Residents in County Durham are being invited to have their say on proposals to balance council budgets next year and beyond.
Durham County Council needs to make £12.1m in budget savings for 2024/25 – even if council tax is increased – and is forecasting a budget gap of £56m over the next four years.
This financial position was reported to the council’s cabinet in July, when measures that will save the council £2.2m next year were also agreed.
Views are now being sought on a fresh set of proposals to save an additional £3.7m.
Residents are also being asked to help the council identify service areas from which the remaining £6.2m could be saved, and for their views on a council tax increase.
Cllr Richard Bell, the council’s deputy leader and cabinet member for finance, said: “Like all councils, we are facing unavoidable financial pressures driven by rising costs and increasing levels of demand, particularly for adults’ and children’s social care.
“To put it into perspective – we spend 47 per cent of our budget on providing adults’ and children’s social care to 2.5 per cent of the population.
“It is increasingly challenging to balance our budgets with the funding received from the Government and the income we are allowed to raise locally, which is primarily through council tax.
“That makes this another year in which we have some incredibly difficult decisions to make and we have no certainty about local government funding beyond next year, which also makes it very difficult to plan ahead.
“We’re seeking people’s views on a set of proposals that would save us a further £3.7m next year, along with views on where we might look for the remaining £6.2m we’ll need to save to balance our budget.
“We’re also asking people for their views on a council tax increase. Every one per cent of council tax equates to around £2.675m in income, and inflation is a big problem.
“As an example, one per cent on the pay bill is about the same as what we get from one per cent on council tax.
“So putting council tax up by less than the maximum permitted would result in in our budget deficit increasing and more reductions to services being required to balance the books.”
Residents can take part in the seven-week consultation, which closes at 5pm on Friday, October 20, or by completing an online survey.
Paper surveys are available from libraries and Customer Access Points.
There is also the option for residents to attend their local Area Action Partnership (AAP) board meeting, where they can receive a presentation and fill in the survey.
For full details of the savings proposals, or to complete the online survey or book a place at one of the AAP meetings, visit durham.gov.uk/consultation.