The event gives councillors the opportunity to look back at what has been achieved by the authority over the last 12 months as well as discussing their priorities for the coming year and thrashing out any issues they feel need exploring.
The debate, on Monday December 7, was split into three areas that have been identified as the most important through various forms of consultation with members of the public, including the recent Tamworth Listens Question Time event held at the Assembly Rooms and attended by almost 100 people.
Leader of the Council, Cllr Daniel Cook, introduced each of the topics: regeneration, safer communities and health and wellbeing; and the floor was then opened up to the 29 out of 30 councillors in attendance, who had the opportunity to comment on each issue.
On the topic of regeneration, Cllr Cook highlighted Tamworth’s fall in unemployment, the rising number of apprentices from 460 in 2009 to more than 1,000 today and the authority’s commitment to building new Council houses.
He said the Council is committed to improvements in aspirational and educational achievement to create better opportunities and an increasingly skilled workforce for the next generation, as well as helping to ensure more residents earn above the living wage.
In terms of the town centre, work will begin on the Creative Quarter in 2016, while the Gateways project will continue to improve links around the area.
Members also passed a vote of thanks to the hard-working officers and businesses of Tamworth for their part in the town’s recent success in the Great British High Street awards.
On the subject of safer communities, Cllr Cook outlined the ongoing work being done by community wardens and council officers out on the streets and in the heart of Tamworth’s communities, alongside police and other agencies. While reports of burglary have halved since 2007/8 and incidents of anti social behaviour have more than halved in the same time, there is still more work to be done, he said.
In terms of health and well-being, Cllr Cook said childhood obesity in Tamworth is now below the national average, while obesity as a town-wide issue still needs to be monitored. Ensuring services and facilities for an ageing population also needs to be a key priority going forward.
During the debate, councillors were able to voice their concerns and highlight areas they would like to see the Council tackle, whether directly or by working with third parties.
These included the future role of the Sir Robert Peel hospital, the mental health agenda in Tamworth, teenage pregnancy – which remains above the national average – fear of crime, internet crime, isolation among elderly and vulnerable residents, the performance of the town’s schools and post-16 opportunities.
All issues tied in with an overriding cross-party theme of securing and providing services for future generations and exploring how this can be done, including taking advantage of opportunities offered by membership of the proposed new West Midlands Combined Authority.
Cllr Daniel Cook and Leader of the Labour Party Cllr Simon Peaple will work through the main issues in the coming days and weeks to identify actions and, where possible, motions to put forward to relevant committees.
Cllr Cook said, “I thought the debate was held in a professional manner by all councillors of all political colours.
“The issues raised were not for political gain and were seen as important issues to the residents of Tamworth. All councillors demonstrated a real grasp of the challenges facing our town centre, local education, crime levels and fear of crime, as well as the future of local health services.
“Not all of the issues raised are in our direct control, but we can now decide upon the most effective way to work with third parties in the interests of Tamworth residents. Through debates like the one that took place this week we can push forward together to get the best services in place for the 21st century.”