‘We will deliver’ says council leader

COUNTY council budgets for the coming year will deliver what people want, despite savings of over £46million, Leader Jeff Reid has said.

At last week’s meeting of the authority’s Executive, members approved a budget to go before the full council on February 23.

The general fund budget for 2011/12 will be just over £479million, excluding parish precepts and based on a formula grant from the Government of nearly £129million.

However, there are still outstanding details to come such as the parish precepts and the confirmation of £25million of grants, including over £21million for schools.

Coun Jeff Reid said: “This isn’t as bad as it could have been and it’s not as bad as some other councils.

“It delivers what we have been asked by the people of Northumberland to deliver and it doesn’t raise the council tax because we have taken the Government’s incentive not to do so.”

Efficiency savings of over £46.5million, or a minimum £45million, were approved, along with the use of up to £7.5million of reserves to support the budget.

Following an earlier meeting of Economic Prosperity and Strategic Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee, Coun Gordon Castle raised several potential issues including the ‘unexpected’ increase in capital IT funding and the county council raising an extra £300,000 from textile collections at recycling points.

While the committee appreciated that the Leader had previously said that capital would not be committed until government funding was known, it was concerned that no notional figure was shown.

Chief Executive Steve Stewart said: “It would be a finger in the air job until we know what the Government are prepared to put in.”

Coun Andrew Tebbutt, Executive Member for Corporate Resources, conceded that there were some issues and details to be cleared up and discussed before the full council meeting on February 23.

“I hope there will be some sensible political dialogue before then.”