Monthly column: A year in review – Putting Bedford Borough back on track

Tom Wooton (Conservative) was elected at Mayor of Bedford Borough on 4 May 2023. Image: Bedford Borough
Tom Wooton (Conservative) was elected at Mayor of Bedford Borough on 4 May 2023. Image: Bedford Borough

What has the new Mayor and his new administration done for me? I asked myself that very question for the residents of Bedford Borough as I sat and thought about the past year and reflected on the past 12 months in a rare quiet moment today.

Amid the flag raising, civic and ceremonial duties, liaising with residents directly and council meetings. The past 12 months have gone past very quickly.

I remain resolutely determined to continue to improve Bedford Borough. Some of you will have received emails from me at silly o clock and over the weekend because, in reality, when you are Mayor, the work doesn’t stop.

Sometimes things don’t always go as expected, and sometimes the unexpected occurs, but we remain committed to doing our best for the residents of Bedford,

We have huge tasks, a limited purse and a lot to do to make things better.

So, what exactly has gone on this past year? Well, the truth is, a lot.

  • For the last 13 years, the whole of the Borough’s bus service operations and routes have not been reviewed. Despite the historic lack of management, we will be conducting a long overdue review of the whole bus service operations and routes.
  • We brought our Temporary Accommodation service back from total collapse, with a huge increase in investment and decreasing costs and overreliance on expensive agency staff and enormous hotel costs.
    • 22 new members of staff hired and undertaking considerable training.
    • Adopted a new property acquisition programme to improve accommodation.
  • We have invested in our Adult services to make sure we get the expertise needed by hiring and training new staff.
  • Made EWR meeting minutes public, increasing transparency, and reversing years of opaque meetings by our political leaders.
  • Introduced four hours free parking in Allhallows with another trial for four hours free parking at Lurke Street during the Christmas period and this has increased footfall back to Bedford town.
  • Introduced new initiatives to reverse the Borough’s low educational attainment with new supportive groups and training for Head Teachers.
  • £9m invested into getting GP surgeries off the ground and started.
  • Invested millions to bring our failing leisure facilities back up to parr and fixing the 1,100 issues plaguing them.
  • Brought in a new contractor (GLL) to manage our leisure facilities, getting rid of decades of mismanagement.
  • Improved our Town Centre with new businesses opening and even reopening a revamped cleaning cycle.
  • Millions invested to keep the Paula Radcliffe Way Highway Corridor safe after years of a lack of maintenance.
  • Introduced a cabinet member of families, ensuring families remain at the core of the Borough Council.
  • Blazing the trail announcing our new glass recycling trial programme that will continue for nine months.

Of course, there is much more we want to do however, the Council continues to face harsh financial and economic pressures with the majority of our budget spent on Children’s and Adult’s social services.

Despite the limited financial freedom and challenging economic picture, we are still delivering for residents and aiming to put Bedford Borough back on the right track.

Is it challenging? – yes. I am still committed to delivering all the promises from my manifesto and making Bedford great again – absolutely.

Bedford’s best days are yet to come.

This is a monthly guest column provided by elected
Mayor Tom Wootton (Conservative). It is published unedited and
does not reflect the views of the Bedford Independent.