With Brexit and the US elections 2016 has been a memorable year.
There has also been much to talk about for Hartlepool and while 2017 is set to be another challenging year financially, council leader Councillor Christopher Akers-Belcher and town MP Iain Wright say there is also much to look forward to.
They give us their thoughts for the year to come.
Councillor Christopher Akers-Belcher – Hartlepool Borough Council leader
As 2016 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.
2016 finished on a bitterly disappointing note when the Government announced it is not going to invest resources into social care, a national problem they created through budget cuts, placing immense pressure on councils.
The Tory Government have chosen to shift the financial burden onto Council Tax payers over the coming years.
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.
New boundary signs being installed on the boundary entrances of Hartlepool should articulate the ambition we hold 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.
This will be supported in the New Year with a 3 year revenue plan in addition to a 5 year capital programme.
The capital investment will not solely focus on the Waterfront and town centre areas but it is proposed to invest £1.5m into neighbourhood programmes, a theme that evolved from talking to residents throughout the year.
Regenerating key parts of our town will undoubtedly provide the backbone for job creation and inward investment, securing a better future for our town. The new plans for the Waterfront area shall be published in the New Year.
The arrival in 2016 of the National Museum of the Royal Navy has given the town a massive boost for tourism with the potential to attract tens of thousands of extra visitors every year.
Already business units are filling up and all of this will be complimented with the £6m investment into Church Square and Church Street.
With the opening of the new build Cleveland College of Art & Design and a ‘Managed Work Space’ in the former GPO building on Whitby Street we shall see a vibrant hub for the creative industries.
Indeed, many new developments will come to fruition across the town in 2017 creating jobs and new opportunities for local people.
We shall see the opening of the new Fire Brigade Headquarters and Training Centre at Queens Meadow as well as more businesses moving into our already opened £3m business centre on the same site.
Also opening in the New Year is our new Centre for Independent Living – for people with disabilities – going up on the Havelock Centre site.
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 run a holiday hunger scheme over the summer from a Family Poverty Reserve to help the most under-privileged families in the town, continued our free summer swim scheme for children 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 2017.
Iain Wright - Hartlepool MP
2016 was a monumental year that will be remembered for a long time as the decisions made in the past 12 months will reverberate in our own country and across the world.
Donald Trump will become President of the United States in three weeks, having been elected in 2016.
This will have a huge impact on the world.
Closer to home, the Government will have to come up with a plan for Brexit which respects the country’s wish for Britain to withdraw from the European Union whilst reducing uncertainty and maintaining living standards.
The Government also needs to ensure that its focus is not solely on Brexit – the clear underfunding in the NHS and social care is putting strain on local services and Hartlepool, like all parts of the country, is facing further uncertainty on health provision when local people want to see services returned to the town.
Aol Marina rise in zero hours contracts and agency employment is seeing greater insecurity and precariousness for people in work.
I want to see people in work enjoy the stability and rewards that should come from being in work, which means looking again at whether employment law protects enough the rights of the worker.
In 2017, my focus remains the same: challenging the Government on matters that affect Hartlepool and making representations in the House of Commons and to Ministers on behalf of the people of the town.