Annual Report: Our Work at NKDC to March 2021
I wonder how many of you could name five things we at NKDC has done for your communities this year? The Council has 42 elected members, of which 21 are Independents (14 Lincolnshire Independents) and 21 are “NK Administration”, formerly Conservatives. According to the website, we have no Labour, no Lib Dems and no Conservatives. We are in “no overall control”, meaning that power is shared and no one party has all the answers!
Lincolnshire Independents and Independents work together in the NK Independent Group and maintain their right to speak and vote independently. Since the elections in the past two years we have a new intake of bright and effective councillors bringing considerable experience and skills. Our members have worked hard to create a responsive Council, answering to what local people need and want.
Here is my summary of some successes where Lincolnshire Independent members have played a significant role.
We initiated and supported covid neighbourly groups to provide shielding residents with food and medicines. We actively engaged in and supported the Lincolnshire Resilience Forum and Public Health bringing support to our villages throughout the past year of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Our members created a think tank and produced a policy paper on recovery from covid for our communities, economy and environment, leading policy in NKDC.
We supported and informed local businesses to access more than £28m in Covid-support grants to more than 2,000 businesses across the 12 Government grant schemes.
Officers and members made more than 15,000 calls made to most vulnerable residents throughout the year making sure they have access to what they need.
We supported community groups to access a £40,000 fund in partnership with the Lincolnshire Community Foundation to support local Covid-19 response and recovery initiatives.
NKDC employed Covid Ambassadors District-wide to support Covid-compliance and confidence within businesses, in public spaces and within local centres. NKDC Facilitated local provision of Covid-testing in Sleaford for key workers, now available free online or from pharmacists.
Making our assets work for you
Our members engaged in the planning of a £1.2m refurbishment of the National Centre for Craft & Design in Sleaford – set to re-open on May 17th, working with Independent-run Sleaford Town Council.
We supported the £2.2m construction of an additional 15 business workshop units at North Hykeham, taking the NKDC portfolio to 126 across 11 locations District-wide.
NKDC is contributing to £3.9m remodelling of Grinter House and Grinter Close in North Hykeham to expand the availability of housing choice.
Our members representing NKDC on the Whisby Natural World Centre Management Board have supported the access improvements and enhancement of the facilities. We also supported Mrs Smith’s Cottage refurbishment and restart as a busy and attractive community museum.
Bringing fundamental changes to our Council’s direction
Lincolnshire Independents led the change in Council policy to include the Environment and nature as a key priority and tackling climate change with a sound working strategy. The plan is now approved and progressed working to achieve carbon neutrality for the Council by 2030.
Lincolnshire Independents initiated and supported the creation of a Tree Strategy which includes provision to maintain trees and increase tree cover. Trees to be in the right places and maintained appropriately in partnership with other landowners and trusts.
We initiated and contributed to the development of a Community Strategy which aligns the Council’s established Priorities alongside the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals in pursuit of a net-zero carbon future with better levels of health and a more vibrant economy. Our working group on the covid recovery wrote and submitted a paper to lead and contribute to the work of the Council.
Lincolnshire Independents engaged in a review of the Central Lincolnshire Local Plan, seeking to ensure that house-building is the right kind in the right place for local people, as low energy as possible and matched by facilities, services and jobs, whilst keeping a healthy environment and diverse natural world. These rules set the basis for the Council’s response to all planning applications.
Making Council resources work well for you
Our members supported a 10-year capital programme of £230m in investments in housing, infrastructure, economic growth potential and resources whilst scrutinising the council’s capability to deliver. Our District part of Council tax is relatively low at £174.90 for a Band D property.
The Council secured the Investors in People gold standard in recognition of high level of staff welfare, engagement, and empowerment. Further recommendations are to be put in place.
Our Council staff and members have been working from home wherever possible, with little break in public service delivery. (80 meetings over 11 months.)
NKDC has put in place measures to ensure safe Covid-compliant elections on May 6.
