My portfolio covers many of the inward facing areas of council business, supporting the departments we interact with as Northumberland residents. One exception to this is Electoral Services who have run smooth elections for the North of Tyne Mayor (in which our excellent candidate Charlie Hoult polled highest in Northumberland), the European parliament, a county by-election in Holywell and a town council election in Cramlington East. At some point soon they will have to do it all again so that we can elect a new Police and Crime Commissioner. The elections team have show real professionalism and have been well supported by staff from all departments who have turned out to run polling stations and verify or counts votes. Thanks to you all and I hope you have caught up on your sleep.
Another portfolio responsibility I am privileged to hold is finance. I presented an ‘out-turn report’ this week to Cabinet highlighting that we have managed comfortable within our budget this year. Our £11m underspend will be wisely used. We’re paying for the next stage of our ambition to reopen the Northumberland Rail line between Ashington and Newcastle – halving travel times for people who need access to employment opportunities across our region. We’re putting funds aside to finish dealing with the legal and employment issues the previous administration left us. We’re creating a council transformation fund that will be used to improve services for residents and drive council efficiencies.
At the half way point of our administration I am happy to report the council’s finances are much healthier. We have a clear plan to find the savings we need to deliver as well as having debt under control and we are not investing your money in risky speculative investment schemes. We have made significant investment in roads, education and economic regeneration and will continue with our ambitious and transformative programme.