Council tax could rise by 3 per cent

Newcastle City Council proposes to raise council tax by 3 per cent next year as it is forced to save £13m.

The cash-strapped authority will also increase the Government’s precept used to pay for adult social care by two per cent, making a total tax rise of just under 5 per cent.

The latest cuts mean the city will have lost £284m by 2020.

Despite the cuts, the council will spend £1m it set aside last year to pay for environmental improvements.

However, it will need to find £2.3m after the Government announced a 2 per cent pay rise for staff and told councils they would have to fund the rise themselves.

The council received 150 responses on its draft budget during a public consultation that ran from November to January 7. The information is included in a report that will go to Cabinet on February 19.

About 40 jobs will go – many of them vacancies – although the council has pledged to work closely with the trade unions to try and avoid compulsory redundancies.

Leader of Newcastle City Council, Cllr Nick Forbes, said: “I would like to thank everyone who took part in our budget consultation.

“Although the money we have to save next year is smaller than in previous years no one should underestimate the scale of the task that we face.

“Six years ago I warned that councils could go bust if the Government did not ease up on austerity. Northamptonshire County Council has now been forced to announce that it doesn’t have enough money to meet its expenditure – the first time this has happened in over 20 years.

“I can assure the residents of Newcastle that thanks to good financial management, this council is in a much stronger position, because we have looked into the future and had an honest and open conversation with our communities and partners about how we could keep facilities and services going in the face of deep and unfair cuts.

“These challenges will continue as we struggle with public sector pay, welfare reform and the uncertainty of Brexit.

“Government has recently given us an extra £900,000 for adult social care. While this is welcome, it’s yet another sticking plaster over a gaping wound that must be tackled.

“The future will be tough, but we have a plan to continue to invest in skills, jobs and housing so we can grow our economy.”

To meet its savings of £13.3m the council proposes to, among other things:

  • Cut its contribution to Tyne and Wear Archives & Museums by £150,000
  • Increase garden waste charges from £1 to £2 per collection
  • Reduce its contribution to Newcastle Gateshead Initiative by £40,000
  • Save £2.6m by developing new ways of caring for adults with complex needs

However, it will continue to invest in the city with an ambitious £370m capital investment programme which will see:

  • The construction of 1,000 affordable new homes
  • 150 specialist homes for older people and those with disabilities and complex needs
  • A new centre in West Denton for people with learning disabilities and/or autism to support people currently living outside the city
  • Shared services to deliver savings on electronic transactions
  • Hosting major events such as the Great Exhibition of the North in 2018 which will give a huge economic boost to the economy

If the report is approved, it will go forward to be debated at full council on March 7 when a budget is expected to be set for 2018/19.