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Children’s centres to be hot topic on Norfolk County Council budget decision day - with 5.99pc council tax hike on cards

PUBLISHED: 08:10 12 February 2018 | UPDATED: 08:10 12 February 2018

Children's centres could be remodelled. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Children's centres could be remodelled. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

© ARCHANT NORFOLK 2009

The future of Norfolk’s children’s centres and day centres are likely to take centre stage today when county councillors meet to agree the authority’s budget.

Unison's Jonathan Dunning. Photo : Steve Adams Unison's Jonathan Dunning. Photo : Steve Adams

Norfolk County Council will meet on Monday to debate the Conservative-led council’s £388.8m budget for 2018/19, which includes a hike of 5.99pc on its share of council tax bills.

Some of the most contentious proposed savings - around cuts to bus subsidies and gritting runs - have been scrapped and the Conservatives say the budget will bring investment for children’s services and adult social care.

But the council still needs to plug a funding gap of nearly £100m by 2022. One way it is looking to save cash is by renegotiating contracts for children’s centres.

The budget states they will all be kept open in 2018/19, but the council wants to remodel the service to “focus their work on supporting the families that need them most”.

Spending would be cut from £10m to £5m, and they could share buildings with libraries.

Labour and the Liberal Democrats are both to table budget amendments around the centres, while trade union Unison remains concerned closures will be inevitable in the longer term.

Jonathan Dunning, Unison branch secretary at County Hall, said: “A significant figure is quoted without any detail on how the saving will be arrived at. By adopting this approach it means that any review is focused on delivering the saving rather than ensuring a quality service is maintained. Unison has grave reservations about this approach.”

The council has also highlighted how it wants to move away from costly residential care and encourage people to stay independent in their homes.

It is looking to save £2.5m through a “radical review of daycare services” - a move which Unison has criticised.

The Lib Dem amendment includes removing £750,000 from the children’s centre savings and £1m from the day care saving.

A 10pc reduction in councillor allowances - which were controversially increased recently, would prevent a £100,000 cut in highways maintenance.

The Labour amendment would remove £2m from the children’s centre savings and use £1m to speed up replacement of street lighting with LED lights to save revenue costs and restore night-time lighting to areas that want it.

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