Northumberland County Council set to shed £10million from budget

Early proposals for next year show that Northumberland County Council is planning to cut another £10million from its budget in 2020-21.

Monday, 4th November 2019, 1:10 pm
Updated Saturday, 9th November 2019, 12:00 pm
County Hall, Morpeth Picture by Jane Coltman

Last year, the local authority revealed its need to bridge a £36.4million shortfall over the next three years, with £25.3million of savings identified in the 2019-22 medium-term financial plan that was approved by the full council in February.

This included £12.8million in the current financial year followed by £6.5million in 2020-21 and £5.8 million in 2021-22.

However, initial proposals for next year, which will be discussed by the corporate services committee on November 11 then the cabinet on Tuesday (November 12), now feature £9.8million of efficiencies for 2020-21.

The report to councillors also explains that total savings of £16.6million have so far been identified over the revised medium-term financial plan period from 2020-23.

A large proportion of the proposed cuts will come from adult and children’s services – more than £3million each next year.

In relation to adults, wellbeing and health, the report explains that ‘priorities will be examined in order to maximise funding, alongside the assessment of further efficiencies in telecare, operational staffing and in-house services, and a review of care. These proposals are expected to deliver savings of £3.014million in 2020-21 and £3.250million in 2021-22’.

In children’s services, the council ‘will continue to manage staff budgets in relation to turnover and vacancies in order to generate savings’ and ‘will also be seeking appropriate contributions from partners in relation to children with ongoing health needs.

‘A number of services will be reviewed, including adoption and children’s centres, in order to develop better models of delivery. These proposals are expected to deliver savings of £3.042million in 2020-21 and £1.392million has been identified so far in relation to the following two years.’

Other areas proposed to deliver smaller savings include reducing the fee to Active Northumberland over the medium term, consolidating libraries, ‘operational efficiencies’ in the fire and rescue service, and income opportunities in relation to energy from waste.

The budget proposals will be subject to a seven-week public consultation, as the report states that the council ‘recognises that consultation is an important part of planning and delivering services that meet people’s needs’.

The document also highlights lines from the authority’s corporate plan which say that ‘we know that we still face tough decisions that will not be universally popular. We will not take these lightly and pledge that we will pay attention and act on your concerns’.

The budget may well be adjusted in coming months, as next year’s Local Government Finance Settlement isn’t finalised until next month amid what is ‘a period of financial uncertainty’ for councils.

The final sign-off will come at the authority’s full meeting in February.