LABOUR councillors have said they do not believe the county council's budget addresses challenges faced by residents in the cost of living crisis.

Northumberland County Council Conservative Leader, Glen Sanderson, expressed disappointment over Labour members' opposition to the 2024/05 council budget.

Labour councillors have since argued that people should be the top priority in the budget and believe the current budget does not adequately address the challenges residents face due to the aftermath of the pandemic and the cost of living crisis.

READ MORE: Council leader promises 'significant money' will improve town this year

Angie Scott, Labour councillor for Prudhoe North, said: "The proposed budget involves a significant rent increase for the second year in a row, with some cases seeing an additional £30 per month. This could be problematic for employed individuals without benefits who have to cover the extra cost themselves, sometimes relying on food banks despite their hard work.

"Last year's plan included laying off youth workers while promoting Family Hubs as an alternative, despite a £500k budget cut this year.

"Essential services for adolescents, vital due to the impact of Covid and rising mental health concerns, have seen a £400k funding reduction. Resources dedicated to empowering and aiding the community have also been affected, with a £500k reduction in the Community Plan.

"Feedback from residents emphasized strong support for both young and elderly vulnerable individuals. However, there were significant cuts of £3.8m in adult social care alongside substantial reductions in youth services."

The community and Labour Party councillors called for improved support for residents.

"Despite ongoing assessment of a proposed £33.7m savings under Best Savings by external consultants with no specific recommendations, the Conservative party passed the budget.

"Councillors were required to vote on public spending cuts and service reductions without adequate consultation, engagement, or discussion on the consequences, raising concerns about the efficient use of taxpayers' money and the overall governance of the process."

Northumberland County Council leader Glen Sanderson replied: "After seven months of consulting on our plans across the county, our budget protects all our frontline services, keeps free car parking in town centres, spends more on our roads and parks, and continues in the investment across the county in new superschools, leisure centres and in job creation.

"Our highly regarded joint working with voluntary bodies has meant that those people who need our help the most get that help, as well as assistance with our Council Tax Support scheme, Housing Rent support, and our brilliant new Family Hubs.

"Investment throughout the county is more than at any time - in Prudhoe for example we are working with excellent partners on the East Centre, we have delivered the Eastwoods Park scheme, a new Playzone, and we are spending almost £2million on Waterworld amongst other new schemes for the town.

"Therefore I guess Labour supporters will be surprised and disappointed that the county council Labour group voted against our budget which will bring these things to Prudhoe  - without coming up with any alternatives or a single idea of their own."

Joe Morris, the Labour candidate for the Hexham constituency, said: "For more than a decade, the Conservatives took a sledgehammer to local government. Councils now spend 40 per cent less on roads and transport. The potholes pockmarking this constituency are a direct result of political choices made by Conservative representatives in Westminster and at County Hall."