Council tax freeze for Norwich families

Families in Norwich look set for a council tax freeze next year, while City Hall leaders are ready to raid reserves to protect frontline services.

But, with Norwich City Council needing to save �12.2m over the next four years to balance the budget, �1m will be set aside to cover the potential cost of making City Hall staff redundant.

The Labour cabinet will next week put forward its 2011/12 budget, in which it says an extra �1.85m needs to be saved. It says �850,000 can be saved by holding back spending and not filling staff vacancies, rather than by cutting services.

But leaders will need to take �1m out of reserves to prevent cuts to frontline services and are also setting aside �1m to cover the cost of possible redundancies at City Hall, with the authority having already cut its number of full-time equivalent posts from 850 to 754.

The council has said, given the scale of savings needed, it will 'not be possible now or in the future to avoid making staff redundant.' And taking �1m from the reserves, reducing them to �3.2m, will bring its coffers to the recommended level for prudent reserves.

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But Alan Waters, the city council's cabinet member for resources, performance and shared services, said: 'We have done a fairly heavy risk assessment and using the reserves enables us to hold the line on the budget into the next financial year. The opposition parties might be saying we should be cutting more right now, but that does not seem to be a sensible approach to us.'

Central government will allocate a grant worth the equivalent of a 2.5pc council-tax rise to any authority that opts not to increase its levy – which nets the city council almost �230,000 on top of the �9.2m it hopes to collect in tax.

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The Liberal Democrats want the number of top bosses at City Hall to be cut, but Labour said it had already taken out 'significant management costs' including one director, two assistant directors and several heads of service.

The city council's cabinet is set to recommend the budget when it meets next Wednesday, before a debate at full council.

Norfolk County Council, which is set to agree on Monday to �155m worth of cuts over the next three years, has already announced a tax freeze.

South Norfolk Council, Broadland District Council, North Norfolk Council, Great Yarmouth Borough Council, Waveney District Council, Breckland District Council, The Borough Council of King's Lynn and West Norfolk and Suffolk County Council have also said they are not planning to increase council tax.

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