Lincolnshire County Council votes to increase tax by 1.9 per cent

Lincolnshire County Council.
Lincolnshire County Council.
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County councillors have voted to increase tax by 1.9 per cent and use £22m of their reserves to make up a shortfall in this year’s budget.

Lincolnshire county councillors voted for the rise in rates, bringing in an extra £4m for the 2015/16 year, at a meeting on Friday.

The council faces a £56m budget gap after further cuts to the grant it receives from the Government.

This year’s budget has identified £30m of savings and draws on £22m from the council’s reserves, alongside the £4m from the tax increase, to make up the shortfall.

Executive councillor for finance and property Marc Jones (Con) said: “The budget for the next year takes a sensible and pragmatic approach so we can continue providing the best possible services to people in the face of growing demand and further financial uncertainty.

“Through careful housekeeping, we have built reserves up over the years. When times were better we saved for a rainy day.

“This budget uses some of these funds to meet our financial challenges in the short term, but we can’t be complacent. Our savings can only be spent once.”

In previous years the council has frozen its proportion of the overall tax bill in return for a one-off grant from the Government. But this year councillors decided a tax increase was a better option.

This is the first time the authority has voted for an increase in five years.

Areas where budgets will see little reduction include safeguarding for children and adults, flood risk management, and fire and rescue. These are areas identified by the public as priorities in the budget consultation exercise.

Some services will see their budgets cut, however. Councillors voted earlier this month to cut £1.9m from its annual libraries budget of £6m. As a result of the cuts, two thirds of Lincolnshire’s libraries will lose their funding.

The council hopes those that do lose their funding will be taken over by volunteer groups. But if volunteers do not come forward, the libraries are likely to close.

One of those set to lose its funding is Deepings Library in High Street, Market Deeping. Despite a huge public campaign the library was included in the list of those facing cuts.

Bourne Library will stay open as it is part of the new community access point at the Corn Exchange.

South Kesteven District Council has not yet announced plans for its 2015/16 budget, although a public consultation has been held.