I want to start by wishing everyone a very happy and prosperous new year. I hope everyone had a good Christmas and got the chance to spend time with family, friends and loved ones.
This year brings a further degree of political uncertainty, and we will hear a lot about this in the coming weeks and months. I appreciate that these remain difficult times for people, and we hope to see the economy improve for us all.
Even in difficult times we continue to support residents wherever we can. I will be bringing plans for a new Community Grants Programme to Executive. I am proud that we can still support community organisations and agencies that help residents during this time – this is really important to me.
It is great that Exeter can still provide a fantastic cultural offer funded by the Council, including the RAMM, Corn Exchange and St Sidwell’s Point.
We have a lot going for us as a city and this was recently highlighted by an article in the national media. It celebrated many of the things that the Council runs as discretionary services – things like RAMM and the Underground Passages, that we don’t have to fund but do so because they make a big difference to quality of life in Exeter.
The article in the Daily Express said: “Pulling in more than 2.5million tourists a year, Exeter is a small city that packs a punch with plenty to show off, including architecture, culture and a vibrant nightlife.” We already know how great a city Exeter is – but it is fantastic to be put in the national spotlight like this.
Of course, as a local authority we still have some major challenges. For the 2024/25 financial year, the Council has identified proposals to reduce the budget or generate additional income totalling £1.25m, and I am bringing forward a balanced budget to our February Council meeting. It required us to make some changes to achieve this, and that is what we have done.
Local government is the only agency required to balance its books each year – this is good a discipline and I am proud to say we have been able to do it year on year and will continue to do so because it is important for the city.
It is great that Exeter has such a high tree coverage. But we all know what happens in the Autumn, and the team have been tidying up our streets and are working through a programme to complete it. I want to thank them all for the work they do to keep our streets tidy, despite the reductions we have to make because of government restrictions on us.
Consultation on the Exeter Plan closes next week. The consultation has been wide and extensive, with a lot of people taking part, and I want to thank everyone who took the time to make sure their voice was heard on how Exeter should develop in the future.
This week Exeter University’s Innovation Hub opens in the city centre. It is great to see the university working with the city to create this hub, it will support local businesses and entrepreneurs which we need going forward.
Finally, I want to congratulate Exeter City on their important win at the weekend – let’s hope they have turned a corner. I also wish the Chiefs well in their European campaign. As I’ve said before, sport is very important to our city and I know everyone will continue to get behind our teams.
Phil Bialyk – Labour Leader of Exeter City Council