As 2019 begins I would like to wish everyone, particularly people who live in Grange-de-Lings, Nettleham and Riseholme, the people that I represent on West Lindsey District Council, my very best wishes for a happy and prosperous new year.
I was pleased to continue my service as Chairman of the district council’s Governance and Audit committee.
Local government continues to face a difficult financial settlement from central government; austerity has continued far longer than many expected and tough choices have had to be made to continue to provide frontline services with far less money. West Lindsey has been well placed to adapt to these changes, having embrace a commercial approach. And whilst some will rightly snigger at the council owning a knickers factory: these investments are contributing the equivalent of at least a five per cent increase in the council tax.
Commercialisation is an important solution for local councils, who have borne the brunt of the Government’s austerity programme, allowing us to use assets to help to pay for the delivery of services. West Lindsey’s approach ensures that monies invested are returned to the council for future use, whilst the profits are used to keep front line services funded.
I do not envy colleagues who are less well placed, such as those at the County Council who have significantly more difficult task in balancing their budgets – with pressures around adult social care and delivery of essential services.
Locally our county councillor Jackie Brockway is a huge asset and we have seen considerable investment in local roads – the resurfacing of the whole length of Hall Lane in Grange-de-Lings, Scothern Road, Nettleham and all the recent rebuilding of the roads around, and including Brookfield Avenue in Nettleham.
In April I was enormously proud that Alissa Stevens, who had been involved in the Nettleham Festive Market, was named as West Lindsey’s ‘Young Citizen of the Year’. It was also really pleased that Buddies Dementia Café at Nettleham Community Hub were named as runners up in the category of ‘Community Group of the Year’. (Nominations are now open for the 2019 awards visit www.west-lindsey.gov.uk/communityawards for more information).
I have been enormously proud of all the local voluntary groups that are at work within our community. Since my re-election in 2015 I have had a pot of £3,000 to award as grant funding to local groups. The whole amount has now been awarded. I have supported all sorts of groups from Nettleham Handbell Ringers to a heritage project in Riseholme. One particular focus of the awards I have made this year is to support activities to combat loneliness in our community. No one should be alone on Christmas day and I am pleased to have supported a Christmas Lunch for people who might otherwise have spent the day on their own. I have also made a grant to the ‘Chatter and Natter’ group that has set up in the Nettleham Community Hub.
In the summer I was pleased to visit the building site off Deepdale Lane where LACE Housing are building several homes specifically designed for over-55s living. These are expected to become available this year, some for sale on the market, others through a shared ownership scheme and some for rent.
2018 saw a number of important centenaries: The 100th Anniversary of Armistice Day was a poignant occasion that was very well attended on the village green. I felt both pride and gratitude as I laid a wreath on the war memorial as part of the service. Pride in our country, that despite the political problems we face today, we are free to determine our own future. And gratitude as well, not just at the freedom we enjoy to chart our own course in the world, but more deeply to all those who have put themselves in harms way to protect our way of life; particularly those who have paid the ultimate price, with their lives.
The second anniversary of import was that of Women getting the vote. Whilst it was not on parity with the male franchise of the time, it was an important and radical first step that paved the way for others.
In 2019 I hope we can, in difficult times, put aside the things that divide us; focusing instead on the many, many this things bind and unite us. So that we may work together to build a bright future for Grange-de-Lings, Nettleham and Riseholme.
For each and all I offer my sincere wish for health, prosperity and happiness.