Despite the growth in the wider economy, this year will continue to be a financially challenging period for all local authorities.
That said, Harborough District Council begins the year by entering a positive new era at The Symington Building.
The re-opening of the council offices, in Adam and Eve Street, with its improved customer services reception and architecturally impressive foyer, is a genuinely exciting moment, with all council staff now back in the building.
Read the Mail’s story on the reopening here: The Symington Building’s new era as council moves back home.
It’s been nice to hear all the positive comments about the building from the public and I am looking forward to the library and museum opening up in the building later in the year.
The improved use of space means we can soon start leasing out parts of the building to businesses and other organisations to generate income and get more value for money for taxpayers.
This is important as we set our budget for the year ahead.
A further reduction in the annual Government grant to councils means the need to work efficiently is clearer than ever. Our aim for 2014 is to continue to invest in services, balanced against the need to make savings, where possible, which allows us to freeze council tax for the fourth year in a row.
I recently met with the Prime Minister David Cameron at Downing Street who spoke sympathetically about this difficult balance.
He also praised the efforts local authorities are making, including Harborough Council, in responding to this challenge.
Working with wider economic organisations is crucial if the needs of the district are to be represented at the highest level, and the best funding, employment and business opportunities are to be brought to our doorstep.
With this in mind, I was pleased that our Open For Business action plan was approved by councillors last month.
This looks to stimulate economic growth, funding, training and job opportunities across the district in partnership with Government and the community, and I will be establishing a Business Leadership Team to help deliver this plan.
I was also delighted to see fresh business talent emerging as part of the Harborough Innovation Centre’s Spark competition. My wholehearted congratulations to the winners who I am in no doubt will be the people creating jobs and business opportunities for others in the future.
As this is my first column of 2014, I would also like to wish all residents a happy, healthy and prosperous year ahead.
Blake Pain is leader of Harborough District Council and is a cabinet member of Leicestershire County Council.
For council updates, see its website www.harborough.gov.uk.