Councillor Neil Blake has just been made leader of Aylesbury Vale District Council – and here is the manifesto which persuaded his Conservative Party colleagues to elect him.
With John Cartwright standing down as our leader I’ve decided to throw my hat into the ring in respect of the contest for the leadership position.
As you know, I’ve been Cabinet Member for Resources for four years - probably the most challenging period that any local authority has experienced for decades, given the decimation of our grants from central Government.
However, we’ve made significant progress during that time in making efficiency savings and generating additional income for the council.
Not only has that enabled us to balance out budgets year on year but it’s put us in a strong position to move into the next period of Government cuts.
I’ve worked very closely with officers to develop the new business model and we’re already starting to see the benefits of this initiative.
Every section of our council’s operation will be scrutinised over the coming months so that we can identify which services are needed by our residents and how we can deliver those services more efficiently and economically whilst, at the same time, seeking new income initiatives.
Should I be fortunate enough to be the successful candidate in the election for leader, I intend to retain the resources portfolio.
Having finally broken away from my business interests, I’ll have the time to devote to these two important roles.
One of my aims is to forge much closer links with other authorities, both within and outside Buckinghamshire. Whilst unitary status is not on the agenda for the forseeable future, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t cherry-pick areas of joint working that can be of benefit to Aylesbury Vale District Council (AVDC).
Great work has been done, in recent years, to enhance the facilities on the south side of Exchange Street in Aylesbury and credit must go to our outgoing leader for his input on these various projects.
We now need to look to developing the north side so that we can make Aylesbury a county town of which to be proud. In addition, we mustn’t forget the other major towns and villages in the Vale that make major contributions to our economy and need to make capital investments in them where they can prove to be financially beneficial.
We need to develop a much stronger political agenda in the Vale.
Time and time again we find ourselves having to respond to derogatory comments in the local press.
This needs to change so I intend to set up a political sub-group that can be pro-active in putting out information to the media about the great achievements that have been made by our administration.
At present we seem to rely on press releases that are put out by officers and these don’t always carry the political slant that I feel is warranted. I’ll look to have a regular column in the Bucks Herald so that our group’s thoughts are published the way we want them to be published and not cut about by editors, often putting the wrong emphasis on a story. All this, I hope, will help to return a Conservative majority at the next District Council elections.
Some backbenchers have raised concerns that they are divorced from decision making because council policies appear to be made solely by cabinet. I hope that the meetings between cabinet and our group members have gone some way to address those concerns but accept that more work could be done in this area.
I promise to operate an “open door” policy so that our members, particularly, can drop in to discuss problems that they might have with the council’s policies or systems.
We have a great council that’s run by a hard working Conservative administration. I believe that ours is the only party that can take AVDC forward and relish the opportunity of leading the authority into the next phase of its development. I sincerely hope, therefore, that you can support my bid to become leader.