Column: Leader Martin Hill on council tax rise
Next week the council makes arguably its most important annual decision – the shape of our budget for the year to come.
While there has been talk of the end of austerity, local authorities across the country still have tough choices to make about how to make the best use of our funds, with a reducing government grant and an ever-increasing demand for services.
In 2011/12 we received £211 million in general government grant and this has reduced significantly every year since then – to £95m by the middle of the decade (2015/16). Next year that same grant is only £20m or 10 per cent of what it was in 2011/12.
This year we’ve benefited from an additional one-off government grant of £7.1m for rural services and social care, recognising that these are key increasing costs for us.
While this is welcome, we are still lobbying the government to commit to a long- term fairer funding deal that recognises the expense of providing services in sparsely populated areas such as Lincolnshire.
Our proposals for 2019 include a 4.95 per cent overall increase in council tax.
This would include a 2.95 per cent general increase, plus 2 per cent to be spent directly on adult care, in line with many other English councils.
If this is agreed by councillors next week, an average band D household will find itself paying an extra £61 a year – or £1.17 a week – for this authority.
For the county’s many band A homes, the rise would be £41 over the year, or 78p per week.
I know the proposed increase will be unwelcome, however with council tax now being our main source of income, we are left with little choice to meet the increasing costs of providing vital services. The rise will generate an extra £14m this year, and will put us in a better position to face uncertain future funding from other sources.
Despite the 4.95 per cent increase, we are likely to be one of the lowest-charging English shire counties, if not the lowest. If you look at the last eight-year period, then council tax has risen by just under 15 per cent in total but general inflation, as measured by the retail price index, has been just over 25 per cent.
Maintaining financial stability is important if we want to continue providing good services, as well as our commitments to investing in Lincolnshire for years to come.
Key schemes include the Lincoln eastern bypass and relief roads for Grantham and Spalding, as well as the Boston flood barrier due to be completed in 2020. We want to see Lincolnshire prosper and this means investing in good roads, broadband and other schemes to deliver jobs and growth for decades to come.
We’ve allocated £820,000 to improve weed spraying, safety grass cutting and gulley cleansing, and have proposed to increase our teams tackling potholes from 26 to 30.
Recognising the importance of the help they provide, especially to those on low incomes, we are looking to again provide Citizens Advice with £278,000 of funding for the next year.
These may be testing times for council budgets, but we are rising to the challenge to benefit all of our residents.