West Lindsey

Austerity over for police and health service – but not for local government, says council leader

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Austerity is “over for police and health service, but not for local government”, the leader of West Lindsey District Council has said.

The comments come as the authority approved a budget on Tuesday night, including a 2% rise in its share of council tax for 2020/21.

The increase equates to a rise of £4.27 for an average Band D property, for a total of £217.74.

The authority hopes to raise around £6.5 million in its share of council tax, balancing a budget of £14.357 million.

Council leader councillor Giles McNeill was pleased with the budget, which will see  investment in the district rise to around £24 million next year, with plans to increase to around £37 million over the following five years.

He said the rise was lower than the 2.35% maximum which would have been allowed by government and he believed it equalled a “freeze” when inflation figures were taken into consideration.

Asked if austerity was over, however, he said: “Not in local government, but it is if you’re in the police, the health service and whoever else has had lots of money thrown at them.

“Plenty of money about, just not for us, seemingly.”

He said austerity had “continued unabated” as local councils continued to see reductions in grants from Central Government which “puts huge pressure on us to balance our budget.

“We’re very resilient, we’ve built a lot of capacity in this budget,” he said.

He added that moves to transfer a £942,000 surplus into the general reserves would “hopefully offset any negative impacts next year, and maybe in future years if the fair funding review is not as fair as its name might suggest”.

West Lindsey District Council leader Councillor Giles McNeill next to his deputy Councillor Owen Bierley. Photo: Daniel Jaines

Councillor McNeill said he had “deep concerns” over potential plans to remove a rurality element of the funding formula, adding it “could very badly impact on West Lindsey, be very negative, and could cost us a lot of money.”

However, as a Conservative majority administration, Councillor McNeill said he believed he had a sympathetic ear from the Tory Government, and had reiterated any reductions in core spending power “would not be acceptable”.

Lincolnshire County Council has approved a 3.5% rise – an extra £45 and taking its share for a Band D property to £1,337.58.

Lincolnshire Police and Crime Commissioner Marc Jones has increased his share by 4.1% –  an extra £9.99 for a Band D property. It takes the police share of tax to £217.44.

All this means residents in West Lindsey will pay at least £1,772.76 for a Band D property this year.


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