Consultation opens on Norfolk County Council budget plans

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A public consultation has been launched on Norfolk County Council budget proposals, which include the prospect of higher tax bills and millions of pounds of new savings.

Last month, the authority announced a review of the ways it delivers services, as part of efforts to save another £125 million from its budgets over the next four years.

And officials say their plan to raise council tax by nearly five per cent next year is necessary so the savings burden is not even greater.

Residents are now being invited to have their say on the measures after the consultation’s launch yesterday.

Council leader Cliff Jordan said: “I want to hear what people think about our proposals to help save money, while caring for the county as much as we can.”

The proposed measures include changing the way in which charges for non-residential care services are calculated – a move the authority admits will mean some residents pay more.

There are also plans to re-structure the children’s services unit, in moves officials say will mean support can be targeted more effectively at those who need it, as well as reducing concessions on the amount of construction waste that can be disposed of free at the county’s recycling centres.

The council further plans to reduce the proportion of roads that are gritted during the winter from 34 per cent of the network to 30 per cent, cut around £200,000 from non-safety critical road maintenance work and review the grants it currently provides for bus services.

Although the council has already saved more than £330 million from its budgets since 2011, it says the latest reductions are needed because of the gradual phasing out of central government grants to councils, which will be scrapped altogether in 2021.

It has already indicated three per cent of the proposed tax increase will be ringfenced for adult social care.

A similar increase earlier this year added around £57 to annual bills for an average band D property, on top of those imposed by borough and parish authorities or the office of the county’s police and crime commissioner.

A statement on the consultation webpage said: “Our population is growing, people are generally living longer and the type of services that people need is changing.

“As things become more expensive we also have higher costs, and the amount of money we have coming in isn’t keeping up.”

The council also claims it would have to find another £17 million in savings without a tax rise.

The consultation, which is available at www.norfolk.gov.uk/budget, closes on January 2, with final decisions expected in February.