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New leader for Rutland County Council Lucy Stephenson pens her first column

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Unity is the buzz word of the moment – I have certainly used it frequently in the last two weeks, writes Rutland County Council leader Lucy Stephenson (Con).

Various councillor colleagues have referenced a need for unity to get things done well for residents. I suspect there are few people who would disagree that a unified approach to a given situation is always going to bear better fruit than an approach that polarises opinion and creates disharmony. ‘Unity’ of course is not the end goal, rather the necessary conditions to enable an outcome that is welcomed by as many people as possible – in short working for the greater good.

Identifying the magic ingredient necessary for success is one thing of course, getting it another. It would be foolhardy to ignore the disharmony that has been an unpleasant backdrop to much of council life over the past couple of years.

Coun Lucy Stephenson
Coun Lucy Stephenson

The unprecedented number of by–elections one symptom of this. We therefore start afresh. Part of starting afresh is to understand the value of history. A ‘I told you so’ approach I am not convinced is useful; it merely serves to entrench polarised views, pushing the desired drive for unity to the back of the room. It is, however, important to learn from the past and demonstrate that learning in future actions.

One obvious ‘must have’ for a unified approach is a sense of what it is that we wish to deliver. This is where Future Rutland and what you told us mattered to you is absolute gold dust. Not only does it give a clear steer to the decision makers, but it also balances individual’s views. Achieving unity should not be mistaken for shouting loudly and bullying people into submission until they agree.

You cannot please all of the people all of the time (verge cutting a classic example); we also know there are constraints beyond our control such as government legislation. ‘Future Rutland’, however, is not a fundamentally flawed attempt to create a ‘Rutopia’, rather it encourages us to look through a different lens: a determination to find common ground; this must be an active choice and ‘determination’ is very much required: social media tells us it is far easier and possibly more fun to disagree than it is to agree. A genuine thirst for unity requires compromise.

Every council has a duty to produce a corporate strategy, Rutland’s for 2022 – 2027 is now out for you to have a look and comment before it heads on its legislative journey to be adopted at full council in July. I hope you will see how the Future Rutland Vision is the backbone upon which the ribs of delivery from a council perspective have grown: www.rutland.gov.uk/corporatestrategy. I really hope that you hear your own voices within the strategy.

I really hope you are pleased with it. Either way, please tell us. I am glad to finish on ‘Hope’ – it is a little ray of sunshine word. I shall pop it with ‘unity’ – we can definitely do this. We are Rutland.

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