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Council leader’s column: Plenty to celebrate despite a year of tragedy

PUBLISHED: 08:00 16 December 2017

Archant

Today I’ll be reminding my grandchildren that there’s just nine more sleeps until Christmas. I’m sure their excitement will be shared by kids across Barking & Dagenham. It also means that another year is coming to a close, and what a year it has been for our borough.

What left a real impression on me was having to gather council staff, community leaders and residents together after a number tragedies this year; the Westminster Bridge attack, the Manchester bombing, the London Bridge attack, Finsbury Park, and the Grenfell fire. Barking & Dagenham came together each time as one community offering our thoughts and prayers to all those affected, as well as practical support and assistance where we could. I sincerely hope 2018 is without tragedies like these.

There’s also a lot from 2017 to celebrate. We had another fantastic Summer of Festivals attended by thousands of residents. We saw off another attempt to close Dagenham Police Station with Jon Cruddas. And we stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Margaret Hodge to get c2c to reinstate its rush hour services at Barking station.

We’re just weeks away from starting work on London’s first Youth Zone in Parsloes Park, and we’ve recently secured the backing from the Mayor of London to build a Hollywood-style film studio in the east of the borough. Then there’s a brand new 50 metre pool we’re building in Dagenham. And Coventry University opening its doors means we secured the future of the Civic Centre as well as providing opportunities for those interested in higher education.

We’ve also cracked down on those who break our rules. For example, we’ve secured a High Court injunction to prevent illegal traveller encampments in the borough and we now name and shame those who fly tip in our community.

We won our 10-year campaign for a direct bus service to Queen’s Hospital. We’ve had the green light to extend London Overground services to Barking Riverside, and we’re hoping to conga our way to being London’s first Borough of Culture in 2019.

That’s not all, and we’ve got lots more to work on, so I look forward to working with everybody to make the next year a success for Barking and Dagenham!

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