Date published: 17 July 2020
As part of our budget consultation have asked you to submit your questions about how you think out budget should be spent and what you feel is important to your community. Thank you to all of those who have taken the time to complete the survey and submit their questions.
We have put your questions to our Chief Executive Ian Knowles and Leader of the Council, Cllr Giles McNeill and will be releasing a number of pre-recorded videos answering your questions. To find out more about the budget consultation or to complete our online survey please visit www.west-lindsey.gov.uk/budget2020.
The consultation is open until Monday 27 July 2020.
Below are the questions and answers that have been released today (17 July 2020) via video on our social media channels. You can also watch them on our YouTube channel.
Council offices and staff
You asked us if any staff were furloughed during COVID-19 and if the public was entitled to a rebate. You wanted to know how many employees worked from home during lockdown and if they can continue in future to save the environment and usage in the office. You asked if the Council is likely to increase employee wages
Staff are West Lindsey DCs most valuable resource. During the Covid 19 pandemic all West Lindsey staff have continued to work. Where possible this has been at home and 76% of staff who are normally based in the office are now working from home. The remainder provided services such as our waste collections, street cleansing, customer services, building maintenance, IT. This has enabled the council to retain all services although of course the response to the pandemic has meant that some services have been provided differently. No West Lindsey officers have been furloughed during the last 4 months.
Also 50 staff has been redeployed as part of the response to the pandemic this includes working in the community hub providing support to the vulnerable and the administration and distribution of grant funding to support more than 1,500 local businesses. The flexibility of team has been vital in recent months and will no doubt continue to be as we move forward.
During the covid-19 lockdown they have been really shown that working together and being flexible has ensured we have been able to continue to deliver services from their homes and have supported the additional work we have undertaken in organising the Community Hubs which have supported our vulnerable residents with shopping and food parcel deliveries. In addition we have issued over 1,500 grants on behalf of the government to support our small businesses.
There have been changes as a result the pandemic that the council is considering retaining. The reduction in travel costs, time and environmental impact are amongst those being considered. We estimate we have saved 27kg of CO2 through no business miles being undertaken.
Understandably there have been number of questions regarding staff pay. It is important to understand that Local Government pay is determined by National pay bargaining agreement and not at a local level. Whilst negotiations for 2020/2021 are still ongoing the likelihood is that this year’s pay award will be around 2.75% following a number of years where it has been capped at 2%. In terms of the senior management this area is under constant review as the council has to balance the cost attracting and retaining the very best talent with the cost to the tax payer. The Council now operates with a Chief Executive and a single director.
As a public service provider the overall employee costs associated with our 289 (fte’s) accounts for 81% of our net expenditure. With the median salary being £24,313
The Government set a national pay award annually in recent years this has been 2% with 2.75% proposed for 2020/21.
You asked us how do we propose to tackle crime, prevent and monitor antisocial behaviour and what improvements we are implementing?
We operate public space CCTV in various locations across West Lindsey to help prevent and detect crime. The Council works with partners to tackle issues such as flytipping, Public Space Protection Orders and much more to help reduce anti-social behaviour.
We are currently working with Lincolnshire Police and Crimestoppers as part of a campaign to tackle drugs, violence and the exploitation of vulnerable people in Gainsborough.
You asked about the construction of Lea Fields Crematorium and its predicted levels of income and what other major income generating projects are the pipeline? You also asked if our properties purchased as part of our commercial investments are proving value for money and if they are still assets or liability.
Our commercial strategy has delivered £2m of ongoing net income to replace part of the reductions in government funding. This has enabled us to protect our services.
One of our significant projects has been the construction of the much needed Lea Fields Crematorium, which not only provided a much needed service to local people but it is anticipated to contribute £50k to our finances in 24/25, rising to £182k by 30/31. It is seriously making a genuine contribution not only to the localities and the people's needs but also to our financial position.
Over the past 3 years we have invested £23m on a property portfolio which contributes over £700k of net income achieving 6.47% yield. Whilst the impact of Covid-19 is likely to affect their valuation, and as tenants recover from the lockdown, we are still achieving a gross return of just below our target of 6%, the portfolio is still providing value for money.
Health and wellbeing
You asked us about a swimming pool in Market Rasen, what are we doing to encourage cycling and how we identify and support those most in need of financial and other support.
The health and wellbeing of our local people is a key priority for the Council, which is why we have upgraded the West Lindsey Leisure Centre in Gainsborough and built a brand new centre in Market Rasen. We know many people would like to see a swimming pool added to the facility and we have agreed this will be looked at a later date.
We want to encourage people to lead a healthy and active life and we also recognise that our planning department has a role to play in encouraging cycling through inclusion of policies which promote sustainable transport options encouraging people to walk and cycle. We also have an excellent track record in preventing homelessness before it reaches crisis point.
You asked us what we have done to support local businesses etc. with the funding available from central government. You also asked us where the visible presence of the Council was in towns and villages during the Lockdown and what we have done to support rural communities during the Covid-19 crisis.
We like everyone across the County was told to work from home where possible. And as a result many of you will have seen our waste teams out and about in towns and villages as they did not miss any collection dates. They received an overwhelming level of support by local residents and this is very much welcomed.
For those that you didn’t see they were offering advice to businesses who were told to close due to the Lockdown and needed support to change the way they worked. They also took on additional work in organising the Community Hubs which have supported our vulnerable residents with shopping and food parcel deliveries. They have also issued over 1,500 grants on behalf of the government to support our small businesses. Not only was they available for business but they were also on hand to support local residents as the Lockdown changes impacted their finances and ability to pay for bills.
You asked us when can we stop massive house building encouragements that destroy the rural aspects of Lincolnshire, how we propose to provide adequate healthcare and education for people in with proposed developments?
New developments give rise to the need for new or improved services or infrastructure. Developers are required to mitigate the impact of development through contributions to the required infrastructure i.e. education and health. We also actively encourage places to develop Neighbourhood Plans to ensure that they are taking ownership of what their communities, which once adopted is taken into consideration during the planning process.