“Flying the flag for Lincolnshire, louder, harder and higher” will be a “driving requirement” in 2022, despite the challenges that lay ahead, the county council’s economy boss has said.
Lincolnshire County Council’s Executive Portfolio Holder for Economy Councillor Colin Davie said there had been a number of success stories in 2021. He signalled extra funding for businesses affected by COVID, the Government’s announcement around Free Ports in the Humber and East Midlands and the retainment of the Red Arrows.
He said the success of the Holbeach Food Enterprise Zone in selling the entirety of its first phase in a few months was a “huge story”, adding: “The massive interest in food generally and in Lincolnshire as a place for innovation in that sector is incredibly important… getting that message out about opportunities across Greater Lincolnshire is a game changer in the medium to long term.”
However, he acknowledged there would be challenges, including labour shortages and material cost rises, and supply shortages and diplomatic relations or difficulties internationally.
More than 600,000 people in the UK have quit their jobs during the pandemic, while materials and construction costs have risen by 50 per cent in some cases.
Coun Davie said some of the issues would be tackled by “skills programming” – getting into schools earlier to promote to young people the benefits of Lincolnshire life.
“Young people need to know what’s available in Lincolnshire – they can have great jobs, great opportunities, a great life without actually leaving the county.
“Selling Lincolnshire has been one of my big themes of next year, I intend to put my foot on the gas even more in ’22 with my colleagues in North and North East Lincolnshire, making that clear argument that the Greater Lincolnshire economic area is valuable, is a huge contributor to the national economy and by working with us, we can deliver greater benefits not just for our place, but for the national economy.
“So flying the flag for Lincolnshire, louder, harder and higher in ‘22 is going to be my absolute driving requirement that we get the Lincolnshire message out even further and even wider.”
Coun Davie said tensions in countries such as China and Russia would have ripples on the global market that would impact Lincolnshire, warning “the national debt for some of our global leading economies is now so huge, that further shocks to the system could derail the economy for years to come.”
Further pressure had also been placed on the council’s capital projects by national issues such as COVID.
Holdingham Roundabout, near Sleaford, which opened earlier this week, was completed under budget, however, Coun Davie said it had been “tightly managed” to tackle serious pressures.
“Getting those projects delivered on time on budget, or within the variance of the budget without going over it, is incredibly challenging,” he said.
“Can we deliver all of it in the current climate? I’m not sure about that. We will look at that in the new year and see where we are but the key thing is working together with our partners and our teams around construction, to make sure that we deliver the biggest bang we can for taxpayers money, and that’s what we’re going to continue to do in the future.”
Coun Davie said there was plenty of opportunity and the county had a “fantastic offer” in terms of tourism. The recent launch of the Visit Lincolnshire website’s business section was hoped to be a boon to the sector.
However, asked about the future, he said: “If you asked me a couple of days ago, I would say next year was looking really, really exciting for the tourism sector, but with further news stories about COVID restrictions and how it might impact, I’m just a little bit more cautious.”
He said local tourism, and the industry would face more competition next year from European destinations warning that if the aviation sector was shut down any further it could bankrupt it. Therefore there was a need to promote flights and flying to other parts of the world to prevent it from becoming something “only the rich can do”.
However, he said again that workforce would be the “big challenge” for the leisure and hospitality industry.
“The care sector and leisure and hospitality normally recruit from the same sort of section of available workforce. It’s highly competitive,” he said.
Finally, he added there was a challenge in making sure tourism businesses were digitally connected so that they did not get “so far behind that their businesses will fail”.
He said people needed to “trust the government to lead them through dark times”.
“There are some questions that only inflame people to the point where they can’t actually trust people anymore.
“We’re seeing that with vaccinations now, people are starting to see flat-line on people wanting boosters, etc, because there’s no trust that what they’re having is going to actually get them to a better place.”
However, he also said he would be “extremely disappointed” if Christmas parties reported in the national media actually took place.
He said headlines were “not pleasant to read as a member of the party”.
“We elect our politicians to make our laws for our society, and laws and rules apply not just to those who are not the law makers, but the lawmakers themselves.
“I would be extremely disappointed if it comes to pass that evidence is produced that clearly shows those rules and laws we’re all living with here in Lincolnshire, were not being obeyed by people in Westminster.”