Council leader: How I’ll be ambitious for Suffolk

Suffolk County Council leader Matthew Hicks has unveiled the authority's priorities for the year ahe

Suffolk County Council leader Matthew Hicks has unveiled the authority's priorities for the year ahead. Picture: GREGG BROWN

In his latest column, Suffolk County Council leader MATTHEW HICKS outlines his and the authority’s priorities for the year ahead.

Last week, I had the honour of presenting my political plan and priorities for the year ahead - something we call my executive statement.

In my speech, I confirmed Suffolk County Council's commitment to continuing work to protect vulnerable adults and children, improve the condition of Suffolk's roads and raise educational standards.

I also outlined five new policy priorities which will be addressed in the coming 12 months, including proposals to start using Suffolk County Council-owned land to create more homes in Suffolk and plans to cut carbon emissions.

I want to explain why these ideas are so important.

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The chronic shortage of housing in Suffolk and throughout the country is well-known. What is less well-known is that Suffolk County Council is the third largest landowner in Suffolk.

Much of that land is put to good use, as county farms, operational depots and office accommodation.

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I firmly believe there is scope to convert some of our land into much needed housing. It would also present an opportunity to generate income for the county council to reinvest in vital public services.

My administration is therefore developing proposals to make best use of our significant land asset, with a focus on delivering the kind of homes Suffolk needs.

Earlier this year, Suffolk County Council voted to declare a climate emergency.

This was a progressive step forward. For me, the need to sustain our environment is greater now than ever.

This is not a surprising decision, given the county council's positive track record on reducing energy consumption, carbon emissions and waste.

Shortly we will launch a new cross-party policy development panel to examine the issue and will receive the panel's recommendations.

We are also refreshing Suffolk's Greenest County programme and I look forward to the relaunch with renewed vigour, profile and commitment later this year.

I also announced plans to work with partners, businesses and residents to develop a long-term vision for Suffolk, renew our approach to growing Suffolk's economy and act more commercially.

For me, these are all examples of how Suffolk County Council works to look after and support our county and Suffolk people, especially in this time of significant change.

I'm not just talking about political change either. We have an ageing population, with more people (young and old) needing additional support. Our environment is changing. More people need a roof over their heads.

Looking after Suffolk in a time of change is our theme at the Suffolk Show, which starts on Wednesday.

I don't want to give away any of the secrets - you'll have to come and see us on stand 192 to find out more. But I can promise lots of fun and free activities to entertain the children and an opportunity for a parents, carers and grandparents to take a break.

My message this year is clear. No matter how difficult the decision, how strenuous the challenge, my administration will not shy away from it nor will it fail to involve people.

We will be bold. We must have the humility to recognise that we don't have all the answers, but can find them by working productively with others.

We can't achieve any of this without the hard work and dedication of our staff. I paid tribute to them on Thursday and I want to thank them again today.

Whether it's the children they protect from harm, the frail elderly people they look after or the potholes they fix. Every day we see the impact they make and the lives they improve, and we are grateful. Last week's outstanding Ofsted report on Children's Services is a credit to many years of such hard work.

We must be ambitious for Suffolk. We must strive to make our county proud of all we achieve.

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