Raid on savings to avoid cuts or tax hike in West Lindsey
Finance bosses at West Lindsey District Council, which covers villages like Scotter, Hemswell, Waddingham and North Kelsey, will dig into the authority's savings to avoid cuts to public services or a huge hike in council tax over the coming years.
Details of how the council intends to meet growing financial pressures were revealed when the Gainsborough-based authority met to set its budget on Monday, March 4.
The meeting was told that by 2017, the £14.65 million which sits in reserve in a WLDC savings account will be "raided" to the tune of at least £5 million.
Leader Burt Keimach hit out at the Tory Government's decision to slash up to 33 per cent of its local council support over the next five years.
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He submitted a balanced budget – a 1.5 per cent council tax increase ending a three-year freeze which will see most households pay an extra 5p a week for all its services.
But Councillor Keimach warned that, to protect WLDC jobs and services, the authority had no choice but to dip into its reserves.
"This year residents will pay an extra 1.5 per cent for the district council's share of the overall bill in 2013-14, an increase of £2.79 per year for a band D property," he said.
"But as a result of the issues identified with the central government funding it is expected that a saving of £1 million will be required for the following year [2014-15] with an additional £2 million estimated as being required in the next two years."
The 2013-14 financial package includes an extra £2 million earmarked for stimulating the local economy and encouraging job creation, £1.6 million for housing investment and £300,000 on fuel poverty issues, rural services and youth unemployment.
And the council has pledged to maintain its general reserve figure around the £5.5 million mark, equivalent to between 2.5 and 3.5 per cent of its total annual spend. Policy and resources chairman Councillor Tom Regis warned: "We will continue to look at ways of avoiding service reduction and redundancies – but being realistic, this is now getting more difficult to sustain.
"However, our innovative approach and sound financial management has paid off so far.
"This has helped to reduce costs and increase efficiencies and performance such as having one of the top recycling rates in the country.
"We will continue to develop this successful way going forward.
"And we will carry out an extensive engagement exercise with communities and residents over the spring and summer.
"They will be able to inform future priorities and identify where we could make cuts to the budget."
But prosperous communities committee chairman Councillor Malcolm Parish said: "We have already invested money in communities with a new ball park for Hemswell, support for village halls, community volunteering and funding for jubilee and Olympic events.
"And we will continue our investment in our communities."