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New committee warned about county council’s £3.8m shortfall - with growing demand for services set to worsen the situation

PUBLISHED: 20:10 23 June 2014 | UPDATED: 20:10 23 June 2014

County Hall.

County Hall.

Sarah Cocke

A warning on the impending shortfall in council finances was at the top of the agenda at the first meeting of Norfolk County Council’s new policy and resources committee yesterday.

Members of the committee heard that, having already identified a large level of savings during its Putting People First consultation, the council’s shortfall for the 2015 to 16 financial year would be £3.8 million.

But they were warned that the figure could be set to widen dramatically thanks to a growing demand in services and a decline in government funding.

It was revealed that Parliament’s projected savings across government for 2016 to 2018 will need to be twice as deep than what has already been delivered.

For Norfolk County Council in 2016 to 17 that translates into a projected shortfall of £18m, which will grow to £51.7m in 2017 to 18, with yet further projected savings requirement in the next two years of just over £61m up until 2020.

County Council Leader George Nobbs, who chaired the meeting, said: “It was a very timely reminder to us all that the sort of support from central government that local government has been used to throughout our lifetimes is now a thing of the past.

“That is something that county councillors of all parties have to take on board as their starting point and, in fairness to my colleagues, that is what they did today.

“We all have a difficult journey before us to protect the people of Norfolk, and the services that they rely on, in a climate of ever increasing demand and diminishing resources. Today’s meeting was a good start on that road.”

Peter Timmins, interim director of finance, said that, faced with such a large shortfall, councils will need to have bolder solutions and take a strategic approach to choice.

He said that will mean that if efficiency has been the focus of the last four years, priorities needed to take-over between now and 2020, with local authoritiesn needing to reassess what they are there to deliver.

Councillors agreed that the July committee cycle would be the right time to explore the shape of the budget process and the major challenges across the board.

What do you think of the shortfall? Contact public affairs correspondent Dan Grimmer on dan.grimmer@archant.co.uk

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