MEMBERS of the ruling cabinet at BCP Council gathered at Highcliffe Castle to set out their aims for the new unitary authority’s first full year of operation, including eliminating hunger among residents.
It came into being in April to replace the borough councils in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole.
Elections resulted in a Unity Alliance administration comprising Liberal Democrats, Christchurch Independents, Poole People, Labour, other Independents, Green and Alliance for Local Living councillors.
Leader Cllr Vikki Slade said: “We promised to put people first, and to put the wellbeing of residents and the environment at the heart of what we do.
“As we reform the council into a 21st century organisation, I look forward to using technology to help us give better, quicker service to more people so we can dedicate our resources to those who need it most.”
She added: “The sign of a successful community is in making sure that everyone benefits as we grow and I am determined that this council will do all it can to eliminate hunger.
“That’s why we have committed to fund a community food coordinator so we can target hidden hunger, connect people with services available to them in their communities, and work with our public health colleagues to help people make healthier choices.”
Cllr Mark Howell, deputy leader and cabinet member for regeneration and culture, predicted it would be a year of “opportunity and action”.
He said: “We will work with partners to set out new visions for Poole town centre and Boscombe, and identify actions needed to boost the conurbation’s cultural offer. We will then create pathways for delivery.”
Cllr Sandra Moore, cabinet member for children and families, said: “We’ve recognised the need to enhance the council’s ‘Early Help’ offer.
“Early Help is intervening as soon as possible to tackle emerging problems for children and their families which will help improve their lives – especially the growing need to provide better support for teenage kids and their families.”
The council is also progressing a new Local Plan for the area and recently received the results of its first consultation about what is important to residents and should be included in it.
Key items raised included protection of the environment and green belt; roads and traffic congestion; encouraging more walking and cycling; issues around housing; and the need to promote jobs, work and business.
Cllr Margaret Phipps, who is in charge of strategic planning, explained: “These are all very important issues which have been raised by residents and local businesses, and we will ensure that they are all investigated by evidence gathering and included in first draft documents as the new plan emerges.
“I think it is very important that the new plan should take on board local opinion.”
Cabinet member for adult social care, Cllr Lesley Dedman, said: “We have been working hard on making all our services what our residents want and need to improve their situations.
“This year, as well as continuing to provide services, we are excited to be focussing, with all our partners, on the many ways we can provide help and information so that people may live healthy and fulfilling lives at every stage of their journey.”
Cllr Andy Hadley, who is responsible for transport and infrastructure, highlighted efforts being put on sustainable transport.
He said: “I look forward to getting significant investment underway on improved bus, walking and cycling routes via Transformation Cities funding, subject to government approval, including enabling a step change in protected segregated cycleways on main routes.
“It’s really important that we help residents to respond to the climate and ecological emergency as encouraging active travel gives all sorts of benefits in terms of reducing congestion, improving air quality, reducing social isolation, improving health of the individual and supporting local shopping.”
Cllr Felicity Rice, cabinet member for the environment and climate emergency, said: “Our environment has been undervalued by our economic system over the last few decades and we have ended up with an imbalance.
“Over the next year BCP council will be looking to use business as a force for good, balancing workers, communities and environment so all can thrive.
“The plastic crisis is one example, where we want to lead change. Recent reports have shown that micro-plastics are now found in rain as it falls, in air that we breathe, and in seafood that we eat.
“As the 12th largest authority in the UK, we are all part of a system and we all have the collective chance to change it.”