Axe hovers over two West Norfolk fire stations despite £50 million of cuts being scrapped

George Nobbs (leader of County Council) ENGANL00120131028141226

George Nobbs (leader of County Council) ENGANL00120131028141226

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Two West Norfolk fire stations remain at risk of closure today despite plans to abandon around £50 million of proposed service cuts.

A public consultation is now set to take place on plans to shut the stations in Heacham and Outwell as part of proposed cuts to Norfolk County Council services worth more than £120 million.

Residents are also set to be asked for their views on a near two per cent rise in council tax to help close the funding gap.

It emerged last month that four West Norfolk stations could shut if cuts of up to 25 per cent had to be made to the fire service’s budget.

Members of the county council’s policy and resources committee backed plans to withdraw that idea during a meeting this morning.

But plans to shut the Heacham and Outwell stations remain in place, along with proposals to remove second crews from retained stations with more than one crew.

A spokesman said: “The closure of Heacham and Outwell will go forward for consultation.”

Some of the most drastic proposals which now look set to be scrapped include the most severe cuts to children’s and adult social care services and a plan which could have seen more than half of the county’s libraries close.

But the authority’s plans would still reduce spending by around £123 million over the next three years.

They include reducing services at museums including Lynn Museum, closing registration offices in Downham, Fakenham and Swaffham and reducing or revising what it calls “non-safety critical” road maintenance requirements.

But council leader George Nobbs said he was “glad” the council had managed to halt many of the most drastic cuts.

He said: “We have tried our hardest to protect and invest in our priorities at a time when local government remains under sustained attack by the Government.

“Our strategy has been to invest in prevention services for the elderly and in children’s services so people don’t become dependent on us at a later date. The coming year will actually see us recruit more care workers in our re-enablement service as we seek to invest in better care.

“Setting a three-year budget will give stability and will give staff time to bring in changes in the way they work.

“At the end of this, you will see a council that is more efficient, more locally based and is targeting its support for residents far better than it is today.

“But there are still some very difficult decisions to take on, to set a balanced budget on which we need people’s views.”

Among them will be the question of whether residents should pay an extra 1.95 per cent on their council tax bills next year, in order to raise an extra £6 million for services.

A public consultation on the authority’s proposals is set to be launched later this week and will continue until mid-January. The council’s final budget will be set in February.

Deputy leader Dan Roper said: “We need to hear from Norfolk people what they think about that and which services should be prioritised.

“I hope as many people as possible take part in the consultation so that we can take a well informed decision.”

Comments can be emailed to haveyoursay@norfolk.gov.uk before the consultation is launched.