OFFICERS and councillors will still need to identify £22m worth of savings over the next four years despite being awarded a tax refund.

Darlington Borough Council welcomed the receipt of its £2.8m claim from HM Revenue and Customs but said it would not affect its savings drive.

Officers submitted the claim last year following the ruling which allowed local authorities to claim back money paid to HM Revenue and Customs as far back as 1985.

Councillor Chris McEwan, cabinet member for efficiency and resources in Darlington, said: "This is good news for Darlington residents, council tax-payers and service users.

"Like all local authorities, we face several very challenging years ahead, with every likelihood of significant reductions in government grants which provide the majority of our income.

"We are currently consulting on our plans to meet a future funding gap which means we have to reduce our spending by around £22million within the next four years.

"In this context, this £2.8million is certainly helpful, but it is a one-off and does not change the need for the council to continue improving efficiency and reviewing services."

A council spokesman confirmed the refund was only a one-off payment which did not affect future income or spending.

The council is undertaking public consultation on its budget proposals for 2010-11.

Cabinet members have proposed a council tax freeze but at the cost of £22m worth of savings and the loss of 77 authority posts.

The council has already found £11.2m worth of savings, which are part of the consultation process, but need to find a further £10m.

Chief executive Ada Burns said at a talking together event earlier this week that the council was "well-placed to find it given its track record".

Council staff are upset at the proposals which include a reduction in premium rate payments.

Unions claim the cuts would hit frontline services and other departments have been outspoken at the impact on teams including a toy library and children needing special needs provision.

The proposals can be found on the council's website. Residents are invited to send in their comments via an online form, emailed to or by writing to a Freepost address in the council's Town Crier magazine. Consultation ends on Friday, February 5.