THE appointment of Beverley Hughes as regional minister for the North West has given Cheshire a new ambassador who is looking forward to championing the county in 2008.
Since her appointment six months ago, the minister has focused on understanding the different challenges in different parts of the region, on looking after the region’s interests in Whitehall and representing central Government in the North West.
The appointment of regional ministers was part of a series of reforms that have been introduced to make central government more visible and accountable to the region.
The minister has travelled the region on a series of fact-finding visits including meeting with local authorities and business leaders in various parts of Cheshire.
One of the top challenges facing the North West is the drawing up a strategy with a single vision to improve economic performance and tackle deprivation by joining up policies around jobs, housing, transport and the environment.
The region also has an ambitious Climate Change Action Plan and regional and local organisations are being urged to make this a priority in 2008 to help put the North West firmly on course to be a low carbon region.
Beverley Hughes said: “I was proud to be asked by the Prime Minister to be the Minister for the North West, because this is my home region and I identify, first and foremost, with the North West.
“I have lived and worked in the region all of my life and during the last six months I have gained a more in depth knowledge of the people and places across the region through local visits and meetings in London.
“The decision on government reorganisation in Cheshire has now been decided, I know all parties will continue to work together for a Cheshire-wide benefit.
“I look forward to championing the region in 2008 and working together with you to improve the quality of life and life chances of everyone in the North West.
“Cheshire on the whole is a prosperous and economically vibrant place to live but there are pockets of deprivation.
“The local authorities that are successfully turning areas of deprivation around are those that have brought together their planning, transport, environment and economic development resources to deliver solutions.
“Authorities that have put people at the heart of their corporate strategies and who see reducing child poverty, increasing childcare, high quality early years and school provision as inextricably linked to their ambitions for economic development and community regeneration.
“Cheshire has already identified the demographic changes that will bring an increasingly ageing population and started to think about what this will mean and how the quality of life can be maintained.
“Over the next two to three years we face a great deal of change, but this is a tremendous opportunity to make a difference to local families and communities throughout our region.
“In the North West, Cheshire has a major contribution to take in improving economic development. The prize is tackling poverty and realising the potential of individuals and the region, but this can only be achieved by working together as part of that wider North West team.
“In seizing that opportunity, we must not forget the difficulties faced by livestock farmers this year in the wake of foot-and-mouth disease and bluetongue and look forward to better times to come.”