Lincolnshire County Council has approved a budget which will see tax rise by 1.99% and more than £24.5 million extra funding allocated for business support, flooding and highways repairs.
Council leaders had previously rejected a 5% hike in council tax, choosing instead to defer a 3% increase towards adult social care because it was “not the right time”. The increase will be equivalent to an extra 51p for band D properties.
A £19.75 million Labour amendment to the budget, including new spending on street lighting LEDs, funding for emotional well-being an mental health support for young people, enhancements to the government’s education catch-up programme and green sustainability projects, was rejected.
As part of LCC’s budget £12 million will be taken out of the councils £52.6 million volatility reserve to pay for planned grants to help small businesses impacted by COVID-19, while another £200,000 will be put aside for an emergency flood response scheme.
A further £10 million had already been moved around in the council’s capital programme to help repair rural roads.
However, following a government cut to highways funding, which has seen the councils share of cash slashed by 25%, council leader Martin Hill proposed a further £2.3 million spend.
Lincolnshire will receive £38.7 million towards highways from government in 2021/22 — a drop of £12.3 million on last year’s £51 million.
“This is not an area we want to see less investment in,” said Councillor Hill.
“I’m clear taxpayers in Lincolnshire should not be expected to cover indefinitely money which should come directly from the government.”
Councillor Hill said that despite the COVID-19 pandemic there were reasons to be optimistic “but cautious” about the future and the council had “weathered the storm better than most”.
“Careful financial management has also enabled us to produce a budget that continues our investment in the county’s infrastructure, makes improvements to services, and provides financial help to our small businesses who need it most,” he said.
He said to accept a 5% tax rise would be “hard to justify”.
In other areas, £2.2 million has been set aside for drainage reparis and projects – including works at 34 locations across Lincolnshire planned as priority in 2021/22.
Education spending has also increased by 3.8% for primary schools and 4.5% for secondary schools with a further £30 million put aside for children with special educational needs.
Some £25,000 will be used to cover a discretionary council tax relief for special constables in Lincolnshire Police.
Labour Group leader Councillor Rob Parker, said the Conservative’s plans were “essentially a standstill budget, with some new developments”.
“The budget put forward by the Conservative Group only deals with some of the issues presented by the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.
“In particular there is scant recognition by way of extra funding of the serious educational and social challenges that many children and young people are and will continue to face because of COVID-19.
“This alternative budget deals with that deficiency through making sufficient and effective use of the balances available to the county council at this time of need.”
Labour’s measures would have taken the council’s volatility reserve to £27.773 million, however, Councillor Hill argued it needed to be maintained closer to the £50 million mark.