Public toilets, beach huts and North Lodge Park under spotlight in North Norfolk District Council budget report


- Credit: PA

A freeze in Council Tax is on the cards for a sixth year running in north Norfolk.

But a searchlight has been turned on all North Norfolk District Council's (NNDC) services and assets as chiefs hunt for ways of saving and making money to bridge a £2m gap in its budget over the next four years.

Proposals include:

? getting rid of a handful of public toilet sites, or re-developing them as cafés, shops etc;

? increasing car-park charges;

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? turning the old children's play area in Cromer's North Lodge Park into a 55-space pay-and-display car park;

? increasing the charge for beach huts with a rise of up to 104pc by 2019-2020 and holding an annual auction for some Cromer huts;

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?re-developing, possibly with housing, a council-owned site on Grove Lane, Holt;

? setting up a property company so that the council can sell or develop its assets, or buy and develop others.

Last November's 'shared services' arrangement, which sees NNDC chief executive Sheila Oxtoby and chief financial officer Karen Sly work for both NNDC and Great Yarmouth Borough Council, will be reviewed in June to see how much money it saved and whether more costs could be cut by sharing other services.

Tom FitzPatrick, NNDC leader, said under proposals for 2016-2017, no services would be cut or reduced.

But at the moment the council received £2.4m in government funding which would shrink to nothing after 2019-2020.

'We are running a pretty lean and efficient ship but the council, along with others across the country, is being told to stand on its own two feet financially,' said Mr FitzPatrick.

'So we are looking at every possible imaginative way to generate income to provide maximum benefit to taxpayers.'

Council officers have prepared a £13.6m balanced budget for 2016-2017. The current year's budget is £14.3m.

At a meeting on Monday, February 8, NNDC's cabinet is set to recommend that the full council approves the budget and fees and charges proposals.

It would mean an average Band D household would continue to pay £138.87 towards NNDC's slice of the overall Council Tax bill.

Andrew Wells, leader of the Liberal Democrat opposition group on NNDC, condemned proposals to close or redevelop seven, as yet unidentified, public toilets.

The Lib Dems believe those targeted may be in Cromer, Sheringham, Fakenham, Blakeney, Mundesley and Wells.

Mr Wells said: 'The council exists to provide local services, and it should use any commercial activities to fund and protect services, not to destroy them.'

John Rest, NNDC cabinet member for assets, said all the targeted sites were in places where there was alternative provision.

He added: 'If the budget proposals go ahead to council and if they are approved then reviewing the sites doesn't mean we would close them – it could mean new public toilets are provided, it could mean the toilets are provided by others or it could mean that they close as there are better facilities nearby. It's just too early to say, we are interested in providing quality facilities that people want to use rather than expecting people to put up with facilities which are, quite frankly, past their best.'

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