NORTHUMBERLAND County Council’s ambitious budget was approved last week with just one councillor voting against it.

Councillors voted through the budget by a margin of 38 to one, with 25 abstentions, during a full council meeting last Wednesday.

The budget included £9.8m cuts and a council tax increase of 3.99 per cent, but the Tyne Valley is set to benefit from an ambitious capital programme, which will see millions of pounds pumped into Hexham and Haltwhistle.

Coun. Nick Oliver, who represents Corbridge and is portfolio holder for corporate services, said the budget would be good for the area.

Coun. Oliver said: “I think this is the best budget ever for the Tyne Valley. We’re investing in the schools at Hexham, and redeveloping Prudhoe and Hexham.

“There was a promise from central government to level up. We will make sure we get our share of that.”

Labour Leader, Coun. Susan Dungworth, commented that there was much to like about the budget.

Coun. Dungworth said: “There’s lots in this budget that we support.

“It’s a shame it took the election of Tory MPs to show the need for extra money – if it brings extra money, we will welcome that and try to influence how you spend it.

“There would be no need for that levelling up if funding had been fair in the first place.”

The budget includes £5m for Hexham town centre’s redevelopment, with the money earmarked to support strategic sites in the town.

Hexham will also benefit from £2.2m funding from the heritage action zone scheme, with £1.39m coming from the Government and the private sector and £859,000 from the county council.

A further £3.7m will be provided for the town’s new schools for Queen Elizabeth High and Hexham Middle, with the extra resources required to support the construction of the schools reported to the council’s cabinet last year.

Just over £1m was identified to refurbish Haltwhistle Middle School as it changes to a primary.

Coun. Steven Bridgett was the only councillor to vote against the proposals, citing concerns over the future of Rothbury Library. However, Coun. Bridgett did praise the council’s £15m fund to improve rural roads and pavements.

Coun. Cath Homer, the cabinet member for arts, culture, leisure, and tourism, offered reassurance on the future of the libraries.

Coun. Homer said: “The consultation is not connected with efficiencies in the budget. The £100,000 efficiency identified in the budget has already been achieved. There will be no money coming out of the library service in the next year.”