SPENDING cuts worth millions of pounds will be put before councillors next week, as a cash-strapped authority aims to balance its books.

Darlington Borough Council’s cabinet will be asked to support a draft six-year financial plan – containing a council tax increase of 1.94 per cent per year - when it meets next week.

Cabinet members are expected to recommend that the budget be adopted by the full council when it meets later this month.

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Lengthy public consultations were held last year, resulting in spending cuts of £13.75 million pounds by 2016/17 being identified.

These include the closure of the Head of Steam railway museum and Cockerton library in 2015 – both will be lost unless community groups come forward to save them.

Other proposals in the budget include increasing charges for some council services, with the cost of adult cremations set to rise by £17 to £605.

It is also proposed to set aside £8.5m from reserves to fund one-off expenses.

These latest cuts come despite the council having already cut more than £22m from its budget since 2012, resulting in the loss of almost 500 jobs.

It is predicted that the amount of grant funding the council received will fall by £22m by 2020.

Council leader Bill Dixon said: “These reductions are unprecedented.

“The council’s main sources of income going forward are Council Tax and Business Rates.

“The ability to increase income to protect services and offset the loss of government grant is limited by the Government.

“Unless a referendum is held the Council may only increase tax by 1.94 per cent each year.

“The level of business rates is set by the Government.

“In simple terms the only way we can collect more tax is to build more houses and attract more business to the borough.”

At the consultation events, it was suggested that the council cut back on services it is not required to provide by law.

Coun Dixon added: “If this was the route we chose to go down, we would have no sports facilities, no parks, limited street cleaning, no theatre, no museums, limited libraries and no children’s centres among other cuts.

“This felt like a place heading for decline not growth, with loss of jobs and businesses.

“A place people would choose not to visit and not to live.

“This was not our vision for Darlington and from what was said [at the consultations], it’s not what other people want.”

Cabinet meets at 5pm on Tuesday (February 18) at the Dolphin Centre.