As 2019 draws to a close it is good to find time to reflect on what has been a busy and productive year and to look forward to what promises to be a great 2020.

During the last 12 months the council has provided quality local services – a record 95% of our housing tenants and 94% of broader residents said they were satisfied or very satisfied with what we do.

In May we delivered the Cabinet Office’s voter identification trial for local elections. Since then, the principal of Voter ID has been brought forward in the Queen’s Speech as potential legislation.

This was a big change for all of us but great work from the council teams meant an incredible 99.64% of voters arrived with the right ID and were able to vote. That’s what I call a job well done!

On the national stage we were held up in a parliamentary debate as an exemplar of what can be achieved in response to climate change.

We were the first Lincolnshire council to declare a climate emergency, committing to reviewing operations to meet United Nation’s goals, and we are now bringing forward an ambitious action plan.

I am very proud the entire council voted unanimously to join the movement to address the climate emergency by 2030. Much of the work has to be done by local councils and, given our long-standing emphasis in this area and our legacy of success, North Kesteven is at the forefront of this response.

The council also voted to lobby MPs to push forward further responses to carbon reduction including the local generation and supply of electricity. It also took a stand against anti-semitism.

We acknowledge and take seriously warnings that urgent action is needed on climate change to avoid runaway global warming and climate breakdown and we are committed to rising to that challenge and to be carbon neutral as soon as possible.

In Sleaford, we are committed to making big progress on plans for a £4 million three-screen cinema, restaurant and food court for the town. A planning application will be submitted soon.

Local people tell us they want a modern multi-screen cinema and we want to continue to meet the needs of a growing and changing town.

A £2.2 million investment for a commercial workspace development for 15 new and growing businesses is also being progressed for North Hykeham.

The council already manages 111 workshops across 11 sites. Occupancy levels and demand are both very high.

The Discovery Court development will, subject to planning permission, be located alongside other employment and business growth opportunities off Whisby Road and will complement existing investments as well as provide starter and growth space for businesses.

In the same area, the second phase of development is underway at St Modwen Park Lincoln, a popular 70-acre industrial and logistics scheme at Witham St Hughs.

Two units totalling 75,000 square feet will provide high quality industrial and warehouse space with easy access to the A46 and the A1.

We’ve got other projects going on in this area too so I can honestly say that North Kesteven is definitely on the development map, and with plenty of housing plans on the books and a new innovative approach to returning empty homes for use, there’s plenty of action across all of our priorities.

2020 is going to be a great year for the district and the council and I will be pleased to keep you informed on how we are progressing as soon as I possibly can. Happy New Year!

Richard Wright is the leader of North Kesteven District Council.

It feels like 2018 has gone in the blink of an eye, and, in my second year as Leader of North Kesteven District Council, I’m immensely proud of what we’ve achieved for residents, businesses and visitors.

Local government finances are always in the news, and the pressure on authorities to become more self-sufficient grows with each day. 

At North Kesteven we’re always planning ahead, and we’re working to a ten-year financial strategy rather than a traditional three-year plan. 

By being robust we can be more resilient to any changes that might happen, particularly when so much uncertainty remains around Brexit.

But being financially aware doesn’t mean we’re not going to invest in the district – in fact quite the opposite is true.

We have an ambitious investment programme – £200 million over ten years – that’s currently under way.

Only this year, we finished on site and moved operations to our new waste and street scene depot in Metheringham, ensuring the service remains efficient as ever as the district grows now and in the future.

Next door to this, we completed seven new business units – adding to our portfolio of more than 100 around North Kesteven – that allow business to expand, grow and for jobs to be created.

As a council we’ve invested in smaller commercial business premises that tend to have more resilience. We’ve looked to do this longer term inside the district rather than making short term gains.

For us, investing isn’t just about the value in the property – it’s about investing in people and job creation in North Kesteven.

