The year ahead looks to bring further change and challenges in respect of local government finance, but throughout it all we remain committed to ensuring residents receive high quality services, at low cost, appropriate to their needs.
With a continued emphasis on expanding our housing stock, bringing back into use yet more empty homes, promoting the economic growth of Sleaford and North Hykeham in particular, and progressing the 20-year plan for the future development of infrastructure, homes and employment potential within North Kesteven, there is much to be optimistic about in 2015.
Set against ongoing financial challenges of saving a further £2m over the next two years - on top of the £2.5m achieved in recent years - it is astounding what we achieve for a small district council.
We are building new homes, we are delivering more jobs, we are investing in our communities and maintaining a highly efficient operation at low cost.
During the past year, we have achieved so much: including awards and significantly increased usage at the refurbished Sleaford Leisure Centre; a further 50 new homes to expand our own housing stock; significant economic activity bringing unemployment down to below one per cent locally; and a recognition that North Kesteven is the safest place to live in the country.
Going forward, there is no escaping the fact that this coming year will be another challenging one, with severe constraints on public funding. Savings are always being made and we remain extremely careful to ensure that our residents are the last people suffering the consequences of any cutbacks. Whilst some of our aspirations for improvements may be curtailed, our resolve to work in every way we can to build strong partnerships that make a positive difference for all residents remains strong.
Highlights of the year ahead will include:
○ Continued promotion of the district as the place to do business.
○ Continuation with the largest capital programme in the council’s history, focused chiefly on building new council houses.
○ Delivery of our 100th new council house since pioneering a new era in authority building in 2010 and progressing a further 35 current schemes.
○ The efficient management of general and local elections.
○ Having almost the entirety of the district being served by faster broadband by the end of 2015.
○ Building networks with major employers who have scope for expansion and job creation.
○ Fulfilment of the International Bomber Command Memorial visitor attraction.
○ Continued emphasis on reducing the number of long-term empty homes through partnership working.
○ Engaging in positive partnerships to expand availability of affordable, accessible homes for the most vulnerable.
○ Maintaining the high standards of recycling achieved by residents.
○ Ongoing participation in developing the long-term plan for Central Lincolnshire and broadening understanding participation in the vision.
Against all of this we remain committed to maintaining our status as a low-cost authority delivering high-performance.
This is not an easy task, and as ever we welcome input from our residents in shaping the services and priorities to suit their needs. To this end we welcome their contributions at consultation events being held as part of the forward budget preparations. These will be at Navenby on January 21; Sleaford on January 28; and North Hykeham on February 5, all at 7pm. Call on 01529 308016 or email research@ n-kesteven.gov.uk for details of how you can get involved.
Coun Marion Brighton,
Leader of North Kesteven