Hidden communities costing councils cash

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UNRECORDED communities of caravan park residents are preventing local authorities from accessing millions in funding grants and adding to the demands on their services, a report claims.

The Caravan Communities of the Lincolnshire Coast report estimates that 4,600 people are not included in the district’s official population statistics despite spending more than six months a year living there in caravans.

Without officially classifying these people as East Lindsey residents, local authorities are missing out on an estimated £4.6million in central government grants and incurring further losses in council tax.

East Lindsey District Council commissioned researchers at Sheffield Hallam University to conduct the report to gain a fuller understanding of this hidden community.

Deputy chief executive Stuart Davy said: “By ensuring we know the number of people in East Lindsey staying in caravans for the majority of the year who are registered locally with a GP and on the Electoral Role, we can secure increased funding from the government to support local services as our population will be recognised as being higher. This will enable us to continue to deliver important services for everyone at a time when finances are squeezed.”

Unlike many other areas in the UK, East Lindsey is subject to licensing regulations preventing people from living in caravans all-year-round.

To adhere to these regulations, many caravan residents own or rent another property where they live out of season.

Therefore, although thousands of people consider a caravan in East Lindsey to be their primary residence, they are officially registered as living at another home and any council tax they pay goes to the local authority in which that home is located and not East Lindsey.

One option raised in the report to counteract that problem was to allow all-year-round residency at a greater number of caravan sites in East Lindsey.

These changes would enable local authorities to access more funding based on population driven formulas and additional council tax from officially registered all-year-round residents.

The caravan residents could also benefit by avoiding the inconvenience of a twice yearly change of home.

However, as stated in the report, all-year-round residency would also be dependent on the units being fit for continual habitation and acceptable flood alert and evacuation procedures being in place. Many caravan residents surveyed in the report, were unaware of such risks or procedures.