Funding boost to save public services

More than £12m of cuts to frontline county council services have been shelved after a better-than-expected grant from government, it emerged yesterday.

More than £12m of cuts to frontline county council services have been shelved after a better-than-expected grant from the government, it emerged yesterday.

Norfolk County Council was awarded an extra £12.7m as part of a 9.3pc funding increase in December, so some cuts have been put on hold.

These include £6.5m of cuts earmarked for adult social services, £2.9m for transport and waste, £1.9m for children's services and £420,000 for fire and community protection.

The council is looking to use just over £1m of the children's services cash to bridge a funding gap to pay for youngsters in care after the predicted drop in numbers failed to materialise. Plans to cut spending on road repairs and maintenance have also been shelved.

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Opposition leaders urged the administration to invest more in services for youngsters and older people - and avoid the temptation of going for a low council tax increase.

County councillors will spend this month at review panel meetings looking at the best way of spending the cash ahead of setting council tax levels for the next financial year.

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Ministers have told authorities not to raise council tax beyond 5pc, while officers at County Hall have been working on the basis of a 3pc rise.

Council leader Daniel Cox warned that though the worst-case scenario had been avoided, tough spending decisions were still in the pipeline.

"As ever, there will still be some difficult decisions to take because Norfolk continues to suffer under what everyone living here accepts is an unfair funding system, but I'm very pleased that the situation is brighter than we had originally thought," he said.

Labour's Sue Whitaker said the administration was wrong to restore all the highways cuts at a time when children's services had seen their national rating fall.

"The absolute strategic priorities are older people and children," she said. "I was surprised to see them putting nearly £3m back into planning and transportation."

Lib Dem leader Paul Morse said despite the U-turn many residents would still face extra charges.

"There's still going to be an extra £500,000 of charges for adult social services users - here you're talking about vulnerable people and I'm concerned about that," he said. "The administration is also looking at passing on £1.25m of charges to schools for things such as criminal records bureau checks and staff counselling."

On Monday, cabinet members were told that although the council had been preparing for a grant uplift of 3.7pc or £6.7m, the actual increase was 9.3pc. The average increase for all English councils was actually 3.6pc.

The revised budget proposals will be considered at the remaining review panels as follows: Monday, adult social services; Tuesday, fire and community protection; Wednes-day, children's services; Thursday, economic development and cultural services; January 23, corporate affairs.

Feedback from review panels and the result of consultation with stakeholders on budget options will be reported to cabinet on January 28.


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