Morning round-up: Lincolnshire County Council’s budget meeting

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Read the round-up from the first half of Lincolnshire County Council budget meeting this morning (February 19).

Latest update 12.45pm...

• Councillors have now gone into recess for a lunch break, and the budget debate will continue from 2pm.

• Coun Overton went to describe the cuts as ‘’too severe’. She called for a new system for the allocation of income tax to boost local government funding.

She said the Independents would keep all services that could boost businesses and the economy. She highlighted the importance of keeping subsidies for rural transport and called for a fairer system for school transport - saying all children should be allocated to their nearest school and not on ‘whether their parents can afford to pay’. She added: “We need to invest in our communities and our local facilities”. She said she was ‘sorry’ to see funding cut for PCSO’s.

• The Lincolnshire Independents also moved their own budget proposals. Coun Marianne Overton (Ind) said it was unfair to keep raising council tax and that did not solve the shortfall in funding. She said migration into Lincolnshire would put added pressure on budgets. Coun Overton maintained extra savings could be made by changes to the council’s ‘special responsibility allowances’.

• Coun Mair says: “We know the country is in trouble - but no-one seems capable of doing anything about it”. He adds: “Lincolnshire is being treated abysmally compared to other councils - £7 per head for the population in Lincolnshire and £60 for metropolitan boroughs.”

• UKIP’s Anne Reynolds also criticised the budget, saying that nationally, too much money is being spent on the new high speed rail project - instead of going into local services. She says: “Why should we expect residents to pay more for less?”. She says cuts will mean ‘loss of independence’ for a lot of people. Coun Reynolds said UKIP would have provided more than £1m to support bus services. She says that money should be put into a new fund for community groups and people suffering from mental illnesses. She claims the cuts will lead to a ‘big slave society.’

• Coun Reynolds says UKIP proposals would include cash for 600 new ‘housing units’ for vulnerable people - and more money for children services.

She says UKIP’s budget would save jobs of people who work on, for example, road repairs. She warns jobs cuts would lead to council having to hire more temporary staff. UKIP’s proposals are seconded by Coun Mair who says 70 people are currently in hospital, have been declared to fit to go home but aren’t allowed because of shortfalls in care budgets. He describes reduced funding in police is a national problem but praises PCSO’s for their community work

• Coun Dilks (Lab) says council has cut services ‘to the bone’ - including libraries and youth services. He says it has ‘shelled out millions’ to pay private schools fees for a privileged few. He claims there has been more spin re-the proposed budget than a ‘fairground waltzer’. He says the U-turn is down to the public - and not the Tory government or the county council. He questions whether fire stations, youth services and cash for child sex exploitation will be cut. ‘Where will the axe fall?’. Coun Dilks says £42m cannot be saved by cutting grass verges.

• Coun Parker says closing children’s centres should never have been considered. He questions success of council’s scrutiny process. He calls for size of the council’s 10-strong executive to be reduced to make savings, claiming they have less work to do. He adds ‘cuts have consequences’ - particularly with regard to acute services like public health. Coun Parker claims more pressure will be put on NHS and that more alcohol fuelled crime will put pressure on police

He praises decisions to cancel bus subsidies and children’s centres but says the U-turn was down to public pressure. He adds safeguarding children and vulnerable adults is important and concedes council only has limited funds. However, he says council has more money in reserves and adds: “We have needs now.”

• Labour’s Robert Parker says the budget is a clear case of ‘pay more and get less’. He accuses Tories of ‘shrinking services’ to virtually nothing and blames central Government. He says Conservative Central Government want to keep a ‘close grip’ on local Government and plays down benefits of devolution.

He says Tories do not ‘stand up’ for Lincolnshire. Coun Parker says all money from council tax should be used on spending on services - and not put into long-term projects like new roads.

• Coun Jones says if council relied on reserves, it would run out nof money in two and a half weeks.

Schemes are £48m - Lincoln bypass, £36m Grantham relief road. £15m Lincoln east-west link, £12m for Spalding relief road

He confirms £11m for Boston flood barrier, more than £31m for Highways, and £12m for Schools. He admits more tough decisions next year before ‘we see light at the end of the tunnel. He says: “We have to make a better, stronger, louder case.”

• Coun Jones adds public engagement survey identified road repairs as a priority. Least valued included library services. He says there is ongoing uncertainty about future Government funding and grants. We are not sitting on ‘massive reserves’ he says. He says Government’s Rate Support Grant was £211m in 2012 and by 2020 it will be £20m and that shire counties will miss out to Metropolitan boroughs.

• Coun Jones predicts a shortfall of £47m this year and ‘will get worse.’ An extra two per cent increase in council tax will go on Adult Social Care. Overall increase 3.95 per cent or equivalent of 82p a week on Band D property. He says Lincolnshire will be along the ‘lowest county rates’ in the country.

• Coun Jones says beyond next two years, Government funding will increase via Better Care Fund but until then, council faces major problems.

He says council expects a 50 per cent increase in number of people in over 55 age group. An extra £5m will be needed to pay for increased adult care demand and an extra £3.9m for new Living Wage.

• Coun Jones says that the council support new system of funding based on business rates and devolution of powers from Whitehall via a Greater Lincoln Authority. He adds: “Local councils will be answerable to local people”. Council has to save £41m and will use £21m from reserves. He admits spending reserves is not sustainable. He confirms funding for community grants and local welfare schemes will be withdrawn. He adds: “We can’t spend money we don’t have.”

• Coun Marc Jones (Cons) outlines the budget motion. He says councillors face ‘tough decisions’ in tough times. However, he claims people do trust the council. He admits authority is struggling to protect frontline services, including home care.

• Coun Jones says Government has provided an additional £7.7m following successful lobbying. It will mean £5m more this year, and £2m next. He says Government does understand problems but stresses council still faces tough choices. He adds council has listened to residents.

• Coun Jones says £4.9m will be to protect three key services - road gritting, bus subsidies and no closure of centre centres. He adds £2.8m will go into propping up council reserves. He says savings have already been made - including 40 per cent cut in senior management. Council will also be using £22m of its cash reserves to protect services.