The London Borough of Barking and Dagenham Council set out its priorities for the coming years this week, placing an emphasis on its aim to do what it can to improve the lives of local residents in tough financial times. The plans drew praise from the Dagenham and Rainham MP Jon Cruddas, who praised the “fantastic work” of the council in developing its vision for the future.

In its statement of priorities for 2012/13, the Labour-led council offered an ambitious vision of what they hoped to achieve in the coming years. Three key aims were highlighted in the document: Raising household incomes, improving standards in schools and post-16 education, and housing and estate renewal.

In relation to the raising of household incomes, the council have stated that they will redevelop Dagenham Dock as a sustainable industrial development- creating new employment opportunities and improving local infrastructure. Other policies in this regard included the aim to stimulate the creation of 10,000 new jobs in the area by 2026 through the improvement of industrial areas and the promotion of business opportunities in the borough.

The council’s aim of improving standards in local schools was backed up by the promise to invest £18 million in the borough’s primary schools and £27 million in secondary education in the region. The council are hoping that this extra funding will enable them to achieve their goal of continuing to improve GCSE results in the area with a view to matching national levels for pupils gaining A* to C grades by August 2012.

The housing and estate renewal programme set out in the document released this week also offers ambitious projects which offer a bright future for the area. These include the completion of the estate renewal programme which will see the demolition of 1,790 non-decent homes and the subsequent provision of 1,200 new council and mixed-tenure homes in 2015. Similarly there is a promised major regeneration programme which will result in the provision of 1,100 new homes on key sites such as Academy Central and Lymington Fields by 2016.

Perhaps the biggest announcement made this week however was that made by the council leader stating that the council will freeze Council Tax again for the fourth year running. This will be great news for many households in the region who are struggling to make ends meet in difficult financial times.

The vision set out by the council in the document entitled “Building a Better Life for All – Managing in Tough Times” has received a very favourable response since its publication. Jon Cruddas the local MP for the area has voiced his support, stating that he felt the council’s priorities were “spot on”.

He said: “When you appreciate the extraordinary financial pressures being placed on our local council at this time, you realise how impressive their vision is. Due to the national Conservative-led coalition Government’s cavalier cuts to public spending, our local council budget faces a massive £20.2 million reduction over the following two years alone.

And yet despite that, our councillors have offered a vision of how they not only hope to maintain present living standards, but in fact improve upon what they have already achieved and improve the lives of the residents they represent.
For me that is commendable, and with the Olympics approaching these are incredibly exciting times for the area. The future of Barking and Dagenham could not be in better hands.”

The redevelopment of Dagenham Dock will generate much needed local employment