Visited Telford and Wrekin Council today to catch up with the Managing Director Richard Partington and find out what current initiatives the Council are working on. And there was plenty to hear about and see.
Despite the current recession and ongoing austerity measures the town centre in Telford is currently being transformed and redeveloped, with council facilities being integrated with hotels, restaurant, retail and leisure facilities. Supplementing this is the construction of thousands of new houses close by and in neighbouring communities. As we walk around the town centre the sight of cranes and ongoing construction is heartening and prompts memories of the boom years elsewhere.
This is a Council which understands that its role is about more than administration; it’s about developing a sense of place, identity and belonging amongst its people. The new town centre will provide a better quality of life and will additionally create a night-time economy to support daytime activity. This of course creates jobs and gives people money to spend, which creates more investment opportunities, the ultimate virtuous circle.
A flurry of wider activity is taking place in response to changes taking place to local government’s role and the current economic circumstances. The Council has created 100 modern apprenticeships in the last year to help combat youth unemployment, it is encouraging community engagement by developing parish level environmental teams. Telford is also busy preparing for its new role in public health and its intention is to focus on encouraging participative lifestyles to intervene at the earliest stage possible through creating jobs, skills development and investing in leisure opportunities. The ambition is to create a much more integrated approach between the currently separated NHS and local government responsibilities. Finally, the Council is bracing itself for the impact of the so called ‘bedroom tax’ and welfare reform.
Whilst many challenges remain, Telford and Wrekin appears to be staying ahead of the curve and I hope to visit next year and see the fruits of their labour, in particular a fully operational new town centre.