The government has announced it is further cutting our local services.
The money from our income tax that is returned for local spend – broadly known as Revenue Support Grant, RSG – has been reduced by 40 per cent by this Government.
And we are promised more of the same over the next four years, both by this Government and indeed, by the current opposition party.
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.
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 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 North Kesteven District Council, the Revenue Support Grant was £8.3m at the start of this Government, falling to £2m for the coming year. (‘Spending power’ – made up of RSG and business rates income – has fallen over five years to £5m.)
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 incentivised 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.
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. 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 on Friday, December 19, and it was agreed. Will the leader now act on it?
Independent county councillor for Branston and Navenby and North Kesteven District councillor for Cliff Villages.