VIDEO: Durham County Council leader on cuts and council tax rises

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RESIDENTS of County Durham are facing a 1.98 per cent increase in council tax as the county council strives to balance a reduced budget.

Band D householders will be asked for £1,560.12 - an increase of £30 - when bills for the new financial year are sent out.

Durham County Council says 60 per cent of residents live in a Band A property, and their rise will only be 33p a week.

The council tax and next year’s budget was set at a full council meeting this afternoon at County Hall in Durham.

Protesters against budget cuts lobbied councillors as they made their way in to the meeting.

Paul Simpson of the Durham People’s Alliance said the proposed cut of £23million – out of a budget of nearly £500million – would impact on services for children and adults.

Councillors voted by 90 votes to 11 to approve the budget, which council leader Coun Simon Henig called ‘making the best of a bad job’.

The council has a target to cut £224m between 2011 and 2017.

“This year’s reduction is less than 10 per cent of the target,” said Coun Henig. “That is partly because we made deeper cuts in earlier years.

“Most of this year’s reduction is coming from back office and management functions.

“We are using reserves to a limited extent, but greater cuts will be needed in the coming years which could lead to a further call on reserves.”

Coun Henig said he had some sympathy with the protesters, but the council has a legal obligation to set a balanced budget.

“Protests really should be directed at a national level,” he added. “It is the government that is determined to push through these austerity measures.

“I hope people will bear that in mind when we have a General Election next year.”

•Click here to hear from Paul Simpson