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Where will the next £40m in cuts come from in Norfolk?

By David Hannant, Local Democracy Reporter

County council bosses are facing two months of work to identify how £40 million of cuts can be made – which will see its savings over the past decade soar past the £400 million mark.

A £71 million budget gap forecast for the next two years has left Norfolk County Council in need of finding £40 million in the coming year, a figure agreed by its cabinet earlier this year.

And of this figure, £20 million is set to come from the service sectors including £9 million from adult social care, £4.5 million from children’s services and £5 million from community and environmental services.

Norfolk County Council's headquarters, where calls for DIY waste recycling charges to be scrapped are set to be debated next week (15117273)
Norfolk County Council's headquarters, where calls for DIY waste recycling charges to be scrapped are set to be debated next week (15117273)

Andrew Jamieson, the council’s cabinet member for finance, said it was too early to say where these would be coming from, but insisted he could not picture a day when the council merely provides the statutory minimum level of services.

He said: “I am proud of what we deliver on our £1.4 billion budget and absolutely do not envisage a time where Norfolk County Council has to offer a statutory minimum.

“We are in utterly unprecedented times of uncertainty over what, if anything, we receive from central government and I find it quite astonishing that this is still up in the air.

“But I cannot see the sort of proposals we are working towards being ones that lead to jobs being lost and services cut though – it is much more to do with how we deliver things. I am not sat here with a red pen drawing lines through things.”

With the council having already made £364 million of savings in the past decade, opposition leaders are less confident in this.

Steve Morphew, leader of the Labour group at County Hall, said: “We’ve already seen hideous cuts and accountancy manoeuvres to disguise the ugly truth. Demand for key care services is still increasing, already children’s and adults budgets consistently overspend.

“The prospects for future years is horrendous – we do question just how much Norfolk Tories care about the damage this is doing.

“They use language designed to cover the truth – these aren’t ‘savings’ but deep and damaging cuts. They should be honest about it.”

Ed Maxfield, leader of the Liberal Democrat group, added: “Councils have been bled dry after years of cuts and people are angry.

“In Norfolk this has hit the most vulnerable with very real threats, including children’s centre closures, cuts to special needs education and to support for disabled people.

“It can’t go on – we need new thinking at County Hall.”

Early indications on how the council is looking to save the £40 million is as follows:

• £9 million from adult social care budget

• £4.5 million from children’s services budget

• £5m from form community and environmental budget

• £0.5m from strategy and governance

• £1 million from community services

• £10 million from system improvements and innovations

• £10 million savings from financial services

A decade of cuts

Pressure on the county council to make financial savings has been ever present in the past decade, with matters such as recession, credit crunches and austerity measures taking toll.

Since the beginning of the 2010/11 financial year, the council’s funding from central government has been reduced by £204 million in total, leaving it in a position to either make cuts or source alternative forms of revenue.

In the next financial year, 2020/21, another key form of funding – its revenue support grant – is due to fall from £39m to zero, adding to the financial strain.

Since the beginning of the decade, the council has made savings of £365m, which includes efficiency savings of £246 million.

In the past year alone, controversial measures used to make savings have include the closures of dozens of children’s centres, changes to who qualifies for adult social care support and reductions in library staff.

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