April 18 2014 Latest news:
Monday, December 23, 2013
Leaders at Norfolk County Council have revealed they could be minded to move away from one of the most contentious measures proposed to plug a £189m funding gap.
The leaders at Norfolk County Council have also described the looming decision over the proposed incinerator at King’s Lynn as “the elephant in the room”, which could yet trigger consultation on a further £15m worth of cuts. As part of its Putting People First consultation, aimed at saving £140m over the next three years, the council has consulted over a string of cuts and savings.
One is to save £2m by reducing the transport subsidy provided to students aged 16 to 19, which would see a hike in the cost of bus fares for young people travelling to school or college. Just over 4,400 people responded to the consultation, while 1,900 people signed petitions and that reduction was the proposal which garnered the most responses. And Steve Morphew, cabinet member for finance, corporate and personnel, said the administration was ready to take the opposition to the subsidy cuts on board.
He said: “We never wanted to do that in the first place and never tried to defend it.
“We understand that we are a rural county so it does have a disproportionate effect. We understand that it is unfair to introduce it for people who have already started courses and we understand that the subsidy was originally a cost-saving measure because of a reduction in the number of places which offered courses, so the argument that it is unfair is completely reasonable. Our only justification is that it costs us a lot of money and, having got the consultation responses, we realise we need to be satisfied that all other options have been explored before we make a recommendation on whether this should go forward.”
Mr Morphew said the administration was “minded” to put the subsidy reduction on the back burner while more work was done on the proposal.
But he added: “The bottom line is, if we don’t save money there, we will have to save it somewhere else. And the elephant in the room is what decision Eric Pickles will make on the incinerator. That will determine how much money we have to play with. If he says go ahead, then frankly, we have a bit of headroom. But if he comes back and we have to pay compensation, then we will be looking at another £15m of cuts we would have to go out to consultation on.”
The Putting People First consultation results will go before a number of overview and scrutiny panels next month, before the full council agrees a budget for 2014/15 on February 17.
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