APATHY was the order of the day at the latest in a series of consultation meetings to help decide how a hard-up North-East council can balance its books.

Only a handful of members of the public attended the Money Talks event, hosted by Darlington Borough Council, this (Monday, July 8) evening.

The council needs to cut almost £15m from its budget over the next three years, on top of the £22m it has already saved since 2010.

Attendances at the series of advisory panels, which will ultimately inform the council’s budget-setting process, have been mixed.

Leisure and environmental services was on the agenda, as well as the authority’s corporate management structure.

The meeting heard how the council spends £1.3m collecting litter, which leader Bill Dixon admitted was a ‘terrible waste of resources’.

There was the suggestion that money could be saved by moving from regularly picking up rubbish people dropped to educating people about the impact of littering.

The council spends more than £730,000 on members’ allowances, which are required by law, but are controversial among some sections of the public.

A consultation involving the Local Government Boundary Commission is under way, with proposals in place to reduce the number of councillors in Darlington by three.

Councillor Ian Haszeldine said being a councillor was a tough job.

He said: “Why do I do it? Because I care about the community I live in and want to make a difference.

“As a councillor, one of the first things you do when you pick up the phone, or answer your door, is get abuse - 99.9 per cent of us [councillors] work damn hard.”

Addressing the low turn-out, Coun Dixon said: “We will never reach the majority of people in the borough, but we have to try.

“It would be a sad day if we retreated into the Town Hall to make decision behind closed doors.

“I apologise if the process is flawed, but it the best we have got.”

A ‘Big Debate’, bringing together all strands of discussion so far, will be held at the Dolphin Centre’s Central Hall, on Saturday, July 20, from 9.30am until 1pm.