Cllr Nick Kelly is the Leader of Plymouth City Council.

On May 6th 2021 something special happened in Plymouth; after three years of a Labour-run Council, the Conservatives swept to a landslide victory taking 14 of the 19 Wards being contested, and coming very close in another two.

The residents of Plymouth voiced their opinions about the Labour Administration with a clear vote for change. We produced our 86 point Manifesto; set out our clear vision for Plymouth; detailed how our Commitments would improve the lives of our residents and realise Plymouth’s vast potential. We set clear benchmarks in an open and transparent manner. We set our sights and priorities for the first 100 days to deliver on 22 Commitments. I’m pleased to say we delivered this and more – through sheer hard work, collaborative working, and a real focus on outcomes.

I’m old school, and believe my word is my bond. As Leader of PCC I have set the benchmark very high regarding straight talking, honesty, and a can do culture. We have now set our next tranche of Commitments, another 38 by the end of December.

I recently had the privilege and honour of attending the Hilton Park Lane where I was thrilled and proud to accept the award from the Municipal Journal, on behalf of Plymouth City Council, for Local Authority of the Year. This followed an extensive interview panel attended by myself as Leader, the Leader of the Opposition, and our CEO. The last time Plymouth won this prestigious award was in 2010. Clearly this award was for the entire cohort of councillors and staff and the people of Plymouth.

Another highlight since becoming Leader was to secure over £9.5million from the National Lottery Horizon fund. We are one of five projects nationally to be awarded a grant. This is for our spectacular vision to create the nation’s first National Marine Park in Plymouth Sound. Our aim is to re-acquaint all of our residents, businesses, and visitors, with our fantastic waterfront and local coastline; after all we are Britain’s Ocean City.

Other highlights have included:

  • Being presented to HRH The Princess Royal twice, on her visits to Plymouth.
  • A major boost for our strategic importance and economy was securing one of the eight national Freeport sites. This will potentially be a real game changer for Plymouth.
  • Hosting the British leg of SailGP, the Formula 1 of the yachting world in July. It was the most incredible weekend and truly showcased Plymouth’s fantastic waterfront to a worldwide audience, in addition to the thousands who watched locally from land or afloat. We have bid again to host this prestigious event next year, that takes place in the likes of Sydney, Bermuda, and San Francisco.
  • The Box, completed as part of our Mayflower 400 celebrations is a real asset to our city, costing £47 million and acting as a museum and cultural hub. It houses local history and the artefacts are amazing. Unsurprisingly, it has already scooped a number of regional and national awards and is in the mix for many more.

It’s not been all plain sailing as a new leader. Sadly on 12th August, Plymouth made the headlines for all the wrong reasons, after a lone gunman shot and killed five innocent people in Keyham before turning the gun on himself. The victims included a three year old girl and her father – and the gunman’s mother. Plymouth was in shock, followed by deep mourning and disbelief in what is a very safe city. We are still coming to terms with this event but the community of Keyham and the wider city have really pulled together to support those affected. This togetherness is some comfort to what was an horrific waste of lives.

Watching tens of thousands of people unite on Plymouth Hoe to pay their respects by holding their phone lights into the dark Plymouth skies will stay with me for ever. This, along with the minutes applause to celebrate the lives lost and five green hearts projected on to Smeaton’s Tower, with the National Fireworks Championships being dedicated to the Keyham victims was Plymouth truly together.

Due to this tragedy I took the difficult decision to postpone The Hatchling. After considerable effort and financial support this event did take place with the premier of a dragon hatching, growing and flying out from Plymouth Hoe out over the Sound. It was to be an amazing sight witnessed by tens of thousands of people. It will feature at the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee in London.

Covid has also proved a considerable challenge and has made us all more innovative and our IT skills are now greatly improved, which may assist with our plans to tackle the ongoing Climate Emergency with us all making fewer journeys to attend physical meetings.

Other big projects in Plymouth include:

  • Getting our Airport operational again after a decade of closure.
  • We want to build a new fish quay to keep Plymouth at the forefront of the fishing industry.
  • We are close to announcing a brand new hotel on a brownfield site on Plymouth Hoe which would become our flagship hotel.
  • A new music and entertainment venue.
  • Additionally, we are close to finalising a large health hub in our city centre which will regenerate a neglected area and help to address the health inequalities that prevail across Plymouth.
  • Educational attainment is below the national average, and we know children’s life chances depend on a good education. This is a priority, as is eradicating child poverty.
  • Restoring civic pride is making good progress, and there is a real buzz of excitement and anticipation across the city since May.

Like most LA’s, budgets remain a real challenge and Covid rates are higher in Plymouth than nationally, so these issues are obstacles we must overcome.

All of this has been achieved as a minority Administration and all the challenges this presents. However, we have delivered, we continue to deliver, and I’m incredibly proud to lead the City of Plymouth forward on the national and global stage.

Being the Leader of England’s 15th largest city, my home city, is challenging, demanding, exciting, and I’m absolutely relishing the role. I have a great Cabinet and team in Plymouth and together we are making great things happen. We are Building Back Better!