Council Leader welcomes government funding announcement

The Leader of Northumberland County Council has given a cautious welcome to the provisional Local Government Finance Settlement for the coming year.

The provisional Government allocation net funding of £52.6m means the authority would be £4m better off compared to its current forecast position in terms of un-ringfenced grants available to support the budget. Additional funding is also being made available for adult social care to address market pressures and speed up hospital discharges and relieve pressure on the NHS.

The settlement includes a further £7.4m to Northumberland Schools and a further £2m for High Needs/Special Educational Needs for 2023/24. Overall year on year for schools this is an increase in funding of 5.57 per cent.

Council Leader Glen Sanderson said: “This settlement was better than hoped for and should make our budget setting for the next year a little easier. I was pleased to note the boost in funding for schools, as investment in our young people is critical to the future prosperity of our county.”

“However, the national financial picture remains very challenging and there will still be difficult decisions ahead, but this government allocation is welcome news.”

The council is also watching with interest the ‘Levelling-Up and Regeneration Bill’ which is currently going through Parliament, particularly around the levels of council tax that can be charged on empty and second homes.

The purpose of these measures is to bring homes back into use for local communities. If the Bill gets Royal Assent by 31 March 2023 these options can be implemented with effect from 1 April 2024.

For second homes, which is an issue in some parts of the county, the bill would mean the council could charge up to an extra 100% council tax on them. In the county there are currently 3,502 properties classed as second homes and calculations show a 100% council tax rise could generate an extra £6.5m income for the council.

Cllr Sanderson said: “It has been a growing concern to local residents that some of our villages have too many second homes whilst at the same time there is a shortage of local affordable housing. We have allocated very significant money to create more affordable housing this year but we want to do more. This proposed change would help bring some balance to local communities.”

This consultation runs until 17th January 2023, with the budget due to go before Full Council in February next year and a refreshed Corporate Plan presented in March.

Credit: Bdaily

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