Northumberland council tax bills to rise 4.99% as county chiefs sign off £56m cuts plan

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Hikes to Northumberland council tax bills and more than £55 million of spending cuts have been signed off.

Northumberland County Council agreed on Wednesday to back budget plans that will see council tax bills rise in April by 4.99%, the maximum level allowed without holding a referendum.

The proposals also identify the need for £55.9 million of efficiency savings to be found by 2028 – as the authority battles with “significant inflationary and demand led pressures”, especially in children’s social care and the cost of providing home to school transport.

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A 4.99% council tax increase, including a 2% rise in the adult social care precept, means band A households will pay £1,384 in 2024/25 and those in band D properties £2,076.

Northumberland County Council Headquarters at County Hall, Morpeth. Photo: NCJ Media.Northumberland County Council Headquarters at County Hall, Morpeth. Photo: NCJ Media.
Northumberland County Council Headquarters at County Hall, Morpeth. Photo: NCJ Media.

The vast majority of councils across England are expected to impose the maximum bill uplift as local government officials across the nation grapple with a financial crisis that has already seen several authorities forced to effectively declare bankruptcy, amid warnings of a £4 billion nationwide funding gap over the next two years

Almost £11 million of budget cuts in Northumberland during 2024/25 alone include shaving £3.6 million from adult social care spending, a £2 million saving from the council’s children and education budget, parking charges at the coast increasing by 50p, and the annual garden waste collection fee rising to £52.

£16.5 million will also be taken out of county hall’s cash reserves to balance the books over the next 12 months.

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The council has warned that it must make a further £15 million of savings next year, plus just over £30 million from 2026 to 2028.

Council leader Glen Sanderson.Council leader Glen Sanderson.
Council leader Glen Sanderson.

But Conservative council leader Glen Sanderson told colleagues that his administration planned to spend “well over £60 million” on the county’s roads over the next two years to combat potholes, as well as putting money into schools, leisure services, and libraries.

He also talked up plans for a £2m revamp of Prudhoe Waterworld, a new redevelopment masterplan for the Hexham Middle School site, and a pledge to continue free town centre parking.

Cllr Sanderson added: “This is a calm and professional council now. This is a council that is ambitious and that is valued. It is valued by our staff and our staff feel valued, that is a very major step we have taken over the last few years of difficulties.”

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However, Labour opposition leader Scott Dickinson criticised a “massive” rent increase for social housing tenants of 7.7%, saying that struggling households would find it “really difficult” to pay what could amount to an extra £30 per month.

He also took aim at an alleged lack of clarity surrounding millions of pounds worth of unspecified savings due to be made under the council’s “BEST” programme and said there had to be a “reality check” about what the cuts would mean.

He added: “We don’t know yet what the details of those are. People are literally being asked to vote today on BEST savings that could be anything, It could be grass cutters, it could be bin lorries, it could be anything in the transformation programme.”

Tory cabinet member Colin Horncastle accused Cllr Dickinson of “scaremongering”.

The independent group’s Derek Kennedy warned that spending council reserves to plug the budget gap was “not sustainable”.