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By Leader of East Lindsey District Council

How do you describe a year where all your assumptions of what is normal have been challenged?

As we started 2020 the threat of COVID-19 was a distant one; the Chinese authorities acknowledged they were treating cases of pneumonia of an unknown cause in a city called Wuhan. My first unease about what was coming our way was hearing that the authorities in China had banned hospital workers in the city from discussing the disease publicly. Not a good sign… and then we learnt of the death of Dr Li Wenliang, who bravely tried to ring early alarm bells about how the virus could spin out of control. We now understand that before his death, he was forced to sign a statement denouncing his previous warnings.

The rapid nature of the spread of the disease in the Far East began to impact how we in the UK viewed the virus and what might happen here. January and February saw the relentless spread of the virus to Africa and Europe. Early March saw statements in parliament by Chancellor Rishi Sunak announcing billions of pounds worth of support to help the UK cope with the expected onslaught of the virus.

Just what was coming our way?

The questions were unending, and as it looked more likely that a lockdown of society and the economy was inevitable, we were faced with some stark realities. We had to prioritise in short time what we did, how we did it, and for who. We also had to make sure that we survived as a council. Our structures needed to be robust enough to emerge to rebuild and revitalise what ever Covid had impacted on.

Our priorities soon emerged: Maintain vital services, support our most vulnerable, make sure our business community could access government grants speedily and fairly, inform and share information, enable our officer corps to work effectively in the new environment, manage our finances to support our objectives, support our commitment to partnership working through contributing to the Lincolnshire Resilience Forum and other collaborative organisations where needed.

The words I have written are easily typed but the enormity of the task has been daunting, and this work has not stopped. I have nothing but praise for the efforts of all ELDC staff who have risen to the challenge. And also, our councillors, many of whom have been at the centre of community efforts.

We are still living under the yoke of the virus and it is not an exaggeration to say that the pressures on societal cohesion and the economy probably have not been experienced since the end of WWII… equally I doubt that there has ever been an occasion since then, that has witnessed the emergence of the most incredible and sustained community response we have ever seen. Neighbours have become neighbours and so many community groups have given vital support to some of our most vulnerable residents. This has been something to behold. The worth of the volunteer is priceless. Thank you.

Many of our residents will have suffered personal tragedy this year becomes of the virus. We should never forget that.

As this difficult year comes to an end we must look to the future. The vaccine rollout gives us hope. We are excited about the prospects for our Connected Coast Towns Fund bids. The tourism economy has great potential across the whole district as we anticipate staycations for some years to come. Our ambitions for our market towns will look to support the ‘high street’ in these challenging times. Our Strategic Alliance with Boston Borough Council is exciting as we attract investment to both areas. Our ambition to improve access to skills training will hopefully be delivered in Horncastle and Skegness. There is much to be optimistic about.

In the meantime, let’s keep our defences up against Covid 19, and let’s look forward to a peaceful Christmas and a happier new year.

If 2020 were a brand, what would its tagline be?

“2020: So bad they named it twice.”

Craig Leyland is the leader of East Lindsey District Council.

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By Leader of East Lindsey District Council

This year has seen East Lindsey District Council have to make many difficult decisions. Local government funding has continued to be a challenge and we have had to make changes to the way we deliver services.

There have been many discussions about how councils should operate and indeed whether they should even exist. The devolution and unitary debates may still be voiced but it is important to understand what we do well and how we can do even better.

When I first became a district councillor in 2007 I was amazed at the breadth of services our district council provides – services ranging from food hygiene in restaurants to managing contaminated land and looking after the wellbeing of some of our most vulnerable residents.

This is on top of the services our residents will generally expect us to deliver and all in one of the largest districts in the country… that is challenging in itself.

Now, as leader of East Lindsey District Council, it is evident that the best way forward is to work cooperatively with our neighbouring councils and partners.

As an administration, we have prioritised looking after our most vulnerable residents and seeking to grow the economy of the district.

Both these endeavours are best achieved by collaborative working.

Our excellent wellbeing service succeeds because we work with Lincolnshire County Council and our district partners.

Our economic ambitions are being progressed by our excellent tourism team working with West Lindsey District Council, the recently formed Coastal Business Improvement District, and Visit Lincoln, to promote the Lincolnshire Wolds and coast as great places to visit and do business.

We continue to see significant growth in the visitor economy and other key business sectors, such as manufacturing and agri-food, are performing exceptionally well.

Collaborative working extends to protecting our residents too, from threats anticipated and unknown.

This last year has seen the Lincolnshire Resilience Forum manage two major public safety threats in East Lindsey, namely the coastal flood surge in January and the discovery of a cache of mustard gas in Woodhall Spa.

The forum brings together all of our emergency services, councils and government agencies to coordinate effective responses to such emergencies.

Their work is recognised nationally and as ward councillor for Woodhall Spa I am very grateful for their efforts.

I am also extremely grateful to all our residents who contribute to the rich tapestry that is East Lindsey.

I am very thankful to all our officers who have met the challenges of this last year and I would like to wish all of our residents a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Last, but not least, please do take time to spare a thought for those who might find this time of year lonely or difficult.

Craig Leyland is the leader of East Lindsey District Council.