I am delighted to be elected as the APSE National chair for 2019-2020. It is a real honour to be entrusted with the position of National Chair within an organisation I hold so close to my heart. APSE is very much like an extended family with the closest members to me being my colleagues within APSE’s Central region and on our National Council. I take on the role of National Chair with my New National Secretary, Karen Bradford, who is chief executive of Gedling council and I am lucky to inherit a vibrant and strong organisation from my predecessor chair Cllr John Kerr Brown and National Secretary Anita Brown.
APSE has always thrived on the relationships and networks which exist between our member local councils. During my own term of office I am confident that those bonds of mutual respect, integrity and reaching out across the local government family will only strengthen further. One of the ways in which we provide that mutual support is through APSE’s research programme; with many member councils taking part in our studies and sharing their learning and successes. APSE overarching research theme is our ongoing work on ‘New Municipalism’ but under that banner of course we see a myriad of different policy themes emerging including housing; finance; neighbourhoods; the environment; tackling inequality; digitalisation and the workforce and of course our local high streets.
I have to confess I have something of a personal interest in the policy agenda around the future of high streets and our town centres. I am active in the Trade Union USDAW and have seen first-hand the impact of decline in town centres; not just on the retail jobs sector but also on the resilience and attractiveness of local areas and local economies. As part of my year in office APSE will be exploring the issues surrounding our local high streets and town centres and investigating how we, as local councils, can act to reinvigorate them.
Alongside high streets and town centres a huge swathe of APSE member councils have recently declared motions to take action on the climate emergency, including my own council Corby. Whilst austerity has dominated the political landscape in local government over the last decade I am acutely aware that the climate emergency will be the dominating force in the coming decade. I will ensure that this issue is built thematically into all of APSE’s services to members so that when councils are looking for practical actions on climate change APSE will be at the fore with workable and operationally savvy solutions to help on the road to decarbonisation.
Of course 2019 is also the 20th anniversary of the relaunch of the association as APSE. In 1999 we implemented our millennium charter and started to build many of the services that members use today. The strength of APSE reflects this concentration on our core services and the two decades of strength and growth are down to that strategy. Indeed the work of APSE over the last 20 years has only been possible by ensuring the services we provide to our members are sustainable so keeping the ship steady in our core services, as set out in our ongoing business plan, will be part and parcel of my approach – securing APSE’s future for the next 20 years.
I thank you all for supporting me as National Chair and you have my absolute commitment in the coming 12 months to serve you well alongside our new National Secretary Karen Bradford. We promise to do you proud!