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Fresh cuts looming as Norfolk County Council reveals it must save £125m over four years

PUBLISHED: 09:23 24 June 2017 | UPDATED: 14:55 24 June 2017

Cliff Jordan, leader of Norfolk County Council. Pic: Submitted

Cliff Jordan, leader of Norfolk County Council. Pic: Submitted

Submitted

A fresh wave of cuts to services for people across Norfolk is looming, after bosses at Norfolk County Council signalled they need to save almost £125m over the next four years.

In the same week that the council discussed an overspend on the Norwich Northern Distributor Road, the authority has outlined how millions more needs to be saved.

That comes on top of the £334m saved or earmarked to be saved from 2011/12 to 2017/18 and comes at a time when the council’s adult social care services and children’s services department are under particular pressure.

A report to the council’s policy and resources committee next month predicts it will have to save a further £100m from 2018/19-2021/22, on top of savings of £24.9m already agreed for 2018/19 and 2019/20.

It is proposed that the committee will ask services to find the following savings over four years:

• Adult social care: £31m

• Children’s services (non-schools): £23.5m

• Community and environmental services: £31.2m

• Managing director’s department: £1.3m

• Finance and commercial services: £3.6m

• Finance general (which includes pension and grant payments): £9.4m

According to council papers, the plan is to save £22.4m in 2018/19, £30.1m in 2019/20 and £47.4m in 2020/21.

The council says it is developing proposals, based on government indications that money it gives councils through what is known as a revenue support grant will end after 2019/20.

That will mean the council will have to rely on council tax, business rates and specific grants for its funding.

Councillors are recommended to approve the savings targets and request savings proposals to be considered by service committees in the autumn.

Conservative council leader Cliff Jordan admitted: “It is absolutely horrendous. We have done pretty much all we can do with efficiencies and we are going to have to make some real decisions as to what we can and cannot do.

“I am going to write to the government and explain the situation. I’m going to say ‘this is where we are and we just cannot do what is required’. It’s a big punch.

“We have changed some of the things we do and we’re not as loose as we were before.”

The council says ideas to help save the millions includes putting more services into communities, using smarter technology and boosting the economy.

The council has already moved to create a company to build homes on council land, which would generate money for services and Mr Jordan said that sort of commercialisation would now be crucial.

The council says it is developing a ‘caring for our county’ plan, which includes ideas such as:

• Empowering local people and communities to help themselves and integrating services into market towns

• Managing demand for costly children’s and adults’ social care, through more prevention work and supporting less vulnerable people to be more self-reliant

• Support for housing and economic regeneration

• Smarter use of technology, to reduce costs

• Operating support services in a more commercial way, to raise money for frontline services

Labour group leader Steve Morphew questioned the timing of the announcement, coming after the county and general elections.

He said: “It makes grim reading. It’s taking a very large slab of money out, but they haven’t even managed to make the savings that were in the budget this year.

“I don’t see how they are going to take more out without stopping services. It will mean stripping it back to the bone.

“It’s their government and their austerity programme which has got us here, and it’s people in this county who are going to get punished.”

The need for further savings comes after people in Norfolk this year faced the biggest hike in council tax for a decade. County councillors agreed a 4.8pc rise in its share of the bill.

Council leaders defended that increase at the time, saying the cash was desperately needed so that £25m could be pumped into adult social care.

Three per cent of the council tax increase was specifically to pay for adult social care and the council has already been planning for a further 3pc for social care in 2018/19, on top of a further 1.9pc hike.

The council’s policy and resources committee will meet on Monday, July 3.

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