Crossing cash bid blocked as Norfolk council budget backed

Alexandra Kemp ENGANL00120131028142036
Alexandra Kemp ENGANL00120131028142036
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The future of many key services in West Norfolk was finally secured today as county council budget proposals were passed.

The measures, which include a near four per cent rise in council tax, were overwhelmingly approved during a meeting in Norwich.

George Nobbs (leader of County Council) ENGANL00120131028141226

George Nobbs (leader of County Council) ENGANL00120131028141226

But one of the borough’s representatives called the meeting a “missed opportunity” after her bid for extra cash to fund additional crossing patrols was rejected.

The meeting was also halted temporarily following protests from the public gallery.

Members voted by 75 to four, with two abstentions, to support the budget proposals, which will allow for a 3.99 per cent rise in the county’s portion of the council tax.

Around half of the increase, which the authority says will add around 88p a week to bills for people living in an average band D property, will be used to fund adult social care.

The remainder will be used to protect services such as fire stations, libraries and recycling centres, which had been threatened with severe cuts in recent months.

However, the passing of the budget means that plans to close fire stations in Heacham and Outwell, as well as reducing cover in Lynn have been scrapped.

The Docking recycling centre will also be re-opened, having been closed in December, while cuts to opening times at the sites in Heacham and Ashill will also be reversed.

Library services will also be protected, while a £1.5 million fund will also be set up to pay for minor road repairs.

However, more than £40 million will still be cut from the council’s spending during the 2016-17 financial year.

And officials say they still expect to have to find another £60 million worth of savings over the next two years. Reports will be prepared over the next 12 months to set out where those savings can be found.

But council leader Heorge Nobbs said: “Unlike many councils in the country, Norfolk will not be closing a single children’s centre, will not be closing a single library and will not be closing a single fire station.

“Despite the continuing reduction in central government support, we have a budget that invests in key services, produces a surplus by 2019 and sees this council spend a record amount – more than ever before – on adult social care.

“This budget represents a triumph for collaborative working over months of difficult decision making.

“It is an illustration of what can be done when we all agree put the people of Norfolk first.”

During the meeting, Conservative opposition leader Cliff Jordan said he was confident the measures proposed could be delivered.

But an amendment tabled by independent Alexandra Kemp, which called for the council to set aside £340,000 to fund more than 70 new school crossing patrols across the county, was defeated.

She has been campaigning for additional funding to go towards the safety measures since a girl was injured in a collision with a car close to the Poppyfields estate in West Lynn in October 2014.

And, although Labour councillors said the children’s services committee was focusing on the issue, Miss Kemp afterwards described the vote as an “opportunity missed.”

She added: “The Conservatives and Labour have got a lot of explaining to do to the people in West Lynn.”

A Green Party amendment, which called for measures including the establishment of a £100,000 fund for an air quality action plan was also defeated.