As we approach Christmas I thought I might indulge myself in reflecting on my time as leader since April.
The time seems to have shot past and I have really enjoyed myself. My thanks to my own Conservative group for giving me the honour to lead them. As a team the protection and support my group bring to me is very valued. We are certainly a broad church in our thinking but like all families we pull together when it is needed.
It feels that my cabinet is making a real difference and I pay tribute to all their hard work, tolerance of my energetic approach and challenge and to how well they have blended as a team. This council is now really led by politicians.
I would also like to recognise the high quality of our staff and their dedication, compassion and modern thinking. Despite all the challenges they remain focused on delivery of high quality service to the people of Cambridgeshire.
Our unions have provided me with an insight into how employee relations can work. I see our unions as a really effective and pragmatic group who work hard to not only protect union members but also have the council and the public at the front of thinking.
Before becoming leader, I had no idea how complex and varied our interactions with partner organisations are. It feels that this council has embraced partner working and really understands the benefits this can bring. It seems we are developing excellent relationships with our partners and I have particularly enjoyed working with peers at the district councils. As leaders, we all seem to have gelled, which makes joint working so much easier.
The list of organisations and individuals I have met in the last few months is huge. From ministers, MPs, universities, colleges, schools, police, fire, NHS, clergy, charities, community groups, business leaders, trade organisations, developers and many others they all have one thing in common and that is to make things better for the people of Cambridgeshire. Really very impressive.
We have a tradition of free press in this country and no more so than in Cambridgeshire. I have enjoyed the challenge and scrutiny that this provides as well as my personal interactions with individuals. A whole new set of skills I have had to learn to avoid the bear traps and to ensure the excellent work that is being carried out by the council is explained to the public.
I must pay tribute to the small team of three labour councillors who have provided significantly more thoughtful and principled challenge than their small numbers suggests. I have also enjoyed the minor skirmishing with the Lib Dems and look forward to them hopefully starting to provide a meaningfully opposition next year.
Coming into politics only recently, has meant I am not shackled by history or past process in the same way others might be. With the significant budget pressures we face and a growing population ever more hungary for our services we must think and work in a different way. We must be fleet of foot, less risk adverse, focused on outputs and delivery and be prepared for difficult decisions. Under my leadership that is exactly what we shall do. Apologies to those who find comfort in lengthy decision making processes and endless meetings, Now is not the time.
We have already signalled strongly that we expect Cambridgeshire to be the top county in the country, what ever that might mean. We have also stated we expect the county to be “open for business”. We have all the attributes available to achieve this and I am determined we will. We must continue to deal with the huge inequalities across our county. Not by dumbing down but by building on our successes and spreading this across the county.
Finally, let us all spare a thought for those who are are less fortunate. Let’s us all keep an eye out for the lonely, sick and vulnerable and offer them a helping hand.
Merry Christmas to you all.