Norfolk County Council should cut culture grants, not children’s service, say Labour

Cuts to youth services in Norfolk could be spared by reducing grants to arts organisations, scrapping councillor allowances or selling off the county's farms, according to opposition groups at County Hall.

The county council will meet on Monday to agree a revenue budget of just over �603,000m for 2011/12 and to make just under �60m worth of savings. Protesters have dubbed it a Valentine's Day Massacre, with �25m to be cut from children's services and �14m from adult social services, with the equivalent of 750 full-time jobs set to be axed.

George Nobbs, leader of the Labour group at Norfolk County Council, said his group's amendment focused on preventing cuts to the youth service, sensory service, support for looked after children, the Unthank Centre and the school music service.

The Labour proposal is to cut the amount of grant given to Norwich's Theatre Royal, the Norfolk and Norwich Festival and the Writers Centre by �140,000.

Mr Nobbs said: 'Nobody is going to die if they have to pay a few more pence to see Swan Lake. At a time when we are meant to be in it together, the council seems to be saying blind and disabled people are being asked to make a sacrfice, but people who go to the theatre and the festival should not have to, which seems wrong.'

Special responsibility allowances, paid to members of the cabinet, would also be axed under Labour's proposal, which Mr Nobbs said would save �275,000. The Labour proposal also calls for an extra �5m to be saved by increasing the amount the council saves on procurement, buying goods and services, from the proposed 2pc saving to 3pc.

Mr Nobbs said: 'The county council spends a vast amount on procurement and that could be brought down. They are good at being tough on the disabled and the elderly, but should be much tougher on big business.'

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An 11th-hour bid has also been launched by the Liberal Democrat group to spare cuts to youth services, saying youngsters should not 'pay the price' for the failings of others. The Lib Dem alternative proposals hinge on an idea to sell 5.8pc of the county farms estate to pay for new children's homes to be built and end the need for youngsters to be sent out of the county for care.

Lib Dem leader Paul Morse said: 'I think it's worth remembering that the land we propose to sell only raises �75,000 per year in rent. If you sell it and reinvest it in the way we are describing, you are generating �10m.

'Across three years we would be putting �33.5m more into children's services, spending �14.5m more on preventative care for vulnerable adults and saving �3m on redundancy payments by saving over 300 jobs.'

The parties will present their alternative budgets on Monday when the county council makes its final decision on the budget for 2011-12, which includes a host of cuts and savings designed to make up a �155m funding shortfall.