County faces £23m in cuts for the next year

COUNCIL bosses in Northumberland have announced another £23million in cuts for the next financial year.

At a meeting of Northumberland County Council’s Executive on Monday, the green light was given to the authority’s medium term financial plan for 2012-16 and budget 2013/14, which identified £23.6million of savings among spending of £467million.

The authority has meanwhile revealed it has to save a total of almost £86million over the period up to 2016. Twelve months ago, the estimated figure had been £57million.

The majority of the budget savings will be delivered from central corporate services, adult services and housing, which face a £16million cut in 2013/14.

A further £8muillion has been earmarked from children’s services, fire and rescue, highways, waste, transport and public health and protection services.

Council Executive Member for Corporate Resources Andrew Tebbutt said despite a poor financial settlement from the Government and concerns over future Government cutbacks, the council is doing its utmost to protect frontline services

He said: “Despite the very poor financial settlement Northumberland has received from central government we are doing our best to protect services and jobs.

“It is inevitable, given the level of savings required, that some cuts have had to be made, however, protecting frontline services has always been a top priority for us and the council’s investment in key services, such as highways, children and young people, adult services, leisure and libraries remains strong.

“The new local arrangements on council tax and housing benefits transferred from central government will protect those working age people least able to cope with the current financial pressures.”

The draft budget also outlines more than £314million capital investment in local projects over the next three years and, despite its financial woes, the authority looks set to freeze council tax for the third consecutive year.

It also looks to continue investing in schools, transport, broadband, Ashington Community and Leisure Facility, new affordable and existing housing and street lighting, as well as protecting working age claimants from any cuts in council tax benefit and housing benefit by adopting the national scheme despite a requirement for councils to make 10 per cent savings.

Council Leader Jeff Reid said: “The council has successfully managed its financial position over a number of years whilst coping with a number of significant challenges, particularly local government reorganisation and the recent reduction in public sector expenditure.

“The 2013/14 budget reductions of £23.6million are on top of having already made enormous efficiency savings of over £110million since the unitary authority was formed in 2009.

“We have looked very carefully at how we can reduce expenditure, increase income and make efficiency savings while minimising the impact on frontline services, residents and council staff.”

The budget proposals are now open for consultation, but the lateness of the government settlement means that views and observations need to be forwarded to the county council by Sunday, February 10.