COUNCIL tax bills in County Durham are set to rise as further cuts of £23 million are made to local services.

Durham County Council is dipping into its reserves to balance next year’s budget – which requires £32m of savings to be made – and delay the impact of cuts on frontline services for as long as possible.

As details of the budget were released, council leader Cllr Simon Henig criticised the Government’s funding scheme which he says means households in County Durham get around £200 per less than the average for England.

He said: “The impact of above average funding reductions for seven years has left Durham in a position that is neither proportionate nor fair.

“Even the government’s own spending calculations show that Durham receives approximately £200 less per household than the average for England, and almost 20 per cent less than Surrey, where the local authority is looking to raise its council tax rate by 15 per cent. This cannot be right and we are now seeing the results of a funding system that does not take account of need.

“Despite this we are continuing to work hard to provide the highest levels of service across the county and there is still much for us to be proud of in County Durham."

Council tax is set to rise by 1.99 per cent, while the adult social care precept, introduced last year, will rise by two per cent – an increase of £1.06 per week for people in Band D properties and 71p a week for those in Band A.

A council tax support scheme aimed at helping low income households will remain.

A report to be considered by the authority’s cabinet next week outlines more than £23 million worth of cuts, including more than £6m from adult and health services and £4.7m from children and young people’s services.

More than £1.2m will be saved by transferring some adult care services to the private sector, while an new charging policy for adult care social care is being introduced.

Other services to face cuts include school transport, and the youth service, which will be more targeted in the future.

More than £3m will be saved from the resources budget, which includes £315,000 raised by increasing garden waste charges from £20 to £25 a year, reducing staffing at libraries and museums and resources at customer access points.

The authority is planning to use £12.6m of its reserves to balance the budget.

Cllr Alan Napier, deputy leader, said: “Times are still incredibly tough for us but through our careful management of the council’s finances over the last seven years we have put money aside in reserves and are able use them to protect services for as long as we can.”

Meanwhile £1.5m has been included to replace Deerness Bridge, which closed last year because of concerns it could no longer take the weight of traffic and £750,000 to move Peterlee library from its current location to the town’s leisure centre.

Other projects added to the budget for future years include £7m for a new primary school for Bowburn, £250,000 to start site preparation work at Aykley Heads, £1.5m for the redevelopment of North Road in Durham, £1.7m to replace street lights and £1m for improvements to town centres across the county.