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RSG REACTION FROM THE WINNERS AND LOSERS

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NORTH LINCOLNSHIRE COUNCIL SEEKING FIFTH SUCCESSIVE YEAR OF LOW COUNCIL TAX INCREASE...
NORTH LINCOLNSHIRE COUNCIL SEEKING FIFTH SUCCESSIVE YEAR OF LOW COUNCIL TAX INCREASE

North Lincolnshire Council welcomes today's financial settlement from the government.

The council believes that at long last its lobbying campaign has paid off, and wishes to put on record its thanks to local MPs Elliot Morley and Ian Cawsey - who, behind the scenes, have worked tirelessly in pressing Ministers for a fair settlement. As a result, the council has received an increase in government grant of 7.2 per cent, which is only slightly below the national average of 8 per cent.

The settlementrecognises the council's case, made over a number of years, for grant support that reflects its many spending and cost pressures in providing services over such a large rural area outside of Scunthorpe. The settlement for the first time gives the council an increase in government grant well above the minimum. This helps the council enormously in being able to protect services while at the same time, keeping council tax increases to a minimum.

This has been achieved over the last four years when council tax in that time has increased by an average of just 2.5 per cent, surpassing the record of any other English council.

Four years ago the increase was 2.1 followed by 2 per cent, 1.9 per cent, and for this year 3.9 per cent.

Since the council was created just over six years ago it has cut a total of£31.5-million from its spending - and yet its education services is in the top five per cent of English councils, as judged by Ofsted.

Last month, its social services were awarded the top three-star rating - the only council to do so in the Yorkshire and Humber region. The council is now among the top 11 English councils for social services.

The average council tax paid in North Lincolnshire this year - including police and parish precepts - is£806.88.

Seven out of 10 properties locally are in the lowest two council tax bands - A and B. Only one in 12 fall within the so-called average of Band D.

It remains too early to estimate the level of any cuts that may need to be made as the council has still to receive clarification on a number of spending fronts. This should be clearer over the next few days. But it is fair to say that today's settlement is the best received in the council's six year history.

Nic Dakin, leader of the council, said: 'It remains a fair but challenging settlement. Hard choices will choices will have to be made. But the government's putting record levels of investment into public services, including schools in North Lincolnshire.

'We will still need to find some more savings and spend every penny at our disposal even more effectively than before. But that's how it should be.

'But I can give this message to 66,000 council taxpayers in North Lincolnshire: we have protected services, especially the money we allocate to our 85 schools, year after year. And each year we have kept any counciltax increase to as low as is possible. Much lower than other parts of the region, and the country.

'Between now and next February when we agree our budget and new council tax levels to be introduced next April that's where all our efforts will be directed.'

In recent weeks, over one in two council taxpayers say that they would be prepared to pay a 2.5 per cent increase or slightly more to protect services, with around one in three favouring a lower increase.

Suffolk CC's response to the government's council funding announcement

Suffolk CC has received initial indications that its funding for the next financial year from central government will be slightly up on the previous year's figure.

This year, the government has introduced a new formula for working out how much councils across the country receive. This formula, known as the Formula Spending Share (FSS), replaces the previous Standing Spending Assessment or SSA.

The grant settlement for Suffolk CC is£371m, an increase of around six per cent. More detailed evaluation of the figures will take place over the next few days.

David Rowe, portfolio holder for budget, said: 'There is a lot of analysis to be done on the figures we have received, because this is the first year of a new funding formula. But the early signs are that we will have a slight increase in funding.

'We will now get on and set a budget which delivers on our 11 priorities. Suffolk people, particularly some of our most vulnerable older and younger citizens, are depending on us to do that and we will.

'This will still mean an increase in council tax, because of the increasing demands for our services and inflation. There is a price to pay for good quality public services, and we are committed to continuously improving ours. Consultation with Suffolk's citizens has told us that what they want are good quality services, particularly in education and social care.'

Jane Hore, leader of Suffolk CC, said: 'We have been lobbying the government through MPs for factors such as numbers of people receiving Working Families Tax Credit to influence our funding.

'We know that the Working Families Tax Credit has influenced funding for education, which is consistent with our approach and the work we put in with MPs, and we are delighted the Government has listened.'

GRANT SETTLEMENT MAKES IT MORE DIFFICULT TO KEEP HEART OF LONDON CLEAN AND

SAFE

Following the announcement of the local government grant settlement,

Simon Milton, leader of Westminster City Council, said:

'The government's financial safety net for those of us facing a long term

loss of grant is welcome at the level set for next year, but in the longer

term, this is a disappointing settlement for central London. The changes to

the formula have reduced Westminster's formula allocation by£50m.

'Westminster City Council is one of the best performing authorities in the

country. We deliver the government's agenda in education, social services

and law enforcement.

'The formula has removed essential funds from the heart of London at a time

when the capital is moving into recession. In particular, the abolition of

the night-time visitors allowance means that it will be more difficult to

find the resources to keep the city safe and clean for the millions of

people who visit our capital.

'The settlement is based on flawed methodology, particularly the Census

figures, which underestimate our population by up to 60,000 people -

potentially costing us£42m - and the inadequate analysis of our

environmental service needs, at a time when the cost of cleaning our streets

has risen by 60%. In addition, we face increased national insurance costs,

all of which means that we will have to make hard choices about the level of

tax and spending that we set.

'London is the golden goose to the UK's economy - its shop-window. Reducing

funding in the heart of the capital will have a knock-on effect to all other

regions. If you visit London and it is dirty, unsafe and provides poor

services and transport, you are unlikely to look favourably on the rest of

the country or invest in it. This is particularly bad news for companies

located in central London who pay the highest business rates in the country

but don't see it reinvested in improving central London's infrastructure.'

Notes

- Westminster continues to lose on central government grant allocation and

has slid down central London borough rankings from 9th to 13th place in SSA

per head since 1999.

- Westminster collects£863.2m form its business community to

contribute to the nation non-domestic rate pool but the government returns

only£72.5million to be used locally.

- Westminster accounts for 2% of national GDP, and with 47,000 workplaces

has more workers and businesses than any other local authority area

including the City of London.

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