Statement by The Leader of the Council to the Annual Meeting of The Council
We are all aware in this chamber of the difficult financial position faced by Europe and indeed a large part of the western world.
As a country and as politicians we can debate and disagree on the causes of this and apportion the blame and responsibility – but it will not change what has happened. This country is massively in debt and local authorities are continuing to see reductions in funding for services and facilities.
As a borough we are without doubt in a far stronger position than other local authorities and that is as a result of a number of things:
- The right policies – a strong administration – good directors and heads of services – good management and a frontline staff that any council leader would be proud of.
It was not always so - over the years that I have been Leader of this council I have witnessed a sea change – in professionalism and performance at all levels of service delivery. This week our Chief Executive, Hugh Dunnachie announced his retirement at the end of the year. He goes with the good wishes of the council and with thanks for a job well done.
As an administration we are passionate about putting residents first – but I believe that is a driving force for every member of council regardless of political party. We may come at it from different directions but we are all here to serve the residents of the borough in varying capacities.
This will range from Cabinet members to those of both parties who serve on our planning, licensing and overview and policy committees – and many I know do a huge amount in their wards.
As we start a new municipal year can I thank all Members of council - those from my own party and those from the opposition for the service they give as individuals to the borough and its residents.
In my twelve years as Leader of the Council there have now been seven Leaders of the opposition. But I would like to pay particular tribute to Cllr Mo Khursheed who held that post for three of those years. And I suppose I can pay him no greater tribute than to say of all those opposition leaders that I have dealt with I feared him the most. He has the respect of residents and most of my own party. A calm, professional, gentlemanly approach with a sense of reality rather than political knockabout is Mo’s approach. He is his own man and a man of integrity and that is needed in politics these days.
Mo, you have my respect and personal good wishes, you served your party and this borough well.
So, what does the future hold for Hillingdon Council.
Last year I began formulating a plan to change the directorate structure, which as well as meaning having less directors would see a change in Chief Executive. Hugh had always planned to retire this year.
What I did not envisage last year was the degree of upheaval to council responsibilities that would be occurring in the coming year. Changes to benefits, housing, education, health and the localism act will necessitate a review of director responsibilities.
This will have a knock on effect to Cabinet portfolios and the make-up of the Cabinet, which in turn will lead to a review of the policy and overview function.
Our structure to date had served us well – but we must now look to the next two years and beyond. I intend to bring a proposed new structure to council in September.
At the November council meeting – schemes of delegation and the necessary changes to Cabinet and scrutiny functions can be formalised along with the appointments of the new Chief Executive. The new structure will function from 1 December and will be robust enough to take us through the next two years.
Mr Mayor, you have tonight become the First Citizen of a Borough in a sound financial position with expertise and ability now in place to continually adapt to the challenges I am sure that we will continue to face.