Budget will deliver, despite cuts

THE leader of Northumberland County Council has said that the budget for the coming year will deliver what the people want, despite savings of more than £46million.

At Monday’s meeting of Northumberland County Council’s Executive, members approved the 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 more than £21million for schools.

Leader 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.”

The efficiency savings of over £46.5million, or a minimum of £45million, were approved along with the use of up to £7.5million of reserve funds to support the budget.

Following a meeting of the economic prosperity and strategic services overview and scrutiny committee last Friday, 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.

He also highlighted the lack of capital funding provision for Duchess’s High School in Alnwick.

While the committee appreciated that Coun Reid had previously said that capital would not be committed until government funding was known, they were 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.