Austerity-hit council weighs up bill rise and cuts to PCSOs and road safety body

Lincolnshire County Council
Lincolnshire County Council

The authority is proposing a 1.9 per cent rise in council tax in the coming financial year in the wake of further cuts to its Government funding.

It would be the first time the council has increased the levy, which forms just part of residents’ annual council tax bills, since 2010/11.

Coun Martin Hill, leader of the council, said: “As expected, we’ve had another tough settlement from the Government and this comes on top of increased costs, much of which relates to the care of elderly people.

“Overall this has left a gap of around £67m in our budget for this year.

“We’ve already found £30m of savings and are planning to use £33m of our reserves to help balance the books. However, like many county councils, we are also recommending a small increase of 1.9 per cent in council tax, to make up the shortfall.”

For the past three years, the authority has accepted a grant in return for freezing council tax.

This grant is again on offer, but only up to a value equivalent to a one per cent rise.

The council says an increase less than 1.9 per cent would mean reducing its planned level of service, while a rise of more than 1.9 per cent would trigger a referendum at an estimated cost of £800,000.

Coun Hill said the 1.9 per cent rise would equate to an extra £20 a year for a band D property.

He said: “That means our council tax will still remain the third lowest for a county council in the country.”

He added: “Whilst looking at the savings required we have been determined to protect children and adult safeguarding and, thanks in part to an extra £9m from the Government, we are able to increase spending on highways maintenance.”

The budget is currently out to consultation. Find out how to get involved at www.lincolnshire.gov.uk.

The executive board will meet on February 3 to recommend final proposals for approval by the full council on February 20.

The proposed 1.9 per cent increase in council tax is just one way the authority plans to balance its books from April.

One other measure is cutting its support to Police Community Support Officers (Pcsos) from £1.5m to £1.2m.

A council spokesman said: “The Police and Crime Commissioner and Lincolnshire Police are aware of our proposals, but we do not know if they intend to retain or change the current numbers of Pcso. We’re working with the police to ensure that Pcsos work as effectively as possible.”

The budget also reveals that the Lincolnshire Road Safety Partnership (LRSP) is to be ‘challenged’ to become self-funding by 2016.

The LRSP has a budget of £2.2m, to which the council contributes £500,000. The rest is income from road safety courses.

A council spokesman said: “We predict this income will increase over future years, which, combined with a reduction in the partnership’s promotional activities, means the council can progressively reduce its contribution over the next three years.”

LRSP communications manager John Siddle said a business case was already in place for it to be self-funding from next year.

Elsewhere, certain areas are in line to be protected, including tourism, in light of the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta being signed, and winter road maintenance.