It’s just under two months since I was elected to become the leader of the council, and it’s fair to say that it has been an enormous learning curve for me.
I’m not a career politician, and many of the complex relationships that the council depends on both with staff and partners are delicate and require time and energy to make sure that our services flourish and that our partnership approaches are successful.
I have met many colleagues, partners, residents groups, business leaders and developers in the last two months, whom I had either not encountered before as a ward councillor, or with whom I had only previously been in telephone or email correspondence. To everyone I would like to say a massive thank you for being so patient with my ‘beginners’ questions.
I said when I took over that I wanted the council’s reputation to be of an open and transparent organisation where possible. So many colleagues are already taking up this challenge, and it has been heartening to see some great positive feedback coming through from service users, visitors and residents over recent weeks.
Across the next few months we will, as an administration, be continuing to work alongside officers to embed this approach more clearly across all services, but we have other urgent priorities too.
Of these, clearly the most pressing is the housing crisis. As a city we don’t have enough appropriate accommodation for people at most stages of their lives.
By ensuring that we accelerate our plans to reduce our dependency on privately-owned emergency and temporary accommodation, build more council homes, push forward on the delivery of the joint venture homes, and create more hidden homes from the council’s own property resources, we have the chance to genuinely change people’s experience of homelessness and poor quality accommodation, and enhance their lives and future life chances.
But for now I just wanted publicly to thank all staff and council partners for the step change they are already starting to deliver. Being council leader isn’t easy, but being proud of the response of council staff is.