Coronavirus pressure on council coffers cut, but £16m overspend forecast

Norfolk County Council at County Hall in Norwich with Andrew Jamieson, the cabinet member for financ

Norfolk County Council at County Hall in Norwich with Andrew Jamieson, the cabinet member for finance inset. Picture: Norfolk County Council/Neil Perry - Credit: Norfolk County Council/Neil Perr

The pressure on the coffers of Norfolk County Council because of the impact of coronavirus has been reduced, council leaders have said - but they are still facing an overspend of nearly £16m by the end of the year.

The bulk of the pressure on the budget set by the council in February is from adult social care, which has a forecast overspend of almost £10m.

The council says the adult social care overspend is down to extra packages being put in place during coronavirus and because planned savings have not been made due to the pandemic.

But, while the Conservative-run council has reported previously that it faces a £20m shortfall, between the government’s Covid-19 grant and the costs and lost income caused by the pandemic, they say that has now reduced slightly to £18.1 million.

A report by Simon George, executive director of finance and commercial services says, while the severity of the situation is not underestimated, the challenge can be met, with measures to be taken to balance the books.

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Andrew Jamieson, cabinet member for finance, said: “I have been upfront about the financial challenges that all county councils are facing and that’s why we are urging the government to provide sustainable funding.

“Our track record of managing these pressures means I’m confident we will be able to balance the books this year – buying us time for the government to make some key decisions.”

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But Steve Morphew, leader of the opposition Labour group, said: “A balanced budget this year will mean one of three things. Either they have been hiding money in the past, the government comes up with a lot more money than we expect, they impose ferocious cuts or use smoke and mirrors accountancy tricks to cover the gaping wounds until after the elections in May 2021.”

And Dan Roper, group spokesman for the Liberal Democrat Group said: “This reduction in budget gap is entirely down to changes in calculation methods, not because there is any extra money or because of any positive action by the council leadership.

“The finances of the county council are moving into a very dangerous position and the question is whether the Tory administration will show real local leadership or whether they will just wait and hope for more government funding.”

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