Council tax freeze and £60m savings

COUNCILLORS are set to propose a freeze in council tax while still saving £60m in the next financial year.

Durham County Council's cabinet will make final recommendations next week on the budget for 2011/12 which will then go forward to full council in February.

The recommendations include proposals that there will be no increase in council tax next year and how to deal with the reduction in Government grants.

The council faces unprecedented levels of reductions in Government support over the four year period covered by their Medium Term Financial Plan (MTFP).

In total, the council is forecasting the loss of 92.5m of Government grant over that period, with 60.3m of that in 2011/12 – 2014/15.

After taking into account increased demand on services, including services for the ageing population, the council is required to make 67.1m of savings in 2011/12 and 125m of savings over the whole of the MTFP.

During the MTFP process extensive consultation has been carried out and more than 8,000 people either participated or responded to the consultation.

Council leader Coun Simon Henig said: "Inevitably these Government cutbacks will impact on the services we provide. However, we have done our best to respond to residents' top priorities.

"As a result we plan to maintain our existing spend on winter maintenance and our existing capital spend on highway maintenance and repairs. We will also plan to invest in child protection and do our best to protect a number of areas of adult social care."

He added: "This will of course mean hitting other areas but again, we have listened, and a range of support services, including management and communications, will therefore face larger reductions.

"I would like to thank everyone who has helped us shape this vital report by taking part in our consultation exercises.

"We are committed to a measured response to the challenges we face and as such there will be many opportunities for the public to have their say.

"Despite all of these revenue reductions, we continue to have a very strong capital programme of almost 300m over the next two years. This demonstrates the council's continued commitment to invest in regeneration and improve job creation across the county."