What does 2016 hold for Hartlepool? Town leaders give their views

Hartlepool Marina.

Hartlepool Marina.

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Leading figures in the town have been looking ahead to what 2016 might bring.

MP for Hartlepool, Iain Wright, says he will be pushing for an improved economy and greater funding for public services.

And, the leader of Hartlepool Borough Council, Councillor Christopher Akers-Belcher says despite increased financial pressures there is a lot to look forward to.

Hartlepool Borough Council chief executive Gill Alexander sais she expects the town to attract a “younger demographic”.

Iain Wright MP:

Iain Wright MP

Iain Wright MP

“A New Year is a time for renewed hope and expectations for the future. I hope that in 2016 Hartlepool is able to experience a better and more prosperous economy, with more people able to enjoy more opportunities and well-paid work, together with public services, which we all rely on, funded properly and located in the town. Those will be my priorities in the House of Commons as Hartlepool’s MP for the New Year, together with providing a service for constituents on individual concerns.

“Hartlepool, along with many parts of the North East, has suffered in recent years. 2015 was tough for many people in the town: for an economy still largely built on manufacturing, the crisis in the UK steel industry, particularly the closures of Caparo in our own town and SSI in Redcar, have badly affected workers in those factories and throughout the local supply chain.

“In 2016, the problems in the North Sea oil and gas industry, in which many Hartlepool people are employed, will cause severe pressures. 2016 needs to be the year in which the Government’s talk of a Northern Powerhouse needs to move from mere talk to action and reality. I would be the first to back a proper powerhouse for our area, utilising the region’s skills, assets and potential, but the Government needs to act.

“The recent floods in the North show vividly how important well-funded public services are. From the professional emergency services dealing with the immediate crisis, as well as the armed forces and the NHS staff catering to people who are suffering, and the local authorities trying to literally stem the tide of rising water, demonstrate all too much how much this country owes the public sector and the people who work in it.

Christopher Akers-Belcher and Gill Alexander.

Christopher Akers-Belcher and Gill Alexander.

“I hope 2016 is the year the Government recognises that a vibrant public sector is not somehow a negative but a civilising force for good. That should mean that local councils, particularly Hartlepool, should get the funding settlement they need and deserve to provide decent public services. It also means the NHS restored to full health, with services provided safely, professionally and fully staffed in Hartlepool, rather than further afield. I will use 2016 to raise awareness of the importance of these issues in Parliament.”

Council leader Christopher Akers-Belcher:

“As 2015 draws to a close I am confident that there is a lot to look forward to in Hartlepool over the next twelve months and that the town has a very bright future.

“2015 finished on a bitterly disappointing note when the Government announced it is to take away a further £2m in funding for 2016/17, which is going to place immense pressure on the council to maintain frontline services in the years to come.

“Between 2011/12 and 2018/19, the funding Hartlepool council receives from the Government will have been cut by two-thirds. All that we are asking the Government for is a level playing field, but the cuts in funding are disproportionate and Hartlepool constantly loses out year-on-year compared to most other areas.

“However, the council remains extremely positive about the town’s future and we must not let this unfairness hamper the ambition we collectively have for our town.

“Hartlepool council has set out an extremely bold vision in terms of where it wants to take the town over the next five to ten years to make Hartlepool a more attractive place to live, work and visit. Regenerating key parts of our town – as we have set out in the Hartlepool Vision – will provide the backbone for job creation and inward investment, securing a better future for our town.

“The arrival in 2016 of the National Museum of the Royal Navy represents a massive boost for tourism with the potential to attract tens of thousands of extra visitors every year. This will be adjacent to the new Vision Retail Park, also opening in 2016.

“We’re also hoping to see progress in terms of developing the former Jacksons Landing site which the council now has control of after purchasing it previously. Indeed, many new developments will come to fruition across the town in 2016 creating jobs and new opportunities for local people.

“A new £11m College of Art & Design is being built within the Church Street Innovation & Skills Quarter and a new Fire Brigade Headquarters and Training Centre is being developed at Queens Meadow.

“We’ve also got the new Centre for Independent Living – for people with disabilities – going up on the Havelock Centre site and a new £3m business centre at Queens Meadow, which will be unveiled in early 2016.

“As well as encouraging development and investment, the council will continue to do everything possible to protect the most vulnerable members of society and provide the best support possible.

“Despite the financial challenges facing the council, it has managed to set aside a £500,000 Family Poverty Reserve to help the most under-privileged families in the town, implemented a Living Wage above the national level and provided more support than our neighbouring councils to help hard-pressed families pay their Council Tax.

“Hartlepool is a great town with many fantastic people, but by working together we can make it even better still for our children and their children.

“I wish you all a very peaceful, enjoyable and successful 2016.”

Council chief executive Gill Alexander:

“Looking forward to the New Year, we want to reflect how far we have come and how far we have to go.

“There was a lot to celebrate in 2015. We have halved youth unemployment. We had one of the most significant decreases in the country and the rate of reduction was the best in the region.

“That was great news. It shows that where we set out to tackle problems, we can really get to grips with them.

“We have managed budgets without making a fuss. We have done a really good job of reducing the budgets and the budget we are bringing forward has come up with innovative ways of making efficiencies and savings, while protecting front-line jobs.

“We hope to have no compulsory redundancies. We think they can be achieved through voluntary redundancy.”

As part of the budget preparation for 2016/17 a £500,000 Child and Family Poverty Reserve has been established.

Its three year aim is to help ease the burden for people feeling the financial strain.

Another way of making a difference in the town, said Ms Alexander, was to improve the housing offer of Hartlepool.

She said if the town is attractive enough for people to move into, it could see Hartlepool attracting “a younger demographic”.

She added: “Younger families would move in and that would mean they would need more of our services.

“That would increase the Council Tax base. It is about looking at how the vision for the whole town will help add a more sustainable community across Hartlepool.”