a prestigious Michelin star award. This re-inforced the fantastic eating experience that East Street has become through a variety of high quality restaurants and then, at very long last after years of disuse, the Old Town Hall was transformed back into life when Bill’s opened just in time for Christmas.
No wonder that during the year Horsham District was ranked in the top five best places to live in the UK!
In case anyone thinks this is all that the council has been doing, I thought I would briefly mention some examples showing us that our council staff are still busy at work doing their ‘day jobs’, along with some numbers for those who like them!
Recycling and refuse collections were provided to 56,638 households. The council received 2,733 planning applications and handled around 35,000 letters about them. Around 1600 Building Regulation applications were received. 2,240 homelessness enquiries were made.
The council delivered 3,463 sessions of activities for children and young people and 1,183 sessions specifically for the elderly or infirm;191 stray dogs were collected over the year; 154 were returned to their owners and 36 were found new homes.
Finally there was the Olympic torch and a gold medal - West Sussex’s piece of the Paralympic Flame arrived in Horsham on Saturday August 25. A Flame Celebration Event, led by the district council, took place in Horsham Park to celebrate its arrival and in the Olympic stadium Grenada sprinter Kirani James won his country’s first ever gold medal for the 400m sprint.
His chosen training ground? - our own Broadbridge Heath Leisure Centre!
So for the year ahead will it all be calm and quiet?
I doubt it!
My best wishes to everyone in our district for a very Happy New Year.