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Foreword from Council Leader Councillor Susan Hinchliffe and Chief Executive Kersten England

Our Council Plan has been developed amidst unprecedented levels of challenge, complexity and uncertainty as we work alongside our partners and communities to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.

What has become crystal clear is the critically important role that Council staff, services and resources have played, and continue to play. They are vital to getting our schools, businesses and services back to work while keeping people supported and safe, preventing the spread of infection and maintaining essential services.

In rising to the challenge our staff have taken their place among the nation’s key worker heroes. They have earned long overdue recognition for the things they do day in and day out that contribute to the quality of life of everyone, yet are often taken for granted. They care for the vulnerable, collect our waste and recycling, keep our streets safer and cleaner, and they support communities to be stronger.

Less visible, but no less important, is the work we do to help the district’s businesses, city and town centres and economy to stay open; to support skills, schools, children and young people; to provide access to green spaces; give homes to the homeless; and plan for the future.

Council services will continue to play a key role as we adapt to living alongside COVID-19 and as we build a better future.

As we have little certainty with which to plan for that future we must be responsive to changing circumstances. But the fundamental challenges we faced before the pandemic are the same ones we face throughout it, and beyond. They have shaped the priorities in this plan.

Advancing educational attainment, raising skills and productivity, and attracting new jobs and investment. Tackling the climate emergency, improving transport connectivity and capitalising on our cultural assets. Keeping communities safe, clean and active, sustaining quality local services and addressing long-standing issues of low income, poverty, inequality and poor health and housing. These issues are central to achieving our ambitions for an inclusive and sustainable district offering opportunities to everyone.

COVID-19 hasn’t dampened our ambition, but it has had a disproportionate impact on the poorest and most vulnerable, Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities, people with disabilities, women and carers. It has widened inequality so we must put working to secure equality and social justice is at the heart of all we do.

Resources will remain under pressure and we know the Council has to transform the way it does things in order to sustain services and improve outcomes. The Council must focus on early help and prevention to reduce pressure on expensive crisis services; be bold and inventive; and work to ensure that every pound, every ounce of effort and every day at work has the maximum impact.

Of course, we will make little progress working alone. Collaboration with others to understand the district, design services and deliver solutions is essential to our prospects for success.

Over 80% of Council staff live in the district. Few councils have a workforce so rooted in and connected to the place that they serve. The tremendous asset that this represents has been evident in the commitment, ingenuity, passion and pride that has characterised the response to COVID-19. These are the qualities that will keep us on course through the pandemic, and beyond, to deliver this Council Plan and progress towards a fairer, more prosperous Bradford District.