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Norfolk taxpayers will pay 4% more in council tax next year as councillors agree £42m of cuts

PUBLISHED: 13:10 22 February 2016 | UPDATED: 17:48 22 February 2016

People demonstrating against the proposed cuts to by the county at County Hall, Norwich. 
PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY

People demonstrating against the proposed cuts to by the county at County Hall, Norwich. PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY

ARCHANT NORFOLK

People in Norfolk will see their council tax increase, after councillors agreed a hike to head off cuts to frontline services.

Norfolk County Council’s full council today agreed a budget which will see £42m of cuts made in the next year and a 3.99pc increase in the share of council tax which goes to pay for County Hall’s services.

The council tax increase, the first in the county council’s share for five years, will add about 88p extra a week to people’s bills. Of the 3.99pc increase, 2pc is specifically for adult social care.

There was an early adjournment at the meeting, after shouts from the public gallery.

Chairman Rex Parkinson-Hare called for security to clear the public gallery, but, after an apology and an undertaking there would be no further interruptions, the public were allowed to stay.

The council’s committees had been considering proposals which would save £123m over the next three years, as it looks to plug a £111m spending gap.

And the council agreed the council tax should be increased so some of the most controversial of the proposed cuts could be abandoned.

Labour leader George Nobbs said: “It’s a budget for all the people of Norfolk” and said it would mean no fire stations, children’s centres or libraries would shut.

Today’s meeting was preceded by protests by the Norfolk Fire brigades Union, disability charity Equal Lives, trade union Unison and the Norfolk People’s Assembly.

Among controversial proposals which were ditched was a plan to shut fire stations at Heacham and one of either West Walton or Outwell. Cuts to cover in Great Yarmouth, Gorleston and King’s Lynn will also not be made.

The EDP has, through the Save Our Stations campaign, called for cuts to fire stations and cover to be scrapped.

Proposals to take £5.1m out of Supporting People services, which provides preventative care for vulnerable people would be ditched.

Plans for the council to stop paying for transport for social care users, such as older people attending day services, would be dropped.

Cuts to a service which identifies archaeological finds and reducing opening hours of Norfolk’s Record Office have been dropped.

And bank holiday reopening of Norfolk’s recycling centres, the full- time opening of Ashill, Heacham and Morningthorpe recycling centres and the reopening of Docking recycling centre have been assured.

But £42m of cuts will be made, mainly in the back offices, which is likely to mean redundancies.

And in the following two years, a further £29.7m and £42.5m of savings will have to be made.

Liberal Democrat Dan Roper, deputy leader, said: “The council tax increase is absolutely necessary and is the right thing to do.”

Conservative group leader Cliff Jordan said the budget was better his his group’s involvement in putting it together.

He said: “We don’t agree with everything in it, but within negotiations, no-one ever does.

“The people of Norfolk deserve better, but I am of the view that we should co-operate, rather than go head to head.”

Disability charity Equal Lives, which has attacked the council for its changes to personal budgets for disabled people, says that still means £50m of cuts to adult social care will be made on the years ahead.

The Greens put forward an amendment to reallocate cash to adult social care, for an air quality action plan and for small road safety schemes.

But that amendment was defeated, with Mr Roper saying it was “not sustainable “.

An amendment by independent Alexandra Kemp, which would have created a fund for school crossing patrols, was also rejected.

The budget was agreed, with four Greens voting against and two Conservatives abstaining.

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