East Durham residents back council’s savings plans

Councillors will next week hear how the region’s largest authority plans to make savings over the next four years through plans backed by the majority of residents.

Durham County Council invited members of the public to give their views on its spending plans during a consultation at the end of last year, with more than three quarters backing the authority’s approach.

The council needs to make further forecasted savings from its revenue budget of £43.7 million over the next four years. This includes savings of £15.3 million for 2018/19 and is in addition to the £209 million of savings it has achieved since 2011/12.

More than 3,300 people attended events to hear about how the authority plans to make the required savings, with 1,175 offering their feedback.

More than 78 per cent of those who took part in the consultation felt that the authority’s approach to making future savings is a reasonable way to go forward in 2018/19.

Their comments have helped inform the council’s Medium Term Financial Plan (MTFP), which outlines its long-term funding outlook and spending priorities for the period 2018/19 to 2021/22.

Cllr Simon Henig, Leader of Durham County Council, said: “The financial outlook for the council and the whole of local government remains extremely challenging and unless something changes we still have significant savings to make.

“While we have to continue to reduce our revenue expenditure because of government funding cuts, in this budget we are investing in our children and adult social care services, reflecting residents’ priorities.

“It is essential that our spending proposals reflect the priorities of the public so, once again, we have sought the views of residents on our plans and are pleased that the majority continue to support our approach to savings.”

The report, which will be presented to the council’s Cabinet next week, recommends that councillors agree a 2.99 per cent increase in Band D Council Tax for 2018/19 in line with the Government’s own projections for council tax increases – with an additional 2 per cent increase to the Adult Social Care Precept. This equates to a £1.38 per week rise for Band D properties and 92p per week for the majority of council tax payers, who live in Band A properties.

Council tax will be used to support a number of areas prioritised by the public, including £3.9 million to support looked-after children, £1 million to support special Guardianship arrangements, a £375,000 investment in the authority’s social work academy and £500,000 to cover rising energy prices. The council will also be providing funding to address budget pressures in adult services.

The authority is also proposing a £117 million investment in capital projects, including significant funding for highways maintenance building on investments made in previous years.

Cllr Alan Napier, Deputy Leader and Cabinet member for finance, said: “We continue our work to protect frontline services, specifically those prioritised by the public, and the most vulnerable in our county but this is becoming increasingly difficult as financial pressures increase.

“It is also imperative that we continue to invest in our capital infrastructure as it is our key route to boosting the local economy, retaining existing jobs and supporting the creation of new jobs.”

 

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