The leader of Northumberland County Council has set out the reasons why he thinks the maximum council tax increase allowed without a local referendum taking place is necessary for 2018/19.
At an area committee meeting on Monday, Coun Peter Jackson said that the Conservative group – which has the most county councillors – will be recommending a 2.99 per cent increase for the next financial year, along with an additional precept rise for social care.
The Government announced last month that the threshold for triggering an automatic local referendum was being increased from two per cent to three per cent.
Coun Jackson said it was necessary to request such an increase in order to provide services at a level that Northumberland residents deserve and given the financial position of the council.
He added after the meeting: “As a forward-looking council, we remain committed to protecting frontline services and ensuring a strong, prosperous and healthy future for the county.
“We were shocked and stunned to discover that we have inherited a £65million black hole and with increasing demand for our services, we reluctantly need to propose raising the council tax by a further one per cent on last year’s budget.
“While this rise equates to just a further 85p per household per week for a Band D household, the 2.99 per cent increase will provide the council additional funding of around £4.5million a year and help reduce the amount required to balance the budget.”
“The figure is also in line with the Government’s assumptions regarding the council’s Core Spending Power, which assumes an annual inflationary increase for council tax.”
During the meeting, he also outlined the main areas of capital investment that are being earmarked for the next three financial years.
These include schools (£132.7million), the proposed Newcastle to Northumberland rail line (£94.2million), highways (£68.3million), housing (£35.7million) and County Hall (£17million).
Coun Jackson said: “The refurbishment of County Hall is due to start in the spring and may take two to three years.
“It’s about time that someone gave it some love and care and the works could lead to us being able to rent out a whole wing for business or other uses that will produce income for the council.”
He added that the investment amount is lower than had been planned under the previous Labour-run administration, but his party was “showing financial prudence and focusing on the priorities of the county’s residents, rather than vanity projects”.