Kelham Cooke

Leader of South Kesteven District Council

Councillor Kelham Cooke is the leader of South Kesteven District Council

By Leader of South Kesteven District Council

In spite of the challenging and unpredictable era is which we live, the past year has seen the local community really come together, embracing the vaccination programme and adjusting the way we live to protect ourselves and our loved ones. It has not been easy for any of us, but I have been extremely proud of the community spirit in South Kesteven, as well as the extensive work of SKDC to support those whose lives or businesses have been so heavily impacted by the pandemic.

If the past few years have taught us anything, it is the importance of our local communities and the role that grassroots groups can play in supporting residents and improving communal spaces. That is why we distributed around £68,000 in community grants in 2021 to support local groups and projects across the District, from a diversity festival in Stamford to upgrades at a community allotment in Market Deeping, and from new art equipment for Grantham Arts to contributions towards a proposed skatepark in Bourne.

We have also helped 201 residents this year with around £160,000 in financial assistance, not to mention the newly-launched Household Support Fund, which has allowed us to provide over £3,000 since 1st December alone to help those in need of support cover energy bills, food, and clothing during the colder season. It was also amazing to host our inaugural Community Awards, which gave myself and my colleagues the opportunity to meet some of the most dedicated and charitable members of our community.

To help local businesses, SKDC, with the support of InvestSK, administered £9.6million in Government grants between the months of April and November, helping nearly 3,000 businesses across the District access over £51million in funding since March 2020. We also have a variety of ongoing projects to boost the vibrant and diverse economy of South Kesteven, such as the £5.5million Future High Streets Fund for improving over 13,000 square metres of public space in Grantham town centre to increase pedestrian access and convert empty retail premises into new home. Additionally, the £1.3million Heritage Action Zone project will restore historic buildings in the town centre.

In order to ensure that each of our four town centres are supported, we have also been putting to work over £250,000 from the Government’s Welcome Back Fund to host events and campaigns to promote our local businesses, as well as carrying out maintenance and improvements on our high streets.

This is such an exciting time for SKDC, with so many projects taking place in all corners of the District to help improve local services, meet the demand for housing, and support our vital businesses and community groups. I am particularly excited about the new development at St Martin’s Park in Stamford, which will not only provide affordable homes but also significant commercial space, a retirement village, and beautiful open green space.

Having launched LeisureSK this year to ensure high-quality sports facilities across the District, I was also delighted that my colleagues and I were able to agree on the need for a full refurbishment of the Deepings Leisure Centre. The project will now go forward for a public consultation to seek the views of local service users and ensure that the revamped facility truly meets the needs of the active community who rely on this space for healthy living and social engagement.

There is so much to be optimistic about and I would like to express my thanks to all the staff and fellow Members across SKDC, as well as the wider community of South Kesteven, who have ensured that our District remains a positive and vibrant place to live despite wider challenges. We can all do with a relaxing and enjoyable festive season, and with that I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and the happiest of New Years.

By Leader of South Kesteven District Council

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.

Councillor Kelham Cooke is the leader of South Kesteven District Council

By Leader of South Kesteven District Council

On January 4 I will have been Leader of South Kesteven District Council for 100 days. I could not have envisaged this a year ago.  

The focus this time last year was the looming local elections in May. There is nothing like an election to focus the minds of politicians. 

Fast forward 12 months and we’ve had local elections, the European Elections, and then the General Election. 

For a district council, this means a lot of extra work. Campaigning falls to political parties. But then there’s the job of ensuring there are enough staffed polling stations, that ballot papers are issued on schedule, that votes are verified, counted and announced in accordance with Electoral Commission standards. 

A small army of council staff and volunteers work around the clock to deliver this democratic process. Without them, and the voters who exercise their right to be heard, democracy couldn’t happen. 

So before I talk about personal challenges and ambitions, I’d like to say thank you to everyone in South Kesteven and across Lincolnshire, for your dedication, your votes, your support. 

The challenge now, is to ensure that those who were elected, and those who lead, deliver on our promises. 

I want South Kesteven to live up to its potential. But there are challenges ahead, some we know about, others yet to emerge. We have more clarity now following a conclusive General Election result, but we still await decisions from Whitehall on future local government funding.

My job is to ensure that South Kesteven is best placed to make the most of the opportunities with the resilience to buffer any bumps along the way. A balanced budget is the cornerstone and my goal. 

District councils are central to the communities they serve. Some of the work we do may seem a bit mundane – dealing with green waste, collecting the bins, cleaning the streets. But these, along with the other services we provide, matter to our residents because they affect their everyday lives. Therefore, doing them well matters to me. 

I have ambitions for South Kesteven. But getting these fundamentals right first is vital  because that provides the platform from which everything else proceeds.

We have to change how we work in order to provide quality services and grow our local economy. We have to find ways to be more efficient and to generate income.  I am proud of our green waste scheme, proud of our commitment to beat the national average on cleaner streets, and proud that a district council in Lincolnshire is seen by Government as a key figure in tackling food waste. These are examples of providing service, whilst also creating opportunities to grow. 

My first major task is to appoint a new permanent Chief Executive who shares my vision and passion for South Kesteven, to support me in leading the council, in partnership with the public and private sector, within the district and beyond its boundaries. To deliver sustainable, dynamic growth; to deliver change without losing what already works; to deliver progress without sacrificing the basics.

We have a busy year ahead, some big projects to advance. I’m up for the challenge and determined to deliver.

Councillor Kelham Cooke is the leader of South Kesteven District Council