Norfolk taxpayers face biggest council bill hike for a decade
- Credit: Archant Norfolk
People living in Norfolk are poised to see the county council part of their tax bill rise by £55 a year as politicians attempt to balance the budget at County Hall with the biggest council tax rise in a decade.
But £44m of savings will still have to be made at the authority in the next financial year as central government funding for local authorities continues to fall.
Ahead of detailed budget papers due to be released next week, Conservative politicians in Norfolk said they would put an extra £9m into the troubled children's services department after warnings last year the department faced a £9.3m overspend. The adult social services department is to be given an extra £25m to cope with demand from an ageing population, care costs and the national living wage and to address a £9.58m overspend. But the department will still be expected to find £11m of savings in other areas. Fuller details of where saving will be made are due to be published next week.
Norfolk County Council leader Cliff Jordan said many of the savings could be made through 'efficiencies and financial management'.
He said they would not revisit controversial plans such as closing fire stations, which were withdrawn at last year's budget. He said: 'We don't want people to suffer at all. We are doing what we can.' But he admitted there might have to be some 'low grade' stuff we can no longer do. 'We are getting quite tight to the bone,' he added.
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The budget and plans for a 4.8pc council tax rise – which will go to committees in the coming weeks and be voted on by the full council next month – will come just three months before Norfolk County Council elections in May.
Mr Jordan said: 'At this point in any political cycle it would clearly be expedient not to raise council tax at all, and certainly not to increase it further. My judgment is that we must put those worries aside and do the right thing for Norfolk.
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'We want to look after the most vulnerable people in Norfolk. We have a duty and responsibility to invest in services that will support their quality of life.'
The council's finance director Simon George said that he did not expect to have to use reserve funds this year, but expected to use reserves of £5m next year.
George Nobbs, leader of Labour group at Norfolk County Council, said it was extraordinary that they had not yet seen the budget and it was still a 'complete mystery'.
He said there was 'nothing they could do' on council tax as the government was starving councils of funds. 'Either we don't provide services or raise tax locally,' he said.
But Mr Nobbs said it was not going to be enough to make up for the seven years of cuts that the council have put in place.
What do you think Norfolk County Council can do to balance the budget? Email email@example.com