CUMBERLAND Council's proposed budget for 2024/25 has been agreed by senior councillors although it will be finally approved by members of the full council next month.

Members of the council's executive committee took the decision at a meeting at the Copeland Centre in Whitehaven on Tuesday (February 13).

It was recommended that they approve the general fund net revenue budget for 2024/25 of £319,014,005.

Councillor Mark Fryer (St Johns and Great Clifton, Labour), the leader of the council, said it was a "momentous time" for the new unitary authority and added: "It's the first time that we've been able to set our own budget."

Councillor Barbara Cannon (St Michaels, Labour), the portfolio holder for financial planning and assets, said they had inherited the budget positions of four legacy councils and the first few months of the Cumberland Council's first year was spent bringing them together.

Cllr Cannon said that nationally local government was facing tough financial challenges and she said they had faced a number of further challenges in recent months including high rates of inflation and an increased demand from residents for council services.

Included within the budget was a proposed rise in council tax of 4.99 per cent and Cllr Cannon said that in a recent public consultation just over 50 per cent of those who took part were in favour of the increase - although only 536 people took part.

The proposed rise would mean that annual the bill for a Band D property would rise to £1,816.80 and Cllr Cannon said the increase equated to £1.66 per week.

It was also proposed that owners of second homes would be required to pay 100 per cent council tax on the property from April 2025 and Cllr Cannon said the move would provide extra income for the authority.

Cllr Fryer, the leader of the council, said they were having to "deliver the dirty on behalf of the Government" and the issues the council was facing followed 13 years of reduced funding from Westminster. He said: "This budget is about our ambition for the communities we serve."

He added: "This is 13 years of the chickens coming home to roost."

He said that he had hoped the 100 per cent council tax rate for second homeowners could have been introduced this April but that was not possible. He added: "We had to give 12 months’ notice."

Cllr Fryer said second home ownership was a "blight on our community" and added: "Properties are being priced out of the normal market."

Councillor Lisa Brown (Currock, Labour), the deputy leader of the council, agreed that their current position had followed 13 years of reduced funding but stressed there was a council tax reduction scheme for the less well off.

She said: "These are the cards we have been dealt."

Her fellow deputy leader, Cllr Emma Williamson (Kells and Sandwith, Labour), said the reduction scheme put £21million back into the local community.

Members agreed with the recommendations and the proposed budget will next be considered at a meeting of the full council at the Civic Centre in Carlisle on Wednesday, March 6.