This week has seen the definite approach of Spring, with warm weather, sunny blue skies and some new lodgers in our house. Not invited lodgers, I hasten to add! I am talking about two birds’ nests which have appeared in our guttering behind the fascia boards on two corners of the house. I was alerted by a lot of noise and on further exploration the nests were discovered. At this time of year if nests are empty then they can be removed, but if they have eggs or fledglings in then they are protected by law. As I am unable to discover what’s there without disturbing the nests, I guess they are with us until August. Oh, the joys of Spring!
On the theme of Spring, I was very pleased to visit Astwood Road Cemetery this week to meet with a group of serving soldiers who had volunteered to clear the cemetery grounds of litter and to tidy up the area. When I met them, they had collected about 20 sacks of rubbish and with the sun shining and the flowers and shrubs beginning to bloom again, the whole area looked smart and tidy. A huge thank you to these men and women who have given up their time to do this job. Our visits to the cemetery will be that much more pleasant because of their work there.
I met with officers and councillors this week to discuss a joint bid with the police to the Home Office Safer Streets fund to improve security on our streets. The sad event of last week with the abduction and murder of Sarah Everard has alerted everyone to safety on our streets and I hope that by working together, we will be successful in securing additional funding. Improved security measures and more work to educate young men to respect women; know how to behave towards women and more discussion around the issue of consent will help to make this world a safer and better place.
Do you have a child or grandchild who returned to school this week? I think most of us will know of a young person who has been studying at home and is now returning to school. Some of them will be reluctant to return enjoying the freedom that being at home brings and some will be overjoyed at the thought of seeing their friends again. I think, however, that even though our teachers have been fantastic in setting work and zooming lessons, it is not easy to keep young people fully engaged remotely and they are now back where they should be.
You will remember the summer of 2018 when the city was privileged to host a gathering of animals you would not normally expect to see in a Cathedral City. Every corner we turned delighted us with yet another treat. I am of course talking about the beautifully decorated giraffes which graced our city that summer. I am pleased to say that Worcester is once again set to host a pride of animals which will decorate our streets and grace our avenues with their colour and beauty.
This summer it will be elephants which we will spot in the city; I am very much looking forward to the “hunt”! This week I looked through 100 designs that have been submitted for the competition to decorate the elephants. It was with great difficulty that I chose three designs which I felt would look good on Worcester City Council’s sponsored elephant. I enjoyed being involved in such an exciting project and welcome the benefit that St. Richard’s Hospice will gain from the adventure.
My mind now turns to another competition organised by Worcester Live. As part of an Arts Council funded outreach project, 30 participants have submitted photos of winter scenes and once again I am spoilt by the beauty of the entries and finding a best will be very difficult. Winter may be beautiful, but roll on better weather.
I would like to say ‘hello’ to the members of the 1st Worcester Cubs’ group, joined me for a Zoom call this week. There were about 20 cubs in attendance and we had a question-and-answer session, with them asking the questions and me providing the answers. I enjoyed the call and I hope I will be able to meet them in person and show them round the Guildhall before my year comes to an end.
I don’t know whether you realise that next Monday 8 March is International Women’s Day? The theme this year is Women in Leadership: Achieving an equal future in a post COVID19 world. In national politics less than 25% of people are female – and yet women’s full and effective participation and leadership in all areas of life makes progress for everyone.
At Worcester City Council we currently have 13 women councillors out of 35; that’s more than a third, so better than in some other councils. The first female Mayor of Worcester was Diana Ogilvy in 1931 to 1932. Only 16 women have held the position of Mayor in the 399 years that the role has existed in our city. I hope that there will be many more women in the coming years who will wear the chain and the robes and take on the role of First Citizen.
I am sure that like me, you are looking forward to Monday 8 March, when we start to ease out of the lockdown. Small steps to start with: on Monday our children will return to school and outdoor after-school sports and activities will be allowed. Most importantly people in care homes will be able to have one regular visitor with whom they can hold hands, and two people can meet up in an outdoor public space and have a drink or a picnic. Let’s hope we have good weather for that last one, but I bet you will see people out and about and meeting a friend whatever the weather. Yippee, roll on freedom!!
As I write this diary I am looking out at a blue sky and bright sunshine and have the promise of better times to come, now that we have our roadmap to freedom.
When I spoke to Mayor Joe Petty in Worcester Massachusetts this week, he was feeling optimistic about recovery too and we spent time talking about how later this year, they could help us to celebrate our four hundred year Charter, which first incorporated Worcester as a city and created the role of Mayor in 1621. Likewise, we will do all we can to help Worcester MA to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the founding of their town next year. As I said to Joe, we beat you by 100 years – I am pleased to say it raised a smile! I was able to update the Twinning Association on the latest developments when I attended their AGM later that evening as President of the Association. We hope that twinning can add something to the celebrations on both sides of “the pond”.
The City Council held its budget setting meeting this week and with four motions to debate on top of the budget, I feel we did well to get through it in less than three hours. We commemorated the death of Peggy Neil, a past Mayoress of Worcester in the 1980s, with a minute’s silence. Until very recently Peggy’s husband Bernard was the only councillor to be Mayor of Worcester twice in modern times.
On Friday I recorded a speech to mark LGBTQ+ History Month this February. The rainbow flag has been flying in Cathedral Square all month in celebration. Worcester City Council is pleased to support local community groups such as Out2gether, Worcestershire Pride and the University of Worcester students in their efforts to raise awareness of our LGBTQ+ community and make Worcester an inclusive and welcoming place for all.