Avatar photo
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

Avatar photo
By Leader of North Kesteven District Council

Councillor Richard Wright is the Leader of North Kesteven District Council.

I’m excited to welcome 2023 and the positive prospects it brings for our environment and economy, healthier communities and in ensuring our district flourishes, as part of a proactive council always planning and looking forwards.

The past year has not been without its challenges and I want to first pay tribute to our communities and their response.

Hearts, generosity, and homes have been opened to those affected by war in Ukraine, and together we continue to help individuals and families in Lincolnshire adjust. Residents also responded to the cost of living, from small acts of kindness through to full community efforts. We continue to provide support and I’d urge anyone struggling to get in touch.

There’s been many positives in 2022, too. The RiverLight Festival delivered in March brought together artists, groups and volunteers for an eight-day programme of experiences in Sleaford using the Government’s Welcome Back Fund. We were also Council and Local Authority of the Year finalists, thanks to all working with and alongside us, and our Chief Executive was recognised similarly.

Looking towards 2023, we remain focused on the future our district and residents deserve.

Climate action and our aim for North Kesteven to reach net zero by 2030 are key; threaded through our plans and found in our actions now.

In summer, for example, we completed eight council homes in Potterhanworth built to the Passivhaus eco standard and which are now shortlisted for two awards. We’ll be carrying on Passivhaus principles in future council homes. We’ve also approved an initial programme to retrofit over 600 existing council homes to cut carbon and energy use, and we deliver quality homes in other ways.

There’s been works to boost biodiversity too under the partner Witham/Slea Blue Green Corridor Project, at Lollycocks Field in Sleaford and in-channel in the Slea. For more on our climate action there’s an e-newsletter – sign up here.

As we enter 2023, we shape our next NK Plan and investment through to 2026 and beyond.

Work is underway on phase one of our 37-acre Sleaford Moor Enterprise Park, boosting jobs and the economy. We’ll share more on its progress in the New Year. Meanwhile plans are approved for a public green space in Sleaford to help increase town centre dwell time, and we’re pleased North Kesteven will benefit from the UK Shared Prosperity Fund.

An Arts Council England grant for the cultural programme delivered by the Hub is also excellent news, not only for its exhibitions, outreach and functions but also for developing culture across Lincolnshire and supporting the Arts Council’s Let’s Create Strategy.

And our work on North Kesteven’s offer as the place to be includes a potential new aviation museum to replace our current museum near North Rauceby, if granted planning.

Next year will have its own unique stamp of course, including in North Kesteven the delivery of elections in May with voter ID. We’ll share all you’ll need to know.

We also continue to focus on engagement and common purpose including for example through the Central Lincolnshire Local Plan, which has been undergoing independent examination, and our role in the county’s future including any Greater Lincolnshire devolution deal.

We also look to lead, for example in answering the national call to enable a future of active wellbeing.
I thank all those working over the festive period including our emergency services, armed forces, volunteers, and everyone keeping our communities well-served.

Any act of good can make a big difference and we’re looking to amplify these ripples, together with Evelyn’s Butterfly Effect. Do see our channels @northkestevendc for more.

Many happy returns for the New Year.

Richard Wright is the leader of North Kesteven District Council.

Avatar photo
By Vice Chancellor at the University of Lincoln

Neal Juster is the Vice Chancellor of the University of Lincoln.

The end of 2022 will mark my first full calendar year as Vice Chancellor of the University of Lincoln. It remains a privilege, and I am excited at what the future holds for both the university and the region.

These are challenging times for all of us, there is no hiding from that, but there are many reasons to be proud of the success we continue to deliver, and optimistic for what we can achieve for Lincolnshire and beyond.

In amongst the challenges, it’s important to remember that there are things to celebrate, we should congratulate each other and show our encouragement going into the new year. I would like to talk about just some of the things we should all be proud of.

