This time of year there is always considerable planning around next year’s council budget. This year is no different and work is well underway. There are currently some unknowns as we await the Chancellor’s spending review on November 25. We do know we will have less money however, the demands on our services continue to grow which means difficult decisions. Work will continue on the budget planning and the budget will come before County Council in February.
I am very pleased the autumn/winter edition of Taste magazine will be available very shortly. This edition is a bumper one packed full of interesting foodie articles and winter walks - a really good read. You can read the latest edition online or look out to pick up your free copy later this month at outlets such as farm shops, restaurants, pubs and venues across the county.
Work continues on our ‘Five Bold Ideas’ for the economy. Plans for a creative and digital hub for Bognor Regis took another step forward last week with community groups and businesses backing proposals at an initial meeting. I am delighted that Hemingway Design, the company of renowned designer and West Sussex resident Wayne Hemingway, is leading the work to develop an overall design brief for the project. An important part of the work is to get the local community’s thoughts on the project and whether they think it is right for the town. At last week’s workshop it was good to see people wanting to get involved and be enthusiastic about the project. The hub would support the growth of the creative sectors in the town by providing a shared workspace where small businesses could work in a creative and supportive environment, network, socialise, display work and share facilities.
I spent part of last week working on the 3 Southern Counties (3SC) Devolution Offer, which is currently being considered by the Government. Along with other county and district council leaders and chief executives, I attended a workshop run by the Local Government Association. It was a useful session but there is much to do by all of us. I will keep you posted.
In the news over the last few months we have all witnessed the plight of Syrian refugees. The Government has been working on its plans to home 20,000 refugees over the next five years. This is called the Syrian Vulnerable Person Scheme. We, like many other county councils, have offered to take part in this scheme and help a number of the refugees to relocate. Planning for this is well underway and will see the county welcome a family unit of four refugees every month over the life of the scheme. This work includes finding accommodation and ensuring the refugees will be settled and looked after. This involves us working in close partnership with the district and borough councils as well as our health partners and many others. It is a sensitive issue, however judging from the offers of help and comments from so many, providing a place of safety and stability for these refugees is the right thing to do.
On Sunday morning I, along with many others, attended the Remembrance Sunday Service. Standing at the War Memorial listening to the names called out of those who lost their lives in the First and Second World Wars is always very poignant. It made me think about lives given fighting for freedom – freedom of speech, freedom to vote, freedom to object, freedom to go where we want, freedom of oppression. For those who gave their lives for our freedoms and protecting this country I for one am eternally grateful.