Lincolnshire County Council considers 4% council tax hike to ‘plug’ financial black hole

The leader of Lincolnshire County Council has refused to rule out significant council tax rises in addition to further cuts to public services over the next four years.

Councillor Martin Hill has said that the county council would need to reduce its spending by £40 million in the next 12 months, more than it currently spends annually on fire and rescue and household waste disposal.

Further ‘massive’ cuts are to follow in the years leading up to 2020, with almost all local services having their budgets reduced, with some services set to be cancelled entirely.

Council tax could potentially rise by almost 4% in April next year to generate extra income, although no final decision has yet been made.

The council is also asking the public to prioritise and choose the services it wants to keep, and which ones it wants to cut or stop.

Funding could be reduced for libraries, pothole filling and winter gritting, and stopped completely for services such as heritage services, children’s centres, and support for small and medium-sized businesses in Lincolnshire.

Councillor Hill said: “Councils across England are facing the deepest cuts in the history of local government.

“Imagine if every council in England stopped filling in potholes, turned off every street light, and closed all parks, children’s centres, libraries, museums and leisure centres.

“Even that would still not save enough to plug the financial black hole we’re facing by 2020.

“At this council, having already reduced our budget by £129 million over the last four years, we’re faced with at least the same massive cut again.

“However, the savings will be very much harder to find this time, as we’re already running a far more efficient council.”

Councils are currently free to raise council tax by up to 2% without needing to hold a referendum.

However, Chancellor George Osborne announced in the Autumn Statement that councils responsible for adult social care – including Lincolnshire County Council – would be able to increase council tax by a further 2%, meaning that a rise of up to 4% could be introduced without the public having a vote.

The tax rise would roughly add £30 to a Council Band D property paying £1,400 a year.

Councillor Hill added that the additional money in the region of £4.5 million a year would have to be spent exclusively on adult social care.

He said: “However, it wouldn’t meet the extra £30 million costs that the government’s national living wage is likely to add to our adult care contracts by 2020.

“Neither would it resolve the demographic problem – the fact that demand for adult care is rising all the time as people live longer and move to Lincolnshire to retire.

“As county councillors, we’re elected to take difficult decisions to balance the books – and we will do that.”

Residents can complete an online form listing the services provided by Lincolnshire County Council and their spend in 2015/16.

Respondents are asked to tick boxes indicating whether they would like the same spend, a little less, or a lot less on each particular service.

There is no option to increase the amount spent on any of the services listed in the survey.

To complete the survey, visit Lincolnshire County Council’s website.