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Leader's blog - January 2017

Happy New Year to all and I hope you had a lovely Christmas.

New Year is always a time for reflection and looking forward.

In what’s been a difficult year for local authorities (and a tumultuous one in international politics) we have some great successes to celebrate but some big challenges ahead.

I recently enjoyed a celebration for children in care and care leavers with Cllrs Jean Carter and Judith Guthrie. It was a wonderful eventing with a Charlie and Chocolate Factory theme and we presented awards to some very worthy recipients. We are effectively ‘corporate parents’ to these children which is a heavy responsibility.

Also, in social care, Warrington is performing well in preventing hospital readmissions, providing quality care, supporting homeless people, boosting employment and helping young people achieve.

The latest figures show that 83.2% of people using the council’s ‘re-enablement’ services were at home 91 days after their discharge from hospital. The AQUA scorecard (relating to supporting older people in the community) indicates that Warrington is one of the top performers in the North West in preventing older people being readmitted to hospital.  It is also performing well above the regional average in getting older people out of hospital quickly and in reducing the need for older people to be admitted to residential care.

In terms of Safeguarding vulnerable adults - 78% of care providers in Warrington are meeting the council’s standards, 4% higher than the national average. This measure includes residential homes, homecare and supported living providers.

The Time Square Regeneration Scheme is delivering to plan with the completion of the demolition of the old multi-storey car park and progress with the construction of the temporary market. The pre-cast concrete units of the new market multi-storey car park have quickly risen from the ground and are now very visible in the area.

Plans have been approved to proceed with the Centre Park Link Bridge as part of the Warrington Waterfront Regeneration Programme, which is due to commence in late 2017. The scheme to upgrade Junction 8 of the M62 also remains on target, with all necessary funding now secured.

Warrington has achieved Green Flag Awards for all 12 of the sites for which it applied in 2016.The Green Flag Awards are judged by more than 700 green space experts, who visit sites and assess them against strict criteria, including, horticultural standards, cleanliness, sustainability and community involvement.

The hard work of Warrington’s young people and their teachers was rewarded by another year of excellent GCSE exam results, with Warrington’s secondary schools once again performing above the national average for 5+A*-C grades.

Recently published figures for young people not in employment, education or training   (NEET) show that Warrington is the third best performing local authority, with only 2.6% of 16-17 year olds classed as NEET, compared to an England average of 7.1%. In September, the Careers for Young People service held their most successful careers evening to date, with a record number of 660 people attending Orford Jubilee Neighbourhood Hub, to speak to college representatives and employers.

It’s pleasing, in such challenging times for local authorities, that we continue to provide good services for some of our most vulnerable people.
We are making progress in caring for older residents, looking after those who are disadvantaged and helping build bright futures for our young people. There’s much more to do, but we can be encouraged that the work we are doing continues to make a difference to people’s lives.

We will also be welcoming two Syrian refugee families in the New Year. I’m sure Warrington will give these people, who have come from a horrific war-torn situation, a warm welcome.

Our upcoming budget will be a particularly tough one – given the huge cuts from central government but we will continue to do our utmost to provide vital services for the people of Warrington whatever the challenges we face.

There’s a lot to look forward to in 2017 and I will keep you updated throughout the year.