Cllr Judith Wallace reports
To undo years of mismanagement under Labour which saw council tax rise significantly each year, work to save money in North Tyneside began as soon as Linda Arkley was elected as Mayor in June 2009, Extravagances such as the Mayor's Newsletter (cost £35,000 pa) and bottled water (£30,000 pa) were scrapped straight away, and other items of expenditure have been closely scrutinised. In consequence, whilst council tax rose in April 2010, it was the lowest rise in the history of the Borough.
Knowing that there were likely to be reductions in income from central government due to the horrendous national debt, work continued to review all expenditure. This year there has been a freeze in council tax, but unlike many authorities, there is virtually no impact on our frontline services. The number of senior managers has been reduced, from 28 to 16, and some £26 million has been taken out of the budget, but we are not closing libraries, or Sure Start centres or nurseries, or leisure centres or public lavatories or residential homes.
We have maintained expenditure on the environment, and on roads and pavements, and have managed to increase the spending on dementia care services. We've also kept weekly bin collections – this has been done by changing work patterns so that, whilst the crews work the same hours, they do so over four days rather than five, and this, combined with altering the routes and rounds, enables the residents to keep their weekly collection.
The Labour councillors didn't produce an alternative budget and voted against the freeze in council tax.