Lincolnshire local government reform

Here in Lincolnshire we currently have eight councils, one county council and seven district councils.

We are proposing to ask the public whether these should all be replaced by a unitary system, so that there will only be one such council in an area.

The substantial savings from eliminating waste and duplication by running a simpler system could be used to improve local public services and protect them from future cuts.

It would also enable Town and Parish councils and local communities to take up more powers and responsibilities so that more decisions could be taken at grass root level.

This unitary system is now experienced by the majority of the country’s population and has been adopted by other county areas such as Wiltshire, Durham and Cornwall with great success.

Having better co-ordination between services like Planning, Waste, Transport and Housing is the best way to improve services and unlock Lincolnshire’s potential for economic growth.

The same applies in Health, Children’s and Adult services which are facing substantial challenges now and in the future.

Changing the status quo is often challenging but the current system is one we can no longer afford and is complicated and wasteful.

It is our view that we should take the opportunity to save over £30 million pounds a year (£8000 per day) and create a simpler and more effective system for delivering local services.

The detailed proposals will need to be worked on by a broad range of partners and stakeholders including an independent advisory group from other public service and business organisations; central government; parishes and town councils, and – most importantly – the people who live here.

However, at this stage, we need to gauge the public appetite for this type of transformation hence a referendum in May to ask the people of Lincolnshire what they think.

Key Points

• A unitary model for Lincolnshire would abolish the eight councils (County Council plus seven city and district councils) and replaces them with one (or more), new unitary councils. The benefits would be:- simpler for residents and business o better, joined up services- more local accountability- lower cost to run
• As the government continues to reduce council funding, savings cannot continue without structural change or further cuts to services.
• Initial analysis indicates that a single unitary authority model for Lincolnshire would save more than £30m per year compared to the current arrangements.
• Savings would be used to improve services and keep council tax low.
• Joining up planning, transport and housing would support economic growth. Council services would be funded locally from council tax and business rates.
• Budgets and powers such a local planning would be delegated to seven ‘area executive boards’ based on the existing district boundaries.
• The overall number of Lincolnshire councillors more than halved. (There are currently over 300 councillor posts, which could go down to 70). Each councillor would be a single point of contact and accountability.
• Parishes and town councils will have more influence
• Environmental services such as street cleaning and maintenance would be grouped together under local management.
• Lack of housing and transport infrastructure is slowing business growth by making it hard to recruit staff.
• A single county plan would align housing, jobs and infrastructure planning, and deliver urgently needed homes.
• Unless growth is managed, local communities will be subjected to opportunist development without the necessary infrastructure.
• There is a £1.7bn gap between planned infrastructure and the actual investment needed. An innovative public/private investment fund would close the gap.
• Rising demand for children’s and adult social care puts increasing pressure on budgets. Joining up social care, housing and benefits would improve prevention to reduce care costs and enhance wellbeing.
• Joining up services such as town planning and leisure would encourage active lifestyles and improve health andwellbeing
• Partnership working with a single council responsible for safeguarding and community safety, making communities safer.
• Community hubs based in libraries, leisure centres, re stations and health facilities would deliver more joined-up services.

Conservative Leader, Cllr Hill, said the abolition of the county council and seven districts to create a new unitary system would save £150m over five years. That money, he said, could be reinvested in service improvement and keep council tax down.

Cllr Hill said: “The current system of councils in Lincolnshire is one we can no longer afford.

“A unitary model has successfully been adopted in many areas of the country and has proved to be simpler, better for services, more local and most importantly costs less to run, potentially saving £82,000 per week

“I believe the current system is complicated, wasteful and no longer financially sustainable. Without change, important local services are already being reduced and even cut entirely.”

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