Norfolk union plans cuts demo today

Union officials are planning to hold a demonstration outside of Norfolk County Hall today as part of a protest at cuts in jobs and services.

The council's ruling cabinet is expected to recommend a raft of budget proposals which will see cuts of up to �60m in the coming 12 months and up to 1,000 job losses.

The plans follow a 'Big Conversation' with residents across the county, which saw the cabinet row back from controversial proposals to tighten up the eligibility criteria for older people to access care, as well as rethinking plans to scrap a subsidy for post-16 transport for college students, following overwhelming opposition.

The authority also wants to use around �10m of government cash earmarked for social care to stave off some of those cuts and create a �5m prevention fund.

But officials from Unison are unhappy about the cuts which are still planned, particularly the scrapping of the youth service, he redesign of day services, and the closure of the Unthank Family Centre in Norwich.

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Jonathan Dunning, Norfolk Unison branch secretary, said the protest aimed to highlight both the cuts and jobs issues, and he said the union had also not ruled out taking industrial action in protest.

'What we are talking about is cuts to public services first and foremost and the knock-on effect of that on members' jobs,' Mr Dunning said.

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'There's a recognition on all sides that nobody wants to be making these cuts. Where the difference of opinion lies is that the current administration of Norfolk County Council sees the cuts as an inevitable necessity, whereas our view is that there are range of alternatives and the coalition government shouldn't be forcing local authorities to make such huge cuts as they are.'

Norwich City Council leader Steve Morphew questioned whether County Hall had really made a U-turn on some of the cuts in preventative services. 'It's not true to say they aren't going to make a cut, if anything it's money being replaced by the NHS and we are not quite sure what for. If that's true, it's a con.'

Ian Mackie, deputy council leader and cabinet member for finance, said: 'The financial strategy which has been outlined not only provides a balanced budget for 2011/12, but also puts into place a mechanism to deliver further savings and financial stability over the medium term. The reduction in government grants and rising costs are not only for 2011/12, so in planning this budget we needed to be mindful for what is yet to come.

'The simple fact is that there is less money around and we cannot afford to burden future generations with the costs of today. That inevitably means people may have to wait longer for schemes we would all like to go ahead.'

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