Reflections 2012: A challenging year, focused on vital services

This last year has been challenging for many of us, and we’ve had to prioritize our services in line with the government’s comprehensive spending review.

We’ve focused on services that are vital for residents’ security and safety, particularly highways maintenance, children’s safeguarding and preparations for major incidents such as flooding. And we’ll continue to do so as we move forward into 2013.

Once again we’re ready to keep roads clear during severe weather. With a delivery of 15,000 tonnes of Egyptian salt, we’ve now got 35,000 tonnes available for this winter.  Just over a third of the county’s roads are salted – including all A and B roads – by 43 gritters, each with its own route, exceeding government expectations.

We’ve already been put to the test by the recent cold snap, and are prepared for any more freezing conditions.

Our popular Gritter Twitter is running again, so if you follow social media, you can keep updated with local road conditions, quickly and easily.

We’ve responded quickly to flooding incidents in the last few days, helping local communities to deal with challenging circumstances.

Keeping the county’s roads in good condition is vital in such a large rural county. So it’s good news that the Dept of Transport has given the County Council an additional £6.451m to be spent over the next two years on renewing, repairing and extending the life of roads across the county. The funding can be used for improvements such as road resurfacing, maintenance to bridges or repairing damage caused by severe weather.

January 2013 will mark the 60th anniversary of devastating flooding on Lincolnshire’s coast, when strong winds and a high tide caused the sea to flood inland. Forty two people lost their lives and thousands of hectares of land were flooded with sea water.

Since then many lessons have been learned, and we’ve been working with partners to ensure that coastal communities will have the resilience to cope if such a disaster were ever to happen again.

We’ve prepared a flood risk management strategy with partners which sets out what all the relevant organisations are expected to do. It also outlines how local people can be prepared, and get all the support they need.  If you live in an area that could be affected by flooding, you’ll find lots of advice online.  You can also register for free alerts from the Environment Agency’s Free Floodline service online or phone 0845 988 1188.

The Councillor Big Society Fund has continued to give much-needed support to local groups and good causes across Lincolnshire. From youth clubs to village halls, and from Jubilee celebrations to local nature areas, many initiatives have benefited from grants of up to £2,000 from their local councillors. All the projects are community based, and wouldn’t happen without the enthusiasm and effort of the individuals involved.

Our campaign to bring superfast broadband to Lincolnshire next year has been hugely successful. The EU has recently given ‘state-aid approval’ to government plans that will see public money invested in improving broadband infrastructure. We’ll start rolling it out to 90% of properties by 2015.

There’s no doubt that budgets will continue to be tight in the year ahead, but we will continue to manage resources carefully to ensure that the vulnerable in our society have the support they need, and that Lincolnshire remains a secure place to live.

— Martin Hill OBE is the Conservative Leader of Lincolnshire County Council.