Newcastle City Council has announced that, due to the government’s ongoing austerity policies, it will have to raise council tax and slash services.
In a meeting on Wednesday, councillors discussed then voted to approve a report that proposed making £30 million of savings in the coming financial year and £70 million by 2020.
The report, Newcastle 2020: Investing in a Fairer Future, was passed without any alterations.
Council tax is due to go up by 4.95%. This would work out at an extra £71 per year for families and couples living in average Band D properties.
Newcastle City Council has also announced plans to slash jobs in a number of its departments.
29 people working in sectors such as highway maintenance and refuse collection will lose their jobs.
The council originally intended to dismiss its 17 lollipop men and women, which would have meant a saving of £212,000. The council has now, however, said that five lollipop men and women will be retained.
100 council jobs could be lost in total.
The council says that the cuts and tax increases are unavoidable due to government cuts totalling £221 million since 2010 and the government’s plans to end the Revenue Support Grant in 2020.
The Revenue Support Grant is the money the council receives from central government. Removing this would mean the council would have to rely solely on money it could raise from council tax, business rates and commercial income.
The leader of Newcastle City Council, Nick Forbes, commented, “In just a few years, the government has admitted we will be on our own.”
“If we want to spend it, we have to make it. We have almost no choice but to increase council tax.”
“We as a city will not sit back and simply prepare for the worst. We have to take steps to secure our own future and the steps in our budget do that.”
One of the greatest challenges for the council will be funding adult social care.
Over the next three years, the cost of adult social care is expected to balloon by £20.8 million, but the additional funding the council will receive to help with this will be only £5.6 million.
The planned council tax rise includes a 3% adult social care precept, but this will only supply £2.8 million. The funding gap in the adult social care budget is £9.3 million.
Cllr Forbes warned, “The deeper side to these cuts is a social care crisis. The government knows this, but is banking on those affected to suffer in silence.”
Other north east local authorities such as Durham County Council and Sunderland City Council are also having to make cuts due to central government austerity.
Cllr Forbes said, “Most people accept a modest rise in tax to protect frontline services, but it is a sticking plaster over a gaping wound which only government can and should address at a national level.”
“This is a shameful situation, but as the government shows no signs of letting up on austerity and its terrible consequences on cities like Newcastle, I have a duty to prepare the city for the challenges ahead.”
Cllr Forbes added that Newcastle City Council will continue to invest in infrastructure and housing, and in attracting events that will boost the city’s economy. He also said the council would continue to support the most vulnerable.