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The Leader's Report

Leader of the Council, Stephen Atkinson
Leader of the Council, Stephen Atkinson

I have great pleasure in presenting my first Leader’s Report to the Council. I have been Leader for two months now and I would like to thank my Conservative Colleagues for Electing me and for the support I have received from them and all the Officers and staff.

I would particularly like to thank The Chief Executive,  Marshal Scott, who has been both open and fully supportive of all the decisions I have made to date. The Council is working well - with members deciding policy through the Committee System and Officer’s supporting and implementing those decisions.

However we cannot rest on our past achievements. There is a significant chance of the creation of an East Lancashire Unitary encompassing Pendle, Burnley, Blackburn and Darwen and  Rossendale. This could create a domino effect leading to the creation of other Unitary Authorities throughout Lancashire.

When I attended the District Councils Network Conference in February the theme was ‘Delivering the Difference’.  This is our insurance policy to maintain our independence because we deliver a difference compared to our peers in so many areas.

Later this year we are due a follow up visit from the Local Government Association as part of the Peer Review process that we started in November 2017.  I have asked if the scope of this visit can be extended to measure how efficient the Council is in delivering services.

Ribble Valley Borough Council is responsive and agile that puts the needs of its residents first. We saw this first hand in December 2015 during the floods, our members and officers came together (giving up their holidays) to provide a ‘helping hand’ to all those in distress. We have maintained that focus on our residents ever since. That type of leadership and pro-active culture comes from the top of any organisation, so I would like to thank all Members, Directors and Staff for keeping the needs of our residents at the forefront of all their decisions and actions.

We have now applied for funding from the Future High Street Fund to regenerate Clitheroe Town Centre. The challenges to retailing continue. At The District Council’s Network Conference Bill Grimsey described these as a perfect storm:

  • Retail footfall down 1.7% since last year
  • High Street footfall down 2.2% since last year
  • Falling disposable income since 2010 in real terms
  • Business rate costs
  • Predicted to be no High Street Banks by 2025

However we are already seeing the future in Clitheroe. Holmes Mill, a project that the Planning Committee supported a few years ago, is showing how the high street can be fun, somewhere where you can congregate, be entertained and shop all at the same time.

We also put on great Festivals, whether it be for Mods, Food or Music, and there is scope to do more.  

Mr Mayor I would also like to thank our County Councillors, Ian Brown, and Albert Atkinson who have confirmed that Clitheroe and Whalley will not be part of the ‘on street’ car parking charges proposed by Lancashire County Council. This is a key element of the Grimsey Review. Mr Grimsey’s parting words are a reminder to Borough Councils that they are Custodians of Place.

Our Healthy economy will help keep our resident Healthy

Supported by new funding the NHS has a target to have an integrated care system by April 2021, this will be for neighbourhoods of between 30,000 and 50,000 people.  Place is a significant element of the plan and involves closer working between the NHS, Local Government and the Voluntary Sector on prevention and decreasing health inequalities by providing ‘healthy places’.

Housing Quality, Community and Leisure will all play a significant role in achieving specific objectives to:

  • Improve Health and well-being
  • Enhance the experience of care and support
  • Reduce per capita costs
  • Reduce health inequality by 2023

An example of how this may happen:

  • Community walks could be organised to reduce obesity
  • Peer groups could provide information on healthy eating and we could ensure healthy environment’s by utilising the Environmental Health Department.
  • Our Planning and Housing Policies should also help to deliver independent, safe and active lifestyles.

The Ribblesdale Partnership encompasses many elements of this. The pilot scheme has been operating for just over two years now and is regarded as a national exemplar of best practice by the District Council Network.

However Mr Mayor there are areas outside of our control that directly impact on the residents of the Ribble Valley, but with the democratic mandate we have we can try to make a difference.

We have seen the consequences of a retreat from Rural Policing - there are now private security companies operating in Clitheroe. I have arranged to meet the Chief Constable of Lancashire in April to see how we can leverage more of the £4.7 million that Ribble Valley residents contribute in Police Precept to Rural Policing and how we can work with the Police to re-establish a Front Desk in the Ribble Valley.

Mr Mayor the ambition we all have for the Ribble Valley and its residents is undiminished and I thank all members and staff for ‘Delivering the Difference’


Stephen Atkinson, Leader
Ribble Valley Borough Council


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