SPECIAL FEATURE: '˜We're facing a financial crisis'

With the county council confirming that it needs to make savings of £170 million over the next four years can they guarantee that even basic frontline services will still be delivered?

Thousands of parents across Lincolnshire could face a worrying hike in school and college transport charges as Lincolnshire County Council battles to overcome massive cuts in Government funding, it has been claimed.

The council has confirmed it must make savings of £170 million over the next four years, despite slashing £130 million - and 2,000 employees - from its spending budget since 2012.

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Council leader Martin Hill says the cash-strapped authority is looking to make cuts in a host of key areas and admits there is no guarantee it will be able to continue delivering even basic frontline service.

Now, county councillor Colin Mair has revealed he fears parents could be asked to pay up to £40 per child per week - the equivalent of £1,440 a year - to cover the cost of transport to school and college.

Amid a series of worrying claims, Coun Mair - the leader of UKIP at County Hall - says a number of other key services, including street lighting - could be slashed or even axed all together.

Coun Mair alleges the council has formed a number of what he described as ‘Task and Finish Groups’ to explore ways of saving money.

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He blamed the Government for what he described as a ‘financial crisis’ facing councils . He claimed Lincolnshire had been ‘kicked in the teeth’ by Whitehall, despite the county being a Conservative run administration - and having seven Conservative MPs. Coun Mair said: “For years now, the county council has frozen the council tax precept and has been seen to faithfully follow government guidelines.

“We have made many cuts and now the reward for that is to give us a kicking.

“Highways have stopped repairing footways and footpaths with road repairs drastically reduced.

“They (the council) are sending letters out telling parishes and small towns to take full financial control of street lights or they will be switched off.”

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He added: “Watch this space for school transport budgets where I predict many people will face bills of up to £40 a week for sending their children to school.”

The county stated borough and district councils are responsible for lighting of footpaths. With regards to other street lighting, a county spokesman said: “With a proposed reduction to the budget for running street-lighting in future years, we are currently looking at how we can save money across the county. This could include investment in lighting technologies, which will be more efficient and cost less to run, combined with switching street lights off in some areas.”

They added: “All councillors were invited to informal budget workshops before Christmas, so they could give their views on potential savings for each of the Council’s service areas. Following these workshops, feedback and comments were taken to the council’s Executive, which is a public meeting, on January 5.”

Coun Mair claimed that Lincolnshire faced being ‘left in the wilderness’ because of the cuts in funding.

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He added: “How can we compare with the metropolitan authorities who will have plenty of spare cash to entice businesses to move into their areas, compared to poor old Lincolnshire that will increasingly be left in the wilderness? Our future looks increasingly bleak.

“It is a fact of life that those who shout the loudest tend to get what they want. Sadly, our Conservative representatives aren’t shouting loudly so we will continue to see central government kick our county in the teeth.

“It is up to the rest of us to shout long and loud and demand, not ask, that they simply treat us fairly. It is ridiculous that the county council are asking for ideas on how they can save money.”