Merry Christmas

What a busy few weeks!  If I had a Facebook page (and you probably know why I don’t!) I would update my status to “I’ve just got a Christmas card off Laurence Llewelyn Bowen!”

As you will know, Laurence has worked on the Illuminations with us for a number of years and I had the pleasure of meeting him and his daughters at this years illuminations switch-on event – a really nice guy, with some great ideas for the future of our displays.   

Talking about nice people, I have been touched by the generosity shown by the people of Blackpool with their plentiful donations to the Give a little… Help a Lot campaign, that my deputy Cllr Fred Jackson and his wife Pamela have been heavily involved in.

The campaign was set up by the Council in direct response to our priority to tackle child poverty and make a difference to local children’s lives this Christmas. For hundreds of families in our borough, Christmas could have been just like any other day, as parents struggle to afford even the smallest gift for their children. But thanks to the generosity of the people living here in Blackpool, 1000 children and young people will receive presents this year.

Together with staff from Blackpool Council and the Salvation Army, representatives of Stay Blackpool, Blackpool BID, volunteers from churches around the borough and the Blackpool Gazette have worked together to publicise the campaign, co-ordinate collections and help with the distribution of more than £40,000 worth of toys and £4,000 in cash.

On top of that donations of food were also made and have been distributed through Children’s Centres, targeting those families who are experiencing tough times financially. 

Our partners Merlin have donated hundred of tickets for local children to enjoy the pantomime this Christmas and a number of tickets for the Dungeons and SEALIFE centre too, meaning families can enjoy a day out that they just couldn’t have hoped to afford, as have Pleasure Beach Blackpool, who have donated wristbands for Nickelodeon Land, and their festive spectacular – which is well worth a visit!

Families will also be able to experience to new rides at the Sandcastle next year thanks to their generous donation of 150 free tickets. It really has been a borough-wide effort and I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their contributions, whether of money, gifts or time in helping to make Christmas happy for Blackpool’s families this year.  

Back however to the hard reality of being in power.  I’ve got meetings with representatives from the Trade Unions and my Cabinet colleagues to discuss the budget for 2012/13. 

Staff here at the Council have been very generous in accepting changes to their terms and conditions of employment to help get us through previous budgets and we are having serious discusions about how we move forward. 

There is no getting away from the fact that we can’t make the kind of cuts being enforced on us without cutting valuable services and losing experienced and valuable employees. 

These discussions will be ongoing over the festive period and well into January, and I hope to be able to come up with a solution which privileges those areas of the Council’s operations that the public feel are most important to them.