Reflections 2011: A testing year for many

Karl McCartney is the Conservative MP for Lincoln

Both globally and nationally, 2011 has been a turbulent and challenging year. There were uprisings in the Middle East that came to be known as the Arab Spring, subsequent British military action that contributed to the overthrow of Colonel Gaddafi in Libya, as well as, of course, the ongoing Euro crisis and various financial bailouts for Eurozone countries.

At home, despicable summer riots took place in towns and cities around our country, various, but not numerous, public sector workers went on strike in protest at the Government’s pension reforms while a Royal Wedding perhaps lightened the public mood.

The British economy struggled to grow and, much to everyone’s frustration, unemployment continued to rise and has sadly now hit a 17 year high. Not all of the economic news in Britain was negative, and I think it is worth reminding ourselves of this. For instance, in the first nine months of this year, the UK economy grew at the same speed as the US economy – despite their massive fiscal stimulus.

In the past year the private sector created over half a million extra jobs, our borrowing costs fell to record lows, showing that UK government debt is seen as a safe haven in the global debt storm. In addition, businesses invested some £91.4 billion across the economy in 2011, up 9% on the year before and Britain’s credit rating has been restored to its previous highest possible level. This is, of course, small comfort to those who have suffered job losses and I know that our government is doing – and shall continue to do – all it can to reverse this very worrying trend.

Despite the very real economic difficulties for our city, county and country, we in Lincoln and Lincolnshire achieved a great deal over the last 12 months. In 2011, I, along with my colleagues at Lincolnshire County Council and the City of Lincoln Council, managed to persuade the Department for Transport to allow us to finally erect highway brown ‘tourist’ signs on the A1, directing travellers to attractions within our county.

I hope and believe that this further signage now being provided after decades of campaigning will point many more visitors to our city and its attractions, such as Lincoln Castle, the Cathedral, the Magna Carta and the numerous other museums and galleries in and around Lincoln over the coming months and years.

Research has shown that on days out over 12% of people have no fixed-destination on departure, and so newly installed or improved and clear signage to our city can only help our tourist sector, the university and other businesses.

I am also pleased at the progress we have made in providing improved cross-country train services for Lincoln. For example, there will soon be an additional weekday service from Lincoln to Newark Northgate at 3.45pm with a return at 4.45pm. Both will connect with London services at Newark. The relatively slow and less frequent rail links to other cities that Lincoln has endured for too long is an issue I will continue to pursue.

It was also in 2011 that we secured agreement from the Department for Transport that it will make a significant contribution to the building of the Lincoln Eastern Bypass. I know from my postbag that there is much enthusiasm and support for the Bypass from individuals and the various businesses and organisations based within the city and county. I am hopeful that work on the building of the road will commence in 2014 and be completed in 2016. I have long been a passionate supporter of this scheme that will both ease congestion in the city and I believe will be a catalyst for further sustainable economic growth in Lincoln and Lincolnshire.

Although 2011 was a particularly testing year for many, I think we should be pleased with the progress our country has made over the last year, which, I am sure, will prove to be for the betterment of our city and county in the years to come.