Rocky road ahead for East Lindsey as district set for Council Tax hike and cuts in services

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Stand by for an increasingly rocky and expensive ride over the next four years. That was the bleak warning to East Lindsey residents at Wednesday evening’s full district council meeting where members controversially approved - by 32 votes to 17 - both a hike in the council tax for 2016-17 and a cut in services.

“We are entering unchartered water,” said portfolio holder for finance Coun Nick Guyatt.

“There will be pain for a lot of people.”

Coun Guyatt went on to confirm a council tax rise of just over four per cent - between £3.30 and £9.90 extra per annum, depending on property Band.

But the total rate demand will be significantly higher because Lincolnshire County Council, the police commission and many town and parish councils are also set to demand extra cash from residents.

The portfolio holder attributed ELDC’s increase to the prospect of steadily eroding financial support from Whitehall - a shortfall that will nowhere near be met when local authorities are given the green light to retain business rates collected within their areas.

To subdued laughter from the chamber, he came up with a figure of speech: “When you’re up to your armpits in alligators, it’s useful to remind yourself why you entered the swamp.”

On the subject of service cuts, Coun Guyatt provided scant detail but said there would be “changes in the ways a lot of things are done.”

High on the cost-saving hitlist will be footway lighting unless town and parish councils choose to pick up the tab.

Public conveniences are to closed “where there is least need”, and the council’s Messenger bulletin will become online only to save printing and distribution costs.

A new £2 charge is set to be introduced for motorists choosing to use ELDC sites to park their cars after 6pm.

Funding cuts are on the cards for bowling greens, paddling pools, markets and other amenities, while town and parish councils will henceforth have to foot the bill for their own elections.

Some Customer Access Points also face the chop as do the grants that councillors make to pet projects within their wards.

And there is bad news for ELDC’s workforce - there is to be a “top-to-bottom re-evaluation of jobs, terms and conditions and how staff are remunerated.”

Current mileage allowances and sick pay arrangements will come under the spotlight.

Proposals to renegotiate contracts with partner organisations such as Compass Point Business Services and Magna Vitae could also put a squeeze on other jobs within the district.

The Conservative-controlled administration’s tough stance was defended by Coun Neil Cooper who reminded the meeting of the requirement to set “a balanced budget”.

Agreed Coun Robert Palmer: “We have to pay our share as a tier of local government.”