On November 6 Norfolk County Council launched its public consultation on the proposed cutting of £125m from services across Norfolk.
This is on top of the £314m already cut but which they prefer to catagorise as “savings”. These are not savings – they are cuts and deep ones at that.
Public consultation is a legal obligation but it is likely that hardly any of your readers are aware of it because the extent of the publicity by the Conservative led council has been one post on Twitter. Having spent the afternoon responding to each aspect of the consultation online it is clear that this is a paper exercise with no real relevance or value.
Firstly, many of the ‘proposals’ are devoid of detail. They suggest cutting 50 per cent from the Children’s Centre budgets across Norfolk whilst admitting “It is too early to say how children’s centre services could change in different areas of Norfolk.” They want to put Children’s Centres in libraries but have carried out no safeguarding assessments and no equality impact assessments.
Secondly, some of the proposed cuts defy logic. In the area of road maintenance they are suggesting reducing the number of roads that are gritted; apparently this doesn’t impact on road safety. Well if it doesn’t impact on road safety why grit any of them?
Thirdly, many of the questions are so badly worded that it is impossible to know what is being asked. For example: “We are proposing that in future we would prioritise supporting bus services which help people get to and from work, get to essential services, such as healthcare appointments and to go food shopping, and who live in areas where there are no other transport options available. What do you think of our proposal to prioritise these services?.” What other reasons are there for getting on a bus?
An additional concern is that these consultation documents are long and overcomplicated. They are in only one language. The response boxes are not on the same page as the proposals so people need to switch back and forth from page to page. Paper copies are available but only if they are requested online. They should be in every school, every council office, every library and, I believe, should have been sent to every council tax payer.
County Councillors, who are financially rewarded for their role by the tax payer, should be out in their constituencies facing the public about the proposals and gathering proper information, particularly in rural areas or where there are higher than average numbers of elderly residents. The population of Norfolk is about 850,000 but by the looks of things respondents tend to number about 300. This demonstrates that the method of consultation is not working!
Now, call me cynical, but I suspect the majority Conservative Council does not want us to engage with this. They don’t want to consult us, they don’t want us to know what is in the offing and they certainly don’t want us to be asking difficult questions of an administration that has just wasted £33m on the incinerator fiasco and a further £25m on the NDR overspend. Bus services, Children’s Centres, libraries, police stations, social care, road maintenance, health services and refuse disposal. All of these services have been or are being savagely reduced whilst our Council Tax has risen by over 40 per cent.
I would suggest people contact their local councillors and ask them when they are going to be offering a surgery to discuss the proposals, go to the online consultation document and fill it in https://norfolk.citizenspace.com/consultation/budget2018/ and
share the consultation document via Twitter or Facebook to get it out to as many people as possible.