We’ve committed £1.5 million to the Heart of Sleaford project and the regeneration of Newfield Road, a project of more than £8.65 million, continues a pace and is due to be completed in the spring, completely transforming the street and creating lifetime homes for our tenants. 

Only recently we’ve consulted on plans to revitalise the National Centre for Craft and Design, a popular venue with visitors numbers increasing year on year, we want to ensure it continues to grow in popularity and support with people visiting from far and wide.

We’re also proud of its local connections, the talented community groups that use it and very much want it to be cherished as both a local and national centre.

There’s so much more we want to do and achieve for the district and are committed to seeing it flourish now and in the future.

And although it is Christmas, we will be hard at work delivering for you all. It’s still very much business as usual, making sure we support the people we’re here to serve. 

Also, please spare a thought for our emergency services and everyone working over the festive period, making sure we’re all safe, secure and as well as we can be.

They won’t be having the time with their families and friends that so many of us will get to enjoy. Their efforts mustn’t go unnoticed.

And so as I bring this column to a close, I’d like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous new year. Let’s see what 2019 brings for us all. 

Richard Wright is the leader of North Kesteven District Council.

Generally we all know what’s good for us – and what’s not – but still find any and every reason and excuse to resist change.

New Year’s Resolutions come and go and giving things up for Lent follows shortly after; with the motivation to shape up for summer coming quickly thereafter.

I know as much as the next man how hard it is to gain the motivation and the ongoing momentum to take up regular exercise and to keep going with it, but over the last year one thing that has really helped me is the excellence of Sleaford Leisure Centre.

As far back as 2010 North Kesteven District Council saw the need and potential to upgrade it, which ultimately saw an investment of almost £3 million and a phenomenal uplift in use and satisfaction.

Following on from this a further £4 million was invested in a wholesale transformation of the district’s other leisure centre at North Hykeham which emerged as ONE NK, again to broad acclaim and with greatly increased usage.

There can be no doubt that the quality of the facilities, their affordability and the improved environment at both of these refreshed facilities are supporting more people to be more active more often – which was our main motivation for the investment – and to maintain their resolve and momentum in doing so.

Last year alone saw a 50%-plus uplift in use to 739,648 visitors at both Sleaford and North Hykeham.

On a smaller scale the investments made at Whisby Natural World Centre where we have encouraged more adventurous play by enhancing play spaces inside and out are increasing regular active participation there too.

These investments also put the council in a stronger position to re-tender contracts for running these and other leisure services, through which a new operating model transforms previously-subsidised services to now run at an overall surplus to the council.

In turn, this now supports the continuation of and development of other services through a ten-year saving of more than £7.5 million.

This in itself is very welcome and a further vindication of our bold vision to invest in leisure services at time when most other councils were scaling back or closing theirs.

But what, for me, is most gratifying is that all three of the ultimate successors – the companies we have now appointed to run leisure, sports and countryside services over a decade from April 1 – are all social enterprises.

These are: Greenwich Leisure Ltd, operating leisure centres in Sleaford and North Hykeham and the Terry O’Toole Theatre under the name Better; Lincs Inspire Ltd which runs Grimsby Auditorium and other facilities in and around North East Lincolnshire to run Whisby Natural World Centre; and Hill Holt Wood, at Norton Disney to run the Countryside Services including the Stepping Out Walks network, the annual walking festival and grounds maintenance.

The new contract will also see further investment and enhanced outreach to deliver sport and physical activity directly in local communities, specifically reaching out to engage otherwise hard to reach people.

Like the council, social enterprises operate on a not-for-profit basis, with a focus on community benefit over the bottom line.

As we work to mobilise the new contracts I am confident that these are the organisations best-placed to move forward and develop excellent services, focused on improving the health and wellbeing of residents.

What is most clear is that through this new partnership we are all aligned with a shared vision for the benefit of all, to inspire everyone to be more active more often.

Richard Wright is the leader of North Kesteven District Council.

+ More stories