Read Council Leader's full speech to Annual Council

Pictured is Councillor Richard Wright, Leader of North Kesteven District Council. He is looking towards the camera, smartly dressed in a suit.
Councillor Richard Wright, Leader of North Kesteven District Council

At the Council’s Annual Meeting on May 9, Council Leader Cllr Richard Wright reflected on the Council’s position after 50 years of delivering local services and laid out his priorities for the year ahead.

We are in our 50th year of existence. 50 years as the bastion of local democracy and provider of the local policies and services, that do not and should not sit with Central Government.

50 years of evolving and refining our service delivery, proving leisure and art facilities, well-loved heritage and tourism attractions, working with businesses, offering support and also premises. Developing Health & Wellbeing services, looking to expand that role of prevention, moving the dial on investment to address the social determinants of health such as housing, leisure, environment and economic inclusion. This is now being recognised by the NHS as both valid and essential in assisting a modern-day NHS to fulfil its obligations to residents.

50 years, in which at around the 40 year mark saw us return to house building, creating decent homes for people on our housing list and we can proudly say through building and acquisition, we are now nearing the 600 mark, with still more to come.

50 years of building strong partnerships with organisations that operate within and outside of administrative boundaries as we cannot operate in isolation.

And 50 years of working with and for our District area, 356 sq miles and over 80 communities, the reason we do what we do and there is no better example than our immediate and comprehensive response to both residents and businesses during covid.

Going forward, as ever we will build on our well-established position.

We’re able to plan and operate from a sound and prudent financial position without taking anything for granted, as local government finance reform, may actually happen this decade and then again, it might not.

The commercial decisions we’ve made, especially with our arm’s-length operations, will now start to impact positively on our longer-term financial position and our ability to continue to deliver core services effectively.

With this in mind and also thinking about the wider District, we will be focusing particularly on our economic development priorities over the next 12 months. 

We know our District has a high number of excellent small businesses, alongside successful major employers. If we wish to see our District continue to flourish, it’s essential we have the jobs and careers for not only our existing working adults, but also the workforce of the future and for those looking to make North Kesteven their home. Alongside our own economic activity, focussing in on this area, will give businesses reassurance of our commitment, look to establish even stronger ties, and demonstrate that we recognise that a Flourishing District also needs to be a prosperous District.

This does not mean there will be any less activity and commitment to our other priorities, especially our Environment and sustainability. There will be a separate focus on this in particular, through the activities of all the different departments and our Sustainability Champion, Cllr Mervyn Head.

Our build programme for the coming year is also ambitious, with new sites being considered and the Housing Revenue Account and Lafford Homes able to produce homes that help both our residents and us from a financial aspect.

Retrofitting our existing council homes will also feature again this year as we look to improve as many homes as possible, with both our own funding and as much grant monies as we can successfully apply for.

These are just some of the Council’s activities and commitments with far too many for me to list individually today, but a clear demonstration of our ambition.

We also do not shy away from ongoing aspirations and projects that have presented challenges or delays. The Heart of Sleaford remains a priority and work is still ongoing through negotiation and project planning to look to deliver on our previously-stated ambitions to see a reinvigorated, reinvented market town, fit for the future. A future that looks not only to providing leisure and other activities, but also looks to the challenge of what does a high street in 2024 and beyond look like and deliver.

There will also be significant change to deal with this municipal year. A general election offers the opportunity for whoever wins, to show a commitment to local government, a commitment we need reaffirming, that recognises the true value of local government.

Closer to home, we are now close to seeing a Mayoral Combined Authority formed. 

I will work closely with colleagues across Greater Lincolnshire to ensure we deliver on the opportunities for Greater Lincolnshire. And there is an opportunity in this process. We have, for far too long, been an area of underinvestment and over centralised Whitehall control. Making the MCA work, will be fundamental to the future and success of Lincolnshire.

Less strategic, but of equal importance to our residents, are the changes due to take place next year as a result of 2021 Environment Act.

Our residents have been excellent in responding to the recycling processes, we have implemented over the years and as weekly food waste collections will now be mandated by Government & DEFRA from 2025, we have our part to play in reassuring residents that we will implement these changes as effectively and painlessly as possible.

With all of the above taking place, I thank our entire officer team. With ever-increasing government regulation and monitoring also taking place, we owe them a debt of gratitude for delivering on the polices we put in place, despite the added bureaucracy. 

And finally members just a thought on democracy. When the Council held its first official meetings as NKDC in 1974, the Sleaford Standard was celebrating its 50th year. 

Back then it was local papers such as the Standard that did an excellent job of reporting the news and being as factual as possible and they were a trusted source of information for their readership.

It was to be another 10 years before Mark Zuckerburg was born.

50 years on, we have the phenomenon of social media. Whilst it can be extremely useful, it also provides a platform for whoever wants to tell the truth as they see it, rather than the truth as it really is. Whereas before, people would have a discussion and there were opportunities for people to intervene with facts, we now have threads and wild speculation, that lead even further away from the truth and the real world.

I would hope that we can hold true; that this chamber will continue to make decisions based on fact; that truth is what we see written in our reports; that we whole-heartedly believe and support our authority in that we conduct our business appropriately, with consultation carried out in the correct manner and with members playing their role in scrutinising decisions and policies. 

Cllr Richard Wright

May 9, 2024

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