January 25, 2022 1.03 pm

Concerns over business “gloom” as East Lindsey councillors back near £5 tax increase

Council tax to increase

Scrutiny councillors at East Lindsey District Council have raised concerns for local businesses and a lack of investment away from the coast as they backed a 3.26% council tax increase.

The authority’s Overview Committee on Tuesday, examined plans for a £4.95 council tax increase for 2022/23. It will see a Band D property pay £156.69 to the council for the year.

Bosses hope the measures will bring in an extra £336,839 to the authority which has efficiency saving requirements of £685,000.

Executive board member for finance Councillor Richard Fry told the committee: “The 2022/23 is balanced and retains our current baseline level of services.

“This year, with all the amalgamations and changes in structure it’s been very difficult to deliver the budget.

“There are many councils that would give their right teeth to deliver a budget of this character.”

However, Councillor Jill Makinson-Sanders said she had spoken to Louth businesses and said there was “an awful lot of gloom at the moment”.

“My concern is that a lot of businesses are going to be struggling and I wondered if we could put out a kind message for how the council will support them?” she said.

She later added: “I’m a bit disappointed if you live inland, there seems to be an awful lot of huge investment going into the coast.

“It does get a bit depressing when you read all these huge capital investments and… what do we tell our residents really, it is difficult isn’t it?”

Officers told councillors there was still support for businesses including relief for certain sectors and grants and business rates relief.

No comment was made from bosses on the location of capital investments.

In his report, Councillor Fry said positive news included investment in a new “Mobile Pride Team” to tackle grot spots with extra support such as new staff and equipment and further development of the council’s Fairfield vehicle servicing facility.

The council will also be looking to generate income through commercial activities activities – including a “flagship development in Chapel St Leonards” – however, the report noted further uncertainty due to COVID.

“Notable risks” included an 8% increase in the levy required by Internal Drainage Boards due to restrictions on the use of red diesel, service growth cost pressures, issues around the disposal of assets such as Tedder hall and Skegness Town Hall and difficulties around business rates.

Officers said they were worried about the future of local funding and what it would look like. They said a three year settlement would have been a relief to many authorities.

Councillors praised the balanced budget but said they wanted to have more input at an earlier stage. They said some services, including planning enforcement teams, were “creaking” and needed some further investments.

Councillor Edward Mossop said: “I can’t criticise a balanced budget, well done for doing that in what have been a very difficult couple of years, but it’s almost a bit late to put forward any changes because we’re going so rapidly.”

Councillors were also told of a “significant drop in income” with the Kingfisher Caravan Park which is in the middle of a court action from residents who disagree with the council’s decision to force caravans older than 25 years off the site.

The report estimated an £854,000 drop in fees and charges for the site going into next year, with income dropping from £1,874,000 to £1,020,000.

The report to the committee said the latest work to make savings with Boston Borough and South Holland District Councils as part of the South and East Lincolnshire Councils Partnership and the latest Towns Fund bid had resulted in almost £50 million being invested into the district.