Councillor Ian Grant said: “I would like to wish everyone a very happy Christmas and a peaceful New Year.
“The past year has seen the Council make great strides in projects which help people who live and work in West Lancashire. We have achieved all of this while freezing Council Tax for the fourth successive year.
“We are currently making our biggest ever annual investment in our housing stock, spending over £15 million in the current financial year. Major schemes in this investment include replacing kitchens in 1,414 homes and bathrooms in 1,220 homes. This is part of a £65 million five-year investment plan. Families will reap the benefits of our work here for years to come.
“As part of this programme the Council is in the process of replacing electric storage heaters throughout the Borough and currently 108 flats in Uppingham, Skelmersdale, will benefit from gas central heating in a £472,000 scheme.
“People living in more than 100 of our blocks of flats will be even safer in their homes after the installation of new high-security communal entrance doors. This work will be completed by the end of March. The rest of our blocks will get new communal entrance doors in the coming years.
“All of these projects will really help make the lives of our tenants better.
“We are helping residents recycle more of their household waste with a programme to replace blue boxes for recycling plastic, cans and glass with blue bins. This scheme also helps the environment, and means the Council will pay less in landfill tax, freeing up more money to spend on frontline services.
“Crime is down in West Lancashire and we are continuing our work with the police and other members of the Community Safety Partnership to protect our communities. A key part of this has been our investment in our CCTV systems. Earlier this year we replaced the 59 cameras that we had at that time and invested in new monitoring facilities. We are currently installing 27 new cameras to further improve coverage. Many of these will be in areas not previously served by CCTV.
“The Council is also playing a role in creating jobs and helping local businesses. We work with West Lancashire College and West Lancs CVS on West Lancashire Challenge, which helps to create apprenticeships and work experience opportunities in West Lancashire. The project, which began in 2011, created its 200th apprenticeship in 2013 and has since gone on to support another 60. We have also welcomed three new businesses into West Lancashire, creating around 140 new jobs to the Borough.
“We are continuing to help people back into work with our Demand Responsive Transport Service, which links residential areas of Skelmersdale and Up Holland with industrial areas on Pimbo, and we are increasing the transport options provided to people in this area by introducing a nine-month pilot cycle to work scheme. We are also working to be in the best possible position to take advantage of the commercial opportunities that will be created by the Liverpool Superport.
“We run the West Lancashire Investment Centre which has had another successful year with seven new tenants moving in. One existing tenant, Cotopaxi Energy, has trebled the size of its office space and taken on eight new staff.
“We are continuing to work on opportunities to regenerate Skelmersdale Town Centre. Staff are working with partners to explore the options for a new railway station in Skelmersdale.
“In 2013 the Council approved its Local Plan, a huge piece of work which will help shape the borough’s future.
“The Council is also continuing to work with our partners to provide much-needed affordable homes, including the eight family properties in Ormskirk which families moved into this year. We have received funding from the Homes and Communities Agency to work with the Regenda Housing to provide up to 65 more affordable homes in the coming years. The total investment will be about £7,500,000.
“We have attempted to address residents’ concerns over dog fouling, litter and fly-tipping by setting up a new enforcement team to crack down on these issues. Their work was praised on the BBC documentary programme Panorama, which filmed the work we are doing.
“Ormskirk MotorFest was a fantastic success once again this year with an estimated 25,000 people enjoying one of the North West’s biggest free family events. Due to the efforts of our staff Coronation Park in Ormskirk, which hosted some of the MotorFest activities, has retained its prestigious Green Flag status along with Beacon Country Park.
“The Council has also made progress on the £700,000 improvement scheme for Moor Street which is being carried out in partnership with Lancashire County Council. The project will involve re-paving the existing carriageway surface and other environmental improvement works in the street.
“The Council worked to ensure that its valuable Community Centres can remain open in these difficult economic times. We have been delighted to announce that preferred partners have been identified to take on the future full management and operation of these premises. The Civic Hall has been transferred to the Engine Rooms and Ashurst Meeting Rooms has been transferred to the UK Taekwondo Development Council. We hope to make announcements with regard to Birch Green, Digmoor, Greenhill and Tanhouse community centres in the new year.
“The Council has given financial support to help bring Citizens Advice Bureau services back to West Lancashire after the previous borough-wide bureau closed.
“Many people are pleased with the work of the Council. In our Citizen Survey this year 83% of people who responded said they were satisfied with their local area as a place to live, 79% agree that West Lancashire is a safe and secure place to live and 81% are satisfied with the domestic waste collection.
“We have recently set up the West Lancashire Community Covenant which shows our support for the armed forces. We were delighted that many of our partners have signed the document which has several key aims, including to ensure people are not disadvantaged as a result of service in the armed forces.
“West Lancashire is rightly proud of its links to the Armed Forces. This year the Council has refurbished and repaired the war memorials we are responsible for. Additional works to identify the names of our fallen service personnel and provide a fitting reminder of their sacrifice on the memorial in Coronation Park will be completed in 2014. At the Skelmersdale memorial new seating and a standing area have also been created. Extensive bulb planting was also carried out by Midstream (West Lancs) Ltd in 2012 as part of this project. A beautiful red poppy mosaic was also put in place as a focal point for the new memorial seating area.
“Seeing the huge crowds at Remembrance Sunday services across the borough was very moving and I am sure many people will attend services and events next year which sees the 100th anniversary of the start of World War One.
“Our employees are among our greatest assets. I want to thank them for all the hard work and commitment they have shown over the past 12 months.”
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