Community leaders welcome Norfolk County Council budget reprieve

Docking Recycling Centre
Docking Recycling Centre
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Parish council chiefs and community service officials have this evening welcomed plans to scrap major cuts to key Norfolk County Council services.

The authority has published plans to raise its portion of the council tax by just under four per cent, adding around £45 to an average annual bill.

Save ou Fire Station HEACHAM Campaign. ANL-160128-135433009

Save ou Fire Station HEACHAM Campaign. ANL-160128-135433009

If approved, half of that money would be used to help maintain adult social care and transport provision, with the rest helping to protect other key services.

That means Docking’s recycling centre, which closed in December, will re-open and full seven day opening will be restored to the sites in Heacham and Ashill.

The county’s fire stations would also be kept open, meaning the threat to the sites in Heacham, Outwell and West Walton would be lifted.

And plans to reduce services at heritage sites including Lynn Museum are also set to be scrapped, while library book budgets will also be protected.

News of the plans, which were announced on Wednesday morning and will be debated for the first time by the council’s policy and resources committee on Monday, has been welcomed by community leaders.

Jackie Murphy, chief executive of the Aspires day centre at Fincham, which warned it would be forced to close if the cuts were implemented, said it would be “wonderful” if the latest plans were implemented.

She said: “It’s everything we have been fighting for. We have been working endlessly for this. If this is going to be the result, it really would be wonderful.”

John Ward, the clerk of Docking parish council, said of the recycling centre U-turn: “It’s brilliant for Docking and for the surrounding villages.”

And Michael Williamson, chairman of Heacham’s parish council, added: “We’re very pleased with the proposals.”

If the plans are supported at Monday’s meeting, they will then go to the full council on February 22, where the final budget for the 2016-17 financial year will be set.

The authority says the measures will add around 88p per week to council tax bills for householders living in an average band D property.

However, officials have warned that more than £40 million worth of savings will still be made in the current financial year, largely from back office cover.

They also say that over £100 million of budget reductions will still be required over the next three years.

But Mr Williamson said he felt many residents were prepared to pay a little more to protect services in their communities.

He described the plans to reprieve fire stations as a move towards “common sense” and said communities should not have been forced to fight to protect such frontline cover.

He added: “We don’t get anything for nothing. We have to maintain services to a reasonable degree and if we have to pay for it, we have to pay for it.”

Other measures contained in the budget include a £1.5 million fund to pay for minor road repairs.

Details of the county’s budget proposals were unveiled just hours after West Norfolk Council’s cabinet approved its budget plans at a meeting on Tuesday evening.

The authority plans to raise its share of the council tax for a 0.8 per cent rise, adding around 90p to an average annual bill, as well as increases to the charges for many of its fees and services.