Major projects get funding green light

FUNDING for two major Morpeth projects has been officially given the green light by Northumberland County Council.

At a full council meeting members approved the medium term financial plan, which details the authority’s spending commitments and priorities up until March 2016.

The allocation includes up to £12million for the Morpeth flood alleviation scheme and £29.7million for the Morpeth Northern Bypass, which will provide a direct link to the A1 from the Whorral Bank roundabout.

There will also be an investment of at least £32.7million on affordable housing across Northumberland and £7million on broadband provision for rural communities. A total of £65.1million will be spent on highways improvements.

As for the 2012/13 budget, there will be a net revenue spend of £473.1million after £16.6 million of efficiency savings were agreed.

But the Conservative group’s free parking proposal for Northumberland residents, put forward as an amendment, was not supported by the Liberal Democrat administration or Labour group.

The Tories believe that only visitors should pay to park in council-run car parks and those who live in the county should be able to use them without charge.

Currently, fees are levied in the north and west areas of the county but not in the south east. The administration claims the plans are unaffordable and will not do anything to help traffic management.

Leader of Northumberland Conservatives Peter Jackson said after the meeting: “It is simply wrong that some people in Northumberland pay to park when others do not.

“Our plan for free parking is being blocked, but residents know that the next local elections are just 15 months away.”

However, Conservative councillors abstained in the vote because they supported the freeze in council tax made possible by a Government grant.

The savings have been carried across all sections of the authority and further reductions will need to be made in future budgets.

Council Executive Member for Corporate Resources Andrew Tebbutt said: “We have already made enormous efficiency savings of over £100million since the unitary authority was formed in 2009 so this has made the budget setting process for this year very challenging, as it will continue to be over the coming years.

“However, I am delighted that the council has approved a budget which protects frontline services as far as possible and focuses on investment in the council’s key priorities, particularly affordable housing.”

A full copy of the report, including a detailed breakdown of all the savings, is at www.northumberland.gov.uk