Posted on 04/01/2017

Can I firstly wish everyone a belated Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

I would like to pay credit to the hundreds of Council Staff who have worked on the frontline over Christmas and the New Year caring for the elderly, ensuring our roads were gritted when needed, or manning our 24/7 emergency call centre to name just a few of the services. The Council is a 365 day organisation which provides many vital services to residents who rely upon them.

The fantastic service these individuals provide on a daily basis often goes by completely unnoticed - unless you are one of the people who receive that support or care.

There have certainly been plenty of festive activities taking place across the County. The Lido Ponty Boxing Day Swim, based on the sell-out it achieved again for its second year, seems set to become a regular festive holiday event which places Pontypridd on the map; the profile the Lido has delivered for Pontypridd and RCT as a whole is one of the biggest success this facility has achieved.

Nos Galan achieves the same for Mountain Ash and our County, which this year saw Wales Football Manager Chris Coleman star as our Nos Galan Mystery Runner.

2016 was a magnificent year for our Welsh football team, with thousands of supporters following their European campaign in France. Thousands more supporters who could not make the trip to France converged on our Football Fanzones, which were situated at Ynysangharad War Memorial Park in Pontypridd.

The support for the Wales football team throughout 2016 has been incredible, therefore it was fitting that their success was marked as the year drew to a close and we were delighted when Chris Coleman agreed to end a memorable 2016 on the streets of Mountain Ash, surrounded by 1,600 Nos Galan competitors and thousands more spectators.

However, 2017 started with the sad news of the death of our Nos Galan founder, Mr Bernard Baldwin MBE, age 91. My thoughts are with his family at this very sad time.

In 2016 RCT Council started the largest investment programmes since the creation of the Council in 1996. This is seeing over £200M invested in our communities across the three areas of the County.

The New Year means that the Council will need to agree its budget for the forthcoming financial year. While we know as a result of the UK austerity we will need to manage the Council with reducing financial resources for the foreseeable future, I am firmly of the view that investing in services and our communities and the regeneration of our County, is the right way to mitigate the impact of the cuts being imposed nationally upon our public services.

It is only through this approach that we can mitigate the impact of austerity locally, by building and investing for the future. The Council’s strong financial management recognised by the Wales Audit Office has placed us in the position to undertake this kind of investment and this is an approach I am keen to see maintained as we discuss our plans for the 2016/17 budget early in the New Year.

I am looking forward in the New Year to seeing the construction activity kick off on Taff Vale; this project has huge potential to transform not only Pontypridd but to act as a game-changer in how the wider economy of the South Wales Valleys develops.

Key to this change in direction and our economic fortunes will of course be the City Deal and each of the ten local authorities involved in the project will need to take the formal decision to back this way forward in January.

You only have to look at the Cities in Europe, and more recently in the UK, where developing a regional approach to capitalise upon the wealth a city economy creates, has transformed those areas and their communities. The City Deal should, in my mind act, as the platform for the future regeneration we all want to see take placement the Valleys and the wider region.

Posted on 04/01/2017