Protesters urge rethink on Norfolk county council cuts

Dozens of council staff held a protest outside of County Hall, urging the administration to rethink the cuts and job loss plans particularly those for children's services.

Norfolk County Council is looking to close the Unthank Family Centre in Unthank Road as part of an overhaul of children's services which will see the loss of 470 posts, including frontline social workers.

The move which will also see the disbanding of a specialist family conferencing team is part of a budget package being proposed by the council which will cut nearly �60m from council services and axe the equivalent of 750 full-time jobs.

Staff and union officials were joined by members of the Norfolk Coalition Against the Cuts, and members of the Norfolk Coalition for Disabled People for a protest.

Jonathan Dunning, secretary of Norfolk Unison, said: 'The people who are going to suffer from that are first of all the children, the staff who will lose their jobs, and the wider public if they are to pick up the cost or expensive out of county placements.'

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Labour's Bert Bremner also questioned whether the Unthank Centre decision was driven by a desire to make money by selling off the site, while Green councillor Stephen Little questioned what he impact of the changes would be, and what would happen to joint work currently carried out with nearby schools and medical practices.

Alison Thomas, cabinet member for children's services, said the decision was about prioritising the service and the Unthank Centre's location had no bearing on the proposals.

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'It's almost impossible for anybody to accurately predict what possible repercussions there might be in the changes to the service. We have equality impact assessments, which have informed our decisions, at this moment in time we are looking to redesign the services, with the budget we have available. Our response has been to make sure service we have is the best we can provide,' she added. 'Child protection is high on my agenda. I would certainly take no decisions that I felt would risk child protection. There's no doubt this has a been a difficult challenge, and there have been no easy answers. Within children's services there have been difficult decisions. There are large numbers of job losses proposed within children's services.'

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