“I won’t be closing any fire stations” - pledge from leader Cliff Jordan as county council seek £125m savings
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Leader of Norfolk County Council Cliff Jordan has pledged not to close any fire stations, libraries, museums or children's centres despite the prospect of a further £125m of cuts to the county budget.
Mr Jordan was pressed repeatedly at the policy and resources committee by leader of the Labour group Steve Morphew for guarantees before debating the multi-million pound gap in the council's finances.
But he warned he 'cannot guarantee anything' as the additional savings will now have to be identified.
With an extra £31m to be taken from adult social services, chair of the adult social care committee - Conservative Bill Borrett - said residential care would no longer be 'the default position'.
'Going straight in to adult social care is unsustainable - we can't afford it,' he said.
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'Residential care would no longer be the default position for someone who needed help. If we can keep them living independently in their homes for longer they will be happier with a better quality of life.'
Mr Jordan added they would be 'protecting front line services'.
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'I won't be closing any fire stations. We have said we will be protecting the service, but not how we will deliver it,' he said. 'I do intend to keep all the services functioning.
'The government has said we have to save money, minimum wage has gone up and we can't raise council tax any further. We have got a shed full of tools - they take the tools and leave the shed.'
Mr Morphew added the scale of the cuts to social care would be enough to 'frighten people'.
'What you are saying is the best service for the people of Norfolk is the best we can afford given our straitened financial position,' he put to Mr Jordan. 'I do not think that is what the people of Norfolk are terribly keen on. They will be surprised to have a £100m gap forced upon them, and now we have got the county being told the way we do things are not acceptable any longer.
'I think this is all about austerity and cuts.'
Deputy leader of the council Alison Thomas said they were having an 'honest conversation' with the public about their financial situation.
'We have to live within our means and that is going to mean some difficult decisions. We will have to be creative with the decisions as we go forward.'
NDR costs spiralling 'out of control'
Costs of constructing the Norwich Northern Distributor Road have spiralled 'out of control' according to councillors who called for a full audit of the rising price.
Talks have been held behind closed doors after delays and changes to the scheme have pushed the cost higher than the initial £178.5m.
At the policy and resources committee Labour's Steve Morphew called for a public audit of the rising cost.
'How do we get to a position where a scheme that costs millions of pounds has a massive overspend?' he asked.
'I know it has escalated considerably and so does everyone else. I think the public would be astonished to hear that it is okay for costs to spiral out of control without us intervening early on.'
Director of community and environmental services Tom McCabe said: 'We have been working with the department to do everything we can to challenge costs and bring the scheme forward for as low a price as possible.'
Clarity over Michael Rosen pay off
The managing director of Norfolk County Council has clarified payments made to the outgoing director of children's services Michael Rosen, who resigned in November 2016.
MD Wendy Thomson has insisted £70,000 paid as 'compensation for loss of office' when Mr Rosen left the council was 'not a severance package'.
Ms Thomson said some 'confusion' in the press over the nature of the payment to Mr Rosen could have been the result of a 'cultural interpretation' of the payment.
'Some of the detail of the amounts are not appropriate to be discussed in full committee,' she said. 'I was asked if he received payments for dismissal and I said he did not receive any payments.
But she confirmed: 'There were payments made to facilitate the departure of Michael and to bring someone in to replace him swiftly. That is the situation.
'Any payments of £100,000 of more go to full council and this was within my discretion.'