Investigation launched into cost of ‘hidden communities’ on Lincolnshire authorities

The imact of caravan communities on Lincolnshire's finances is to be investigated.
The imact of caravan communities on Lincolnshire's finances is to be investigated.

Councillors have launched an investigation into the financial burden caused by the ‘hidden communities’ of caravan dwellers on the coast.

Lincolnshire County Council’s Environmental Scrutiny Committee agreed last Tuesday to set up a working group quantifying the full extent of the missing millions to lobby the government for more money.

Committee chairman Coun Chris Pain believes the authorities are missing out on substantial amounts of council tax and government grants due to the high volume of people who live in caravans for most of the year, use the local services, but aren’t registered as full-time residents.

“Lincolnshire needs to get its fair share and the committee’s working group will investigate how we can achieve that,” he said.

A report entitled The Caravan Communities of the Lincolnshire Coast, has already highlighted the burden these hidden communities place on local authorities and will form the starting point for the committee’s work.

Economic experts from Sheffield Hallam University, who produced the report for East Lindsey District Council in 2011 found that around 6,600 people were living in caravans or chalets along the coast, of whom 40 per cent were ‘in effect full-time East Lindsey residents and should really be counted as such’.

Most of these residents, the report noted, were unrecorded on official population statistics, therefore costing the authorities several millions in government grants, while also putting a strain on services.

The council’s executive member for economic development, Coun Colin Davie hopes the working group’s report will help him lobby the government for fairer funding for Lincolnshire and a reassessment of how the caravan communities can be asked to contribute their fair share.

“I’m looking for a report that quantified the amount of money that we are missing out on so that we can take this to the government and say ‘this is the shortfall, what are you going to do to help?’

“We also need to clarify what we are going to do with these communities in terms of council tax because if you are living on the coast you should be contributing - it’s about fairness.”

Coun Pain also believed the report could also reopen the debate on year-round site residency.

The working group is expected to report its findings to the committee later this year.