Chris Emmas-WilliamsNewly Elected Labour Leader of Amber Valley Council
In this article, the leader of Amber Valley Council sets out the plan of action now that Labour is back in control.
This year’s elections for the Borough of Amber Valley were always going to be different due to there being new ward boundaries for 42 seats (reduced from 45 councillors) and then the Government announcing that Photo ID would also be used for the first time. I was first elected in 1986 when the council was elected by thirds of 15 seats for three years out of four, and also had the committee system in place for service delivery, subsequently, we moved to the Cabinet system that we have today.
For this election, we had an excellent organising team, considerable help from our regional office team, and visits from Sir Keir Starmer, Liz Kendall, and Alex Norris. We also delivered a thumping 10-seat majority with 26 Labour councillors and kept control of the four major Town Councils of Alfreton, Belper, Heanor, and Ripley. I believe that the electorate has had enough of tired and incompetent councillors and put their trust in us to deliver during this very difficult financial period.
Just before the election, we had some defections to other parties and whilst we were fairly confident, we were not complacent, especially after losing control two years ago – despite us having an excellent track record on the Local Plan, regeneration, and the environment. This year’s manifesto centred on delivering our Local Plan (we’d not had one since 2006), continuing with our green agenda after we declared our Climate Change Emergency, regenerating our four town centres, building affordable ‘council houses’ for first-time buyers and furthering energy efficiency measures to reduce carbon emissions and fuel poverty.
As part of our Climate Change Emergency, which we declared four years ago, we created an Officer/Member Working Party, which led to a £700k grant. This allowed us to deliver housing improvements such as insulation and solar panels, start our ‘Forest of the Future’, and plant over 14,000 trees in a year with more to follow, sadly, that working group didn’t meet in the last year. The cabinet meetings, which were held at 10.30 am, will be moved to the evenings to show more transparency and give residents the chance to witness the decision-making process that affects them.
We know that we have a difficult period to steer the authority through, especially as the Council has not had the accounts externally audited for the last two years, which I was staggered to hear after we took control of the Council. We are more determined than ever to put Amber Valley Borough Council back on the political map and deliver our excellent manifesto.