Norfolk faces £10.5m in service cuts after late deal gets county budget through
Norfolk County Council has agreed its budget for the next 12 months, but only after a late deal was struck to rescue it after initial rejection.
It will mean a council tax freeze, but cuts to arts funding, reductions in library staff, less money for highways maintenance and extra charges for visitors to two of the county’s museums.
The Labour/UKIP/Liberal Democrat alliance budget, which includes more than £10m of service cuts and £19m in efficiences, was initially rejected at a meeting of the authority yesterday.
But, after talks took place between group leaders, the council’s managing director and head of law, the opposition Conservative group tabled an amendment, which was agreed late in the afternoon.
That amendment will see £500,000 further efficiency savings made in 2015/16, with the money saved going back into adult social services. Labour leader George Nobbs had already pledged not to go ahead with proposed £100,000 cuts to transport for people who get adult social care.
Plans to charge people for using some of the county’s recycling centres will go back before committee members for a rethink, while a new council priority to safeguard vulnerable people was agreed.
The amended budget was agreed by 36 votes to five, with 37 abstentions - the whole Conservative group.
An earlier Conservative amendment called for £30m of further savings over the next three years. Tory leader Tom FitzPatrick said the pace of change at County Hall was too slow and needed to accelerate, but it was rejected by 42 votes to 35.
The Green group put forward an amendment for council tax to rise by 1.99pc to protect vulnerable people, by bringing in £2.6m for adult social services. But, attacked by UKIP and the Conservatives, it was defeated by 53 votes to five, with 21 abstentions.
It was the first time in living memory that a council budget had been rejected, but Labour leader George Nobbs insisted he was not embarrassed.
He said: “Once again we have got a budget set for Norfolk. It took a few minutes longer than I would have liked, but at the end of the day, having made their points, the members have passed it.
“Despite losing almost £42m in government grants, and facing escalating costs of £27m, we have protected front line care services from the worst impact.”
His Conservative opponent Mr FitzPatrick said: “While we do not agree with the broad thrust of the budget, and believe that as an organisation Norfolk County Council has much farther to go in terms of efficiencies before deep service cuts should be considered, this is extra funding for adult social care that would never have been found had we not pushed this important issue.”
UKIP and Independent group leader Toby Coke said the Greens, having voted against the budget, should resign their posts as vice-chair of two committees.
But Mr Bearman said that was a matter for those committees. He added: “We said from the start that we would vote against an austerity budget.”
Members of Norwich People’s Assembly, Disabled People Against The Cuts, Equal Lives and the Green Party staged a protest outside County Hall before the meeting.
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