A stark warning has been issued that the multi-million-pound budget gap facing Norfolk's biggest council could grow - and all services the authority is not legally bound to provide to the public could be at risk.

That could mean cuts to services such as libraries, museums, adult education and spending on roads as council leaders, who have had to save more than £560m in little more than 10 years, have to look for even more ways to save cash.

Leaders at Norfolk County Council need to plug a £46.2m hole in the authority's budget for 2023/24 and £26.5m of potential cuts and savings towards that has been identified.

That includes saving £14.2m from adult social services and £4.8m from children's services, with the council looking to spend less on residential care and encouraging people to live independently.

The council is also looking to save money by reducing how many children end up in care, by identifying problems sooner and preventing issues escalating.

Eastern Daily Press: Andrew Jamieson, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for financeAndrew Jamieson, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for finance (Image: Norfolk County Council)

But Andrew Jamieson, the council's cabinet member for finance, warned the need to find further savings could mean other services, which the council is not bound by law to provide, could face cuts.

He said: "The reality is that £565m of savings have been budgeted for from 2011/12 to 2023/24.

"Unless a different way of local government financing comes from the prime minister, then any non-statutory services or those where the service levels are above the statutory minimum levels will need to be considered."

The council has a statutory legal duty to provide services such as adult social care,  children's services, libraries and road maintenance.

But some of its services - and the level of services among some of those it has to provide - are discretionary, such as adult education and the museum service.

Eastern Daily Press: Norfolk County Council's County Hall headquarters in NorwichNorfolk County Council's County Hall headquarters in Norwich (Image: Mike Page)

Mr Jamieson said the £46.2m gap was "one of the largest this council has sought to bridge" and warned further pressures, including inflation costs, could yet mean the budget gap gets wider.

He said: "Potentially this could increase the size of the £46m gap still further."

The council has already signalled it is considering increasing its share of council tax by 4.99pc next year.

Eastern Daily Press: Kay Mason Billig, leader of Norfolk County CouncilKay Mason Billig, leader of Norfolk County Council (Image: Norfolk County Council)

Kay Mason Billig, leader of the Conservative-controlled council, last week dismissed concerns that Norfolk could follow other councils in effectively declaring bankruptcy.

She said the council was "prudent and financially competent" about the way it handled taxpayers' cash and said, while demand on services increased, so did spending.

Mrs Mason Billig added: "The two things we really need to see from central government is fairer funding for rural areas... and a three-year settlement, not just a year-on-year settlement."

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: Denise Bradley)

But Steve Morphew, leader of the opposition Labour group, said Mr Jamieson's warning that savings in spending on non-statutory services could have to be considered was alarming.

He said: "Non-statutory means anything there isn't a legal requirement to provide and even where there is, service levels could still be cut to the bone and creep within the law.

"Closing Holt Hall could be followed by other outdoor education facilities, just as closing children's centres and the youth service were not unlawful, but set up long-term consequences.

"Words like transformation, review and restructuring often hide a reduction in service.

"Does anybody really believe moving adult education from Wensum Lodge won't lead to a reduced service as soon as the dust dies down?

"Library closures are politically toxic, but don't be surprised to see rationalisation that saves money and cuts ease of access."

The council will consider further savings in December, with the budget due to be set in February next year.


It is a stark warning - and one which could have considerable consequences.

Norfolk County Council had already said it needs to plug a £46.2m gap in its budget - and that will mean millions of pounds will need to be saved.

Much of that money will need to be saved from the council's adult social care department and the budget for children's services.

Those are departments which do vital work to look after some of the most vulnerable people in society - and the pressure on those services is increasing all the time.

Much of the savings to be made involve changing the way the council does things.

The authority has long tried to cut the costs of placing people in residential care by encouraging people to get support in their own homes.

The authority has invested in properties which will help people to do that - and it does make sense that if people can live in their own homes and want to, then they should.

But only about £26m of the £46.2m savings have been identified. There are millions more to be found.

And Andrew Jamieson, cabinet member for finance, has warned the council could have to consider what it spends on services it is not legally obliged to provide - and what levels it spends on some of those it does have to provide.

That is a worrying statement.

As our council tax continues to rise, the services we pay for decrease.

The youth service - which the council was not obliged to provide - was scrapped some time ago and a number of children's centres were closed a few years ago.

The council does have to provide libraries and maintain roads. But the amount it spends on those services is not fixed - could those be a casualty of the need to cut further?

As Mr Jamieson says, the council has had to make £560m in savings in just over a decade. A lot of meat has been cut from the bone and it is becoming increasingly tough to find more savings.

And it hardly helps that the government only gives councils one-year settlements in terms of cash from Whitehall, or that the decision on that comes so late in the year.