Council leader Mike Rook’s column: Next 12 months will be the year of action

THE NEW Year is an opportunity to re-assess our lives, our actions and our hopes.

Looking back on what I wrote last year, I am heartened by the achievements we have made since then in transforming our council to improve the way we do business – focusing on the priorities that matter, and developing an affordable and sustainable vision for the future.

If 2012 was the year of review, survey, and re-assessment, then 2013 will be a year of action and concrete progress, with a Market Hall refurbishment, council headquarters redevelopment, and a growth year for the Harborough Innovation Centre.

I look forward to the new-look council, library and museum complex in Adam and Eve Street – when it re-opens in 2014 – with its shops, cafe, atrium, and open-plan tenanted offices. I also look forward to seeing real progress on the master planning of Market Harborough’s strategic development area with meaningful involvement with developers and the community.

The new recycling scheme, launched at the end of last year, is beginning to settle down and to deliver excellent recycling figures from which savings and efficiencies will flow in the new year and thereafter.

Although our budget has been cut once again, we do not intend to increase Council Tax, and we will maintain the same level of car parking charges for a second year with no increase. We do have pockets of deprivation in our district where life is harder for many, and it is true that those on welfare will, in future, pay a little towards the benefits they receive from the state, but the council will, as much as it is able, help where there is real hardship while supporting the working-age population who pay their taxes, in line with our government’s policies.

One of the real legacies of our work this year must be to embed the cultural and management ethos that the lessons of the past year have shown us.

We need to reinforce and permeate the council’s own philosophy with a constant desire to reinvent and improve our performance.

And yes, one of the most important of lessons is to find better ways to communicate with the community, particularly around some of the more challenging or divisive issues.

I await the exciting months ahead with much anticipation and, with that, I’d like to wish everyone a very happy and healthy new year.