Lincolnshire County Council leader Martin Hill joined The Lincolnite for his last Q&A of 2018, addressing the county’s milestones, hurdles, headlines and aspirations.
He shared his views on Brexit, explained proposed council tax increases of almost 5% for 2019 and was challenged over issues including the departure of the council’s CEO.
Here’s our ten point digest from Martin’s end of the year interview:
- Funding crisis – A 5% council tax rise is planned to balance “a reduced income and increased demand”. The council will also use £23 million from its reserves to plug gaps.
- Two year limit – At current funding reduction rates, Lincolnshire county council’s reserves could only last for around two more years. The council has seen more than £50m sliced from its revenue support grants in the last four years. The first services to suffer continues cuts would be non-statutory ones like highways. Looks like it may take longer for the council to fill potholes!
- Heritage support – Heritage attractions were expected to be self sufficient, but missed their target. The council will outline an extra £1.1m in the budget and will work on improvement ideas such as a complete rebrand of The Collection museum in Lincoln.
- Brexit limbo – Councillor Hill said the referendum result should be enacted and respected, rejecting campaigns for a ‘people’s vote’, but he doesn’t support the current withdrawal agreement.
- NHS improvements needed – Lincolnshire hospitals are looking for a new chief executive. Martin Hill said trusts “need to do better”. Issues still surround how organisations work together.
- More ambulances – The council’s new falls pilot service launched this week with an allocation of £400,000, run in collaboration with East Midlands Ambulance Services. In general, he added, the county is proposed to get around 40 new ambulances and around 80 extra staff.
- Reds’ future in doubt – It’s still unclear what will happen to RAF Scampton and the Red Arrows. The council will campaign for the aerobatic team to stay in the county. They are also in conversation with stakeholders about the future of the site, including for housing and industry. “What we don’t want is for the MOD to just sell [RAF Scampton] to the highest bidder and walk away.”
- Legal gag on Kexit – Councillor Hill refused to discuss the departure of the council’s chief executive after just four months. “There was a difference of opinion”, he said, but wouldn’t elaborate on what sparked the disagreement, quoting ‘legal ramifications’. He said there would be a ‘pause’ while the council decides if and whether to recruit a new CEO. Debbie Barnes has been named Head of Finance and by March she will be joined by five new directors. This structure is not expected to change for at least a year.
- Devolution resurrected? – Lincolnshire already voted against the idea of devolved funding and powers from the government, along with an elected mayor, when people were consulted, but in Martin Hill’s eyes devolution in some form should be brought back to the table. “We’re talking both with our district council colleagues and also on something called the Regional Alliance with councils in Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire, on how we could have some devolution.”
- What to look forward to – Waiting for funding as well as continuing work on the Lincoln Eastern Bypass and the Grantham Bypass.