Despite encouraging signs that the economy is picking up, there remain great challenges for our area and for what Mansfield District Council can achieve to improve the lives of our people.
One thing I am certain about is that we must maintain a strong, locally focussed council whose councillors come from our communities and are representative of, and accountable to, our people.
There is a role for working in partnership with other local authorities to lobby government to divert resources to the East Midlands, but to create a remote “super” council for the whole of North Nottinghamshire would take power away from the people of our district to influence how resources are spent in our communities.
At last we are seeing some important developments to address the acute housing shortage in our district.
Later this year work will start to develop an extra care housing scheme on Brownlow Road funded by the council and Nottinghamshire County Council.
The aim is to create a secure environment for older people. It is progress after years of inaction which has left the area blighted after the demolition of the previous terraced housing.
It is also important to build homes for people of all ages and family size. I am delighted that the Council is going through the process of setting up a housing company that will result in council owned land being developed. Homes will be built for sale or rent.
The council will own the company and councillors will serve as unpaid board members, ensuring local views are taken into account when decisions are made on where best to build and what sort of housing is right for our district.
Increasing the supply of housing is vital to provide homes and to prevent house prices and rents spiralling out of the reach of many people.
I am proud that the Council is playing a role in addressing one of the most serious social problems of our time.
As the economy grows, the big test will be how far living standards improve for everyone. Labour councillors last year passed a motion committing the council to become a Living Wage employer.
The Living Wage is calculated annually and sets a figure of the least people need for a socially acceptable standard of living.
It is not a rate for a luxury lifestyle but incorporates the idea of a decency threshold for working people and their families.
This is in contrast to the national minimum wage set by government according to what it thinks employers can afford, regardless of whether people can live on it. Payment of the Living Wage is an example we thought it was important for the Council to set in the hope that other good employers would follow suit.
Mansfield needs a well paid work force if we are to prosper. This is a small step to achieving that aim.