I hope all Advertiser readers had an enjoyable and peaceful Christmas and New Year break.

Unfortunately the festive season seems to go all too quickly, but now 2019 is upon us the focus at the Council is very much on making this the year for delivering some landmark projects for the people of Swindon.

I will continue to use this column throughout the year to give updates on some of these projects because many of them, such as the creation of the indoor ski centre at North Star and the regeneration of Kimmerfields in the town centre, will have a big bearing on how our town will develop in the future.

Later this month we expect to raise a glass to some positive progress on the district centre at Wichelstowe, which the Council is delivering, and work is also due to start on rejuvenating Wellington Street, which is one of the gateways into the town centre.

Although driving economic prosperity is a key aim for this year we are also firmly focused on bringing about improvements in our children’s services department where we have seen unprecedented demand in recent years.

This is undoubtedly going to take some time, but I would like to reassure readers that a huge amount of work has already taken place behind the scenes through the creation of services such as our Early Help Hub and ensuring we have the necessary staff in place to cope with demand.

The good news is we have seen caseloads reduce and that means our social workers have more time to spend with our vulnerable children and families.

In order to bring about this change, costs in children’s services have gone up and our focus over the coming weeks will be to ensure we close that gap and present a balanced budget at the end of the financial year.

Inevitably, difficult decisions will have to be made because, like local authorities up and down the country, we still need to find significant savings.

We have a three-year savings programme, which everyone in the Council is working towards and I am fortunate we have a fantastic team of dedicated officers who are striving each day to provide the best and most efficient services for local residents.

Many of the services the Council provides often go unseen, but we will be raising awareness of some of the great things we are doing for local people over the coming weeks. More on that later.

For now, let me wish you all a very prosperous new year.