Tories challenge proposed council tax rise for county

An opposition party on Northumberland County Council is urging the ruling Labour group to look again at its plans to increase council tax by 1.99 per cent.

The call has been made by the Conservative group after it was announced that the authority will lose one per cent of its budget in the proposed local government finance deal.

This is below the national average cuts of 1.8 per cent and it is also the smallest reduction in the North East.

Conservative group leader, Coun Peter Jackson, said: “This latest local government settlement is not an unreasonable ask for the county council.

“Yes it requires the council to make savings, but is the council’s Labour leadership really saying that when families across the country have tightened their own belts, as a council they can not make savings of one per cent.

“This government is giving a fair deal to Northumberland and the council should be able to deliver sensible savings while protecting frontline services for local taxpayers.

“Instead, the Labour group’s plan in the county is to hike council tax by the maximum possible amount and blow £40million on new white elephant headquarters in Ashington.”

The proposed reduction for Northumberland is £2.9million from last year’s central government funding allocation of £307million.

Fellow Conservative David Bawn, councillor for Morpeth North, said that pressure on the highways and education budgets will be offset by the government awarding an extra £91million for road improvements and repairs and £12million for the county’s schools.

He added: “Therefore, there is scope to also reduce the pressure on our hard pressed residents by limiting any increase in council tax.”

Labour councillor for Druridge Bay and prospective parliamentary candidate for the Berwick-upon-Tweed constituency, said: “The Tories have demonstrated how out of touch they really are – if they think a £3million cut in the council budget on top of £44million already visited on Northumberland is ‘fair’, I’d hate to think what’s unfair.

“This (2015/16) budget will see huge investment in the whole of Northumberland which will see jobs created, families sustained and infrastructure brought up-to-date.

“Our plans will see council tax bills rise less than 50p per week for a Band D property, so if the Tories want to block this, they should tell residents what investment they want to cut.”