This month we've celebrated some amazing people from across South Tyneside. I've felt an overwhelming sense of pride at what an outstanding borough we have.
Internationally renowned animator and artist Sheila Graber was bestowed the Freedom of the Borough. She is one of the UK's most celebrated animators and has brought so much joy to people through her work. Her drive to share her passion and skills with others in the Borough is immeasurable, not to mention the incredible amount of support she gives to numerous charities and community causes.
A special Blue Plaque commemorating the life and legacy of the late Shuley Alam was unveiled in South Shields recognising the exceptional contribution that she made to South Tyneside as a champion of equality and founder of the charity CREST. She campaigned for social justice and change and worked to improve women's equality. The Blue Plaque is a permanent tribute and a reminder to everybody of her work and the incredible legacy she left behind in the community she loved and supported.
We also announced that commemorative blue plaques would be installed for musician John Miles, industrialist and philanthropist Sir John Jarvis and The Cellar Club.
I was honoured to attend the #LoveSouthTyneside Awards at the Customs House hearing the stories from inspiring individuals to community volunteers, celebrating the borough's unsung local heroes. The annual awards, now in their sixth year, recognise and celebrate civic pride and community spirit across the Borough, with more than 270 nominations received this year.
Our Children's Improvement journey continues at pace, following on from our Family Hubs launch last month.
Work to increase the number of residential places for South Tyneside's looked-after children is underway. Preliminary works have started at Seton Avenue in South Shields where a new Assessment Centre is to be built. Work on a new children's home in Grant Street, Jarrow, will get underway very shortly, followed by a further children's home in Hebburn New Town.
We've launched the fourth 'constellation' of the Mockingbird model, which is delivered by leading fostering charity The Fostering Network and is based on the concept of the extended family. The Mockingbird model was highlighted as a strength in the latest Ofsted review of Children's Services, the model has proved to be very effective in South Tyneside by empowering foster families to support one another in a meaningful way.
Thousands of eligible children and young people in South Tyneside will benefit from free activities and food over the six weeks of the school summer holiday. Activities for this year include dancing, games, crafts, sports, and outdoor challenges, along with nutritious meals at each event.
And more than 1,000 families in South Tyneside whose children are starting or moving schools will also receive extra financial help towards the cost of school uniform. We are giving supermarket vouchers to families in receipt of free school meals whose children will join Reception, start secondary school in Year 7 or will move into junior school at Year 3 from an infant school. We know that schools do great work to provide and recycle uniforms and this is not meant to replace that. This is simply about helping families meet these additional costs in these incredibly challenging times and is part of the Council and wider partnership's approach to reducing poverty in the borough.
Nationally, we presented the South Tyneside Pledge at the Local Government Association (LGA) conference where local authorities share innovation and best practice. Each year, the LGA Innovation Zone highlights the outstanding, innovative work of councils across a range of service and policy areas. I am delighted that we were chosen out of hundreds of councils who applied. The Pledge has encouraged hundreds of organisations across South Tyneside to look at their own practices and see what more they can do to support the borough and together, we are making a positive difference.
I really enjoyed welcoming residents and businesses to The Word to a series of information sessions to showcase the masterplan vision for South Shields Town Centre. Plans for the College and student accommodation have now been submitted and we are making real progress in making that a reality.
In direct response to residents' concerns, there has been significant investment in community safety resourcing in the last year. New engagement officers will work alongside a business and community response team, targeting hotspot areas both proactively and reactively to resolve local issues. We work hand-in-hand with the police and other partners, community groups and schools to take an early intervention and preventative approach as well as raising awareness about the consequences of anti-social behaviour and its effect on victims.
I was delighted to see six of our parks receiving the Green Flag award this year placing them among the best green spaces in the country. Both South Marine Park and West Park South Shields have reclaimed the title, while others to secure the award again this year include Monkton Dene, North Marine, Readhead and West Park Jarrow. Visitors who see a Green Flag flying can be assured that the park is well managed, clean, and safe.
We've also kicked off an 8-week consultation on changes to the Council Tax reduction scheme to create a fairer and more transparent council tax support system that is easier to both understand and administer. The proposed changes will still help over 10,000 working age people in South Tyneside who need help with their council tax bills due to their personal circumstances.
I also wanted to mention the Council's new quarterly performance report This is the first time that we've publicly reported in this way. We've made a firm commitment to increased openness and transparency and our new reporting structure will mean that we can regularly review progress against our Ambitions. It gives us a shared understanding of how we are doing, celebrating what we are good at and most importantly allowing us to focus our efforts on those areas that need our attention most. Ultimately, this will lead to improved outcomes for our residents.
As our summer event programme continues, I was thrilled to hear that Jason Donovan is on board to join us next summer after having to stand down his concert earlier in the month due to safety concerns. It's testament to the brilliant work of our small team of events staff, working hard behind the scenes with Jason's management team to get a revised date in the diary, as well as continue with the delivery of this year's fantastic summer events programme. I'll look forward to welcoming him to South Tyneside next year, some 16 years after his last Sunday Concert performance was such a massive hit.
I hope you all manage to enjoy the summer season and everything that South Tyneside has to offer.
Councillor Tracey Dixon
Leader of South Tyneside Council