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Cuts to Norfolk adult social care, which critics say could increase homelessness, agreed - by narrowest of margins

PUBLISHED: 12:30 23 January 2017 | UPDATED: 17:07 23 January 2017

Cuts to Norfolk adult social care, which critics say could increase homelessness, agreed - by narrowest of margins. Photo: John Stillwell/PA Wire

Cuts to Norfolk adult social care, which critics say could increase homelessness, agreed - by narrowest of margins. Photo: John Stillwell/PA Wire

Millions of pounds of cuts, including for spending on independent living for young and old, have been backed by councillors - by the narrowest of margins.

The decision to cut more than £11m, including more than £5m from funding for services which support vulnerable people, was today agreed by Norfolk County Council’s adult social care committee.

But an attempt by opposition councillors to stop cuts to housing support was only blocked thanks to the casting vote of Conservative chairman Bill Borrett.

Organisations such as the YMCA, Norwich’s St Martin’s Housing Trust and The Benjamin Foundation had warned those cuts could lead to increased homelessness and put pressure on other services, such as hospitals and mental health services.

And the Norfolk Older People’s Strategic Partnership and Norfolk Community Action had warned other cuts - including the potential loss of floating housing support, such as wardens - could harm the most vulnerable.

Graham Creelman, chairman of the Norfolk Older People’s Strategic Partnership, had said: “These services help some of the most vulnerable people in our communities, particularly older people, to stay living independently for longer.

“To enable independent living is a element of both the council’s own strategic direction and the emerging joint strategy of health and social care. It would be a tragedy if these services are cut.”

But the committee did agree to put the savings forward for the forthcoming council budget. The council will meet on February 20 to decide once and for all.

Labour’s Sue Whitaker, who had said it would be “foolish and reckless” to ignore the concerns of the organisations, had asked the committee to abandon those proposals.

But chairman Mr Borrett, who said £25m more would be spent on adult social care next year - partly due to 3pc of a 4.8pc council tax increase going to adult care - said Mrs Whitaker’s proposal had no costed alternative savings.

The committee was tied at 8-8, with one abstention over Mrs Whitaker’s proposal to ditch those cuts. But it was rejected on Mr Borrett’s casting vote.

The committee then agreed to put forward the budget, described as a “sensible” one by Conservative Joe Mooney.

James Bullion, director of adult social care at Norfolk County Council, acknowledged there was a “trade off” between spending on low level services and using money to target specific services.

He said the council was working with partners to agree spending priorities.

But Liberal Democrat Eric Seward said: “You are simply shunting costs to other public agencies”.

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