Live coverage: Protests as Norfolk County Council discusses millions of pounds of cuts

Protesters against cuts for the disabled and carers at County Hall. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Protesters against cuts for the disabled and carers at County Hall. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2015

Protesters gathered outside County Hall this morning as councillors met to discuss a budget which will cuts millions more from services in Norfolk.

Norfolk County Council's budget for 2015/16 presumes a council tax freeze, but service cuts of £10.5m are proposed, with a decision due to be taken by full council today. £40m of cuts in 2015/16 have already been agreed.

The proposals include cutting the amount the council spends on transport for people who use adult social care, cuts to arts funding, reducing library staff, charging for parking at Gressenhall Museum and Farm, removing the subsidy to schools for community groups using their facilities and charging for entry to the Ancient House Museum in Thetford during the winter.

The rainbow alliance of Labour/UKIP and Independent Group/Liberal Democrats have put forward a revenue budget of £318.29m.

Some £3.7m will have to be drawn from reserves.

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George Nobbs, Labour leader of Norfolk County Council, had said, given the scale of government cuts and the increase in demand on council services, it was 'miraculous' that the authority had formulated the budget.

He said: 'To have come through the year we have, with the demand on services, the reduction in government grants, the cost of dealing with the incinerator debacle, to have made the differences we have and, in real terms, to be proposing spending £10m more than we did last year, is nothing short of miraculous.'

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However, members of Norwich People's Assembly, Disabled People Against The Cuts, Equal Lives and the Green Party staged a protest outside the council's Martineau Lane headquarters this morning.

Mark Harrison, of Equal Lives, said cutting spending on transport would have a devastating impact on the poorest and most isolated people, already hit by the raft of benefit cuts.

He said: 'In a rural county like Norfolk a reduction in access to transport will be particularly hard felt.'

Conservative group leader Tom FitzPatrick said the pace of change at County Hall is too slow and has proposed an amendment to save more £30m extra.

He said: 'I am proposing an additional £30m of savings to be found from Norfolk County Council's organization: from improved practice; proper performance management and efficiencies in terms of ways of established practice, but procurement as well.

'The money will go towards adult social services to ensure it has the funding to provide vital care in the community; to support front-line services and to fund the changes Norfolk County Council must make to be fit for the future.

'The pace of change at Norfolk County Council has been too slow, the lack of political leadership means opportunities have been missed and there has been no strategy in dealing with the council's finances.'

The Green group at Norfolk County Council has put forward an amendment for council tax to rise by 1.99pc to protect vulnerable people.

Green group leader Richard Bearman said: 'This is the only choice at present – we would much prefer to use other methods of financing local services, which will have to be developed if central government cuts all local government funding by 2020, as threatened.

'A small council tax rise will mean front-line services for the elderly can be at least somewhat protected. We cannot support the harsh cuts and unnecessary cuts being imposed on those who need these services the most.

'Norfolk people are behind this: 74pc of people said they would support a 2pc council tax rise to be spent on adults and children's social care.

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