Reprieve for Fincham day centre following budget meeting

Aspires Centre at Fincham'Smiling through are service users and staff, who are concerned about possible cuts to transport funding.'(Jackie Murphy (Managing Director) is at the back 4th from left) ANL-150902-144841009
Aspires Centre at Fincham'Smiling through are service users and staff, who are concerned about possible cuts to transport funding.'(Jackie Murphy (Managing Director) is at the back 4th from left) ANL-150902-144841009

A Fincham day centre has had a reprieve after Norfolk County Council plans to slash transport budgets for vulnerable adults was delayed.

Staff had feared that Aspires would become “non-viable” if the county had pressed ahead with a proposal to cut transport allowances for vulnerable adults by £1.8 million over three years.

Leader of the county council George Nobbs proposed £100,000 be invested in adult transport to delay the cuts during the lengthy council meeting on Monday.

Aspires, a professional packing company, provides valuable work experience and social activities for 45 individuals with disabilities.

Jackie Murphy, who is the managing director and founded Aspires 18 years ago, said: “We were really pleased about the reprieve. We were devastated that they were going on with such huge cuts but they have found some money for transport but obviously this is not going to last for long. It gives us a bit of breathing space.

“Next year they will have even bigger cuts to make.”

People travel from as far as Hunstanton and Swaffham to the popular Fincham base. Users travel to Aspires via a minibus or in private cars with volunteers drivers.

If the council had gone ahead with individuals could be forced to use day centre services closer to their homes.

Mrs Murphy, along with concerned parents, had launched a campaign last week to lobby against the proposed cuts.

She said: “We are now looking into exactly where we are and what we have got to do next. We are looking at where we can put up a fight.”

The county council agreed to freeze the authority’s share of the council tax bill following a five-and-a-half hour debate.

A Conservative budget amendment was defeated first, followed by the defeat of a Green amendment, before the proposed budget was rejected by 40 votes to 36, with one abstention.

A brief meeting of party leaders then followed, before an amendment by the Conservative Group was tabled and accepted by Mr Nobbs. This was voted on and agreed by 36 votes to five, with 37 abstentions.

The net revenue budget of £318,428m for 2015-16 included a proposal by Mr Nobbs to invest £100,000 to delay the cuts on transport for people using Adult Social Care services.

The agreed amendment includes a proposed £500,000 efficiency saving for 2015/16 returned into the Adult Social Services budget, and recycling centre hours and related charges returning for discussion to the council’s Environment, Development and Transport Committee.

Proposals to meet a budget shortfall for 2016-17 and 2017-18 will be developed and brought back to members before June 2015.

Mr Nobbs said: “This budget – the first from our committee system – gives residents in Norfolk the best deal possible, despite everything that is stacked against us.

“Gone are the days when the hardest decisions facing councillors was where to allocate additional money.

“Despite losing almost £42m in government grants, and facing escalating costs of £27m, we have protected front line care services from the worst impact.

“In fact we have managed to put more money into the budgets for services for children and adults for 2015/16 than we spent in this financial year.

“This has been done through a strong record of delivering efficiencies and through taking tough decisions, cutting where we have had no alternative.”