Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Higher Tax Bills on Way; Job Losses and Service Cutbacks, Too

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Higher Tax Bills on Way; Job Losses and Service Cutbacks, Too

Article excerpt

Byline: Brian Daniel

THE new Northumberland Council will be launched with a council tax rise of almost 5%, hundreds of job losses and swathes of service cutbacks, it emerged yesterday.

The new super council's draft budget plans included plans to identify savings of around 20% ahead of the switch to the unitary authority next April.

The Liberal Democrat-run council as a whole has identified savings of pounds 23.767m as it strives to achieve pounds 69m of cuts asked of it by Government over the next four years.

With the need to make savings, the council's leader last night admitted that 800 jobs could be shed at County Hall, following opposition claims that 800 to 1,000 redundancies will be needed.

Opponents claim more money will have to be found to pay for those redundancies, and that savings will have to be made in other areas next year.

They say taxpayers will receive worse services as a result of the savings and have branded the tax rise unacceptable.

Leader of the opposition Conservative group, Coun Peter Jackson said last night: "The scale of the cuts to front line services is shocking and it will affect every part of daily life across the county, from poorer grass cutting, dirty streets and even worse roads and pavements, to reductions in the care for our vulnerable older people who cannot speak up for themselves.

"The proposed budget does not even balance with further cuts of pounds 1.7m to find and there is a further black hole in relation to redundancies.

"All of this as well as a completely unacceptable rise of 5% in the council tax. 5% more for less in the way of services."

The council's leading Lib Dem group has tabled a proposal to increase the council tax by 4.8%. It says cut in services cannot be avoided and adds the 20% savings figure is overall rather than for each department.

The Lib Dems also say the redundancy figure is likely to be around 700, "maybe less" according to leader Coun Jeff Reid, but admit it could be 800.

A council spokeswoman said it is too early to say how many redundancies will be needed.

Coun Reid said: "To meet the challenges of efficiency targets, we have been forced to make tough decisions on how to balance our books. These efficiencies have been imposed on us by central government and not as a result of local government re-organisation.

"Moving to one unitary authority has given us the opportunity to improve efficiency as it will remove duplication of posts, costs and services.

"The budget strategy has been developed to protect frontline services wherever possible and we are committed to delivering the council that people deserve."

The draft budget will go before the council's executive on Monday. It will then go out to consultation, with people being given the chance to have a say until January 22. …

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