Lincolnshire’s PSCOs, fire stations, bus routes and highways services are in line for cuts among services across the board as the county council finalises its budget proposals for 2016/17.
‘Nothing is off limits’ said the leader of Lincolnshire County Council Martin Hill as proposals on how its budget, which has been reduced by £27.578 million (28%), would be spent next year.
As previously reported, cuts to the council’s budget were £10 million worse than expected in the government’s announcement last week.
Council tax is set to rise by 3.95% to ‘balance the books’, with the average taxpayer seeing an increase to their bill of £43.
The council reviews council tax on an annual basis, with the threshold for the amount a local authority can rise the tax by without a referendum set at 2%.
This year however authorities with adult social care responsibilities can add a further 2% to deal with pressures in that area.
The council tax rise is expected to generate £9.2 million next year for the council.
Cuts totalling £42 million are expected across services, with some in line for closure. The council proposes to make savings savings from a number of areas including:
- Cuts for the county’s fire and rescue service with some fire stations outlined for possible closure
- Reduction of the county’s PCSOs by about a third
- Staffing restructures
- Cuts to maintenance and management of the county’s road network
- Reduced bus subsidies and transport initiatives with a number of communities not having a bus service
- Removal of Lincoln Park and Ride Shuttle (Castle Shuttle)
- Reduced road maintenance such as grass verges, grass cutting and safety inspections and gritting
- Reduced street lighting
- New service delivery models for birth to fiver services and school improvement services
- The new library service model, delivered by Greenwich Leisure Ltd
- New contracts for smoking cessation, prevention and treatment of substance misuse and sexual health services
There are also proposals to stop some services altogether such as:
- Health improvement activities such as health trainers, food and health programmes, adult weight management and walking programmes
- Household Waste Recycling Centres
- The community grants programme
- The councillors Big Society Fund
The council will also be looking proactively at selling off a number of assets. Officers say this will mainly include council buildings such as disused schools and farmland.
Over the next two to three years, the council has identified around £47 million worth of land and property sales that it is looking to accelerate.
A number of redundancies have been indicated in the proposal, however the council does not at this stage have a prediction for how many employees that would affect.
Public meetings are taking place during January where residents can have their say on proposals.
David Forbes, County Finance Officer, said: “The current year budget, excluding schools, is £476 million. 50% of that is funded by the council tax.
“The Government’s Revenue Support Grant is reducing from the current £98 million this year to £70 million next year and in 2020 it will be £20 million.
“In the end of a nine year period we will be down to 10% of what we had to start with.”
The final decision on proposals goes before the county council Executive on February 19, 2016.
Leader of Lincolnshire County Council Martin Hill said: “Because our budget is a lot worse than we thought, we are using our reserves and savings to see us through this year.
“We also have to go back to the drawing board to see how we can get more savings and that’s going to be very difficult. We are talking about things that we really don’t want to do.
“With the County Council Network we are making strong cases to government about the situation and I think there is a genuine misunderstanding about how difficult a situation this is.
“We can hope that the government has another look at it and revises its plan. We’re meeting with ministers after Christmas.
“We’ve always tried to protect the services that the public value most. We have a duty to provide services to adults and children who have need of social care so that will continue.
“Other areas that we have always regarded as important like gritting the roads, bus services, street lights; we’re looking at having fewer fire stations open, it’s all stuff we didn’t want to go into politics to preside over.
“We have an obligation to balance the books but what we are being asked to do is approaching impossible.
“Reduced budgets across the council are going to have a serious impact on the services we fund and deliver. No area is immune from this and this is only the beginning of the savings we will have to make. Some of our services are likely to stop running entirely.”