Porter about to bow out of LGA? But his one liners will live on it seems

Local Government Chronicle online
Friday 06 May 2016
LGC briefing: Local elections analysed
Commentary on the local election results

Political earthquake of the day: Breaking: Porter predicts Tories have lost control of LGA

Under chaos theory a hurricane can ensue in China as a result of something as minor and apparently unrelated as a butterfly flapping its wings over New Mexico.

On a similar principle, something as insignificant as a set of local elections in which virtually no seats changed control is on the cusp of causing a political earthquake in Westminster.

The political earthquake takes the form of a change in power at the Local Government Association but the butterfly may be composed of slightly more than a set of only moderately compelling electoral contests. As will be explained below, political skulduggery lurked behind its local democracy wings.

To understand this chaos we need to cast our minds back a year when the results of the local elections left the LGA on a political knife-edge. The Conservative group came out slightly above Labour after all of the calculations were undertaken to determine which party was in the ascendancy.

Within the past 24 hours it seemed likely the Tories would retain LGA control. Few people believed Jeremy Corbyn’s prediction that he would gain seats and the first results last night showed the Conservatives doing better than Labour. All seemed set for another year of Gary Porter leading the LGA.

Cllr Porter – a rare politician, noticeable for his plain speaking – has won plaudits for his honesty and, should his term of office come to an end, he may well leave us with as many memorable quotes as his predecessors managed since the LGA came into being. This is no disrespect to the LGA’s former chairs, more a compliment to Cllr Porter’s outspokenness. His putting the District Councils Network “on the naughty step” for arguing its members should retain their current portion of business rates will live long in the memory.

Cllr Porter’s demise has not been caused by the electorate turning against the Tories – the parties have at the time of writing lost an almost identical (but fairly negligible) number of seats – but the arithmetic turning against them.

The earthquake has been the result of Sheffield City Council unexpectedly deciding to re-join the LGA, just before the deadline to do so last night. With the LGA’s power balance determined by the number of councillors each party holds and the population they serve, the readmission of a city with a population in excess of half a million people could be crucial.

Sheffield had previously been one of a small number of councils, including Barnet, Wandsworth and Bromley LBCs, which decided against LGA membership. Its decision to re-join the association shortly before a final deadline of 10pm seemed to catch most off guard.

The complex calculations that determine who wins LGA control have yet to be determined but Cllr Porter thought Sheffield would be the deciding factor. He told LGC’s David Paine: “I will be surprised if the LGA is still Conservative controlled by the time the final count is done.”

He may also consider it unfortunate that the remaining councils which are not LGA members are Conservative strongholds. None of the three Tory-dominated London boroughs had the political cunning – or the financial commitment – to opt to pay to join the LGA at the last minute. Even if they decide to join today, their membership will not be considered in the calculations until after next year’s election.

In the past 24 hours, announcements that have been timed to coincide with the polls have proved more significant than the polls themselves.

Of the 124 councils with elections, just four have so far changed political control.

But we have seen a new frontrunner emerge in the race to be Greater Manchester’s elected mayor in the form of Andy Burnham. The shadow home secretary let it be known that he was considering swapping national politics for local politics at 10pm, as the polls were closing.

While his move is being analysed by the national media for indicating frontbench despair with Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour leadership, it also signifies a sea change: suddenly local politics offer prominent politicians an alternative career path to Westminster.

Meanwhile, this afternoon, it emerged that the government is to U-turn on its plan to force all schools to become academies. Many councils feared the move would result in them being unable to meet their duty to ensure all children had a school place.

This is one set of elections in which the burying of bad news (Mr Burnham’s possible departure from the frontbench is clearly bad for Mr Corbyn and the announcement had to be timed to minimise the damage) and political opportunism has triumphed over the ballot box.

Should Newcastle City Council leader Nick Forbes emerge as the new Labour LGA chair he will be hoping that Barnet, Bromley or Wandsworth do not attempt the same trick as Sheffield in a year’s time.

Independent candidates fire blanks

bazookaThe two independents candidates, standing against myself and Christine Lawton on 7th May in the district council elections, have delivered their first election leaflets.

