Norfolk County Council abandons £50m worth of cuts

A £50m raft of possible cuts to services across Norfolk, including mass closures of libraries and fire stations, have been abandoned.

But millions of pounds of cuts and savings, including some which will affect some of the most vulnerable people in Norfolk, are being put out for public consultation.
With Norfolk County Council needing to plug a £111m funding gap, every department at County Hall was asked to identify what might need to be cut if it was spending 25pc less.
In total, if all those cuts were brought to bear, it would save the council £169m, but councillors wanted to be able to make some choices before putting possible cuts and savings out for public consultation.

The council’s policy and resources committee met today to make those decisions on what to consult on.

That meant some £50m of the proposals have been ditched although more than £100m of cuts remain on the cards.

Among those proposals abandoned was one which could have seen 27 of Norfolk’s 47 libraries shut to save £1.6m and the most extreme £2.9m cuts to the fire service, which might have led to the closure of 18 fire stations and the loss of hundreds of firefighter jobs.
That proposal led to warnings from fire chiefs that lives could be put at risk and the EDP launched a Save Our Stations campaign.

But the fire service is still facing a redesign and it is likely the public could be consulted over the closure of two fire stations – at Outwell and Heacham.

A proposal to reduce the transport subsidy provided to students aged 16-19 to get to sixth form and college to save £2m was also scrapped, as was a suggestion that £16.2m could be saved by restricting access to adult social services.

But cuts which could still happen include transport provision to help the elderly get to day centres, home support, care packages, and road maintenance.
The public will also be asked if they would be prepared to pay more council tax to protect some of those services.

The consultation will start in the months ahead, with the council set to pull together its budget in February next year.

The meeting was preceded by a protest outside County Hall. Members of the Norfolk Fire Brigades Union, Unison, disabled charity Equal Lives, the people’s Assembly and Friends of the Earth were among those protesting.

Mark Harrison, from Equal Lives, warned the cuts would disproportionately affect disabled and older people.

He said: “We have got a failing system that is leaving disabled and older people prisoners in their own homes, yet they are planning to take even more out.”

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