DARLINGTON Council has today announced plans to slash £12.5 million from its budget with drastic cuts which will lead to hundreds of job losses and impact on every corner of the borough.

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No department will escape unscathed with social services, health, libraries, street cleaning, children's centres and grass cutting among the services to be hit hardest.

In a move which is likely to prove hugely controversial the council is proposing to dispose of Darlington's Victorian Covered Market with stall holders being given first refusal.

If they do not want to either buy or lease the building, the market - which needs at least £4 million in repairs and improvements - will be offered to potential commercial buyers.

Crown Street and Cockerton libraries will both close, with a new library opened in the Dolphin Centre under the plans.

The Head of Steam Museum and Darlington Civic Theatre will survive the axe, but five children's centres are set to close, while numerous services providing help and support to the young, old and vulnerable will either be reduced or axed altogether.

Council chiefs say 186 council workers face redundancy, however many more jobs are expected to go as voluntary and partner organisations lose their funding.

Reductions in the council's budget since 2010 mean the authority will have lost £44 million in funding by 2020.

Bill Dixon, leader of the council, admitted the proposed cuts were "terrible news".

“It shows the depth the cuts have reached that we are now having to contemplate the kind of thing that one or two-years-ago no-one would ever have thought we would have to do. But we have no alternative.”

He added: “It is entirely down to the cuts of the government grant; £13m on top of the cuts we have already had, plus rising costs in a lot of areas, including and especially adult social care.

“It has been a sustained type of attack, it is six or seven years we have had these cuts. If we can bring this budget in then we can sustain the council.”

Cllr Dixon admitted everyone in the borough would be affected.

“I think it will probably upset most residents at one level or another. There are things likely to be lost that certainly I as a child grew up with and to be in this position is outrageous. It is to do with no fault of the council, it is entirely them (the government) taking money off us.”

Ada Burns, Darlington Borough Council, admitted it was a "sad day for Darlington".

Acknowledging the council was having to make huge decisions, the senior officer said she and other officers had worked on the budget for several months and there had been times when they thought the council would not be able to survive.

"I'm not exaggerating when I say that over the last year we have sat in this room and said 'I'm not sure we can do it'.

"But the reason we have been able to balance the budget is because of the approach we have taken to effectively reshape what we do."

Mrs Burns added that she would like to pay tribute to the council staff who were facing an uncertain future.

She added: "It's a sad day for Darlington.

"We are in a very difficult position. The next few months and couple of years are going to be particularly difficult.

"But we will push through as we did after the cuts in 2010 and we will continue to provide good services."

Working on the medium term financial plan for 2016/17 until 2019/20, council chiefs have outlined cuts of £12.5 million, but have also identified spending of around £2.5 million to mitigate the impact of the budget reductions.

To balance the budget, the council proposes to spend £14.8 million from its savings over the four years, with council leaders hoping the Government will look more favourably on Darlington when it calculates local government funding from 2020 onwards.

The authority has already announced plans to increase council tax by the maximum amount of 3.99 per cent this year.

Councillors will discuss the proposed budget cuts at a meeting next Thursday when the official consultation period will start.

A final decision will then be made in late June.


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Children's centres at Haughton and Mcnay Street may be closed. Picture posed by model for illustration purposes only

Thirty five jobs could go as the council moves to a "hub and spoke" children's centre model, with central children centre and five outreach services across the borough. The plans could see children's centres at Haughton, Mcnay Street, Dodmire, Mount Pleasant and Skerne Park closed.

Seven jobs could go from the youth offending team, with services such as mediation between offenders and victims and early intervention work at children's home reduced. Officers admit this could lead to more anti-social behaviour.

The discretionary early support service, which helps families with children with disabilities, is also due to be stopped.


A review of the adult social care services propose a replacement of "face-to-face" support with alternatives such as information and advice sign-posting, more community support and an increased use of technology.

A review of adult social care management would lead to six posts being deleted, three of which are currently vacant.

Contracts will be ended with local providers who support around 500 vulnerable adults with their tenancies and a new service will be designed, although officials admit it wont offer as much support for as many people.

Support for homeless young people will also be reduced, while the Aspire Service, which helps school leavers from education into paid employment, will be stopped.

It is proposed to terminate the key point of access service and "streamline" processes for assessment and referral of housing related support services.

Funding for various support groups will be stopped, with Gay Advice Darlington, the Deaf Club, and Darlington Association on Disability among the organisations affected.

Staff training will be reduced to the minimum.


Spending on senior managers will be cut by around £250,000 with two senior officers as well as several heads of service set to go.

