Last-ditch plea to reverse Norfolk cuts that could see youngsters ‘paying the price’

PUBLISHED: 11:00 11 February 2011 | UPDATED: 13:20 11 February 2011

County Hall in Norwich.

County Hall in Norwich.

Archant Norfolk Photographic © 2011

An 11th-hour bid has been launched to convince councillors to abandon cuts that critics claim could hurt Norfolk’s most vulnerable young people.

Norfolk County Council Lib Dem leader Paul Morse.

The opposition Liberal Democrats will today present their alternative budget to the ruling Conservatives - urging them not to make youngsters “pay the price” for the failings of others.

The proposals hinge on an idea to sell 5.8pc of the county farms estate to pay for new children’s homes to be built and end the need for youngsters to be sent out of the county for care.

Lib Dem leader at County Hall, Paul Morse, said the money saved from not having to pay for the costly care could be used to:

● Save the youth service, which is set to be axed

"We need to invest in our young people. They shouldn’t have to pay the price for the failings of bankers and politicians"

Norfolk County Council’s Liberal Democrat leader Paul Morse.

● Retain in full the current support services for schools, which is set to be cut in half

● Keep the current level of support for children in care

● Reverse any planned reduction in special educational needs services

● Retain in full the attendance service, which deals with absence and truancy.

The budget will be presented as an alternative when the full council makes its final decision on the budget for 2011-12, which includes a host of cuts and savings designed to make up a £155m funding shortfall.

Of the proposals, one of the most controversial has been the plan to save £4.2m a year by axing the youth service.

In December, the EDP reported how there were fears that the move could result in higher youth crime and more young people not in education, employment or training (Neet).

The alternative budget has been adjusted from a similar one that was presented last month. Then, councillors rejected the county farms sell off.

Mr Morse said: “I think it’s worth remembering that the land we propose to sell only raises £75,000 per year in rent. If you sell it and reinvest it in the way we are describing, you are generating £10m.

“Across three years we would be putting £33.5m more into children’s services, spending £14.5m more on preventative care for vulnerable adults and saving £3m on redundancy payments by saving over 300 jobs.

“We think young people are taking a terrible hammering when you combine what the government and the county council are doing. There’s no need for it, if only the council would realise that services are more important than keeping land.”

He added: “I don’t think people realise what the youth service does. They view it as something that provides youth clubs, but it’s a lifeline for a lot of vulnerable young people who get one to one help from very experienced and able youth workers.

“I would ask the councillors to think about it and to not just follow the party line. These are huge decisions, affecting lots of people’s lives.

“We need to invest in our young people. They shouldn’t have to pay the price for the failings of bankers and politicians.”

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