County Durham residents face increase in council tax

UNFAIRNESS FELT: Simon Henig

‘IRRESPONSIBLE’ CLAIM: Nigel Martin

First published in News
Last updated
The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Chief Reporter (Sedgefield)

THE North-East's biggest local authority agreed to raise council tax for the first time since 2010 as it attempts to deal with ‘unfair’ austerity cuts.

Cabinet members at Durham County Council approved a 1.99 per cent rise when they met in Spennymoor today (Wednesday, February 12).

The increase was part of the council’s budget for 2014-15 and three year financial plan, which goes to full council later this month.

Members heard that, by the end of this financial year, the authority will have made £113.9m of savings since 2011 but a further £110.1m is needed over the next three years, with £23m of those cuts required in the year ahead.

Cuts have already been made to leisure centres, library opening hours, home-to-school transport and care homes - of which more could yet close.

But Don McLure, the council’s director of resources, said: “The budget continues to protect frontline services where possible and was able to fund some investment.”

It allows for more than £263m of capital investment including highways, redevelopment of Durham bus station and regeneration projects in Bishop Auckland, Peterlee, Seaham, Crook and Spennymoor.

There will be a £1.3m increase in the winter maintenance budget and people on benefits will be protected with the extension of two local council tax schemes.

Deputy leader, Coun Alan Napier, said in consultation about two thirds of the public said a council tax rise was fair and would rather that than see services reduced.

He slammed the Government’s decision to scrap equalisation, which tops up council funds based on local needs and the amount of tax it can generate.

He said: “They are prohibiting us from delivering the standard of services County Durham justifiably deserves.

“As a council we should continue to bang on the door of Government, the principles of equalization and fairness are being eroded.”

Cuoncil leader, Simon Henig reiterated the feeling of unfairness felt by the 12 North-East councils which will see spending power fall 7.5 per cent over the next two financial years, compared to a national average of 4.7 per cent. Some affluent areas such as Surrey will enjoy a rise.

He said: “It is clear that spending cuts could continue for several years to come, at the moment there is no light at the end of the tunnel.

“These cuts are not being fairly distributed.”

Since 2011, the authority has shed 1,520 jobs and by next March 1,950 posts will have been lost.

Coun Jane Brown said she was pleased £15m was available to support voluntary redundancy or early retirement for staff to reduce the need for compulsory redundancies.

Liberal Democrats had called for a council tax freeze and suggested axing the number of high paid directors from five to three and merging some departments to pay for it.

Coun Nigel Martin said: “Labour is acting irresponsibly and damaging the economic recovery by demanding more cash from hard pressed households.”

Comments (8)

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5:51pm Wed 12 Feb 14

sleeping dragon says...

councilor jane brown says she is pleased £15m was available for voluntary redundancy or early retirement i bet most of it will be gobbled up by the in crowd friends of friends who have or will be promoted to a higher salary for a larger pay out NOT the average man on the bottom rung
councilor jane brown says she is pleased £15m was available for voluntary redundancy or early retirement i bet most of it will be gobbled up by the in crowd friends of friends who have or will be promoted to a higher salary for a larger pay out NOT the average man on the bottom rung sleeping dragon
  • Score: 9

6:33pm Wed 12 Feb 14

budgiegirl says...

I hear some departments are losing/cutting wages of frontline staff and managers are getting substantial pay rises.....
I hear some departments are losing/cutting wages of frontline staff and managers are getting substantial pay rises..... budgiegirl
  • Score: 11

7:03pm Wed 12 Feb 14

sineater says...

When complete there will have been £200 million of cuts to counc il funding,you can't get the same services after those sort of cuts. I think it's divine retribution,all the money that will have to be spent where the floods have hit ,because a lot of those areas have had less funding cut from their budgets bec ause of who they vote for --natural justice.
When complete there will have been £200 million of cuts to counc il funding,you can't get the same services after those sort of cuts. I think it's divine retribution,all the money that will have to be spent where the floods have hit ,because a lot of those areas have had less funding cut from their budgets bec ause of who they vote for --natural justice. sineater
  • Score: -8

9:20pm Wed 12 Feb 14

DURHAM CITY says...

Labour cabinet are muppets end of get a grip
Labour cabinet are muppets end of get a grip DURHAM CITY
  • Score: 8

9:28pm Wed 12 Feb 14

DURHAM CITY says...

budgiegirl wrote:
I hear some departments are losing/cutting wages of frontline staff and managers are getting substantial pay rises.....
nothing new there its been going on for years they make me sick fools they are they do not take any responsibility this Labour cabinet they just sit in county hall Laughing at the public
[quote][p][bold]budgiegirl[/bold] wrote: I hear some departments are losing/cutting wages of frontline staff and managers are getting substantial pay rises.....[/p][/quote]nothing new there its been going on for years they make me sick fools they are they do not take any responsibility this Labour cabinet they just sit in county hall Laughing at the public DURHAM CITY
  • Score: 11

11:28am Thu 13 Feb 14

Mod says...

If "two thirds of the public said a council tax rise would be fair" then why don't they go for a larger rise. Is it because this statement is just guff and they know the public would vote for no rises at all.
If "two thirds of the public said a council tax rise would be fair" then why don't they go for a larger rise. Is it because this statement is just guff and they know the public would vote for no rises at all. Mod
  • Score: 4

11:34am Thu 13 Feb 14

David Lacey says...

They are well funded - having jacked up council tax to double its 1997 level and have huge reserves. The Chief Executive is on a £200K+ package - a lot more than the PM.
.
Until they are run by a businessman the current spending crisis will continue.
They are well funded - having jacked up council tax to double its 1997 level and have huge reserves. The Chief Executive is on a £200K+ package - a lot more than the PM. . Until they are run by a businessman the current spending crisis will continue. David Lacey
  • Score: 8

11:36am Thu 13 Feb 14

DURHAM CITY says...

David Lacey wrote:
They are well funded - having jacked up council tax to double its 1997 level and have huge reserves. The Chief Executive is on a £200K+ package - a lot more than the PM.
.
Until they are run by a businessman the current spending crisis will continue.
well said its like everything these lot attempt to run its a mess
[quote][p][bold]David Lacey[/bold] wrote: They are well funded - having jacked up council tax to double its 1997 level and have huge reserves. The Chief Executive is on a £200K+ package - a lot more than the PM. . Until they are run by a businessman the current spending crisis will continue.[/p][/quote]well said its like everything these lot attempt to run its a mess DURHAM CITY
  • Score: 7

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