Lincoln is feeling the squeeze of its taxable space as more people travel to the city for work and leisure, but the number of new people paying tax to the council has plateaued, the council leader has said.
Despite major new developments being built around the city, including a planned 2,000 home expansion in Bracebridge Heath, many are just over the border of the city council’s administrative area, meaning tax money goes to councils such as North Kesteven or West Lindsey.
Lincoln has a Band D equivalent tax base of 25,310.01 across 46,608 properties – however, it serves a travel to work population of more than 175,000 and more than 240,000 people come to the city for shopping and leisure from outside the borders.
And while the visitors bring numerous benefits to the council’s finances, one thing they do not do is pay council tax.
“Lincoln’s population doubles during the day,” said Labour leader Councillor Ric Metcalfe.
“These are not [City of Lincoln] council tax payers, but they expect a robust infrastructure.
“They want and need to use our services when they are here, but they are not contributing to the cost of those services except indirectly.”
“Don’t get me wrong, I love all those people coming to Lincoln, and they’re a great asset on one side of the balance sheet,” he added. However, he said “we’re a small city with a very low tax base”.
More than half of the city’s taxpayers don’t pay the full amount – around 60% of residents have incomes below the threshold where they become eligible fo council tax support.
“We’re a relatively poor city, it’s the better off people who tend to live outside the city who come into the city – it’s one of the big dilemmas for us fundamentally.
Since 2017, the number of Lincoln properties has grown by 1,227 while the band D equivalent tax base has increased by 1,367.01.
Council bosses are hoping the new 3,200 Western Growth Corridor, set to the north of Skelingthorpe Road, will help increase the finances coming into the city as well as help tackle the expected growth of the area.
Another solution, could come under Local Government Reorganisation to expand Lincoln’s boundaries – however, that’s not on the cards right now.
Instead, Lincoln is working with North Kesteven and West Lindsey District Councils on the Central Lincolnshire Local Plan which tries to guide some of the growth coming together to the benefit of all three councils.
What is being looked at is a devolution plan for a new combined Greater Lincolnshire Authority to sit atop all the other councils (possibly with a directly-elected mayor) and oversee how some government powers and funding could be spent in the area.
Lincolnshire bosses were rejected for the latest round, but will be applying again next time.
However, this brings its own concerns as district councils fear the new authority could result in a new local government reorganisation which would see their own powers and democratic control being diminished over time and eventually districts done away with in full.
Whatever happens, it looks like Lincoln will be pushing up against the boundaries for a little while longer.