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'Cliff edge' warning as Norfolk faces losing millions of pounds

PUBLISHED: 14:52 10 December 2018

Andrew Proctor, Leader of the Council. Pic: Neil Perry

Andrew Proctor, Leader of the Council. Pic: Neil Perry

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Norfolk is at a "cliff edge" because it stands to lose millions of pounds to spend on services when a government grant is pulled.

That’s the stark warning from worried county councillors who are battling to balance the books amid slashed funding.

Norfolk County Council will lose £39m in 2020/21 because the government is cutting the revenue support grant it gives the authority.

And the Conservative council says Norfolk is a special case and is calling on the government to phase the reduction through to 2024, rather than remove it all at once.

Andrew Jamieson, Conservative councillor for North Coast, tabled the motion to lobby the government at full council.

He said Norfolk’s demographics heaped pressure on children’s services and adult social care budgets, which is why it gets more money from the revenue support grant than other shire counties.

He said the council had already saved millions and needed to save £79m in the next three years.

He said: “There’s every reason to recognise that Norfolk’s contribution to the national savings must be balanced with our ability to budget in a sustainable way.

“The loss of £39m in 2020/21 represents a cliff edge which, despite careful planning, will be difficult to manage.”

Labour tabled an amendment to the motion calling for the government to abandon its plan to reduce the revenue support grant to zero.

Labour’s Mike Sands, who represents Bowthorpe, said local councils had been “under siege” from central government.

But that amendment, and one from the Liberal Democrats calling for tax reform, was rejected.

Conservative leader Andrew Proctor said his party’s motion had a more realistic chance of success.

The council unanimously agreed to write to chancellor Philip Hammond, communities secretary James Brokenshire and all Norfolk MPs to consider the phasing of the reduction.

Labour leader Steve Morphew said, although his party would support the motion, he said it was “just about the weakest thing you could do” and said the county’s MPs had been “a waste of space over local government funding”.

The council was supposed to find out its local government settlement - the amount the government gives local councils - last week, but that was delayed while the government wrestled with Brexit.

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