The council is proposing to stop paying the wage of a full-time Unison branch official.

A plan to stop paying council tax support grant to the ten parish councils in the borough is included in the report, as is a proposal to cut £360,000 in the council's support services, although it is not known how many back office staff will be made redundant at this stage.

A further £135,00 - which equates to seven jobs - would be removed from the business support section, which mainly supports the children's and adult services units. A further £46,000 would be cut from the authority's communications budget.


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Contributions to BALANCE and FRESH will be cancelled

The budget for sexual health services GUM clinic will be cut while the drug, alcohol and tobacco commissioning team, which runs local campaigns, will be closed with the loss of four jobs.

The council will also cancel its contributions to BALANCE, the regional office for the reduction of alcohol harm and to FRESH, the regional office for tobacco control.

The council is also proposing to serve notice on the contract with Redcar and Cleveland Council for the Tees Valley Public Health Share Service, which provides specialist public health advice.

The council's contribution to community safety will be reduced to the statutory minimum with the loss of two jobs.

The Sanctuary Target Hardening Service, which allows domestic violence victims to remain in their own homes, will be cancelled.

Work to prevent and reduce obesity in adults and children will be stopped, with Healthy Darlington Hub cancelled.

Obesity specific services would instead only be targeted at morbidly obese adults.

Funding for Crisis Support and Community Care Fund, which helped more than 1.500 people in 2015, will be maintained with half the budget. Officers hope a voluntary sector organisation can be found to manage the fund.

Darlington Council is also proposing to save £225,000 a year by withdrawing strategic grants to organisations including Age UK, the Citizens Advice Bureau, First Stop and Groundwork.

Instead, the council will look for a single organisation to provide financial and debt advice, and welfare rights services.


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Crown Street library will be sold off and the money put towards the restoration of the Civic Theatre

The restoration of Darlington Civic Theatre will go ahead with the venue breaking even by 2020/21. Improvements to Eastbourne Sports Complex will also go ahead despite cuts elsewhere.

The Dolphin Centre will be remodelled to include the Central Library, with the library currently in Crown Street sold off and the money put towards the restoration of the Civic Theatre. Officials say the move will save £300,000.

Cockerton Library is recommended for closure.

The council also plans to withdraw the mobile library service, which visits around 90 locations across the borough. The Centre for Local Studies, which is based at the Crown Street library, would close under the plans to be replaced with a Local Studies service in the Dolphin Centre.

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Darlington railway museum, Head of Steam, will survive the cuts

Charges for burials will rise from £710 to £799 by 2018/19. Allotment rents will also rise, from £54 to £170 by 2019/20.

60 organisations across the borough will lose their free or discounted refuse collection.

All flower displays will be stopped.

Grass in open spaces, verges and parks will continue to be cut, but every 30 days rather than every 12 to 15 days. South Park will be maintained, however, to its current standards. Football pitches will also continue to be cut.

Street cleaning will be reduced signifiantly.

The council is also proposing to stop carrying out investigations into environmental crime, such as fly tipping, dog fouling and littering.

There will be no cuts to school crossing patrols.

Some cycle training will be cancelled, as will child pedestrian training.

Charges will be introduced for blue badge holders.

The subsidy to pay for town twinning of £5,240 will be removed.


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Christmas lights will be cancelled, saving £35,000 a year

The council is planning to stop erecting Christmas lights, which costs £35,000 a year, and look for other ways of providing a "Christmas offer" potentially working alongside town centre businesses.

The council is planning to reduce the size of its economic develop team.

Three heads of service from regulatory services will be made redundant. One trading standards officer post will also go, along with a part-time building control officer job.

Two civil enforcement office posts will be cut, as well as a environmental health officer.


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Darlington Victorian Covered Market and Old Market Hall, pictured above, is proposed to be sold off, leased or rented.

The traders will be offered first refusal to make a proposal, however if they do not come forward with a plan within three months the market could be put offered on the commercial market.

Darlington Victorian Covered Market and Old Market Hall, pictured above, is proposed to be sold off, leased or rented.

The traders will be offered first refusal to make a proposal, however if they do not come forward with a plan within three months the market could be put offered on the commercial market.

As part of the disposal, the council hopes to offload the outdoor market business as well.

The 153-year-old market building needs at least £4m spending on it and, if there are no takers, councillors have been warned they will need to “seriously consider the future” given the investment needed to make it sustainable.

The 153-year-old market building needs at least £4m spending on it and, if there are no takers, councillors have been warned they will need to “seriously consider the future” given the investment needed to make it sustainable.