Rutland may be England’s smallest county, an extremely sparse rural area in the East Midlands with a population of just 38,400 but, over the past few months, we have suffered the huge impact of the loss of two major employers in the area - RAF Cottesmore and Ashwell Prison.
It’s been a huge challenge for the council, but we have remained positive about the future, working closely with the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) since the early stages of the announcements to ensure that the best possible solutions for the community are considered.
Any local authority has to take a proactive approach to ensure that its citizens are well equipped to face the future. You cannot become complacent and wait around to see what happens when faced with such grim developments.
So we have taken the initiative to put other options on the table. Having recently submitted two national bids for government funding we are hoping to build growth in our economy within two years. To secure business strength in our rural area, one of the bids is to Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) for investment for high speed broadband across the whole county by 2013.
By putting this bid to BDUK, we are committing ourselves to improving the long term prospects of the area. If we are successful we plan to work with partners to ensure that a county-wide solution is possible which provides consumer choice, a high take-up of investment in the area and the opportunity for an effective public service network.
Our second bid has gone in to the Department for Transport is for sustainable transport. This aims to strengthen Rutland’s Dial a Ride Bus services serving the county, boosting our tourism industry by providing strong transport links between key tourist areas, including our main attraction Rutland Water, and the county’s market towns and surrounding areas.
We intend to make sure these sites will become much more accessible to visitors with the creation of a sustainable transport hub, left, and infrastructure. This proposal would help holidaymakers get around the entire county more easily, without using their own transport, and boosting our tourism offering while making Rutland an even more attractive place to visit.
We are still awaiting the announcements on the future of both sites from the MoD and MoJ and will continue to work with them to ensure a positive outcome for our community.
If the bids are backed we can say that as a local authority we have been doing our job to seek to secure the future of our community and citzens.
We may not be successful - this time. But if we are not, we won’t deterred and will look at other options for our area.
The challenge is about looking at all the opportunities available for our community and remaining positive about our future during these difficult times.
Helen Briggs, chief executive, Rutland CC