“WE are going to put people first.”
That is the pledge from Blackpool’s new council leader as Labour swept back into power.
Coun Simon Blackburn vowed: “We will be a party of the community, not a party of the town hall.”
As his group celebrated clinching 27 seats in a massive swing to the left, regaining control four years after losing out to the Tories, Coun Blackburn said his party had listened to what the residents of the town wanted.
And the work started straight away, with the new leadership heading straight from the election count to a meeting with chief executive Steve Weaver.
Dealing with the “bread and butter” issues – sorting out congested roads, cutting the cost of democracy and sweeping away town hall secrecy would be among the new administration’s priorities, said Coun Blackburn. He added: “It’s a great day for the people of Blackpool and we are delighted to be in a position to be able to deliver the things the people of Blackpool have told us they want.
“We will be a party of the community, not a party of the town hall.
“It’s about going out there and asking people what they want and listening to their answers and doing what they want us to do.
“We have been campaigning for a year, not just the past three or four weeks.
“If you listen to people on the doorstep, you hear their concerns are the bread and butter issues – dog dirt, litter, the cost of senior council officers, and asking why so many roads are closed.
“I think we have to look at the state of the town’s roads – that has been reflected back to us a great deal.”
Coun Blackburn said one of the first things he would do would be to re-examine the Tory-set budget but he warned there would still be tough decisions ahead.
He said: “We have still got to deal with the budget we have inherited. It may be possible to make some minor changes but these are all the things we need to discuss. We face tough times but whether it’s a £1 or a £10 note we have, we all have a choice on how we spend money. The council’s priorities were wrong.”
Labour focused its campaign on five pledges – to cut the cost of democracy, to improve roads, tackle anti-social behaviour, improve transport, and to keep in touch with constituents.
Coun Blackburn’s words were echoed by group deputy leader Coun Fred Jackson who also pledged a more transparent council.
He said: “We have said we’re the residents’ party and this is something we really believe in.
“We want to be open and share information and do the things the residents want from us.”
There was joy too for former mayor Allan Matthews and former deputy leader Eddie Collett who had the dismay of losing Tyldesley in 2007 to the Tories, but are both now back in the council chamber.
Coun Collett said: “We know what is important to the residents of Tyldesley.
“This is all about keeping in touch with the problems that are important and that is what we are aiming to do.”
Former Labour group leader Coun Ivan Taylor said: “I’m so pleased to see us back in control.
“I was leader when we took control in 1991 and that was a good day, but today is an even better day.
“After four years out of it it’s great to see Labour back and all the work we started is going to be followed through.”