Spirit of “cooperation and goodwill” in the Dales

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The Leader of Derbyshire Dales District Council has spoken about how all political parties work together in “a spirit of cooperation and goodwill” for the benefit of local people.

Addressing the District Council’s annual meeting on Thursday, 23rd May, Councillor Lewis Rose OBE said this was “the hallmark” that set Derbyshire Dales apart from other local authorities.

Though the Conservatives have a substantial majority on the 39 member authority, Councillor Rose, giving his mid-term address, said, “We achieve more working together for the benefit of our residents than we do arguing about political issues - most of which are not in our control anyway. We face a common misconception which is that ‘bigger is better and bigger is cheaper’. We need to work together to show that ‘truly local’ really does make a difference.”

Member workshops would be an invaluable opportunity for all councillors to help formulate the District Council’s policies into 2014 and beyond. Against a backdrop of reduced Government funding and a third consecutive Council Tax freeze for local residents, Councillor Rose said there had been no reduction in front line services. “We will continue our work on making savings without cutting front line services,” he said. “We have to save more and continue to find better ways of working be it in partnership with others or with the private sector, as with the transfer of our revenues and benefits service.”

Listing some of the challenges and achievements during the past year, Councillor Rose conceded that few services impacted more on local people than waste and recycling collections.

“After changing the service last autumn we received many complaints,” he said. “But, despite those difficult early months, missing bins, missed collections and the snow – despite everything – the new service is now saving money and our recycling rates continue to climb.”

Councillor Rose paid tribute to the District Council’s community housing team for delivering on the top priority of enabling affordable homes for local people, with 118 new homes completed in 2012/13.

“The economic front has not been neglected,” Councillor Rose said, “but we would like to see more done and proper recognition of rural areas. We have joined and been welcomed by Sheffield City Region and have met with the Chairman and Chief Executive of D2N2 (the Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire economic partnership), who acknowledge that more needs to be done for rural areas. Our own Derbyshire Dales Business Advice Service has helped 229 new businesses and has now facilitated 109 new jobs. We hope to see progress on broadband provision in our area, as its poor quality is one of the biggest barriers our businesses face. We will support the bid for additional transitional funding as this cash has been an invaluable support for many of our small businesses. We need to fight for recognition and support from all agencies.”

Turning to planning and public consultation, Councillor Rose said, “The public participation in the Local Plan Advisory meetings was very helpful in formulating our recommendations. We await with interest the public’s views on our car parking review.”

He called the District Council’s Council Tax Reduction Scheme “amongst the best in the county” but said the authority would continue to do all it could to offer assistance. “Our staff are to congratulated on the very hard work they are putting into this scheme,” he said.

On leisure, Councillor Rose said the District Council’s Arc Leisure Matlock was an incredible success story, attracting half a million visits since opening less than two years ago, and it was great to see the Walking for Health scheme notch up more than 3,000 participants.

He added, “Our new approach to tourism is working well with our information point at Peak Rail in Matlock winning an award. Later this year the new Ashbourne Tourist Information Point will open in partnership with Ashbourne Town Council.”

Councillor Rose pointed out that while other local authorities were closing public toilets, Derbyshire Dales had opened brand new town centre facilities and upgraded others across the district in the past 12 months.

Acknowledging that Derbyshire Dales crime figures were about the best in the country, he stressed it was important that crime and the fear of crime in rural areas remained high on the agenda of newly elected Police and Crime Commissioner Alan Charles.

Finally, remarking on Chief Executive Dorcas Bunton’s first year in office, Councillor Rose said, “I think she has risen to the challenges very well and has proved herself to be an excellent leader. Like the rest of us she and her team have a lot to do next year and I am sure we will all want to support her in taking our Council forward into the future. We have reached the halfway point of the Administration and we have two more years to go. As I said at the start, I hope despite our political differences we can work together to make Derbyshire Dales one of the best places to work live and play.”

At the annual meeting, Labour member Councillor Peter Slack was appointed to the civic role of Chairman of the District of the Derbyshire Dales for the coming year, with Councillor Carol Walker his deputy.

Reappointed to key policy committee positions were Councillor Steve Bull, as Chairman of the Environment Committee, and Councillor Albert Catt, as Chairman of the Corporate Committee. Replacing new Deputy Chairman of the District Councillor Walker as Chairman of the Communities Committee is Councillor Jennifer Bower.

Councillor Rose continues as Leader of the District Council, while Councillor Geoff Stevens MBE is once again Deputy Leader and Chairman for 2013/14.