PLANS for £23.6m of savings were given the nod by Northumberland County Council’s executive yesterday .
The executive agreed cuts worked out by finance chiefs under central Government impositions which will go before the full council in the draft budget next month.
With cuts proposed in many areas, the Northumberland authority has identified £23.6m of savings among spending of £467m in the 2013-14 budget.
That is likely to be followed by cuts totalling £35.3m in 2014-15 and £26.9m in 2015-16, although the medium-term financial plan could be reviewed to reflect the council’s priorities after the May 2013 local elections.
Steven Mason, Northumberland Council corporate director of finance, said: “There are major changes to the financial framework in which the council operates as a direct consequence of Government policy which create significant financial risks and uncertainty.
“The medium-term plan has recognised this and established a contingency reserve to manage such risks as the implications are fully understood during 2013-14. 2014-15 will be an extremely challenging year due to the revaluation of the pension scheme, and the spending reductions being proposed by the Government. The scale of the financial challenge is likely to continue beyond 2014-15 as the Government seeks to rebalance the economy and reduce public sector expenditure.”
Mr Mason said the overall 2012-16 budget reduction figure has reached £102.6m and warned the position may change again as the figures are based on the provisional grant announcement.
Council leader Jeff Reid has pledged that front line council services will be protected in the face of the latest budget cuts. Council tax will also be frozen for a third consecutive year.
He said: “We have looked very carefully at how we can reduce expenditure, increase income and make efficiency savings while minimising the impact on front line services, residents and council staff.”
A report to the Northumberland executive added: “The proposed allocation continues the previous approach of the Government which moves resource from the more deprived areas of the country - e.g. North East, North West and Yorkshire.
“The provisional settlement announced by the Government significantly worsened the financial outlook for the council, adding considerably to future cost reduction targets.
“It is particularly disappointing that the work undertaken regarding the additional costs faced by both rural and largely rural councils has been completely negated within the funding formula by the application of dampening arrangements.”
Budget proposals are now open for consultation until February 10 but the bulk of 2013-14 budget savings will come from central corporate services, adult services and housing, which face a £16m cut.
A further £8m has been earmarked from children’s services, fire and rescue, highways, waste, transport and public health and protection.
Coun Andrew Tebbutt, executive member for corporate services, said: “Despite the very poor financial settlement Northumberland has received from central Government, we are doing our best to protect services and jobs.”