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Leak reveals where pounds 16m cuts will fall; Draft budget shows plan for savings.

Byline: Brian Daniel

ALEAKED report has laid bare the full extent of a pounds 16m package of cuts being drawn up by council bosses in Northumberland.

Details of Northumberland County Council's draft budget for 2010/11 will go to the Liberal Democrat controlled authority's executive later this month, with the anticipated savings coming in at pounds 15.772m.

The document proposes a series of cuts across all council departments, with areas worst affected set to include highways, adult care, youth services, libraries, leisure centres, public transport and refuse collection.

The council is looking to save nearly pounds 1m through the closure of the Greenholme Residential Care Home at Haltwhistle and Dene House care home in Hexham.

It is also looking to scrap its maximum pounds 90 charge for non-residential adult social care and to introduce unlimited charges, saving pounds 200,000.

A grant to Ashington Leisure Centre will be scrapped, saving pounds 150,000 while the council is proposing to transfer ownership of Bedlington Community Centre, which it says would save it pounds 78,000.

The Household Waste Recovery Centre at Seghill would be closed, saving pounds 120,000, while six of its least used libraries could also be shut to save pounds 28,000.

Public toilets at Amble and Prudhoe, the council's Amble cash office plus the restaurants at County Hall and Hepscott Park are also facing the axe.

The council hopes to save pounds 226,000 by transferring responsibility for play areas to parish councils across the county and also wants to offload responsibility for allotments, Christmas lights, bus shelters and public seats to parishes.

Further proposed cuts are pounds 250,000 through a review of the authority's home to school transport policy in the north of the county and pounds 70,000 through increasing charges for school meals by 5p. Coun Andrew Tebbutt, executive member for corporate resources, said: "Like the other councils in the region and across the whole of the country we are facing some unprecedented challenges.

"The financial situation in the UK means that local authorities must make savings and unfortunately these changes will have an impact on our services.

"In Northumberland we have to make savings of up to pounds 30m next year and that means taking some really difficult decisions.

"The options contained in this report will help us develop a budget that is committed to making savings while continuing to provide quality services for residents and keeping council tax down."

Other proposed cuts include a reduction of pounds 90,000 in the highways maintenance budget and pounds 60,000 by cutting salting routes.

Savings of pounds 200,000 are forecast by "optimising" waste collection routes and pounds 60,000 by reducing the council's subsidy to public transport.

The authority also plans to save pounds 100,000 on production of its controversial Northumberland News monthly magazine and to stop running a kerbside glass collection in Alnwick district and Castle Morpeth borough, saving pounds 105,000.

The authority is seeking to stop providing a mobile skateboard park and to reduce hours at Hexhm's Old Gaol.

In addition, charges could be increased on car parks at Northumberland's country parks, burial fees would be increased in the south east and north of the county, and the council could charge for replacement bins and no longer provide subsidised compost bins.

Last night Coun Peter Jackson, leader of the council's opposition Conservative group, said the authority had not listened to the results of public surveys, which indicate that people do not want cuts to services like adult and youth care, and highways.

He also queried why the budget proposes cuts of just under pounds 16m when the council has been told it needs to make savings of pounds 30m.

The final budget is to be agreed in February.

School dinners will be dearer...

waste centre will shut down...

play areas will be offloaded...

...and Gaol hours will be cut
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Nov 23, 2009
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