New Amber Valley Borough Council leader Paul Jones is settling into his top job and knows he has a tough task ahead as the authority grapples with spending cuts.
But he also has plans for economic growth for the borough, including an ambitious plan to extend the Nottingham tram system into Amber Valley.
This week Cllr Jones spoke in detail about the future for the borough under Labour rule after his party wrestled control of the council from the Tories after 14 years.
Cllr Jones is the only council leader to have been in post in two different centuries, and two different millennia.
He was previously leader in 1999 when the council was last Labour led.
His party has a slim majority of just two seats after the local elections in May.
He said: “It has been a long time coming. I am excited, exhilarated, and also apprehensive to take on the challenges that lie ahead, but I am more than ready.”
He has kick-started his term in office by proposing several ways for the council to review budgets and streamline spending, after the announcement of severe council budget cuts, which are affecting all local authorities.
And it comes as Derbyshire County Council, also now Labour run, is slashing its budget by £157 million as it faces ‘unrelenting’ government cuts to its funding due to the recession.
Cllr Jones, who as well as being leader of the council represents the Heanor ward, and is also a county councillor for the Greater Heanor area, which includes Aldercar and Langley Mill.
The leader is set to carry out an independent review of borough council spending in September to evaluate the structure and effectiveness of the current system.
He said: “I aim to change the priorities of the council and get them thinking outside of the box, in order for Derbyshire to deal with the cuts. The income stream is drying up and we need to look at different ways of approaching things.
The Labour group is looking to increase economic regeneration, including transportation, by working with neighbouring authorities.
“Economic growth is important, and I believe the most proactive way of tackling this is by discussing the sharing of services with areas of mutual development,” said Cllr Jones.
“We have aspirations to extend the tram system from Broxtowe, Nottingham, into our neck of the woods. This would greatly improve transportation links.”
Cllr Jones is also keen to cut down youth unemployment.
He said: “I have been in talks with businesses at Heanor Gate Industrial Estate, and local colleges regarding setting up apprenticeships for school children. Lets get them into the workplace and doing something they are passionate about.”
He also stressed one of his priorities would be to tackle regeneration in towns such as Heanor.
“Heanor is a great place but it needs work. It used to be a market town, but after closures throughout the recession it needs to be injected with a new lease of life.
“We need to increase footfall and attract people to the town rather than just pass through it on their way to a city centre.
The councillor who is married with two sons, added: “I am born and bred in Heanor, and am committed to trying to improve the town by working with local traders and businesses. I welcome any suggestions on how else this could be done in Heanor and other local towns.”
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