Brexit uncertainty hits Norfolk County Council’s plans over future savings

Andrew Proctor, leader of Norfolk County Council. Pic: Norfolk County Council.

Andrew Proctor, leader of Norfolk County Council. Pic: Norfolk County Council. - Credit: Norfolk County Council

Uncertainty over Brexit is hampering Norfolk County Council's planning over future cuts, according to County Hall officers.

The council is facing a £71m gap over the next two years, amid rising demand and the ending of the government's revenue support grant - money the government gives to pay for services.

The newly-formed Conservative cabinet will meet next week to consider how to help plug the gap and to agree a target to make £40m of savings in 2020/21.

And officers said uncertainty over Brexit was having a knock-on effect on the council's ability to plan for the future.

Officers said chancellor Philip Hammond's spring statement had been predicated on an EU exit deal being agreed and a three-year spending review which would set departmental budgets, including for financing local government.

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But, with the Brexit deadline extended to October, the waters for future planning have been muddied.

Officers, in papers which will come before County Hall's cabinet, officers state: "The chancellor has repeatedly indicated that, in the absence of a clear solution, or in the event of a disorderly exit from the EU, it is likely there be a one-year spending review only.

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"At the time of writing, the way forward on the UK's withdrawal from the EU and hence the implications for the spending review remain unclear.

"It remains the case that the council will not know its detailed funding position for 2020/21 until autumn 2019 at the earliest."

Council leader Andrew Proctor said bridging the £71m gap is "not going to be an easy call".

He said: "Whilst I support the government's desire for councils to be more self-sufficient, to be fair to local government we have taken the brunt of spending reductions whilst remaining the most efficient part of the public sector.

"Secretary of State James Brokenshire is very conscious of the need for multi-year funding.

"Not only is that crucial for our future financial planning we must have the certainty that has so far been lacking."

The council has submitted evidence to a fair funding review which is being carried out.

And Mr Proctor, along with Norfolk MPs, was meeting local government minister Rishi Sunak on Tuesday to discuss funding for Norfolk County Council.

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