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Council tax hike and nearly £16m cuts on cards as Norfolk County Council readies budget

PUBLISHED: 19:49 27 September 2019 | UPDATED: 19:49 27 September 2019

Norfolk County Council's headquarters at County Hall in Norwich. Pic: Neil Perry.

Norfolk County Council's headquarters at County Hall in Norwich. Pic: Neil Perry.

Archant

People in Norfolk look likely to see the share of council tax they pay to the county council go up by nearly 4pc next year - at a time when millions more cuts will be made.

Andrew Jamieson, cabinet member for finance at Norfolk County Council. Pic: Norfolk County Council.Andrew Jamieson, cabinet member for finance at Norfolk County Council. Pic: Norfolk County Council.

Norfolk County Council revealed today it is looking at a further £15.8m of savings in 2020/21, on top of £31.1m of savings already agreed.

Council leaders, unveiling their budget plans ahead of consultation, said they were taking "prudent measures" to meet pressures and balance the books.

But taxpayers will have to shoulder some of that, with County Hall's budgeting predicated on a 3.99pc council tax increase.

That includes a 2pc precept specifically for adult social care, which the government recently gave the green light for.

Labour group leader Steve Morphew. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYLabour group leader Steve Morphew. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

A 3.99pc increase would see the county council's annual share of a band D bills rise by £54.27, to an £1,416.51.

Despite this month's announcement by the chancellor of extra government cash, the council says that one-off money does not plug the gap or allow longer-term planning.

Andrew Jamieson, cabinet member for finance, said: "While I welcome additional government money - including a predicted £17 million grant for children's and adults social care - it's still not enough to meet our spending needs.

"After nearly a decade of making savings, we still face rising demand for services and continued uncertainty over future funding. That's why I'm proposing a series of prudent measures to balance the books."

Ed Maxfield, Liberal Democrat leader at Norfolk County Council. Pic: Liberal Democrats.Ed Maxfield, Liberal Democrat leader at Norfolk County Council. Pic: Liberal Democrats.

Proposed new savings or increased income, in each department for 2020/21 includes:

- Adult social services: £7.2m - including saving £3.75m by increasing reablement, which helps people regain independence after being in hospital

- Children's services: £3.8m - including saving £3.5m by commissioning new care for children, with better outcomes and lower costs

- Community and environmental services: £1.9m - including saving £250,000 by renegotiating highways contracts

- Strategy and governance department: £500,000 - including saving £320,000 through income generation and vacancy management

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- Finance and commercial services and finance general: £800,000 - including raising an extra £500,000 from organisational change budgets

- Business transformation: £1.6 through making the council's processes more modern, efficient and business-like But it comes on top of £31.1m of savings already agreed for next year, including £17.3m form adult social services and £3.5m from children's services.

And savings for this year have not all been made, with overspends in adult social care and children's services.

Steve Morphew, leader of the Labour group at Norfolk County Council, said: "Using words like transformation, investment and developing proposals are an attempt at a cloak of invisibility to distract from the awful truth.

"The last time we heard those words the closure of children's centres soon followed. Transformation spells and cloaks of invisibility are a fiction straight out of Harry Potter.

"The reality is a much darker and more sombre prospect for those who need support. This is a further appalling lack of honesty and transparency. Every family in Norfolk will be paying an extra £1 a week for £1m a week fewer services next year.

"We have seen the callous increases and treatment meted out by this Conservative council towards disabled people this year. No sign of relief for the hardship being inflicted on them, just the prospect of more and worse."

And Dr Ed Maxfield, leader of the Liberal Democrat group, said: "These are just fantasy figures. Even after the chancellor has emptied his piggy bank, the Conservatives are saying they will cut spending on services for children and on vulnerable adults in Norfolk by almost £50m. I don't believe it can be done.

"They are relying on vague plans to transform services but they have tried that and all that happens is that the council racks up massive over-spends and people in need of support see their services cut.

"Why should we believe it will be any different this time? The council - and the government - must face facts and fund vital services properly, because if they don't it is the people most in need who will suffer most."

Consultation will take place over the autumn, before the government confirms the council's funding in December and the full council takes a final decision to set a budget in February.

The council has budgeted to save £395m since 2011/12, in which time cash from the government has reduced by £220m and cost pressures have risen by £440m.

Cabinet will consider the budget proposals when it meets at 10am on Monday, October 7.

- The EDP will be hosting a Facebook Live on Norfolk County Council's budget planning at 1pm on Monday. We will be joined by Andrew Jamieson, the cabinet member for finance and Simon George, director of finance and commercial services.

Email the questions you'd like us to put to them to neil.perry@archant.co.uk

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