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These remain exciting times for Exeter, despite everything

Published: 21 January 2021

Leaders Column Jan 21 Councillor Philip Bialyk - Leader of the Council

It’s a frustrating time for us all. We are all thoroughly fed up with being locked down, not seeing our children and grandchildren and other family members and friends and doing all the things that we do. I miss my football and my sport and socialising of course, like everyone else in Exeter.

But what we have got to beat this, and the vaccine is just around the corner. We are all desperate to get the vaccine. I’ll be taking my turn – my wife and I will have the vaccine to protect ourselves and more importantly to protect other people.

We have all got to continue to observe the strict rules that remain in place. Journeys need to be necessary, for things like prescriptions and shopping, and don’t forget that the City Council is here to help. Our Exeter Community Wellbeing number is 01392 265000 for those people who are vulnerable or for anyone needing help. Please get on contact if you need it - we are here to help.

Last week’s Executive backed plans to plant two trees for everyone that have to come down because of Ash dieback. We have already planted a lot of trees in Exeter, most recently at the Monkerton Ridge which I and other councillors participated in. But we want to plant more, and we continue to look for the space to do this. Exeter is one of the top cities in the country for its tree coverage. Exeter is quite a green city, but we want to make it greener with the things we are doing.

We are working hard on the process of setting a budget. We need to keep the fabric of the City Council going, and we are bringing forward a number of commercialisation initiative which you will hear more about shortly. But we have to look at possible savings of £6 million over the next three years. We are having our funding continually cut by central Government – that’s not to complain but that is the reality of it.

We are working to make sure that we maintain services for the public here in Exeter – that is what we are here to do, and that is what we are doing. Part of the recommendation that will go to Full Council next month is about council tax, and we are seeking an increase for our part of it of 10p a week. That’s worth repeating – the recommended increase for the City Council’s part of the council tax is just 10p a week.

I need to mention the Buller statue. We set up a Task and Finish group and asked them to do a job of work. They have brought back a report in which members of that group were allowed to make their observations, based on the evidence and the wide engagement carried out. I have been receiving a lot of emails - as many emails for as against. There is a recommendation that we should seek to relocate it to a more prominent place whereby people can learn about the history.

We need to go for planning permissions and then hold a full public debate and consultation when we will again listen to what everybody has to say and the councillors will then make a decision on behalf of Exeter.

I don’t want to see the history of my city cast aside. What I want is for it to be seen in perspective going forward, for my children and grandchildren to understand what happened all those years ago and to reflect on it, to make sure we learn from history.

It is an important debate that now goes to full council, and no-one should assume decisions have been made on the statue when they have not been.

We have a number of things to look forward to this year. We have a new bus station coming forward. That’s all but finished and will open in due course. We’ve got St Sidwell’s Point leisure centre which continues to progress well and is on track to open in the summer. We are working towards completion of the rebuilding of Riverside pool and we are looking at proposals for Arena and Wonford.

Our building company has planning permission to build homes and affordable homes at Clifton Hill while protecting the green space, and there are other sites that we are bringing forward.

So despite everything that is going on I think it is an exciting time for us here in Exeter. It is a bit gloomy and dark outside, but I think we have a lot to look forward to in bringing Exeter back to being the healthy city which is so loved by us all.

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