The MP for Lincoln has joined calls from politicians across the country for the government to offer greater financial support to local councils. A letter signed by Karl McCartney, which is addressed to both the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and the Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove, urges central government to “ensure that the funding needs of local authorities in our areas are properly recognised during the upcoming Local Government Finance Settlement”.
It was co-ordinated by the County Councils Network and the County All-Party Parliamentary Group, as councils are “exceptionally concerned” by the very real prospect of upper and lower tier authorities dipping into reserves and underspends, as well as rising council tax and cutting services to balance the books. The government published its provisional settlement for the 2024/25 financial year in December, offering a funding package of £64 billion for local councils, translating to an almost £4 billion increase from the previous year.
An official announcement on the settlement is due in the coming weeks, with initial suggestions by the government showing Lincolnshire County Council is set to receive £120.3 million of baseline funding from the government. The county would also be given £26.4 million of the Revenue Support Grant, meaning the total Settlement Funding Assessment for Lincolnshire will be £146.7 million if these recommendations are followed through by central government.
This rise in funding is above the rate of inflation and designed to recognise the “pressures” local governments are facing with their budgets, not least in areas such as Lincolnshire — but that is not enough. Lincolnshire County Council’s 2024/25 financial discussions showed a budget requirement of £639.1 million, 5.8 per cent higher than last year, but also with some £60 million of cost pressures.
Council Leader Martin Hill said this is a result of inflation, £16 million of adult social care increases, and a “bolt from the blue” decision to raise the National Living Wage, which will present a fresh £6 million gap for the county council. This, along with clear shortcomings in the roads maintenance budget dating back to a 25 per cent cut by government in 2021, meant Lincolnshire County Council’s Executive is pushing for a 5 per cent council tax increase for 2024/25.
Councillor Hill said at the time: “In Lincolnshire we have one of the lowest council taxes in the country, but even so, although we could go up to 5 per cent without a referendum, we initially thought we’d be able to keep it lower than 5 per cent to try and help residents and households.
“What happened over the end of last year is the government surprisingly announced an extra boost to the National Living Wage, which is great because that means people on the minimum wage will get more income, but it has a big effect on councils who deliver social care, because there’s a big extra cost to the county council.”
Lincolnshire County Council’s head of Highways Assets, Richard Fenwick, revealed last week that the county needs some £40 million of additional funding a year to tackle the roads and footways backlog, brought on by the aforementioned 25 per cent cut to government support for Lincolnshire’s highways budget.
Roads are not the only headache the council faces when it comes to adequate funding levels. Residents are holding a protest outside the Lincolnshire County Council offices on Wednesday, January 24 to call for improvements to social services across the board, following cuts to domestic abuse support schemes and struggles around access to child and adult social care.
However, despite Lincoln MP Karl McCartney being one of the 40+ Members of Parliament to co-sign the letter, he is the only one of Greater Lincolnshire’s 11 MPs to put his backing down on paper.
Former immigration minister Robert Jenrick, Conservative MP for Newark in neighbouring Nottinghamshire, was another of the politicians to call on the support of his own government for local councils, alongside other notable Conservative MPs such as Ben Bradley, former Deputy Prime Minister Thérèse Coffey and ex-Home Secretary Priti Patel. The letter was signed by 44 Conservative MPs; one Labour MP; and one Liberal Democrat MP
MPs will vote on the Local Government Finance Settlement next month in the House of Commons.