Opening of Wallsend Customer First Centre.
It was a real honour to be invited to open North Tyneside’s third Customer First Centre, as I feel it is important for our town.
It is now 20 years since the last Tory Government closed Swan Hunters Shipyard, this was a massive blow to the economy of our Wallsend, because as we know, people who are out of work, don't have money to spend.
Over the last few years, like so many other areas, our region has suffered as a result of the World-wide recession and, although the recovery is beginning, we know that households across the country are still hit, with prices continuing to grow faster than wages.
But the future for Wallsend is looking better, thanks to our council leaders showing vision and commitment to regenerate our this town. The regeneration began with former mayor, and now cabinet member, John Harrison. He oversaw the rebuilding of our swimming pool, at the Burnside site, and took the bold step to invest in the former Swan Hunter yard.
Now Norma, who, like Charlie Hardwick, is a Wallsend woman, born and bred, is continuing that work. Norma wants Wallsend to be a place we can again be proud of and this new centre is just the start!
This building has been transformed both inside and out by the builders, Robertson’s, who were represented at the event and must be commended for the work they have done. By bringing together a number of different services, including North Tyneside's wonderful library service, into one modern, fit for purpose building the Council has found a brilliant way to let the community know that Wallsend is, indeed, a town with a bright and modern future.
I have had the pleasure of working with New River, since they took over the shopping centre and I must say we are extremely lucky to have a development company that has its finger on the pulse and knows how to keep the retail heart of Wallsend beating. New River is a developer aware of what is needed to bring footfall into the shops and this wonderful Customer First Centre is part of creating the vibrancy needed to get people here.
Already, figures show that vibrancy is being felt here, as there have been over 24,000 visitors to the Centre, since the doors were opened a month ago. 408 more people have joined the library and 8,800 books have been loaned-out, 24% more than at the old library, in March last year.
Praise to our high calibre of staff at North Tyneside Council, who have helped the Mayor, her Cabinet, councillors and local people, to realise their vision and we have to be thankful to those staff for their hard work in getting us to this point.
As we celebrate the official opening, we are enjoying a tangible example of what is Wallsend’s future - a new facility for our town, a town that can be proud again - we already have some world-class industries on the North Bank and thanks to our Mayor and the Council’s Regeneration Team, the promise of thousands of jobs at the new Swans will become a reality.
So, while 20 years ago, the Tory Government managed to inflict a crushing blow on Wallsend, with the help of the local community our Labour Mayor is, at last, delivering plans to heal the wound and our future looks healthy.
I hope everyone enjoyed the morning, the photographic exhibition, the new story chair that the Children from Richardson Dees have helped design. I am sure we all want to say thank you to everyone, who has worked so hard for this day to celebrate what’s new and what is still to come for Wallsend!