September 26th, 2016

Housing, health and jobs at the forefront of Labour’s plans in Redditch

Housing, health and jobs at the forefront of Labour’s plans in Redditch Housing, health and jobs at the forefront of Labour’s plans in Redditch
Labour delight: Councillor Bill Hartnett savours victory with Councillors Debbie Taylor, Greg Chance, Joe Baker and Pat Witherspoon.
Updated: 3:31 pm, May 12, 2016

HOUSING, health and jobs will be topping the agenda in Redditch in the wake of last week’s local election results.

With no change at the top Labour retain control of the authority with council leader Councillor Bill Hartnett tasked with steering the borough through what chief executive Kevin Dicks described as ‘challenging’ financial conditions.

However the council will retain its successful mortgage buy back scheme to help families in danger of losing their homes and continue the push for jobs by backing more apprenticeships and pursuing links with the University of Birmingham to establish a graduate training scheme with some of the town’s blue companies.

On health Coun Hartnett said the borough would continue to battle against any closer ties between Worcester and Hereford and instead would push for closer links with Birmingham health services.

“Imagine having a hospital appointment in Hereford – I don’t think you could do it there and back by public transport. We think enough is enough and Birmingham is the way to go, it’s closer, it’s accessible snd the surgeons are keen to work with us.”

One of the first issues the council will have to face is the future of leisure services, which includes venues like Forge Mill Museum, the Abbey Stadium and The Palace Theatre.

Options include retaining them under council control, creating an internal leisure trust to administer the venues, or setting up an external trust for outside experts to run the facilities under contractl.

Coun Hartnett said officers were already working on the best way forward and the options would be put to council early in the programme.

Last year the council’s Overview and Scrutiny committee carried out a fact finding mission into the process and the chair, Coun Jane Potter (Con, A Bank and Feckenham) said committee members had come away impressed by the external trust arrangement set up by Cannock Chase council, also a Labour controlled authority.

“I know the council is keen on its transformation programme and whilst laudable I don’t think it will make the savings required,” she said.

“Local authorities aren’t necessarily the right body to run these facilities while at Cannock Chase they have a professional company with expertise in leisure centres, golf courses, theatres and so on and what they are doing is absolutely brilliant in terms of health and training.”