February 18, 2022 4.00 pm

Lincolnshire County Council approves 4.99% council tax hike in bid to tackle funding shortfall

Change of plan following highways loss

Lincolnshire County Council voted in favour of a near 5% rise in council tax after upping its initial bid from 3% earlier this year.

The authority’s full council voted by a majority to approve the rise. Leaders previously said they’ve been forced to tackle a reduction in the highways budget by 25%.

Opposition leaders tried to force through a vote on a lower rise, requesting a 4% rise topped up by £6.45million from the council’s reserves, however, this was rejected.

Conservative Council leader Martin Hill on Friday welcomed extra government money which had been announced, but said the authority was still “short of what we should receive under a fairer funding regime.

At a time when so much financial support has been provided to individuals, businesses and organisations across the UK in response to the pandemic, it’s not entirely surprising that there will now be limited additional funding for councils.

“Our ability to find savings in addition to the £300 million since 2011 is also becoming increasingly difficult, but we are committed to doing all we can to use taxpayers money effectively.”

The authority expects to save a further £25 million over the next four years through a series of measures.

The rise will take the average Band D Council tax payment to the county council to £1,432.17 for the year

It is hoped the funding will help generate £15,901,000 for the council.

Lincolnshire County Council Martin Hill’s speech to the budget meeting on February 18. | Photo: Daniel Jaines

However,  Councillor Hill warned: “A failure to fund services properly now will have an impact on residents in the future. We don’t want to see frontline services cuts that will most likely impact the most vulnerable.”

He said that meeting the highways shortfall using reserves was “not sustainable” adding that it was “incredibly disappointing” the government had not responded to the Fix Our Funds, Fix Our Roads campaign.

He said work was going on to improve things like adult care, protecting vulnerable children, improving opportunities for travel and road upgrades, green projects and flooding solutions.

Councillor Ashley Baxter led the charge for the shadow executive. | Photo: Daniel Jaines

Independent County Councillor Ashley Baxter however said the rise was “too far” and failed to “treat residents with respect”.

He added there was no further consultation – which he said suggested “people think 3% is enough” – on the extra cash the rise would take.

“It doesn’t feel we’d be treating our residents with respect to demand such a big increase with £60 million already in the piggy bank and knowing there’s another £7 million raised in council tax last year that isn’t being spent on the services it was collected for.”

He said the opposition amendment would cover the highways shortfall, fund increases to tackle rising waiting times to treat children facing mental challenges and take action to cut carbon emissions.

During an interview with Local Democracy Reporters yesterday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised to ask his government to look again at the highways funding issue.

He said there had been “massive investment” in Lincolnshire’s roads, including £165 million for the Eastern bypass, however, he acknowledged it was “still something that we have to fix”.

“I am well aware of this issue that your excellent councillor rightly raises and we’ll do what we can to fix that.”