Radical action required to cope with council’s financial challenges

Radical action and controversial decisions will be required for local authorities to deal with the financial challenges they face, a council has determined.

East Lindsey District Council’s financial future proofing panel believes there will be difficulties retaining frontline services amid ‘fundamental changes’ to local government.

Reporting its findings to full council on Thursday, panel chairman Coun Philip Sturman said: “Members need a better understanding of financial issues because there are difficult decisions to be made and these are likely to be controversial with the electorate.”

Council leader Coun Doreen Stephenson agreed strongly with the recommendation that economic growth be supported to cope with the challenges of welfare reforms and the fragile economy, which were likely to reduce ELDC’s income.

She said: “It’s most important that all members are fully aware of the financial state that we are likely to be in the future and how we are able to maintain frontline services.

“It’s also crucial that we can contribute to the economic development of the area and it’s vital that we continue to support the visitor economy to ensure that we have the level of jobs we have.”

Coun Tony Howard feared the district’s working class visitor base would be worst hit by the government’s welfare reforms, which could prevent them from holidaying in East Lindsey or reduce their average spend.

He said: “Individuals need bread and water, light and heat but they don’t need a holiday, so the economy is very fragile.”

The Mayor of Skegness also expressed concerns with the district’s reliance on the visitor economy and reaffirmed his calls for a more diverse and well paid employment sector.

Other suggestions in the report indicated the council may need to use its financial reserves to greater effect and potentially increase council tax, which is currently one of the lowest rates in the county.