As always, leaflets from the opposition are essential reading, if only to understand where they are coming from campaign wise. In the case of these two, there are few if any surprises. There are however some clear misunderstandings when it comes to what can and cannot be achieved as a district councillor, but given that they are new at this, it’s understandable. I am however, not so understanding as to allow them to pass without comment, this is after all politics and there’s an election to win.

I’ll deal with their suggested policies first, before dealing with the ever present irony that is the ‘Independent Group’, to which they have attached themselves.

These are from the first ‘independent’ candidate’s leaflet.

1. A temporary cut in business rates to encourage small businesses.

Setting the business rates is not a district council function and cannot be done. The best we can do, is offer discretionary relief to a limited range of activities, such as the only pub in a village, a small village shop, or a non-profit making social club venue.

2. Waste and recycling collections to stay weekly

This has been the Conservative group’s position since it took control in 1999 and this has not changed.   Neither can it change in the near future, as we accepted grant funding from central government on the basis of retaining weekly collections for at least 5 years and we’ve no intention of giving back the £1.7m received!

3. A really good garden waste collection to serve gardeners in the town.

You wouldn’t intentionally offer a really bad garden waste collection, would you?

Only in the town, what about everybody else? What about every other town come to that?   This independent candidate is beginning to think and sound like a parish councillor already.

We are already working on a paid for green waste collection. This needs a significant outlay in capital and a more detailed survey, to identify potential users, will be carried out soon.

4. Make our environment as litter free as we can …….not just in run up to election…

Can you call a campaign that has been running for nearly 9 months, an election ploy? I think not. Had central government confirmed the local government finance settlement at the normal time and not the eleventh hour and 59th minute, as they did, we would have been able to start the South Holland Pride campaign some 12 months ago. This was the plan, but we could only find enough funding to appoint a part time enforcement officer at that time.

5. Better community policing

Yet another area over which the district council has no control. Lincolnshire Police raise their own precept via the council tax. This year that was increased by 1.9% to £197.64 SHDC’s council tax take was reduced by 0.5% to £154.84 for a band D property.

6. Better value for money when looking at provision of services….

I’d love to comment on this one, but I haven’t got a clue what its referring to!

7. More thought to planning applications, so that they benefit the town and not just the applicant…..

This is another one that’s got me guessing at to its meaning, let alone its ambition. The planning system isn’t there as a way of getting goodies, from the people who apply for planning permission, unless those ‘goodies’ are essential to making the application acceptable in planning terms.

Moving on to the second ‘independent’.

This one makes some pledges which reflect some double standards and a clear misunderstanding of what the overall role of a district councillor is.

1. I will not have any hidden agendas

My personal experience says otherwise.

2. I will work with any councillor…………..acting in the best interests of Wygate Park and Spalding!

Just because the ward is called Spalding Wygate, doesn’t mean it just covers the Wygate Park area, where this candidate happens to live.

As well as being limited to half the ward, the horizon of this independent only stretches as far as the boundaries of Spalding it seems.

As a district councillor, your role, first and foremost, is to represent the interests of all South Holland residents, not just those who voted for you, or happen to live in the ward you represent. This applies even when a decision might have a negative impact in your ward.

Some of the issues this candidate will support.

3. Pride in South Holland. My answer to this claim is the same as for the other independent and our manifesto actually contains a commitment to continue the campaign.

4. Highways – poor state of some pavements. This is a county council function. You don’t need to be a district councillor to get these fixed. Just report them on line, I do so regularly.

5. Road safety – road markings. Again, a county council function, not the district.

I submitted a defect report on these makings over 12 months ago. The answer from highways was very clear. It is not their policy to maintain any form of road markings within residential estates, when those roads only serve residents and have no other purpose, as this would not be a good use of their limited budgets. The road marking in question were put there by the developer, during initial build and were never a requirement of the detailed plans approval, or of the highways adoption process.

6. Community – Support for events…………Nothing new here, as all Spalding councillors have made financial contributions to such events.

7. Traffic – Stating the blindingly obvious here.  Again, something only the county council can rectify. Spalding Town Forum are already extremely active in pressing for a solution.

8. Planning – local services must keep pace.  Nothing offered here, other than a statement of wishful thinking. The planning system has no powers to require developers to provide funding for local services as a matter of law. Everything we achieve, outside of the planning policy requirements, is done by active negotiation and persuasion.

