SKDC leader attacks MP Nick Boles’ call for district councils to be scrapped
Comments by MP Nick Boles that the district council should be scrapped in favour of a unitary authority for Lincolnshire have been slammed.
Earlier this month, in his regular Journal column, 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.”
This week, the leader of South Kesteven District Council, Conservative councillor Bob Adams, has responded at length.
He said that SKDC was already a “leaner, fitter” organisation after making necessary changes, going on to say that it had maintained frontline services despite Government cuts.
Coun Adams added: “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 frontline 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 SKDC 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.”