Council tax is to increase across Lincolnshire for the coming year, according to the Leader of the County Council.
The council, whose budget makes up 80 per cent of Council Tax bills, has agreed at its meeting today (Friday), that it will up its share of the bill by 4.95 per cent to cope with increasing costs and shrinking Government funding, while still seeking to save millions of pounds in the coming years.
Coun Leader Coun Martin Hill gave his budget address to the council earlier today and has since issued an explaination of the financial implications on a video, as well as issuing his full budget statement on the council’s website.
The Police and Crime Commissioner has opted to raise its share of the tax bill by 5.8 per cent while North Kesteven District Council is likely to raise its share at a meeting next week by around 3.23 per cent.
Coun Hill said in his address: “The Government is allowing local authorities to increase the general rate by up to three per cent, and we need to take advantage of that. Although it will only add £2.6m to our income over the next 12 months, the extra one per cent will increase our base budget for future years.”
He said the tax rise will include the additional two per cent government permitted precept to maintain adult care levels.
The total 4.95 per cent increase will mean an extra £1.12 per week for an average Band D property, or 74p for Lincolnshire’s many Band A households.
Coun Hill added: “Even with this rise, we’re still expected to have the third lowest council tax of all 27 English shire counties.
“Over the last seven years, our council tax has gone up by about 10 per cent, while general inflation has been 21 per cent. In other words, our share of the charge has fallen in real terms, confirming this authority’s long-term commitment to a low rate.”
The council also plans to raid some of its reserves to balance the books. Out of £68.5m available the council proposes to draw on £35.8m, over the next two years.
Coun Hill said: “This will smooth our path as previous savings take effect and we develop new service delivery models. We’ll also continue to keep our general reserve at £15.8m, or 3.5 per cent of the council’s total budget - the top end of the recommended range.”
Coun Hill also looked to the years ahead and the effects of Brexit, saying that central Government will have to play a greater role in steadying the ship for local councils: “Whatever your view of that post-Brexit future - and mine is positive - there’s no doubt it will present both challenges and opportunities. As a country, we have to rise to them, just as this council has to continue to find solutions to the issues confronting us.
“Over many years now - as Sajid Javid recognised - we’ve provided good services for the people of Lincolnshire, despite being seriously underfunded. And we’ll carry on being a well-run authority in the future, doing our very best with the limited resources available to us.
“For the next two years, the balanced budget we’re proposing will set a sensible course for Lincolnshire through to 2020. Beyond that, the Government has to play a greater part, and I’m confident that it will,” he said.
“Already, it’s consulting on a complete overhaul of the formula that has left shire counties so shortchanged for so long. It’s also planning a Green Paper on adult social care funding, despite the cynical opportunism that dogged the issue last year. These are both important steps on important issues, and grounds for cautious optimism for all of us.”