We have much to be proud of in 2012, although it was a tough year for many in Bucks. We were a major host for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games. Dorney Lake gave Team GB its first Gold Medal and Stoke Mandeville was proudly recognised as the birthplace of the Paralympics.
As we enter 2013, top priorities for me are continuing to freeze council tax, pressing on with investment in our roads, carrying forward our opposition to HS2, and helping grow local job opportunities.
Last year there were some encouraging signs in the local economy and in 2013 we’ll continue to work with our district council colleagues and local businesses through the new Buckinghamshire Local Enterprise Partnership to stimulate jobs and growth – vitally important if we are to provide opportunities for our young people. Particularly important for long term success is securing High Speed Broadband across all of Bucks, and driving up skills for our young people by championing modern apprenticeships.
Investing in our roads and railways is also essential. We have just finished a £30 million road resurfacing programme and I will be asking the Council to approve a new £25 million programme to start this Spring. We have resurfaced almost 300 roads but I recognise far more needs to be done if we are to catch up from long neglect and meet the expectations of our residents. Importantly, we are also investing in the planned new East West Rail service to open up the Chiltern Line to Aylesbury by providing better links to the growing centres of Milton Keynes, Reading, Oxford and Bedford.
You won’t be surprised to know that I remain determined that we will protect Buckinghamshire’s unique and beautiful environment. This will involve continued opposition to the discredited HS2 project and a strong challenge to changes in planning laws if they encourage ‘urban sprawl’.
A priority for me has been holding council tax unchanged for a third year despite rising costs. I am determined that we should do this whilst protecting our frontline services and supporting our voluntary and community organisations. These are certainly tough financial times for local government. A reduction of 28% in our funding has required making significant savings, principally in our staffing and ‘back office’. I recognise we have taken some tough decisions, such as introducing charges for home to school transport, but these were essential. I would particularly like to thank our staff, who have contributed so much during difficult times.
In conclusion I am really optimistic about this country. 2013 will begin to see our economy turn the corner and I want the County Council, in partnership with our colleagues in other local Councils and Community organisations to play its part in driving economic recovery whilst still delivering vital services for the benefit of all Buckinghamshire residents.
I hope that you all have a very happy new year.
Buckinghamshire County Council