Budget cuts of £42m will be ‘extremely challenging’

County Hall, Morpeth, headquarters for Northumberland County Council.
County Hall, Morpeth, headquarters for Northumberland County Council.

Cuts to next year’s Northumberland County Council budget could reach up to £42million.

It comes as reduced Government funding means that the authority needs to make £132million in savings over the next four years.

The council is determined to protect front-line services as best it can and continue to invest in Northumberland and the local economy.

But the figures have caused concern, especially as they come on the back of multi-million-pound cuts over the last few years.

At Amble Town Council on Thursday, Coun Robert Arckless told members that it was a difficult situation and ‘extremely challenging’.

“The worrying thing is that it is the latest in a succession of really high cuts,” he said.

“We could be facing cuts of £42million, which is the equivalent of the entire children’s services budget that is not ring-fenced to schools.

“That tells you how big the problem is. There is no way that we can deliver a legal, balanced budget and not have a significant impact on services.”

Coun Arckless, who is the county council’s policy board member for children’s services, told members that Northumberland was not alone in facing such budget headaches.

Durham County Council has recently revealed that it faces a spending cut of £20million more than previously thought. The authority said that additional reductions in Government grants meant its savings target for 2011 to 2017 had now risen to £222million.

A spokeswoman for Northumberland County Council said: “The public sector is still facing major financial challenges and in Northumberland we are going to face significant efficiency savings in the coming years. We now know that in the next financial year we will need to save around £42million.

“Government policy means that over the next four years we will need to save something like £132million from the council’s budget which presents us with huge challenges. There’s no doubt that the decisions the Government has made will have a real impact for people living in Northumberland.

“In making these savings, we’re determined to protect front-line services to the public as best we can and continue to invest in Northumberland and the local economy.

“It’s too early to talk about specific savings or reductions, but we are working hard to come up with innovative solutions before presenting our final budget in February.”