Council bosses in Northumberland have been urged to reconsider a planned tax rise of nearly two percent, amid claims of a fair funding allocation from the government.
A Conservative would-be MP and the party’s leader on Northumberland County Council have urged Labour bosses on the authority not to pursue the planned rise in council tax.
They have done so after claiming an apparent one percent reduction in the authority’s funding from government is a “relatively fair deal.”
Labour insisted its planned rise would amount to less than 50 pence per week and would deliver huge investment.
The county council announced late last year plans to put up the council tax by 1.99 percent for the second year in a row, with any rise over two percent requiring a referendum.
The government has since announced the authority’s funding allocation, which is to fall by £2.9m from £307m to £304m.
The decrease is said to be below the national average funding cut which is 1.8 percent.
Tory parliamentary candidate for Berwick, Anne-Marie Trevelyan said: “The fact is at one percent the proposed funding reduction for Northumberland is the smallest reduction in the region.
“It compares to that of Newcastle City Council which will see a 4.9 percent reduction.
“That is not to mention the extra £91m the council will be getting from the government to fix our roads after years of neglect by the county council, the extra £12m every year which has been awarded to our county’s schools and the £290 million promised for dualling the A1 north of Morpeth.
“After years of being left to the very bottom of funding for council services and for local schools by successive Labour governments, local Conservatives have been calling for a better deal for our county and that rebalancing is now starting to happen. “We are seeing a major boost for our roads and our schools.”
Coun Peter Jackson, leader of the Tory opposition group on the authority, said: “As a group we have been the first to stand up for Northumberland.
“So this latest local government settlement is not an unreasonable ask for Northumberland County Council.
“Yes it requires the council to make savings but is the council’s Labour leadership really saying that when families across the country have tightened their own belts that as a council they can not make savings of one percent?
“They only have to listen to the ideas for greater council efficiency which my group has put forward for the past few years.
“This government is giving a fair deal to Northumberland and the council should be able to deliver sensible savings while protecting front line services for local taxpayers.
“Instead the Labour council’s plan in Northumberland is to hike council tax by the maximum possible amount and blow £40 million of residents’ money on a brand new white elephant council headquarters in Ashington.
“Everyone is doing their bit to pay off the national deficit left by the last government, and that of course must include local councils, which account for a quarter of all public spending.
“Instead in Northumberland we have a council that is planning to borrow almost a billion pounds and continue Labour’s policy of tax and spend.
“Proposing to raise council tax again this year is simply not acceptable.”
Yet a Labour spokesman responded: “Our proposed council tax rise will see family council tax bills rise by less than 50 pence per week.
“For less than the cost of a bar of chocolate, residents will see continued huge investment in new affordable homes with our affordable homes pledge increased to 2,500 over the course of our term and more homes planned for Shilbottle and Embleton, more investment building on our pothole pledge and in our highways infrastructure, new investment in the Ashington – Blyth – Tyne line to open up the rural coalfields to new job opportunities, increased investment in schools including the Duchess of Alnwick school, an innovative partnership with the NHS in Northumberland which will see a new Berwick Infirmary and a new programme of works to refurbish the county’s parks.
“This budget will continue to invest for the long term economic future of Northumberland by creating new, well paid jobs for our residents and it will protect the thousands of public sector staff who rely on the council to provide fair employment.
“Are Northumberland’s Conservatives against any of the above?
“If not, then residents will rightly deduce that it’s an election year and the Tories want to play politics with the future of Northumberland.
“The Tory candidate for Berwick would have more credibility if she stood up for North Northumberland instead of playing party political games.”