The government has announced it is further cutting our local services. The money from our income tax that is returned for local spend has been reduced by 40%, by this government. So much for localism.
And we are promised more of the same over the next four years, both by this government and indeed, by the current opposition party. So the three parties are all calling for big further cuts to local policing and to local government, to prop up their deficit. Fuelling debt with ambitious capital spend is making it worse.
This time cuts are made from a much lower base as the efficiency savings have already been made, with over a thousand jobs less at County Council alone. We are left with only real cuts to make, and that means loss of essential services.
With such a reduced local government, we could find ourselves paying privately for what we thought was the basics. This includes paying for bin collections and paying more for care for the elderly. It also means getting less for our money, so more potholes in the roads, less access to libraries, harder to get school places and harder to get school transport.
Local government is about collecting tax by the fairest means possible and spending it in the most cost-effective way for the good of the whole community.
Surely that still makes sense? Cutting below the bone is a recipe for disaster.
There is a growing band of Lincolnshire Independent members who have different ideas and want to keep money local. We want more of our income tax to be spent locally by the most cost-effective means. We want the ability to raise tax locally to fit essential local needs, without capping or referenda. The ballot box is our referendum. That is the point of local democracy. We want local government to be run locally and cost-effectively for the good of our residents and not under central party control.
I believe that also means local councillors need to be free of party political control in order to make the Lincolnshire’s case strongly and freely.
The government makes out that the cut in “spending power” is small, since much of their contribution from income tax has already been removed in previous years. For NKDC, it was £8.3m at the start of this government, falling to less than a quarter, that is £2m next year.
Other money comes from that raised by local council tax, fees and charges for services and money for new house builds that councils have allowed. So to get some of the money back, Councils are incentivized to give permissions for more houses, which itself creates yet more demands on council funds. Hence we get a spiral of demands that are not funded and services, such as health and roads deteriorate.
Colleagues and I have fought hard for rural areas to get their fair share. Services are more expensive to run in sparsely populated areas. This settlement does recognize that to some extent.*
However, already top-sliced off is the unfair settlement given to Scotland and the cities, leaving the rest of the pot smaller, so that Counties like Lincolnshire are once again disadvantaged. We need to get our act together and take the battle to Westminster. All over the country other Council areas are benefitting from devolution of powers and money. We need to get ourselves on the agenda. The Lincolnshire Independents put this “call to arms” to full Council last Friday and it was agreed. Will the Leader now act on it?
Councillor Marianne Overton MBE
Leader of the Lincolnshire Independents