Cuts to front-line Norwich services revealed
City Hall leaders have revealed how they plan to save �600,000 through cuts and changes to front-line services in Norwich - with some public toilets set to close, cutting of grass verges scaled back, tree planting suspended, Christmas lighting reduced and higher charges for burials and allotments.
Norwich City Council, which needs to save �4.6m in 2012/13 asked the public, through its Your Services, Your Say consultation, to help decide how to shave just over �600,000 from its budget.
More than 1,500 people responded and ranked a list of services in order of importance to them, which the council has used to decide where to wield the axe.
That will see �625,000 worth of savings made. which includes: • Closing St Saviours and Tombland public toilets (saving �30,000)
• Reducing the amount of Christmas lighting in Norwich (saving �20,000)
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• Increasing the cost of an allotment to an average of �70 a year (saving �19.000)
• Upping the cost of burials from �518 to �630 and the price of plots from �715 to �860 (saving �30,000)
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• Reducing grass verge cutting from once a fortnight to once a month (saving �40,000)
• Charging people for replacement wheelie bins (saving �40,000)
• Suspending tree planting except in conservation areas (saving �60,000)
• No longer subsidising Norwich yacht station (saving �20,000)
• Saving �190,000 by changing the way planning applications are managed, with no more free advice.
But street cleaning will not be reduced from weekly to monthly, litter bins will not be removed from parks or not replaced if they are damaged in streets and toilets in parks will remain open.
In total, just under �280,000 of cuts which had been proposed will not be cut after the public consultation showed they were what people ranked the most important to safeguard.
Brenda Arthur, leader of Norwich City Council, said: 'We don't want to be doing this and the cuts are something which are not of our making.
'It's the coalition government's fault, but as a council we have a responsibility to make these tough choices. That's why the consultation has been so important to find out people's priorities.'
She said the council was grateful to those who had responded. She said: 'It's given us a start for where we should be going.
'We will be going with what the people of Norwich are telling us are important and those priorities will form the backbone of our budget proposals which will be bring forward in February.
'It's a sign of the times that people have told us that they want to see value for money. That's what we have been seeking to achieve for a number of years, so it's good to see that's been recognised by the public.'
But the cuts will not end with what the public got to pick and choose from. Behind the scenes, �3.5m will be saved through what the council describes as 'a package of efficiency, back office and strategic savings'.
That is inevitably likely to lead to job losses, but the council says it cannot comment on the scale of it because consultation with staff needs to take place.
And it looks like bad news for organisations which rely on the city council for funding, with proposals to shave just under �210,000 off external grants and commissioning.
The cabinet, when it meets on November 9, will also be asked to agree to carry out further work on a package of 'specific savings' to save just over �340,000.
While the council says that must remain confidential for now, the report to councillors says there will be a need for 'dialogue with affected groups' and 'further targeted consultation.'
It is understood, however, that plans to cut floodlighting of buildings and charge for pest control, which had been on the original list of potential cuts, could form part of the package which will go out for further consultation.
The package of cuts has been criticised by the Liberal Democrat group at City Hall. They said the consultation did not genuinely give the public the chance to come up with their own ideas.
They set up their own Consult Norwich website consultation, which they have extended until the budget is set next January.
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