I wanted to start this month's blog with the exciting news that our flagship renewable energy scheme is now complete and up and running. The Viking Energy Network at Jarrow is the first scheme of its kind in the UK and will play a pivotal role as we move towards becoming a carbon neutral council by 2030. The multi-million-pound network, which harnesses low-grade heat from the River Tyne and exports it to council-owned buildings, is a truly pioneering project. The Viking network is part of our work to boost our on-site renewable capabilities and low carbon heating solutions. Our work in renewable energy and the green economy puts South Tyneside on the map as a place of innovation with a commitment to net zero. This was further reinforced by the fact that the Tyne and Wear Pension Fund has hit its ambitious interim carbon-cutting targets two years ahead of schedule. The 2023 carbon footprint shows that emissions have reduced by almost 40 per cent from the 2019 baseline, surpassing the 2025 target two years early.
While we are doing all we can to move towards becoming carbon neutral, last month's Storm Babet reminded us of the importance of that journey. Relentless rain and wind battered our Borough resulting in the lighthouse losing its dome. The piers remain closed for public safety while the Port of Tyne staff carry out repairs. Our teams are working hard to deal with the aftermath of the storm but this will take some time. While priority walkways will be cleared as soon as possible, we would ask visitors to be mindful of exposed areas and debris along the coast.
Elsewhere, I was delighted to learn that Jarrow has been identified for funding from the government's Long Term Plan for Towns funding. This follows the Borough being named as a Levelling Up Partnership area and we will be working with the government to understand the detail of the scheme.
As we move into Winter it is important that we all take care of ourselves and each other. If you are eligible, please take up the offer of a flu or Covid jab to protect yourself and your loved ones. And do take advantage of all the support out there to help you cope with the changing temperatures. Our teams are here to support you and more than 70 Welcoming Places can help you beat both the cold and any feelings of loneliness.
Talking of care, I was delighted to see the launch of a new Young Carers' ID card. This will help around 1,200 young carers in South Tyneside by raising awareness of their responsibilities and giving formal recognition to their role. Our young carers do a fantastic job caring for a loved one but I know that brings with it all sorts of challenges so anything we can do to help them overcome those has got to be a good thing.
I also wanted to mention our kinship carers who step in to care for the children of family members or friends when their parents can't. We have launched a package of support which includes regular supervision and support from a social worker as well as preparation training for kinship carers. They will also be offered therapeutic support and advice from a mental health specialist, peer support groups and support with applications to pay for essential therapeutic services that will support the stability of the child or young person they are caring for.
I hope many of you took advantage of our wonderful Restaurant Week and Magic Festival. Events like these do so much to bring in visitors and boost the local economy as well as giving residents some fabulous entertainment on the doorstep.
Over the next few months there will be even more to look forward to with a whole host of family-friendly events as well as a dazzling display of festive lighting in the run-up to Christmas. And for those of you lucky enough to be jetting abroad this Winter, there was more good news with the announcement that Newcastle Airport has been awarded 'Best Airport of the Year' for the second year running.
Councillor Tracey Dixon
Leader of South Tyneside Council