County agrees to freeze council tax

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COUNCIL tax has been frozen by Northumberland’s unitary authority for a second year running, despite it having to find £16.6million of savings over the coming financial year.

At a meeting of the full council yesterday (Wednesday), members voted to accept the proposal, as well as a one-off £3.7million Government bonus grant equivalent to a 2.5 per cent increase in council tax.

The move is one that is being followed by many other councils across the country after the Government put subsidies in place to encourage them to freeze their taxes and it means every council will get an additional grant.

Council bosses said that it was the right decision for communities who are tightening their belts during tough economic times.

Coun Andrew Tebbutt, executive member of corporate resources, said: “The council understands that many people are facing a squeeze on their finances and that household budgets are under great pressure. It is a difficult time for everyone financially and we feel it is important to do all we can to make life easier for residents.”

The freeze will mean additional savings of £3.7million will be needed next financial year 2013/14 on top of the £53.4million already expected over the period 2013/14 to 2015/16 , but senior councillors have pledged to build on efficiencies which have already saved around £101million since the formation of the unitary council in 2009.

“This decision to accept the government’s tax grant does mean we will need to find additional savings further down the line. This will undoubtedly be challenging, but these challenges will have to be met and the efficiencies required will continue to be made in a planned way,” Coun Tebbutt added.

North Northumberland MP Sir Alan Beith said: “I welcome the news that the council’s budget has been agreed and that the Liberal Democrats are continuing to deliver good quality services under very tight financial conditions.”