THE North-East’s biggest council will charge residents the same amount for its services for an unprecedented fourth consecutive year, it was agreed today.

Despite facing spending cuts of nearly £220m between 2010 and 2018, Labour-led Durham County Council voted to freeze council tax for the third year running.

Leader Simon Henig told the annual budget meeting at Durham’s County Hall the council was facing extremely challenging circumstances – losing up to 40 per cent of its budget.

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There is “deep unfairness” over how the Government is enforcing cuts across the country, he added, with poorer, northern areas facing tougher reductions.

“The Government is in denial over the potential impact on communities,” Councillor Henig said.

“This is a budget which protects the priorities of the people of County Durham. No-one pays more, public priorities are protected and the capital programme is boosted.”

The council has already cut around £90m and a further £20.9m must be cut in 2013-14, leaving a revenue budget of £457m.

More cuts running to 2017 are planned but savings of £53.1m are still to be found. A major consultation on this is planned for the autumn.

This year’s budget makes use of a £2m Government grant to help freeze council tax, protects council tax benefits for all 65,000 households receiving the support and includes an extra £1m for adult social care.

The highways winter maintenance budget is protected and there is £1.5m extra for patching roads and £3.25m extra for measures to boost the economy.

Three opposition amendments were defeated. The Liberal Democrats proposed spending more on careers’ advice, business support, the Citizens’ Advice Bureau, public transport, the council’s phone system and road repairs and less on trade unions, councillors’ allowances and the council’s magazine and putting less into reserves.

The Conservatives suggested cutting the magazine and back office services to pay for more free parking.

The Durham County Council Independent Group suggested spending more on fixing roads and potholes, while cutting the communications budget and magazine.

Durham’s fire brigade precept has been frozen, while the cost of policing is to rise by two per cent.

Council house rents will rise by 4.04 per cent.

COUNCIL tax levels for County Durham for 2013-14 (excluding charges for parish or town councils and charter trustees) 

  • Band A: £1,019.85
  • Band B: £1,189.83
  • Band C: £1,359.80
  • Band D: £1,529.78
  • Band E: £1,869.73
  • Band F: £2,209.68
  • Band G: £2,549.63
  • Band H: £3,059.56

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