Northumberland residents hit in the pocket as council tax rises voted through

County Hall in Morpeth County Hall in Morpeth
County Hall in Morpeth
Council tax is set to rise by more than 4% for Northumberland residents after authority politicians approved next year’s budget.

The authority expenditure will include road improvements and even public toilets.

The budget was voted through by councillors at a full council meeting on Wednesday.

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Introducing the budget council leader Glen Sanderson said: “This budget has got two clear themes: Theme one is about supporting new and existing business the second one is to do the very best we can for all our residents and help those residents who most need our help.

“The overarching headline to this year’s budget is that there will be no cuts to front-line services.”

This means Council Tax is will go up by 4.24% from April – this is made up of a 1.99% base increase plus a further 2.25% earmarked for adult social care.

This equates to Band A households paying an extra £49.74 per year while those living in Band D properties would pay an additional £73.61 per year.

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This rise was heavily criticised by Liberal Democrat Jeff Reid who accused the budget of being dishonest in how it presented the rise.

He said: “I find it quite incredible that the leader of the council and the leader of the opposition haven’t talked about the elephant in the room which is a council tax rise of over 4%.

“Just kind of sitting here saying ‘oh yes, we can do that’. Maybe you haven’t realised because it’s written down in three different places but the county council are going to be asking the people of Northumberland to pay over 4% more in council tax next year than they are this year and this cannot be right.

“In the position we find ourselves in with food prices going up, with electricity going up with petrol now £1.50 a litre – over a 4% rise in council tax sitting here ‘oh well it will be all right, what we will do is slice it in three different bits and we’ll call it 1.99% here and 1% here and 1.25% there no one will twig’

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“You should have been more honest and what Glen [Sanderson] should have done if the first place is said ‘I need to put the council tax up by 4% because of these things’.”

Savings of £9.7m are also earmarked, although Coun Sanderson previously stressed these will not be at the expense of front-line services.

More than £2m has been earmarked to maintain the county’s roads and footpaths.

The budget report confirmed that £2.225m has been allocated in 2022-23 for highway maintenance investment in U and C roads and foot-ways.

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The budget proposals include an ambitious £307m capital programme for 2022/23 covering everything from major investment in affordable housing, continued improvements to leisure centres and a range of renewable energy schemes to make the county greener and cleaner.

Better public toilets across the county are also in the pipeline in this year’s budget.

The council’s Cabinet is being asked to approve £1.35m for a three-year programme of improvement and refurbishment work – with the final sign off by full council at the budget setting meeting on February 23.

The County Council is responsible for 54 public toilets, many of which have received only essential maintenance in the past decade, with a backlog of refurbishment work required across most facilities.

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A major capital investment programme has been rubber stamped to improve the standards of public toilets, with facilities in the larger main towns and key tourism destinations getting a programme of full refurbishment and modernisation.

All remaining county council toilets will undergo essential refurbishment, so facilities are brought up to a decent standard of repair and are easier to keep clean and maintain.

Around £920,000 will be allocated to improving facilities in the main towns, with work including backlog maintenance, replacement of old equipment where required and in some cases new cubicles and internal walls.

A further £500,000 will be spent on essential refurbishment on all remaining facilities, while £50,000 will go towards accessibility improvements in all toilets involving simple changes such as colour contrasts, better signs and lighting which research has shown can make public toilets easier to use for people with dementia, incontinence, sight or other sensory impairments.

The budget was passed, with 35 voting in favour, 22 against and seven abstentions.