Last Sunday, I was delighted to attend the historic match between Millom and Red Star Belgrade, which was a fantastic occasion for the town and for the game of rugby league.

I got the opportunity to speak to players and officials from Red Star and they were incredibly complimentary of Millom RLFC and the way they had been welcomed and looked after by all involved with the club - and the people of the town. One of their young players told me it had been the best weekend of his life.

Well done to everybody involved and the very best of luck to the Woollybacks who will hopefully progress to the next round, urged on by another large crowd at Devonshire Road.

On Tuesday, I am presenting my budget to our full council. For the fourth consecutive year, it will be a budget with no cuts to services at all; below inflation increases to council tax; freezing of car parking charges, significant investment into bereavement services and a launch of the council’s strategy for tourism which I believe will deliver significant benefits throughout the borough.

The council is now beginning to reap the benefits of being run like a modern 21st century business which, with a multi-million pound turnover and over 250 staff, is exactly how it should be. We are now in an enviable position of where every single role in the council is filled by an employee of the council, and have brought to an end a culture of many roles – including senior ones - being held by expensive consultants and interims.

We now have continuity and consistency and the transfer of skills and knowledge that creates the right environment for all staff to realise their full potential, We have also created a fantastic apprenticeship programme that is giving opportunities for our young people and building long-term resilience into the council by growing our own staff.

I am proud to say that all this, and more, was recognised by the external team that reviewed us late last year under the Local Government Association’s Corporate Peer Challenge process.

The review team spent three days here, carrying out a forensic examination of our strategies, finances, partnerships, councillors and staff. And the report the LGA published on Copeland Council last week was glowing.

Highlights were numerous, but those I am most proud of included the credit that has been given to our excellent workforce – who are described as ‘proud to work for Copeland’ – and the praise that the LGA heaps on our social inclusion policy, our workforce strategy, our collaboration with partners and our town centre regeneration programme.

We can’t be complacent however, and the report helps us keep a sharp focus on everything that everyone at Copeland Council is working so hard to achieve for the benefit of our residents.