THE first Conservatives to have controlled Darlington Borough Council in four decades have unveiled a plan to shape the borough over the next four years, placing growing the economy at top of the authority’s priorities.

Ahead of asking for residents and traders views on the proposed vision to improve issues ranging from community safety to the population’s health and wellbeing, the authority’s leader Councillor Heather Scott said by bolstering the economy the council was striving to provide the opportunity for everyone to access a good job and a good home.

She highlighted how during a visit to Darlington the chief executive of Public Health England had stated “the best thing to improve people’s health and wellbeing is a good job and a good home”.

Cllr Scott said: “We know we cannot rest on our laurels and we must strive for continuous improvement, otherwise we will go backwards. Darlington’s economy performs well in terms of attracting private sector investment and delivering economic growth and whilst town centres are facing many challenges Darlington is seen as the third major retail centre in the region after Newcastle and the Metro Centre, according to the North East Chamber of Commerce. Economic growth is the key lever we have at our disposal to be able to deliver our long-term vision for the borough, and therefore growing Darlington’s economy is our top priority.”

She said the council would seek to create the conditions and opportunities for growth, but it would be the private sector from which much of the investment required to deliver growth would come and that a thriving Tees Valley economy was important for Darlington’s success.

Cllr Scott said: “Our key partner in growing the economy is the Tees Valley Combined Authority, from which much of the funding required to deliver growth will come and be invested in Darlington and the Tees Valley.”

The new plan continues to support the key aims of the Community Strategy – One Darlington Perfectly Placed which was launched by the previous Labour-run administration and seeks to build on the work undertaken in previous years.

Among the key actions outlined in the proposed plan to improve health and wellbeing are a review of plans presented by Mowden Park Rugby Club to create a sports village in partnership with the council and a pledge to continue to build new council houses.

To improve community safety, the plan includes a proposal to review the council’s approach to the use of CCTV and to work with partners to assess flood risk for Darlington and develop solutions. Another planned review in the proposed plan includes examining in-house residential care for children and considering the council’s place in providing services, while increasing the number of in-house foster carers.

To help the borough’s most vulnerable residents, the plan, which will be subject to the approval of the full council in March, proposes more work with individuals to maximise their independence and reduce demand on services while continuing to implement initiatives that tackle social isolation.