Redundancies are expected at Norfolk County Council as bosses look to bring in consultants to find ways to save up to £20m a year.

Leaders at County Hall say the review is about finding ways to make the organisation more efficient and effective.

However, there are already fears that frontline services used by the people of Norfolk will suffer as a result.

It comes at a time when several council departments - for instance children's services and adult social care - are already struggling to cope with current demands.

The Conservative-controlled council is facing a £60m funding gap and leaders say they need to take action to make the authority "fit for the future".

They believe they can cut the number of management layers at the organisation and want to bring in external consultants to help strip away "duplication".

The council has not confirmed how many redundancies are likely - or what it would pay the external consultants.

Its cabinet will be asked to agree to the review when it meets early next month.

Eastern Daily Press: Andrew Proctor has sent a scathing letter to the Planning Inspectorate over its decision to allow 170 homes to be built in Brundall. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYAndrew Proctor has sent a scathing letter to the Planning Inspectorate over its decision to allow 170 homes to be built in Brundall. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Council leader Andrew Proctor said: “We need to ensure the council is match fit for the future – being as efficient and effective as possible, in delivering vital services to the county."

The council believes it can save between £15m to £20m every year - but critics have questioned what impact that will have on services.

It says a more effective structure will "enable performance to be maximised".

The council says a reduction in jobs would be managed by staff turnover, redeployment and flexible retirement, but that that there would also be voluntary and, potentially, compulsory redundancies.

Eastern Daily Press: Jonathan Dunning from Unison.Jonathan Dunning from Unison. (Image: Archant)

Jonathan Dunning, branch secretary for Unison at the county council, said: "It is worrying. We have already expressed concern about the implications of a reduction in staffing levels on the quality of services, especially in children's services and adult social care, which are struggling to cope at the moment.

"We are yet to be convinced that savings can be made that will not impact on services."

Mr Dunning said there could be benefits from a strategic review of the council, but it must not be driven by savings targets.

He said: "As former leader Derrick Murphy said many years ago, cuts have already been made into the bone.

"I think there's justification to do a review, but what we fear is something radical which changes how services are delivered and then, as has happened in the past, there has to be a u-turn on that because it doesn't work."

Mr Dunning added: "It all comes back to central government not funding local councils properly."

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

Steve Morphew, leader of the opposition Labour group, said if the review does find excessive duplication, Mr Proctor and his Conservative administration should be ashamed.

He said: "If anything, this approach is much too timid, given the size of the problems at County Hall.

"They have allowed the organisation to become silted up, so if they come back and say there is a lot of duplication, then that is on the administration, because they should have had a handle on that.

"There are lots of directors within the council and they have been allowed to build up their own mini empires, and if the administration had dealt with that three or four years ago we wouldn't have had this budget gap."

Liberal Democrat group leader Brian Watkins said: "Quite clearly, the Conservative administration is in crisis and really do not know what they are doing.

"The duplication they talk about cutting back is something they should have addressed some time ago."

Mr Watkins said it was "ridiculous" to pay external consultants, although the council says it does not have the capacity to carry out the review with existing staff.

The impact on staff morale was a major concern for Ben Price, leader of the Green group.

Eastern Daily Press: Green city councillor Ben Price. Picture: Norwich City CouncilGreen city councillor Ben Price. Picture: Norwich City Council (Image: Norwich City Council)

He said: "This review is clearly alarming. It is going to lead to staff cuts and the Conservative administration are implementing massive local government cuts on behalf of Boris Johnson.

"This is going to lead to a massive loss of morale among existing staff and I am concerned about their wellbeing."

He added he feared it would also have an indirect effect on the delivery of frontline services.

But the council stresses the restructure is not just about saving money.

Leaders say it is about making sure its structure allows it to make the most of changes in technology, duties and expectations over the past 10 years and ensure it is fit for the future.