9. Licensing policy changes – another piece of wishful thinking, without any consideration of the reality. Like planning, the licensing system is controlled by national laws and policies, that offer the district council little leeway when it comes to resisting the granting of new licenses.

Now turning back to the various claims made about being unfettered and un-whipped independents.

The back of both very similar looking leaflets, has the same heading and the same piece of text, ‘A message from Angela Newton……..Independent Councillor and Leader of South Holland the Independent Group.’ ……………….

So, having declared themselves as intending to be, ‘Independent Councillors’ (sic) and not tied to any Political Party (sic) (they do like their capital letters don’t they!), they willingly attach themselves to somebody stating that, they are actually the leader of a group of independents. Using the word group and independent in the same sentence is an oxymoron isn’t it?

Splitting hairs, you could argue that Angela Newton is not leading a recognised political party, but it is very clearly a group involved in politics, making it, at the very least, a political group and therein lies the irony of the claims trotted out be these so called independents.

Just to add insult to injury. This non-group, group of independents, hold group meetings before full council meetings, in exactly the same way as the Conservative group do, but somehow they manage to make them last even longer than ours and there’s only twelve of them compared to 25 of us!

It must be all the effort required to be totally independent of each other, that makes their ‘group’ meetings last so long.

Criticising without a shred of evidence – it’s the UKIP way

A letter published on the SpaldingToday website and probably in next Tuesday’s Freepress, is so

 breathtaking in its hypocrisy, contradiction and nonsense, I am driven to challenge it.  This is the link to it.  ‘We could have a council non-political on local issues’ – http://goo.gl/alerts/S4Wl. 

Normally, I would ignore much of what a UKIP’er has to say, because once you scratch the surface, it’s either airy-fairy wishful thinking, have little grounding in reality, or simply makes no sense – this letter is no exception. 

 Paul Foyster of UKIP, writes claiming that his party’s way is the right way and the rest of us are wrong and failing to serve the taxpayers.  He claims that having a political group running the council, somehow inhibits good decision making on behalf of those taxpayers.   However, he fails to offer a single example of any such failings.   Perhaps he’s referring to the reduction in council tax we’ve made, for the fourth year running.  Or maybe it’s our policy of collecting household refuse and recycling every week – unlike many other councils – that’s providing poor service to South Holland’s taxpayers.

Having criticised political groupings, he goes on to suggest that a group of independent people working together, can make a difference!  What is it Mr Foyster – everybody independent and doing their own thing,  or everybody working together to make a difference?  You can’t have it both ways sir!

The fact that he even refers to a group of people ‘working together to make a difference’ is comical, given UKIP’s farcical performance at Lincolnshire County Council.   One minute the UKIP ‘group’ is holding the balance of power, as the largest minority grouping, giving them them the opportunity to influence the decision making process.  Next, they’re showing their inexperience and amateurishness, by having an internal cat fight, that sees their so called ‘group’ fragment into two ineffective and virtually pointless minority groups.  So that’s the UKIP version of people working together, for the benefit of the taxpayers is it Mr Foyster?

Finally, Mr Foyster suggests that the amount of publicity being put out by the Conservatives, is an indication of our concern about the threat posed by his political group.  In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.  We don’t panic in elections, we just work at getting our message out, something that his party seem to think they don’t need to do, based on my own experience during the county council elections.  Is this arrogance on their part, or are they just too lazy to do the work and therefore leave it to a beer swilling, chain smoker, fag packet policy maker to do their publicity for them, via the tabloid press and TV ?

My message to the voters of South Holland is a simple one.  Look at the record of UKIP in South Holland to date and how they’ve been disfunctional and virtually invisible at the county council. Now decide if you want the same outcomes for South Holland District Council over the next four years.

Districts face loss as county waste deal ends

Copied from Local Government Chronicle online
13 August, 2014 | By Corin Williams

Districts in Lancashire are challenging the county council’s plans to change the funding system for waste collection in a way they say could cost them hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Lancashire CC has said it will no longer fund district councils for each household they supply with a kerbside recycling collection after the present agreement, which began in 2004, runs out in 2018.

Districts will instead be paid by recycling credits issued for the tonnages of recyclable materials they collect.

Wyre BC leader Peter Gibson (Con) has warned his council would face a revenue reduction of more than £980,000, equivalent to a 15% increase in council tax, as a result of this change.

