Further cuts to services for people across Norfolk - and another council tax rise - could have to be considered by council bosses trying to plug a £42.6m budget gap.

The multi-million gap leaders at Norfolk County Council are facing for 2024/25 comes on top of almost £60m of savings and cuts confirmed in this year's County Hall budget.

And it comes at a time when the Conservative-controlled authority has now borrowed close to £850m - and is paying annual interest of £31.4m as a result.

The £42.6m gap, which the council needs to close when it sets its budget next February, is part of an overall £145.2m to be plugged over the next four years.

Eastern Daily Press: Andrew Jamieson, deputy leader of Norfolk County CouncilAndrew Jamieson, deputy leader of Norfolk County Council (Image: Norfolk County Council)

Andrew Jamieson, the council's deputy leader and cabinet member for finance, said he was keen to find ways to save the money without causing an impact on services.

He said he was challenging assumptions being made by departments to try to drive down costs.

The bulk of the council's money goes on providing adult social care and children's services.

READ MORE: Norfolk County Council defends its use of consultants

Eastern Daily Press: County Hall needs to save another £46.2mCounty Hall needs to save another £46.2m (Image: Mike Page)

Mr Jamieson said: "The needs of people are becoming more complex, but set against that is the benefits which come from new technology and finding better ways of working."

The council is working on an assumption of a 4.99pc increase in its share of council tax, but Mr Jamieson said he hoped that could be avoided.

He added he was reasonably relaxed about the amount the council had borrowed. He said: "It's not the overall total which concerns me, but what I do not want to see is cost of the borrowing going up - that's what I look at much more closely."

Eastern Daily Press: Steve Morphew, leader of the Labour group at Norfolk County CouncilSteve Morphew, leader of the Labour group at Norfolk County Council (Image: Archant)

Steve Morphew, leader of the opposition Labour group at County Hall, said: "They are spending millions on consultants and ending four years of political interference with management that has led to duplication and increased layers of management costing us dear.

"Now they are forced to predict four more years of budget hell with nothing but wishful thinking to underpin their planning."


When Norfolk County Council launched a public consultation, back in 2011, over the need to make £155m of savings, they called it The Big Conversation.

That title suggested that the consultation was something exceptional, that it was something people needed to take heed of, because it was not the normal state of affairs.

Fast forward the clock to 2023 and, these days, every year sees County Hall consulting over millions of pounds worth of cuts and savings.

The Big Conversation has, unfortunately, turned into business as usual. Cuts and savings have become the norm, rather than the exception.

But that familiarity should not detract from the pain which these now annual cuts have caused.

The loss of children's centres and the council's youth service are particularly missed by many.

And yet, at the same time, we are now paying more in council tax to County Hall than ever before. We are giving them more money for less.

While there have been mistakes made - and the amount of money which the authority has borrowed must surely raise eyebrows - not all of this is of the council's making.

A rural county like Norfolk has its own particular challenges.

We have an ageing demographic. People are living longer and that means they are more likely to need social services.

Children with special needs are likely to have to travel further to their places of education, which increases transport costs if their schools are a distance away from their homes.

And yet the government does not seem to understand - or, if it does, to do anything to address it - that rural counties like Norfolk have different needs to urban areas.

The government announces single-year funding allocations, which gives authorities little ability to plan. And calls for fairer funding never seem to result in changes.

It is simply not acceptable that the government's 'solution' seems to consist of allowing councils to increase how much council tax they charge us.

That is not the long-term answer and it is high time the government recognised that and gave councils like Norfolk a better deal.