As Chairman of Cookstown District Council, I would like to extend seasonal greetings and best wishes to everyone throughout the Cookstown District Council area.
May I extend a warm welcome to those of you who have returned home or who may be visiting friends and family in our District over the festive period.
In this season of goodwill I would encourage all our citizens to be mindful of those who are less fortunate than ourselves, both at home and abroad. At this time I would ask you all to offer your thoughts and prayers to the many families and communities that have witnessed incredible devastation and who have suffered as a result of the recent Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. I would also ask you all to spare a thought for our older relatives and neighbours, particularly those who may be on their own over the Christmas season. A simple phone call or a visit could make a world of difference both to their Christmas and yours.
As first citizen of the district I am also mindful, particularly at this time of year, of the ongoing challenge facing our local business community and the daily struggle to keep doors open in the current economic climate. Our local businesses provide a valuable service to the inhabitants of this District and provide much needed employment to both family and friends. So please, I would encourage all citizens, where possible to make a conscious effort to buy local over the festive and new year period and to support our local businesses throughout 2014.
As a Council we will of course continue to play our part and to lead from the front in the delivery of services and in providing facilities to meet the needs and expectations of our citizens. Over the years Council has established a strong working relationship with our business community and we will continue to work with local and regional funding bodies to secure funding to deliver innovative programmes which are specifically designed to equip local businesses with the expertise and knowledge to compete. In 2013 Cookstown District Council celebrated the outstanding success of its award-winning Multi-Sectoral Tendering Programme which delivered support to 80 local businesses and provided a £15million boost to the local business sector, including the creation of 43 new jobs and £12.5million of new contracts won. In April we launched five business development programmes, designed to deliver a broad range of support to 225 businesses in the Cookstown District during 2013/2014, making this initiative Council’s largest ever programme for business support. I firmly believe that through working as one we can, and will see out this recession together.
Cookstown District Council continues to lead the development of sports, recreational and leisure facilities; in 2013 we witnessed the opening of the internationally acclaimed Mountain Bike Trails and Pump track at Davagh Forest; the Lough Fea new jetty development and the soon to be opened new Indoor Training facility at the Mid Ulster Sports Arena. In addition Cookstown District Council was also the proud recipient of the William Keown Trust Access Award for Cookstown Leisure Centre, the Blue Flag for Ballyronan Marina and the Arts and Disability Equality Charter for the Burnavon Theatre. The Council has also been awarded Northern Ireland Disability Best Practice Employer Award at the 2013 Irish News Workplace and Employment Awards. We have also spearheaded the delivery of the Fuel Stamps Scheme in partnership with St Vincent de Paul and the local community, and recently reached the milestone of having sold over £1 million of fuel stamps within the Cookstown District. As a Council we have also secured in excess of £300,000 of funding to deliver a Village Renewal Scheme which will result in significant enhancement works in Coagh, Moneymore, Pomeroy, Rock, Stewartstown, Ardboe and Dunamore. All of these achievements and enhancements are a clear endorsement of our commitment to the development of the District and in providing support and quality services to all our residents.
While highlighting the achievements within the District during my term as Chairman it would be remiss of me not to acknowledge the fantastic achievement of Council staff and the people of Cookstown and Pomeroy in achieving the accolade of “Best Kept Large Town 2013” and “Best kept Village of 2013” respectively. I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the contribution of the local community in both areas for their co-operation and support of these initiatives. This is indicative of what can be achieved when communities and council work together. I whole heartedly commend all involved and look forward to further successes for our District, towns and villages in 2014.
I would also like to thank all of you that have taken to social media recently to express your support for the fantastic new Christmas lights in Cookstown and for passing on the message that Cookstown is Looking Good and Looking Great for Christmas. This investment in our festive lighting is a fantastic way of promoting our town to visitors and shoppers over the Christmas and New Year period. In excess of 16,000 have accessed various social media links to Cookstown’s Christmas lights, so thank you all for spreading the message and for playing your part in promoting our District as a fantastic place to live and visit.
Finally on behalf of Cookstown District Council, I wish to thank you, the general public for the support you have shown to us over the last year. May I wish all our citizens a safe and joyous festive season and a happy and prosperous 2014.”