'Harborough has so much to look forward to in 2022' - council leader's reasons to be cheerful

Cllr Phil King has sent out a ringing message of optimism and positivity as Harborough gears up to welcome in the New Year

Wednesday, 29th December 2021, 1:33 pm
Updated Wednesday, 29th December 2021, 1:34 pm
Cllr Phil King, leader of Harborough District Council

The leader of Harborough District Council has roared today – we have so much to look forward to in 2022.

Cllr Phil King has sent out a ringing message of optimism and positivity as Harborough gears up to welcome in the New Year.

He shared his hopes, aspirations and ambitions for the people of Harborough as he spoke at length to the Harborough Mail this afternoon.

Cllr Phil Knowles

“We have got a lot to be optimistic about as we get ready to ring in 2022, so many positive things,” said Cllr King.

“We are fortunate to have so many brilliantly creative people in Harborough.

“They have come up with inventive and innovative solutions to problems just in the last few weeks alone – and they have been reported in the Harborough Mail.

“As a local council we can’t do everything ourselves.

“But we are determined and committed to encouraging and supporting the very able, capable and multi-talented people who live here over the next year.”

Cllr King said he is delighted that Prime Minister Boris Johnson has rescued New Year’s Eve in England by giving millions of overjoyed revellers the go-ahead to go out and celebrate.

“We have got to move on now from scaring everyone to death about Covid.

“We know so much more now about the coronavirus than we did when this pandemic blew up two years ago.

“We’ve got to learn to live with it and we’ve got to crack on with it,” declared the Conservative council chief.

“I’m not for one minute taking it for granted or being complacent.

“The vaccination programme’s been excellent and as always I’m calling on everyone to go out and get their booster.

“But we cannot go back to nationwide lockdowns.

“We are not hermits, none of us wants to be trapped again inside our own homes, inside four walls.

“I’m a big believer that our schools have got to stay open.

“The first 1,000 days of a child’s life are the most critical of their entire lives,” said Cllr King.

“But the educational and social development of so many children in the UK as well as elsewhere has been adversely hit because they have been locked down and forced to learn at home.

“Children have been hugely impacted.

“So we have to set them free, we should never go back to stopping them attending school.

“Both for their sakes – and their parents’.

“We also have to stay open to protect and nurture our local economy – our shops, pubs, cafes, restaurants, hotels and attractions.

“And this is not just about defending our amazing hospitality venues in Harborough,” said Cllr King, who’s also a county councillor.

“It’s also great for our mental health, our mindsets and our whole lives if we can look forward to going out and seeing our friends and loved ones for a pint and a chat or a lovely meal.

“Our NHS has huge issues to tackle.

“We are pouring more money than ever before in to the largest employer in Europe.

“But at the last count we had 106,000 people in Leicestershire alone waiting for vital elective treatment.

“People still can’t see their local GPs.

“Deadly illnesses such as cancers, heart disease and strokes are being missed.

“That’s not good enough.

“Our Covid vaccination programme’s been very positive.

“But the NHS, both locally and nationally, has many key issues to tackle and overcome over the next 12 months.

“I want to see working from home phased out too.

“It was brought in as a short-term emergency but we are getting past that stage now,” said Cllr King.

“It’s much better for workers all round if they go into the office or workplace rather than sitting at home by themselves.

“There is no limit to what the people of Harborough can aim for and achieve in 2022.

“And we can help them get involved in community activism.

“Community spirit has shone through so brightly in all of our 90 different settlements in Harborough district.

“It’s always been strong here.

“But it’s actually dazzled me at times over the last two years during the pandemic,” said Cllr King.

“That spirit is the social glue that bounds us altogether.

“Harborough is such a vibrant, uplifting place to live in.

“We’ve laid the foundations for a highly-successful green agenda here, we’re carrying out the Climate Action Plan, we are fighting fly-tipping and firing up recycling.

“As well as planting thousands of trees to boost the environment.

“So it really is all to play for in Harborough district in 2022.”

Cllr King opened his heart and laid it on the line as his opposite number Cllr Phil Knowles told the Mail today: “I am looking ahead to 2022 with genuine hope in my heart.

“It’s not going to be easy and we will all face many different challenges.

“But I’ve got total confidence in local people to rise to those challenges and to tackle them head on.

“We are all still battling Covid and dealing with the pandemic.

“I think that we’ll be living with the coronavirus in 2022 for sure.

“I obviously hope that we don’t get hit by new variants of the virus like the Omicron strain,” said Cllr Knowles, who heads up the Liberal Democrat opposition on Harborough District Council.

“But the country’s first-class vaccination programme is paying big dividends.

“The NHS is doing a fine job treating people and helping to keep us safe as well as vaccinating so many millions of us across the UK.

“I’d urge anyone who’s not been jabbed already to go out and get the vaccine as soon as you can,” said the veteran Harborough health activist.

“There are some major question marks hanging over what our council does in the New Year.

“What are the ruling Conservative group going to do with the budget in the spring, for example, the Council Tax, our ageing leisure centres and other issues?

“We’ll be keeping a close eye on what they set out to do.

“And we will challenge them and hold them to account when we have to.

“The next 12 months will be the last full year of this particular council before we stage new local elections in May 2023.

“So it’s going to be very interesting to see how they go forward and what they do in 2022,” said Cllr Knowles.

“We will as always work constructively with the ruling group where and when we can for the good of the people of Harborough.

“People and families will face serious financial challenges over the next year or so.

“Inflation is rising, mortgage rates are set to climb and the cost of gas and electricity as well as food and other vital goods in the shops is going up.

“We are all facing global pressures, such as increased shipping bills, pushing up prices.

“So our council has to be creative, smart and imaginative in how it operates.

“I’d like to see Harborough council becoming more of a central hub delivering local services.

“The Government has to recognise the importance of local council such as ours,” stressed Cllr Knowles.

“Our councillors have the local expertise, the ability, the knowledge and the desire and dedication to best tackle the issues on the ground here in Harborough.

“No matter what your party we all represent local democracy in action here day in day out.

“So I’m sure it would be a massive mistake if local government is seriously shaken up and reorganised down the line and we end up with just one unitary authority for Leicestershire.

“Harborough is growing all the time and we don’t want to leave anyone behind in 2022,” said Cllr Knowles.

“People have looked after everyone else so well across our district since we had our first Covid lockdown back in March 2020.

“It’s a real credit to our community that people have gone out of their way so much and so genuinely to care for their neighbours, friends and colleagues through these unprecedented times.

“The people of Harborough should be very proud of the way they have stepped forward to look after each other.

“It’s a tremendous accolade to them that they have responded and reacted so brilliantly over the last couple of years or so,” said the Liberal Democrat leader.

“And I know that they will continue to step up and step forward to make ours such a fantastic community to live in.”