COLUMN: Uttlesford District Council well placed to face cuts

Howard Rolfe

Howard Rolfe - Credit: Archant

It has been an eventful year for Uttlesford District Council, with the national and local elections being a significant focus in the first half of the year.

In March and April the momentum of the political campaigns got underway, building up to the election on May 7. There were 39 district councillor seats in addition to one parliamentary seat being contested. Across the district, elections also took place at town and parish level.

Canvassing on the doorstep is an enriching, humbling and challenging experience but it is real democracy in action and a key aspect of political life.

Conservative administrations were returned both nationally and locally. Uttlesford’s campaign was well fought with housing one of the key issues.

During the year we have begun to firm up the number of new homes required as well as working with all parties to determine the process for the Local Plan.

In the last few weeks, the first consultation has been completed and details of the Call for Sites made public. 2016 will be a key year for the plan with locations for the new homes put forward for consultation.

By the time this piece is read, more information will have been announced about Local Government finances. The Autumn Statement indicated a challenging two years from 2017-18, but did not spell out the detail.

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Uttlesford is well placed to face cuts but will need to manage its finances appropriately. One initiative for 2016 will be for the council to generate more income from its assets and reserves.

Devolution has become an important theme in 2015. This is about powers from Whitehall that could be managed locally with greater effectiveness.

Skills, infrastructure, economic growth are some of the areas that could form part of a negotiation with Government in 2016.

Away from politics, the fabric of Uttlesford life moves through the year with the changing seasons. The beauty of the spring countryside, the charm of summer village fetes, back to school, great music, concerts and drama, Hallowe’en, bonfire parties and carol services.

At the time of writing, towns and villages are decorated for Christmas and hopefully our shops and businesses are prospering.

Community binds us together, long may we remain a supportive and understanding society.

I wish you a happy and healthy 2016.