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Council tax rise of 3pc agreed by Norfolk County Council - but no u-turn in care cost changes

PUBLISHED: 17:05 11 February 2019 | UPDATED: 18:35 11 February 2019

Norfolk County Council at County Hall in Norwich. Photo: Neil Perry

Norfolk County Council at County Hall in Norwich. Photo: Neil Perry

Archant

People will be paying 3pc more in council tax to Norfolk County Council over the next year - and parents with disabled children were left angry there was no u-turn over care cost changes.

The Conservative-controlled council today set its revenue budget for the next 12 months at £409.3m, which includes £31.1m of savings - and a 2.99pc council tax increase.

The council tax increase will add just under £40 to the annual council tax bill for a Band D property.

That will come on top of the increase of about 10pc in the share which goes to Norfolk police and any increases agreed by district, borough, city, town and parish councils.

Council leader Andrew Proctor said the council had little choice but to turn to tax increases, given the lack of long-term funding from central government.

He said “To my mind, we are using our resources in the best way we possibly can, given the decisions which have to be made. That’s why we must live within our means.”

He said local government had “borne the biggest brunt” of national cuts and said a long term solution was needed from the government to give certainty, with the council still facing a £70m gap by 2022.

He said, as a Conservative who believed in low tax, it was not an easy decision to increase council tax, but they had no choice.

One of the most contentious parts of the budget was a proposal which will change how much disabled people pay for social care.

The change would mean about 1,000 people will have to pay more for care and 1,400 people will pay for care for the first time.

Conservatives said the move brings the council in line with national policy and other authorities.

But the Liberal Democrats and Labour tabled budget amendments to stop the changes.

Labour leader Steve Morphew said: “We’ll probably be accused of kicking the can down the road for our minimum income guarantee proposal. Guilty, and proud of it. I’d love to kick it so far down the road it was out of sight.”

Brian Watkins, Liberal Democrat councillor for Eaton, said it was “immoral and wrong”.

The amendments from both parties also proposed putting more money into children’s services, where the council had previously agreed to cut the budget for children’s centres, which will see 38 shut.

But both amendments were lost.

The Independent group’s amendment - which will see £25k earmarked for action a national ask and finish group cones up with to reduce single use plastics - was agreed.

The budget was approved by 47 votes to 27, with two abstentions.

Speaking after the meeting, parents who will be affected by the care cost changes spoke of their anger at the decision to change the rate of the minimum income guarantee.

Conservative councillors said the change was to bring the authority in line with national government policy and other councils. They said money would be made available to help people with disabilities into work.

But Judy and Nick Taylor, from Buxton, whose son has Down’s syndrome, said the council had abdicated their responsibility.

Mr Taylor said: “I’m disappointed, but not surprised. This means that disabled people are not going to be able to have a life, as money they currently use to see their friends and the like is going to disappear to be used for their care costs.”

Mrs Taylor said: “What really disappoints me is that we wrote to every Conservative councillor about this and not one of them has responded to us.

“My son cannot add two and two, so that money to get disabled people into work is not going to help him.”

The meeting was delayed for four hours because of a protest by Climate Extinction campaigners, which led to four arrests.

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