Councillor Kelham Cooke is the leader of South Kesteven District Council.
Much has been achieved in the past 12 months, which has been challenging for both residents and businesses as we continue to feel the effects of coming out of COVID, however I am optimistic as we move forwards into 2023.
Our ambition as a council, which I set out when I became Leader back in 2019, was to work as a team to make South Kesteven a better place for everyone, and we have spent time, money and effort turning our words into positive action.
During 2022, SKDC hosted a free Welcome Back Folk Festival in Grantham, supported the four-day Deepings Literary Festival, and ran Bourne in Lights and a Youth Festival in Stamford. Reopening and revitalising our arts centres, theatres and other venues is offering everyone a chance to reconnect after what was an incredibly difficult and challenging time.
During the summer, we welcomed the Commonwealth Games baton relay and celebrated together for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. Best Kept Villages were recognised; three parks were also awarded coveted Green Flag status.
New council housing has been handed over to tenants. Town centre improvements are under way in Grantham, coupled with progress on the town’s Southern Relief Road. We launched HelloSK, an app to help local businesses to grow and develop, while offering residents the chance to find discounts and offers. Our investment includes the regeneration project of St Martin’s Park in Stamford, in partnership with Burghley Estates.
Community champions were celebrated through the SK Community Awards in the autumn, and many thousands of pounds were distributed to community groups via SKDC’s wide-ranging grants schemes.
Our staff continue to work hard to ensure evacuees from the Ukraine receive a warm welcome and vital support. Our residents also stepped up – their sense of duty resulting in this district volunteering to house the largest number of evacuees in the whole of Lincolnshire.
SKDC now holds the Armed Forces Covenant Gold Award for employers who commit to key responsibilities on housing and employment of service personnel and veterans.
Looking ahead, in 2023, South Kesteven will receive almost £3.9 million from the UK Shared Prosperity Fund. Our officers and elected Members are busy identifying projects to match themes of Communities, Health and Wellbeing; Environment and Infrastructure; Culture, Arts and Heritage; Enterprise, Innovation and Growth; Employability and Skills. We also want to hear from all our residents with ideas. This investment will support ongoing work to meet our priorities as a council.
Yet in such difficult economic times, we are faced time and again with having to make stark choices on where to spend money for the most benefit of our residents. I re-commit my promise to make sure every penny counts and that we balance local choice whilst maintaining as many services as we can, which we can financially afford.
Each year SKDC sets its spending and Council Tax and plans its finances for the years ahead. If you are a council taxpayer in South Kesteven, just nine pence from every pound goes towards paying for the 100-plus services we provide. The remainder goes to Lincolnshire County Council, Lincolnshire Police, Town and Parish Councils.
We are making every effort to find efficiency savings – including relocating our main offices to save local taxpayers an estimated £300,000 a year in running costs – and we are committed to delivering value for money to keep your council tax as low as possible.
Finally, as this is my last column of 2022, I would like to wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year – I would also like to thank all of our dedicated members and officers for the work they work in supporting our communities and I look forward to continuing to champion our corner of Lincolnshire.