Reflections 2017: Matthew Lee – A genuinely exciting year for South Kesteven District Council

The word ‘exciting’ isn’t one that you would usually associate with a council, but 2017 has been a genuinely exciting year for South Kesteven District Council.

In April, I had the privilege of being elected leader of the council, alongside the deputy leader, Councillor Kelham Cooke.

We also have a new cabinet and chief executive, Aidan Rave. All change!

Together we have set about transforming the way the council works and begin looking at ways to energise our local economy and make our district an even more attractive place in which to live, work and invest.

The cleanliness of our streets is something that I know residents feel passionate about, so this year we organised a ‘Big Clean’ campaign to help raise the standard of our streets, tackling not only litter, but also weeds, graffiti and broken furniture.

As part of the campaign, members of the public helped us by identifying hundreds of areas across the district that needed extra attention. The campaign was a real community affair, with businesses showing their support and lots of local residents joining in.

The ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos showed what an enormous difference the teams made to the areas they visited. Our challenge is now to maintain the new, higher standard.

One of the highlights of the year was the economic ‘summit’ we hosted at Stoke Rochford Hall in October, where we announced a £40 million programme of investment across the district over the next three years and the creation of an investment ‘arm’ called InvestSK.

As a council, we are fortunate to have healthy reserves and little borrowing. We intend to put this money – taxpayers’ money – to work to help companies start up, grow and recruit in our district, to improve our leisure facilities and help provide more housing.

Our original investment will be key to unlocking more than 10 times this amount in private investment over the next three years, as companies’ confidence in our region grows. The reaction to our announcement has been incredibly positive.

Festivals are another great example of where the benefit to the local economy is many times larger than our investment. In September we held our third Georgian Festival in Stamford, which attracted more than 50,000 visitors – generating in excess of £1 million for the local economy in the process.

More than 4,500 people converged on Red Lion Square in the centre of town for the spectacular finale, with the story of the town’s infamous ‘bull run’ projected on to the walls of All Saints’ Church. It is something that I will remember for a long time.

As well as the festival, 2017 was the 50th anniversary of Stamford becoming the first conservation area in the country and we were delighted to host an event to mark this important milestone.

Next year it’s Grantham’s turn again, with the fourth Gravity Fields science festival returning in September, which promises to be another stunning event.

2018 looks set to be an incredibly busy year for everyone at South Kesteven District Council. Thankfully we will soon have a short Christmas break to recharge our batteries and enjoy being among family and friends.

I look forward to updating you on our progress in 2018.

New Year’s resolutions

A key resolution for 2018 is to get out and about more – both professionally and personally. There are still corners of our lovely district that I have yet to explore and lots that are always worth another visit.

Similarly, as the leader of the council, I really value seeing the excellent work going on in our communities, whether it’s meeting volunteers, start-ups or established companies.

My final resolution is one I know I share with many, many people – to stop smoking. I’ve tried before, but I’m determined that this is the year. Wish me luck!