A budget message from Council Leader Cllr Martin Hill OBE - March 20172 March 2017
Cllr Hill explains the tough decisions - including an increase in council tax -behind the setting of the budget.
Good finances are about getting the balance right, especially in difficult times.
At Lincolnshire County Council, we’ve now set a budget for the new financial year in April, but it’s been hugely challenging.
In balancing the books, we faced another massive drop in our general government grant - down 31% to £48m. By 2020, our funding will have been reduced by more than 90% in less than a decade, leaving a big hole in our finances.
At the same time as our grants are being cut, we’ll have to meet £26m of increased costs over the next 12 months. These include an extra £7m to care for a growing older population, plus £5m for a rise in the National Living Wage.
But what does all this mean for local people?
As always, council tax bills will be going out in March, and they obviously affect households directly. When your bill arrives, it will show an increase of 3.95% for Lincolnshire County Council, including a 2% precept (charge) for adult care. That’s far more than we would have liked, but it will bring in nearly £10m to help us protect vital frontline services.
Despite the council tax rise, we expect to have the third lowest rate of all shire counties, supporting residents as they balance their own budgets.
The 3.95% increase will add just under £45 a year - or 86p per week - to a Band D council tax bill. For the many Lincolnshire households in lower bands, the figure will be less - for example, Band A properties will pay just under £30 more for the year, or 57p a week.
Looking ahead, we’re lobbying the Government for better funding for this council - especially for adult care - as it’s unfair to expect council taxpayers to foot the bill.
Before putting up council tax, we obviously looked hard for more savings - on top of the massive £249m we’ve already achieved since 2011. In this, we were guided by the views of residents, who told us which services they regard as most important.
As a result, we’ve protected safeguarding, road maintenance, flood risk management and fire and rescue, and found £600,000 for Citizens Advice.
Elsewhere, we’ve cut a further £40m from our day-to-day spending, which has inevitably meant reducing or stopping some services.
As well as putting up council tax and finding savings, we’ll be using £18m of our reserves to make ends meet in the coming year.
Obviously, these can only be spent once - when they’re gone, they’re gone. With that in mind, we’ve resisted calls to use even more of our reserves to support services over the next 12 months.
That would have left us with even less “rainy day” money for future budgets, which will continue to be extremely challenging.
In all, we’ll be spending £455m on services for the people of Lincolnshire this year - everything from schools and social care to road maintenance and fire and rescue.
At the same time, we’re investing £138m in capital projects, ensuring the county has the infrastructure it needs to flourish in the decades ahead.
As I said, good finances are about getting the balance right - especially in difficult times - and I firmly believe we’ve achieved that.