North Tyneside Council won't close libraries or children's centres as budget cuts bite

An authority faced with multi-million pound central Government cuts said it will set itself apart from other councils by not closing its libraries and Sure Start centres and protecting the arts

North Tyneside Council

An authority faced with multi-million pound central Government cuts said it will set itself apart from other councils by not closing its libraries and Sure Start centres and protecting the arts.

North Tyneside Council will make its biggest cut to public services since the recession began by shredding £20m from its budget and losing 200 jobs in 2014.

The borough’s elected mayor Norma Redfearn, announced yesterday that the authority needs to save £64m over the next four years, with the biggest savings to be made in year one.

Her draft budget proposals, which will go out to public consultation, includes reviewing the future of all council owned buildings, including its flagship Quadrant office, introducing a team of all-age social workers and replacing its current youth service.

However the authority maintains that it is committed to keeping its children’s centres open despite a £500,000 reduction in funding and earlier proposals to close libraries are now off the agenda.

Mrs Redfearn, who was elected as a Labour mayor in 2013, said: “Unless we make savings this year we are not going to get to where we want to be.

“We have got to have a council that has a more holisitic approach.

“Young people might be dealt with four separate people, it’s about bringing all of those services together. The proposals we had about the libraries last year – we have stopped that.

“We are very positive about Sure Start centres as those are the services dealing with young people but we will be looking for the best delivery. There will be no wholescale cuts to Sure Start.”

Council tax will also be frozen for the fourth year in a row.

The borough’s newly-appointed chief executive Patrick Melia, who has been in position for three weeks, said: “We are different to the way Newcastle did it. We could quite easily say we are going to restructure pools and libraries and have no events programme but that’s not a very positive approach.

“We’ve been paternalistic in the past - we’ve tried to do everything for everyone. As a council we should be in an enabling role.

“It’s only when somebody can’t do something for themselves do we need to step in.”

Other financial savings will be made with the creation of a single all-age response team for social care, although there will be no full merger of children’s and adult services.

A further £289,000 will be cut from the council’s cultural and leisure services with all authority funded arts events reviewed with an aim to secure private sponsorship.

Funding for the popular Mouth of the Tyne festival in 2014 has already been secured. Since 2010 the council has cut its budget by £32m.

A public consultation on the financial proposals for 2014 to 2018 starts on November 26.

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