Norfolk’s children’s services department faces £300,000 cuts
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More than £300,000 will need to be cut from the budget for children's services in Norfolk, councillors will hear next week.
And that could see a subsidy provided to schools to encourage the use of their buildings by the community could be slashed.
Norfolk County Council officers revealed last month that an extra £13m needed to be saved at County Hall. £11.3m has been identified through what the council calls efficiency savings, but a £1.7m gap remains.
The children's services department, which came in for stinging criticism from watchdogs Ofsted last year, has been asked to find £310,000 of the shortfall.
One proposal, to save £97,000, is for the council to cut its subsidy to schools which let out rooms for community use. The council says some schools already charge a higher rate, which means they do not get a subsidy, but acknowledge it could lead to schools charging groups more to recoup their costs.
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Another proposal, to save £130,000, is for the council to end its contract to manage trees on school grounds. Schools will have to sort out their own contracts, instead.
But council bosses admit they have yet to establish whether there is a health and safety responsibility which would remain with the council.
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James Joyce, chairman of the children's services committee at Norfolk County Council, said: 'The priority for children's services has to be to continue to build on the improvements that have already taken place.
'Any extra savings need to be achieved in line with our key priorities to reduce the number of looked after children, ensure families have the support and help they need as early as possible and to challenge and support schools and academies to strive for educational excellence.
'This year we have had to manage the biggest ever budget reduction and savings are getting progressively more difficult to achieve.
'Government cuts are set to continue for the foreseeable future and, as a consequence, public expectations have to change about what services can and should be provided.
'It is encouraging that the hard work of officers and members has helped us deliver significant efficiency savings but there is still a gap and we must deliver a balanced budget, with very little wriggle room.'
The possible savings will be discussed by the children's services committee when it meets next Wednesday.
Council leader George Nobbs previously suggested that the council might consider increasing its share of the council tax next year, with the extra money generated specifically used in under-pressure departments, such as children's services.
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