BRITAIN’S economic woes are the result of a crazy ideological experiment by the Chancellor, a North-East council leader has claimed.

Addressing his cabinet today (Wednesday, February 6), Durham County Council leader Simon Henig said the country had endured an economic downturn lasting longer than the Great Depression and was facing a disastrous and unprecedented triple dip recession – and blamed Chancellor George Osborne.

The Labour leader said: “We cannot wholly escape Osborne’s axe but we will continue to protect the people of County Durham as best we can.”

Councillor Henig was speaking as his cabinet agreed a proposed budget including £20.9m of cuts in 2013-14.

By 2018, the North-East’s biggest local authority is expected to have cut about £220m from its 2010 spending levels. About £90m has already been saved and more cuts running to 2017 are planned, but savings of £53.1m are still to be identified.

The proposed budget includes: freezing council tax, protecting council tax benefits for 65,000 households and spending an extra £1m on adult social care and £3.25m on measures aimed at boosting the economy.

Liberal Democrat councillor Mark Wilkes said Labour was subsidising trade unions instead of investing in the county’s future and its budget was “simply nuts”.

Opposition parties are expected to suggest alternative proposals at the full council meeting at which the budget will be set, on Wednesday, February 20.

The cabinet also proposed to increase council house rent by 4.04 per cent – an average of £2.55 per week. A total of £99m will be invested in council housing over the next two years.

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