I have been leader of the Council four times – the first was in 1998 and then 2000, then from 2003 to 2007, again from 2012 to 2016 then again from 2018. I came to Plymouth in 1977 to study a degree at the Polytechnic in Environmental Sciences and since then, fell in love with the Ocean City.
There are so many reasons why I hold Plymouth dear to my heart; The people are passionate and caring, especially when times are difficult; I like that we have the greatest city in terms of the environment and location, with Dartmoor just above us and the sea straight ahead, what more do you need? I like how the air is sweet, there’s plenty to do inside and outdoors, and if you come from outside of the city, you get some insight into how brilliant this place is.
Like everyone else, my family has been affected, fortunately not by illness, but like most people in Plymouth, we’ve made some significant changes to the way we work, live, go out. We have followed the advice ruthlessly and just the same as everyone else, we are longing for it to end. But I would urge everyone to keep following the rules – they are there for a reason – and they work.
Not everyone has suffered financial hardship, but for those that have, the Council has done its very best to help – whether that’s helping to secure jobs or working with companies to keep them going, ensuring grants are paid as quickly as possible and keep reminding people where they can get help. We have done this throughout and are still signposting people to support.
I have heard about some apprehension towards the new vaccine; however, vaccines are the reason we’ve not had significant and horrendous illnesses over the last 50 years. They are why we don’t have smallpox or polio. As a family we plan to get the vaccine as soon as we get a chance. Why put your children at risk when you have a chance not to?
Regarding the Brexit transition, all the way through, we have said whatever the Government comes up with, the Council will have to help make it work. It is our job and the job of all councils to do this. But we have been imploring the Government to help during the transition period. We have, very late in the day, been given a small package to ensure we can employ the right staff at the port – it’s not something local authorities have had to worry about for 40 years. We will continue to do our utmost to make sure that our fish and seafood have a market. We still do not have sufficient resources to deal with the economic shock of Brexit. It is going to be very tough, especially dealing with the pandemic as well. We have seen from the early days of the pandemic that no amount of emergency planning can legislate for human behaviour. There are so many issues still to be resolved – data for instance. Most of us don’t like booking holidays last minute, so it not the best way to run a country. But again, we will do what we can.
We have lots to look forward to this year, right here in Plymouth. We’ve got Sail GB which is going to make the America’s Cup look like a small regatta. We’ve got Tom Jones on the Hoe, the British Art Show – we are the only city ever to get a second visit – we’ve got fireworks, our rescheduled Mayflower programme and the Box – our love letter to Plymouth – is going to have lots of great events. The Box has only been open a few months and already has a special place not just in the city but it’s gaining a national reputation.
In order to grow this Ocean city, it is so important we take into account the environmental impact we have on the sea and land around us. We’ve just published our second action plan – we will have one every year until 2030. Not a strategy – action plans with actions in them. We’ve got our Green Minds project, which has seen the arrival of a beaver in Plymouth! We’re making progress with our National Marine Park; we’re planting 2,000 trees this year and developing our wild meadows to help pollinators. Through our Crowdfunder climate challenge we are helping the SHIPs project remove discarded tyres from Plymouth Sound and surrounding rivers, we’ve introduced electric vehicles to our fleet, we’re introducing electric charge points and we’re working with partners on sustainable technology.
There are things that still need fixing, there are still too many people homeless, still too many people living in poverty, but my passion is making sure Plymouth reaches its full potential. We have so much going for us already and I am so proud of this city. It really pulled together in a crisis. So many people and organisations have been truly exceptional. All the volunteers helping others. This year has shown Plymouth at its very best but I think we can build on that.
This year has taught us all to take nothing for granted. So many things we assumed would always be there were taken away from us over the last year. So, if there is one thing, I would love more of us to do next year, it is to enjoy life more. Get out there, follow Plymouth’s trails, go into the shops – especially the independent businesses – visit the theatre, the National Marine Aquarium and the pubs and bars. They are what make our city such a great place and we do not want to lose them. Spend less time on the computer or on your phone and make connections with real people – it always makes you feel much, much better. There is so much to look forward to, much to be proud of in our city, so look at Plymouth with a fresh pair of eyes. But above all, stay safe – the vaccine is here but it doesn’t stop transmission – so it is still important to follow guidance and be a good Janner, and look out for your Nana.