Lincolnshire County Council suggests u-turn over cuts to buses, gritting and children’s centres

A last minute change of heart has seen Lincolnshire County Council leader Martin Hill propose to retain funding for subsidised buses, winter gritting and children’s centres for the next two years.

The ruling Conservative group at the county council will put forward a motion at a meeting of the full council on February 19, to decide on the authority’s budget for the 2016-17 financial year.

Original budget proposals would have seen the closure of 15 children’s centres, an end to funding for companies subsidising rural bus routes and a reduction in the gritting of Lincolnshire’s highways from 33% of the network 25%.

A council tax rise of 3.95% was also approved in principle by the council’s Executive.

However, following the announcement that the council has been handed an extra £7.7 million in government grants, leading councillors have suggested maintaining the funding to save the services.

Additional money needed to retain the services is likely to be drawn from the council’s Financial Volatility Reserve.

A consultation organised by the county council saw pothole repairs and winter gritting given the greatest priority by the 8,087 Lincolnshire residents who took part in the survey.

Campaigns against the previously planned cuts to bus services and the closure of Sure Start centres attracted the support of thousands of Lincolnshire residents in recent weeks.

Lincolnshire County Councillor Marc Jones

Lincolnshire County Councillor Marc Jones

Councillor Marc Jones, Executive Councillor for Finance who will second the motion, said: “We have carried out extensive consultation on our budget proposals where the public have shown that they understand the difficult financial decisions we are facing and have given a clear steer of where they believe our priorities should be.

“Lincolnshire residents have elected us to represent their views, and we have carefully considered all the feedback that we have had.

“After much lobbying by ourselves and county MPs, our final financial settlement from the government gave us some one-off additional funding – around £5.2m for the next financial year and £2.6m for the year after.

“That’s why we are proposing this motion at full council recognising that whilst the majority of the proposed savings would still go ahead, it is right that we use the additional funding, to reduce some of the service cuts we have to make, in areas the public have told us they really value.

“Although this is good news in the short-term, we are still faced with an incredibly tough challenge of finding a further £30m in savings in 2017-18 having already cut our budget by £42m for 2016-17.”