Council tax bills are not something that any of us look forward to.
Most of us understand that council tax has to be paid so we can fund vital services like ensuring that vulnerable people are looked after, that our rubbish is collected and that we can keep our communities as safe as possible.
But even so it is still a bill that our already overstretched finances could do without.
That is why at our annual budget meeting we decided that our part of the bill should only increase by £4 a year for an average Band D property.
In South Kesteven most homes are actually in Bands A-C so the majority of people will see an increase of less than £4 although those in bands above the average will pay a little more.
The Government would have allowed us to put the average bill up by £5 but we decided that with careful financial planning we could limit the increase to £4.
The majority of your bill actually goes to Lincolnshire County Council so remember that whatever your increase actually comes in at for Bands D and below only £4 of it is down to us!
We are focussed on delivering our priorities, developing an entrepreneurial approach to maximising opportunities for our district, encouraging business investment, having sound financial plans that build on our aim of self-sufficiency and acting as a key enabler with partners to help develop a vibrant thriving district.
You have told us that street cleaning and refuse collection is important so we have earmarked £350,000 over the next three years to make improvements.
We also want to continue raising the profile of our district, and our festivals are key to this so we have committed a further £113,000 to the festival programme which will see us deliver another Gravity Fields event in 2018.
I am very much looking forward to the Stamford Georgian event this year and it is really great to see the emergence of the literary festival in the Deepings which we have helped both financially and with officer support.
Members will recall that we set up a community fund this time last year. So far we have been able to support 23 community projects across the district amounting to more than £200,000.
There have been some really great outcomes for our local communities for projects that have varied from providing new play equipment, making improvements to village halls and providing a seated and covered area on a recreation ground.
We will be providing more resources for this fund in this year’s budget to help make a real difference to the communities we serve.
Business and housing growth are critical for all communities moving forward. South Kesteven is no exception, and we have recognised this in our plans and strategies for some time now. Our new local plan is key to delivering in these areas and therefore we will provide more resources to support its development next year.
Unlike some councils we have been able to protect all our front line services in challenging financial times and we are building new homes for the first time in many years. We are also working hard on the development of a new housing strategy to serve the needs of the people throughout South Kesteven.
The future is also looking bright following the news that plans to build 3,700 new homes at Spitalgate Heath as part of a Garden Village development are underway. This is one of only 14 schemes throughout the country selected by the Government to have access to a £6 million fund over the next two years which is designed to unlock the full capacity of sites and provide targeted funding to accelerate development and avoid delays.
As well as providing for new homes, it is anticipated, subject to planning permission, that the 224 hectare development will also potentially include 110,000 square metres of modern employment space, which could provide for up to 4,000 new jobs and give opportunities for existing local businesses to expand and space for new companies to move into the area. We are planning ahead as our population is set to grow from around 138,000 now to 158,000 in 2036 and news that the Garden Village proposal has been endorsed by the Government is a big step forward towards ensuring that quality new homes can be delivered in a great place.
In the coming months we also expect to get on site and start work on a new multiplex cinema in Grantham. The Senior Citizens’ Club building has now been demolished and a new structure is well underway on Welham Street.
We will also now consider a wider scheme which will link to the town centre, greatly increase the quality of the public realm and increase the footfall in this area.
All in all there is an awful lot going on and our proposals appear to be on the right track because in a politically divided council chamber the budget was voted through unanimously – and that’s quite an achievement in itself!