2020 has been an extraordinary year that has been challenging for us all. Undisputedly, the pandemic has ripped up the rule book and made us look back with longing at all the things that we once took for granted.
Although this year will be, rightly so, defined by the devastating impact of the pandemic, I believe that there is also a positive 2020 legacy, which I hope will long outlive the virus. For me, this is the renewed strength of community spirit in South Kesteven – the children’s handwritten thankyou notes for our refuse team, NHS rainbows in bedroom windows, and selfless support for local good causes.
With our communities front and centre, another defining highlight is the way that the staff of South Kesteven District Council worked around the clock to transform the way they deliver vital services and support for our communities.
In March, our community hub swung into immediate action with staff volunteering to work long hours manning phones. Hub volunteers contacted nearly 18,000 vulnerable residents personally to offer support and made 1,500 calls to vulnerable residents as part of our befriending programme.
With so many households facing financial difficulties, we also supported more than 7,800 households through the Council Tax Hardship Fund. And through our Community Fund, we helped to attract more than £2.5 million of additional funds for community and voluntary groups in South Kesteven.
With many of our local businesses bearing the brunt of the restrictions to slow the spread of the virus – InvestSK, our economic growth and regeneration company, also worked tirelessly to support the local economy, administering over £30.5 million in business grants.
Whilst 2020 has been very much about reacting to the unfolding situation around us, the council has also been planning for the future – mapping out the road to recovery.
Although it can, at times, feel like normality will never return – it will. Which is why the council has developed a new corporate plan which focuses on making South Kesteven the best place to live, work, and visit. I am determined that the district comes out of this period in the best possible position – with plans to protect and create jobs within the district, secure investment, revitalise our high streets, improve infrastructure, build more homes, and improve access to leisure and culture services.
Looking forward, the council will also be making a significant commitment to helping tackle climate change – something that is fundamental to all of our futures. Echoing the messages in David Attenborough’s BBC ‘Extinction’ programme, we are committed to reducing our carbon footprint by at least 30% by 2030 and endeavour to become a carbon net-zero council as soon as viable before 2050.
As we end the year, sadly, Covid-19 is still with us; we’re not out of the woods yet and are still living with necessary restrictions to our daily lives. But with the recent roll-out of the vaccination and a clear road of recovery ahead of us – 2021 looks infinitely brighter.