A PROPOSED council tax rise of three per cent for County Durham is to be discussed by leaders.

Durham County Council’s cabinet meeting will hear of the recommended rise along with budget and financial forecasts next Wednesday.

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Leaders will hear of investments including £12m for adult social care fee increases, £4.4m for children’s social care, £130,000 on allotments, nature reserves and rights of way, and £100,000 on replacing bins.

A report states: “The council is able to increase council tax by a maximum of 4.99 per cent in 2022/23.

“Against the background of the pandemic and the cost of living crisis however the recommendation is that a lower council tax increase of three per cent is considered for 2022/23.”

The council received the local government settlement - the amount of money it will get from central government - in December.

It will include a £31m social care grant and an £8.8m one-off “services grant”, but it is unclear how much will be available in future.

There will be a review into the local government funding system, so the report says “there remains significant uncertainty beyond 2022/23”.

The report says “further savings will be required” later, with a shortfall of almost £30m forecast in the next four years.

Cllr Richard Bell, deputy council leader and cabinet member for finance, welcomed the settlement, saying it was “more generous than we were expecting”.

The Northern Echo: Cllr Richard BellCllr Richard Bell

He said: “Government are expecting local authorities to increase council tax to help to fund local services, and in particular social care, and we will need to carefully consider this against the need to set a balanced budget next year, as well as considering the financial forecasts for future years.

“Depending how things turn out, there are significant challenges to come in 2023/24 which may require difficult choices to be made.

“No final decisions have yet been taken and we will have to be flexible in our approach in planning for the next four financial years in order to support residents in County Durham in the best way we can.”

Labour group leader Cllr Marshall has slammed the settlement. saying: “Every time this Conservative Government looks at its bank statement, it’s bad news for County Durham.

The Northern Echo: Cllr Carl MarshallCllr Carl Marshall

“In the last decade, it has slashed £280m from our budget.

“The Government that talks about ‘levelling up’ has done nothing but try to nail County Durham to the ground.

“It’s time to stop the squeeze on taxpayers in County Durham.”

Budget reports will be presented to cabinet and full council next month.

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