He said in a report to a council meeting that recycling credits were an unreliable payment method as “districts couldn’t predict what their recycling levels would be and this made financial planning more difficult”.

Eleven districts are involved in the existing deal with Lancashire, the exception being Ribble Valley BC.

A Lancashire spokesman told LGC’s sister title Materials Recycling World: “The county council has made the waste collection authorities aware that it is considered highly unlikely that these agreements will be further extended once they expire in 2018 in order to ensure that they have sufficient time to plan their financial strategies beyond this date.”

This story could just as easily be about Lincolnshire County Council and its treatment of Lincolnshire district councils – but worse!

Each Lincolnshire district council already pays for its recycling collection service and only get recycling credits from LCC. The county are now stopping the payment of recycling credits AND taking over the disposal contract, so that they collect the revenue that is currently paid by the contractors.
Revenue from recycling is never a certainty and depends on a global market so, to be fair, the county council is at least taking on that risk. However, as the world recovers from the financial crisis, the risk becomes significantly lower.
This move by LCC, is a financial double whammy for South Holland and two other Lincolnshire district councils. Out taxpayers will still have to pay to collect recycling, but now the cost will not be offset, in part at least, by the payment of recycling credits, or revenue from the contract.

The 13 NOC counties and unitaries: who will govern?

Copied from Local Government Chronicle online
28 May, 2013 | By Chris Game

Interesting comment regarding the current situation on LCC. Highlighted in bold below.

In May 2010 prime minister David Cameron and deputy prime minister Nick Clegg took just five days to form their national coalition. By contrast, starting in June 2010, the Belgians took 18 months to form theirs. English local government falls between the two.

Three weeks after the local elections, most of us still don’t know, for at least some of the nine counties and four unitaries conveniently lumped together as ‘NOC’ (No Overall Control), the answer to that basic question the elections were supposedly about: who will actually govern?

This column attempts to fill some of the gaps. It’s a kind of ‘runners and riders’ guide to the 13 county and unitary councils in which no single party has a majority of seats: how they got that way, and what will or might happen in the near future.

The county councils
First, the counties. Cambridgeshire was one of the previously staunchly Conservative counties that became hung largely through being UKIPped. This was actually a much patchier experience than some commentators suggested – with 7 of the 27 counties still having no UKIP councillors at all and only 4, all in the south and east, having more than 10.

In Cambridgeshire, the Conservatives’ new leader, Martin Curtis, favoured their carrying on as a minority administration, but the Independents ruled that out, while Labour and the Lib Dems refused to join UKIP in supporting an Independent-led non-Conservative rainbow coalition. Eventually, the Conservatives got half their cake: Curtis will head a minority administration for 12 months, but then UKIP’s preference, for ‘opening up’ council decision-making, kicks in and cabinets will be replaced by all-party committees.

In Cumbria, the elections reversed the standings of the Conservatives and Labour, the latter regaining their customary position as largest party, leaving the slightly strengthened Lib Dems as potential kingmakers. Under a new leader, Jonathan Stephenson, they opted for coalition with Labour, deputy leadership of the council, and four cabinet posts.

East Sussex is much smaller than Cambridgeshire, but the party arithmetic is broadly similar. Here, though, the other parties seemed readier to accept a Conservative minority administration, and, as in Cambridgeshire, although a Conservative-UKIP deal could have produced a majority, none was apparently seriously pursued.

Gloucestershire was hung from 1981 to 2005, with Lib Dems generally the largest group – before, in 2009, the Conservatives suddenly took 42 of the then 63 council seats. With the reduction of 10 seats and accompanying boundary changes, those observers predicting a return to NOC were proved right. The Conservatives, though, will continue as a minority administration, and the Lib Dems as the main opposition, miffed at a suspected Con-Lab deal over Scrutiny Management and other committee chairs.

Lancashire is Labour territory, and the party was hoping to regain majority control in one go. Sensing a lifeline, the Conservatives tried talking with anyone who might be interested in a presumably anti-Labour coalition. But the Independents don’t want an alliance with anyone and the Lib Dems seem undecided, which leaves a Labour minority administration looking the likeliest outcome.

