What will Norfolk County Council’s 4.8pc council tax hike mean for you?
- Credit: Archant
People in Norfolk are facing the biggest hike in council tax for a decade, after county councillors agreed a 4.8pc rise in its share of the bill.
That will mean the average Band D householder will have to find an extra £57 a year to pay to Norfolk County Council - the largest increase since 2006.
Council leaders defended the increase, saying the cash was desperately needed so that £25m could be pumped into adult social care.
But County Hall's budget also contains £48m of cuts, including some £5m less to be used to commission charities and organisations which provide housing support.
And that prompted warnings that some of the county's most vulnerable people could be hit, despite council leader Cliff Jordan's assertion this was a 'compassionate' budget.
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There are also calls for the government to properly tackle social care funding. While 3pc of the council tax increase will be used for social care this year and the council plans for a further 3pc next year, councillors said a national solution had to be found.
Conservative leader Mr Jordan acknowledged the scale of the increase could be difficult for some households, but said the money was needed to look after an ageing population.
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He said: 'Collectively, we live here and collectively, we have to look after each other. There is a proportion of people in Norfolk who cannot look after themselves.
'I apologise for having to increase council tax, but we just cannot do without it. I have kept it as low as I possibly can.'
The need for the increase was accepted, but Liberal Democrat councillor Brian Watkins said it was not sustainable in the long term to expect local taxpayers to fund adult social care.
He said cross-party consensus was needed at a national level because the social care system is 'at breaking point'.
James Bullion, the council's director of adult social care, had already said much of the extra money would disappear to cover the extra costs of care, including to pay staff the Living Wage.
The budget will see the council invest just under £1.4bn in Norfolk over the next year, but there were warnings of the impact of nearly £50m of cuts.
While much of that is from back office efficiencies, the most contentious cut is taking £5m, over three years, out of the Building Resilient Lives budget.
Organisations such as Norfolk YMCA, The Benjamin Foundation and St Martins Housing Trust, commissioned by the council to provide services, say the cuts would reduce their ability to deliver housing support services.
Protesters against the cuts gathered outside County Hall before yesterday's meeting.
And Labour put forward an amendment, seconded by the Liberal Democrats, to bring forward back office cuts to reverse £1.2m of the Building Resilient Lives cuts.
But Conservatives attacked the proposal, saying officers had said those back office savings would not be achievable.
And leader Cliff Jordan said it was now the responsibility of the district councils, not the county council, to tackle homelessness.
Tim Sweeting, the chief executive of YMCA Norfolk, which will be affected by the £5m cut from money for housing support services, said: 'It's hugely disappointing to see funding cut which can help vulnerable people in our community.
'What I have said to Cliff Jordan is that we are about more than putting a roof over people's heads. It's about more than homelessness, it's about prevention and a really cheap way to engage with people and prevent costs on health services, councils and the justice system further down the line.
'We need a radical revision to be able to fix what is a broken health and social care system.'
The Lab/Lib Dem amendment also wanted to use capital cash to put £2.75m into keeping children with special educational needs within Norfolk.
But Conservative Roger Smith, chairman of the children's services committee said that proposal was 'so vague as to be tokenistic'.
The amendment was defeated by 41 votes to 37, with one abstention, with one member of the public yelling: 'You'll have blood on your hands.'
A UKIP amendment, to reverse a £622,000 cut to libraries and £420,000 cut to the fire service, both scheduled for 2018/19, was defeated by 41 votes to 38.
UKIP's Paul Smyth warned there were already retained firefighter stations with poor availability, even without further cuts.
But deputy leader Alison Thomas said the library service changes would mean libraries could open later and that it was premature to reject undeveloped savings to the fire service.
A Green amendment, to head off some of the cuts to housing support by increasing council tax to 4.99pc, was also defeated.
The budget was ultimately agreed, after more than four hours of debate, by 41 votes to 33, with three abstentions.
Labour leader George Nobbs said the cuts to housing support were 'unnecessary' and said the budget was a case of 'smoke and mirrors', although Mr Jordan insisted it was 'robust'.
Suffolk County Council voted earlier this month to increase its share of council tax by 3pc.