The past sixty-nine years have largely been an absolute joy. Born to an agricultural lifestyle after eleven years at school, I have worked in agriculture with cattle, sheep, pigs and varied machinery: five years managing a farm, 32 as an Agronomist in three counties. The recent sixteen as a WLDC Councillor. Somerby, near Gainsborough, in the district of West Lindsey, one of the five rural districts of Lincolnshire is the place I am proud to be part of. A rich countryside with strong communities firmly bound with blood and energy. 

2018 is the last in West Lindsey’s present four-year term leads us into another election on the 2nd of May. This will complete our first full year under the new director structure without a chief executive. I can only conclude it has been a resounding success. Not only has it saved our tax payers approximately £130,000, but allowed us to create an internal structure which works and performs more swiftly than previously experienced. Lower costs, greater productivity.

Positively, we have embarked upon a stronger commercial approach to our business thanks to the innovative approach of our councillors. We have invested in a varied portfolio of commercial property now providing £0.5m revenue to support the services we provide. A significant part of that investment has occurred in West Lindsey. Should the right opportunities present themselves then our intention is to double that revenue stream.

West Lindsey is a great investor in people, we pride ourselves in creating the opportunity for staff to flourish and further their career. Across the district we act as a partner and enabler to our schools, colleges and businesses making those connections for pupils who are about to step out into the world of employment opportunity.

Over recent months we have won several funding bids for West Lindsey totalling £10 million all aimed at bringing new life into communities. The regeneration of Gainsborough Town Centre is high on our priority list but sadly it doesn’t happen overnight. Muse is our new development partner who will assist us in delivering new features to Gainsborough to help boost the night time economy and assist in housing development across the district. We have seen the emergence of the new Lidl and Boyes stores. A new Travelodge hotel refreshed shop fronts and flats on Market Street.

I acknowledge we have an unhealthy level of poor quality housing in some areas of the district, which does not meet the accommodation levels of the 21st century. This is a real concern of mine and we have strategies in place to deal and will be progressed in 2019.

The leisure offer for West Lindsey is also on the up with a £1.4m investment into our existing facility at Gainsborough and £6m into a new dry surface provision for Market Rasen. In addition there will be a role out of classes of varied types for village halls allowing local village people to experience new activities with out the need to travel.

We now have machines on site building a modern crematorium for our future helping to relieve residents of those very tense moments which occur at the saddest times in our lives.

Recently we were informed of the closure of RAF Scampton. Whether you feel it a good idea or not it is not for us to decide. The task we are faced with is ensuring the community on site are left with a community structure which all other communities enjoy.

West Lindsey is delighted to be leading the transitional project with our partners Lincolnshire County Council and the Ministry of Defence. My view is this historical site will require very careful and sensitive planning to explore all the options that this site may offer including the potential creation of a new community, employment opportunities and an appropriate way of protecting the sites rich aviation heritage.

We are a very busy council with approximately 22 development projects in tray on top of delivering the very important services people enjoy.

Councillor Jeff Summers is the leader of West Lindsey District Council.

Three years ago when I became the leader of West Lindsey District Council it was obvious to me we had to do things differently to survive.

£4 million of cuts in government funding over five years out of a £14 million budget is quite dramatic. The easy way would have been to cut services and make redundancies.

However, this was not an option for me. When you are in a tight spot, you work your way out of it, not dump your problems on someone else.

All of these factors clearly directed us along a commercial route.

First, we had to recruit a directorship with commercial knowledge and experience to ensure we had a sound governance structure with external professional support for structural and legal challenges.

Our investment strategy, whatever the project, must demonstrate one, two or three of the above points.

  • Physical: An improvement or new build within our district
  • Financial: A financial return from our investments, an increase in our revenue stream (i.e. finance for service provision)
  • Social: An increase in community cohesion through improved community, leisure and sporting facilities, housing and green infrastructure

I mentioned earlier about a revenue stream, this is a fund we use to dip in to to run services. Council tax goes into this fund to pay for things like waste collection, street cleaning and over one hundred other services we deliver.

As a reminder, this is how my Band D council tax for Glentham is allocated.

