Contracts to be renegotiated to protect standards

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CHILDREN, adult services and housing will bear the brunt of county council cuts, but members have been told that many savings are being made by renegotiating contracts rather than reducing standards.

Care for adults, mainly elderly people, will cost £95.8million next year and as Northumberland has a higher proportion of older people than average, there was concern about the future.

Council Executive Member for Corporate Resources Andrew Tebbutt said: “Someone will have to find the money.”

Members heard there is also a growing workload at the other end of the age spectrum.

In parts of the county as many as half of children are living in poverty and in the past few years there has been a 90 per cent rise in youngsters needing protection.

On roads Coun Tebbutt was confident more Tarmac would be laid next year than this and he said a rapid response system for potholes was proving successful, with more than 34,000 filled.

He added: “The council has received praise from right across the county for the way it has dealt with snow for the past few months.”

Coun Tebbutt said that by providing funding to unlock other aid, the council had enabled Morpeth’s flood alleviation scheme to win approval and also the south east Northumberland link road, while some £20million of capital was committed to Ashington’s new leisure complex and £7million to transform sports centres elsewhere.

He reported that the council had exceeded its target of half of work to go to local businesses.

And on council tax, it was one of only two North East authorities to protect the most vulnerable. It disregards all war widow and Armed Forces Compensation Scheme income when assessing entitlement to housing benefit. Second homes will receive no council tax discount.

Some £9.7million has been set aside to ensure that three planned new schools are properly completed.