October 10, 2022 10.30 am This story is over 17 months old

“All options” on the table to make budget cuts, as Lincoln council leader warns “we have a problem”

Tsunami of COVID followed by severe cross-winds of the cost of living crisis

City of Lincoln Council leader Ric Metcalfe has told fellow executives “we have a problem,” as the authority says it is looking at “all options” ahead of a £1 million budget shortfall.

A combination of factors including pay levels and contract costs, alongside emergency repairs to Yarborough Leisure Centre, will add up to a “significant” £1,035,000 shortfall in the revenue budget.

It comes as councils join residents in facing extraordinary hikes in their energy and gas prices this winter. While the City of Lincoln Council will get some relief on their energy rates they won’t get any further reductions on gas levels.

The councils Housing Revenue Account, which oversees repairs and maintenance is forecasting a £161,000 shortfall.

A widening gap between income and outgoings is also expected to carry on into future years.

It leaves the council scrabbling to find further cuts and changes that will save it money. However, it is unclear currently where those slashes may take place, with further reports due to go before future executive committees.

Councillor Metcalfe told councillors a meeting of the executive last week: “I think you’re all familiar with the fact that we have got a problem, Houston.”

He said: “Having just emerged from the tsunami of COVID, we have now got the severe cross-winds of the cost of living crisis faced by every household up and down the country.

“We will do our utmost as we have been doing over many years now in trying to make savings without an adverse impact on services and jobs at City Hall.

“That’s the last thing any elected member wants, but obviously we’ve got to look at all options because we have to make sure that the council’s finances are on a very firm footing.”

He said the government’s mini-budget had caused concern. Despite the U-turn over the top level of income tax, the Chancellor has announced around £18billion of public service cuts.

“We’ve taken, we believe a disproportionate share of the reduction in public expenditure over 10-12 years. This council alone, on a very moderate revenue budget, has driven out about 10 million pounds savings.

“So we’ve already made an extraordinary contribution to putting public finances generally on a firmer footing, if we’re asked to do more, it’s going to be very, very difficult to do that without harming essential services.”

He called the Conservative party under Liz Truss so far an “utter shambles” and criticised “ill thought-out proposals without proper consultation” adding that the U-turn “doesn’t exactly enhance the government’s credibility”.

He also welcomed the latest polls which put Labour with a firm lead, adding “people are beginning to see that some of the policies that have been trotted out by this new government aren’t going to be very beneficial to them”.