Lincolnshire Conservatives are unused to coalition politics, but they reacted quickly to their heavy loss of seats by negotiating a Con/LD/Independent coalition. Splitting the Lincolnshire Independents in doing so was a bonus: three of them signed up with the coalition, one with a seat in the cabinet, and there are rumours that others could follow.

In equally traditionally Conservative Norfolk, life for the dominant party is more fraught. At a full council meeting, the Conservative leader, Bill Borrett, apparently thought he had an agreement that the Lib Dems would at least abstain in any vote, enabling him to head a minority administration. He hadn’t, and nor could he nail down a more explicit coalition agreement with the Lib Dems involving some key specified posts. For the present, then, the running of the authority is, as the phrase goes, in the hands of officers.

Before the Conservatives took control in 2005, Oxfordshire had been hung for 20 years. Labour’s comeback was limited, and, on a smaller council, the Conservatives came within one seat of retaining their overall majority – a position they’ve restored through a Conservative/Independent Alliance. No cabinet seats are involved, but three Independents will work with a Conservative minority administration in the kind of ‘confidence and supply’ arrangement that many thought was as far as Cameron and Clegg would dare to go back in 2010.

In Warwickshire Labour, though never the majority party, have regularly run the council as a minority and were hoping to regain this position. They didn’t, but they did do a deal with the Conservatives, the outcome being a Conservative minority administration, headed by the council’s first woman leader, Izzy Seccombe, with Labour holding the Scrutiny chairs, and the Lib Dems and Greens out in the cold, complaining of a stitch-up.

The unitaries
Now to the four hung unitaries. In Bristol Labour became again the largest single party and, reversing its position last November, agreed that two of its members should join mayor George Ferguson’s all-party cabinet, which will now comprise 2 Labour members, 2 Lib Dems, 1 Conservative, and 1 Green.

In Cornwall a much-discussed multi-party rainbow coalition has become in practice an Independent/Lib Dem coalition with the more or less positive support of Labour, UKIP and Mebyon Kernow (the party for Cornwall), the Conservatives having rejected as tokenism a scaled-back offer of two cabinet seats.

The Isle of Wight will be run again, for the first time since 1973-77, by what are nowadays known as the Island Independents, but this time as a minority administration.

Having dominated the former county council, Labour will run unitary Northumberland for the first time as a minority administration, with the support of the three independents – one of whom will be back as chairman of audit, the post she held as a Conservative councillor before resigning from the party following alleged victimisation by a senior colleague. And to think, there are some who say the local government world is boring.

Chris Game, Institute of Local Government, University of Birmingham

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LGC view on UKIP impact, or rather lack of, on local government

Copied from Local Government Chronicle online
LGC View – Ukip in the council chamber
8 May, 2013 | By Ruth Keeling

Ukip have understandably dominated the news coverage of this year’s local elections after winning a quarter of votes and an impressive 139 seats.

But it is highly unlikely they will have any major impact on local government in the long term. As Nick Golding’s leader makes clear, these votes were about national rather than local politics, and the paucity of Ukip’s local policies just proves this point.

With so little of Ukip’s agenda being decided in council chambers, there are few local issues the party can coalesce around. Even if there were, Ukip leader Nigel Farage has said there will be no whip for his councillors.

The party lacks a profile within local government circles. It has a local government leader, but few would be able to name him (it’s Peter Reeve, a county councillor in Cambridgeshire).

Even at council level the party as a unit is shaky at best. Three of Lincolnshire’s new Ukip councillors may be from the same family, but local Conservative leader Martin Hill, who is now searching for partners to shore up the party’s minority administration, says he is struggling to deal with a “disorganised” group which still lacks a leader.

“It’s rumoured they will come along and vote individually, [making cooperation] difficult,” he told LGC.

Ukip’s success may be significant nationally, but at a local level it is probably better to view the 139 seats won simply as a significant addition to the number of independent councillors.

Ruth Keeling, senior reporter http://www.twitter.com/ruthkeeling

Any chance UKIP can deliver anything locally?

I thought it might be useful to repeat the article below, copied from a Lincolnshire Echo online article. Obviously, all those who voted UKIP last Thursday, either didn’t read this sort of information, or they simply didn’t care enough about the issues referred to, compared to the national ones being pursued by UKIP. I’m not seeking to criticise those who voted UKIP, but rather use it to emphasise the anger and frustration with David Cameron’s policies, I experienced from people, whilst out campaigning.

