December 6 2013 Latest news:
Tuesday, October 8, 2013
A consultation over £140m worth of cuts and savings at Norfolk County Council is “deeply flawed”, the leader of the opposition group has claimed.
But leaders at County Hall have hit back at his claim, accusing him of political point scoring and said if the Conservatives have genuine concerns, they have had weeks to raise them.
Bill Borrett, leader of the Conservative group on the council, criticised the Putting People First consultation, a 12-week consultation on how to make the savings over the next three years to help plug a £189m funding gap.
Social care for older people, transport for students, mobile libraries, school crossing patrols and help for people just out of hospital are all in the firing line under the proposals, while the axe is hanging over more than council jobs 500 jobs over the next two years.
Mr Borrett said “We have a very serious situation here. The current administration have calculated that we have a funding shortfall of £189m over three years.
“However, they are currently consulting the residents of Norfolk only on savings for only £140m over the next three years, leaving a black hole of £50m still to be found.
“This is important because residents, stakeholders and community groups are taking part in something that is not complete, so regardless of the outcome of their hard work, ideas and proposals the whole thing will be up in the air again in less than a year.”
But Steve Morphew, cabinet member for finance, hit back at Mr Borrett and has written him a letter responding to his claims.
In it, he said: “As I made clear yesterday, in numerous public statements and at every opportunity, we fully intend to balance the books over the three year period.
“However the pace of economic recovery, amount of further efficiency saving we can achieve, future policies of government towards local authority funding, general election results in 2015 and our ability to raise funds from other sources make it impossible to predict exactly what further measures may be needed.
“We hope for clarity around the integrated health funding later this year that could make a big difference either way, but meanwhile we have to be cautious about factoring in too big an amount that may not be realised.
“If we consulted on service cuts that bridge the full gap at this stage we will worry more people than will already be damaged by the effects of the reduced funding from government and increased demand on our services we cannot fund.”
He added the approach was the same the Conservatives used during the Big Conservation consultation three years ago and said the Conservatives had early sight of the consultation proposals and could have raised them weeks ago.