Controversial cuts to fire service and libraries could be scrapped

PUBLISHED: 10:00 24 October 2015 | UPDATED: 20:06 25 October 2015

Oulton Hall fire. Picture: Norfolk Fire Service/Brian Walshe

Oulton Hall fire. Picture: Norfolk Fire Service/Brian Walshe

Norfolk Fire Service/Brian Walshe

A £50m raft of possible cuts to services across Norfolk, including mass closures of libraries and fire stations, is on the brink of being abandoned.

With Norfolk County Council needing to plug a £111m funding gap, every department at County Hall was asked to identify what might need to be cut if it was spending 25pc less.

In total, if all those cuts were brought to bear, it would save the council £169m, but councillors wanted to be able to make some choices before putting possible cuts and savings out for public consultation.

The council’s policy and resources committee will meet on Monday to make those decisions, and a report put forward by leader George Nobbs and deputy leader Dan Roper proposes scrapping some £50m of the proposals, although more than £120m of cuts remain on the cards.

Among those proposals recommended to be abandoned is one which could have seen 27 of Norfolk’s 47 libraries shut to save £1.6m and the most extreme £2.9m cuts to the fire service, which might have led to the closure of 18 fire stations and the loss of hundreds of firefighter jobs.

That proposal led to warnings from fire chiefs that lives could be put at risk and the EDP launched a Save Our Stations campaign.

Even though the most savage cuts might be avoided, the fire service is still facing a redesign and it is likely the public could be consulted over the closure of two fire stations.

A proposal to reduce the transport subsidy provided to students aged 16-19 to get to sixth form and college to save £2m is also recommended to be scrapped, as is the suggestion that £16.2m could be saved by restricting access to adult social services.

Mr Nobbs said: “We always knew that in some departments, 75pc of cuts would not be feasible, but we wanted to be able to make a judgment.

“The things I am recommending that we withdraw from consideration are things we did not want to do as we realise how valuable they are.

“Having said that, there are still a lot of unpalatable things which we might still have to do and we will be consulting the public about those.”

When the remaining cuts are put out for public consultation, people will also be asked if they would be prepared for a rise in council tax, to prevent some of the other savings having to be made.

Mr Nobbs said: “Our planning is based on a 0pc increase, but it is our intention to ask the public what they would think of a rise if it prevented some cuts from happening.”

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