Art venues could have their £1.2m budget slashed as Gateshead Council sets in motion plans to make multi-million pound budget savings.
Giving up the running of leisure centres, making residents pay for garden waste disposal and a review of the council’s remaining 12 libraries are other suggestions put forward in a consultation document released by the authority today.
Councillors need to save £45m from the budget over the next two years and are asking residents to comment on a range of ideas for where savings could be made.
Leader of the council Mick Henry said: “There’s never been such a financial challenge since 1974 when this council formed.
“What we need to do now is share this problem with workers and businesses in Gateshead so we can all work out how to mitigate the unbearable impact of this coalition Government.”
In the document Budget 2014/2016 Your Views Count’ residents are asked whether the £1.2m spent on funding the Sage Gateshead, BALTIC and Shipley Art Gallery should be reduced.
The borough’s 12 leisure centres, which cost £3.1m a year to run, are also identified as an area in whichpossible savings could be made with people asked if they agree or disagree with facilities being reduced.
Withdrawing support to youth services and reducing funding to teenage parents is also offered as a budget solution.
Coun Henry said at this stage the docunent puts forward a series of choices and not concrete proposals or decisions.
The savings come on top of £75m budget cuts made by the authority since 2010 and last week the council annouced a further 400 job losses.
David Newton from the GMB union, said: “We realise that things get harder every year but we want to look at alternatives because this isn’t the Gateshead way to cut essential services like this. Out-sourcing for children and families could be done in house. We need to look at this again.
“We understand that this Government has given up on the people of this county by these proposals but we don’t want to see Gateshead giving up on its young people.”
Council tax may also rise for the first time in three years as residents are consulted on whether they should take a one per cent grant in exchange for freezing rates.
However Councilor Henry said he wanted to get across to people the impact this would have on civic funds.
He said: “It means that you don’t grow your budget and that your base budget stays the same.
“As more cuts occur there’s a real argument about whether you accept that freeze or increase council tax. We want to ask people what they think.
“We have done it in the past because at that time we thought it was one hit too much for the people of Gateshead.”
He also added that this current round of cuts strengthens yet again the case for a combined local authority to lobby central Government on behalf of the North East.
Between now and 17 December, people can give their views on the choices for saving money by filling in a survey at www.gateshead.gov.uk/budget . Copies are also available at most council buildings or on request by calling 0191 433 3000, The council will agree the budget for 2014/16 in February.