Many congratulations to all those who helped organise the Tour of Britain cycle event in Cheltenham. So many people, from borough council staff to an army of volunteers, came together to put on such a successful, positive, event. And as an enthusiastic cyclist myself, I hope the Tour has inspired more people to get on their bikes. Just think twice about riding that fast up the Prom...
Cheltenham is incredibly lucky to have a wide range of prestige events taking place throughout the year. It's fantastic that Hilary Clinton is coming to town, and I know from a recent chat that Jess Phillips MP (Lab) and Jacob Rees-Mogg (Con) are looking forward to reprising their double-act at the Literature Festival.
Each event is an opportunity to show off our town on a national and international stage. But could we do more to present our beautiful town, to generate jobs and boost community pride?
First, I hope the proposals to cut back on Cheltenham's floral displays don’t go ahead. They seem penny-wise and pound foolish. Making Cheltenham less attractive to visitors risks undermining the drive to attract the year-round tourists. Only last week, I got chatting outside RBS to two visitors from Suffolk who remarked on what a good impression the flowers gave.
Second, we've simply got to sort out the High Street which has blighted Cheltenham for so long. This week I met representatives from John Lewis in Parliament to discuss the redevelopment. The works are going well and they are on course to open next year. But, like me, they're tearing their hair out about the tarmac infills.
That's why this summer I brought senior leaders from Gloucestershire County Council to the town centre to press for action. Any new surface will be under considerable stress from heavy vehicles. It will be regularly dug up by the utilities. So we need a sustainable design that can be repaired without leaving a patchwork mess and doesn’t bankrupt the taxpayer. That needs both Cheltenham and Gloucestershire councils singing from the same hymn sheet.
There are now some welcome signs of an improved spirit of cooperation, and we're promised a programme of action imminently. It’s vitally important that the councils work together and don’t revert to the blame game.
One thing is clear: the Tour of Britain has reminded us of what can be achieved if we pull together as a town. Let’s keep that spirit alive.