It was turbulent at times last year, but much has been achieved locally and there is a genuine feeling of enthusiasm for 2023, despite the challenges we still face.
Throughout, a genuine steadfast commitment to the communities in Ashby, Barton, Bottesford, Brigg, the Isle of Axholme, Scunthorpe and everywhere in-between remained here in North Lincolnshire – this was not just from the hardworking members and officers here at the council but other local partners and in Government.
The dedication to levelling-up endured with huge amounts of government cash made available to enable businesses to bounce back from the pandemic, so that the most vulnerable here were protected from the worst effects of global inflation and to ensure the impact of an illegal war in Ukraine on hardworking families across Lincolnshire was mitigated against as much as possible.
We started the year as a council by pledging to be net zero by 2030 in launching A Green Future. This flagship policy is embedded into the heart of everything we do as a council, protecting and enhancing our natural environment now and into the future.
These net zero plans are genuine, ambitious and achievable though we recognise they must not have a detrimental impact on business growth, job creation nor living standards. Industry is an essential part of maintaining and improving prosperity.
Our plans are also designed so we can create and enable lots of opportunities for people in North Lincolnshire to get involved; while we can have a massive impact as a council, the outcomes will be super-charged if everyone gets involved.
We have worked on delivering help for families to stay warm this winter through investing Government cash to create energy efficient homes – saving thousands of pounds off heating bills.
This was on top of the money provided from Government for pensioners to help with the rising cost of living, 60,000 or more households sharing £6m through the £150 energy rebate, an additional £400 off bills through the winter plus the Energy Price Guarantee protecting everyone from rising energy costs.
We have agreed a route for a new link road for Barton, we are very close to appointing a contractor to build the Burringham bypass, had massive investment in new education facilities such as Trent View College, a new complex care campus and, just sneaking into the back end of the year, confirmation from Government of hundreds of thousands of pounds for two new teaching blocks at Sir John Nelthorpe School in Brigg.
We have added a fifth to our stable of Green Flag accredited parks, we’ve secured planning permission for a new revolutionary High Street concept with work now having started, we’ve continued our war on litter louts – they will not win.
We’ve seen the roll out of solar panels on schools, the genesis of an advanced EV charger network, free swimming during summer holidays for all children, cycling and walking routes enhanced, green spaces secured and protected for communities, and we have revolutionised our pothole repairs – filling and fixing them up to ten times quicker than ever before.
As I write we are approaching a milestone moment in our ambitious tree planting scheme, with the 100,000th sapling to be planted in short order and we have moved forward plans to protect even more places here as areas of outstanding natural beauty while also creating a raft of 20mph zones in rural towns and villages.
Among these many successes we also received incredible recognition for the support and care given to the most vulnerable.
The care and support for adults who do not get it from family, friends or neighbours was ranked among the best in the country.
And, Ofsted commended the “visionary leadership and unwavering ambition” of the council as our children’s services was rated outstanding in all areas. We join only a handful of other councils nationally with these ratings though with no recommendations we can proudly say we are the best in the country.
2022 was of course the year we lost Queen Elizabeth II – a huge loss for the country and for the world after more than 70 years on the throne. It was a time to reflect and remember but also a time to celebrate a life well lived. Her stoicism and commitment to duty is a lesson for us all.
This commitment to duty resonates as we make greater inroads towards devolution here in Lincolnshire.
We are in talks with Government, and we will be meeting with ministers to get the best possible deal for Lincolnshire communities.
The devolution deal we are seeking primarily focuses on some pretty “high-level strategic priorities” – which sounds really quite pompous but if we get that bit right then we drag power and money from London and place it in the hands of the fine people of Lincolnshire – the knock-on effect from getting that “strategic” part right is huge for communities across the county.
We will get better outcomes as we can pull the levers locally to attract better-paid jobs, fast-track greater investment from businesses and dramatically improve digital, road and rail connectivity. In turn, this will drive greater productivity and prosperity.
Making improvements to productivity and prosperity, these two things, in simple terms, equate to more coin in your back pocket.
With all these plans designed to create even better outcomes for families and communities in Lincolnshire, and backed as we are from Government, 2023 promises to be another year of progress and opportunity.