Protests as Durham County Council announces residents will pay more tax

RESIDENTS are facing a 1.98 per cent increase in council tax as a council strives to balance a reduced budget.

Band D householders will be asked for £1,560.12 - an increase of £30 - by Durham County Council when bills for the new financial year are sent out.

The council says 60 per cent of residents live in a Band A property, and their rise will only be 33p a week.

The council tax and next year’s budget was set at a full council meeting at County Hall in Durham City.

Protesters against budget cuts lobbied councillors as they made their way in to the meeting.

Paul Simpson, of the Durham People’s Alliance, said the proposed cut of £23m - out of a budget of nearly £500m - would impact on services for children and adults.

Mr Simpson added: “We are here today to call on councillors to stand up for local services.

“The council keeps on blaming cuts in funding from central government, but we believe the council could try harder to preserve services.

“For example, they have reserves which could be used to lessen the impact.”

Councillors voted by 90 votes to 11 to approve the budget, which council leader Coun Simon Henig called ‘making the best of a bad job’.

The council has a target to cut £224m between 2011 and 2017.

“This year’s reduction is less than 10 per cent of the target,” said Coun Henig. “That is partly because we made deeper cuts in earlier years.

“Most of this year’s reduction is coming from back office and management functions.

“We are using reserves to a limited extent, but greater cuts will be needed in the coming years which could lead to a further call on reserves.”