Newcastle City Council’s Cabinet are set to make changes to their budget proposals after more than 2,000 people made their views known in a public consultation.
Cabinet meets on 22 February to consider consultation responses and agree the budget it will propose to Full Council on 3 March.
Key changes will see extra support provided to open access advice services Search and the Citizens Advice Network over the next year to give them longer to prepare for budget reductions. The transitional funding will be on the basis of a business plan submitted by each organisation demonstrating how they will adjust to new levels of funding over the next 12 months. Over a thousand people objected to the original proposals to reduce funding to these services.
Similar support will be provided to Kenton and Newburn leisure centres – helping them to adjust to lower levels of funding over the next year rather than face immediate reductions.
Sunday opening hours at Newcastle’s flagship City Library will remain unchanged for another year after respondents to the consultation highlighted the need to maintain access for people who are at work or in education through the week. This will allow more time for alternative ways to sustain opening hours to be examined.
And three Children’s Social Work posts will also be retained following strong public concern about the loss of valuable support provided by parent/carer participation workers and children and young people participation workers
The changes to the budget for 2016/17 will be funded from a small underspend in the current year’s budget.
Leader of Newcastle City Council, Cllr Nick Forbes, said: “We have listened very carefully to the issues people have raised during our consultation and I am pleased that because of our prudent financial stewardship during the current year we have been able to find some one-off funds to address a number of the biggest public concerns.
“This means we can provide support to a number of vitally important institutions in the city – giving them another 12 months to come to terms with future budget reductions. We will work closely with them through this time to help them adjust.
“None of this detracts from the fact that the Government’s ongoing approach to austerity means that we have to make cuts to council services that will have a damaging impact on our city. Indeed the situation has worsened since we launched our consultation – with the final local government settlement adding another £2m million to our budget gap which now stands at £32million for 2016/17.
“Hard pressed cities like Newcastle continue to be hardest hit – making it more important than ever that we continue to strike the right balance between shielding the most vulnerable and investing to create the jobs that local people need.
“During the consultation the majority of respondents accepted that a small rise in council tax will be necessary to ensure that we can protect vital frontline services.
“In addition, residents will be paying the Government’s Adult Social Care precept for the first time, which is a 2% increase in council tax to help meet the increasing costs of social care now that these are no longer adequately funded by central government.”
The Budget proposes a 1.9% increase in general council tax together with the Government’s 2% precept to contribute to the costs of adult social care – a total council tax rise for council services of 3.9%.