Next year's budget has been backed and agreed by the City Council.

Support and investment for crucial services continue as the City Council agrees next year's budget.

A 4.99 (five per cent) per cent increase in the Council Tax was backed at the meeting in the Civic Centre today (Wednesday 7 March).

The figure includes a two per cent adult social care precept that will raise £1.79m for more than 4,000 older and vulnerable people who receive care packages.

An extra £1.5m, alongside £500,000 invested last year, is also going to support environmental services such as street cleaning, and prosecuting litter bugs and fly-tippers.

The Council Tax raises approximately 14 per cent or £90m of the council's planned spending of £646m as the majority of the budget comes from Central Government grants.

Since 2010, the council has had its spending power cut by a third under the Government's austerity programme with more than £290m removed from budgets. The council has also reduced its staffing by more than half to less than 3,000 - a reduction of more than 5,000.

Councillor Harry Trueman, who was confirmed as Leader of the City Council as part of the meeting, said: "We have always tried to protect residents as much as we can, but we continue to face very difficult decisions because of the Government's year on year cuts to funding. The decision to raise Council Tax is one of those hard choices. Not raising Council Tax would mean cutting services even further - including services to the most vulnerable in our city.

"That's why we have taken the very difficult decision to protect services from further cuts by raising Council Tax for only the third time since 2010."

The budget also sees:

* More than £5m for supporting Children's Services and an extra £8m (£1.79m from the Council Tax) into adult social care;

* A one-off investment of £2m to support this year's Tall Ships Event in July;

* An additional £60m of one-off capital investments in highways, plant and equipment, school buildings and other infrastructure.

Cllr Trueman said: "We are investing £147m in the city's infrastructure next year, with a further £134m planned to be spent in the following three years.

"As a council, we are working with the private sector to encourage development and investment. The council and all our partners continue to invest in the regeneration of the city with major developments planned over the next few years.

"Work is progressing on the International Advanced Manufacturing Park (IAMP) next to Nissan with the aim of creating over 5,000 quality jobs.

"And Northern Spire clearly demonstrates our aspirations for the city - it is progressing apace and on target for completion in the not too distant future.

"Phase 3 of the Sunderland Strategic Transport Corridor (SSTC) will improve roads running from the new Wear crossing to St Mary's Way, opening up opportunities for more development on the south side of the river.

"Furthermore, investment in roads and schools infrastructure will support the development of 4,000 new homes in the Sunderland South Growth Area.

"It's also essential that we continue to invest in our infrastructure and economic regeneration. This is vital if we are to deliver more and better jobs and economic growth and make our city more attractive to residents, businesses and visitors, so that can grow and prosper."

Sunderland's Council Tax remains the lowest in Tyne and Wear. The Sunderland Council Tax (without police and fire precepts) is 83p a week for the majority of households in Sunderland who are in a Band A property.

For a Band D property it is £1.24p a week.

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