‘Tough choices’ ahead as Norfolk County Council leader reveals £182m of savings are needed

Norfolk County Council

Norfolk County Council - Credit: Archant

'Tough choices' will have to be made to plug a £182m funding gap at Norfolk County Council over the next three years, the council's leader has warned.

George Nobbs, county council leader, issued the stark warning after officers said their estimates of the gap the council is facing had increased by £38m, on the back of £140m which has been saved over the past three years.

In an email which the Labour leader has sent to staff at County Hall, he warns of the 'scale of the challenge' which the county is facing and says there are 'no easy answers'.

Blaming 'unprecedented cuts' in the funding which the county council gets from central government, Mr Nobbs, who became leader after May's elections, said he would be inviting the public to help decide how to plug the funding gap.

Mr Nobbs wrote in the email: 'Now we have to fund an extra £182m over the next three years. That's vastly more than what was expected just a few months ago and it comes on top of £140m already saved.

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'This means that we all have to face some very tough choices.

'This new administration, its cabinet and its officers, are determined to face this challenge and to involve the people of Norfolk fully in examining all the options, but I have to say none of these are soft options.

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'While there may be simple answers in local government finance there are no easy answers and it will require us all to go the extra mile to meet this challenge.

'I appeal to members of all parties to work for Norfolk in setting a budget. This is no time for partisan point scoring – and will see none from me.

'The economic downturn is a national and international problem and it is not one of Norfolk's own making. We will succeed if we all pull together as a team. The people of Norfolk expect and deserve no less.'

The funding gap is revealed in a report drawn up by Paul Brittain, the county council's head of finance.

In his report he says the council had been estimating a gap of £144m, but following the spending review last month, analysis had added £38m to that prediction - taking it to £182m.

In Mr Brittain's report he said: 'Whilst there had been the hope that the government's deficit reduction programme with its associated reductions in public spending would now be coming towards its end, it is clear that this is not the case and that, in the absence of stronger economic performance, public spending reductions are likely to continue for the next four to five years at least.

'The difference of £38.4m is made up of further projected reductions in government funding of £28.4m (now £84.4m over the three years) and other changes (£10m) arising from a reduction in the provision for a pay award in 2015/16 and 2016/17; implementation of the national single tier pension in 2016; and a change in presentation for a small number of savings.'

It means the council will need to save £73.2m in 2014/15, £53.1m in 2015/16 and £55.7m in 2016/17.

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