Your News: Balancing the budget will mean difficult decisions

Protecting services like fire and rescue is a priority
Protecting services like fire and rescue is a priority

Over the next month at the county council we will be looking to set our budget for the next financial year. Three years ago we set ourselves the target of reducing our spending by £125m over four years to meet vastly reduced funding. I'm pleased to say we are still on target to deliver these savings.

It has meant some very difficult decisions around the services we prioritise and provide- some of the most difficult decisions in my political career. The future is still very uncertain, and last year we increased our target to make around £148m of savings by 2015, to account for further reductions in the funding we will receive.

As a prudent council we have put money aside for a rainy day and because of this, we have been able to allocate some funding from our reserves to help balance our budget. But this isn't sustainable in the long-term.

Our aim is to protect essential services while still making savings, but it's inevitable that we are facing some more difficult decisions and another fundamental review of our services is likely.

We want to continue to protect services for the most vulnerable adults and children in our communities, and services to keep people safe including Fire and Rescue and road maintenance. Our efforts over the last few years to work closely with communities, shows that we can keep other services running such as youth clubs and libraries, by doing things differently whilst making substantial financial savings.

It's not just local councils who have to cope with difficult budgeting decisions. We know many households in Lincolnshire are still finding it tough to make ends meet. This is one of the reasons why our budget for the next year proposes to freeze council tax for a fourth consecutive year. By doing this, the government will provide us with a small amount of additional funding which would be the equivalent of increasing council tax by 1%.

Our other option is to increase council tax by 2% which would allow more money for our services, but we don't believe this best represents the wishes of our residents. We're now asking for your views on our budget proposals for the next year. You can have your say by filling in the form online at , via email to , calling the budget consultation answerphone on 01522 553648 or writing to Lincolnshire County Council, Treasury and Financial Strategy, FREEPOST RSTY-UXJB-ARHK, Newland, Lincoln, LN1 1YL.