Northumberland County Council is currently working on its budget for 2022/23, which is due before Cabinet in February.
Officials say the budget focused on economic recovery, protecting frontline services and looking after the most vulnerable, with proposals being put forward seeing an emphasis on delivering a green and sustainable future for the county, with the Council’s climate change action a main driver behind the plans.
Among the priorities for the year ahead are:• Attracting investment and high-quality jobs to the county• Delivering the Borderlands Place Programme alongside other initiatives to drive rural economic growth• Continuing work to re-open the Northumberland Line rail project• Securing funding for major road and junction infrastructure in the county• Delivering planned school builds• Investing in parks, open spaces, public conveniences and town-centre parking.
The budget proposals include an ambitious £307million capital programme for 2022/23 including major investment in affordable housing, continued improvements to leisure centres and a range of renewable energy schemes to make the county greener and cleaner.
Savings of £9.7million are also earmarked, although Council Leader Councillor Glen Sanderson stressed these will not be at the expense of frontline services.
He said: “We’re very proud of the work that has gone into this budget over the past few months – it's very much looking to the future but recognises that many of us are still facing challenges.
“We are very hopeful this year we can continue to grow our economy – last summer saw huge visitor numbers return to the county – and with recent announcements of major employers setting up in the county we’re starting 2022 with a positive outlook and the budget reflects that.
“But all local authorities are operating in a period of financial uncertainty through a number of factors, including budget pressures and those on national public finances, as well as the ongoing impact of Covid-19 on our expenditure and income.
"However, we have been clear any savings must not affect our frontline services and we feel we have achieved this.
“Wherever possible, these savings will be achieved by doing things differently - by transforming the way the Council delivers its services and being more efficient.
“And caring for the young and vulnerable will remain and be a top priority for the Council, with funds earmarked for a further raft of school improvements and delivery progressing on planned sites for extra care housing.
“We know these are difficult times for many, so we’ve strived to ensure a fair and balanced budget.
“We’re putting forward a proposal for a Council Tax Hardship scheme which will provide additional help for low income households who may be struggling with bills at the present time.
“We’re also keen to find long-term solutions to some of the issues Northumberland faces around health and poverty and are organising a Health Inequalities Summit for March to examine what action we can take to address these.”
The budget plans will be considered by an all-member scrutiny committee on February 7, Cabinet on February 8 and the final proposals will then be put before full Council and discussed on February 23.
To read the full budget report go to nland.uk/budgetreport