Supporting our Communities
Our members supported our communities in the Community Champion Awards, honouring the best in community endeavour, and organised local recognition.
We supported the widening of the £125K community fund from the Sleaford Straw-fired power station to include 28 parish areas within a five-mile radius of the plant.
Thanks to the waste service staff at NKDC who maintain as efficient service, emptying 3.7m bins pa. The recycling rates have dropped recent years and needs improvement. We are seeking to reduce the use of plastic and create a circular economy where all waste becomes a raw material and reused.
Our members supported a trial of paper and card separation across 1,700 NK properties to enhance the value of our recycled paper and card, so purple-lidded bins will now be across North Kesteven this September.
We have initiated and supported many amazingly effective litter-picking individuals and groups. Thanks to residents reporting we have dealt with anti-social behaviour, littering and nuisance; 460 noise complaints, 107 fly-tipping complaints and 160 smoke complaints.
The Council’s Stepping Out Walks supported increased access to the countryside, with usage increasing 25% to 251,330 users in 2020/21
Our members are championing mental health first aid in the community and leading a think-tank on mental health in NKDC, with funds set aside to complement the work of the County Council.
Working for a better Environment
Our members initiated and supported actions in pursuit of the Council’s Climate Emergency position, planting trees, enhancing carbon storage, further reducing carbon outputs.
NKDC completed a project in partnership with Independent-run Sleaford Town Council and Historic England to restore heritage shop fronts in Sleaford.
Our members initiated and the Council embarked on a project to enhance the river environment of the River Slea for wildlife and access. Partners include South Kesteven District Council, Natural England.
We supported £50k restoration and improved interpretation and accessibility of Cogglesford Watermill in Sleaford.
Supporting our local Economy
We supported a “masterplan vision” for a £56m eco-conscious business expansion programme at Sleaford Moor Enterprise Park.
We supported NKDC in expanding our portfolio of business grow-on units to 125 across 11 locations
We supported local businesses impacted by Covid restrictions with £28m in Government grants and made sure our local businesses were aware of the discretionary grants in order to apply.
We supported the delivery of highway improvements at Sleaford, on the A17, at Holdingham Roundabout and the Rugby Club junction.
Our members supported improvements in Mrs Smith’s Cottage Museum with significant grants spent locally to improve the cottage and visitor offer. NK Tourism brings £162m annually to the local economy and supports almost 4,000 jobs at the summer peak.
Providing the right Homes in the right Places
Lincolnshire Independents were instrumental in establishing new principles for carbon-neutral house building within the NK council stock, including highly efficient Passivhaus standards.
Our members called for more affordable council housing and NKDC has 64 in progress. 33 additional homes at Heckington underway (£4.68m), completed four flats in Heckington and started eight more Passivhaus homes a Potterhanworth, plus the commissioning of 19 in Navenby where the eco-credentials are being raised before being transferred as NK housing stock.
We called for more homes for older people and NKDC and LCC are developing a scheme of extra-care and specialist housing in Sleaford. Grinter House in North Hykeham is also being redone to create 34 more attractive rented properties.
Council tenant satisfaction is high, based on property quality and value-for-money.
Lincolnshire Independents called for a private rental arm of NKDC to build the homes we need commercially, supporting the Council’s income. Wholly owned Lafford Homes was created and has 42 new properties at Station Road Waddington this year. Lafford Homes has 72 homes already within its portfolio and 128 more at various stages from concept to near-completion.
In conclusion, the work of the Council is good, and elected members are pivotal in driving good performance. The Council tax is relatively low, with good housing and reliable services. All Councillors are important, but a vibrant Independent group, determined to serve their communities has brought a new sense of excitement and action. We will want to maintain that enthusiasm and drive into a better future. For that, we need your support! You can sign up for our newsletter and let us know what you think and you can vote!
/Marianne Overton MBE leader of the Lincolnshire Independents. April 2021