Councillor Gavin Callaghan will post regular updates here about the progress the council is making to transform Basildon borough.
• Find out more about Councillor Gavin Callaghan
• Leader's update - 06 September 2019
• Leader's update - 16 July 2019
• Leader's letter to new Prime Minister - 25 July 2019
The Basildon Borough Alliance was clear when we assumed Administration of Basildon Council in May, we would make it a priority to turn the street lights back on across the borough.
I am determined that we deliver on this priority. Turning the street lights back on will have a positive effect on every single house, in every single street, in all five towns of our borough.
That is why we have worked hard over the last few months to reach a deal with Essex County Council to put Basildon's lights back on.
Subject to a vote to be taken at an emergency meeting of Policy and Resources committee, which I have called for Wednesday 2 October 2019, and finalising arrangements with county council colleagues, the street lights will be back on across the whole borough, on or before the 31 October 2019 - a deadline we will meet!
Essex County Council turned the lights off in 2014, in response to ongoing austerity that resulted in significant reductions to their budget. I understand the financial pressures councils have faced as a result of massive cuts in our funding by central government.
But we also have to recognise that, in a county as geographically large and diverse as Essex, it's a decision that affects different areas in radically different ways.
Basildon not only has Essex's largest economy, it has an economy that is 24/7, with people working shifts at all times of the day and night. The borough is also the youngest of Essex and this means we have high numbers of people who enjoy the night-time economy locally, in London and in neighbouring boroughs. The lack of street lighting during the darkest hours of the day also has knock-on effects for crime, perceptions of safety and driving conditions.
When you think about it, it's common sense - if you have people driving to work at two in the morning, or ending a night out in the early hours of Saturday, or doing a dusk-till-dawn shift at Basildon hospital, the absence of street lighting makes a big difference.
Inevitably some people will look at this decision and conclude that given street lighting is the responsibility of Essex County Council, Basildon Council should not be getting involved, or paying to put the lights on. Believe me, I have huge sympathy for this argument, but I would make two simple points.
First, in a matter of years we will be a unitary authority that is responsible for street lighting in the borough anyway. The message is clear that we are walking and talking like a unitary authority, so let's take on the responsibilities as quickly as we can.
Second, and more important, I personally believe that to govern is to choose. So you can choose to be a councillor that gets lost in the bureaucracy of who is responsible for this and that and all that ends up happening is that the residents get a raw deal. Or you can be a councillor that gets things done. I choose the latter.
Since the lights went off, the council has received continual and consistent feedback through surveys, engagement events and councillor surgeries that people feel less safe and less confident moving around the borough as a result.
The reason this is so important is because I take the things residents care about seriously. And, in 2019, people are right to expect that lights will be on during the darkest hours of the day.
If councillors support my report next week, then we will make your expectations, a reality.
Councillor Callaghan has served Pitsea North West as its ward councillor since May 2012. In 2017 he became the youngest leader of a local authority in the UK. As head of a hung council with no party in overall control, Councillor Callaghan:
Returning as Council Leader in May 2019 he has identified priorities to revitalise the borough's town centres, clean up neighbourhoods and protect open spaces and modernise the council's governance making it fit to manage inclusive growth of the borough in to the future.
As Council Leader, Councillor Callaghan chairs its Policy and Resources Committee. He also chairs the council's Town Centre Revival Committee.
Gavin is a Director of a public affairs company and previously worked as a political adviser, a lobbyist for national charities and a parliamentary speechwriter.
Gavin has a degree in politics from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne and attended Campion School in Hornchurch.
For further information see Councillor details - Councillor Callaghan
You can contact Councillor Callaghan by email, see contact details below.