Hartlepool council approves £4m budget cuts

Councillor Christopher Akers-Belcher
Councillor Christopher Akers-Belcher

Council budget cuts of £4 million were approved by Hartlepool councillors last night.

Hartlepool Borough Council set its budget for next year which will see an expected council tax increase of 1.9%.

The cuts are in response to expected continued reductions in government funding for Hartlepool and millions of pounds a year less from Hartlepool Power Station's business rates.

Council leader, Christopher Akers-Belcher, said the authority is facing significant financial pressure over the next three years because of the scale of Government funding cuts which he said were having a bigger impact on poorer towns like Hartlepool.

It has also been hit with a near £4 million cut in income from business rates from Hartlepool Power Station after a decision in May by the Valuation Office Agency.

Hartlepool council expects to learn what next year's funding will be around December 16.

Coun Akers-Belcher said: "The overall package provides the best financial position for 2016-17 and future years."

The authority says it needs to find £14 million in savings from across all departments in the next three years to cope with a 39% cut in its grant from central government over the last five years.

It is facing a black hole in its finances of £9.417 million next year, reduced to £4.179 million due to factors including reserves, ICT and interest rate savings and an increase in the council tax base.

Over this year, each council department has been tasked with finding where it can make savings totalling £3 million.

Councillors approved the budget by 26 votes in favour to three against.

A proposed amendment, by independent Seaton councillor Paul Thompson, to scrap councillor ward member budgets to save £132,000 was outvoted.

See Saturday's Mail for more on the budget.