Council strives to protect frontline services

Northumberland County councillors today considered the council’s draft budget which outlines more than £314million capital investment over the next three years.

At a meeting of the council’s executive in Morpeth this morning, the green light was given to the council’s medium term financial plan which details the council’s spending commitments and priorities up until 2015-16.

Despite a poor financial settlement from central government and concerns over future government cut-backs, the council says it is doing its utmost to protect frontline services and local residents.

These plans include:

The freezing of council tax for a third consecutive year.

The protection of working age claimants from any cuts in council tax benefit and housing benefit by adopting the national scheme despite a requirement for councils to make 10 per cent savings.

Continued capital investment in schemes such as schools, the Local Transport Plan, broadband, new affordable and existing housing and street lighting.

The council also agreed net revenue spending of £467million after the delivery of £23.6million of savings that are needed over the next financial year.

The majority of savings will come from increase efficiency, renegotiations of contracts and reorganisation of council services.

The budget proposals are now open for consultation, but the lateness of the Government settlement means that views and observations need to be forwarded to Northumberland County Council by February 10.

Coun Jeff Reid, Leader of Northumberland County Council, said: “The council has successfully managed its financial position over a number of years while coping with a number of significant challenges, particularly local government reorganisation and the recent major reduction in public sector expenditure.

“The 2013/14 budget reductions of £23.6million are on top of having already made enormous efficiency savings of over £110m since the unitary authority was formed in 2009.

“We have looked very carefully at how we can reduce expenditure, increase income and make efficiency savings while minimising the impact on frontline services, residents and council staff.”

The majority of the budget savings will be delivered from central corporate services, adult services and housing, which face a £16million cut in 2013/14.

A further £8million has been earmarked from Children’s Services, Fire and Rescue, Highways, Waste, Transport and Public Health and Protection Services.

Coun Andrew Tebbutt, executive member for corporate services, said: “Despite the very poor financial settlement Northumberland has received from central government we are doing our best to protect services and jobs.

“It is inevitable, given the level of savings required, that some cuts have had to be made however, protecting frontline services has always been a top priority for us and the council’s investment in key services such as highways, children and young people, adult services, leisure and libraries remains strong.

“The new local arrangements on council tax and housing benefit transferred from central government will protect those working-age people least able to cope with the current financial pressures.”