— Labour Councillor Ric Metcalfe is the Leader of City of Lincoln Council
The elections on 5th May 2011 saw the people of Lincoln express their desire to see a change in the political leadership of the City Council. Labour were returned to office after four years in opposition, reinvigorated and with some very clear priorities and plans for addressing the city’s needs and problems.
The new council quickly identified its priorities for reducing poverty and disadvantage, increasing the supply of affordable homes, becoming a better housing landlord, reducing Lincoln’s carbon footprint and becoming a more fit for purpose council.
The council launched fourteen new initiatives aimed at making a start with these priorities, which included a programme for building council houses, a benefits take up campaign to help pensioners, some initiatives to deal with anti-social behaviour and improve security and much more besides.
All this is being achieved against a very difficult financial background of cuts in spending imposed by government and falling income as a result of the economic downturn. As our council tax payers would rightly expect, we are dealing as creatively as we can in reducing administration costs and becoming as efficient as we can be, concentrating resources on front line services.
A good example from many of our measures for greater efficiencies and expected to make significant savings is the creation of a joint service for Revenues and Benefits administration with North Kesteven District Council. Dealing with our extreme financial pressures has involved some difficult decisions.
The council has agreed to the sale of parts of the Lawn complex. The Lawn is not contributing to any of our declared priorities, will impose future maintenance and investment liabilities the council simply cannot afford, and its sale will offer the opportunity for a suitable investor to realise its potential as another jewel in Lincoln’s crown.
Perhaps one of the best bits of news in December was the announcement of the £50 million for the eastern relief road. Along with many other partners we have battled for this for a very long time and it will provide a great catalyst for getting growth going again in the city.
The creation of the new Engineering School, a partnership between Siemens and the University of Lincoln was another terrific boost to the city’s long term prosperity, and we had a bumper year for the Lincoln Christmas Market, which injects a huge amount of money into the local economy.
With seasonal holidays here, it was fantastic to see the opening of the Pathways Centre, which will now provide accommodation and support for the homeless, who are especially vulnerable in the winter months, helping them towards independent living.
The coming year will be full of challenges and opportunities and we plan to meet these with equal vigour. The recession will continue to hit family incomes and we intend to continue with programmes which try and reduce the impact of this for people in Lincoln.
We want see youth unemployment reduced, more affordable houses built, a solution found to the city centre’s infrastructure problems, more invested in energy efficiency measures to help people with fuel costs and reduce our carbon output and our publicly valued CCTV service saved whilst reducing its cost.
We also want to see more robust measures for public consultation and participation in council decision making. We are already consulting to seek your views on the council’s priorities for its next five year Strategic Plan and look forward to hearing from you about this.