Sunderland City Council budget ready amid ‘disappointing’ news

Council leader Paul Watson (left) and Cabinet Secretary Mel Speding
Council leader Paul Watson (left) and Cabinet Secretary Mel Speding
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THE final draft of next year’s revenue budget and capital programme has been signed off by Sunderland City Council’s cabinet and will be put to the vote next month.

The decision comes after the final Local Government Finance Settlement for 2014/15 was announced earlier this month, with only a £16,000 increase in Government funding.

The final budget proposal will go before the full council at an extraordinary meeting on March 5.

“Disappointingly, there has been no change in the overall position,” cabinet secretary Mel Speding said. “We are faced with significant Government reductions in grant funding and a shortfall of £35.6million next year. The council is trying to mitigate the cuts by maximising services.”

Coun Speding said saving will be made by “recommissioning services, reprioritising spends and exploring alternative delivery models”.

As reported in yesterday’s Echo, members also voted to propose a council tax freeze for another year.

Cabinet members at Durham County Council have voted for a 1.99 per cent council tax hike – its first increase since 2010. It is hoped the extra revenue will help mitigate cuts in Government grant funding.

Coun Speding said members were also recommended to approve a capital investment programme worth just under £81million.

He said: “This represents an almost unprecedented economic regeneration of the city. It will go to projects that benefit the most needy, including education and health services, disabled access grants and free school meals.”

As part of the capital programme, almost £23million is earmarked for transport investment and about £6.2million each for children’s services, along with health, housing and adult services. Another £45.2million is available to “other services”.

Coun Speding added: “It demonstrates a commitment to make a capital investment which benefits a whole range of areas.”