In November the Chancellor told Parliament he was revising his budget figures to include further cuts and rising unemployment into 2017. This included an expectation that the number of public sector jobs set to go will rise from 400,000 to 710,000 as a result.
Durham councillors will next week meet to agree cuts being made as part of the initial four-year reductions. This £25m budget blow includes payment to the Government of £1m for landfill taxes.
Mr Henig said Durham and many other councils, including Gateshead, have turned down an offer from Communities Secretary Eric Pickles of money to help preserve weekly bin collections because of this tax.
Fortnightly collections, he said, help to increase recycling rates.
Adding to his problems is the public sector pay freeze. While Mr Henig has no choice in implementing the Government-ordered move, he has been told that he will be handed further cuts to his day-to-day spending grants.
The jobs implications of the extra two years of cuts have not yet been decided on. One area which Mr Henig says is likely to come under pressure is transport spending, including rural bus subsidies used to keep services going for hard-to-reach villages.
A public consultation on the cuts last year saw the council commit to safeguarding children’s and adult services, both seeing a budget increase in the next financial year, and winter road maintenance.
“What that means, though, is that other services have to see a reduction,” said Mr Henig. “We are investing in the services that are a matter of life or death, of care for the elderly or vulnerable children, even in winter maintenance to ensure people can drive to work safely.
“But it means the likes of libraries and swimming pools and leisure centres which we all like will have to be looked at.”
The council is considering plans to set up a trust to run services such as these in an effort to save more than £1m.