A memorable first year as Leader

Posted: Wednesday 20th December 2023

Welcome to my final blog of 2023 and the end of the year marks nearly 12 months since I became Leader of Trafford Council. 

The time has absolutely flown by and it has been a privilege to meet so many people who live and work here, or who come to enjoy the fantastic leisure and culture facilities the borough has to offer.

I have particularly enjoyed getting out and about to talk to out wonderful staff in the various council departments who work so hard to help improve the lives of people in the borough. A highlight was welcoming our very first group of young, supported interns. The 16 to 24-year-olds are part of our newly launched Supported Internship programme, which gives young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) the chance to try out a work placement and wherever possible, move into paid employment at the end of the programme.

Despite the ongoing financial constraints we face, we have achieved a lot this year including building much needed affordable homes with more in the pipeline, improving the lives of children and continuing to revitalise Trafford towns.

Ensuring the children of this borough always have the best possible start in life is a personal priority for me and I was pleased that Ofsted has officially recognised the improvements we have made in this area.

Our sports and arts offering is the envy of the world and we have had tens of thousands of people visit the borough this year to enjoy a range of activities including football, cricket, cycling and running. I have made sure we now have a culture strategy in place to build on our excellent reputation in these areas and ensure we attract investment in the borough on the back of them. Council acts now to launch culture strategy.

The transformation of our town centres continues. Altrincham was awarded a purple flag for its night time economy offering. In Stretford plans to build more than 600 private and affordable homes were signed off. This will help more people to remain in the borough and get on the housing ladder. Major 639-home residential scheme approved by Council. The lack of affordable homes is something we will continue to address with our partners.

Climate change is the most pressing global issue of our time and we will continue to take our responsibilities seriously and act decisively. Sale Water Park became the home of state-of-the-art electric vehicle charges. Be.EV splash out £1million to create Greater Manchester's biggest ultra-rapid EV hub to charge 400 cars a day. And I took to an electric bike for a month as well to encourage people to ditch their cars. Council Leader goes electric for Cycle September.

I also said at the start of the year about the importance of ‘getting the basics right.’ And we have done that with the seven year review of the contract we have with Amey. This will help improve waste collection services, deliver better customer service, improve efficiency and identify additional income. 'Receiving the best service possible.' Bosses hail review which will strengthen partnership.

However, 2023 has not been without its difficulties, none more so than the ongoing budget constraints. Inflation, high fuel costs and increasing need for council services, especially among the more vulnerable in society mean it is a real challenge for us to do our work effectively. That’s why I penned an open letter to the government urging for fairer funding for Trafford and similar local authorities. We can’t keep going on like this indefinitely. We need fairer funding. Since 2010 we have to plug budget gaps totalling £288m – and our funding has fallen by 60% in real terms.

Our three corporate priorities – reducing health inequalities, supporting people out of poverty and addressing our climate crisis – have stood us in good stead. But as times change we need to refocus our aims and that’s why we will revisit our Corporate Plan in 2024.

Finally I want to wish everyone best wishes for the festive season. I know for many of you it has been a tough year but as a Council in 2024 we will continue to do our best to support you and improve the lives of everyone who lives and works in Trafford.

Best wishes