Tax rise for Northumberland residents on the cards as formal council budget published

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Northumberland residents can expect council tax rises and spending cuts in the coming year after the county council published its formal budget proposals.

Documents acknowledge that the council continues to face a ‘shortfall in funding’ when compared to spending demands, meaning it must annually review ‘priorities’ to address this.

In the run-up to the budget, council leader Glen Sanderson has repeatedly insisted there will be no cuts to frontline services.

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However, a number of ‘efficiencies’ are proposed as part of the financial plan for the coming year.

Cllr Richard Wearmouth.Cllr Richard Wearmouth.
Cllr Richard Wearmouth.

A total of £31.1m is earmarked as savings by the end of the medium term financial plan (MTFP) in 2028, including £10.9m in 2024/25.

The majority of the budget remains unchanged from the draft proposals that were presented to the public and councillors at a series of meetings across the county last month.

It also includes confirmation that residents will see their council tax rise by 2.99%, which had been expected but was not explicitly stated in the draft proposals.

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The proposed efficiencies for this year includes shaving £3.63m from adult social care, with the vast majority of this (£3m) coming from ‘care management savings’ by reviewing individual packages of care.

Adult social care funding will in turn be boosted by a 2% increase on the adult social care precept part of residents’ council tax bills, as well as £2.92 million extra from the Government. However, officers last month that these increases ‘would not touch the sides’ in terms of the overall pressures faced by social care budgets.

Deputy leader Richard Wearmouth has said the council remains in a ‘strong’ financial position.

He explained that the majority of efficiencies would be achieved via the council’s ongoing BEST programme. The project is looking to make services more modern and efficient in order to save money, with £12.4m worth of savings identified by the end of the MTFP.

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Cllr Wearmouth, who is also the council’s cabinet member for corporate services, said: “The council’s financial position remains very strong. At a time where other councils are cutting frontline services and closing assets like leisure centres we have managed to make better use of taxpayer funds.

“NCC are making zero cuts to services and investing in assets like our schools, leisure centres and other assets. This budget also puts £36m into fixing our roads this year and £28m the year after, a major priority for the Conservative Group and local residents.”

Concerns have also been raised by opposition councillors about the council’s ongoing use of reserves. Budget documents show the council will utilise a total of £28.96m of reserves for “non-recurrent items in 2024/25.

Documents suggest the £50.96m currently held in the general reserve will not be touched by the end of the MFTP.

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However, by the same time the council’s total reserves and provisions is estimated to fall from £298.32m to £197.32m. When the Conservative administration came to power in 2017, the council had reserves of £339.4m.

The capital programme, meanwhile, will see additional revenue costs of £19m in 24//25, £12.6m in 25/26 and £6m in 26/27 as previously agreed projects are hit by inflation.

Members of the ruling cabinet will consider the report on Tuesday before making formal recommendations to full council later this month.