A North East council boss has warned that massive budget cuts are taking a “hugely damaging” toll on his town – as his authority faces a £50m financial black hole.

Gateshead Council has unveiled plans to slash its spending again next year, as civic centre officials grapple with how to close an estimated £49.5m deficit over the next five years. Residents in Gateshead could face a council tax hike of almost 5% next year, while bosses are trying to find ways to deliver cheaper social care packages amid rocketing demand for services.

Major cost-cutting measures have already seen the council controversially close down Gateshead Leisure Centre and Birtley’s swimming pool this year, while there are plans to hand its remaining sports centres – including Gateshead International Stadium – to a private operator. A report to the council’s cabinet on Tuesday warned that resources at the civic centre are “are scarce, particularly at a time of high inflation and increasing demand in areas such as adults and children’s social care” and that the authority “can no longer afford to do everything that we once did”.

Having already faced £191m in budget cuts since 2010, Gateshead Council must bridge a funding gap of a further £27.1m in 2024/25 alone. The borough’s Labour leader, Martin Gannon, said: “Local authorities are a powerful force for good in society.

"I was a councillor at a time when we were improving services and improving the quality of people’s lives, making major changes to improve the quality of Gateshead. The level of cuts inflicted on the council, which you can see out on the streets, are having a hugely damaging impact on Gateshead as a place and on the lives of the people in Gateshead.

“The blame has to be firmly put where it belongs – it is as a result of the fact that funding to Gateshead Council from central Government has been reduced by 60%. We will manage our resources, we will continue to follow our policy priorities to support those in most need, but we will have to do it with significantly reduced funds.”

The council is now consulting on a potential council tax rise of 4.99% for next year – which includes a 2% precept to help meet growing adult social care costs. The authority said that the majority of properties in Gateshead, which fall under the band A council tax range, would experience a £69 rise in their annual bill and that the increases would generate £5.5m in extra revenue for the council.

Under the plans discussed on Tuesday, one council job is at risk of redundancy – linked to proposals to cut the budget for provision of the authority’s traveller site in Felling. The equivalent of 5.5 other vacant posts, in areas including libraries, would also be deleted.

Further proposals include imposing higher council tax premiums on long-term empty homes, reducing the publication of the council’s newsletter from three to two issues yearly, and cutting the council’s school meals budget by £400,000. Coun Gannon added that major reforms to the council’s social care services, which the authority is branding “demand management interventions”, are being proposed to cut the cost of delivering care packages by more than £2m.

A public consultation on the budget proposals will run between now and January 15, with residents able to provide feedback online at gateshead.gov.uk/budget or by emailing budgetconsultation@gateshead.gov.uk. The final budget plans will then be signed off next February.