There was good news this week as the latest job figures show employment is rising in Doncaster, with the number of people in work starting to return to pre-recession levels.
When elected Mayor I promised to support the creation of jobs, apprenticeships and economic growth. We have secured vital infrastructure projects, supported a buy-local approach and during the last year we created over 275 apprenticeships. Over 130,000 people in Doncaster are now in work and we have seen the largest rise in employment for 10 years. Youth employment figures are also improving with more than a third fewer young people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance.
We still need to bring more jobs to Doncaster. Of course, it is difficult for Doncaster to maximise its potential for economic growth and job creation if the council, a key facilitating organisation, is dysfunctional. And as everyone knows, under previous Mayoral administrations Doncaster Council was dysfunctional. The people of Doncaster were let down and the government took over. I was determined to put Doncaster Council back on track and lead it out of Government intervention.
I am therefore delighted that the Secretary of State, Eric Pickles, wrote this week with his intention to bring the intervention to an early close.
Mr Pickles said: “I welcome the progress that the council has made under your leadership” and that “it is clear to me that, given the level of improvement that Doncaster has now achieved, their firm plans for the future, and their readiness to engage with the wider local government sector on improvement, continuing the statutory corporate intervention will add little, if any, value.”
The review which led to Mr Pickles’ decision involved over 400 hours examining the council and interviewing over 150 staff. An independent team of experts concluded that Doncaster Council is now functioning well, at a level to be expected in other local authorities. According to staff there has been a “sea change” in the culture, enabling them to do their jobs better. Partner groups have also reported a change in the way the council engages with them. The team said that Doncaster is now a real player in the City Region, with plans to create more opportunities for the borough and residents.
A good example is the support that we have mobilised in our bid for the national High Speed Rail College. We gained backing from business, councils and economic partnerships across Yorkshire, the north east and as far afield as Scotland. This would simply not have been possible before and we have now been shortlisted.
I would like to thank council staff and everyone who has worked to deliver the improvements. We will not sit on our laurels. There is still much to do and we will continue to strive for new jobs, improvements to education and quality, value -for-money public services.
* Ros Jones, Doncaster’s elected mayor