When I was elected in 2004, I did not envisage that ten years later, I would become the Leader of the Council and the person in the driving seat. On being elected as a local councillor, you quickly realise that you cannot change the world over night and that your responsibilities require you to think strategically to achieve want you want for your community, be it a new play area or a fundamental solution to traffic congestion as examples.
This is no different as the Leader, there are still issues you want to deliver on such as new play areas, however you consider it from a county wide perspective. You also consider solutions to matters such as transport, but this time from a county and indeed a regional perspective, looking at how it contributes to our wider economic growth and future prosperity. I quickly appreciated 13 years ago the need for priorities and that is something which has not changed as Leader.
The budget set by the Council for the next financial year has required the same approach. Securing the strong foundations to take forward our ambitions and priorities for RCT has been fundamental, and targeting priorities from facilities, such as Play Areas which really matter to communities, through to schemes which will promote economic growth and regeneration. Priorities are fundamental as it is simply not possible to make progress on an infinite list of promises. However, by thinking of priorities strategically and as part of a bigger picture, you can deliver the maximum difference and impact while securing the building blocks to continue the momentum of change we all want to see take place.
Our strong financial management means that, even in this age of austerity, we have created the ability to deliver on our priorities with the largest investment programme in the history of RCT to take our County Borough forward. Under RCTInvest, over £200M is being spent in key projects across the County.
This has supported 52 new playgrounds across the County Borough with a further 34 in the next year, right through to supporting the delivery of major transport infrastructure projects such as the Cross Valley Link, the development of plans to dual the A4119 south of Tonyrefail and the second leg of the Llanharran Bypass. The latter schemes will not only keep our County Borough moving but they will support our wider ambitions for creating jobs and employment opportunities as part of the wider regeneration of our Rhondda Cynon Taf.
What we are seeking to achieve with Taff Vale is another example of how, in my time as Leader, I have sought to be ambitious to unlock the huge potential within our County Borough. Why shouldn’t Pontypridd, the Rhondda or Aberdare host a major employer like those which are located in Cardiff? That is why I have felt so passionately about the development of this strategic site and also the ability of the City Deal to unlock the economic potential of South East Wales.
Right across RCT we are making progress, from our huge £100m investment in 21st Century schools and the revamp of the Rhondda Heritage Park, through to the major improvements we have delivered in Council leisure facilities over the last two years. We are seeking constantly to move our County Borough forward.
These kinds of improvements are only possible thanks to our strong stewardship of the Council in these challenging financial times, which has laid the foundations to take the priorities we all want for RCT forward.
We are making strong progress in delivering on our objectives and priorities for the County Borough and I believe our communities have a very bright future as a result, despite the huge challenges our economy is likely face into the future. Despite the economic uncertainty, I firmly believe we are well placed to continue the momentum of change and meet those challenges from the strongest possible footings.
This is my last Leader’s blog before the local government elections in May and I would like to take this opportunity to thank all staff and officers of the Council who have supported me and indeed all Councillors over the last five years to improve the communities we represent and the vital services we deliver.