March 8 2014 Latest news:
Thursday, January 16, 2014
Union leaders have urged Norfolk county councillors to increase the authority’s share of the council tax - to save services from the axe.
The council is due to agree its budget next month and the controlling Labour/Liberal Democrat administration has said its planning has been for a council tax freeze.
But Jonathan Dunning, county branch secretary of UNISON said they should think about an increase, with cuts to services looming as the authority looks to plug an £189m gap.
He said: “No one wants to see any bill increase at this difficult time but the alternative will see the meltdown of some essential services.
“The recent public consultation showed that a majority of respondents supported the increase if it protected adult social care services and libraries.
Already many Councillors have expressed support for a council tax increase. We now hope others will do the same in recognition that it is a sound economic decision designed to help with Norfolk County Council’s long term financial viability.
“Another council tax freeze will, in UNISON’s view, be a head in the sand approach and will push Norfolk County Council further down the road to ruin.”
Among the proposed cuts which UNISON is particularly concerned about are reduction of staff in libraries and cuts to adult social services.
While the council’s administration previously said it was minded not to increase council tax - but to accept a grant from the government for freezing it, the recent delay to the decision on whether to allow planning permission for an incinerator in King’s Lynn has put extra pressure on the budget.
Council leader George Nobbs, in a recent letter to communities secretary Eric Pickles, who will make the decision on the burner, hinted the authority could have to rethink its stance on a council tax freeze.
With the authority needing to factor in a compensation payment of between £26m and £31m if the incinerator is not given planning permission, Mr Nobbs said the council faced “very real and immediate difficulties”.
He said: “To date, we have not assumed any extra income from council tax, because that is not something that we want to do.
“However, we certainly do want to avoid any further service cuts for Norfolk people if we can possibly do so. But the simple fact is that until we know for certain what scenario we have to plan for, we have no choice but to assume the worst.”
Council tax bills are made up of elements which go to the county council (including for the fire service), the police, district councils and, where applicable, parish or town councils.
The county council is due to set its budget on Monday, February 17.