Martin Hill: The county council’s record of achievement

On May 4, voters will go to the polls across Lincolnshire to elect their county councillors for the next four years.

As always, I’m hoping that as many people as possible will exercise their democratic right – whoever they choose to represent them.

In 2013, total voter turnout was only around 29% of those registered, meaning that over two-thirds stayed at home.

But why is that? Are people really so uninterested in how their local area is run?

Part of the reason may be that people don’t always know what local councils – including Lincolnshire County Council – actually do.

With that in mind, I’d like to highlight just a few of the authority’s many achievements since 2013 – a period when our government grants have fallen dramatically.

In my view, it’s a record that the elected members of the council – from across the political spectrum – can justly be proud of.

I hope, too, it encourages you to cast your vote in the election on May 4, choosing the councillors to serve you for the next four years.

Children’s services

  • 93% of younger children now attend a primary school judged good or better, making us the top performing regional authority.
  • At secondary level, the figure is 83% – two points above the national average.
  • We’ve also invested more than £50m over the past five years to create 5,000 primary school places, and will continue to increase both primary and secondary capacity.
  • Last year, our admissions service offered over 15,000 school places, with 92% meeting families’ first preferences.
  • For pre-school youngsters, we’ve invested in children’s centres, and almost 100% of families now sign up for services.
  • As children get older, school nurses are available to advise on everything from sexual health to emotional wellbeing.
  • We also offer a successful online counselling service, available 24 hours a day to young people up to 25.
  • If intervention is needed, child and adolescent mental health services step in, helped by a successful bid for £1.4m of extra funding.
  • Our adoption service has also once again been judged outstanding –one of only two in the country.

Adult care and public health

In adult care, we support a growing number of vulnerable residents, despite real budget pressures.

The latest complete figures – from 2015/16 – show that:

  • We helped over 16,000 people, enabling many to carry on living independently.
  • We supported 7,200 carers – up 1,600 in just two years.
  • We made direct payments to 25% more people, giving them real control over their lives.
  • And we responded more quickly, with 94% of assessments completed within 28 days.

Other highlights include:

  • Extra-care housing, where we’re investing £2.5m to create 110 new units, with over double that earmarked for the next phase.
  • In the residential and care home sector, we’ve reached agreements with providers to ensure the financial stability of the market.
  • In public health, the Wellbeing Service supports residents to maintain their independence. In 2015, 3,700 users benefited from this help, which includes the installation of telecare and other equipment.
  • Working with our district colleagues, we’ve also made a successful £1.3m bid for funding to target rough sleepers over the next four years.

Environment and economy

Looking now at infrastructure, work is starting this year on the long-awaited Lincoln Eastern Bypass, as well as phase two of the Grantham Southern Relief Road.

Substantial provision has also been made for the Spalding Western Relief Road, and for maintaining and improving the county’s roads.

Elsewhere across the county:

  • A £5m improvement scheme at Peppermint Junction in Holbeach is imminent.
  • We’re progressing plans for Sutterton, the Boston Quadrant, and the Gainsborough, Grantham and Lincoln growth points.
  • Over the last four years, we’ve built the Lincoln East West Link, and transformed the Canwick Road bottleneck.
  • To support economic development, we’ve completed Teal Park, the Holbeach Technology Park and Sutton Bridge Marina.
  • We’ve also set up the Business Lincolnshire Growth Hub, supporting 1,400 enterprises.
  • The £145m Energy from Waste plant came online in 2013, under budget and on time. It now treats 170,000 tonnes of waste, as well as providing enough energy for 26,500 homes.
  • The roll-out of superfast broadband is transforming digital access across the county. Coverage could reach 97% this year, while take-up has doubled in the last 18 months.
  • To protect against flood risk, £11m has been allocated to the Boston Barrier, while schemes have been completed at Louth and Horncastle. In all, we’ve delivered over 30 projects since 2013.
  • To keep the county moving in bad weather, we’ve invested in salt barns in Gainsborough and route-based forecasting.
  • We’ve also set up our own transport company to ensure affordable provision in the south of the county.
  • Overall, we’re now recognised as one of the top two highways authorities in the country, attracting significant extra funding for pothole repairs.

In heritage, Lincoln Castle has attracted more than a million visitors since its £22m refurbishment, with Magna Carta and the poppies both generating huge interest.

Our library service – run by GLL – is also enjoying a new lease of life, with the help of over 800 volunteers.

Overall, the number of facilities across Lincolnshire, including community hubs, has grown to 51 – more than in 2014.

The new library model has also saved over £2m a year, while opening hours across the county have been extended.

Finally, fire and rescue, emergency planning and trading standards are working hard to keep us safe – and will continue to do so in the years ahead.