As I look back on 2017, I reflect on just how much has been achieved across the County and within the Council over the last 12 months.
A year ago we launched our ambitious plan for the County – Shaping Worcestershire’s Future – and one year on good progress has been made.
We want every child to have the best start in life. Already nine out of ten of our local schools are good or outstanding and ensuring we raise educational attainment to help young people in the county reach their full potential is a key aim. I'm also pleased that Worcestershire is leading the way when it comes to apprenticeships with more people starting in roles this year compared to last. However, I know we need to focus on those children and families who need our help the most. That’s why we are investing more in Children's Social Care and safeguarding as well as working with one of the leading authorities for Children's Services in the Country to build on the improvements our staff and partners are already making to improve this service.
Promoting independence continues to be a key aspect of our work around health and well-being as we believe that people can live healthier, happier and more fulfilling lives if they retain their independence. To help achieve this, we've led the way with a new approach called the Three Conversations Model. It looks at connecting people with resources in the local community and friends and family, promotes independence and enriches people's lives. The model has been trialled in Redditch, Pershore and Upton and is expected to be rolled out further next year.
Worcestershire is truly open for business and the County now has one of the fastest growing local economies in the country with strong growth in productivity and higher level skills. It has been a significant year in terms of investing in our roads and infrastructure. The Government announced the County was to get £54.5million for the final phase of work to the Southern Link Road and the money will be spent on building the new Carrington Bridge so that the whole of the SLR from the motorway to Powick roundabout can be dualled. We've also seen Eastham Bridge reopen and improvement schemes in Alcester Street, Redditch; Droitwich High Street and in Rubery, with funding secured for congestion reduction works to take place in Bromsgrove and Worcester City Centre. Work has started on Worcestershire Parkway and Superfast Broadband has reached 93% of homes and businesses this year.
Our environment remains one of the County’s key strengths and is something that continues to attract and retain residents and businesses. Our new Energy from Waste facility means we have dramatically reduced the waste sent to landfill across the County, as well as producing electricity for thousands of homes. Since 2004, the amount of waste recycled has also increased by more than 60%. This feat has been achieved by working with partners, including our six district councils, and local residents.
I’m very much looking forward to 2018 and the opportunities the New Year will bring. As ever we'll be listening to our residents and businesses to ensure we focus on what matters most to you as well as continuing to deliver on the ambitious plan to improve our County and the Council.
Finally, I'd like to thank staff, councillors and our partners for all their tireless efforts in 2017 and wish everyone in Worcestershire a great Christmas and a successful New Year.