New Year messages are traditionally upbeat and filled with hope for the fresh year ahead.
But it would be remiss of me to look ahead without pausing to reflect on what was probably the worst year in Boston’s history.
I refer, of course, to the great flood which, although it happened towards the end of 2013, left an impact felt by many throughout 2014.
2014 was a long, hard-fought year. It began with an end - the end of the massive clean-up necessary after the devastating flood of December 5. That wasn’t the end of the evidence of the flood or the end of the impact of the flood.
For many the misery has gone on for most of 2014, and involvement for the council has seen out the year and continues into 2015.
However, the worst is now behind us and we are all much better prepared should the now all-too-easily imaginable ever happen again.
The council made its case for extra special treatment and received the biggest cash award from the Government’s flood relief funding pot.
As a result, those with flood-affected properties were able to take advantage of council tax relief, business rate relief, help to offset the worst effects of flood damage to their businesses and opportunity to improve the flood resilience of their properties.
One of the positives to be fully demonstrated in the past 12 months was the resilience of the community of Boston. Alone it bonded into a vital force for good, determined to get Boston back on its feet. Volunteers of all persuasions came to the fore, determined to help those less fortunate than themselves. Happily we are now emerging from under the black cloud cast by the flood. The end of this dark chapter in our town was marked with a small event of thanks at which the Mayor, the Chief Constable and others in positions of authority paid rightful homage to the efforts of so many.
We enjoyed successful Christmas celebrations, with the biggest Christmas tree the town has ever had, putting behind us the rather reduced spirit of the Christmas before.
The town has rallied, with shop vacancy rates better than most and footfall in the town centre at a four-year high.
The council, in its most difficult year with not just the aftershocks of the flood but also the continuing effects of the national recession and grim austerity measures, has done more with less.
It found ways to save money by sharing some vital frontline services, such as refuse collection, and by making the most of its own assets, such as moving its environmental services from a rented site to one it owns.
The council’s expertise in managing CCTV has also been recognised with an agreement now in place for us to take over the control and monitoring of South Holland District Council’s CCTV system. It will be upgraded to match our own state-of-the-art system. We are also negotiating to do the same for East Lindsey District Council.
These will generate revenue streams for Boston Borough Council while at the same time helping the other two authorities make savings.
Efforts in other areas have seen success - improved facilities at the Geoff Moulder Leisure Complex seeing increases in swim and gym attendances and recognition for improvements in the environment with a silver gilt award in the in-bloom competition.
No one is pretending that there are not still difficult times ahead, but they will be met in 2015 with the same energy as those in 2014 were met.
There is a terrible cliché which says what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Nobody died, and we are stronger, fitter, leaner and ready to take whatever 2015 may throw at us.
Coun Peter Bedford
leader, Boston Borough Council