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  • The Rother Alliance

Leader's Christmas Message 2020

Working Together Works

The first thing I want to say is how very proud I have been to be the Leader of Rother District Council and the Rother Alliance during these truly unprecedented times. A global pandemic was not something I expected to encounter in my first term in office as Leader of the Council. The year has certainly been demanding and the pandemic has tested the council in almost every service area. The virus has not beaten us, however.

It is the tremendous support provided by Rother Alliance members and Rother Officers that has been core in ensuring that current services can still continue and new improvements can still be made as part of the Rother Alliance's transformative ambitions. And in that regard, we have succeeded.

I believe that a major key to success for any local authority is cooperation. This year Rother Alliance members have worked closely not just with staff but with local businesses, partners, community groups, other authorities and our local MPs as well as with organisations like '1066 Country' who promote tourism in East Sussex, Rother Voluntary Action, and of course all the parish and town councils across the District. Rother Alliance Members have demonstrated their commitment to being actively involved in all aspects of Council work, generating an inclusive working relationship with Officers to achieve effective, community-focused action.

This year I was particularly humbled by the way in which residents from across Rother came forward to stand alongside councillors in supporting local mutual aid groups such as B.E.A.T (Bexhill Emergency Action Team) and Helping Hands (Robertsbridge and Salehurst). The residents who set up these groups are absolute heroes and, with the assistance of Councillors, worked selflessly alongside the Rother District Council Emergency Hub to provide vital support for those shielding or in need of support. The strong sense of community, unity and working together that was fostered and bolstered during this pandemic is a legacy that I know will continue throughout this pandemic and beyond.

It would be remiss of me not to take a moment to say a massive thank you to the many community volunteers who have stepped up during this pandemic, and an even bigger thank you to the NHS and key workers across the District who have been on the front line saving lives and keeping our local services running. This includes the incredibly dedicated staff and officers at Rother District Council.

It was a moment of pride that Rother's dedicated officers and staff were able, under the Rother Alliance's leadership, to ensure that all known rough sleepers were provided with accommodation and support. This is something I hope will continue.

Nationally, there have been many discussions around increasing housing supply. This is something we've been working hard on since we came to power in May 2019 and as a result we have now set up our own house building company, Alliance Homes (Rother) to bring forward housing developments that have been “stalled” for administrative or legal reasons and better meet the local housing need. One of the the first major projects of the housing company is well underway and will result in the provision of 200 environmentally efficient homes, many of which will be affordable or socially rented. And there are more community-focused developments planned for 2021.

At Rother District Council, we have been working with officers to increase the number and standard of existing private rental properties as well as purchasing properties ourselves to provide local temporary accommodation. This has already resulted in all families in need of temporary accommodation being temporarily housed within the Rother area, not placed many miles away where they would be disconnected from much needed local support.

Since being elected, the Rother Alliance have declared a climate emergency and developed a 2020-2030 Environmental Strategy, we have worked to create new employment opportunities through the Rother Alliance regeneration strategy and we have set up an Anti-Poverty Task and Finish Group to combat poverty in the District. These are just a few things in a long line of successes and achievements. Its great to be part of such an ambitious and forward-thinking authority.

As with local authorities across the country, it became necessary this year to review all areas of the council and the budget in order to ensure that essential services and local needs are maintainable. The active involvement of all the incredible staff at Rother District Council has been a key factor in our achievements in this area and I was delighted to see that a recent staff survey showed 97% of our employees thought that Rother District Council was a good and satisfying place to work. It is fantastic to see such a positive morale among staff, especially during these uncertain times. Although the pandemic has made this a difficult year for all of us, one unforeseen benefit has been the remote Council meetings. This has enabled Council and committee meetings to be live-streamed to youtube, giving a much more accessible and open view of how the Council operates on behalf of its taxpayers and residents.

Since becoming the Leader of the Council in 2019, it has been my intention to preside over an open, responsive and customer-focused local authority and I believe that we are achieving this, more so than ever before. You can rest assured that with the Rother Alliance at the helm, your District Council will always strive to put customers first.

Before I conclude my Christmas message, I want to take a step back from the doom and gloom of the pandemic and look forward to the future for a moment. In the New Year, you can look forward to more good news as we continue our ambitious transformation plans and hopefully begin to emerge on the other side of Covid-19. It won't be easy to get back to 'normality' but I believe that with community spirit, cooperation and the dedication of staff and councillors alike, the future of Rother will be a bright one. For now though, let us concentrate on staying safe and having the merriest Christmas or happiest holidays that we can whilst continuing to observe the correct tier-based restrictions.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you all.

Cllr Doug Oliver

Leader of Rother District Council and the Rother Alliance

If you or someone you know is struggling this festive season,

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