Let’s make 2016 a good one

It’s 2016 and I’d like to wish you all the best for a wonderful, prosperous New Year.

2015 was a difficult year, all things considered. It ended as it had gone on; with a lot of people facing chaos and hardship due to war, storms, floods and all kinds of other disasters. I am hopeful that we can learn from these problems and make sure we don’t face them again; or if we have to, I hope we at least face them better prepared.

More, and better flood defences, built in cooperation with expert advice, would make a good start to that, so we don’t see rivers channelled down city streets again. The Forestry Commission had the right idea with the dams they built on their land, slowing the flow of flood water and reducing the risk of floods in populated areas.

Here in Bolton we face some new problems in 2016. Bolton Council’s budgets must be cut once again but we are nearing the end of the austerity programme (it’s set to end in 2018) so I am hopeful that the drastic measures we need to make now will pay off in the longer term. I don’t see this as all doom and gloom, however. There are opportunities to make changes that will help ease the burden that the cuts will bring.

In the last Council of 2015, after the protestors had forced the Council to move to another room (protestors who were protesting against something that has never happened in Bolton, by the way) I asked the Council why we did not open our procurement contracts up to private companies. The Labour Group, which sadly still runs the Council, claimed that there was “no evidence” that opening up procurement to a tender process would deliver any savings. I disagree.

A leafy path in Greensbridge Gardens, Westhoughton
In my first week as a Councillor, I was out addressing residents’ concerns on the streets of Westhoughton. Start as you mean to go on, I say!

In Westhoughton North and Chew Moor, my colleague Cllr Cox and I have seen direct evidence of the savings we could make through a competitive tendering process that will drive down costs. We could save £15 per square metre of pavement that is resurfaced in our area, and that’s just for starters.

On one street alone, I’ve calculated that this would save us £9000 on resurfacing. That’s enough in just one saving to resurface another pavement, and we all know we have a lot of pavements that need work.

So I intend to continue to push the Council to make this much-needed change to our procurement process, to get you value for money from your Council. It makes no sense to waste money like Bolton is doing right now, especially when we have to find every saving possible.

So what does the future have in store for Westhoughton? Well, for my part I plan to continue to fight to protect our green belt from overdevelopment. We may have lost on Roscoe’s Farm but we won on Lee Hall and I want us to continue to fight, because there will undoubtedly be more threats like that in the future.

Our schools are good, but our provision for children’s services outside of term time has been cut. I want to encourage more voluntary group participation in the community, like the new provision from the Bolton Lads’ and Girls Club. That way these vital services (which not only reduce youth crime and antisocial behaviour but which also provide excellent opportunities to develop social and other skills) are not as dependent on provisions from the Council that can sadly be cut at any time.

I am very much aware of the problems of road safety in Westhoughton, especially around the Wigan Road area. I am working on measures to reduce the number of traffic accidents on Wigan Road and to that end, the Council’s highways department is now looking into ways the speed can be reduced on that road, and whether other measures can be put in place to ensure pedestrians are safe.

I also want to encourage more people to get in touch if they have issues in the area. I’ve worked hard for everyone who has contacted me during 2015 and I want to continue to work hard for you all this year, too.

You can get in touch by email to zoe.kirk-robinson@bolton.gov.uk; by telephone (my office number is 01204 331 020) or in person at the regular Ward Surgeries at Westhoughton Town Hall (the dates are on outside the notice board, by the doors).

My next surgery dates are:

  • 13 February, 10:30-11:30
  • 02 April, 10:30-11:30

Ward surgeries are every 6 weeks and my last one was just before Christmas, so it’s a bit of a wait. That’s why I’m encouraging anyone who needs help in the mean time to get in touch by phone or email. It’s no use waiting if you can get help earlier, after all.

On a wider scale, 2016 looks set to be a good year for tackling global poverty. Reports from the World Bank show that less than 10% of the world now lives in extreme poverty, after more countries joined the global market. This means that the global eradication of extreme poverty isn’t just a pipe dream any more, it can actually happen – probably not this year, but soon. I want to see it happen.

I wish you all a very happy, safe and prosperous new year. Let’s make 2016 a good one!