Viewpoint SPRING 2019 Spring 2019 - Page 20

View from the top Council leader David Jukes reflects on an eventful 2018, and looks forward to exciting times ahead for Tunbridge Wells T he start of the year is often a time to look back, and also to think about what the next year might bring – and 2018 has been an exceptionally busy one. We describe the Council’s role as ‘Shaping the borough; making a difference’. The first part of this relates to the delivery of projects and initiatives that ‘shape the borough’. Over the past year, such projects have included: ■ Resurfacing and upgrading Crescent Road carpark at a cost of £2.6million ■ Purchasing and refurbishing Dowding House in Paddock Wood, to provide accommodation for 25 families who were facing homelessness ■ Negotiating a new recycling, bin and street-cleaning contract, which I’m delighted to say now includes kerbside glass collection – something that residents have asked for Despite a £4.6million cut to our Government grant, we’ve also balanced our budget with a clean bill of health from our external auditors, who have judged that we provide good ‘value for money’ for the ninth year in a row. As well as implementing key projects, we also deliver services day-in, day-out, which make a difference to people’s lives. This includes giving young people their first experience of theatre, ensuring that food or licensed premises are safe, treating the bereaved with compassion at our crematorium and cemetry, housing the vulnerable, and giving advice on home extensions or new houses. To present that in statistics, in any given day, we help 62 people in person at our Gateway, and another 610 people via phone calls; we carry out 11 funeral services a day; deal with 46 benefit enquiries; determine five planning applications and eight Building Control visits; undertake two health assessments; and successfully house someone (giving advice to a further three people). Looking forward, we’ve also put a huge amount of work into schemes that should start to be delivered this year. In January, we should see the start of work to make the town centre more pedestrian-friendly. We’ll be improving Mount Pleasant Avenue down past the Town Hall to the junction with Church Road. Vehicle restrictions will be in place from 9am and 6pm, reducing the amount of traffic in the area, making it more attractive, and providing a more fitting setting for the war memorial and the Amelia. In late spring, work should start on the Amelia. Named after the town’s famous suffragist, the centre will see the existing library, museum, adult education centre and art gallery integrated, extended and made more accessible to the public. The scheme will take two years to deliver,