North East Chamber of Commerce urges council to consider business in budget cuts

The North East Chamber of Commerce has urged Newcastle City Council to exercise caution when it implements radical budget cuts

James Ramsbotham, chief executive, NECC
James Ramsbotham, chief executive, NECC

The North East Chamber of Commerce has urged Newcastle City Council to exercise caution when it implements radical budget cuts.

The council is proposing to slash its budget by £40 million, meaning another round of staff redundancies, some services being cut and others mothballed.

It is already in midst of implementing a £38m cuts package covering this year.

But council leader Nick Forbes and chief executive Pat Ritchie have taken the unusual step of outlining the financial plans for2015/16, which will have to formally ratified in March next year.

NECC Chief executive, James Ramsbotham, said: “Reduced local authority spending means difficult choices must be made and I sympathise greatly with everyone impacted by these tough decisions.

“However, we strongly urge not imposing damaging cuts on services that will enable and support vital investment, such as planning and development.

“Given the council’s difficult financial position, it is inevitable that specific spending decisions are yet to be clarified, but we would ask the council to support business confidence, which is vital in these times of economic recovery.

“It is essential that different sections of the council work closely with businesses most likely to be affected as these plans crystallize, so the impact can be understood and mitigated.”

The council has not yet confirmed what services are under threat, with firm plans not likely to be revealed until the autumn. But Coun. Forbes has confirmed the authority has only achieved 40% of the budget savings required by government.

Tom Warburton, director of Investment and Development for Newcastle City Council, said: “We continue to support business and economic growth is important to residents and the city council itself. We are heavily involved in a number of flagship projects across the city.”

He highlighted in particular the progress made on the implementation of the council’s City Deal, which potentially unlocks £92m of initial investment with a potential overall economic impact of around £1bn.

Work had started on the Stephenson Quarter which will bring up to 2,200 jobs to the city, while Newcastle Central Station had been transformed, he added.

A £6m investment would also ensure the city centre has access to superfast broadband, the first building at Science Central was almost complete and a £12.8m investment in Eldon Square Phase 4 would help increase the city’s competitiveness and support the business community.

Journalists

David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer