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Tees is dealt a budget blow.

Short-changed Teesside is today looking at council tax hikes in at least two boroughs after the Government dished out tiny budget increases.

Ministers announced the size of grants to be awarded to councils across the country yesterday - and Middlesbrough came bottom of the pile.

Now town hall bosses know how much they are getting from central Government, they can start to work out the size of next year's council tax increases.

The announcement has seen council budgets nationally go up by an average of 4.7pc.

But on Teesside none of our councils hit even the average figure

Hartlepool came out best with an increase of 4.3pc.

But Whitehall penny-pinchers dealt the biggest blow to Middlesbrough Council.

For the last two years the authority has been bottom of the Tees Valley pile.

This year the council has received a budget increase of just 3.5pc - the minimum increase.

Mayor Ray Mallon branded the increase 'an absolute disgrace'.

He said once again the Government was working from flawed population estimates, which just last month number crunchers told the Government were wrong.

"How on earth does the Government expect Middlesbrough to move forward and provide the public services they clearly want us to with a grant that is clearly inadequate," said Mr Mallon.

"We are now back to the game of cuts in services or increases in council tax and the Government has a great deal to answer for where this subject is concerned."

Hard times look likely in Redcar and Cleveland too after the Government upped its council grant by 4.4pc.

In the last few years the Labour party controlling the council had set tough budgets to stop council tax increases.

But the coalition now running Redcar and Cleveland warned today that upping tax levels may be inevitable.

Councillor Glyn Nightingale, Redcar and Cleveland Council's cabinet member for corporate resources, said: "It is too early to know in detail what it will mean. However we do know that the last administration failed to set a proper budget for cleaning streets or for recycling waste and they have left us with a huge problem of introducing equal pay.

"It may not be possible to avoid a significant council tax rise."

Finance experts at Stockton Council were today breaking down the news that next year the authority would receive 4.1pc more than 2003/04.

"Initial analysis of the Government's settlement indicates a modest increase in grant which is less than both the national and regional average," said Julie Danks, Stockton Council's corporate director of resources.

Hartlepool's elected Mayor Stuart Drummond said: "Our initial analysis indicates Hartlepool has been allocated almost pounds 1m less than anticipated.

"We'll need to look at why this has occurred. However we also need to analyse all of the data in more detail.

"So at this stage it isn't possible to predict what outcome the settlement will have on the overall budget or level of council tax."

Darlington Council will next year get 4.7pc more to spend and North Yorkshire County Council is to get 5.1pc more.

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Title Annotation:News Local
Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:Nov 20, 2003
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