A COUNCIL could bring in an outside body to run campaigns in an attempt to "disassociate" it from cost-cutting measures.

Campaigns to improve Darlington may fail if people believe they are being staged to counter the effects of council budget cuts, according to a report.

Cash-strapped Darlington Borough Council is now considering transferring campaign leadership to a non-council body – such as Keep Britain Tidy - in a bid to “prevent perception by the public that they are being asked to do the council’s job”.

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The authority - which needs to save £600,000 on litter reduction and grounds maintenance by 2016 – hopes to save money by running campaigns encouraging local residents and groups to take responsibility for their own community.

A new project will aim to reduce the budget while maintaining or improving the overall appearance of the borough.

Money-saving ideas, potential campaigns and plans around community engagement have been outlined in a project initiation report released ahead of a council meeting on Wednesday, June 18.

The report says: “Transfer of campaign leadership to a non-council body may significantly increase the chances of success of some of these campaigns by disassociating the campaign purpose from the need to reduce council costs.”

It goes onto argue that money-saving efforts may also be hampered by residents choosing to improve non-council land.

The community may wish to look after such areas but “as these areas are not currently maintained it will not generate a saving and will utilise community capacity that could be used elsewhere," it adds.

According to the council's report, plans to engage the community to help maintain public areas underpin the authority’s “stepping-back” approach from “doing everything for people to facilitating change and increasing social responsibility.”

However, a spokeswoman for Darlington Borough Council denied the authority was stepping back.

She said: “The council is not “stepping back” – it is stepping up to the challenges of providing services with a reduced budget.

“The report is part of the process of engaging with members and exploring ways to achieve savings of £600,000 within this service area.”

She added: “As with our other service reviews, there will be a small budget to help fund research and some marketing activity.”