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Rutland County Council leader says Future Rutland Conversation will continue throughout 2022

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Oliver Hemsley, Rutland County Council leader (Con), shares his new year message.

It’s hard to sum up 2021 as a year which has had so many ups and downs for all of us. And yet, despite 12 months of constant change, you could be forgiven for feeling like we’ve arrived back at roughly the same place we found ourselves at the start of 2021. Thankfully, unlike last year, we’ve been able to share the Christmas period with friends and family.

However, as we look to January and the New Year, we face the prospect of yet another covid wave. This time it’s driven by Omicron and it’s hard to imagine that the Government will not introduce new safety measures very soon, to try and curb the spread of this latest variant. Indeed, it may be that extra guidance or restrictions have already been announced since writing this column, such is the speed with which things can change.

While it’s impossible to reflect on the year that’s just passed or look ahead to 2022 without mentioning covid, I don’t want to focus on this. Not least because I know how many of you are understandably tired of the pandemic.

Instead, I would like to reflect on what comes next for our county. Hard work, personal responsibility and community spirit have helped to keep Rutland relatively safe from covid over the past two years and I’m hopeful that this will continue to be the case. It’s important, therefore, that we do look ahead to the future.

This has already begun in the form of the Future Rutland Conversation, which will produce a new shared vision and a set of long-term goals for the county early in the new year. The vision is not the only by-product of the Future Rutland Conversation. I know that many of you have welcomed the opportunity to talk about the things that matter to you, leading to an open dialogue about important topics and contentious issues. This is something I want to continue to do throughout 2022 and beyond, particularly when it comes to developing our new Local Plan.

Health, transport and the environment were all mentioned repeatedly throughout Future Rutland by people and communities who want to see positive change in these areas. Again, work is already underway here and will continue throughout 2022. We will soon have a new place-based health and wellbeing strategy for Rutland, which aims to create the right conditions for people to start well and thrive throughout the whole of their lives. This work is being complemented by members of our scrutiny function, who’ve been speaking to people about their ability to access local GP services, so we can help to guide improvements here, also.

As we head into 2022, work will continue on a new bus service improvement plan for Rutland, which aims to create a county where buses are a realistic transport choice, so residents and visitors can travel by bus wherever and whenever they need. Such improvements would also make a valuable contribution to our environment, supporting the efforts of Rutland’s community climate action groups, which are being coordinated by Climate Champion Coun Lucy Stephenson. Add to this our work to align local waste and recycling services with the government’s new environment bill, and the decision by councillors to pledge support for the climate and ecology bill that aims to reduce emissions and restore biodiversity, and you can see real progress is being made.

It’s hugely encouraging and a testament to our county that we’ve been able to achieve so much over the past 12 months, despite the continuing disruption of covid. We have made real progress together and can see many green shoots that will continue to grow and bear fruit throughout 2022. It is this positivity and sense of achievement that I want to focus on at the start of a new year, rather than any uncertainty about what may lie ahead.

I am extremely grateful to everyone who has worked with the council to help and support people this past year and make the kind progress that we have seen.

I look forward to continuing this important work in the coming months and tackling any new challenges that may lie ahead for us.

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