West Berkshire Council Weeknotes #70
It is with great sadness that we begin this update having just heard that Councillor Peter Argyle, who served local residents for 24 years, passed away on Wednesday. Peter was first elected as ward member for Theale in 1997 before representing the Calcot ward from 2003 and latterly Tilehurst and Holybrook from 2019. He also served two terms as the Chairman of the Council between 2011-12 and 2015-16 and was a passionate advocate for the district, particularly its young people. Unfailingly kind and generous with his time, we will remember his as a tireless local champion who offered so much to West Berkshire. We will all miss him very much and our thoughts are with his family at this difficult time.
Something that we know has affected us all in recent days has been the availability of fuel in local petrol stations, which has been felt particularly keenly in our region. For our part, we've been keeping a close eye on the situation, working with the emergency services and other agencies across the Thames Valley and actively ensuring, through our Business Continuity Plans, that the situation did not have an impact on the delivery of essential services to our residents. Thankfully, it seems that the pressure on supply is easing, however we will continue to do what we can do to mitigate the impact.
In the news there has been a strong focus on the Levelling Up agenda, with the Prime Minister using his speech this week to highlight the need to ensure better outcomes for all. He mentioned one example of the disparity experienced between people living just a few towns away from each other, which was that of life expectancy in Blackpool (74.5) versus that of the Ribble Valley (80.9). Similar health inequality exists in our district, with significant gaps in life expectancy between our most and least deprived wards. Our Capital Strategy.focusses strongly on redressing this imbalance and good progress is being made to break the link between place of birth and poorer health outcomes. There is, however, more to be done and we are working closely with the Government to bring the benefits of this to all parts of West Berkshire through targeted interventions, close relationships with our parishes and a comprehensive, value for money
It will be particularly important, as a largely rural district, to invest in the right infrastructure so that our local economy can recover from the pandemic. Statistically, the rural economy is 16% less productive than the national average and so we must continue to focus on investment in digital infrastructure to ensure rural residents and businesses stay connected whilst also promoting policies to enable sustainable development which meets our aspirations towards carbon neutrality.
We touched on a recent success in our update two weeks ago and are very proud to report that once again we have won a national award. This time, our commitment to social value and sustainability has been highlighted at the Public Finance Awards. The award recognised our innovative Community Municipal Bond, which saw residents investing in sustainable projects in the district while also achieving a return. We were so pleased that local people chose to invest in this project, which is already reaping rewards both for them and for the environment.
We are also looking to mark the successes of the local community and have this week launched our annual Community Champion Awards. We want residents to nominate groups or individuals who have gone above and beyond to support others in the area and to shine a light on their achievements. The winners will be presented with their awards at a ceremony in January 2022 and their details will also be recorded in our Roll of Civic Awards, which will be available for future generations to review. If you know someone who you think deserves a special thank you, please consider nominating them in one of the four categories.
Finally, we are both sorry and excited to report that this update will be Sue's last as Interim Chief Executive as Nigel Lynn will be taking up his post on 18th October. It is fair to say that Sue's short stay in the role has been one of the busiest periods we have experienced in quite some time and that her stewardship and support has been hugely appreciated by all of us at West Berkshire Council. There won't be time for her to rest, however, as our Place Directorate- which she leads- has a full and ambitious programme of work to deliver in the coming months!
We close, as we always do, by wishing you and your families well for the fortnight ahead.