Blackpool’s council boss reflects on running the town ‘from her kitchen’ during Covid

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The individual chosen to lead Blackpool Council usually operates out of a smart office in Bickerstaffe House with a sweeping view across the resort.

 

But not so Coun Lynn Williams.

Having been elected council leader in July last year, she describes herself as ‘leading from the kitchen’.

It’s a reference to the fact that like many of us for the past year or more, she has been working from home.

Coun Lynn WilliamsCoun Lynn Williams

Taking stock on her first 12 months in the role, she remarks all her time in charge has been during the Covid pandemic.

So when asked what the biggest challenge has been during her first year in office, it’s difficult to know where to start.

She said: “Being the leader effectively from my kitchen presents different challenges, but we have all had that.

“The main challenge has been our Covid response, but also that everything else continued as well.

Plans for new housing include development at Grange ParkPlans for new housing include development at Grange Park

“I’m particularly proud of Children’s Services where we have made significant progress with Ofsted and the children’s commissioner, with the Secretary of State saying our services no longer needed to be run by the children’s commissioner.

“Now coming out of Covid we have to focus on our young people as they have been disproportionately impacted. ”

While multi-million pound regeneration projects are popping up all over the town centre, for Coun Williams it’s also about getting ‘stuff done’ that means a lot of residents.

She said: “One of the reasons I became a councillor is because my eldest daughter said ‘there’s not much going on here’.

“I want to make it better for everyone who lives here – and that means things like cleaner streets and a better environment which is stuff that matters to residents.

“It Stops Here (a movement to create safer environments for women) is really important because I want Blackpool to be safer, and if it’s safe for women and children then it’s a safe place for everyone.

“Good housing is also key to community resilience and kids even do better at school if they live in better housing.

“And we’re on with that. We have plans to deliver new housing. It’s a basic right for people and families to have good housing and I’m determined to provide that.

“I’m also pleased we haven’t waited on our commitment to tackling climate change. We got on and held our climate change conference despite Covid and have made it a high priority.”

But Coun Williams knows tourism is still one of the big jobs at the town hall, and she has taken the step of adding that responsibililty to her own role as leader.

She said: “It’s great to see people coming back to the town and we have been successful in getting our conference centre built and attracting funding through the Town Deal.

“But we can’t rest on our laurels, we have to carry on. It’s really important coming out of Covid that we are still really out there.

“The conference centre will be the biggest change in the town centre in my lifetime.

“Even though we have not had the major political conferences here for a while, people do want to come here and I’m confident we’ll see them return.

“I’m seeing lots of confidence in Blackpool with new businesses opening in the town centre. You only have to look at the Hotel Indigo plan for the former Post Office building on Abingdon Street to see that.

“But it’s not just about regeneration – I want Blackpool to be a great place to live, to improve facilities for young people, have more greener areas.

“I know that’s what people want because it’s important to me too as it’s my home town.”