Last Monday (23rd February) the Leader of New Forest District Council, Councillor Barry Rickman, made his last budget speech of the current Council’s four year term. In this final speech before May’s local elections Cllr Rickman both looked back at the last four years and forward at the challenges ahead. He talked about the storms of last February and how the Council worked with the Police, Fire & Rescue, Military and other organisations to respond to the emergencies. How the Council then dealt with the aftermath, again with partners. Cleaning up the debris, repairing Hurst Spit and finding funding for repairs to Rum Walk in Totton. He also talked about the damaged and destroyed beach huts, in particular those on the Milford sea-front.
Councillor Rickman also spoke of the challenges the Council has faced as a result of the austerity necessary to begin to repair the economy after Labour’s legacy of financial mismanagement, over £3 million of Government grant lost in the last four years. As he said ‘we have not moaned or whinged. We have got on with the job, managing our finances well and planning ahead’ and in stark contrast to budget amendments proposed by the opposition he stated ‘there will once again be no surprises in the budget we decide on today. There is no need for last minute gimmicks. Today is just another day in our long running financial strategy’. He went on to confirm that for the sixth year running the District Council would freeze its share of Council Tax whilst maintaining the quality of the services it provides to residents.
The Leader then went on to talk about future plans, particularly those to support the New Forest’s economy. How working with the New Forest Business Partnership the first New Forest Business Expo will take place in June, about the annual New Forest Brilliance in Business Awards and about the acclaimed Brand New Forest loyalty scheme with nearly 5,000 cards sold in the first two month of the year enabling cardholders to take advantage of over 250 local business offers.
Concluding, Councillor Rickman affirmed the Conservatives commitment to ‘growing an even more prosperous New Forest’.
Full text of Councillor Rickman’s speech – Leaders Speech 2015