December 20, 2022 5.30 pm This story is over 16 months old

Lincolnshire’s fairer funding hopes dashed for another year

Not enough money and plenty of strings attached

Lincolnshire’s hopes for fairer funding have been dashed again after the government posted its draft local councils settlements this week.

The funding announcement on Monday included a £60 billion package for councils nationally and government said it equated to a 9% increase on last year.

However, despite welcoming some extra funding council, council leaders have said Lincolnshire continues to be recognised as a low council tax base authority, and to take advantage of the most funding, council tax could need to rise by 5%.

They’ve also hit out at a lack of funding for highways again, despite campaigns earlier this year making it clear the county’s roads are at risk.

The authority is still working through the detail as it considers its budget due to appear before councillors in January.

Director of Resources at Lincolnshire County Council, Andrew Crookham, said: “As we expected, with additional costs pressures, the total funding from the government won’t be enough to run our services next year.

“We’ll be putting together financial options to be considered by the council’s executive early in the new year.

“With increased demand for services and inflation running at 10%, these are likely to include using reserves, increasing council tax and finding savings – or most likely a combination of all three.”

As part of the settlement, the government will give LCC around £19 million extra for social care in a bid to tackle challenges such as increased demand and cost pressures.

However, Mr Crookham said: “This additional money is distributed through a formula that recognises Lincolnshire as a low council tax base authority.”

Council leader Councillor Martin Hill said an “inevitable funding gap” means political decisions are needed need to secure funding services.

“Whilst the statement appears to show an increase spending power for us of 9%, that is reliant on us increasing the council tax by the full 5% – a 3% council tax rise and a 2% social care precept,” he said.

“Much of our government funding is in the form of grants, and these can be taken away at any point, and this is not as secure as money from our base funding.

“So although the additional funding for social care is very welcome, I am disappointed that Fairer Funding has once again been kicked into the long grass until 2025 – having originally been promised in 2019. This is vital to securing long-term financial stability for councils.”

He added that he was “disappointed” that highways funding had not been properly addressed “again”.

“Having well maintained roads is so important for safety and connectivity in our rural county,” he said.

“Our residents pay their road tax and deserve to have roads that are up to standard.”

The government settlement praised the inclusion of a £100 million scheme to protect the most vulnerable households from tax rises.

It said its budget “offered greater certainty up to 2024/25”.

Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove said: “Local government plays an absolutely vital role in helping us to level up, support the most vulnerable, and deliver key services that people rely on every single day.

“We recognise the pressures councils are facing right now and this spending boost will provide the support and funding local authorities need to continue delivering first rate public services.”

The provisional settlement will go to consultation for four weeks closing on January 15, 2023. Final figures will then be confirmed in the New Year.

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