Taxes set to rise as funding is slashed

Lincolnshire Police.
Lincolnshire Police.

Lincolnshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner has pledged there will be no cuts in frontline officers next year - despite a £3m cut in funding.

However, Alan Hardwick admitted council taxpayers could left to foot the bill for plugging the deficit.

East Lindsey District Council at Manby. Photo: Ian Holmes.

East Lindsey District Council at Manby. Photo: Ian Holmes.

In another blow to hard-up families, they could face increases in council tax bills to cover potentially devastating cuts in Government funding to East Lindsey District Council and Lincolnshire County Council.

Mr Hardwick described the £3m reduction in the police budget as “grossly unfair.”

He dismissed speculation the number of officers would be reduced to balance the books.

In a grim warning, he did not rule out the possibility of the axe falling on officers in 2016 when the police budget is expected to be slashed by a much larger amount.

The Government grant for policing across the county was expected to be £62.2m but the figure announced last week was £59m.

Regarding the reduction, Mr Hardwick said: “We were preparing for the worst case scenario but this is more than we expected.

“It makes it more difficult to maintain the current level of service.

“The thin blue line is getting thinner but I am very hopeful that there will not be any cuts next year.

“But I cannot make a longer-term commitment. There are no guarantees at all.

“Obviously, if we had to lose 200-plus officers (in future) then that would have an effect on the service we provide.”

Mr Hardwick described 
an increase in council tax bills as “unfortunate but necessary.”

He added: “We are being penalised because we are a successful force.

“We have been praised by the Prime Minister, the Home Secretary and HM’s Inspector. You can’t get higher praise than that.

“We have made cuts and we have shown that we can still be a very effective and efficient force.

“Other forces haven’t got out of the starting blocks yet in terms of making cuts. That’s why we are being penalised for being successful.

“We need a level playing field in terms of funding. That is simply not happening. It is grossly unfair.”

Mr Hardwick revealed Home Secretary Theresa May had promised to visit Lincolnshire in the New Year to discuss funding.

Both he and Chief Constable Neil Rhodes have written to the Government, warning further cuts could make policing the county impossible.

It is understood Council Tax bills could rise around £4 next year to pay for policing. The average Band D household currently pays around £193.

However, there could be increases in levies to the County Council, District Council and Parish Councils.

East Lindsey is reeling from a 6.4% per cent reduction, the biggest in the country.

It will mean a £1.2m reduction in ELDC’s spending power next year.

ELDC’s deputy leader Craig Leyland described the reduction in the Government grant as “deeply disappointing” and admitted it would increase pressure on front line services.

He said: “It just confirms the view that rural counties are being absolutely hammered by cuts like this.

“As an authority, we have always tried to maintain front line services and we will continue to do that by trying to reduce costs but obviously it is going to be a challenge.”

Coun Leyland revealed the Government is likely to ‘cap’ increases in District Council’s share of Council Tax bills at two per cent which would raise around £100,000.

He claimed the actual increase needed to balance the books was around 14-15% but accepted that ‘will never happen.’

There are already indications ELDC could slash grants it pays to parish councils who, in turn, could pass on increases to bill-payers.

Ominously, many leading economists are warning Government cuts could be even heavier in 2016.