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City of Lincoln Council leader launches stinging attack on Government funding

By Lincolnshire Echo  |  Posted: October 26, 2012

Fears: City of Lincoln Council leader Ric Metcalfe. Although Mr Metcalfe has not specified which services could be cut, the council is responsible for bin collections, CCTV and parks including Hartsholme

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Crucial services will be cut and jobs lost because of a Government tax freeze, claims city council leader Ric Metcalfe.

His Labour-run authority, which has a £14m annual services budget, faces a £3m shortfall by 2016/17.

He wants to help plug that gap with a 3.5 per cent rise in council tax, which would cost the average Lincoln family an extra 17p per week.

But Karl McCartney, Lincoln's Tory MP, said his party was protecting vulnerable people from unnecessary rises.

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Mr Metcalfe says the nationwide cap on council tax rises, along with a reduction in income from business rates and less Government grant to run the benefits system, signals the death knell for local government.

He said: "We are being hit from all sides by the Government. We have now reached the position where balancing the books through efficiency savings is not going to be the answer, although we continue to look for these.

"We have not got local government anymore, whatever the Government claims about having handed back to councils more power and autonomy."

Mr Metcalfe argues that new funding rules imposed upon councils hampers their ability to prioritise local spending.

"We have been in a very difficult position for several years now and it looks as if this is going to continue for the foreseeable future," he added.

"Since 2010 we have already taken about a 28 per cent cut in funding from central Government.

"We have already taken £2.5 million out of our budget through cuts and efficiencies, limited income generation and joint working with North Kesteven.

"Over the next period of our financial strategy I don't think you can exclude the possibility that we will be a smaller organisation.

"There will also be some major issues as to whether we are still able to provide all of the services we currently do.

"We cannot go for the 3.5 per cent increase in council tax we have planned for from next April without a costly referendum.

"What turkey is going to vote for Christmas?

"The position we are in is that we are facing falling income – including from planning and building control fees and car parking – related to the recession but rising demand for services.

"On top of that, in the name of localism, the Government saying it is giving councils powers to do all these things, is completely smoke and mirrors.

"We have started to build five new council houses in Lincoln and we have plans for more.

"But how on earth can we help grow the local economy with these pressures upon us?"

The changes to city council finances will have a knock-on effect on other authorities' income.

The authority says the county council can expect to lose £200,000 in its precept while the police will see a drop of £35,000.

Karl McCartney, Lincoln MP defended the Government’s position by saying: “I am sorry – though not surprised – to learn that leading elected Labour members at the City of Lincoln Council are unhappy about the Conservative-led Government’s council tax freeze.“However, after the doubling of council tax bills under the previous Labour Government, millions of hard working people up and down our country are extremely pleased and relieved that their council tax bills will not be rising this year.“Spending on council tax benefit also doubled in the years under Labour and welfare reform is vital to tackle Labour’s budget deficit. “We must not forget that under the last Labour administration, more taxpayers’ money was being spent on benefits than on defence, education and health combined.“Our reforms will localise council tax support and give councils stronger incentives to support local firms, cut fraud, promote local enterprise and help people into work. “We are ending Labour’s something for nothing culture and making work pay.“We have protected pensioners from any change as they cannot be expected to go back to work and have fixed incomes. “Pensioners who have saved and worked hard all their lives deserve dignity and security in retirement.“I am in politics to support people who work hard.” and want to get on in life – the strivers of Britain. “In the process, I want to banish Labour’s something for nothing culture that has done so much damage to our country.”

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  • InsideStory  |  October 27 2012, 6:19PM

    Comrade Ric was the one in favour of selling Lincoln's services when Maggie deregulated the bus industry and it was he who pushed to sell Lincoln City Corporation buses and drivers down the river without a paddle.I would'nt trust him as far as i could spit him.

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  • Bolshie  |  October 27 2012, 3:26PM

    TonWhimpole, I would probably keep parish councils as there is real benefit to local communities having elected local people in charge of stuff like allotment allocations and defining projects etc that benefit the community. In that way I see them as a focus group that shapes and prioritises community development and represents the parish in dealing with the county council. As most parish councillors don't exercise their right to be paid and have control of only very limited funds I have no real issue with them - on the downside I don't like them having affiliations with political parties and feel they should represent only the local community and not seek to further their own political ideals. People do need to be aware when voting of the risk of NIMBY parish councillors actually holding back community development for the benefit of the majority. I see no reason to have anything between them and the county council though.

  • TomWhimpole  |  October 27 2012, 8:38AM

    Bolshie, In Lincoln there are 2 tiers (district and county) in the rest of Lincolnshire there are 3 (including Parish Councils). Would you abolish Parish Councils too? Not a Comrade Ric fan, but I do think local services are getting stripped away and the voting public will only realise the full impact when it's too late. As for Nice but Dim, usual blustering nonsense. At least we can get rid of him in the next election.

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  • Bolshie  |  October 26 2012, 7:47PM

    Perhaps Mr Metcalfe has an opinion on why we even need two tiers of government in the county? The most successful private enterprises have achieved efficiencies through flattenning of structures - ie removing management tiers to simultaneously reduce costs and speed up decision taking. In the public sector the old 'pyramid' heirarchies remain far more common - possibly because reducing the tiers in a pyramid means those at the higher tiers have to both take more responsibility and do more work. It seems to me that the route to efficiency is through a single authority with no more than 4 tiers in the structure. I believe the efficiency problem lies with more with die-hard public servants than elected officials but note that elected officials are there to ensure the public servants are not wasting taxpayers money, that they are operating in the interests of the public etc: in which case Mr Metcalfe is duty bound to drive out inefficiency and impropriety at all levels - does he understand this? For me the biggest shock on this page is that Mr McCartney appears plausible for once - he must be good at reading from a script!

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  • FreedomSpeech  |  October 26 2012, 6:41PM

    Leopards can't change their spots. Tax and spend, tax and spend, tax and spend. It's what Labour has always done and what Labour will more than likely always do.

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  • BJ_Jan  |  October 26 2012, 2:32PM

    It is time that Cllr Metcalfe took a long/hard (REALISTIC) look at the salaries being paid to managers at all levels, particularly the senior managers, and reviewed the options for lowering those salaries to affordable levels which are in-keeping with the vast majority of the local population. Stop bleating about the problem being everyone else's fault. The reason we are collectively in this mess is because of the Labour party creating/facilitating these exorbitant salaried posts. IT IS NOW TIME TO GET BACK TO REALITY!!! If councilors don't consider the salaries are generous enough, RESIGN! nobody is forcing anybody to stay in the posts. Many people in the country are facing cuts in hours/pay or worse loss of jobs. Please get with gthe program or get out!!!

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  • WeAreImps  |  October 26 2012, 1:53PM

    So, Cllr Metcalfe, really is proving David Cameron's view of the Labour Party that they are the party of one notion ... Borrowing more money to plug a hole that his government left in office. May I suggest Mr Metcalfe goes back to the drawing board, look at how his administration got into that mess in the first place, and stop fleecing money of the taxpayer to pay for benefits. I work hard, and wholly support the governments tax freeze vow.

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  • TB78WHlNE  |  October 26 2012, 9:20AM

    Labour incapable of balancing the books and blaming everyone but themselves. Plus ca change...

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