I would like to take this opportunity to wish your readers a very happy new year.
It has once again been a very busy year with, to quote Dickens, the best of times and the worst of times.
The best nationally being the Diamond Jubilee and the London 2012 Olympic Games, which have reminded us all how proud we can be of our country.
The worst being the ongoing difficult financial situation that we are all facing.
It now seems clear that the economic downturn is going to last longer than anyone initially thought.
This unfortunately impacts on us all, and in local government the financial picture for the future is still grim.
There will inevitably be more tough decisions ahead.
However, I can assure you we will do our utmost to do the best for our residents.
We’ve made it clear we cannot provide a ‘gold-plated’ service, but we will ensure we meet the needs of our most vulnerable residents.
West Sussex County Council continues to work to balance the books to help meet the national savings target set by the government.
We have achieved our savings target for 2011/12 and are on track for this year as well.
We are also on target to freeze council tax in 2013/14, which will be good news for our hard-pressed residents.
Despite these considerable challenges, we have had a number of successes as a county council throughout 2012.
Our adoption service was judged ‘good’ with some ‘outstanding’ features by Ofsted and we continue to work to improve our services.
And just earlier this month saw the launch of a new regional Corporate Parenting Network, led by West Sussex County Council.
A major report on the June floods has just been published and I want to assure you that this is only the beginning, this is not a report that will sit around gathering dust, and work is in progress as I write.
We are also in the early stages of looking at how we can reduce congestion on the A27.
This is ahead of what is really needed, which is government funding for a programme of works to solve the problems of the bottlenecks along the A27 once and for all.
Watch out for further news in 2013 on the Green Deal, which will offer householders with inadequate heating and insulation the chance to have warm, energy-saving homes at no upfront cost, and broadband as we continue to work to achieve access to superfast broadband across the county for residents and businesses.
There will be difficult times ahead and challenges for us all, but I can assure you that as a county council, we will continue to do our best for you our residents and businesses.
West Sussex County Council