Northumberland County Council has agreed its budget for the next year – with a focus on protecting frontline services and promoting growth.
At a meeting of full council, members approved an ambitious investment programme – despite central government funding cuts which mean the authority has to save a further £36m over the next three years.
The cuts needed to be made by the council actually reduced by £10m up to 2020 – due to prudent financial management involving a combination of increased income from council tax receipts linked to economic growth and housing development and increased income from third party loans to Arch, the council’s investment and regeneration company.
The council reaffirmed its commitment to investing in the county through its £381m capital programme over the next year. The programme includes proposed investment in new schools and leisure centres, infrastructure improvements, increased parking provision and development of the Ashington, Blyth and Tyne Line.
Councillors agreed cuts of £6m in 2017-18 and a total of £36m up to 2020. A council tax increase of 1.99% for the next three years was also agreed. Additionally there will be a 3% increase for social care for 2017/18 and 2018/19. The increases are in line with the Government’s own assumptions when they set the reductions in the council’s revenue support grant.
Council leader Grant Davey said: “Northumberland is made great by its residents.
“Our aim is to help make it even better by using our budget to improve the lives of everyone who lives and works here. Increasing financial cutbacks are causing severe pressures but this council is determined to deliver the best services for everyone – in health, education, affordable housing, clean streets or good roads.
“However we are living in different times now and need to think differently. We face unique challenges in Northumberland due to our geography. We are coping with a 75% reduction in revenue support grant over the next three years, sparcity funding has been removed almost completely and it costs us three times more to deliver services in our very rural areas compared to more urban neighbouring authorities.
“Nonetheless we are doing all we can to maintain vital frontline services; investing in town centres generating jobs in the county, improving education and providing affordable housing.
“There are a number of exciting developments planned across Northumberland over the coming year as we continue to find innovative ways of doing business, generating sound returns for all residents as well as the council and making a great county even better.”
At the meeting the council also agreed to bring back details of a proposed loan to Alnwick Garden for consideration following a detailed review by the authority’s risk appraisal panel which is made up of leading members and senior council officers.
Summing up, Cllr Davey said: “Overall we believe the budget agreed today is great for growth, jobs and the people of Northumberland.”
To find out more about the budget and the work of the council over the past year go to www.northumberland.gov.uk/