January 5, 2022 3.00 pm

Lincolnshire council tax increase by 3% to tackle social care and highways underfunding

Social care and highways funding sticking points in plans

Lincolnshire County Council leaders approved a 3% council tax increase from April, which will raise an extra £9.6 million for social care — but a £12 million gap remains in the highways budget after government cuts.

The authority’s executive, approved the measures, which will now go before scrutiny and then to consultation, at a meeting on Wednesday.

The rise in tax equates to around £40 on a band D property — and officers estimated the rise will bring in and extra £9.567million. However, social care itself faces pressures of around £13 million.

Conservative council leader Martin Hill said the authority “did not want” to put council tax up, but added that with inflation at around 5% at the moment “it will in effect mean a real term cut for the county”.

He said the extra cash would help tackle the extra numbers of children currently cared for out of county by bringing them back in to Lincolnshire and helping the service be more cost affective.

A major talking point for the council was the current argument with the government’s Department for Transport, in which it is calling for £12.3million taken from its highways budget to be reinstated – a cut of 25%.

It says thousands of potholes could be left unfilled and miles of road unrepaired if it doesn’t get the money. Last year the council plugged the gap from its reserves, but this this year that was not possible.

Councillor Hill said: “We understand and know that having reasonable roads repaired properly is something that our residents and our businesses are very much keen to see happening in the future.

“Unlike last year, we haven’t allocated the £12 million government slashed from our highways maintenance grant in our draft budget. This is because we’re still hopeful the Transport Secretary will listen to our plea and reinstate the 25% funding cut thrust upon us last February.

“Despite finding corporate savings of £354m since 2011, we still expect to face a cumulative funding shortfall of around £23m over the next four years.

“This means we’d struggle to continue covering the £12 million roads maintenance funding gap, as we will already need to increase council tax, draw on our reserves or find further savings – or more likely a combination of all three – to balance our budget.”

The current position for 2022/23. | Image LCC

The 3% ring-fenced rise was deferred by Lincolnshire County Council last year with bosses instead opting to take just 1.99% rather than the 5% total they were allowed. However, it cannot be deferred again and if not taken will be lost as an option to the authority.

Elsewhere, an assumed increase in council tax base (the number of people paying tax) will generate a further £4.982million.

The report also outlines £9.543 million of savings next year, and £25.585 million by 2025/26.

This will come from methods such as maximising working from home arrangements and smarter working, reducing administrative support posts, closing surplus buildings and cutting supplies, services and travel budgets.

In total, the council’s revenue budget for 2022/23 had increased by 5.2% from £505.448 million to £534.515 million.

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