December 24, 2020 10.46 am This story is over 9 months old

Reflections 2020: Richard Wright – 2020, the year the world stood still

“Remain cautious to protect loved ones”

A great deal of collective strength has been required to get through this year, which has at many times felt tough and turbulent due to Coronavirus.

But before we close the book on 2020 – perhaps to put at the back of the shelf for a while – it’s important to reflect on how well we’ve all responded to its challenges.

The pandemic has held a mirror up to our actions as individuals and as communities.

Among the toughest questions it’s asked of us all has been “Will you step up to help others?”, and in our district and across Lincolnshire the answer has been a resounding “Yes”.

NHS colleagues, emergency services and key workers, from drivers and shop workers to teachers, carers and our own refuse crews, have shown huge dedication and continue to do so.

Businesses have put measures in place to protect health and co-operated by closing as required, while supporting their staff.

And in our communities, good deeds are taking place between friends, family, neighbours, strangers and volunteers every day.

We know this because of the 100-odd nominations made by grateful recipients of such actions for our NK Community Champions Awards. Our usual ten categories were broadened to 12 making a record number of award winners and finalists, commended during a virtual celebration supported by community-minded sponsors. If you’ve been the recipient of recent community-focused group or individual actions, you can nominate at www.nkawards.org

As a council we’ve responded to 2020’s challenges by offering support wherever possible.

We’ve reached out to thousands of potentially vulnerable residents via letter and phone, checked in with tenants, created additional hardship help and distributed Government self-isolation grants. We’re currently processing applications for the latest government business support grants, having distributed almost £20 million in the first lockdown. Essential services continue and our democratic processes have moved into a new era online.

All the while we’re investing in our district – and there’s so much in the pipeline for 2021.

Our £1.2 million programme to extend and enhance the National Centre for Craft & Design in Sleaford is well on schedule and we can’t wait to show you the results before summer.

We also hope to be on track for a spring 2021 finish for 15 new business units at Discovery Court in North Hykeham. It’ll provide 21,000 sq ft of start-up and grow-on space.

We’ve submitted proposals for our £56 million Sleaford Moor Enterprise Park, marrying together potential for 500 jobs with measures to respond to climate change.

The environment is front and centre in our ambitions more than ever. For example, in early 2021 we hope to adopt our newly formed Tree Strategy increasing trees on council owned land and working with partners to increase tree canopy cover across NK.

Next year three crucial blueprints for the district’s longer-term future will also come further into focus.

We’re shaping our NK Plan 2021-23, which sets out our immediate vision, backed up by our new Community Strategy which outlines our 10-year plans. We’re aiming for North Kesteven to be carbon neutral by 2030 and our exciting Climate Emergency Strategy and Action Plan details the steps towards that target while delivering broader improvements in life and work.

Check our social media @northkestevendc and the consultations section of our website at n-kesteven.gov.uk/your-council/have-your-say for how to input on these three plans.

And until the sun eventually sets on Coronavirus, please remain cautious and careful in what you do, to protect yourself, loved ones and those continuing to deliver such valued public services. While vaccines are beginning to be rolled out, there’s still a long road ahead and we must still remain alert and aware with every step we take.

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Richard Wright is the leader of North Kesteven District Council.