Cuts of £32.5m approved for Northumberland

County Hall, Morpeth.
County Hall, Morpeth.

Cuts to Northumberland’s budget resulting in reductions of £32.5million for the next financial year have been approved by the Policy Board of Northumberland County Council.

A report setting out the savings plan for 2014/15 was endorsed by Councillors on the Policy Board and will now go to the full council meeting of all 67 elected members on 18 February.

The proposals cover a range of financial measures that enable the council to set a balanced budget for the next financial year but also detail spending plans that include more support for schools, affordable housing, economic growth and free parking where local communities feel it will boost the economy.

Members agreed not to accept the council tax freeze grant for 2014-15 and proposed an increase in council tax of 1.98 per cent (the council’s element).

Coun Grant Davey, leader of Northumberland County Council said:“Setting a budget in the current financial climate poses a real challenge for councils up and down the country and we know that in the next financial year alone we will need to save £32.5million.

“This report sets out how we will achieve these savings but also how this administration will deliver on some of the key priorities. Some of the measures we’ve taken will not only ensure that savings are fair to residents across the county - but also deliver key improvements on things like affordable housing, economic growth, schools support, local services and free parking where local communities think it will boost the economy.

“However, in Northumberland we are under no illusion that we are going to face more significant efficiency savings in the coming years.”

The council’s medium term financial plan now estimates that Northumberland will need to save another £130million over the next four years. This level may increase even further in the long term because so many of the projections are based on provisional figures which could still change as a result of future Government decisions.

On the council tax decision, Coun Davey said: “We think that local people will see a below inflation rise in council tax as reasonable but we’re conscious that families across the county are finding it tough.

“There’s no doubt that the decisions and policies of the coalition government will have a real impact on people living in Northumberland and I hope that local people understand that.”

The council also pledged to respond to issues raised in the public consultation and is currently reviewing the options around post-16 transport and the youth service.

“On post-16 transport we are now looking at a range of options which will be subject to a separate public consultation exercise. No final decisions have been made on this but Northumberland is currently the only council that funds it in this way, and the ultimate aim must be to encourage and enable students to study at their local establishment.

“We will also look again at the proposed reductions to the youth service. This review will look at whether the savings targets could be achieved in a different way and will include more specific consultation with young people,” he said.

The budget report was produced after considering feedback received from the area committee meetings held on December 9, 10 and 11 2013, and the Economic Prosperity and Strategic Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee held on January 30 2014.

It also takes into account the views expressed as part of an online survey, which was launched to explain the challenges facing the County Council and to give residents and stakeholders the opportunity to influence the budget setting process.

A full copy of the report is available on the council website.