Life will be harder for people in Darlington until the council receives substantial financial support from the government, residents have been warned. 

Councillors welcomed the news that Darlington Borough Council will receive £29.3m from the government for the next financial year - but warned it doesn’t go far enough to prevent the ongoing financial difficulty the local authority faces. 

The Government announced a funding package for councils in December worth over £64 billion to support local authorities in England to deliver frontline services. The final funding settlement has now been confirmed, and sees Darlington receive an extra £1.044m. 

Reacting to the announcement, Council Leader Stephen Harker said: “There is a glimmer of hope that the government is getting the message that council’s are not crying wolf and are suffering as a consequence, as are our residents. 

“The million pounds is welcome but it barely scratches the surface.”

New council cutbacks aimed at saving £4m per year and £16m by 2027/28 were revealed in November. A 4.99 per cent council tax increase is proposed as part of plans to raise much-needed funds. Other savings are expected to be made through increased service charges. 

Cllr Harker added: “We are facing an appalling dilemma. Yes, we know residents are struggling, but if we don’t raise council tax we face further cuts.”

Green Party leader Cllr Matthew Snedker said mystery surrounds how the council will fare financially in the future and it could be determined by a ‘toss of a coin’ if more help is not provided. “We’re looking down the barrel of a gun,” he warned. 

“Without proper, fair funding settlements for local authorities, millions of people up and down the country and thousands in Darlington will be failed, despite the best efforts of members and officers. 

“This is a difficult plan to bring forward but it is the best we can. Until we get the funding that we deserve, life in Darlington will be harder than it should be.”

The alarming statement came as Labour and Conservative members clashed over the management of the council’s finances over recent years. Since taking office in May last year, Labour has been scathing in its assessment of the financial situation the previous Conservative administration left them with. 

Cllr Harker told a Cabinet meeting that council service cuts under the previous Tory leadership have led to more litter and potholes in the area, and accused the party of spending too much money on replacing the council logo and “painting everything blue”. 

But Cllr Jonathan Dulston, Conservative leader, refuted the criticism and said Labour’s decision-making has left Darlington residents worse off. 

He replied: “Your narrative over the last few months has been Tory mismanagement and reckless spending, which is simply not true. What is clear is the first year in control of this administration has been a complete disaster. You have failed to grab the reins and u-turned on your promise to reduce the cost-of-living. 

“Residents are worse off under a Labour administration given the various short-sighted decisions you have made. 

“Is it right to put this council tax burden onto the public at a time when people are feeling the pinch?”

The 4.99 per cent council tax increase is due to be confirmed at a special council meeting next Thursday. The local authority is unlikely to make any significant job cuts in the immediate future, but members will continually review its accounts. 

Cllr Mandy Porter, cabinet member for resources, said: “Our officers have done extremely well to get us to this point, with the financial position that we find ourselves in. We cannot continue with the plan you left us with. Our proposals are looking at the financial pressures and we will continue to look at them this year.”