"There's an awful lot to do": new Warwick District Council leader takes questions from the press

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New Warwick District Council Leader Cllr Andrew Day has today met members of the press to answer questions about the challenges he and the authority faces going forward after the recent elections.

The results of the elections means the council has a 'new look' about it with seats being spread more across the different parties where before the Conservatives had a large majority.

Cllr Day (Con, Bishops Tachbrook), an Australian who has lived in the UK for several years and has had a seat as a councillor since 2015, spoke about his aims for the council as its newly elected leader and the main issues the the authority will have to tackle in the coming months and years.

On the 'new look' council.
"The numbers are the numbers and I wasn't elected for leader just because I can count but I think it's the right outcome anyway.

"Democracy is about listening to what the residents want and responding to that and that's certainly what this administration will set out to do.

"The big thing about being elected as leader points to the fact we have more then half of our councillors are brand new.

"For the whole council that's a big loss of experience and we're having to reform and reconnect and there's an awful lot of training going on at the moment to get everyone up to speed and awful to brief them on the work that has been going on.

"A similar thing happened in 2015 when there was another big changeover of councillors so one of the big considerations we are looking at is 'how do we make it more worthwhile to be a councillor'.

"You give up an awful lot of your time and you want to feel that you're actually making a difference rather than just attending committees and putting your hand up occasionally so one of the first initiatives we've undertaken is looking at a committee system which out power away from what we now know as the executive down to the committees themselves which will be making direct decisions on those areas.

"We've just begun that process and will be getting help from the Local Government Association which is free but professional.

"We'll be going froward in a really constructive way.

"There'll be some training elements to that and there'll be recommendations coming forward in the next six months of the year.

"That should mean that councillors can work more effectively.

"I'm very mindful of the fact there are some experienced people who sit on the other side of the council chamber who very often don't get a chance to contribute in an executive way.

"Some have been in council for 30 years and have more corporate history that anybody so we as a group with the Whitnash Residents Association have endeavoured to get some committee appointments shared among the other groups.

"We've tried both with the Lib Dems and Labour to ensure they both have a committee to chair.

"We're starting out as we mean to go on - playing more effectively as a team.

"It's a very steep learning curve for me with a lot of things happening previously I didn't know the full detail on but I'm working hard to get up to speed as we have all been with the other councillors."

On his aim for a 'carbon neutral district'

"That's something we're working with the other groups on as a district council.

"We believe we can take this organisation to a carbon neutral status and our officers are working on that right now.

"This is a relatively small body with 500-odd staff and we charge £166 per band D rate payer so we're not the big spenders in town but we have a very influential place and can build some strong partnerships not just with other authorities but also with organisations like the Woodland Trust and we have a degradation going on - we've got 3,500 houses being built in my ward and I'm very aware of the impact the local plan is having but we can take steps to try to redress that so we want to plant trees with residents and the Woodland Trust."

On the challenges for the council going forward

"There's always the financial challenges so we're going through a programme of making sure we balance our budget and live within our means. That's not just us that's all authorities and certainly other Government departments which takes a lot of discipline and hard work and it hasn't stopped.

"Until we get through the next local government spending review in 2021 we really have to keep on that path of getting good value for our ratepayers.

"We also have to make sure we get the best value out of the projects and programmes we are developing and by 'value' I mean community value and delivering environmental benefits as well.

"We have a big country park going into the south of Leamington and Warwick so how do we bring that forward in a way that will deliver benefits for residents.

"Whether that's outdoor swimming, planting trees and enabling people to be able to get their children to school without having to drive.
We also have to bring forward some of the regeneration projects which need to happen for Leamington .

"It is the jewel of the district and really deserves a lot of TLC."

On the future of Newboldy Comyn, the council's HQ project, The Leamington Creative Quarter and outdoor swimming in Kenilworth

"I see these as important regeneration projects they are about regeneration - step one of this is to get all the members up to date with these so they known what's happening, what the decisions have been and where the council stands on them.

"There's a lot of work to do in that area but we're not messing about. We're cracking on with bringing forward up to date briefings for many projects very shortly on the Kenilworth leisure project.

"But, trying not to be too much of a politician on this, but where we stand is that we have invested in taking those projects to a certain point.

"We've called for some new reports on the lido in particular so we know what the facts are about what the community has been calling for there and what that would cost.

"I want to know what the environmental impact is of putting an outdoor heated pool in - what is the carbon impact of that?

"What are the costs and choices we have to make if we do that.

"I'm not aware and not up to date on what the picture is there.

"As far as the Leamington projects are concerned Newbold Comyn, through to Covent Garden through to this site (Riverside House)

"I'm really keen that we take a fresh look at those and that we bring forward the most benefit for this community.

"They're really big regeneration projects - all of them - they do interlock together and can have a big impact on the quality of life for people not only in Leamington but also for people like me who live in Bishops Tachbrook who come into the town to shop.

"We have as big a stake in this town as any other resident in the district.

"If you put all these projects together you can see a pattern and real focus on working with partners - the county council, our town council and MPs and local businesses in asking 'how do we improve this as a great place to work in and live in and we have a role to play as a partner to get this value?'.

"And once we make some decisions we want to be more engaged in communicating and more open to public scrutiny as well."

The Legacy of the council's previous regime
What happened with our leisure centres was a big thing - whichever political angle you come at that from just seeing the range and variety of people using those facilities is a joy and we can build on that and that brought forward some significant savings in how we run the council which means we can stay tight with council tax and that was big one.

With the local plan, one new family will be moving into my ward every day for the next ten years if you try to build a community around that and you see then why things like the St Chads centre - those hubs and facilities - are so important .

"Investment in places such as Bishops Tachbrook, Norton Lindsey and Whitnash are really vital."

Personal aims
"It could be less than four years [that I'm leader for] - there's a degree on impatience with me.

"I am really concerned about our air quality and environment I remember when we had rivers that were vile - full of broken cars, sewage, chemicals and rubbish - and we've seen in a generation what impact can be achieved by cleaning those up and I don't think we are fully aware of the impact of the damage that is being done to our lungs and our children's lungs through our air - it's unseen and incredibly pervasive.

"As the monitoring authority we have a responsibility to scream out about that and challenge other partners to help fix it so that in 20 years from now we can look back and ask how we could have people out in the streets with the levels of particulates in the air - we knew smoking was an issue so why aren't we screaming about this?"

On calling for other councillors to 'make their mark'
"At the end of their four years - if we want to have more councillors standing again next time and carrying forward that experience - can they can say , positively, 'I made that happen' or 'I did that for my area'?"

Cross party working
"It's much more fun, you don't feel hemmed in by feeling you have to wear just one colour and there's a lot of talent all around the council.

"It will have its moments, we are going to have group leaders' meetings before anything goes to the executive so we can air our differences and we're going to do that with each of the portfolio holders and have started a new portfolio for environment and business.

"There's an awful lot to do."