Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Counties Are Set for Cutbacks Following Key Votes

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Counties Are Set for Cutbacks Following Key Votes

Article excerpt

Byline: Will Metcalfe Reporter

NORTH East councillors have outlined budget cuts at separate meetings.

Northumberland County Council rubber-stamped its spending plans for the financial years 2015-16 and 2016-17 at its full meeting yesterday, where councillors agreed a PS350m budget.

The plans will see the Labour-run council spend more than PS50m replacing leisure centres at Morpeth and Ponteland, as well as opening a new facility at Hadston.

The budget also includes proposals to rebuild three schools at Ponteland from a PS46m fund, before assessing those in the Hexham area.

This is in addition to meeting the shortfall left by Government investment in replacements of schools at Alnwick, Bedlington and Prudhoe.

The budget also contains proposals to spend PS30m on the reopening of the Ashington, Blyth and Tyne railway line, PS22m on providing affordable housing and PS30m on the development of the Morpeth Northern Bypass.

At the meeting, council and Labour leader Grant Davey said the spending plans were being made despite the authority having to find PS44m in savings - PS28m in 2015/6 and PS15m in 2016/17.

The council has seen its settlement from Government reduced from PS307 to PS304m.

However Coun Davey said ring-fenced money meant it was actually receiving a cut of 14% from PS139m to PS119m.

He said: "It is a great budget for us, it is a great budget for the people of Northumberland."

However, Conservative and Liberal Democrat opposition councillors voiced concerns over several aspects of the spending programme - most notably its provision of more than PS19m for the period of the budget and 2017/18 for a new headquarters at Ashington or a refurbishment of County Hall in Morpeth.

An amendment by Tory David Bawn that the provision be removed from the budget was defeated. …

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