Piles of coins. The council is proposing a budget focusing on protecting frontline services and promoting growth

Budget set to protect services and focus on growth

A budget focused on protecting frontline services, investing in the future and looking after the most vulnerable is to be considered by the County Council. 

Proposals going before councillors will also see a one-off council tax discount for next year to help the majority of residents during the current time. 

Among the priorities 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 proposals include 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: “A great deal of work has gone into this budget over the past few months – it's very much looking to the future but recognises that many are still facing challenges. 

“We have faced up to unprecedented and significant inflationary pressure and 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.” 

A Council Tax increase of 2.99% is proposed, with a further 2% increase in adult social care precept to help fund the best services for older and more vulnerable residents. 

However, a discount equivalent to 1% of the Band D council tax increase is being recommended for some residents for the next year to help with the ongoing cost of living issue. 

Full Council has already 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 set to be introduced for both Council Tax claimants and housing tenants for the coming year.  

Savings of £17 million are also earmarked for the coming year, although Council Leader Councillor Glen Sanderson stressed 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: “Throughout this budget setting process we’ve been acutely aware that many people are still facing financial issues due to cost of living and rising inflation. 

“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 – such as our Council Tax discount and our various hardship schemes. 

“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.  

“We know these are difficult times for many, so as always we’ve strived to ensure a fair and balanced budget which will offer extra support for those who need it most.” 

The budget plans will be considered by an all-member scrutiny committee on February 13th, Cabinet on February 14th and the final proposals will then be put before full Council and discussed on February 22nd. 

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