District Council economic summit provides confidence boost for local businesses

Economic growth "provides opportunities for all," says Leader

South Kesteven District Council (SKDC) reported significant progress in its commitment to helping grow the local economy at its second Business and Economic Summit.

More than 140 senior representatives from the business, political and education sectors attended the packed event at the historic Grimsthorpe Castle on Thursday 11 October.

The event marked 12 months since the council's first summit, at which the Leader of the Council, Councillor Matthew Lee, said that growing the economy was his priority and expressed his determination to "stop talking about change and start delivering it."

In 2017 the council set out ambitious plans to grow the economy by a further £1.2 billion by 2027, beginning with a £40 million investment in a series of strategic projects across the district, from creating office space and new leisure centres to supporting arts and heritage.

Delivering his keynote speech, Councillor Lee explained that the council was focusing on the economy to create opportunities for business and residents and options for the council.

"A growing economy helps create opportunities for all, from access to skills and job opportunities to housing and the opportunity to enjoy top quality art, heritage and culture. It helps generate revenues that can be put back into our communities and the priorities they care about.

"The South Kesteven economy is already the largest and fastest-growing economy in the county area of Lincolnshire, but it has so much more potential to grow - and as a council we need to think and act more commercially and be prepared to act decisively when it is in the interests of the district.

"I was therefore delighted to confirm that we are in the final stages of the acquisition of a large development site on the edge of Stamford that is currently occupied by Cummins.

"We have acted quickly to preserve a very important employment site in Stamford and will be working to bring forward plans with Burghley."

Councillor Lee went on to make a number of other major announcements, including the successful award of a £2 million grant from the Greater Lincolnshire Local Enterprise Partnership for the creation of a new University Centre in Grantham, sponsored by the University of Lincoln.

He also announced the creation of DeliverSK, a commercial organisation that will be a 50:50 joint venture between the council and a private company to help deliver medium to large-scale developments, including employment space, retail, leisure and public realm enhancements.

Speaking at the event, the Deputy Leader of the Council, Councillor Kelham Cooke, explained the transformation that is currently under way at the council.

"The past year has been about getting our house in order," he said. "We are ensuring we have the right people with the right skills in the right roles to help us make South Kesteven a place where people want to live, work and invest.

"There is an enormous amount going on at SKDC to ensure not only that our current services are the best that they can be, but that we're among the most innovative councils when it comes to determining how services are provided in the future.

"We have some exciting initiatives under way, from our in-house 'design bureau' called Lightbox that is helping us turn good ideas into reality, to the work we are doing with Ernst & Young to explore the enormous potential of intelligent automation."

Nick Boles, Member of Parliament for Grantham and Stamford, gave his enthusiastic backing to the active role the District Council was taking.

He said: "The leadership team of South Kesteven District Council understands that local government is not a bystander in the economy, it is a participant and can create the environment within which other people will invest.

"I think it's fantastic news that SKDC has decided to dig into its pockets to bring in others, to ring in private sector partners, to make investments, to attract businesses into this area and make sure those businesses thrive."

Cllr Lee Business summit 2018 Group shot Business Summit 2018