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Leader Column: the start of vaccination is something we should all welcome

Published: 9 December 2020

Council Leaders Column Council Leader Phil Bialyk

I want to start by talking about the vaccine. Good progress has been made on several different vaccines and clearly we have to wait for the Government’s advice on the safety of each one.

But I am very pleased that work has started on rolling out the first of those vaccines, and that as well as the vulnerable, health workers and care workers will get it first. They are working in very difficult times and it is right that they should be protected, in order to protect us.

It was great to see the first people vaccinated this week. My wife and I will be having the vaccine when it is our turn.

While the start of vaccinations is good news for everyone, we must all continue to observe the social distancing guidelines at all times.

We have seen large numbers of people coming back to the city centre since the end of lockdown, following social distancing guidelines and staying safe. Supporting the viability of the city centre is crucially important and is a central part of the city’s Recovery Plan.

Although we have seen a number of store closures recently, we have also seen a number of announcements about new shop openings in Exeter, which is very encouraging. 

Exeter has received some good news with the announcement that we are getting £100,000 to promote our UNESCO City of Literature status. This status is international recognition of Exeter as a city of culture, which is very important, and I know that there are some very exciting plans being worked on to ensure that we make the most of it.

In my last column I said how proud I was of Exeter Chiefs, their historic double success and the huge contribution they make in promoting Exeter on a national, international and global stage.

I am delighted to say that the Executive has backed proposals to award Freedom of the City to Gareth Steenson. It is so deserved for everything that he has done for the Chiefs, for rugby and for the city of Exeter, and I couldn’t be more pleased.

It was pleasing to see that the Chiefs have started the new season so well. A small amount of fans are now allowed back into Sandy Park and this is also a boost for everyone, and hopefully soon that number will increase and we will all be able to get back there.

Our football club has also started well and again, I welcome the return of supporters - I know how much it means to them and to the club to have them back.

The Council is beginning work to prepare our budget for next year. We are required to balance our books and we set an emergency budget earlier in the year. We have been keeping to that budget while maintaining services the best we can. We will be setting next year’s budget to again maintain our services and to support people in Exeter.

We have provided support to people throughout the crisis, particularly through Exeter Community Wellbeing’s support for the community response, and we continue to do so. If anyone needs support at this time they should call Exeter Community Wellbeing on 01392 265000.

Next week I’ve been invited to go and have a look at the new nine new council homes we have created at Thornpark Rise in Whipton. I’m really looking forward to this. Creating quality housing is so important in Exeter, and we have plans to create a lot more council homes in the future. We have accelerated our plans to create hundreds of new homes from a 10 year plan to a five year plan, and I am delighted about this.

We will continue to accelerate where we can and build more, and we are also working on the feasibility study to retrofit existing homes to be energy efficient and low carbon, which will help to end fuel property for people in Exeter.

Finally, I would like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a happy New Year.


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