CAMPAIGNER MAURICE NAUTA REPORTS from the Budget Meeting, Lincolnshire County Council Offices, 19th January 2016-01-2:
1. 15 people attended the consultation meeting, chaired by Martin Hill, Leader of the Council. David Forbes gave a full briefing on the dire position faced by the Council, which has to find £40 million savings now and then over £100 million further savings over the next few years.
2. Of the public, three supported Children’s Centres, one spoke up for museums, another for young people’s needs and another for adult social care.
3. The consultations on the website of LCC and the one in County News are different. Cllr Hill mostly referred to the one in County News. A spokesperson from their press office said that they have had about 9,000 replies. It is not clear who is validating the results which will come out of all this, but the Treasurers will be involved. (It would be worth someone asking about this, in hindsight.)
4. At the top of the County News (CN) list of “discretionary services” is libraries, which of course is not discretionary but statutory. I drew this to the meeting’s attention. I also mentioned that the figure of a £6million budget next to the library service included £2 million savings already earmarked.
5. If you add up all the budgets of the 16 services listed, it comes to close to £40 million. So even if they scrapped all these services, they would have nothing to scrap over the next few years.
6. My suggested strategy was :
(i) Go back and argue hard with government ministers for a much better deal.
(ii) Join forces with all other Lincolnshire wide Councils to lobby government. Include residents.
There were some very strong voices in the chamber: people spoke up very well for their own services.
(iii) Work more closely with all the other Lincolnshire councils to share facilities, support services, ideas and funds.
(iiii) Integrate services, where feasible, with other neighbouring authorities to share service costs, ideas, facilities and management of services, including support services like IT, Legal, Personnel, Finance etc.
7. Cllr Hill also informed the meeting of the need to halve the bus service subsidies ( whilst protecting “Call Connect”). Everyone was against this, apart from a few people whose experiences were that buses outnumbered passengers on some routes. There is an issue here for the Council’s Library Service plans, as arguments from our campaign that closures of libraries would mean that many more people would not be able to reach a statutory library service were countered by LCC saying that they could use the bus service to gain access, and “Call Connect” would provide necessary back-up. The likelihood is that, if these cuts go ahead, Call Connect will not be able to pick up the shortfall.
More on the bus route cuts with a quote from Maurice here