This year the results of the national Research Excellence Framework displayed just how far the University has come significantly improving our relative position within the ranking of UK’s universities. Most impressive was the acknowledgement that our research has real impact in improving the lives of individuals and communities. Research is fundamental to what it means to be a university, informing and improving our teaching, driving innovation through our engagement with business, and aiming to benefit the people we serve, here in Lincolnshire and around the world. We can be proud of what we have achieved, and excited about where we can go next.

The university and industry partners officially opened the South Lincolnshire Food Enterprise Zone in Holbeach in September. This multi-million-pound business park and strategic investment for the Agri-food sector, is a prime location from where businesses can grow, with their skills and innovation needs supported by the National Centre for Food Manufacturing and the wider university.

The developments represent over £16 million of investment to support Greater Lincolnshire’s Agri-food sector and help position it as the UK Food Valley, a Top 10 global centre for international food trade.

The university has a key role to play in helping businesses to attract new talent and meet the sectors’ challenges through the adoption of robotics and other technologies, and these excellent facilities and the wealth of academic and industry expertise available is hugely exciting.

In addition, a Greater Lincolnshire Partnership will deliver a transformational programme and funding to position Grimsby as a global hub of innovation and education for the seafood sector. Almost £500,000 has been ringfenced for the region by the Community Renewal Fund to support innovation, business support and skills development.

The University of Lincoln and The Lincoln Institute of Agri-food Technology (LIAT) continues to play a vital role in the development of agri-technology and sustainable food production. The Government’s Food Strategy White Paper cites LIAT’s contribution because of its major contribution in developing a net zero carbon in agri-food industry.

I have spoken previously about protecting and valuing the arts. Now we must also celebrate that the university can be considered one of the premier venues for arts and cultural provision in the UK.

Lincoln is one of just 12 universities in the UK to be part of Arts Council England’s National Portfolio of Organisations.

Arts and creativity in Lincolnshire are beginning to thrive, and it will only get better with the announcement that our region will also benefit from £1.2 million as part of the Create Growth Programme.

I am delighted to see an investment in the city, and we have even more to look forward to with the new creative direction of Lincoln Performing Arts Centre and the opening of the Barbican Creative Hub in 2023.

It is important that we are all aware of the challenges people face all over the world and that we do what we can to help. I’m proud of the university’s response to the terrible situation in Ukraine, we are raising funds to help people here and abroad, and to date, we’ve been helping over 40 Ukrainian young people to continue university level education at Lincoln. They have been welcomed and supported by our amazing staff and students.

It is incredibly heartening to hear first-hand the welcome international students from across the world have received by people in the city. I am always taken aback by how friendly Lincoln is and it undoubtedly enhances the experience of all students as they, in turn, help build a culturally rich, economically successful, and highly skilled region.

We have a moral imperative to improve the life opportunities of all our young people in Lincolnshire and this will continue to be a priority. I was particularly delighted this year that Holbeach Bank Academy, a school that joined the University of Lincoln Academy Trust in 2018 have received a Good Ofsted report in its first inspection, and I can congratulate staff and students.

2022 has served up unprecedented challenges. Notably, in October we took the decision to safeguard students, with regards to fire safety, living in the Gateway and move them into new accommodation. It was an incredibly difficult time for those students and I thank them for their patience and resilience. Importantly, I was so proud of colleagues across the university who acted immediately and worked tirelessly to keep our students safe. It was of no surprise to me that University staff went above and beyond for our students, and I place on record my heartfelt thanks.

We are of course in a cost of living crisis and this is affecting our community, the extra support the university is giving students is vital and we are committed to helping them through this so they can fully enjoy their experience at Lincoln. I’m also absolutely committed to helping my colleagues, I recognise times are hard and my promise to them is that I will do all I can to support them and help them feel valued and rewarded for the incredible work they do.

There will be more challenges in 2023, and we will rise to them, but it is vitally important that we remember and celebrate the successes past, of which there are many, and look forward to those in the near future. We are a university in a brilliant city, continuing to grow, enhancing our reputation, and benefiting our region and beyond.

I wish everyone in our community, and all of Lincolnshire, a very Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year.

Professor Neal Juster is Vice Chancellor of the University of Lincoln

+ More stories