Today is World Book Day and as a former Library worker I am pleased to see that despite all the pressures of austerity and budget cuts the Council continues to invest in local Library Services. The Central Library now may be known as a Community Hub but that’s not a bad thing. Public Libraries are exactly that and always have been. They are places where people don’t just go to borrow books or research local history; they are places where people go to access other Council services, to use IT equipment, to meet as groups and engage in community events. They are vital resources in more ways than one and deserve supporting.

And on World Book Day it’s great to see our schools engaged in events in promoting reading, like the English Martyrs School and Sixth Form College who are celebrating the success of its first ever word Millionaires. It’s part of an Accelerated Reader programme where students are encouraged to read for pleasure for a minimum of 25 minutes every day and has been so successful that since September, 13 Students have managed to read over a million words. I agree absolutely with English Teacher and Literacy Co- ordinator Emma Fox when she says ‘A book will enhance a child’s imagination and vocabulary - something that gets lost in this technological age’ and I would say that goes for people of all ages. Call me an old fuddy duddy but I would rather have a proper book in my hand than one of those electronic readers. They have their uses but will never replace the real thing.

Talking about the real thing, how refreshing it was to be introduced to two constituents of the MP for Dewsbury, Paula Sherriff, this week just by happenstance. Why? Because they both know Hartlepool very well. One visits the place regularly on business trips and the other has family roots here. Given all the recent negativity around Channel Four’s ‘Skint Britain’ it was actually very encouraging to hear them wax lyrical about how fabulous the Town and the people are and what a wonderful place to visit it is. They also had a lot to say on the wild flowers grown deliberately on the central reservations of our main highways, ‘What an inspirational, beautiful and welcoming site which must save the Council a fortune in maintenance'.

Genuine praise like that may feel as rare as rocking horse muck to some but I wasn’t surprised at all. Hartlepool IS a place to celebrate and so it should be. Which is why I’m very pleased to join the new ‘Love Hartlepool’ campaign launched this week by the Council in a push back against the ‘unfair’ portrayal of Hartlepool in the ‘Skint Britain’ documentary. The project aims to see local organisations and residents working together for the good of the Town; ‘Singing the Town’s praises and promoting its successes far and wide’. Something I’ve been firmly focussed on doing since getting elected. Hartlepool has a rich history as well as strong, resilient and outward looking communities. We have so much to offer and a new renaissance is within our grasp on jobs, tourism and inward investment if we get it right. The ‘Love Hartlepool’ campaign is the right response to the negativity created by the likes of ‘Skint Britain’ but it’s also long overdue so let’s all put our shoulder to the wheel and do our bit.

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