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Kelham Cooke

Leader of South Kesteven District Council

Councillor Kelham Cooke is the leader of South Kesteven District Council

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By Leader of South Kesteven District Council

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.

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.

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