The man charged with leading Burnley Council into the future boldly proclaimed that new jobs, houses and increased prosperity for all are top of his agenda for the borough.
Long standing council officer Mick Cartledge was finally rewarded for his loyalty when he was confirmed as the new chief executive of Burnley Borough Council, 16 years after arriving from across the border in Yorkshire.
The popular civil servant will now attempt to steer the borough and her residents through the choppy waters of austerity, but somewhat surprisingly, insisted that government funding cuts are not the biggest challenge he faces.
“It is no good saying ‘woe is me’ regarding cuts, we have to get on with the job of building for the future,”
Mick said. “For me, the priority is in growing the borough’s economy. We can do this by attracting more jobs to the area, which we are doing right now.
“We were recently named in the top 10 areas of the country for jobs growth. We need to build on that momentum. The challenge is not about the cuts, it’s about taking the borough forward.
“Alongside creating new jobs we also have to create new homes for those workers to live in. The Local Plan has identified those sites for industry and housing.”
On the subject of housing, the new chief executive did not shy away from the difficult question facing all such local authority leaders today – how to build many much-needed new homes while preserving the green spaces we all care so deeply about.
“I am aware that the residents of Burnley are very passionate about safeguarding our green fields, and whenever we can we will always prioritise brownfield sites.
“However, in order to build on brownfield sites we have to seek help from the Homes and Communities Agency, otherwise they are not viable because they are more expensive to develop.
“That said, we have identified several brownfield sites in the borough to develop for new housing, notably the former Perseverance Mill site in Padiham which has been an eyesore for years now.
“Despite what people think, our population has stabilised and is growing. Developers only build where there is demand, and they are constantly asking us which sites are available.
“We are not ignoring Padiham either. A huge amount of money has been secured to build better flood defences for the town and preserve its heritage.”
I also asked Mick for his opinion on another hotly debated topic for the people of Burnley – the ongoing redevelopment of Burnley town centre, and again he was equally bullish.
He added: “I understand people are concerned about change, whether that be new housing or the work in the town centre.
“The fact is, we have a duty to look forward. If you’re standing still, you’re going backwards. The new town centre will attract bigger names, we have seen that already with Primark.
“Big chains what to know if towns are serious about themselves. They and us want a vibrant, bright, modern town centre.”
The father-of-one, who previously held the roles of director of community of services and chief operating officer, said that attracting more young people to the borough, in terms of students and visitors, was another priority.
“I want everyone to benefit from a better Burnley. We can do that by creating a range of different jobs, and making sure young people have the right skills and education for them.
“We are in talks with UCLan about expanding the courses they offer in the town because we would love to see more students here.”
Mick also revealed that the council was looking for a partner to come on board by Christmas to work on a new Curzon Street development.
“It would be a leisure-led development, which may include a cinema and restaurants.”
Indeed, partnership-working is going to be a key element in ensuring that Burnley Council continues to provide services for residents through times of austerity.
Urbaser, looking after waste, Burnley leisure, and Liberata’s role in back office work are three partners Mick highlighted as working successfully with the council.
“Each year becomes harder in terms of budgets, so partnership working is very important. Around six years ago the council employed more than 600 staff, now it is down to 230.
“I see the way forward as greater collaboration with partners and reforming services. Another partnership which has been a great success is our Burnley Bondholders scheme. I think businesses around the country are now aware that
Burnley is a business-friendly town, and therefore are willing to set up here.
“The future is bright, and I’m looking to helping build the prosperity of everyone in Burnley.”