Councillor David Westley, Leader of West Lancashire Borough Council, said: "I would like to wish everyone a very happy Christmas and a peaceful New Year.
"The Council continues to make great strides in many important projects. We have achieved all of this while freezing Council Tax for the fifth successive year.
"Looking back over the highlights of the year, one of the most important schemes we are involved in is the Skelmersdale town centre regeneration project and good progress has been made on this.
"The Council has continued throughout the year with our partners St. Modwen and the HCA to promote and market Skelmersdale town centre as an investment opportunity. This has resulted in the submission of a planning application by St Modwen for a £10 million mixed use scheme comprising a cinema, restaurant and bars along a new high street between the college and the existing town centre as well as the provision of additional retail units. This scheme is an amendment to a previous scheme granted outline planning permission in May 2013, with Reel Cinema confirmed as the anchor tenant for the leisure remit.
"In addition, the Council has received an application from London and Cambridge Properties, the owners of the Concourse, who propose the development of a £4 million leisure complex incorporating ‘The Light’, a Cinema, at the Shopping Centre.
"The fact that businesses are considering such major investment is good news for Skelmersdale and the borough as a whole.
"In addition, work commenced and is nearing completion on the building of the “Youth Zone”. This £2million County Council scheme is a welcome facility within the town centre and will be of significant community benefit.
"In relation to the housing stock, we are continuing with our record £65 million five-year investment plan which will benefit tenants for years to come.
"This year we have been aiming to tackle fuel poverty and by the end of March 2015 we will have invested £1.35 million in improving heating systems, including bringing gas supplies into homes in Skelmersdale which have never had gas.
"We will also have installed up to £1m worth of new energy-efficient doors and windows by the end of the current financial year, and undertaken £500,000 worth of other energy efficiency measures. By the end of March 2015 up to 100 homes will have new heat meters to help tenants keep track of fuel bills.
"Funding is also now in place for exciting plans to build up to 44 new homes on the Firbeck estate in Skelmersdale that will meet the requirements of modern families. Outline planning permission has been received, and building work is due to start next year, provided formal approval for the detailed plan is granted. We continue to invest money in the regeneration of the estate, including external wall insulation and new roofing.
"Crime is down in West Lancashire and we continue to work with our partners in the West Lancashire Community Safety Partnership (WLCSP), including Lancashire Police and Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service to help make the borough an even safer place to live.
"A major initiative is the annual Freshers’ Week programme, to welcome new Edge Hill University students to Ormskirk.
"We were also key players in delivering the Bright Sparx action plan to prevent problems on Mischief Night, Halloween and Bonfire Night. With partners we organised community clean-up events which removed 156 tons of waste that could otherwise have been set on fire. We arranged for community centres to be open on Mischief Night and supported the WLCSP Go4it events at Evermoor Hub in the run up to bonfire night. These initiatives provided activities for more than 600 young people to enjoy.
"In the last 12 months we have further increased the number of CCTV cameras to help detect and prevent crime and boost public confidence. We are looking to install more new CCTV cameras in the coming years.
"The West Lancashire economy is performing well when compared to the rest of the UK and the North West, and this is expected to continue
"Official figures show that the number of people claiming Jobseekers Allowance in West Lancashire dropped by nearly half between October 2013 and October 2014. The West Lancashire Economy Study, jointly commissioned with Lancashire County Council and the Homes and Communities Agency, shows prospects for the future are good, and forecasts that 5,800 jobs will be created by 2032. This is a growth rate of 11.3 per cent, the highest of any district in Lancashire.
"The Council is taking important steps to further boost the local economy and help create those new jobs and we are developing an Economic Development Strategy to support growth, business development and job creation over the next ten years.
"We have joined the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority and this will enable us to build on our good relationships with neighbouring authorities and will help put West Lancashire in an even better position to take advantage of opportunities for economic growth, skills development and the creation of new jobs.
"The Council-run West Lancashire Investment Centre has enjoyed another successful year and all the suites are now full, which proves that it really is a thriving hub for local business.
"The Council adopted its Local Plan in 2013 and this year we have made important progress in key schemes for areas allocated for development. These are the Yew Tree Farm Masterplan, and the development briefs for Grove Farm, off High Lane, Ormskirk, and land off Firswood Road on the border of Lathom South and Skelmersdale. Having a Local Plan in place is good news as it enables the Council to show it has clear guidelines for development and will help protect the borough against proposals that do not serve the interests of local people. The final Yew Tree Farm Masterplan will go before Cabinet in January, where members will vote on whether or not to adopt it.
"The Council also adopted a Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) Charging Schedule in July. This places a charge on new development, which is designed to ensure that new development contributes to the cost of the infrastructure it will rely upon. It will help to provide new and improved community facilities, transport, highways or green spaces.
"West Lancashire is rightly proud of its links to the Armed Forces. 2014 marked the 100th anniversary of the start of World War One and seeing the huge crowds at Remembrance Sunday Services across the borough was very moving. This year the Council provided grants to a number of organisations to help them ensure their memorials were looking their best for this very important occasion.
"Earlier this year we consulted the public on plans to make Moor Street in Ormskirk an even nicer place to visit, shop and do business. Features of the £700,000 scheme, which we are working on in partnership with Lancashire County Council, include re-surfacing the street, installing new seating and street lighting and the creation of a new square which can host regular events. We look forward to further progress on this scheme in the near future.
"On a lighter note the Ormskirk MotorFest was a fantastic success once again as an estimated 25,000 people enjoyed a marvellous day out to see more than 300 wonderful vehicles on display. We are already looking forward to MotorFest 2015 which takes place on Sunday 30 August.
"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. This year we have introduced a pay supplement to ensure our lowest-paid workers are in receipt of the nationally-recognised living wage."