— Martin Hill OBE is the Leader of Lincolnshire County Council
This last year has been challenging for many of us, since the government’s comprehensive spending review signaled dramatic changes in how local government would be able to operate.
Since then, the County Council has been working towards savings of £125 million over the next few years. We have made good progress, saving £50 million in the past year. We have reduced our workforce by around 800 posts, the majority of this achieved without the need for compulsory redundancies.
The impact on services has been minimised as far as possible, and we have protected funding for vital areas relating to public safety, such as safeguarding children and highways maintenance.
This winter we are well prepared to keep roads clear during severe weather, having more than doubled our salt stocks to 42,000 tonnes of salt. Forty-three gritters will treat 3,000km of priority roads as a precaution when the temperature drops to one degree and is predicted to fall further.
There was excellent news for Lincolnshire in the Chancellor George Osborne’s autumn statement when he announced that the County Council’s bid for £50 million towards the expected £98 million cost of the Lincoln Eastern Bypass has been granted by the Department for Transport (DfT). It is hoped that construction could start in 2014 for this exciting scheme, which will bring great economic benefits for the county, including up to 30,000 new jobs.
This year councillors agreed not take up their annual increase in allowances and instead have contributed to the Councillor Big Society Fund. The fund was launched in September and already, £20,000 has been granted to 35 community projects, from village halls and sports groups to community health watchdogs and environmental groups.
We attracted further new funding earlier this year. Lincolnshire was one of 16 areas chosen by the government to participate in the Community Budget project to tackle problems surrounding families with complex needs. The Families Working Together project is currently working with 52 Lincolnshire families, helping them to make major improvements to their lives.
We’ve also received £14.3 million of government funding to improve the speed of the county’s broadband, ensuring that local residents and businesses can access better online services. So although we have limited resources we are ensuring that budgets are spent carefully, on the most vital services, and to ensure that the vulnerable in our society are protected, and receive the support they need.