A PROPOSED council tax rise of almost 3% in Darlington will help fund and invest almost £260m in services and projects, say council leaders.

The rise in 2022 to 2023 includes a 1.99% council tax increase "to enable the council to continue to provide vital core services", said the Darlington Borough Council leader.

And there will be a 1% social care precept "to help fund the critical area of adult social care".

The plan proposes to invest £102m in the next year in services "from refuse collection to adult residential care, from street lighting to school crossing patrols and grass cutting to our leisure and culture provision", according to the council's report.

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The medium-term financial plan (MTPF) will allow more than £100m revenue investment per year for the next four years, said council leader Councillor Heather Scott.

It also meant capital investment of almost £160m in roads, housing and community assets, which she said "creates the conditions and opportunities for further growth".

Cllr Scott told a cabinet meeting this week: "I'm very pleased to present you with the medium-term financial plan investing in delivering success for Darlington.

"The last couple of years have been unprecedented as the pandemic fundamentally impacted on the priorities of and the way in which the council has needed to conduct its business.

"We have been successful in responding to these challenges, continuing to provide vital core services and supporting our residents, local businesses and partners to recover.

"And we are now looking to the future.

The Northern Echo: Cllr Heather Scott. Picture: Northern EchoCllr Heather Scott. Picture: Northern Echo

"Despite the pressures of the pandemic and increasing demands on our services, we have a financially balanced medium-term financial plan, which includes significant investment in our social care services, two thirds of our budget, looking after and supporting our most vulnerable children and adults.

"We also recognise that the areas of community safety, street scene and a vibrant town centre are key to our overall aim of growing the economy and delivering success for Darlington, and we continue to invest in and prioritise these services."

She talked of the 2025 Stockton and Darlington Railway bicentenary, which it is hoped will bring more than 2,700 jobs and almost £350m into Durham and the Tees Valley.

She added: "We have also taken the opportunity to earmark funding for the 2025 bicentenary anniversary celebrations, which will need an ambitious programme of events and which will set the permanent heritage visitor attraction on a strong foundation for further return viists to the region."

Read more: 'Disneyworld' Darlington railway heritage attraction progresses

Cllr Scott Durham, cabinet member for resources, said: "We do appreciate there is a lot of uncertainty at the time.

"A lot of it is long-term uncertainty, but we're not standing still.

"We're moving forward and we're investing in key areas that are going to benefit the residents of this town and the wider economy.

"Darlington is a place where people want to live and want to move to and businesses want to move to.

The Northern Echo: Cllr Scott Durham. Picture: Northern Echo.Cllr Scott Durham. Picture: Northern Echo.

"A prime example was where unfortunately we lost a historic business within the town, Cleveland Bridge, and within a very very short space of time that site's been taken over.

"People see Darlington as a place to invest and a place to live, and I look forward to council agreeing this medium-term financial plan next week."

The plan for 2022 to 2026 will go to the full council meeting for approval on Thursday, February 17.

It says £4.26m of "efficiencies and savings" need to be made over the four-year period, with a £7.5m demand in social care and further pressures from inflation, a higher national living wage, higher National Insurance and rising energy prices. 

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