Lincolnshire County Councillors and MP are celebrating what is being described as a “productive meeting” with a “positive” future regarding securing fairer funding for local government services in the county.
Sleaford and North Hykeham MP organised a second meeting yesterday (Wednesday) with Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Sajid Javid to press home to need to revise the funding formula for rural councils such as Lincolnshire to generate a level playing field for services with that of urban areas.
Leader of the County Council, Coun Martin Hill, was joined by several Lincolnshire MPs - Sleaford’s Dr Caroline Johnson, as well as Matt Warman for Boston and Skegness, John Hayes for South Holland and the Deepings, Nick Boles for Grantham and Stamford and Victoria Atkins for Louth and Horncastle. They were joined by Tony McArdle (Chief Executive of Lincolnshire County Council), Coun Craig Leyland (Leader of East Lindsey District Council) and Coun Richard Wright (Leader of North Kesteven District Council) to meet with the Secretary of State and Marcus Jones MP, the responsible Minister of State.
They discussed difficulties councils are having in funding services because of increasing costs and demand, combined with declining government funding.
In a tweet following the meeting, Coun Hill commented: “Productive meeting - praise for council from Sajid (Javid) and commitment to reform funding formula. Our case for change accepted. Positive for future.”
Coun Hill told The Standard later: “I’m pleased to report that the meeting was positive and Sajid Javid was complimentary about how well the council is running services in Lincolnshire, especially considering our low funding rates.
“He does however accept that the formula is unfair to rural areas, and is personally committed to reforming this. Our funding rates are set for the next two years and I’m comfortable that we can find the savings we need to during this time to meet our budget shortfall.
“However, with increasing costs and demand for services, we were clear with Ministers in our meeting that something has to change. We are expecting further Government announcements about this before the end of the year, following the Chancellor’s budget.”
Sleaford and North Hykeham MP Dr Caroline Johnson had joined other Lincolnshire MPs last week in a preliminary meeting with Mr Javid on the same issue.
She said today (Thursday): “I am grateful to the Secretary of State for seeing us, and for listening to the case we have put forward. It is encouraging that he was understanding of the problems that we face in Lincolnshire, and that he is committed to looking again at how funding is allocated. I am hopeful that we will see further action on this in the near future, and I will be keeping up the pressure on the department.”
The Fairer Funding campaign pushes for recognition of the unfairness in current funding, which sees urban areas receive more funding per head despite the fact that service provision is claimed to cost more in rural areas.
Dr Johnson is working closely in support of the campaign with Coun Hill and her fellow Lincolnshire MPs. She added: “I am glad to have been able to secure this meeting with the responsible ministers to put forward the case for Lincolnshire. We live in a large rural county, and appropriate funding is necessary to ensure that our council can provide services like adult social care and road maintenance over a wide area.
“If we in Lincolnshire received the average funding per resident for council areas in England as a whole, our region would benefit from £116 million extra funding for services, every year. This is a matter of fairness, and I will continue doing whatever I can as a Lincolnshire MP to push for us to get the funding we deserve.”
Boston and Skegness MP Matt warman added: “It’s clear that the Secretary of State understands the unique challenges Lincolnshire faces. I’m pleased to hear about what we might be able to do to address the short term challenges, as well as to find a longer term fairer funding solution.
“The Conservative team in Lincolnshire will continue to do all we can to lobby at the highest levels of Government for the funding which the county deserves.”