RECENTLY elected leader of City of York Council, Cllr Claire Douglas, has launched her plan for York over the next four years. Here she sets out her priorities for the city - and how she plans to deliver on pledges.

It has been an immense privilege to launch the Council Plan this week. It’s a programme for action that will guide how the council operates over the next four years and delivers on the pledges the Labour administration made to the people of York in the local elections in May.

The plan is ambitious in its goals, just as the new Labour administration is for York. It also remains realistic about the financial climate all councils find themselves in. A decade of austerity has had the effect of significantly shrinking local government and therefore what councils can deliver for local residents, but that doesn’t mean we can’t innovate and be inventive in how we work to deliver for our city.

Our commitment to work with partners to develop a fund to deliver free school meals to primary school children across York is one example. Instead of sitting back and saying the council has no money, we decided another way was possible that brings the city together to help deliver this pledge. Whatever we can deliver can be judged against doing nothing and demonstrates our commitment to addressing the affordability and cost of living challenges many of our residents are currently experiencing.

York Press: Cllr Claire DouglasCllr Claire Douglas

This is just one example that reflects our commitment to the health and wellbeing of all York residents. This important priority will be considered through all our decision making. With scarce resource we will need to think about how and where we allocate funding to ensure it contributes to making the biggest impact on people’s health, including helping to narrow the appalling gap in life expectancy between York’s least and most affluent communities.

Responsibility for leisure, culture and sport will sit with my Executive Member for Health and Wellbeing, as we see all these areas as critical to the good physical and mental health of all residents. It’s important we recognise that outside of our day to day lives of work, school, and family, these are vital areas of activity that help us to thrive.

Protecting our environment, addressing the climate emergency in a meaningful way, and backing up our words with actions is essential if York is to play its part in limiting global temperature rises and the increasing risk of extreme weather events. We need to see a step change in the limited progress that’s been made on retrofitting homes across our city, as well as a change in how we move around to achieve the 70 per cent reduction in transport emissions we need to realise our carbon reduction targets. Lead Members on my Executive will be working closely together to progress these ambitions and are ready to provide the political leadership required that has a focussed eye on future generations of York residents.

I lead an inclusive and optimistic administration, one that is focussed on each and every resident enjoying the same opportunity to have a stake, participate and enjoy the city in which they live. This is at the core of what the party I represent is about and I take pride in everything we as a city do that takes us a step forward on this agenda. I’m delighted to have cross-party consensus in York for the city’s recently approved anti-racism strategy and action plan, building on our previous work and decisions to be a Human Rights City and a City of Sanctuary.

While the decision has not been as quick as I would like, the reversal of the city centre access ban is on the horizon and will not come a moment too soon. Residents of York have been seeing the anti-terror bollards being installed, and there are no plans to alter this programme of works as we ensure the city centre is kept safe. But the scheme that is agreed on how they operate and who is allowed access will be decided soon and will strike the right balance in ensuring both public safety and access to those who’ve been locked out of their city centre for almost two years.

York Press: Blue badge protesters in YorkBlue badge protesters in York

Decent, affordable housing and good quality jobs will both be a focus for my administration too. Council officers know that addressing damp and mould problems in council housing has moved right up the list of political priorities from where it was, and we’ll do all we possibly can to tackle what has been a problem for too many years. Everyone deserves a dry, warm place to live without which they cannot function and flourish in other areas of their lives, including work and education. Living in one of the wealthiest countries on the planet means this is entirely avoidable.

We are keen to attract well paid jobs to the city and particularly keen to develop the green skills that will help us meet our retrofit and carbon reduction targets. Tourism is hugely important to the York economy. We also want to see the city attracting a range of other jobs that offer career pathways for local people. Jobs where they can see a future where they will be able to afford to live in our city. That is currently very difficult for many young people growing up in York to achieve.

Each of our priorities and policies knits together in a vision for how we see a vibrant and flourishing York where our residents live happy, healthy lives. In that sense it isn’t that complicated, but there’s a lot of hard work to do. I welcome the contributions of any residents or organisations that want to help us achieve that vision, and I look forward to meeting them while I’m out and about across the city.