Labour looking to spend £350m in proposed budget

More than £350m could be spent on projects to improve housing, jobs, education and transport, council chiefs have revealed.

Northumberland County Council’s ruling Labour administration has unveiled its draft budget for 2015-16 which earmarks a number of spending priorities as well as plans to save £44m by 2017.

Investments include new social housing, funding towards a scheme to re-open the Ashington, Blyth and Tyne railway line and improved education, including the rebuild of three schools.

But included in the proposals are plans to increase council tax by 1.99 per cent in each of the next two years.

Council leader Coun Grant Davey said: “We know that in the next two financial years we will have to save more than £44m from our revenue budgets.

“This is on top of the £160m savings that have been made since 2009 due to government cuts.

“This level of saving cannot be made from efficiencies alone but we want to protect frontline services while continuing to invest in the future.

“Over many months we’ve been looking very carefully at every area of our business to see how we can reduce expenditure, increase income and make savings while minimising the impact on frontline services, residents and council staff.

“We’ve reviewed all our services to make sure they provide value for money and are operating as efficiently as possible.

“We’ve have had to assess all our spending and carefully considered where we can change, reduce or remove services causing the least possible damage to the people of Northumberland.

“At the same time we’ve been looking at ambitious investment in the future of this county across a range of areas.”

The council is looking to save £26m through improved efficiencies – including smarter use of IT, better use of council buildings, and the sale of some properties – plus income of £2.9m through cuts in service.

The proposals will be discussed by the council’s policy board on December 9, before councillors receive a further budget report in February 2015.

Coun Davey added: “It’s important to stress no final decisions have been made, at present these are just proposals.

“That’s why we need people’s ideas, feedback and opinions to help us shape these services. It’s vital we get residents’ views before we make difficult decisions about the budget.”

Residents are now being invited to have their say on the proposals during an eight week public consultation, with a survey online at budget.northumberland.gov.uk