Knowing how unhappy people are with what’s going on nationally and adding this to the local issues that have resulted from the EU’s open door policy, it’s hardly surprising that UKIP did so well, whilst making little or no effort. Despite all the assurances that politicians offer when confronted by the public on an issue, be it letters, petitions, or even protest marches, the only time they ever seem to really act, is when they get caned at the ballot box. Is it any wonder then that, despite being asked to only vote on local issues in local elections, voters take the only course of action that seems to work, the protest vote?

Conservative candidates used the track record of the Conservative controlled county council, on LOCAL issues, as the basis for their campaigning – naively it would now seem, at least in this part of Lincolnshire. Meanwhile, nationally, UKIP were attacking David Cameron’s more unpopular policies, many of them easy targets: *An EU referendum, but only if you vote him back in 2015. *Control of immigration (but not from within the EU). *Ring fencing the overseas aid budget and even increasing it, despite almost every other budget being cut and further cuts to come. *Pushing gay marriage through, even when it wasn’t in the Party’s General Election manifesto.

This allowed local UKIP candidates to jump on the national issues bandwagon, whilst doing virtually nothing locally, apart from promise to fill every pothole in Lincolnshire, but without saying where they would get the money from. Speaking to people in the Spalding South Division after the election, it seems that only myself and the incumbent Independent candidate, bothered to communicate with the vast majority of them in any way. It would seem that the winning UKIP candidate simply sat back and relied on the national campaign to do his work for him.

More locally, people are angry and frustrated by the results of being members of the EU and the high levels of East European migrant workers in South Lincolnshire, that has resulted from this. UKIP have ruthlessly exploited these concerns, but have not made clear how they would change things – because, in reality, they can’t.

Fortunately, the Conservatives are still the largest party on the county council and will now be seeking an alliance with one of the smaller grouping, in order to form a controlling group. I’m pretty sure this will not be UKIP. I sincerely hope, for the sake of the residents they now represent, the UKIP councillors stick to addressing local issues and seeking local solutions. However, the alternative is more likely. That they will waste everybody’s time, by acting as local mouthpieces for UKIP’s national agenda.

Tough choices lie ahead for councillors – Thursday, April 25, 2013

THE Lincolnshire County Council elections are just days away – and the new intake will have to contend with a whole raft of difficult issues. From crumbling roads and care provision to the future of libraries and coping with cuts, the situation will be complex. Here, we examine the key areas…

TRANSPORT AND HIGHWAYS
There is one subject which hits the headlines time and time again – in Lincolnshire and that is roads. From calls for new ones to the need to repair old ones, Our transport network is rarely out of the news. And incoming councillors at County Hall will pick up the baton on two ongoing, key subjects: the eastern bypass and potholes. It has been suggested that work on the eagerly-anticipated eastern bypass could begin in 2014, but the multi-million pound scheme still needs the nod from central government.
A number of county councillors have raised concerns over whether the building of the much-needed relief road will ever happen. Residents will hope inevitably be hoping that the new council will forge ahead with the project as a priority.
In addition, members will inherit the on-going pothole repair project.
Our roads are among the very worst in the country and it was revealed last summer that 80 per cent of highways were in need of repair. The county council received £6 million for essential road maintenance in Lincolnshire in December 2012. The Department for Transport gave the local authority the extra funding to be spent over the next two years on renewing, repairing and extending the life of roads across the county. Our next council will need to quickly prioritise road repairs because, as welcome as the money is, it will not go that far in such a vast county as Lincolnshire.

SOCIAL SERVICES
Of all the new council’s responsibilities, its Plans for social services will inevitably evoke the most garner huge attention. When they take to their seats in the council chamber, the new members assume responsibility for thousands of the most vulnerable adults and children in our county.
Yet with that role comes the constraints of an ever-decreasing budget and an ever-increasing demand for services.
Earlier this year, the Echo reported how children’s services face significant financial challenges, despite saving more than £22 million since 2011. Further savings of £3.9 million will need to be made by 2015. This comes after central Government announced a reduction to the Early Intervention Grant and the Local Authority Central Spend Equivalent Grant following school conversions to academy status. In addition, the way in which care for vulnerable adults is organised cannot be sustained, according to a report by finance bosses.
Despite making predicted savings of £9.5 million in 2012/13, further significant savings must be made. Council cash bosses said that ‘a complete transformation is required’.
The council introduced a personal budget system for buying care in its last term. While this was generally welcomed by users of children’s services, it proved unpopular with the families of some vulnerable adults. The new members will need to make brave decisions about how they balance the need for robust support services with reductions in funding.

