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10 January 2013, 16:42
A Darlington council leader has warned cuts could force his local authority into providing nothing more than what is required by law.
Bill Dixon, the Labour leader of Darlington Borough Council, said it had already lost #20 million from its budget and will have to find #17 million more in cuts.
"We would be down to providing the statutory minimum. We will consult in the spring and the summer about how low the council can go in providing services. Nothing is off the table.''
Statutory services which councils must provide include social care for adults and children, refuse collection and some highway maintenance.
He warned the leisure budget could "disappear'', and that the area could become a "cultural desert''.
In nearby Newcastle, the city council has already slashed its spending on arts.
Asked if there was light at the end of the tunnel for Darlington Borough Council, he replied: "Yes, but it's a train.''
Mr Dixon said local authorities in the north were being asked to make big cuts while others in the south were receiving grant increases.
He said the tough settlement some councils received from central funds were in danger of increasing the north-south divide, adding:
"This is something that the Thatcher government did not dare do.''
Meanwhile neighbouring Durham County Council said it must find £53 million of cuts between the years 2014 and 2017.
Simon Henig, Labour leader of Durham County Council, said:
"We are making extremely tough decisions in very difficult financial times.''