July started with the fantastic news that Sandhaven Beach had been awarded 'Beach of the Year' by the Sunday Times. What excellent recognition for our beautiful coastline and testament to the teams who work to keep our seafront looking great all year round. I was delighted to see that the Sunday Times recognised our beaches as a true community asset, there for everyone to enjoy.
Following hot on the heels of that good news was the announcement that four of our parks have scooped coveted Green Flag awards - placing them among the best green spaces in the country. Readhead Park in South Shields and West Park Jarrow both retained Green Flag status while North Marine Park in South Shields and Monkton Dene Park in Jarrow are flying the flag for the first time. This is a fantastic achievement for our teams and our Friends' groups who do so much to keep our parks cleans and safe.
Both these accolades demonstrate the wealth of natural assets on our doorstep and set us apart from other areas.
Of course, our varied summer events programme is something else which sets up apart - from the Summer Parade to Proms in the Park to live music and our excellent Sunday Concerts. I want to thank everyone who make our event programme so special, especially community groups involved in the Summer Parade which was a beautiful spectacle of colour.
I was also proud that South Tyneside was chosen to host the Commonwealth Baton as part of the 16th official Queen's Baton Relay. I want to thank each of the official Baton bearers who were chosen in recognition of their inspiring backgrounds and stories.
The Borough's unsung local heroes were celebrated at the #LoveSouthTyneside Awards which pays tribute to those who make a positive difference in our communities. It was such a special evening and I send my congratulations to everyone who was nominated.
With school summer holidays already here, Holiday and Activity (HAF) clubs will once again be offering a healthy meal and activities for children and young people. This year we are working with 25 partner providers to deliver even more choice. These clubs seek to ease the pressure on families while giving young people the opportunity to have fun, learn new skills and make new friendships. The clubs are free to those aged between five and 16 who receive benefit-related free school meals or whose families are experiencing financial hardship. For additional help and support, you can also visit www.southtyneside.gov.uk/costofliving
It was fantastic to see more of our schools and nurseries celebrating Ofsted success. East Boldon Infants received a 'Good' rating and the Council-run Stanleys at Hebburn earned the top rating of 'Outstanding' across all areas. A total of 27 schools have also received a Healthy Schools award which seeks to embed best practice in health and wellbeing in places where children and young people learn. It is great to see so many South Tyneside Schools playing a vital role in keeping our young people healthy.
If you have attended any of the Sunday concerts at Bents Park, you may have seen our council branded marquee. Council staff will be at key events across the borough over the coming months to find out what local people think about South Tyneside - their pride, passions, and suggestions for improving things - to inform our emerging 20-year vision. When I became Leader, I wanted to put people at the heart of decision- making. As a listening council, the views of local people must come first. Look out for the marquee in parks across the borough over August and get involved or check out www.southtyneside.gov.uk/haveyoursay
Lastly, I wanted to highlight our ambitious proposals for Levelling Up that have been submitted to Government. The two bids, one for each constituency, hope to bring millions to South Tyneside and revitalise the borough's three towns by capitalising on the growing green economy, innovation, and skills, and attracting visitors by enhancing the cultural offer.
The Jarrow proposal will seek to create a sustainable mid-Tyne, with a package of investments across Jarrow and Hebburn. An expansion of the pioneering Hebburn Minewater and Viking Energy networks would bring low-carbon heat to more residents and businesses, while significant investment at Jarrow Hall aims to create a world-class sustainable visitor destination.
The three-part South Shields submission focuses on revitalising the riverside and town centre by boosting footfall and visitor numbers. It includes developing the Customs House and a cultural quarter; creating a skills and visitor centre at Holborn Renewable Energy Network; and a student accommodation offer as part of South Tyneside College relocating into the town centre.
Councillor Tracey Dixon Leader of South Tyneside Council