The General Election is over, and we can finally get back to business. For a ‘snap’ election, it certainly seemed to last a while.
I want to thank all those who put themselves forward for election, and especially our two MPs, Gordon Marsden and Paul Maynard – I look forward to working with them both.
The importance of our democratic process was underlined by the nation’s response to the four terrorist attacks at Westminster, Manchester, Tower Bridge and Finsbury Park. Too many times recently we have lowered the flag over the Town Hall, darkened, and then illuminated the Tower in the colours of the Union flag, and held periods of silence on the Town Hall steps, as people from all over the UK signed our Books of Condolence.
The loss of one of our one, Jane Tweddle, a receptionist at South Shore Academy, the injuries caused to other Blackpudlians, and the deaths of other fellow Lancastrians, brought home to many people the fact that the country is engaged in a serious battle with extremism – and that we all have a role to play in fighting that battle.
As part of my national role with the Local Government Association I lead on counter extremism work on behalf of all councils in England & Wales.
I meet regularly with Ministers and Civil Servants, to discuss what is happening, and more can be done. Prior to the election being called, the Government was already planning to relaunch its counter extremism strategy, and I will continue to work with Ministers and Councils, to make sure that this strategy is as robust as possible.
Alongside this work, we need the public to be alert – thirteen planned attacks on the UK have been stopped by police and security services since 2013 – in many instances, based on members of the public reporting their concerns. If you have any concerns, or have information you think would be valuable, please call the UK Anti-Terrorist hotline on 0800 789 321.
On top of these attacks, the disastrous fire at Grenfell Tower was a sobering one for all of us to see and my thoughts are with all of the families of the victims whose lives have been torn apart. Again, we remembered those victims on the town hall steps this week, and have opened a separate book of condolence.
The public have demonstrated that they expect to see strong, empathetic and visible leadership from both the Government and from councils, when tragedies such as this occur.
As well as reviewing the fire safety arrangements and evacuation advice in our social housing here in Blackpool, we are working on what more we can do to support the Fire & Rescue service, to identify private sector premises (be they blocks of flats, houses in multiple occupancy or hotels) where there may be a greater risk of fire, more vulnerable residents, or complications in evacuation procedures.
The Chief Executive and I are also reviewing our emergency response and disaster recovery plans, to make sure that we are fully prepared for all eventualities.