There hasn’t been much good news over the past year, and there are still many challenges ahead of us, but I believe there is still a lot we should be optimistic and ambitious for in the coming year.

That is why next week’s local elections will be so important.

As council leader I have been consistently reminded of how amazing our borough is. From our volunteers to selfless key workers who continually went above and beyond for us.

We owe them a great deal, and we all deserve a better future. A Labour council will stick by our pledge to pay all workers a real living wage. Unlike the Conservatives and Lib Dems who voted against this, we believe in thanking our key workers properly and see this a basic matter of fairness and decency.

I also want to see our borough build back better – not just as a slogan – but as something meaningful. This means actions and not just words. That is why we have been working hard on delivering our borough recovery plan.

Over the past year, we have made genuine breakthroughs on the delivery of our plans in Radcliffe, Ramsbottom, Prestwich and Bury. Each of these places now has a unique approach, with additional staff dedicated to the delivery of schemes there. We have backed this up with over £70m in council funding – the biggest investment in regeneration in a generation. We are getting on with this work - with local residents at the heart of it. I want to see that momentum continue as part of our recovery from Covid.

We pledged to follow a brownfield first approach to housing need and development, and that is exactly what we have done. While the Conservative government has been ripping up local democracy over planning and proposing developer-friendly planning changes, we have been successful in getting over £2m for brownfield sites to build affordable and green housing on. A recent letter from the Government’s planning officials has also reinforced the government’s housing targets are a minimum, not a maximum – giving developers another boost while this Labour council sticks to our brownfield first approach.

We also need to re-focus our efforts back to other urgent priorities, like the climate emergency. A Labour council will continue to deliver on our £17m climate emergency pledge – drastically reducing our carbon emissions, cleaning our fleet of vehicles, greening our council buildings and planting 20,000 trees in the next two years.