By Daniel Holland LDRS
Council bosses in Newcastle have announced £40 million worth of budget cuts at the Civic Centre up to 2023.
The severe spending reductions will have major implications for vital frontline services across the city.
Here is a look at what it could all mean.
The draft proposals published on Friday confirmed a planned 4.95% rise in council tax bills.
That will mean an annual increase of up to £169, depending on which band your house comes under.
Care services will bear the brunt of the cuts – with adult social care budgets being slashed by £13.2 million and children’s services by £6.4 million.
Here are some of the main changes proposed:
The council plans to reduce the number of supported housing properties it has for people with learning disabilities or autism;
Some adults who can afford to pay for their care could face new charges of up to £5 per week from April 2021, to cover the cost of the council arranging community-based services;
The council hopes to save more than £2.6 million by “safely” reducing the number of children in local authority care and increasing in-house provision of childcare placements, so less money needs to be spent on outside services;
Two children’s homes, one of which was only opened for temporary capacity during the Covid pandemic will close, but a new, larger home for longer-term care will be opened.
Fees to park in council-run car parks across the city are set to go up. While exact details have not been provided of how much those rises will be, the council says it will generate an extra £650,000 of income by 2023.
A further £275,000 will be raised from a review of Sunday and evening parking charges and residents’ parking permits, while three parking enforcement officers are set to lose their jobs.
Budget documents also reveal that the council intends to enforce more penalty fees for driving in bus lanes.
The cost of garden waste bin collection fees is set to go up by £1 per year.
Other charges for grounds maintenance, pest control, street services, composting and bulky waste collections will also increase, as well as payments for the online streaming of funeral services.
While the budget does not earmark any sites for closure, the council says there will need to be cost-cutting at libraries and community hubs to save £100,000.
A report states: “It has been nearly 20 years since the service was re-invigorated with new buildings, services and leadership.
“As library services have evolved and adapted over this period, we want to ask those that use (and those that do not use libraries) what they want from them, how services could be delivered and what is important for them.
“We are determined to make these changes while maintaining a citywide library network and preserving the City Library.”
The public health budget is being cut by almost £2 million, with the council planning to cancel contracts relating to obesity services that have “low population impacts”.
The council says it is now “not feasible” to offer individual obesity support and it will instead focus its resources on promoting a broader societal change.
£400,000 is also being cut by reducing the subsidy given to schools for free school meals, reducing it by 20p per meal from April 1, though it is claimed the move will “not impact on children or eligibility for free school meals”.
There are 15 council jobs set to go under this two-year plan – including four in children’s social care, two from public safety and regulation services, and the equivalent of 6.4 full-time jobs from cleaning, caretaking, and catering.
However, there has been some good news for the council’s lowest-paid staff this week, with more than 1,000 in line for a pay rise.
The council is increasing its living wage for the lowest earners to £9.50 per hour – meaning 1,115 staff will get up to an extra 25p per hour.
Deputy council leader Joyce McCarty said: “For several years now we have aspired to pay our lowest paid staff a little more money so they could have a decent standard of living. This is in recognition of the fact they do very demanding jobs in difficult circumstances and it’s only right they are paid enough to have a decent life. These are not luxuries but just to help people get by.”