That Was The Year That Was

For me, the abiding appeal of that classic Hollywood film and perennial Christmas TV favourite ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ is the way it makes us think about the interconnectedness of people and the importance of appreciating the simpler things in life. Okay, the director, Frank Capra, piles on the sentimentality in places, but by the end-credits we’ve learned some valuable lessons about just how easy it is to take for granted the community we live in, and how creating and maintaining a vibrant town doesn’t just happen by chance but through the willingness and care of everyone who lives in it. The film tells us plainly: if we really want to create communities worth living in, and places worth caring about, then we have to step forward to make it happen.

I meet people every day who are helping to ‘make it happen’, who are working incredibly hard on behalf of the local community to improve the lives of the people who live and work in our Borough. And so I guess, with the festive period and New Year fast approaching, now feels like an appropriate time to look back at just a few of the many highlights of an eventful and busy 2015, and pay tribute to all of my staff for their hard work in helping to make Colchester a better place for all…

‘Making a difference’ was very much the emphasis during two Community Days of Action held in Berechurch in February and Lexden in September, led by the Safer Colchester Partnership. The Lexden Day of Action was the first to be organised around a bid by the local community to host the event and deliver legacy improvements for local people. Look out for another two events in 2016 – the first one in Greenstead, in March. And, as I write, we’ve just announced Colchester’s Big Choice, offering up to £200,000 to deliver projects that will provide long-lasting community benefits for the Borough, with residents having a final say on which ones go ahead.

Outcomes from across the range of our services tell the story of council staff working incredibly hard to serve our residents and customers. Where to begin? Over 202,000 contacts handled through our Customer Service Centre this year, for starters. I could also mention the 25,440 benefits changes processed between April and October, and the 3910 new Housing Benefit and Local Council Tax support claims processed in the same period. Then there were the 925 planning applications determined between April and October – 90% of which were decided faster than the Government target – not forgetting the 3397 resident permits issued across the North Essex Parking Partnership area.

The Community Hub in the Library continued to create a communal ‘buzz’, offering a host of frontline customer services under one roof and encouraging residents to register for an online account to do many of the things they could once only do in person – such as pay bills and receive help with benefits – which has helped to revolutionise the way people access our services.

Colchester’s cultural life was as vibrant as ever this year. The castle continued to delight and draw the crowds. Colchester Market relocated to the High Street, and the town centre received a Purple Flag award for providing a positive experience to night-time visitors. There was a Green Flag award for our much-loved Castle Park and High Woods Country Park, and Colchester won double awards from Britain in Bloom and Anglia in Bloom. Who, among the thousands who attended, will forget the amazing Light and Shades Halloween laser show which beamed animated stories onto the exterior of the Town Hall? Is it any wonder confidence in the Town Centre continued to grow this year, along with more than £500million earmarked for new projects, including the Creative Business Centre and a new Curzon cinema?

I could literally could go on until Christmas recounting all of the great things over the past 12 months that have helped make our borough a place worth caring about – but perhaps I should use what little space remains just to say a huge ‘thank you’ to all of my council colleagues and to you, the reader, for continuing to take an interest in my Blog.

I wish you all a very happy Christmas and a prosperous 2016.

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2 thoughts on “That Was The Year That Was

  1. Hello Adrian. Possibly you remember me, Wivenhoe Mayor 2005-06. I’m wrinklier and greyer and you’ve got a bit less hair… at least you can don your official wig! Impressed you find time in your busy life to do a blog at all but may I suggest you either update it every once in a while or delete. Not good to wish people Happy Christmas in February! I’m particularly animated by what you say about ‘community’ – a grossly misused and abused word in my opinion. Our whole borough is too big to be one, but I’m delighted you mention Berechurch which does of course have potential and deserves encouragement. Places like Wivenhoe, West Mersea and Tiptree are pretty much there despite rapid growth in population in recent years, but I think they need help… not necessarily financial. Warmest regards.

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  2. Hello Tom. Thanks for posting your comments. I would like to reassure you that I’m in the process of completing my next Blog post, which should hopefully appear here in the next few days.

    It’s the nature of a Blog, such as this, that the timeline will preserve previously published posts in chronological order, meaning certain subjects and themes will appear to lose their currency over time. Whether they do or not, they will nevertheless continue to appear on the timeline, for the record, rather than be deleted or archived to another location on the site.

    On the subject of communities: I recognise there is a distinction to be made between ‘communities’ and the ‘community as a whole’. We can talk about physical geographical communities, communities in categories, communities of interest, etc.

    I certainly accept that there is a diverse range of communities in our community of ‘Colchester the Borough’, and therefore lots of communities and places to help. This we are trying our best to do, within significantly reduced resources.

    Best wishes,

    Adrian

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