'Taking taxpayers for fools': Anger over £39m cuts and savings

County Hall, Norwich. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Norfolk County Council leaders say just over £39m of savings are needed. - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

Millions of pounds of further cuts and savings at Norfolk County Council are "pernicious and unfair", with taxpayers being "taken for fools", say political opponents.

Leaders at Conservative-controlled Norfolk County Council say they need to find just over £39m of savings next year - or £47.8m if they were to make the unlikely decision to freeze council tax.

The cabinet will discuss the funding gap at a meeting on Monday, July 5, with £17.7m from adult social services and £8.7m from children's services among the latest savings drive

Details of those cuts and savings has yet to be decided and public consultation would take place in October.

Andrew Jamieson, cabinet member for finance at Norfolk County Council. Pic: Norfolk County Council.

Andrew Jamieson, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for finance. - Credit: Norfolk County Council

But Andrew Jamieson, the council's cabinet member for finance, said: "We’re facing a menu of unpalatable options, unless the government grasps the nettle and sorts out council funding – especially for adult social care.

“We can only stretch the elastic so far. Without fair, sustained funding, we’re going to have to make painful choices over savings, higher council tax, or both.”

But Labour opponents highlighted how the council was prepared to borrow millions - and pay interest on that - to underwrite part of the cost of the controversial £198m Norwich Western Link.

Norfolk County Councillor Terry Jermy. Picture: Conor Matchett

Labour county councillor Terry Jermy. - Credit: Archant

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Labour county councillor Terry Jermy said: "Norfolk Conservatives are taking taxpayers for fools.

"They claim the budget will only stretch so far, yet they can stretch it 3.8 miles to find the £50m, including interest, for their share for the Norwich Western Link road.

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"Next they're talking about cuts to vital council services because they don’t have enough money.

"This Tory cabinet is content to continue with the pay more for less, concrete over compassion mantra that we've seen over the last few years."

Brian Watkins, Liberal Democrat county councillor for Eaton. Pic: Liberal Democrats.

Brian Watkins, leader of the Liberal Democrat group. - Credit: Liberal Democrats

Brian Watkins, Liberal Democrat leader said: "These particular cuts are pernicious and unfair.

"The Tories need to put their house in order for the sake of Norfolk’s council tax payers.

"I fully understand there are no easy answers and the council faces some very difficult choices in the times ahead.

"However, it has a duty to protect the most vulnerable people across Norfolk, and it is dreadful that once again it is those who need the most help who will be hit the hardest by the council’s plans."

Ed Maxfield, Independent candidate for Mundesley division.

Ed Maxfield, Independent group leader. - Credit: Supplied by Ed Maxfield

Ed Maxfield, leader of the Independent group, said he feared the impact on vulnerable children.

He said: "As we come out of the pandemic, support for children who are most in need is once again under severe pressure.

"Years of attempts to get the 'High Needs' budget under control have failed with growing overspends and more cuts planned.

"The government must face up to the crisis in special needs funding or support will just keep on lurching from crisis to crisis."

Green city councillor Ben Price. Picture: Norwich City Council

Ben Price, Green group leader. - Credit: Norwich City Council

And Ben Price, leader of the Green group, said: "We have seen savage cuts in adult social care and children's services over the years, but the administration continues to spend obscene amounts of money on County Hall and on road construction.

"Another round of cuts to services which are so vital and make such a difference to so many people will be heartbreaking."

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