Lincolnshire County Council could be forced to axe even frontline services as the authority battles to balance the books amid massive cuts in Government funding.
The authority has confirmed it must save £130m over the next three years after a reduction in the amount of money it receives from Westminster.
Many services to local people will have to be provided differently - or stopped altogetherCoun Marc Jones, executive member for finance at County Hall
Coun Marc Jones, executive member for finance at County Hall, has admitted many services will have to be ‘provided differently - or even stopped altogether’.
The stark warning means residents could lose essential support and facilities which they rely on.
Coun Jones said: “Over the next three years, the county council has to reduce its annual spending by £130m to meet our much-reduced government grant.
“That is a huge challenge and we face some incredibly difficult decisions.
“To put it in context, the savings figure is more than the entire budget of all Lincolnshire’s seven district councils combined.
“It means that many services to local people will have to be provided differently - or stopped altogether.”
According to sources, the county council has so far managed to identify £64m of savings - leaving a shortfall of £66m.
Ominously, even more cuts could be required with Central Government expected to slash funding even further.
Coun Jones admitted there is ‘little or no room left for efficiency savings’.
He pledged priority would be given to funding services that the authority has a legal duty to provide - including safeguarding children and vulnerable adults.
However, sources suggest the county council will have no alternative but to cut essential services - with things like free school meals, school transport and social care possibly under threat.
The council’s contribution to Lincolnshire Police is also likely to come under intense scrutiny - along with spending on highways.
Coun Jones admitted that once the authority’s legal obligations were met, other services could face a 40 per cent reduction, just to balance the budget.
He also warned of the impact of funding the county’s growing population of older people, saying the new ‘living wage’ would add £30m to annual adult care budgets by 2020.
Coun Jones added: “There’s no doubt that, in a few years, this council will be a radically different organisation, providing fewer services directly.
“The council is also facing a big rise in the cost of providing adult care to the county’s growing population of older people.
“The new ‘living wage’ alone is expected to add over £30m a year to the adult care bill by 2020.
“After prioritising our most vital services such as safeguarding children and vulnerable adults - and services we have a legal duty to provide - we’re looking at an overall cut of about 40 per cent for everything else to balance the budget.
“We’ve already reduced our annual spending by £129m since 2011, so there’s little or no room left for efficiency savings.”
Councillors are continuing to lobby Government for what they say would be a fairer funding deal amid claims other Shire counties receive an average £39m more to spend on services every year.
The warning about cuts also comes at a time when the authority is locked in talks with other councils - and public sector organisations - about proposed power-sharing agreements which would boost the level of funding.
Speculation is increasing that County Hall could work closer with district councils and a number of services could be amalgamated.
However, the county council has scrapped the idea of developing a huge ‘super council’ which would have stretched from the Humber to Peterborough.
Coun Jones admitted ever-increasing financial pressures meant major changes were on the cards.
Some cuts are already starting to bite. Several libraries have closed in the last two weeks amid controversial changes designed to save money.
However, the savings will amount to around £2m a year - an indication of the massive task the authority faces to trim £130m from its budget.
Councillors will discuss the on-going funding crisis at a scrutiny panel meeting next month when they will try to identify more savings.
A council spokeswoman described suggestions that savings of £200m could be required after the next round of Government funding is finalised as ‘speculation’.
Concern over future cuts
Mary* is 62. She has worked since the age of 16 but recently ‘retired’ to look after her disabled son, David*, who is 23.
She lives in a Lincolnshire village.
Mary - like thousands of other people - is worried about the impact of on-going county council cuts.
She said: “I try my best but I’m not in the best of health myself.
“His dad died two years ago.
“We rely on home helps but the number of hours were reduced.
“They (the home helps) do their best. They are brilliant but they are under a lot of pressure.
“They have so many people to see in a day - and often cover a huge area.
“We’re really worried what will happen if there are more cuts - especially if my own health gets worse.
“I don’t know how we will cope.”
Mary explained she was already struggling, because of cuts to public transport.
She fears she might have to sell the family home and move to a nearby town to be closer to essential services.
She added: “We don’t want to leave. We’ve lived here most of our lives.
“But there’s no buses. Taxis cost a fortune and I don’t like relying on other people.
“I’d walk to town if I could but it’s too far.
“We get our supermarket shopping delivered but that costs.
“When it comes to prescriptions and doctor’s appointments, we have to go by taxi - or ask friends.
“My savings are going down all the time.
“David would like to help more but he doesn’t really understand.
“We just wonder where it will all end.”
*We have not used real names because the family does not want to be identified.