Cllr Chris Read
Cllr Chris Read

This week Councillor Chris Read, Labour Leader of Rotherham Council, opened the Rotherham Together Partnership showcase at New York Stadium. This event was an opportunity for all partners and organisations to come together and celebrate the achievements that have been made in Rotherham in recent times. It was also an opportunity to highlight even further ambitious plans for the future as well.

The Partnership is a collective of public, private, voluntary and other organisations that have come together with a vision of improving Rotherham. Councillor Chris Read opened the showcase and gave the following speech.

Councillor Chris Read speech at Rotherham Together Partnership, June 2019

Two years ago we gathered here to launch our Rotherham Partnership Plan.

That day we had a plan. But we were just setting out on this journey together.

That day we spoke about how it was the views and experiences of Rotherham people that had shaped our shared agenda for the future of the borough.

And we set out our game changers; building stronger communities, integrated health and social care, skills and employment, our town centre and, finally, a place to be proud of.

We said that our game changers would alter people’s lives and today we start to see how.

Then we had secured £12m to refurbish the bus station, but the building was still falling down.

Then McLaren has announced a £50m investment in the borough, but we hadn’t actually seen so much as a JCB, let alone a Royal visit.

Then we had a plan for a higher education building in the town centre, and planning permission for a theme park, a tram extension that seemed like it might never be finished, and a social care challenge that stretched as far as the eye could see.

And today?

Our University Centre Rotherham open, with the first students studying.

The bus station rebuilt and reopened.

Tram train up and running, with more than half a million journeys taken already.

Rotherham has been the fastest growing local economy in Yorkshire for over a year now.

Partnership teams are in place in critical points within our public services: on site in the hospital, dealing with social care enquiries in the single point of access, in joint police and council enforcement teams across the borough.

What began as words and commitments two years ago is taking shape, in bricks and mortar and jobs, in opportunities realised, and in a different way of working.

And it is a credit to the work that many of you have done that this reality is forming around us.

Real change. There are many challenges still ahead, but we’ve made a down payment on the kind of borough we want to build in the future.

Of course there will be ups and downs. Last year we celebrated a football team promoted to the Championship. This year we proved that things don’t always break in our favour.

But in tumultuous political times, when the road ahead for the country is uncertain, it’s even more important that we are clear about our plan, our values, and our place.

The down payment that we have made already that should give credibility and confidence for the road ahead.

I was reflecting on what I said two years ago about signing the Sheffield City Region devolution deal. Then it was quite common for people to say to me that we shouldn’t bother, because we would only lose out to our neighbours anyway. Other places were cynical about whether the deals were really worth doing at all.

Today every single local authority in the region – every single one – wants to do a devo deal. The TUC, CBI and Institute of Directors issue joint statements on the subject.

Last week we secured £7m to complete the retail centre at Waverley, and saw announcements that the UK Atomic Energy Agency will bring some of its work to develop fusion technology – the holy grail of limitless energy – to the borough, alongside a potential £10m investment in battery technology in the McLaren supply chain.

At the same time we are asking the government for up to £40 million of investment to support better public transport and walking and cycling as part of the Transforming Cities Fund. It would be the biggest single investment in sustainable transport for years.

No one seriously says we shouldn’t bother any longer. The reality has changed the perception. Just imagine what we could do if we actually got on and implemented the actual deal!

That’s how much things can change in two years. Attitudes shift. Rotherham is finding its way in the world again. By challenging the established order of things. And by searching always to do better, keeping our commitments, we can create what a great man once called “an audacious faith in the future”.

So today we go back to where we started and hear how by working together towards common goals the lives of people who live and work here have already been touched.

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