Top economist tells Government to "slow down"
One of the Britain's leading economic experts challenged the Government's austerity programme when he attended an economic summit at Stoke Rochford Hall near Grantham on Tuesday.
The message from David Llewellyn, a professor of money and banking at Loughborough University, to the chancellor was "slow down, you are going too fast".
The summit, organised by South Kesteven District Council and Lincolnshire County Council, drew delegates from across the public sector and addressed the big issues facing Lincolnshire's economy as councils prepare for their next budget rounds.
Professor Llewellyn, vice-chairman of the board of the Banking Stakeholder Group of the European Banking Authority, said: "I am certainly not as pessimistic as some and I do believe there are rays of hope in the economy with tentative green shoots appearing.
"But I think the Government needs to slow down its austerity programme. It's not working as planned. Timings are important and so is a clear and coherent plan. The more the Government presses ahead the less effective it's going to be.
"No one disputes that the level of debt must be reduced but we need to take a much longer term view. We now have negative rates of interest and should be encouraging capital spending because the cost is negative in real terms and over time will yield a positive return. If we don't take advantage of this I fear we will miss the opportunity of a life-time."
Stephen Jones, Local Government Association Finance Director, said councils were moving into a world of uncertainty and risk which was previously managed by Government.
"Core funding for 2013/14 will be lower than this year and I think it will be between 0-6% less. The following year (2014/15) it could mean between £250,000/£500,000 less per district. Councils need to challenge some of the changes being made by Government ."
Focusing on the local economic climate, county council Head of Enterprise Justin Brown, described Lincolnshire as "faring well" in the recession but he said the county also faced challenges.
Mr Brown said: "We have relatively low house prices, low unemployment, and although our business start up rates tend to be lower than the national and regional averages, they survive longer. But we also have an ageing population and pockets of the county which have not done so well."
Lee Geraghty, an accountant with wide-ranging consultancy experience, explained the fundamental changes being brought in by the Government on the way they distribute grant and how local business rates will contribute to local council funding in the future.
Speaking after the summit, Cllr Linda Neal, SKDC leader , said all councils would need skill and imagination to overcome the difficult challenges ahead.
She said: "It is clear that the future for all public services is likely to remain difficult but here in South Kesteven we have adopted a new approach, typified by our week-long Gravity Fields Festival, to bring more prosperity to the people we represent and serve."