Axe district councils to save Lincolnshire’s libraries, suggests councillor

Library books
Library books

Radical cost-cutting measures involving the axing of Lincolnshire’s district councils have been proposed by councillors in a bid to save front line services and static libraries.

Burgh and Wainfleet ward-holder Coun Chris Pain has called upon Lincolnshire County Council to investigate the benefits of unitary authority status in a bid to cover its £125 million funding shortfall by 2015.

Based on the success of such a move in Wiltshire, Coun Pain believes unitary status could save Lincolnshire up to £25 million a year, thereby avoiding the need for controversial service cuts such as the proposed scrapping of dozens of static libraries throughout the county.

“We must explore options that maximise impact on finances whole minimising adverse impact on the people we all serve...We cannot ignore such an opportunity,” he said.

By moving all council-run services under one authority, Coun Pain believes the economies in scale and the sharing of back office functions would make ‘considerable savings’.

Although the expense of implementing such a transition in Wiltshire came to £18 million, the county’s new unitary authority estimates it went on to save £100 million in the following four years.

Coun Pain’s suggestion, seconded by Coun Alan Jesson, follows in the footsteps of proposals made last year by Lord Heseltine in his ‘No Stone Uncovered in the Pursuit of Growth’ review.

The report called for all two-tier authorities outside London to pursue unitary statuse.

“The number of different councils doing similar things remains costly and confusing - for many the range of different systems is baffling too,” the report stated.

Lord Heseltine believes this system is not only ineffective as a form of local government but also a hindrance to businesses which ‘prefer to deal with one local authority instead of speaking to multiple authorities’.

At the time of the review Lincolnshire County Council and East Lindsey District Council explained no immediate proposals had been made and both authorities stressed their commitment to working together.

Coun Pain’s motion will be discussed by councillors on Friday, September 13.