Another tough year ahead for council, says Stockton leader

Darlington and Stockton Times: Bob Cook Bob Cook

A LEADER of a council has said there will be “another tough year ahead” for the authority as more jobs start to be shed.

Bob Cook, Labour leader of Stockton Borough Council, said the authority had already agreed to make more cuts in next two years which will include 300 jobs being lost.

However he said there was some cause for optimism in the future with the refurbishment of both Billingham and Stockton town centres potentially giving a boost to the local economy.

Coun Cook said it was too early to say whether or not council tax would rise.

In previous years the authority has rejected a Government offer of one-off grants in return for freezing council tax on the grounds that it would leave a gap in the authority’s base budget and store up trouble for the future.

However he said details of this year’s Government offer were not yet available and would need to be considered.

Stockton council has already shed 600 jobs since 2010 due to cuts in the Government grant to the council. The authority expects to have lost about half the grant, £51m, by 2016.

Last June the council agreed to make £9.4m-worth of cuts by 2016, including losing a further 300 jobs, over the next two years. However that decision was based on predictions on the local economy and Government grants and the council must still react to changes in circumstances.

The council has frozen wages for its remaining workers for four years, effectively a six per cent pay cut, although this year has offered a one per cent pay rise which is currently being considered by unions.

Coun Cook added: “What we will do is do our utmost to protect services for the most vulnerable in our society.”

Coun Cook said he hoped that reports the economy was improving would eventually have a real effect.

He said: “Even in the bad times you still have ambition for your community. The improvements to Billingham and Stockton town centres will improve the local economy and we’re hoping more independent retailers will come in.

"There’s also good news with The Globe theatre refurbishment which will bring money into the town.”

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