COLUMN: ‘It’s been a challenging year of highs and lows’

Coun Peter Box.
Coun Peter Box.

As many of us prepare for the Christmas festivities and a few days off, I’d like to use my last column of 2018 to reflect on some of the high and lows that we’ve faced both locally and nationally over the past 12 months, writes Coun Peter Box.

I think most of us will agree - it’s been quite a year with a number of challenging issues and with Brexit uncertainty continuing to dominate the headlines.

Earlier this year we saw how a change of time-tables on the rail network caused chaos and misery for rail-users both here and elsewhere in the country. I’m well aware that travel continues to be a major issue with a huge gulf in spending on transport between London and the North – an issue that myself and other leaders in the North will continue to lobby government on.

Within the council we’ve faced challenges of our own. I am pleased the positive changes made so far in children’s services have been recognised recently by an independent commissioner and the under-secretary of state and that means we can retain control and continue to drive forward improvements. I am determined to ensure we provide the services that children, young people and their families in our district deserve.

This year we saw the Wakefield Eastern Relief Road named and after a public vote in the Wakefield Express, readers chose to name it Neil Fox Way, after the popular and well known former rugby player, and Nellie Spindler Drive, in tribute to the local nurse who died in action during the First World War.

The £5.5m Kirkgate improvement scheme was completed this year, as was the Pontefract Town Heritage Scheme which funded the repair of 17 historic buildings in the town. We’ve also invested in work to protect Sandal Castle for now and for future generations.

In March I was very proud when I officially opened Minsthorpe Leisure Centre, which has a great range of new sports facilities, was an immediate hit and continues to be well-used by adults and children.

Our capital grants programme, led by ward councillors, has seen £1m invested across the district in community projects such as in play areas, park benches and a pelican crossing.

The long hot summer was also memorable, with the World Cup a great success for England, with football fans enjoying the national side’s best run in years.

Looking forward to 2019, we’ll welcome the Tour de Yorkshire back to the district on May 3. I hope hundreds of people will once again line the streets and show their support for the riders.

As 2018 draws to a close, I’d like to thank everyone who works hard across our district throughout the year to provide vital support to others.

Particular thanks though to everyone who will be volunteering or caring for others this Christmas. Your efforts are greatly appreciated and you all deserve a massive thank you. Thanks also to council colleagues, who will be keeping essential council services that you rely on open between Christmas and New Year.

Not everyone has family or friends nearby, so if anyone can some spare time to call in on a neighbour during the festive period, please try and do so – it could make a real difference to someone’s day.

I would like to wish you and your families a very merry and peaceful Christmas and a happy new year.