A budget focused on protecting frontline services, investing in the future and looking after the most vulnerable has been agreed at Full Council.
Among the priorities agreed for the year ahead are:
Protecting and maintaining key frontline services
Looking after the most vulnerable and supporting everyone with cost-of-living issues.
Continuing work to re-open the Northumberland Line
Delivering new school builds and ongoing education improvements
Investing in leisure centres, open spaces and town-centre regeneration.
The budget contains an ambitious £223 million capital programme for 2023-24 including £92 million to improve and regenerate towns and communities across the county, over £19 million for housing, £31 million for schools and £35 million for road and path repairs and flood prevention schemes.
Council Leader Glen Sanderson said: “We’re very pleased to have agreed this budget at Full Council and will waste no time in implementing it.
“We have faced unprecedented and significant inflationary pressures but have been determined to ensure that we provide real value for money for our residents despite that challenge.
“Protecting frontline services is always a priority and we’ve also ensured we’re expanding the offer for Northumberland with commitments around building, improving and maintaining leisure centres and the construction of new schools for future generations.
“Ensuring the county remains an attractive place to visit is crucial, so we’ve kept our free town centre parking commitments, public toilets open and first-hour free parking offer at our country parks, while investing in a range of beautiful environmental projects to celebrate the life of Queen Elizabeth II.”
The average Council Tax increase residents will pay next year is 3.6%.
It had already been agreed to keep Council Tax Support unchanged for the next year - with the county’s scheme still one of the most generous in the region at a maximum level of 92%. Pensioners will continue to be eligible up to a maximum of 100% of their council tax liability.
A number of other new hardship payments are also being introduced for both Council Tax Support claimants and Council housing tenants for the coming year.
Savings of £17 million were agreed for the coming year, but these will not be at the expense of frontline services. These savings will be achieved by doing things differently - by transforming the way the Council delivers its services and being more efficient, year on year.
Councillor Sanderson explained: “Like all local authorities we are operating in a period of global financial uncertainty.
“We know there is pressure on households and we have done everything we can to reflect on that and mitigate where we can.
“And caring for the young and vulnerable will remain a top priority for the Council, with funds earmarked for a further raft of school improvements and delivery progressing on planned sites for affordable and extra care housing.
“The £21 million increase in funding for adults and adult social care will also enable us to better look after our older and more vulnerable residents.
“Since the start of this process we’ve strived to ensure a fair and balanced budget which is ambitious in scope but will offer that extra support for those who need it most and I’m confident we have achieved that.”