Incinerator - County freezes tax despite burner fears

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County council chiefs have revealed plans not to raise council tax next year – despite £19 million being set aside to compensate developers if the Lynn incinerator is not built.

Norfolk County Council had warned that the uncertainty over the project, with communities secretary Eric Pickles yet to announce whether it will be given planning permission, could lead to further cuts to services being considered.

But revealing its proposed £308.4m budget for next year, the authority this week announced plans to pull back on some of its most controversial cuts and confirmed its portion of council tax will not rise if the proposals go through.

Leader George Nobbs said: “These cuts are neither optional nor of our own making. Central government has forced us into this position.

“We have looked at everything very carefully and we were not prepared to allow the people of Norfolk to suffer the very worst of cuts simply because Mr Pickles was unable or unwilling to reach a decision.”

The authority said a risk assessment of the possible failure of the incinerator planning application had been carried out and £19 million – 73 per cent of the sum which might have to be paid in compensation to Cory Wheelabrator – was set aside.

But it said at least £7 million more will still have to be found should the application be turned down.

Mr Nobbs said that despite the “savage cuts” in funding, made worse by the withdrawal of Government’s £169 million grant for the incinerator, £7.1 million had been found to address three issues.

As part of a plan to plug a £189m funding gap, the council had proposed to cut the transport subsidy for students aged 16 to 19 to save £1 million, which would have meant bus fare hikes for young people. But now it has delayed the move for a year and instead added £1 million so there are no changes for 2014/2015.

On personal budgets for those being cared for at home, it was proposed to save £12 million over three years, but now £3 million has been found to support people as they are re-assessed.

Some £3 million is also included in the budget to help the troubled children’s services department, which has endured criticism from Ofsted.

The money to head off the cuts has been found through a review of budgets and extra council tax income.

However, almost £60 million of cuts will still be made in 2014/2015, including reducing maintenance on the county’s roads by £1 million, cutting the subsidy for the CoastHopper bus and scaling back on resources by £9.7 million.

Mr Nobbs said: “The public has identified the areas where they wished us to do more, if we could, and we have listened to them and responded.”

The council’s cabinet will consider the proposals at a meeting next Monday, before the authority’s full budget debate on February 17.

Meanwhile, West Norfolk Council will also finalise its budget and council tax plans next month.

Proposals are expected to go before the authority’s cabinet on February 5, before a vote by the full council on February 27.