The year ends as it began, with great hope. Twelve months ago, we were looking forward to the start of a new decade here in South Kesteven with optimism and hope for our future. Now, in the light of a global pandemic and the most extraordinarily challenging year since the second world war, the advent of vaccines means that at least we can see light at the end of the tunnel. Responding to the pandemic may have changed how we operate, but our resolve to do the best for our district remains undiminished.
The pandemic has tested organisations and people to their limits. But there has also been a welcome re-emergence of community spirt, neighbourliness and looking out for one another. We have seen acts of kindness and humility across South Kesteven and everyone has played their part. I recognise the individual and collective effort of our communities, residents, and businesses.
As we head into the new year, I hope this spirit of togetherness endures. It will be needed more than ever as we recover our economy from the tough times it has faced. The Council will fulfil its responsibilities to our communities and businesses with an increased passion and determination to succeed than ever before.
I admire the ways in which Council staff have continually innovated and worked together so collegially to stay ahead of the game. The year has presented many challenges to overcome, but there have been outstanding achievements from which we can all take pride.
This includes introducing measures such as our community hub, set up to support vulnerable residents, and our community fund that has delivered £2.5 million of additional funds for community and voluntary groups in South Kesteven. And for struggling local businesses, InvestSK, our business and economic development company, has been a lifeline - administering over £30.5 million in business grants this year. Everyone has coalesced around a single objective to get us through these uncertain times.
As we look to the year ahead, I believe there are three priorities; first the ongoing public health response to the pandemic including vaccine rollout, second restoring economic confidence and third the restoration of cherished liberties that have been willingly sacrificed this year.
The Council will play its part. Grantham is hosting a key vaccination centre and we have plans to protect and create jobs within the district, secure investment, revitalise our high streets, improve infrastructure, build more homes, and improve access to leisure and culture services. As I say, our resolve to succeed is strengthen, not diminished, by the pandemic.
Finally, I would like to thank everyone in South Kesteven for your efforts and everything that you have done to show a generosity of spirit over the last year. We have seen the best of our district in these most extraordinary of times. These actions do not just happen by chance, it has been consciously done and has demonstrated that true spirt of Christmas all year round.
And as we enter the Christmas period, we do so safely in the knowledge that we are nearly there, and whilst it may not be ‘normal’ it will be a time to reflect on the most extraordinary year, with a sense of emerging optimism and hope for the years ahead.
From my family to yours, during the festive period, stay safe. I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a happy, health and prosperous new year.