Spalding

‘Free council’ hopes from district authority leader

The leader of South Holland District Council says it’s possible his authority could become a ‘free council’ and throw off the shackles of government control.

Conservative Councillor Gary Porter said that authorities were unlikely to return to the level of services they used to provide for ’30 years at least’.

SHDC has seen its central government budget cut by around 45% in the last seven years, however, Councillor Porter said he’s not ‘overly worried’, with the council making moves to tackle its overheads.

In fact, some of the recent austerity measures have been good for local authorities, said Councillor Porter.

South Holland District Council offices on Priory Road in Spalding. Photo: Google Street View

“I can’t see, for the next 30 years at least, that the country will return to the level of local government public service delivery that we used to. And a big chunk of it we shouldn’t have to,” he said.

“In the early 2000s we were doing some services that you would think ‘well what’s the point of the council delivering this stuff?’

“We were inspecting and counting things for no reason, the kind of comprehensive performance assessment regime we used to have to go through measured things the public would never give a monkeys about.

“All of that stopped, so it was a good thing, some of the result of austerity was good but not all of it clearly because you’ve now got places like Lincolnshire disproportionately funded against other parts of the country.”

He admitted he would like the district to get a fairer share of the Government pot however added ‘but I’d rather have freedom from them so I can get on and do what we want to do’.

“As soon they stop giving us money they can stop telling us what to do,” he said.

South Holland is currently balancing its books through a number of schemes including saving £1 million a year by sharing services such as HR and IT with East Lindsey District Council and £600,000 through shared management with Breckland Council in Norfolk.

“Less than £50k is 1% of the council tax, so you’re not talking about insignificant sums of money from the tax payer’s point of view,” he said.

The authority is also following others in generating cash through investments, with the council electing to use housing to do so.

It has four housing ‘vehicles’ including a stock of 4,000 properties under its Housing Revenue Account, along with others in its General Stock, and its recently-created South Holland Homes and Welland Homes companies.

Councillor Porter said: “Housing is a core function for us, we’re choosing to use housing vehicles to start to generate that money and, admittedly, it’s a slow start but once its in full-tilt it will earn quite a bit of money compared with what our tax base is.”