Falkirk Council group leaders united in hoping for better things in 2022

The leaders of Falkirk Council’s three main political parties may disagree on occasion but they are all united in hoping for the best possible year ahead for their constituents.

By James Trimble
Thursday, 6th January 2022, 8:06 am

The local elections are on their way in May, but for Falkirk Council leader Cecil Meiklejohn, leader of Falkirk’s SNP group, Councillor Robert Bissett, Falkirk Labour

group leader, and Councillor James Kerr, Falkirk Conservative group leader, the important thing is the safety and well being of the people they serve – particularly as COVID-19 rates continue to rise.

Councillor Meiklejohn said: “The last few years have been one of the greatest challenges we have all faced – particularly those who have lost loved ones. I think this last year might just have been even more challenging than 2020.

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The leaders of the three main political groups in Falkirk Council have revealed their hopes and ambitions for the year ahead

"However, we have come through it and while it may not seem like it, we are stronger. There are still many challenges before us, including continuing to adjust to life with COVID-19, but much has been learned.

“While there continues to be financial challenges facing the council – and not just for this coming year – which will require some tough decisions, Falkirk district is still in a good position going into a new year.

“The funding for the Westfield Bridge and the progress in the Gateway project, as well as the signing of the heads of terms for the Falkirk Growth Deal, gives a real opportunity to set out investment plans for the next 10 plus years – creating jobs and opportunities for our young people and helping develop new technologies to help address the impacts of climate change.

“Falkirk has become more popular as a destination. We have the iconic tourist attractions of the Kelpies and the Falkirk Wheel, but we have much more to offer throughout the district – tourism has become a key strand to our local economy and can help our recovery.

Picture Michael Gillen

"The Falkirk and Rosebank Distilleries will be welcome additions to the culture and heritage trails and our core paths network which is constantly expanding.

“It was disappointing the proposals for the new council HQ and Arts Centre have not progressed as planned but town centre regeneration plans remain high on the agenda for 2022.

“Delivering on these plans and others will be essential to help achieve much the needed economic growth and financial stability but will require the collective commitment of the whole council to make that happen.

"I will do all I can to ensure Falkirk district moves forward to a positive future.”

Councillor Bissett also reflected on how difficult the last year had been.

He said: “There is sorrow for those we have lost, but we give thanks to those who have worked tirelessly and selflessly for almost two years protecting our health, keeping us safe and keeping the wheels of society moving.

“This year has to be a year of hope, a year of optimism, a year of facing new challenges and a year where we can see a brighter future on the horizon. Even in these difficult times we have seen people have pull together and assist those in greatest need.

"My hope is that we can build on our community spirit and not lose sight of the strength and resilience that our communities have shown.

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"Social injustice and the inequalities that arise out of it have increased across Falkirk District during the pandemic so we need to address these in the coming year.

“I hope we can collectively unite to make a difference and reduce inequality, create jobs and develop new initiatives – not least the green economy. We can also look to tackle the mental health issues we have seen increasing during the pandemic and give people the support they need.

“Our communities are the catalyst for change and I personally look forward to working with them to hear their aims and aspirations. We all deserve to have the opportunity to be all we can be, no matter what stage or age we are at in life.

“So as we move forward in 2022, let’s agree to do things differently, let’s work together, united in our endeavours to bring about the change we need and come

together to build a better, brighter, healthier and more prosperous future for the people of Falkirk District.”

Like his counterparts, Councillor Kerr knows the COVID-19 pandemic is not going away, but he too has a sense of optimism for the future.

Other than COVID-19, his main concern was the long running heating issues affecting residents in his Upper Braes ward.

He said: “Falkirk’s Forgotten Villages group has highlighted this issue and tthe three parties involved – Scottish Power, Falkirk Council and Neat Heat.

"I’m not blaming any one of these organisations – but the only people who are suffering are the tenants. Scottish Power, has increased the rate over the last 10 years and are still asking people to just keep putting money in their meters.

“Falkirk Council has agreed to replace the system with an alternative, but this will not be done quickly. As for Neat Heat, they say the system they installed works fine.

“I just want these three organisations to get to the bottom of these issues. I know some people who pay £30 a week for the electricity, yet their next door neighbour is paying up to £100 a week – so something is wrong somewhere.

“Having just had the £90 million growth deal signed, I hope this will allow Falkirk Council to deliver the projects that were signed for. Creating 2000 new jobs in the Falkirk area will be great for the whole district.

“And with the local election coming in May, I hope the Conservative and Unionist group can increase our votes.”

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