February 28, 2020 2.25 pm This story is over 50 months old

Local Democracy Weekly: Austerity is not quite over for Lincolnshire councils

Not out of the woods yet

Austerity is not over for Lincolnshire councils as future funding remains uncertain, despite declarations to the contrary by the latest two prime ministers.

Before her resignation, Prime Minister Theresa May declared that funding cuts were over and welcomed a new dawn for public services.

But a glance at budget documents from Lincolnshire’s local authorities would suggest finance officers are not out of the woods yet.

While there has been a slight uptake in grants, such as the adult social care support, many councils still need to raise council tax and make savings elsewhere to make ends meet.

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This is because government has only offered a one year settlement for local councils, rather than a long term plan.

As a result, authorities such as Lincolnshire County Council (3.5%) and North East Lincolnshire Council (3.98%) have still had to approve council tax hikes.

Other councils are also making tax rises:

  • North Lincolnshire Council – 3.9%
  • City of Lincoln Council – 1.9%
  • West Lindsey District Council – 2%
  • South Kesteven District Council – 3.15%
  • South Holland District Council – 2.83%
  • East Lindsey District Council – 3.49%
  • North Kesteven District Council – 3.01%
  • Boston Borough Council – 2.05%

Councillor Philip Jackson, leader of North East Lincolnshire Council, told councillors last week that the uncertainty over the funding led to the rate rise to “offer security”.

Meanwhile, the county council has to make cuts of £14 million in order to balance its own budget.

Martin Hill, Leader of Lincolnshire County Council. Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Now, council leaders have been left looking to the future and what the next government will offer in funding.

The last 10 years have seen significant pressure on council budgets and council chiefs want a three or four year settlement after weathering the storm.

One thing is certain, it will not include the revenue support grant which has been cut to the bone over the past decade and will be phased out.

The county council saw its share of the grant, which is the main source of funding for local authorities, cut by £50 million in four years.

It meant that local authorities had to look elsewhere for income to solve shortfalls on the balance sheet.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised to “level up the north” after December’s election.

Elsewhere, the government is also expected to outline plans for more business rates retention. Councils in the county trialled a 100% retention scheme back in 2018/19.

A fairer funding review, something which county council leader, Martin Hill, has called for Lincolnshire’s fair share of, is set to be carried out later this year.

Councillor Hill said he is confident about future funding, though it remains uncertain what exactly the formula will look like.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised to level up the north following December’s election.

For Lincolnshire’s councils, fairer funding for the county’s communities would be a good start.

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