Q&A with Cllr Dr Beccy Cooper on her first 100 days leading Worthing Council
Released: Friday, 26 August 2022
Cllr Dr Beccy Cooper will have been the Leader of Worthing Borough Council for 100 days on Sunday 28th August 2022. Here she answers questions about her first days leading the administration, what she has achieved and what is still to come.
Q: You've been Leader of the Council for almost 100 days. How has it been and what have been your early impressions of life in charge?
It has been busy, fantastic, daunting, exciting, sometimes exhausting and a huge learning experience! I am very grateful to have come into office with such a supportive, capable Labour administration and to work with officers who are ready and willing to put together the projects and plans that will mean we can deliver against our Community manifesto - the team are working their socks off!
Q: Can you tell us anything that has surprised you or perhaps been more of a problem than you might have thought?
The budget situation for the Council this year is a serious challenge. Over the past 10 years, Local Government funding has been cut to the bone and now that our residents are facing a Cost of Living Emergency, we have been left with very little additional resource to support our communities through this very difficult time. However, where there's a will there's a way, even if it is one involving very difficult choices!
Councillors and officers are working round the clock to deliver a Cost of Living Emergency plan in partnership with our Community and local business organisations. We will ensure that all available resources are channelled to help make sure that people can heat their homes, pay their rent and feed their families
Q: You took control of the Council after the elections in May with a full programme of policies you wanted to implement. Can you tell us some of the things you have made progress on.
Yes, there's lots going across the Council. I'll try and summarise some highlights to date!
- Our Big Listen is underway. This is a key part of our commitment that the work the Council undertakes will be rooted in the needs of our Communities. Findings from our Big Listen will be published and we will be working these into a Council plan of work that reflects what is important to residents
- We committed to making Worthing a town to be proud of, and to this end we started our Big Clean Up this summer, doing maintenance work in Beach House Park, cleaning up the seafront and organising a big litter pick on the beach with our residents. Our town has a lot to offer local residents and visitors alike, and we are reviewing our local events and tourist offer to make sure that it is making the most of all the local companies that we have in the town - there are plans underway for our very own Worthing Festival
- We also committed to making Worthing the greenest Coastal town in the UK, which includes taking care of our much loved coastal area. We are working with citizen scientists (great local community volunteers who are recording water hygiene data) to improve our bathing water. An application for Bathing Status for East Beach will go in this October. A tree planting project is in development, which will contribute to the much needed greening of our town centre and will extend across our Borough.
- We are working with the County Council on a new Growth Deal for Worthing that puts active and sustainable travel at the heart of our partnership work - it should be easy and affordable for people to use a bus in Worthing, and a safe choice to walk or cycle
- As well as being the greenest, we also want to be the fairest Coastal town in the UK. Housing pressures are affecting an increasing number of our residents, who can no longer afford to live here. We are working as quickly as possible to identify sites for building and redevelopment to provide more temporary housing in the Borough, and to start building much needed social housing
- It was great news that the appeal to save the green land at Chatsmore Farm was successful. But it means that we need to ensure that our brownfield sites are developed well, alongside preserving our green spaces
Q: What are you seeking to achieve with the Big Listen?
The Big Listen is residents' opportunity to tell us what they want for Worthing now and in the future. The first phase of Big Listen asks broad questions and lets us sense check that the Council plans are in line with the needs of our Communities and how we can work better together.
The second phase of Big Listen will be asking about specific areas of Council work, such as how we develop our town centre, which will allow us to develop our projects in partnership with residents.
The third phase is looking at where decisions on Council spending are made, with aplan to put funds for local investment in community facilities and improvements (such as benches in the local park) into the hands of representative community groups, empoweringing residents with an even greater say in how our town develops.
Q: Is there anything that maybe will take a little longer than you thought.
I think that things are moving forward well, but our budget constraints will inevitably mean that as we make plans for next year, we will need to prioritise what is essential and stagger the timing of other projects. We will do this transparently and in line with what we are hearing from The Big Listen
Q: You've formed an administration at a time when the budgets of all local councils are being squeezed. Can you explain how this is affecting services?
Front line services continue to be provided, but Council staff are working at 110% in order in order for us to do this. Our Council officers are looking at reorganising their teams to keep our essential services running well and ensuring our frontline staff receive the support they need
Q: Finally 100 days in, are you still optimistic about the future of Worthing and the Council's role in it and if so why?
I am naturally optimistic, but also realistic, so I don't underestimate the magnitude of the challenge that we and our residents are facing with much reduced budgets and ever increasing bills. My optimism is very much rooted in the people that I work with, the Communities we partner with, and the residents that we speak to every day. Councillors and officers are committed to making every ounce of Council resources work well for our town, and there is a lot of willingness across our Communities to come together to make Worthing the fairest, greenest Coastal town in the UK!
Cllr Dr Beccy Cooper
Page last updated: 05 October 2022