  • Lincolnshire County Council: £1,129.12
  • Lincolnshire Police and Crime Commissioner: £205.47
  • West Lindsey District Council: £201.24
  • Village/town council precept: £44.95

Of the £201.24 which West Lindsey retains, we provide fortnightly waste collections with 12 frontline freighters costing £160,000 each plus collection staff.

The capital account is made up of income from selling assets. This money cannot be spent legally on providing services. It is for investment only, financial or physical, investment institutions or property.

This leads me onto our decision to invest in a hotel in Keighley, Yorkshire. West Lindsey purchased the freehold with a sitting tenant who has a long-term agreement. We have no other costs after collecting the rent.

I can hear you saying it now. Why didn’t you buy in West Lindsey? We have and are continuing to invest in our district in a variety of ways.

Quite simply we are casting our net quite wide because opportunities in our district are limited and we must search out the best return possible.

We have looked at several opportunities from Lincoln to Nottingham, Mansfield, Doncaster, Sheffield and others but if they do not meet a strict 14 point list of criteria we have set, in a process which identifies which opportunities are safe and profitable, they do not go forward.

This type of investment is one facet of our long-term strategy which includes creating further efficiencies through restructure, partnership working, improvements to IT and expanding our local chargeable services within the district.

Also as part of our regeneration plan we will be creating revenue streams from our own developments across the district.

Councillor Jeff Summers is the leader of West Lindsey District Council.

Why have the 12 months flown by so quickly? That’s easy, because we have been so busy. Added to the task of delivering excellent services (assessed by national data number crunchers) we have been busy addressing how we will save/generate a further £2.5 million by 2020-21 due to the reduction in government funding.

Please don’t let this spoil your festive cheer. It’s all in hand. We have a plan!

We’re building a crematorium in a beautiful rural location. Somewhere to bury my bones when the Gainsborough regeneration programme is completed. It’s a great design with a dedication area and water feature.

The planning application is now being considered which should give us the go ahead in the new year.

Since 2014, we’ve taken a commercial approach to the way we operate.

Within the 105 service strands in West Lindsey we have identified 19 which we can offer as a chargeable service to the private sector or other local authorities.

By investing in property both in and outside the district, whilst continuing to find efficiencies, we will continue to strengthen our financial position.

Gainsborough and the district is a beautiful place to live. Our regeneration proposals for Gainsborough are a real challenge.

There are more obstacles than free rides, many of the obstacles you cannot see but they are real. Thankfully our regeneration team are tenacious and have agreed to continue working through Christmas. (I’m sending them a picture of our roast turkey on Christmas day. Just to keep their spirits up.)

Our leisure offer is presently out to tender which hopefully will see the establishment of a new dry leisure facility for Market Rasen.

As we all know, this is a rapidly changing world, you must not let the moss grow. (First it blocks the drains, second you have to recognise and understand your environment.)

That is why we are presently operating without a CEO. Our last CEO has moved to pastures new and I can only thank her for everything she brought and delivered for West Lindsey. My sincere thanks Manjeet.

We will decide early in the new year whether to reappoint or continue with a three director management team.

The lack of government funding has now forced us to charge for green waste collections. We have resisted this over the last four years, affirming, we only charge when we have to.

In the last Autumn Statement it was so obvious that the government is pumping money into devolved authorities.

A stark reminder, government has the whip hand. If you don’t dance to their tune, you don’t get an invite to the ball!

Devolution for Lincolnshire would have been very positive.

Leading up to Christmas has been great. First a ground-breaking ceremony for a new 56 bed Travelodge hotel along with a joint venture with Dransfield Properties Ltd to regenerate shops along Market Street and North Street.

The following week a new Lidl store opened providing one hundred more car parking spaces.

Finally, I’d like to wish every one a very happy and prosperous new year from West Lindsey.

New Year’s resolutions

Personal: I will eat less, exercise more, become fitter and leaner in an attempt to keep up with my wife! Spend more time revelling in our beautiful countryside bird watching, walking, cycling and visiting new places. Whilst enjoying all above I will pursue a dynamic agenda of business for the council.

Professional: We will continue to provide the best services across the council that our budgeted resources are capable of delivering while ensuring we fully address the physical and social needs of all residents. We will continue to enhance the physical, financial and social benefits for all constantly pushing for improvements in health, education and work opportunities.

Councillor Jeff Summers is the leader of West Lindsey District Council.

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