We're only a month into 2024 but there's already been so much to reflect upon.
Our Annual Report showed the good progress we are making in delivering against our five ambitions so far. It was great to see our achievements from the last year showcased, although of course there is plenty of work still to be done.
The report highlighted some significant successes, including £700,000 invested in facilities at Monkton Stadium; 300 new homes being built to support adults with care needs and a network of Family Hubs launched. The package of support to foster carers has been strengthened to provide a boost to recruitment, work is ongoing to tackle loneliness and social isolation, including the development of 'chatty cafes' and accommodation has been provided to rough sleepers or those at risk of homelessness. We've also invested 650,000 in a new CCTV control room, progressed plans for the relocation of South Tyneside College and launched two pioneering renewable energy networks.
Our priorities for the future include rapidly addressing areas for improvement in Children's Services and I was encouraged that clear progress has already been made in raising standards since our negative Ofsted inspection last year. In a DfE review of our improvement journey, in October, it was noted that significant work to identify and understand the causes of failure has already been undertaken and that we are clearly committed to resolving the problems identified.
With one in five of our residents aged over 65, supporting our older population is just as crucial as nurturing our children and young people. That's why we've launched our Social Care Academy, which will improve recruitment, ongoing development, career progression and retention of the adult social care workforce.
In South Tyneside we value and celebrate the important contribution of those who choose to make care their vocation and we want to make sure that they enjoy a rewarding career where they can thrive and progress.
The cost of adults' and children's social care accounts for 70% of the council's discretionary budget so balancing the budget and protecting essential services is harder than ever before.
We need to save £7m in 2024 / 25 and even more in future years. This is on top of £201m already saved since 2010.
Despite these pressures, proposals in our medium-term financial plan balance the budget, prioritising prevention, income generation and ensuring that the council is modern and effective. We'll also continue to press the case for fair funding from Central Government.
I'd like to thank everyone who's had their say so far on the latest version of our draft Local Plan, and for those who haven't, consultation runs until 3 March.
Your views really matter - we received almost 1,900 responses during our last round of consultation and we took that feedback on board to produce the latest draft - with more than 20 sites previously allocated for housing removed in response to residents' concerns.
Now we're asking for your input again, so that together we can put in strong local policies that support the kind of places you want.
Finally, I understand that the ongoing disruption to waste and recycling services in the borough is difficult and frustrating for residents. Please rest assured that the council is working extremely hard not only to mitigate the impact of the strikes as much as possible, but also to resolve the dispute itself. Please bear with us.
Councillor Tracey Dixon
Leader of South Tyneside Council