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Norfolk County Council's budget plans approved – despite 'pay more, get less' jibe

Norfolk County Council’s budget proposals have been passed following a four-hour meeting today which covered topics ranging from council tax to cuts to services.

While supporters of the budget said the proposals amounted to an “investment in Norfolk”, opposition members described the plans as “pay more, get less”.

Leader Andrew Proctor said: “We are setting this council on course for a balanced budget for 2020/21. We will continue to deliver vital services to all the people of Norfolk, within our finite means. We are not hiding from the financial challenges of future years.”

County Hall Norwich. (29459428)
County Hall Norwich. (29459428)

The £430.4m net budget is larger than what was originally proposed in January, due to £2.7m additional council tax income from the district councils, which was higher than forecast.

A council spokesman said that this has allowed further cost pressures in children’s services to be addressed.

Mr Proctor said the budget reflected the council’s “investment in Norfolk”, but added that it could not achieve “all the things we want to” on its own, and would be working alongside partners in its ‘Together, for Norfolk’ vision.

The full council meeting, held in Norwich, saw members back the proposals to increase the county council’s share of council tax by 3.99 per cent, which will see a rise of £54.27 for a band D property to £1,416.51.

Andrew Jamieson, cabinet member for finance, said the increase in council tax would generate an additional £16.25m in funding for the 2020/21 financial year.

He added: “We must continue to identify savings if we are to meet the continuing demand.”

But Steve Morphew, leader of the Labour Group, said the plans amounted to people paying "more money for less services".

Daniel Roper of the Liberal Democrats agreed and described the situation as “pay more, get less”.

An increase in members’ allowances, in line with the staff pay award, was also voted through.

But an amendment proposed by the Labour group, asking for which was voted down, asked for Minimum Income Guarantee (MIG) levels to be upgraded in the event that it is not increased by government in line with any benefit increases – which would allow disabled people to receive the full amount of any benefit increase.

Alexandra Kemp, an Independent councillor who represents Clenchwarton and King’s Lynn South, said it would not be “just or compassionate” for further cuts to be made to adult social care.

Meanwhile Tim East said about a quarter of people in Norfolk were disabled.

But Bill Borrett, cabinet member of adult social care, said: “This administration has spent more money in real terms every year to protect those who require the services from adult social care.”

Mr Borrett said the council aims to help keep those people independent, and where possible, cared for in their own homes.

He added: “We have to do the best we can with the resources we have.”

The council has budgeted £34.7m for adult social care and £28.1m for children’s services in the 2020/21 financial year.

West Norfolk Council will set its own budget at its full council meeting next Thursday.

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