Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Council Tax Increase Held to 0.48%

Hard-pressed residents in West Lindsey are having the financial burden eased by an increase of less than half a percent in next year's council tax announced by the district council last night.

The increase is expected to be the lowest in the county and amongst the smallest anywhere in the country. On an average Band D property the increase amounts to 90 pence a year.

The authority’s budget meeting was told that despite an increase of only 0.48% the Council had still been able to invest in the environment, the local community and young people struggling to find jobs.
Leader of the Council, Cllr. Adam Duguid, Conservative (Market Rasen Ward) said:
"I believe the green agenda should be at the very heart of all that the Council does. I think we should be ambitious – we should aim to make West Lindsey the greenest district in the country within the next 10 years.

"We can attract new industries to this area in the fields of renewable energy, recycling and waste and energy savings technology. Some have already arrived. This will help create the prosperous district which is our strategic aim. Our farmers and rural businesses can be at the heart of this new agenda."
Cllr. Duguid said that young people could be trained into these new industries to give them an incentive to stay and make their life in Lincolnshire rather than head off for the bright lights elsewhere.

He also wanted to tackle the issues around rural transport and ensure that new housing was built to the highest environmental standards.

The Council also needed to develop more pioneering schemes like the outstanding social enterprise partnership at Hill Holt Wood near Newark that had already secured funding from the Future Jobs Fund to train 150 unemployed young people in a variety of skills that will help them to find work in the building industries of the future. Cllr. Duguid said:
"We now aim to develop this partnership with an investment of more than £500,000 in the Homes for All programme with funding secured from investors either moving into our area or expanding here.

"The Homes for All programme will buy long term unoccupied homes – we have more than 1,000 of them – and then bring them up to the highest environmental standards using the team of young people who have learned new skills at Hill Holt Wood before the homes are sold to housing associations"
Initially, the scheme will be targeted at the South West Ward in Gainsborough where the Council is also waiting for the results of a Neighbourhood Renewal Assessment before deciding what further action to take to tackle deprivation.

Cllr. Duguid also said the authority was putting its ‘money where its mouth is’ by pledging to reduce its carbon footprint by 25% by 2015. The Council is investing £200,000 which will be funded by the energy savings made over the next four years.

Another environmental challenge being met by the authority is flooding and £165,000 is to be invested in flood defence which will in turn bring in money from other sources to make schemes even more effective.

Working with partners is seen as a key factor in success, and Cllr. Duguid paid tribute to the work of the Citizens’ Advice Bureau which is doing vital work to help people who may have lost their job in the recession and have their home under threat.
"That is why I am proposing that we increase the grant to the Lincoln CAB by £4,330 to £12,000 and the West Lindsey CAB will receive a further £6,580 to a total of £45,000 to support the outstanding and important work which they are doing."
Other areas to benefit in the budget are:
  • £50,000 to Distraction and Prevention Schemes to develop activities for teenagers and reduce problem behaviour.
  • The restoration of the Councillor Initiative Fund which means every councillor can invest £1,000 in schemes in their ward.
  • £50,000 to improve customer access and make sure that services are provided in way that is most suitable and appropriate to meet residents’ needs.
Cllr. Duguid added that local councils would come under increasing pressure to make very substantial savings in the months and years ahead, but West Lindsey was in a better position than most.
"We have been prudent in our expectations regarding government grant in the past and this has served us well. As we move forward into unchartered water we have modelled for a 5-15% cut in the coming years.

"We started making savings 18 months ago and we commissioned a root and branch review of all spending undertaken by the Council and £1.4 million of savings have been identified – about 10% of our annual net revenue budget."
He described West Lindsey’s financial position as ‘the envy of many of our neighbours in the county and beyond’ and this was the reason why the authority was able to maintain all essential services, invest in key priorities, and help ease the misery of the recession for local people. Cllr. Duguid said:
"We met with local people to consult about our budget and it was clear that their wish was for us to deliver the lowest council tax increase we could manage to help lift the pressure on many struggling households.

"We listened very carefully to what was said and that is why we have delivered an increase of less than one half a percent."

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