It’s safe to say that we have seen another mixed year, but if there’s one thing that 2021 has shown me is that so much can still be achieved, despite great challenges.
The ever-changing global virus may have dominated the headlines over the past two years, however in Lincolnshire, we have been determined that it will not prevent our progress or stop our ambitions.
Lincolnshire County Council has been forced to change the way we work and deliver our services. But I have been so proud of how we have adapted to challenges never faced before, so that we are still able to care for the most vulnerable people in our communities and improve the lives of residents.
There have of course been delays and difficulties, but we are a resilient county and residents and businesses have shown this throughout.
In the last 12 months there have been many achievements.
Our commitment to the needs of our environment came to the fore, with the launch of our Green Masterplan and the first ever Lincolnshire Climate Summit.
And the opening of the Lincoln Eastern Bypass showed that we have continued to meet our deadlines, despite the difficulties brought by COVID.
Work continues on many major development projects in the county and we have been successful in bids for government funding for new improvement works.
Although the construction of new roads and infrastructure is always needed, our focus for the coming year will be on ensuring we have the day-to-day funding we need to run vital services, in particular adult social care and maintaining our roads.
Last year, the government reduced our road maintenance grant by £12 million, and we’re now lobbying for that to be reinstated, as a minimum.
That financial shortfall was met from our own council reserves – money we had saved through careful financial management over the years.
In early 2022, we’ll be setting our budget for next year and we expect to have to use more of our limited reserves to balance the books. However, we will still be one of the lowest charging county councils in the country.
Lincolnshire has obviously not been able to escape from this new COVID variant – Omicron – but as with all previous waves of the virus, our public health teams will be working hard to support schools, care homes and residents to lessen the impact.
But we must also do our bit by following the guidance and taking up our vaccinations.
The booster vaccine programme is progressing at a considerable pace with residents across the county coming forward to increase their protection.
It’s easy to feel like the impacts of COVID are never-ending, as they still affect what we can do, where we can go and who we can see.
But I am proud of what has been achieved this year both by our residents, and by our council.
And as we approach the start of a new year, we can all take comfort that this is a clear sign that going forward, we can deal with whatever future challenges may come our way.
Martin Hill OBE is the Conservative Leader of Lincolnshire County Council. A former farmer, Martin was elected to Lincolnshire County Council in 1993, representing Folkingham Rural. He became council leader in 2005 and was later awarded an OBE for services to Lincolnshire. Martin lives in a former pub at Kirby Underwood with wife Janice and their irrepressible Patterdale Terrier, Boris.