Lincolnshire councils digest further budget cuts

Councils across Lincolnshire have been told they will face further cuts to their spending powers as the government announced the funding grants settlement for 2015-16.

Councils across England will face an average cut of 1.8% in their spending power, and in Lincolnshire local authorities are responding to the effect of real-term cuts.

The funding announcement was made on Thursday, December 18.

In Lincoln, the city council says while a reduction as big as 16% was expected, it signals significant challenges in the future.

City of Lincoln Council

Councillor Ric Metcalfe, Leader of City of Lincoln Council, said: “The government’s announcement of our latest finance settlement has given us a reduction in our funding assessment of 16% in 2015-16 when compared with 2014-15.

“We were expecting a reduction of this size, but that doesn’t make it any easier to deal with the continuing budget pressures we face.

“There is a significant challenge ahead to find a way to make the savings outlined in our financial strategy. We know that further cuts are likely in the coming years but, whatever happens, we will continue to strive to do our best for the city.”

Lincolnshire County Council

The county council’s budget for 2014-15 was £476m. The provisional budget for 2015-16 is £439m  and the budget will go to full council in February 2015.

The council say the settlement announced on December 18 was around 14% less than the year before.

Councillor Martin Hill, Leader of Lincolnshire County Council, said: “The settlement was in line with what we were expecting and equates to roughly a 14% cut in our funding.

“Over the last few years, we’ve successfully managed to save around £150m from our annual budget, while still protecting frontline services.

“However, these new savings will be much more challenging to make, and will mean we have to review our priorities again.

“Unfortunately, the county is still underfunded compared with more urban areas, so we’ll continue to push the government for further funding for rural counties to make sure we get our fair share in future.”

North Kesteven District Council

North Kesteven District Council says the provisional local government finance settlement was in line with expectations and it has budgeted in its forward plans for reductions on this scale.

The provisional settlement indicates that the Government’s Revenue Support Grant for North Kesteven will be reduced from just over £3m in the current year to approximately £2m for next year.

Councillor Marion Brighton OBE, Leader of North Kesteven District Council, said: “This is a reduction of almost 33%, which places a great strain on financing the current level of services provided by the council. Although it is an increasingly small part of the increasingly complex jigsaw of components making up local government finance, it is in line with our expectations and a challenge we are prepared to rise meet.

“This council has always been a very efficient authority delivering a high level of quality services in the most cost-effective way and every year we rise to the challenge of finding further savings and efficiencies while maintaining service excellence.

“Over the past three years we have achieved savings of more than £2.5m and are in a strong position to respond to this further reduction in government grant.

“Whilst the announcement is disappointing it is not unexpected and the council will need to consider council tax levels in the light of this grant reduction.”

“Other components of local government finance recognise progressive and forward thinking actions such as supporting business growth, business-start-ups ad bringing back empty homes into use; areas in which we deliver strong and sustained performance.”

South Kesteven District Council

Strategic Director at SKDC Daren Turner said: “The provisional settlement announcements on December 18 were in line with our expectation and budget modelling. The settlement confirmed a further circa 15% reduction from 2014-15 funding level.

“It places further emphasis on local authorities to grow and maintain strong local economies and South Kesteven has a proven track record in this respect which is placing it in a good position for the future. We continue to reduce costs and raise service levels, we strive to protect front line services and support the most needy in our community.

“The council also has a good relationship with local businesses; the business rate is now a major element of the Council’s funding and our efficiency in collection will continue to serve us well.”

West Lindsey District Council

West Lindsey District Council says it faces reductions of £868,000 in the next financial year’s grant settlement following the announcement.

Leader of the council, Councillor Jeff Summers, said: “These figures come as no surprise as we have been planning for these reductions for a number of years as part of our medium term financial plan. Our dedicated staff have worked hard to meet the challenges so far. We know a different type of expertise is required to deliver our services in the future.

“Our entrepreneurial approach has put us in a relatively strong position however each year it is becoming increasingly difficult to balance our budget.

“To ensure we continue to provide service that our residents require, we need to do more with less resources. This is why our commercial approach and making use of our capital fund and property assets, is so important to ensure we maintain a high level of service provision.”