Council leader slams Grantham MP’s comments in favour of unitary authority

Leader of South Kesteven District Council Bob Adams.
Leader of South Kesteven District Council Bob Adams.

The Leader of South Kesteven District Council has slammed comments made by Grantham MP Nick Boles who says it is time for the district council to be scrapped and a unitary authority to take over.

Coun Bob Adams, a Conservative councillor, said the district council was already a ‘leaner, fitter’ organisation after making necessary changes.

Grantham and Stamford MP Nick Boles. EMN-151105-160103001

Grantham and Stamford MP Nick Boles. EMN-151105-160103001

In his regular column for the Journal, Mr Boles said “it is time to grasp the nettle and give Lincolnshire a streamlined system of local government which will represent and serve local people best.”

Coun Adams says the district council has maintained frontline services despite Government cuts.

He said: “It comes as no surprise that our MP Nick Boles has again claimed that district councils are expensive. He wrote a book some years ago saying that all district councils should be abolished. What is somewhat surprising is that the Government has repeatedly said that under the devolution debate, local government reorganisation is not under consideration.

“Since 2010, South Kesteven District Council has gone through two transformation programmes. This has resulted in a leaner, fitter and more cost effective organisation. We have put in place fundamental changes to the way we conduct our business. Invest to save policies have been introduced which will not only reduce costs but will in many cases generate income for the council in future years.

“Many of the decisions have been extremely difficult and have resulted in job losses, causing genuine problems for those affected. Many district councils have gone through this very painful process which has brought about considerable savings to the council tax payer.

“In 2010 the formula grant received from government for South Kesteven was just over £10 million. The settlement for 2016/2017 is £5.7 million – a reduction of £4.3 million over a six year period.

“We have been able to maintain front line services throughout this period of funding reductions by reducing our overheads, being more efficient and introducing new income such as letting out our office space.

“During the period 2010-2015, council tax for South Kesteven DC has only been increased once, although the government has given councils freeze grants to meet increasing costs.

“Mr Boles states that by disbanding South Kesteven there will be a saving of £30m. He does not tell us what the cost will be in terms of transformation i.e. redundancy payments, early retirement payments and all the expensive overheads which have to be met under these circumstances.

“I was a councillor during the last reorganisation in the Seventies and I can assure people that no real savings were achieved and that over the period of change the public were called upon to pay more and more in rates/council tax. I would be more reassured if it could be demonstrated that the shire counties had achieved the same efficiencies and savings as the district councils have done.

“I never cease to be amazed at the lack of understanding of Members of Parliament, of all parties across the country, with regard to the achievements of district councils.”