Lincolnshire

Martin Hill: Give us a fair deal

Those of you who have been following recent events in the local government arena know that I am passionate about fighting for a better financial deal for Lincolnshire County Council.

This is a debate that is now getting increasing attention as, one-by-one, county councils across England are making public the serious challenges they are facing.

Some of you will have seen me making our case for increased resources on the BBC national news last week. The fact that these difficulties are getting such prominent air time shows how acute this issue has become.

Our area is among many county authorities across England missing out on billions of pounds of government funding and next year we will all need to find £1 billion in savings because of reductions to budgets.

County authorities have already had to find year-on-year savings for the past eight years and have done more than any other part of the public sector to restore the nation’s finances back to health.

All county leaders will face hugely difficult decisions next year in setting their budgets.

In Lincolnshire we’ve already taken many difficult decisions and managed our finances carefully. We can use our limited reserves for next year but this is unsustainable in the long run because the savings will have to be found every year afterwards.

And unless government makes council funding fairer for the future, even well-managed county councils will be unable to balance the books. As an example of how bad things have become, Norfolk have proposed closing 46 out of 53 children’s centres.

Looking after vulnerable people is always at the top of our priorities. If things don’t change we may have to look at reductions to non-social care expenditure do that we can protect these vital services.

We have lobbied the government through our Fairer Funding Campaign – if councils in Lincolnshire just received the average for councils in England we would be £116 million better off every year.

Over the next two years – to 2020 – counties face £3.2 billion worth of extra costs from inflation and increasing demand for services.

Lincolnshire is one of the lowest funded upper-tier councils. London residents receive £536 per resident – by contrast in Lincolnshire it’s £292 per resident.

I fully agree with my colleague Councillor Nick Rushton, County Council Network finance spokesman and leader of Leicestershire County Council, who said: “It is only with extra resource delivered on a sustained basis that will allow delivery of services that the public deserve, growth of our economies, and protection of the vulnerable and elderly.”