A NORTH-East council is set to consider how it is going to spend it’s budget today – and how it is going to make a further £15.8m of cuts to public services in the coming year.

Durham County Council is meeting today to set its budget for the coming year and is likely to approve a 2.99 per cent increase in council tax, and a two per cent increase to the adult social care precept, which will raise an additional £10.5m.

Meanwhile it is also outlining some £74.5 of funding to capital projects, newly added to the budget, including £8.7m for a new Durham History Centre, £2.5m for a three-storey block at Durham Sixth Form, £2m to make improvements to its offices in Spennymoor, Meadowfield, Seaham and Crook and £1.8m to extend Durham city’s park and ride system to provide 1,900 more spaces.

But the council has been called upon to scrap its plans to build a new civic centre.

The council’s independent group, lead by cllr John Shuttleworth has put forward the amendment, with savings totalling £2.25m over the next three years, in order to reduce the council tax increase and put extra funds into village halls and community centres, highway maintenance and for maintenance at the existing County Hall in Aykley Heads, Durham.

Cllr Shuttleworth said: “There is uproar in County Durham about this new [HQ].

“My and others’ view is you’re given council tax for the provision of services, not buildings.

“Raising council tax down is just flipping money away, you’ve got to cut your cloth according to what you’ve got.”

Meanwhile, in a separate amendment, the Liberal Democrats have proposed saving £1.5m by charging a premium on council tax for empty properties, which they say could be spent on improving dropped kerbs, introducing 20mph zones outside 200 schools and improving unadopted highways.

Cllr Craig Martin said a backlog in maintenance to drop kerbs can leave disabled people liable to getting stuck when going out.

He added: “No member of our community deserves to be left in this situation. Our Labour-run council needs to show more compassion to the disabled and deal with this backlog of dropped kerbs.”

A Conservative amendment has called on the council to reduce the number of editions of the County Durham News from four to three a year, which would save £25,000, in order to extend free wi-fi across Barnard Castle, Chester-le-Street and Seaham.

Other budget allocations include £17m for highways improvements, a £931,000 “pothole” fund, £250,000 to go towards a new bridge across the River Wear in Durham, which would connect Freeman’s Reach and Milburngate, and £750,00 for a new coach park in Belmont.