Warning that scale of cuts in Norfolk could see gaps appear in services

Cracks in county council services in Norfolk could start to appear in the coming months because of the sheer scale of change involved, opposition Liberal Democrats have warned.

Norfolk County Council is looking to save �155m in the next three years and shed hundreds of jobs in the wake of cuts in public spending.

A report to be considered by members of the ruling cabinet on Monday says that implementing the programme of change, known as Norfolk Forward is proving challenging with a mix of job losses and changes which will see staff redeployed in new posts.

It notes that changes over the next three years in adult social services will affect 2,719 staff as part of 20 projects designed to save �4.72m, with 1,874 being transferred to Norse Care Ltd. In children's services 2,500 staff will be affected, aimed at saving �17.7m, while in environment, planning and transport there are plans to save �7.5m including cuts in the Norwich park-and-ride service.

By the end of April the council had issued 419 redundancy notices with 116 being voluntary redundancies. A further 137 staff were redeployed, saving about �700,000 in redundancy costs. Paul Morse, leader of the opposition Liberal Democrat group, warned that the public will soon start to notice the effects of the changes.

'I think part of the problem is going to be that things are changing so rapidly that the public doesn't quite see what's going on and you are going to find holes appearing in the months ahead,' he said. 'It does reflect the major changes that are being made and the numbers of people being made redundant as well as the cut backs in services.'

But the report also said the council had achieved a �25.6m savings target and a �475,000 underspend on a �579m revenune budget. Ian Mackie, cabinet member for finance and performance, said: 'These are challenging times for everyone at the county council. Clearly, there will continue to be difficult decisions, but this report outlines that the organisation is not only geared up to rise to that challenge, but is on track to reach our financial target, whilst continuing to deliver the high quality and high performing public services that this county deserves.'

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