I am sure that people don’t need me to tell them that the world is facing a difficult economic period and that the problematic finances of our country have affected Medway and our residents.

In short, this has affected local business, jobs, people’s pay and the public sector.

However, despite having to provide the services our residents need and expect from us on a smaller government grant, Medway Council has tried to help where it can.

For instance, we joined the national 100 in 100 campaign earlier this year, which aimed to get 100 people into apprenticeships in just 100 days. And I am pleased to say Medway beat the target and arranged around 180 placements.

Now we have a scheme for 16-24-year-olds, with the council putting forward £100,000 for training costs or – in somce cases – help with paying salaries. I would encourage local firms to join this scheme and help kick start young people’s careers.

In addition to helping people get into apprenticeships, the council also has Employ Medway, in Chatham High Street, while its successful Business Start-up and Partner for Growth loans for small firms continue.

I know the national and international economic picture will continue to affect Medway’s residents, but we at the council will endeavour to do all we can to help residents during these difficult times.

Looking at work across the council, there have been a number of other achievements in Medway over the past 12 months.

For instance, we saw the opening of the new bus station in Chatham, which has greatly improved public transport and helps with our aim to open the town centre and the waterfront.

Our bid to make Medway a city was submitted to government, which if successful could bring in millions of pounds of inward investment, while free swimming for under-11s and over-60s started, helping younger and older residents maintain fit and active lifestyles.

Work has also started on building Medway’s three flagship academies – Strood, Bishop of Rochester and Brompton – while our primary school capital programme is ongoing.

Elsewhere, Medway has continued to be at the forefront of the campaign against the Mayor of London’s Thames estuary airport and will continue to fight this pie in the sky scheme.

In addition, five of our parks received Green Flag Awards and our fantastic array of festivals such as Dickens, Sweeps and Fuse, the Castle Concerts and our theatre performances have kept people from far and wide entertained.

Undoubtedly, this area will be a busy and exciting one for Medway during the next 12 months as we embark on a year of celebrations for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, the bicentenary of Dickens’ birth, 200 years of the Royal Engineers in Medway, Medway forming part of the Olympic Torch Relay route and Medway Park becoming an Olympic training camp.

All in all, this year has been demanding, and in some cases challenging, but I feel strongly that much has been achieved over the past 12 months and I look forward to the next year.

And as 2011 draws to an end, I would like to wish all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Rodney Chambers,
Leader of Medway Council.