Hello and welcome to the first of my monthly blogs.
I want to ensure that you are kept up to date with what we are doing to improve the quality of life for people in South Tyneside. As a council, we are resolute in our ambitions to bring forward positive change for local people.
June is Pride month and schools and organisations across the Borough have been taking part in activities to help promote acceptance and equality and raise awareness of LGBT+ history, issues, and rights to live and love. Looking ahead, we are working with South Tyneside's LGBTQ+ community to plan a local Pride event to take place in June 2023 and which will be a welcome addition to our summer events programme.
2022's This is South Tyneside Festival is now well underway with a packed schedule of free, family-friendly events that make the most of our wonderful coastline, parks, and natural assets. After being postponed due to covid, I am delighted to see the return of live music, children's entertainment, street performers and much more. The three-month long programme brings thousands of visitors from across the region and beyond, helping support our town centres, villages, high street, and hospitality.
We were pleased to host South Tyneside Business Week earlier this month to celebrate our fantastic business community and equip them with the knowledge they need to tthrive. Businesses, entrepreneurs, and growing SMEs were able to take the opportunity to make connections, network, and be inspired by other successful companies - helping to create the conditions for economic recovery and investment.
I am delighted to highlight Good Ofsteds for Toner Avenue School and Stanleys at All Saints plus an Outstanding Ofsted for Stanleys at Bede, which were all received in June. These are fantastic achievements for which the staff, parents and children should all feel immensely proud.
We know that providing the right building blocks in early years is key to encouraging children to flourish in their educational journey and that is why we have been investing in our early years workforce so that they will be able to provide even better support to families with children with special educational needs. Nineteen nursery staff across the borough have now completed the nationally recognised Level 3 Early Years Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCo) Award.
The training means staff will now be able to offer families improved practice, ensure early intervention and make sure families are aware of the support available to them. This will help us to continue to deliver on our priority of supporting young people in need.
To support our older communities, we have been working with Age Concern to pilot a new scheme to help people to live better lives. From recommendations for local walking groups and keep-fit classes, to services to keep people well, A Future You is all about signposting to the fantastic support that is available right here in South Tyneside. Growing older doesn't mean that being alone or inactive is inevitable.
Work has started on a £700,000 upgrade of Monkton Stadium, in Jarrow, including an extension of the gym space with the addition of a mezzanine floor, a new sauna and the refurbishment of the changing rooms and an outbuilding to be used in supporting athletics events. Over the last 10 years we have heavily invested in our leisure facilities, the upgrade to Monkton will bring it into line with our other centres and help us to provide the very best leisure facilities for our residents and visitors.
We have worked as swiftly as possible to process payments of the Council Tax Energy Rebate Scheme and ensure that people get the money that is owed to them by whatever means. Over £9.5m has been paid out and all 67,000 eligible households are expected to receive their £150 council tax energy rebate by July.
Consultation on the South Tyneside Local Plan is underway. The plan will guide the future of the borough by setting out how and where development will take place up to 2039. It gives us the opportunity to enhance our assets, create better wildlife corridors, improve sustainable development, and reduce emissions.
A local plan is not just about building houses; it is about the fundamental fabric of the place in which we live. Without a plan we do not have the policies in place to ensure the quality of development that our communities deserve.
I would encourage everyone to get involved and have their say so that together we can shape the South Tyneside of tomorrow. We want people who grow up in the Borough to be able to stay here, with access to affordable housing and skilled jobs, and living in neighbourhoods that last a lifetime.
Councillor Tracey Dixon
Leader of South Tyneside Council