Horncastle residents braced for bad news as county and district councils face massive funding challenge

Coun Nick Guyatt.
Coun Nick Guyatt.

Council taxpayers in the Horncastle area fear they will have to ‘pay through the nose’ to help maintain even a basic level of services next year.

It is almost certain that council tax bills will increase next year following Chancellor George Osborne’s autumn statement.

East Lindsey District Council and Lincolnshire County Council will face significant reductions in the amount of Government funding they receive.

The two authorities are warning they will have to cut back on some frontline services. There is also growing concern the two cash-strapped authorities will pass on added responsibility to town and parish councils who are also under increasing financial pressure.

Paul Roberts, from Horncastle, welcomed ‘some aspects’ of the Chancellor’s statement, but believes council tax bills will increase.

He said: “I think it’s right that the Chancellor called off cuts to tax credits and it’s good state pensions have gone up.

“Most people would welcome the increase in defence spending.

“But someone is going to have to pay.

“As usual, it’s hard working people will have to pay through the nose.”

Single mum Sally Jenkins, from Coningsby, said she was ‘delighted’ tax credits would not be cut.

She explained: “I’d have been at least a hundred pounds a month worse off. I work hard but it would probably have been better if I’d stayed at home on benefits.

“I want to work and at least there is some incentive now.

“As a mum, I do worry about other things - especially spending on health and education. I am worried about what councils will do. I don’t want to see any more cuts to things like home care and public transport.”

The Chancellor has given authorities like Lincolnshire CC the option of adding an extra two per cent increase to tax bills next year to pay for adult social care.

The amount county and district councils can increase bills is ‘capped’ at two per cent.

However, both Lincolnshire CC and ELDC warn they face some tough decisions.

Coun Marc Jones, executive councillor for finance at the county council, said: “The spending review hasn’t told us the specifics of our own budget.

“In fact, we won’t know our detailed funding until the local government financial settlement is published in mid-December.

“However, it has confirmed that our plans for a budget reduction of around £40 million for the next financial year, with savings of at least £130 million needed over the next four years, are still broadly accurate.

“As the majority of council services are statutory, to find these substantial savings it will be the discretionary services – those the council doesn’t legally have to provide – that will see the biggest impact.

“Budgets for these are likely to be significantly reduced and some will have to be stopped altogether.”

Coun Nick Guyatt, portfolio holder for finance and property at ELDC, said: “Recent years have been tough financially for all councils and they will become tougher still, with an expected cut in Government funding to local councils of at least 30% over the next four years.

“In October, the council announced it would need to deliver a further £6m in savings over the next four years to balance its books. This is in addition to the £4,5m the council has already saved since 2010/11.

“There is no doubt the council will no longer be able to do all it once could and will need to provide services in a very different way in the future. “Council tax bills are expected to be issued next May.”