Wednesday, January 23, 2013
County Hall leaders have confirmed they plan to freeze their share of the council tax next year and spend £8m to help some of the most vulnerable people in Norfolk.
But Norfolk County Council is also planning to make another £34m of savings, while trade unions said it did not make sense to freeze council tax for the third year in a row.
The budget proposed by leaders at Norfolk County Council, which will be considered by the council’s cabinet on Monday, plans to spend around £1.5bn to provide services.
Along with spending £95m on capital projects, such as schools and highways, the budget includes £8m of one-off funding, drawn from reserves and a government grant for freezing council tax. That will be spent on:
£500,000 towards a £5m five-year project to support prevention services for older people, including training volunteers to visit the vulnerable to encourage them to use services and prevent them being isolated;
£1m more for the council’s community construction fund, which enables communities to bid for projects such as new community centres;
£1m for highways improvements requested by parish councils and another £1m for other road schemes;
£1m over two years for extra investment in school improvement work;
£3.5m to support vulnerable children and families.
Bill Borrett, acting leader of the council (pictured), said: “The budget sets out to support Norfolk’s most vulnerable people, especially our older people and children, while giving a high priority to supporting jobs and the economy.
“Decisive action and sound financial management over the last two years is allowing us to propose an additional £8m of one-off spending to support vital services, and to invest in projects closest to the hearts of our communities. At the same time, we are proposing a council tax freeze for a third year. This is not the time to ask hard-pressed families and people on fixed incomes to pay even more.”
But Jonathan Dunning, branch secretary for trade union Unison, hit out at the council tax freeze. He said: “Such an approach denies Norfolk County Council essential ongoing revenue income to deliver critical public services to the most vulnerable members of the public. Unison believes it is more important to increase income to fund services than to offer everyone a negligible financial benefit from a council tax freeze.”
The budget also includes £34.2m of savings, including staff cuts in libraries, the record office and the adult education service, along with changes to day services.