DAY CENTRES
The subject of day centres has been a sore point for thousands across Lincolnshire for almost two years now. Lincolnshire County Council decided to close the 31 authority-led centres in the county in 2011. But joint petitions, with more than 8,000 signatures opposing the plans, saw the council changes its mind and give the centres two years of support, starting in March, 2012. But it has been announced seven day centres are already set to close.
While the authority desperately searches for ways of saving millions of pounds from its budget, there remains a fundamental need for quality services for adults with physical and learning disabilities. The closure of some day centres has caused uproar in some places, among users and politicians. Inevitably, there will be hundreds of families across the county who wait with baited breath to see how the new council will progress on this highly controversial subject.

HEALTH
While doctors, nurses and 999 teams are at the coalface of the NHS in Lincolnshire, elected county councillors actually play a crucial behind-the-scenes role.
One major job of the new councillors will be to act as a watchdog, calling into account decisions by health bosses and scrutinising standards of care. There are currently two significant issues which the incoming council will inevitably face. Firstly is a controversial drive by our ambulance service, EMAS, to restructure where crews are based, reducing the amount of stations in Lincolnshire.
The council had grave concerns about the plans during its last term and had even muted the idea of a new Lincolnshire-only service. This issue is likely to return to the fore at some point after the election.
Secondly, the new council will have to deal with the fall-out from the public inquiry, which named and shamed Lincolnshire hospitals for its high death rates.
The elected members will have a responsibility to scrutinise the local NHS and make sure we are receiving the best possible services as since April 1 local authorities have a new statutory duty to take steps to improve the health of those in our communities.

EDUCATION
The age of austerity has seen councils make cuts across the board.
Lincolnshire County Council has already taken £25m from its financial reserves over two years to cover some of the funding cuts imposed central government. Changes to grants and funding from the Government are unlikely to improve the situation and leisure and recreation could be one area which suffers particularly badly going forward – as it is often seen less vital than social care, fire and transport where cuts could put lives at risk. In the past three years, grants to leisure and recreation facilities have been cut from scores of sites in Lincolnshire.

CUTS
The age of austerity has seen councils make cuts across the board. Lincolnshire County Council has already taken £25m from its financial reserves over two years to cover some of the funding cuts imposed central government.
Changes to grants and funding from the Government are unlikely to improve the situation and leisure and recreation could be one area which suffers particularly badly going forward – as it is often seen less vital than social care, fire and transport where cuts could put lives at risk.
In the past three years, grants to leisure and recreation facilities have been cut from scores of sites in Lincolnshire.

LIBRARIES
For many of us, libraries are a perfect venue to unwind and learn.
But as the country looks for ways to trim the national deficit, libraries become a prime target – not least because user numbers are falling. More than £2 million was cut from the library service in Lincolnshire last year and more could follow.
The future of mobile libraries are under threat and book loans to schools have been abolished.
Lincolnshire County Council has been involved in community efforts to save local libraries, such as the one on Saxilby which has moved from its previous dedicated library building to the village social club. More funding for libraries is unlikely to be made available in the next term of the council.

WASTE DISPOSAL
The future of rubbish tips was a huge talking point in 2012 and could well be on the agenda for Lincolnshire’s new county councillors.
As the council’s budget shrinks, councillors could find themselves discussing the possibility of tip closures. Following strong petitions last year, recycling centres in Whisby and Leadenham were saved from the axe. But opening hours at Lincolnshire’s 13 rubbish tips were trimmed as a result.
Meanwhile, there has been much controversy around the county’s reported £110 million “energy-from-waste” plant in North Hykeham.

FIRE SERVICE
The county council is the Fire Authority and has responsibility for the efficient provision of Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue. Perhaps the biggest challenge will be managing major cuts in Government funding. According to a report published last month, The Local Government Association estimates that by 2017/18 fire authorities across the country will have £600 million less in the coffers. It claims services will have 30 per cent less to spend in 2017/18 than now.